Big Think Interview with Nader Tehrani
Nader Tehrani: Well beginning design thinking can be done in many ways and many schools, many schools of thought have battled it in a variety of ways, but the two extremes constitute one is engagement in the world and in all of its synthesis, in all of its complexity and all of its mess and trying to work through design issues by incorporating them, but the other approach, which is something we have tried to adopt in our most recent thinking is to edit and at least initially to begin to think that architecture if only temporarily needs to be absolved of all of that pressure and take on singular issues at a time, so for instance, in the core program we may take the issue of structure, engineering be so central to the architectural question, as one of the core points of an exercise and even at the risk of failure of all of the other constituencies around it, all of the other contingencies around it, all of the other considerations to radicalize the student’s knowledge in that domain. That same thing may happen with problems of programming, problems of circulations, problems of urbanism, but in a way you end up with an initial education that atrophies ten things in order to in a way raise the stakes of one enterprise.
Question: What current ideas are leading the way in design education?
Nader Tehrani: Well the current moment needs to be looked at within a broader framework probably. The way in which the industrial revolution has given a way to… digital revolution is changing things radically. Even the idea of the internet and the accessibility to education, the way that we learn is not necessarily from a teacher, but from somebody in another city who happens to be in a junior program much younger than yourself. The way we learn is just very different now, so and then that has also led to a revolution in terms of production. We build through digital media now and that changes the way that you design things. All of this has changed the way that we instruct in the earlier years and the later years. In addition to that obviously the question of sustainability has become up front and center for a great range of people and that is another debate to be had, but it is of some concern, so there are let’s say a range of issues that have changed the focus from a global level and because of that one may say that there is two tendencies. One is again how you incorporate the world into education. The other one is how do you look at those irreducible aspects of the architectural métier or the architectural tradition without which we can’t consider ourselves a discipline?
Question: How has information technology influenced design?
Nader Tehrani: You know at the most mundane level classes are being blogged if you like on the internet. You exchange homework, readings, PDFs, so the way we engage with each other is done through this third medium, but collaborative platforms are also going towards information technology. In the old days I would have to fly many miles in order to meet with people. I get onto my computer. I dial into WebEx and a variety of people, consultants, clients and everybody can see on the very page that I post on the internet and we begin to draw together on it. What is interesting about this is that it instigates a relationship between images and words that often was overlooked because everybody gets to participate in that drawing platform and in that way in a much more compressed amount of time you get to have the knowledge that you borrow let’s say from the engineers, from the various other consultants, from programming groups and so forth to compress all of that into the medium of architecture, which ultimately specifies things on a document. You know the document is essentially you know a series of drawn documents and a series of specifications, so the interactive abilities of information technology actually do change the way you work.
Question: How has architecture changed with the onslaught of new technologies?
Nader Tehrani: Well the most immediate thing that has impacted our generation in the last 20 years is the way that we build. If mass production brought to the world a possibility of rapid expansion, of modularity, of repetition, digitization has brought about the possibility of customization. The idea that diversity, difference, individuality can be engaged with the same ease as mass production. The question of its relevance, the question of its engagement in different venues is still you know up in the air, but certainly the way we produce now is different as a result of that also because of the control it has given designers. This has legal ramifications because the traditional relationship between clients, contractors and designers has shifted. Designers no longer need to merely submit their drawings to contractors to get bids or to get to know what the means and methods of its production are. They get to be a higher stakeholder in the determination of that form and how it is produced. That makes a huge difference.
Question: Would this change how you build?
Nader Tehrani: There are certainly… I’m not certain about how everybody else works to be honest with you, but you can see it all around you. You can’t imagine a practice like Frank Gehry without seeing the hurdles he must have gone through in order to convince the sheet metal industry to build the way they have done for him. They have a… They probably had a set of techniques which were germane to their industry, but Gehry had to cultivate a different level of dialogue with them, not only for reasons of liability, but for reasons of instrumentalization and that generation gave us a next generation of work that we are now seeing through the work of you know Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo in Yokohama, Sejima, in Luzon. All of these buildings, the EPFL and the Yokohama Port are the result of I think a very close tinkering between enterprises that are spacial, material, engineering and environmental and I can’t think that you can arrive at those places without a close synchronicity if you like between the different disciplines.
Question: What materials do you think will be the next drivers of architectural innovation?
