Glass – shaping our view, our future

Glass became incredibly important material in the late 20th century.  It could be argued that it marked the end of the Iron Age.

After the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, comes glass, the centre piece of the Information / Space Age, an era that has only recently kicked off.

In the same way the Iron advanced industrial and military capabilities, glass is a core material in this new age.   It allows us to see new things, to better see ourselves, and enables us to share of ourselves in an immediate way.

This material continues to shape our psychology and our future.

Glass from Nature

Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, was treasured by many societies back to the Stone Age in many geographies.  This beautiful material can be shined smooth to be a mirror, or chipped with durable edges and for the production of sharp cutting tools.


High River, Alberta’s prehistoric workshop
Obsidian – Volcanic Glass Prized for Stone Tool Making

Obsidian is a limited resource found in only some localities, and soon was extensively traded.  Archaeological evidence suggests that the first true glass was made in coastal north Syria, Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt.

First forged glass

Advances in metalurgy and ceramics are evidence of human ability to make hotter fires. The wood fire has been part of the human tool arsenal for up to 2 million years.  Its fire burns up 400 – 600°C.  Charcoal, well drafted and focused, burns up to 1,390 °C.

As kilns, furnaces and forges improved and heated up, it was increasingly possible to melt tin, copper, bronze, iron, aluminium, pottery, and glass.

It could be argued that the classic fired brick used extensively by the Roman empire is a proto-form of glass, as sand is often part of its composition.

Bricks are fired (“burned”) at 900–1000 °C to achieve strength.  Pottery kilns heat to between  1100 °C for earthenware to  1400 °C for porcelain.

  • tin at 231.9 °C,
  • lead at 327.5 °C,
  • Brass (copper alloy – copper, zinc) – 900 to 940 °C
  • Bronze (copper alloy – 90% copper, 10% tin) melts at 950 °C,
  • copper at 1083°C
  • silver at 961.8 °C,
  • gold at 1064 °C,
  • iron at 1,538 °C,
  • glass, at approximately 1400 °C to 1600 °C depending on the composition of glass.
  • Fused quartz at 1650 °C (3000 F)
  • chromium ( for stainless steel) – 1907 °C

The earliest known man-made glass objects, of at least the mid third millennium BCE, were beads, perhaps initially created as accidental by-products of metal-working (slags) or during the production of faience, a pre-glass vitreous material made by a process similar to glazing.

Glass beads, like all prehistoric beads made of stone like jasper and agate as well as amber are very difficult to be shaped, cut, polished and drilled, all by hand.

The Manufacturing of Ancient Stone Beads

The hours spent creating these beautiful objects made them treasured objects, an easy form of early currency.  Bead qualities such as the rarity of the material, the difficulty of bead execution, the quality of the execution.

Glass remained a luxury material, and the disasters that overtook Late Bronze Age civilizations seem to have brought glass-making to a halt.  It was primarily used for decorative pieces. Blown glass was again picked up in Hellenic period and was later used by Romans as crockery and broad sheet panes.

Glass is produced with:

  • Silica from sand (about 70%)
  • Lime
  • Soldium oxide from lime by the Solvay process
  • Cullet (recycled glass)
  • metal oxides

Blown glass

Glass blowing is indicated as having begun during the Roman era, and is present in Jeruselum in the first century. From the late 3rd century onwards window glass was made by the muff process, where a blown cylinder was cut laterally and flattened out to produce a sheet.

The end of the Roman era saw another centuries long break in the production of glass in Europe, especially in windows.  The recycling of Roman glass formed the major part of the local industry and glassmaking skills declined

Glass for stained windows is seen in Euope in 7th century Anglo-Saxon culture and may be the first use of stained glass.

The venerable monk Bede wrote about St Paul’s monastery and church at Jarrow that in 675 Abbot Biscop went abroad to Francia (what is now France) to find glaziers to fill the windows of his new church, St Peter’s, which he had founded the previous year.


Broad Sheet

A cylinder of glass was blown then cut into a sheet that was cooled on an iron plate.  Broad sheet glass is poor quality, with many imperfections and mostly translucent, and was most often cut into panes and placed into leadlight windows, a type of stained glass without coloured glass.



