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Interview with Designer Thomas Heatherwick


6 Letter from the Editor


Cities Around the Globe

are Eagerly Importing a

Dutch Specialty—

Flood Prevention

Björk Talks About

How Nature Inspired Her New High-Tech Album



Meet the World's Most

Dangerous Instrument:

The Tesla Coil

Bringing Back the Golden Days of Bell Labs



Sisters with Transistors:

Pioneers of

Electronic Music

What Did the Victorians See in the Stereoscope?



Do We Need Renaissance

People Any More?

The WWI Dazzle

Camouflage Strategy Was

58 So Ridiculous It Was Genius


Nature's Lens:

How Gravity Can Bend

Light Like a Telescope

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the globe

are eagerly


a dutch




The Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt storm

surge barrier), between the islands Schouwen-Duiveland

and Noord-Beveland, is the largest of the 13 ambitious

Delta Works series of dams and storm surge barriers,

designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding from

the North Sea.

Norfolk, Virginia, was founded on the shores of the

Chesapeake Bay in the 17th century, but when the city

needed new ideas to deal with sinking land and rising seas

it turned to people with even more experience fighting

flooding: the Dutch.

Like the Netherlands, portions of Norfolk have arisen on

wetlands and even creeks buried beneath fill. And similar

to the Netherlands, where two-thirds of the country is

vulnerable to flooding, Norfolk is threatened by rising

tides and intensified storms.

So the city imported expertise, staging the Dutch

Dialogues, a traveling roadshow that is a cross between

a seminar on local hydrology and a design charrette. The

dialogues, initiated by Waggonner & Ball Architects, a

New Orleans firm, and the Royal Dutch Embassy, are just

one example of how a world increasingly imperiled by

water is turning for guidance to a country where there

is no retreat from rising seas.

architects and planners

from the netherlands

are advising coastal

cities worldwide on how

to live with water

Jim Morrison

Bassist John Deacon (left) and drummer Roger Taylor (right) of the band Queen.

Photo taken by Brian May.

Brian May collection.

at and appreciate the value of each image. Not the monetary

value, of course—although there are some very greedy

sellers around who would have you believe that any stereo

card which is more than fifty years of age is worth more

than its weight in gold—but the historical, sociological, or

photographical value of the image, the information it brings,

the details it reveals, its composition along the depth axis,

or the simple stories it often tells about the subject photographed

and, occasionally, about the photographer. There

are still plenty of occasions when what I am looking at baffles

me and I wish I could get more clues from the view itself or

from the faces of the people I discover there. If stereos could

speak! How much more would be understood about these

fascinating images. Since they cannot, we must keep looking

for more clues, more information, more facts; publish more

articles, more books; because from time to time, something

comes up that adds a piece to this gigantic jigsaw puzzle.

Can I experience stereo cards the way the Victorians did? I

don’t think so, but I strive to find some tips in the writings

of the time that can help me better understand their state of

mind, what made them tick, what captured their attention

and grabbed their imagination. I keep trying and will keep

on doing so. And in the meantime, I can only second Oliver

Wendell Holmes’ passionate declaration:

Oh, infinite volumes of poems that I treasure in this

small library of glass and pasteboard!…

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movements—Cubism, Futurism, and

Vorticism. In fact, one of the Vorticist

painters, Edward Wadsworth, oversaw

ships being dazzled in Liverpool

during the war.”

Additionally, “you have to remember

that Wilkinson was not only a

seascape painter but also a poster

designer,” Behrens says. “So he had

to work with abstract forms, colors

and shapes.”

Though the British Admiralty probably

didn’t include too many modern

art enthusiasts, the losses from

U-boat attacks were so devastating

that they soon authorized Wilkinson

to set up a camouflage unit at the

Royal Academy in London. He recruited

other artists, who were given

Naval Reserve commissions, and

they got to work.

Wilkinson made models of ships

on a revolving table and then viewed

them through a periscope, using

screens, lights and backgrounds to

see how the dazzle paint schemes

would look at various times of day

and night. He used one of those

models to impress a visitor, King

George V, who stared through the

periscope and guessed that the model

ship was moving south-by-west,

only to be surprised to discover that

it was moving east-by-southeast.

By October 1917, British officials

were sufficiently convinced of dazzle’s

effectiveness that they ordered that all

merchant ships should get the special

paint jobs, according to a 1999 article

by Behrens.

At the request of the U.S. government,

Wilkinson sailed across the

Atlantic in March 1918 and met with

Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D.

Roosevelt, and then helped to set up a

camouflage unit headed by American

impressionist painter Everett Warner.

By the end of the war, more than

2,300 British ships had been decorated

with dazzle camouflage. How successful

dazzle actually was in thwarting

U-boat attacks isn’t clear. As Forbes

explains, a postwar commission concluded

that it probably only provided

a slight advantage.

“When the US Navy adopted

Wilkinson’s scheme for both merchant

and fighting ships there is statistical

evidence to support Wilkinson’s technique,”

Forbes says. A total of 1,256

merchant and fighting ships, were

camouflaged between March 1 and

November 11, 1918. Ninety six ships

over 2,500 tons were sunk; of these

only 18 were camouflaged and all of

them were merchant ships. “None of

the camouflaged fighting ships were

sunk,” he says

“It’s important to remember that

ships didn’t just rely upon dazzle camouflage

for protection from U-boats,”

Behrens explains. “It was used in combination

with tactics such as zig-zagging

and traveling in convoys, in which

the most vulnerable ships were kept in

the center of the formation, surrounded

by faster, more dangerous ships

capable of destroying submarines.”

The synergy of those measures was

“wonderfully effective,” he says.

Dazzle camouflage was resurrected

by the U.S. during World War II, and

was used on the decks of ships as well,

in an effort to confuse enemy aircraft.

Today’s electronic surveillance technology

makes dazzle pretty much

obsolete for protecting ships, but as

Forbes points out, the concept of visually

disruptive patterns is still used

in military uniforms.

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