Nader Tehrani: I’m sure there is a lot of materials out there, smart materials, materials that at the nano level are being developed. In fact, these come to the discipline quite late, so I’m probably not the right person to ask that question, but one of the reasons that I went to MIT was as a way of being to collaborate with material scientists and begin to imagine ways in which some of their work and our work can become relevant to each other. But at another level I think it has not to do so much with a material that is going to revolutionize all of the industry. There are going to be that and certainly the role of composites has had a vast impact on the way that we think about skins, structural skins, the strength of skins and the way that the boat building enterprise, airplane building has had an impact on the way that we even in fact built materials and furniture and skins in our own firm has had the kind of consequences that you’re asking, but I think of them as very small steps actually and I think that there is a huge leap forward that we still await.
Question: Do good architects need to have a grasp of other disciplines as well?
Nader Tehrani: That was possible let’s say until several decades ago where education and the advent of specialization had not been so in a way stratified. To the degree that now knowledge has been put on a rocket booster if you like the idea that different disciplines are occupying their own very distinct set of research principles that are inaccessible to a larger public. It is becoming more and more difficult to create great generalists, so part of our challenge I think right now is how not to lose sight of those very disciplinary traits that characterize the core of your field on the one hand, while remaining agile and able to engage the other disciplines in such a way that you can give architectural substance to their knowledge. The problem with these other discipline groups is that they’re brilliant in what they do, but they don’t necessarily understand their architectural potential nor do they understand their ability to synthesize and only the architect is trained to think in a way, to take incompatible elements and put them together into some kind of synthesis. Whether it is a difficult synthesis or a happy one is a different question, but the idea that the architect is a thinker and a great improviser, somebody who is able to pick up the pieces and that is sort of what I see as the next big challenge.
Question: How has architecture embraced the green movement?
Nader Tehrani: Well you’re asking somebody who is a green architect as a citizen, but I’m not an expert of green architecture. I’m also one of the people that thinking that most architects are using the banner of green architecture as a kind of soup de jour. I think it is a serious issue. I think that we need to think about questions of policy, questions of production in a way that is sustainable, but not everything has direct architectural consequences and one needs to remember that we are not talking about formal determinism here. We are not talking about a direct consequentiality about a green principle and the actual form of a piece of architecture. Imagine if you will you make a great piece of green building if you like, a great piece of architecture that is also a green building you know on Route 128. What is the consequence of that building when the entire planning principles of the United States in a way cultivate an attitude about sprawl? So the question of sustainability and the green movement needs to deal with the potentials of its impact on planning, urban design and architecture as a larger political effort, the architectural consequences of which have been around for centuries. Very basic principles of a building’s orientation to the sun, the way it collects heat, the way it stores heat, the way it expels heat at night, these are well documented techniques that go back centuries and centuries. I think there are many ways of engaging the green movement, part of them through new technologies and part of them through… actually an elimination of the very technologies that we so rely on today. The building that we are in right now, the room that we’re in has no windows and requires a mechanical system to make it breathe. Most buildings probably don’t need that and it depends on how we design them, but that is not an excuse not to research technologies that would advance the way that buildings work in new ways and new forms, but the linking, the direct link of determinism between form and function, between form and performance, between form and the greening movement is a myth that we also need to overcome.
Question: Where are people working to create a more sustainable dynamic?
Nader Tehrani: I mean I think the mere decision to invest in our inner cities is one of those efforts. The idea that through more density, through less public transport… Excuse me, through less driving and more public transport, through ways of congesting if you like, our social, personal, institutional and daily lives that achieves that. We don’t need to cultivate that kind of thing in an ever expanding domain you know in the suburbs, so sure. I think that that is one way that we are already doing it, but that is not enough.
Question: Where does a design concept begin?
Nader Tehrani: Our design process in nonlinear. We are always engaged in problems of culture, where we’re building, what that society is like, what its people are like, what our clients are. We’re always engaged with technologies. How do they build? What are the materials and methods available to us? What kind of labor force goes into it? We look at the particularities of this sight over another sight to the degree that a geography can inform that you’re working on something, but none of this usually adds up to a synthetic moment. They come into a kind of productive conflict. Our task is to see how the evidence of this information and this material that we’re researching ricochet off of each other to imagine how a project, an architectural problem arises out of that. The architectural problem doesn’t arise out of this of course. It is something that you project onto it and of course we have our own agendas, missions and thesis that underlie a lot of our work.