Crown Glass

This glass is primarily for art work and vessels.  Glass is blown nto a hollow iron tube.  This was then transferred from the blowpipe to a punty (a steel rod) and then flattened by reheating and spinning out the bowl-shaped piece of glass (bullion) into a flat disk by centrifugal force, up to 5 or 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 metres) in diameter.


These two glass types were used until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Clear Glass

The Venetian Angelo Barovier is credited with first adding magnesium and potassium oxide to molten glass to produce truly clear glass in the 13th century.  Certainly this improved the quality of sheet glass produced as above. but more importantly produced glass that could be seen through.

With glass curvature, it was possible to see objects magnified.  This led to the development of corrective lenses, to the microscope, and the telescope.  These tools enabled advancements in science and understanding.


Corrective eye-wear was begun by monks pouring over and copying manuscripts.  This fashion expanded as students and scholars filled the first European universities.

The idea that such lenses could improve sight, and thereby better knowledge and understanding of the world is integral to modern culture.

Conrad von Soest's Brillenapostel


Astronomy had its revolutions with Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler.

With the telescope and discovery of four moons of Jupiter, Galileo confirmed the heliocentric system, demoting Earth from the universe center to an orbiting planet, among others, which in turn may have moons.




Compound microscopes feature two or more lenses, connected by a hollow cylinder (tube). The top lens, the one people look through, is called the eyepiece. The bottom lens is known as the objective lens. So today, when we say “microscope,” we really mean “compound microscope”.

Anton van Leeuwenhoek is credited as one of the earliest developers of the microscope, but the discoveries were most famously captured by Robert Hook in his book Micrographia (1665).  His diagrams first spell out cellular structures in plants, leading the way toward microbiology and advances in medicine.




Although reflections in water and smooth obsidian have been part of human culture for millenia, the modern looking-glass with plate glass was developed in the 1500s by Venetian glassmakers on the island of Murano.  They covered the back of the glass with a mercury-tin amalgam, obtaining near-perfect and undistorted reflection.

Mirrors became household items in the Renaissance.  Steven Johnson discusses the impact of the mirror in his book How We Got to Now, how the changing psychology of this era partly fueled by this ability of humans to be able to see themselves clearly, which feeds into the growing interest in the individual, be it human rights or literature.



19th Century advances

  • 1843: An early form of “float glass” invented by British steel industrialist/inventer Henry Bessemer, pouring glass onto liquid tin. Expensive and not a commercial success.
  • 1874: Tempered glass is developed by Francois Barthelemy Alfred Royer de la Bastie (1830–1901) of Paris, by quenching almost molten glass in a heated bath of oil or grease.


Machine-rolled glass

Machine-rolled glass is introduced in 1888.

In the Single Roll Method, molten glass is poured onto a metal table and a single metal roll is used to flatten it into a sheet. Sometimes called “hand cast” sheet glass.

In the double Roll Method, molten glass is passed between a pair of rotating metal rolls to form the sheet.

The down side with machine rolled glass is the distortion from flaws on the surfaces it is rolled on.




Vertical Draw Method

Vertical Draw Method is where molten glass is pulled up vertically through a slit in a large one-piece refractory block that is floating on the glass surface. The annealing lehr is mounted vertically over the draw chamber. Drawn glass is generally more pristine than rolled glass because its surface has remained untouched during forming.



Float Glass

Float glass is first launched in the UK in 1959.  It was Sir Alastair Pilkington. who perfected the method.  Molten glass is pulled from the forehearth atop a bath of molten tin. The process produces a perfectly smooth sheet of uniform thickness in high volume. The float process is used to produce virtually all common window glass and plate glass today, thus the term “float glass.”  This became the basis for all modern glass.


