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WASP
WASP

A Wasp-Inspired Robot Can Build a Whole House

WASP
WASP

The affordable housing of the future will probably be spit out of a 3D printer. Last year, a Chinese company reportedly used a one of the gadgets to build 10 single-story homes in 24 hours. And now WASP, a 3D printing company based in Italy, has created the world’s biggest 3D printer in the hopes of using it to build rapid, affordable housing in the developing world and in disaster zones.

BigDelta, which debuted in late September, is almost 40 feet tall, and is designed to build houses like a wasp builds its nest, layering building material from the ground up—except instead of chewed-up wood and mud, the printer’s robotic arm spits out layers of dirt, hay, rocks, and water, creating triangular bricks that form a circular, one-room home shaped like a dome. 

See more of the process in this video, which just so happens to unfold like an action movie trailer:  

BigDelta can build a house in a week using its three robotic arms. The goal is to churn out houses that only cost a few thousand dollars in order to shelter the world’s ballooning populations and those displaced by war and natural disasters. 

[h/t: Smithsonian]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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iStock

The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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architecture
5 Scrapped Designs for the World's Most Famous Buildings
Ker Robertson, Getty Images
Ker Robertson, Getty Images

When an architect gets commissioned to build a skyscraper or a memorial, they’re usually not the only applicant for the job. Other teams of designers submit their own ideas for how it should look, too, but these are eventually passed over in favor of the final design. This is the case for some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks—in an alternate world, the Arc de Triomphe might have been a three-story-tall elephant statue, and the Lincoln Memorial a step pyramid.

GoCompare, a comparison site for financial services, dug into these could-have-been designs for Alternate Architecture, an illustrated collection of scrapped designs for some of the most famous structures in the world, from Chicago's Tribune Tower to the Sydney Opera House.

Click through the interactive graphic below to explore rejected designs for all five landmarks.

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