Question: What are some of the cultural considerations involved in designing a building?
Nader Tehrani: Well building in Beijing to start with was a very difficult task for us. The initial task of going there and understanding their means and methods of production was I think relatively easy and you can see from the work that it is so literal at one level in working with their traits, their brick, their mode of construction. The discursive moment between design and production was much more vast. A project that took two, three months to build took two, three years to negotiate probably out of our own ignorance of not being able to find the right channels to deliver the project contractually. That makes a huge difference to learn how to speak the language if not literally, culturally speaking the language of the society in which you are going to be a part of, so a lot of what we do now as a result of that project is to try to understand social practices, legal practices, casual practices if you like of how a project is produced as a kind of infrastructure for an actual design itself. It’s impossible really to have a successful design process, to understand where you invest that time and the Beijing lesson was a difficult one for a project that is only 2,000 square feet, two or three months to build, that should have been you know done in a much faster speed.
Question: What advice would you give someone beginning a building project in China?
Nader Tehrani: Probably I would tell them to find the right partner, find the right collaborative platform, to understand the financial parameters of a problem, but not to dwell on the details of this or that dollar because the larger mission, the larger… the speed at which something can be done and the general effort, the bigger picture essentially is more important and if you get those right the details can probably follow.
Question: How have globalization and interconnectivity changed the way we live?
Nader Tehrani: Well there is no doubt that with the accessibility of information and of knowledge there is a collapse of time and space and so the cultural differences that would have been there are now beginning to come into confluence, but it’s also more curious I would say that how the same bit of information or the similar pieces of knowledge are interpreted so differently in Tehran than in New York, so I’m more interested in identifying those differences and capitalizing on the uniqueness of that moment because you remember that architecture is not like a Nike sneaker. It isn’t actually everywhere. Architecture at the end is unique. Each building sits in a site in a certain moment in a very different way and for the most part that is what we do.
Question: Which of your projects most exemplifies your philosophy?
Nader Tehrani: I mean there was an important moment I think in our background about 10, 15 years ago when we designed Casa La Roca in Caracas and why I like that project still out of all of the work that I don’t like is that it expands on a very simple principle that was laid out you know centuries ago by Jefferson in the Serpentine Wall in Virginia, the idea that through a certain economy of folding or bending you can bring structural stability to a wall that is only one width thick, something that was later radicalized by Eladio DiEste. Our contribution to this lineage was very simple. If you don’t think of the wall as a brick wall, but start to think of it as a wall within which the mortar sets the agenda of the wall, the mortar not as a fixed entity, but as a variable entity, through the renovation of a bonding system that is not fixed like a running bond or a Flemish bond, but rather a variable bond you can bring different densities of structure into this wall that has lateral bracing, but in that moment you bring to the space behind it the possibility of controlling light and air. The idea that a structural proposition acquires an environmental gain or if you like a social, the division of the inhabitants of that house from their in-laws next door, to me that is a moment where problems of materiality, culture, technology and the environment coulees in a very specific design move and what I like about that also it’s not so much interested in the design of a wall. It’s interested in the design of the parameters that gauge that wall, so that once you understand that I can give it to you as another person to redesign it for me or to cultivate a relationship with it, which is much more intimate.
Question: Are there projects that you would alter?
Nader Tehrani: You know our work is constantly about failures. You test things so that they fail. That is the way engineer’s progress. They build arches, test them to their yield point and I hope somehow to be able to that, not in the technical realm so much, but rather in the realm of synthesis. Yes, we have learned a lot about those… from those failures. Maybe if I can say the biggest lesson I’ve learned from ourselves is in the quest for determination and specification we probably have focused too much on the role of a single detail in its ability to proliferate and control an entire design and the transition from let’s say the design of an object to the design of parameters that engage objects has been our most successful lesson. Now when I sit down to design and I design much more collectively now with other discipline groups I am still invested in the peculiarity and the specificity of an architectural object, but I’m much more interested in what the other discipline groups can bring to it and the degree to which my engagement with them can specify the parameter that propel the design process and in turn the object, but it gives us more lateral freedom to produce new forms of knowledge, to incorporate others in it and to make it smarter.
Question: How will architecture evolve in the coming decades?