In the 20th century, new types of glass such as

  • Laminated glass for uses such as car windows
  • Toughened glass, for use in smart phones
  • Reinforced glass for bullet-proof, and pressure glass
  • Glass-ceramics – used in glass-ceramic cooktops
  • Fused quartz – used in halogen lamps, telescopes
  • fiberglass for insulation, boats, electronic circuit boards
  • Optical fiber for communications
  • Photovoltaic solar panels for energy generation
  • Glass blocks


Windows for buildings

These have increased the use of glass as a building material and resulted in new applications of glass.  Larger, clearer, stronger, thermally enabled building glass became common in a new constructions.


The largest such panes are seen in shopping centres and store front, a view into the offerings within. Some ballistic laminated incorporates a polycarbonate layer as an internal core to reduce the weight of the product. Bear in mind glass weighs 2.6 kg per 1mm of thickness over a square metre. Therefore the average shopfront glass of 3m x 3m say 10.8mm thick will weigh 252.72KG, over a quarter of a tonne.


The greenhouse brings the possibility of having a controlled environment in which plants can be grown, without the outdoor restrictions such as temperature, wind, and moisture.

Glass curtain walls

Multi-storey buildings are more frequently constructed with curtain walls |(an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural) made almost entirely of glass.  When glass is used as the curtain wall, a great advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building.

Float glass became the bed rock of glass manufacturing worldwide and the process is still the one used today. Since then the manufacturing of laminated glass has developed. This is as it sounds, literally bonding two or more sheets of glass together to create either safety, security, bullet and blast resistant, or acoustic glazing. This is available in thicknesses ranging from 4.4mm right up to50mm +.


Glass Block

Glass block made its debut in the 1930s and quickly found its place in many commercial, industrial, and residential applications.  The glass block was originally developed to provide natural light in manufacturing plants.


Vacuum glass tubes

Early electronic components, diodes and triodes were housed in vacuum glass tubes.  The evacuated tube allows for more precise control of electric current between electrodes.  Its most common usage is in lighting and diodes.

Glass-housed lighting

The use of artificial light has been another a significant step glass provides in giving humans control over their environment.  As much as telescopes allow us to see into the past vastness of space, and microscopes open the way to a cellular, structural understanding,  the advances of glass-housed lighting have given sight to the many naturally dark corners.

Florescent tubes is a partial vacuum and a small amount of mercury. An electric discharge in the tube causes the mercury atoms to emit mostly ultraviolet light. The tube is lined with a coating of a fluorescent material, called the phosphor, which absorbs the ultraviolet and re-emits visible light.

The incandescent bulbs produce light by a filament heated white-hot by electric current, protected from oxidation with a glass or quartz bulb that is filled with inert gas or evacuated.


Thomas Edison may not have invented the bulb or first harnessed electricity, but Edison’s success is his development of an entire, integrated system of electric lighting.

With the use of electrical power, the florescent and the incandescent light bulbs gave a purpose for distributing electricity to the population. This single factor changed the way humans could interact with their environment, no longer limited by the need for natural light to see.

The electrical grid has become the backbone to society, with lighting, refrigeration & home entertainment quickly becoming an essential service for modern life.



A diode is a two-terminal electronic component first built into a glass vacuum tube, which conducts primarily in one direction (asymmetric conductance).

The terminals, called anode and cathode do not relate to the voltage polarity of those electrodes but the direction of the current: whether positive charge is flowing into or out of the device.

Conventional current flow, in most cases, has positive charge leaving the device via the cathode, and positive charge flowing into the device via the anode.

The standard diode is commonly used for conversion of AC (alternating current) using in electrical transmission to DC (direct current) the preferred electricity for circuitry.


A triode is a glass vacuum tube consisting of three terminal electrodes inside an evacuated glass envelope: a heated filament or cathode, a grid, and a plate (anode).  Triodes were used in electronic amplification for radio and telephony, widely used in consumer electronics such as radios, televisions, and audio systems until it was replaced in the 1960s by the transistor.


Silicon carbide & the LED

This compound of silicon and carbon is also known as carborundum.  It was first made in 1890 and initially used as an abrasive.  It is bonded to be a very hard ceramics and used in applications requiring high endurance, such as car brakes, car clutches and ceramic plates in bulletproof vests.

