In the frozen reaches of Norway, one family is warming up in a beautiful cob home. Under a dome!
Image via Inhabitat.
Norway — not exactly a tropical paradise. But the Hjertefølgers have been living what many of us would consider a dream here since 2013. Tucked away on the frigid Sandhornøya island, the family is living a sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing comfort or glam. Their three-story cob home (built with sand, water, clay, and other organic materials) is insulated from the ice in a solar geodesic dome by Solardome.
Despite boasting five bedrooms, two bathrooms, and six inhabitants, the house fits snugly inside the 25-foot-high dome. In fact, there’s even room for a garden — where the Hjertefølgers grow much of their food. Apple trees, cherries, plums, apricots, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, various herbs, squash, even kiwis languish in the greenhouse-like interior of the dome, safe from Norway’s cutting winds and crushing snow. And, despite the area’s complete lack of sunlight for over three months a year, they provide much of the produce the six-strong family needs.
Image via Inhabitat.
In contrast to the land’s frigid trappings, the home’s interior is warm and welcoming — while sacrificing none of Norway’s breathtaking beauty. The family can even enjoy the Northern Lights (the real ones!) without ever passing the doorstep.
“We love the house; it has a soul of its own and it feels very personal. What surprises us is the fact that we built ourselves anew as we built the house,” Ingrid Hjertefølger told Inhabitat. “The process changed us, shaped us.”
The house — which was built from the ground up by the Hjertefølgers and friends — has been housing the family for three years now. They say that it has a unique atmosphere to it, something that they feel would never have been the case with “a house someone else has planned and built for [them], or a house with corners and straight lines.”
The family has a blog that you can follow, here. If anyone needs me for the next few hours, just know I’ll be there, pining over how awesomely cool (but warm) their home is and over their carrots. Their carrots look ridiculously plump.
If you have a good look at some of the underlying concepts of modern science, you might notice that some of our current notions are rooted in old scientific thinking, some of which originated in ancient times. Some of today’s scientists have even reconsidered or revamped old scientific concepts. We’ve explored some of them below.
4 Elements of the Ancient Greeks vs 4 Phases of Matter
The ancient Greek philosopher and scholar Empedocles (495-430 BC) came up with the cosmogenic belief that all matter was made up of four principal elements: earth, water, air, and fire. He further speculated that these various elements or substances were able to be separated or reconstituted. According to Empedocles, these actions were a result of two forces. These forces were love, which worked to combine, and hate, which brought about a breaking down of the elements.
What scientists refer to as elements today have few similarities with the elements examined by the Greeks thousands of years ago. However, Empedocles’ proposed quadruplet of substances bares resemblance to what we call the four phases of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The phases are the different forms or properties material substances can take.
Water in two states: liquid (including the clouds), and solid (ice). Image via Wikipedia.
Compare Empedocles’ substances to the modern phases of matter. “Earth” would be solid. The dirt on the ground is in a solid phase of matter. Next comes water which is a liquid; water is the most common liquid on Earth. Air, something which surrounds us constantly in our atmosphere, is a gaseous form of matter.
And lastly, we come to fire. Fire has fascinated human beings for time beyond history. Fire is similar to plasma in that both generate electromagnetic radiation such as light. Most flames you see in your everyday life are not hot enough to be considered plasma. They are typically considered gaseous. A prime example of an area where plasma is formed is the sun. The ancient four elements have an intriguing correspondent in modern science.
Ancient Concept of Dome Sky vs. Simulation Hypothesis
Millennia ago, people held the notion that his world was flat. Picture a horizontal cooking sheet with a transparent glass bowl set on top of it. Primitive people thought of the Earth in much the same way. They considered the land itself as flat and the sky as a dome. However, early Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras (c. 570-495 BC) — who is also known for formulating the Pythagorean theorem — understood that Earth was actually spherical.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Now scientists are considering the scientific concept of the dome once again but in a much more complex manner.
Regardless of what conspiracy lovers would have you believe, the human race has ventured into outer space, leaving the face of the Earth to travel to the stars. In the face of all our achievements, some scientists actually question if reality is real, a mindboggling and apparently laughable idea.
But some scientists have wondered if we could be existing in a computer simulation. The gap between science and science fiction starts to become very fine when considering this.
This idea calls to mind classic sci-fi plots such as those frequently played out in The Twilight Zone in which everything the characters take as real turns out to be something entirely unexpected. You might also remember the sequence in Men in Black in which the audience sees that the entire universe is inside an alien marble. Bill Nye even uses the dome as an example in discussing hypothetical virtual reality. This gives one the feeling that he is living in a snowglobe.
Medieval Alchemy vs. Modern Chemistry
The alchemists of the Middle Ages attempted to prove that matter could be transformed from one object into an entirely new object. One of their fondest goals they wished to achieve was the creation of gold from a less valuable substance. They were dreaming big, but such dreams have not yet come to fruition. Could it actually be possible to alter one type of matter into another?
Well, modern chemists may be well on their way to achieving this feat some day. They are pursuing the idea of converting light into matter, as is expressed in Albert Einstein’s famous equation. Since 2014, scientists have been claiming that such an operation would be quite feasible, especially with extant technology.
Einstein’s famous equation.
Light is made up of photons, and a contraption capable of performing the conversion has been dubbed “photon-photon collider.” Though we might not be able to transform matter into other matter in the near future, it looks like the light-to-matter transformation has a bright outlook.
A multidisciplinary MIT project promises to offer Mars colonists safe, sustainable, efficient, and comfortable housing. The project won the Mars City Design competition which focuses on creating sustainable habitats for Mars colonists.
The MIT team won first place for urban design with the Redwood Forest, a series of woodsy habitats enclosed in open, public domes that would reside on the Martian surface. Image credits: Valentina Sumini.
The domes can house as many as 50 people, offering them not only a place to sleep but also open space with plants and water coming from Mars’ Northern Plains. Everything will be built upon a network of underground tunnels called roots, which not only connect different domes but also protect colonizers from cosmic radiation, extreme thermal changes, or micrometeorite impacts.
In total, the domes could host a city of 10,000 colonists. The city will “physically and functionally mimic a forest,” as every dome will manage solar energy and water in a tree-like fashion.
“Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment. Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens,” says MIT doctoral student George Lordos, who was also involved with the project.
Redwood Forest is filled with domes, or what the team calls tree habitats. Credits: Valentina Sumini.
MIT postdoc Valentina Sumini was the leader of the project. She says that the aim of the project isn’t only to build a functional and sustainable environment, but also one that would be comfortable.
“On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life. Designing a forest also symbolizes the potential for outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape. Each tree habitat incorporates a branching structural system and an inflated membrane enclosure, anchored by tunneling roots. The design of a habitat can be generated using a computational form-finding and structural optimization workflow developed by the team. The design workflow is parametric, which means that each habitat is unique and contributes to a diverse forest of urban spaces.”
That last part means that similar designs and approaches could also be used for other purposes, including here on Earth. For instance, the tree habitat design could create comfortable working spaces in harsh environments such as the Arctic, barren deserts, or the seafloor. The underground network system could provide easy local transport for electric vehicles, while hydroponic gardening beneath cities could provide fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables with lower land and transportation costs, an idea which is already picking up steam in many cities of the world.