Nader Tehrani: It is always difficult to look forward and to imagine what the next most important thing is, but let me tell you I’m happy that we’ve made or overcome let’s say the first digital revolution and we can get past problems of visualization and even the problems of building, so we can assume that to some degree. I’d also like the think that we can around the hurdle of sustainability with some ease. The notion that problems of sustainability can be assumed in the same way that railing heights and other codes may be assumed in architecture. These don’t have intellectual stakes. They’re merely part of the technical infrastructure that we have to deal with. The question I guess that looms for me right now is with the accessibility to design to the larger masses, with our ability to communicate and see works across the continent, across the age groups, with our ability to publish ourselves from a blog to a site, to a book, to a magazine how is it that questions of criticism gauge in the future education of the architect? What is a critical inquiry? And secondly, to what degree are we able to overcome our fascination with monocular projects, projects that are only invested in sustainability or projects that are only invested in geometry? How is it that we can imagine works of architecture that deal with the problem of integration or synthesis without the kind of overarching philosophies that we have inherited from the Fosters and the pianos? How do we deal with the exceptionality of the synthetic moment in inventive ways? And that I think will separate the great architects from the masses?
Recorded on April 20, 2010
A conversation with the M.I.T. Architecture professor and Office dA principal.
Join Radiolab's Latif Nasser at 1pm ET on Monday as he chats with Malcolm Gladwell live on Big Think.
Innovators don't ignore risk; they are just better able to analyze it in uncertain situations.
Remarkable 'fan art' commemorates 50th anniversary of legendary guitar player's passing.
- Legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix died exactly 50 years ago today.
- From September 1966 to his death, he performed over 450 times.
- This spectacular 'gigograph' shows the geographic dimension of his short but busy career.
Last night at the Samarkand<video controls id="3f8a7" width="100%" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5cd31bc25fbed5fd4fbc5905d44527e8" expand="1" feedbacks="true" mime_type="video/mp4" shortcode_id="1600450310811" url="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F19636-JimiHendrix_LivePerformances.mp4" videoControls="true"> <source src="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F19636-JimiHendrix_LivePerformances.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video><p>On September 17, 1970, Jimi Hendrix awoke at the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill, London, in the basement flat where his German girlfriend Monika Dannemann was staying. At around 2 p.m., they had tea in the hotel's garden and Monika took some snaps of Jimi with 'Black Beauty,' his favorite Fender Stratocaster guitar. Those were the last pictures ever taken of him. </p><p><span></span>Later in the afternoon, the couple went out – visiting local hipness hotspot <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Market,_London" target="_blank">Kensington Market</a>, an antiques market in Chelsea and Jimi's suite at the Cumberland Hotel, near Marble Arch. They had tea and wine at a friend's flat, argued and made up, and went back to the Samarkand Hotel, where they had a late meal, drank a bottle of wine and Jimi wrote a poem titled 'The Story of Life.'</p><p>Well after midnight, Hendrix went to a party, where he took some amphetamine. Dannemann showed up at the party, and around 3 a.m. the couple returned to the Samarkand. Unable to sleep, Jimi took nine of Monika's sleeping pills (the recommended dose was half a pill). When she awoke that morning, she found him unresponsive and covered in vomit. Around noon of the 18th of September – exactly 50 years ago today – Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead.</p><p>The last stanza of the poem he wrote the night before reads:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>The story of love is hello and goodbye.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>Until we meet again.</em></p><p>Amid the initial confusion surrounding his death, the poem was mistaken by some for a suicide note. Several subsequent investigations have provided nothing but indications of an accidental death. <br></p>
Immortalised in the '27 Club'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyNDQ3NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDU1NjcxNX0.27c7ESrA2OnXExGCsigfs5jOVoAAAR-M9pn3sIFRZdA/img.png?width=980" id="b5894" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6979d0862296c37bddbf9ea081cd3171" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bJimi Hendrix performing for the Dutch TV show 'Hoepla' on 11 June 1967." />
Jimi Hendrix performing for the Dutch TV show 'Hoepla' on 11 June 1967.
Credit: A. Vente, CC BY-SA 3.0<p>Arguably the<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJunCsrhJjg&ab_cha..." target="_blank"> greatest guitarist in rock history</a>, Hendrix was one of the first modern members of the '27 Club' – musicians immortalised mid-fame, dead at the still-tender age of 27. Earlier members include Robert Johnson (d. 1938) and Brian Jones (d. 1969), later ones Janis Joplin (who died two weeks after Hendrix), Jim Morrison (d. 1971), Kurt Cobain (d. 1994) and Amy Winehouse (d. 2011).</p><p>In the States, Hendrix had made a name for himself as a band guitarist, playing for both Little Richard and Ike Turner. Not an undividedly positive name: he got fired from both of those bands. His own career – as a solo artist, and as the leader of the Jimi Hendrix Experience – only took off when he moved to London. <br></p><p>The graph above connects over 450 dots, one for each gig he played. It shows the amount of hard work Hendrix put into his career, and how it paid off – after criss-crossing Northwestern Europe, but mainly England, his fame hops back across the Atlantic and becomes transcontinental. A few samples from his <a href="https://concerts.fandom.com/wiki/Jimi_Hendrix" target="_blank">gig database</a>:</p>
London first, London last<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyNDQ4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDQ4MTg5Nn0.ST2r7qyiI9CELqKP0-CpoV7YIWioAEQBXscq9mJVESM/img.jpg?width=980" id="86886" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0d79abc719416b4068456e6938fcd776" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968, with Jimi, bass player Noel Redding (right) and drummer Mitch Mitchell (on the floor)." />
The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968, with Jimi, bass player Noel Redding (right) and drummer Mitch Mitchell (on the floor).
Credit: public domain<ul><li>24 September 1966: first solo performance in London, at Scotch of St James.</li><li>13 October 1966: first concert of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, supporting Johnny Halliday in Évreux, France.</li><li>18 January 1967: performing 'Hey Joe' on 'Top of the Pops', at the BBC TV's Lime Grove Studios in London.</li><li>18 June 1967: first stateside gig, at the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe82eYRjiBU&ab_cha..." target="_blank">Monterey International Pop Festival</a> in California.</li><li>3 July 1967: first East Coast show, at the Scene Club in NYC.</li><li>9 October 1967: L'Olympia, Paris.</li><li>14 November 1967: at the Royal Albert Hall in London; first gig of package tour with Pink Floyd, The Nice and others.</li><li>31 December 1967: at the Speakeasy in London. Jimi plays a 30-minute rendition of <em>Auld Lang Syne</em>.</li><li>12 March 1968: jam session with Jim Morrison, Buddy Miles and others at The Scene in NYC.</li><li>22 June 1968: at The Scene in NYC, Jimi jams with the original lineup of the Jeff Beck Group, which also includes Rod Stewart and Ron Wood.</li><li>14 September 1968: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles.</li><li>23 January 1969: two shows at the <em>Sportpalast</em> in Berlin, Germany.</li><li>18 May 1969: Madison Square Garden, NYC.</li><li>29 June 1969: Mile High Stadium, Denver – the last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.</li><li>17 August 1969: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwIymq0iTsw&t=14s&..." target="_blank">Woodstock</a>, New York.</li><li>30 August 1970: Isle of Wight Festival, England.</li><li>16 September 1970: jam with Eric Burdon's new band War at Ronnie Scott's in Soho, London. Jimi's last public performance.</li></ul><p>This bit of 'fan art' was created by Owen Powell, who points out that "it's not an academic study of Jimi Hendrix's movements, more a visualisation of the data mapped in sequential order." So if he flew home between gigs, that's not recorded here. <br></p><p><em>The Jimi Hendrix 'gigograph' reproduced with kind permission from Mr Powell. Check out his <a href="https://twitter.com/owenjpowell" target="_blank">twitter</a> and his <a href="https://owenpowell.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1048</strong></p><p><strong></strong><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" style="">email@example.com</a>.<br></p>
Astronomers find these five chapters to be a handy way of conceiving the universe's incredibly long lifespan.
- We're in the middle, or thereabouts, of the universe's Stelliferous era.
- If you think there's a lot going on out there now, the first era's drama makes things these days look pretty calm.
- Scientists attempt to understand the past and present by bringing together the last couple of centuries' major schools of thought.
The 5 eras of the universe<p>There are many ways to consider and discuss the past, present, and future of the universe, but one in particular has caught the fancy of many astronomers. First published in 1999 in their book <a href="https://amzn.to/2wFQLiL" target="_blank"><em>The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity</em></a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Adams" target="_blank">Fred Adams</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_P._Laughlin" target="_blank">Gregory Laughlin</a> divided the universe's life story into five eras:</p><ul><li>Primordial era</li><li>Stellferous era</li><li>Degenerate era</li><li>Black Hole Era</li><li>Dark era</li></ul><p>The book was last updated according to current scientific understandings in 2013.</p><p>It's worth noting that not everyone is a subscriber to the book's structure. Popular astrophysics writer <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethansiegel/#30921c93683e" target="_blank">Ethan C. Siegel</a>, for example, published an article on <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/07/26/we-have-already-entered-the-sixth-and-final-era-of-our-universe/#7072d52d4e5d" target="_blank"><em>Medium</em></a> last June called "We Have Already Entered The Sixth And Final Era Of Our Universe." Nonetheless, many astronomers find the quintet a useful way of discuss such an extraordinarily vast amount of time.</p>
The Primordial era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTEyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjEzMjY1OX0.PRpvAoa99qwsDNprDme9tBWDim6mS7Mjx6IwF60fSN8/img.jpg?width=980" id="db4eb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e568b0cc12ed624bb8d7e5ff45882bd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Sagittarius Production/Shutterstock<p> This is where the universe begins, though what came before it and where it came from are certainly still up for discussion. It begins at the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. </p><p> For the first little, and we mean <em>very</em> little, bit of time, spacetime and the laws of physics are thought not yet to have existed. That weird, unknowable interval is the <a href="https://www.universeadventure.org/eras/era1-plankepoch.htm" target="_blank">Planck Epoch</a> that lasted for 10<sup>-44</sup> seconds, or 10 million of a trillion of a trillion of a trillionth of a second. Much of what we currently believe about the Planck Epoch eras is theoretical, based largely on a hybrid of general-relativity and quantum theories called quantum gravity. And it's all subject to revision. </p><p> That having been said, within a second after the Big Bang finished Big Banging, inflation began, a sudden ballooning of the universe into 100 trillion trillion times its original size. </p><p> Within minutes, the plasma began cooling, and subatomic particles began to form and stick together. In the 20 minutes after the Big Bang, atoms started forming in the super-hot, fusion-fired universe. Cooling proceeded apace, leaving us with a universe containing mostly 75% hydrogen and 25% helium, similar to that we see in the Sun today. Electrons gobbled up photons, leaving the universe opaque. </p><p> About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled enough that the first stable atoms capable of surviving began forming. With electrons thus occupied in atoms, photons were released as the background glow that astronomers detect today as cosmic background radiation. </p><p> Inflation is believed to have happened due to the remarkable overall consistency astronomers measure in cosmic background radiation. Astronomer <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGCVTSQw7WU" target="_blank">Phil Plait</a> suggests that inflation was like pulling on a bedsheet, suddenly pulling the universe's energy smooth. The smaller irregularities that survived eventually enlarged, pooling in denser areas of energy that served as seeds for star formation—their gravity pulled in dark matter and matter that eventually coalesced into the first stars. </p>
The Stelliferous era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTEzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjA0OTcwMn0.GVCCFbBSsPdA1kciHivFfWlegOfKfXUfEtFKEF3otQg/img.jpg?width=980" id="bc650" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c8f86bf160ecdea6b330f818447393cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Casey Horner/unsplash<p>The era we know, the age of stars, in which most matter existing in the universe takes the form of stars and galaxies during this active period. </p><p>A star is formed when a gas pocket becomes denser and denser until it, and matter nearby, collapse in on itself, producing enough heat to trigger nuclear fusion in its core, the source of most of the universe's energy now. The first stars were immense, eventually exploding as supernovas, forming many more, smaller stars. These coalesced, thanks to gravity, into galaxies.</p><p>One axiom of the Stelliferous era is that the bigger the star, the more quickly it burns through its energy, and then dies, typically in just a couple of million years. Smaller stars that consume energy more slowly stay active longer. In any event, stars — and galaxies — are coming and going all the time in this era, burning out and colliding.</p><p>Scientists predict that our Milky Way galaxy, for example, will crash into and combine with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years to form a new one astronomers are calling the Milkomeda galaxy.</p><p>Our solar system may actually survive that merger, amazingly, but don't get too complacent. About a billion years later, the Sun will start running out of hydrogen and begin enlarging into its red giant phase, eventually subsuming Earth and its companions, before shrining down to a white dwarf star.</p>
The Degenerate era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTk3NDQyN30.gy4__ALBQrdbdm-byW5gQoaGNvFTuxP5KLYxEMBImNc/img.jpg?width=980" id="77f72" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="08bb56ea9fde2cee02d63ed472d79ca3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Diego Barucco/Shutterstock/Big Think<p>Next up is the Degenerate era, which will begin about 1 quintillion years after the Big Bang, and last until 1 duodecillion after it. This is the period during which the remains of stars we see today will dominate the universe. Were we to look up — we'll assuredly be outta here long before then — we'd see a much darker sky with just a handful of dim pinpoints of light remaining: <a href="https://earthsky.org/space/evaporating-giant-exoplanet-white-dwarf-star" target="_blank">white dwarfs</a>, <a href="https://earthsky.org/space/new-observations-where-stars-end-and-brown-dwarfs-begin" target="_blank">brown dwarfs</a>, and <a href="https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/definition-what-is-a-neutron-star" target="_blank">neutron stars</a>. These"degenerate stars" are much cooler and less light-emitting than what we see up there now. Occasionally, star corpses will pair off into orbital death spirals that result in a brief flash of energy as they collide, and their combined mass may become low-wattage stars that will last for a little while in cosmic-timescale terms. But mostly the skies will be be bereft of light in the visible spectrum.</p><p>During this era, small brown dwarfs will wind up holding most of the available hydrogen, and black holes will grow and grow and grow, fed on stellar remains. With so little hydrogen around for the formation of new stars, the universe will grow duller and duller, colder and colder.</p><p>And then the protons, having been around since the beginning of the universe will start dying off, dissolving matter, leaving behind a universe of subatomic particles, unclaimed radiation…and black holes.</p>
The Black Hole era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjE0OTQ2MX0.ifwOQJgU0uItiSRg9z8IxFD9jmfXlfrw6Jc1y-22FuQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="103ea" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f0e6a71dacf95ee780dd7a1eadde288d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock/Big Think<p> For a considerable length of time, black holes will dominate the universe, pulling in what mass and energy still remain. </p><p> Eventually, though, black holes evaporate, albeit super-slowly, leaking small bits of their contents as they do. Plait estimates that a small black hole 50 times the mass of the sun would take about 10<sup>68</sup> years to dissipate. A massive one? A 1 followed by 92 zeros. </p><p> When a black hole finally drips to its last drop, a small pop of light occurs letting out some of the only remaining energy in the universe. At that point, at 10<sup>92</sup>, the universe will be pretty much history, containing only low-energy, very weak subatomic particles and photons. </p>
The Dark Era<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTE5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzg5OTEyMH0.AwiPRGJlGIcQjjSoRLi6V3g5klRYtxQJIpHFgZdZkuo/img.jpg?width=980" id="60c77" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a857fb7f0d85cf4a248dbb3350a6e1c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Big Think<p>We can sum this up pretty easily. Lights out. Forever.</p>
Welcome to the world's newest motorsport: manned multicopter races that exceed speeds of 100 mph.
- Airspeeder is a company that aims to put on high-speed races featuring electric flying vehicles.
- The so-called Speeders are able to fly at speeds of up to 120 mph.
- The motorsport aims to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector, which could usher in the age of air taxis.
Credit: Airspeeder<p>To prevent crashes, Airspeeder is working with the companies Acronis and Teknov8 to develop "high-speed collision avoidance" systems for its Speeders.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As they compete, Speeders will utilise cutting-edge LiDAR and Machine Vision technology to ensure close but safe racing, with defined and digitally governed no-fly areas surrounding spectators and officials," Airspeeder wrote in a <a href="https://airspeeder.com/news/2020/9/7/airspeeder-worlds-first-flying-electric-car-racing-series-partners-with-cyber-protection-leader-acronis-34g4k" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p>
Credit: Airspeeder<p>Beyond motorsports, Airspeeder hopes to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector. This sector is where companies like <a href="https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2020-01-07/hyundai-and-uber-announce-evtol-air-taxi-partnership" target="_blank">Uber, Hyundai</a>, and Airbus are working to develop air taxis, which could someday propel the ridesharing industry into our skies. By 2040, the autonomous urban aircraft industry could be worth $1.5 trillion, according to a <a href="https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/autonomous-aircraft" target="_blank">2019 report</a> from Morgan Stanley.</p><p>Still, many technical and regulatory hurdles remain. Matt Pearson, Airspeeder's founder and CEO, thinks the futuristic motorsport will help to not only speed up that process, but also pave the way for self-driving cars.</p>