With Silicon carbide, Henry Joseph Round, personal assistant to Guglielmo Marconi, was the first to report electroluminescence from a solid state diode using a crystal of silicon carbide and a cat’s-whisker detector, a thin wire that lightly touches the crystal to produce light. This lead to the development of the light-emitting diode.

The LED lighting has revolutionized home lighting, by only requiring a fraction of the electricity and cost of incandescent lighting.

Laser diode

A laser diode is an electrically pumped semiconductor laser in which the active laser medium is formed by a positive-negative junction of a semiconductor diode similar to that found in a light-emitting diode.

The laser diode is the most common type of laser produced with a wide range of uses that include fiber optic communications, barcode readers, laser pointers, CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc reading and recording, laser printing, laser scanning and laser surgery.

Crystalline silicon

Crystalline silicon (c-Si), the crystalline forms of silicon,  is the dominant semiconducting material.  It is cut into think wafers and used in photo voltaic technology for the production of solar cells and integrated circuitry.

Integrated circuitry is primarily a collection of transistors, also known as chips. A modern chip may have several billion transistors in an area the size of a human fingernail.

The impact of integrated circuitry in computers, phones, and cars has already been at the center of a societal transformation.

Solar power with photo voltaics is only now accounting for a portion of the world’s energy use, and will likely become increasingly dominant as a source of renewable energy.

Wafers are formed of highly pure (99.9999999% purity), nearly defect-free single crystalline material.  One process for forming crystalline wafers is known as Czochralski growth.800px-czochralski_process-svg


Optical fiber

A fiber-optic cable is made up of incredibly thin strands of glass or plastic known as optical fibers used for computer networking, telephone systems, and medical applications such as endoscopy.

One cable can have as few as two strands or as many as several hundred. Each strand is less than a tenth as thick as a human hair and can carry something like 25,000 telephone calls, so an entire fiber-optic cable can easily carry several million calls.

Fiber-optic cables carry information between two places using entirely optical (light-based) technology.   Because glass does not conduct electricity, fiber optics is not subject to electromagnetic interference.  It also is much more difficult to splice into, so using a data sniffer to steal network data is nearly impossible.

Information travels roughly 10 times further before it needs amplifying—which makes fiber networks simpler and cheaper to operate and maintain.  Signal loss (attenuation) is minimized, making it possible to have larger distances covered wtihout signal boosters.

Fiber-optic cables can carry far more data than copper cables of the same diameter.  In 2012 a research group at the Technical University of Denmark managed 43 terabits per second over a single optical fiber with just one laser transmitter. In a more user-friendly unit, 43Tbps is equivalent to a transfer rate of 5,375 gigabytes per second.

Between gorilla glass and silicon wafer of smart phones, the old Cathode ray tube monitors for computers and today’s optical fiber networks with optical laser repeaters, glass has played an central role into today’s information revolution.

Viewports in Space

Some say that spacecraft have no need of windows or portholes, for much the same reason as a submarine or even a modern warship. (*)  Windows represent structural weakness, and there really isn’t much to see in any event.

Unless the spacecraft is orbiting a planet or docking with another ship, the only thing visible is the depths of space and the eye-searing sun. And unlike submarines, windows on a spacecraft also can let in deadly radiation.  That said, the space viewport is part of the spacecrafts being built.

Apollo Command/Service Module windows

The CM had five windows. The two side windows measured 13 inches (330 mm) square next to the left and right-hand couches. Two forward-facing triangular rendezvous windows measured 8 by 13 inches (200 by 330 millimetres), used to aid in rendezvous and docking with the LM. The circular hatch window was 10 5/8 in. diameter (27 cm) and was directly over the center couch.

Each window assembly consisted of three thick panes of glass. The inner two panes are made of aluminosilicate and make up part of the module’s pressure vessel. The fused silica outer pane served as both a debris shield and as part of the heat shield. Each pane has an anti-reflective coating and a blue-red reflective coating on the inner surface.




Soyuz is  is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space programme in the 1960s that remains in service today.  On the latest Soyuz versions (since Soyuz TM), a small window was introduced, providing the crew with a forward view.



NASA Space Shuttle windows

The space shuttle had 9 cockpit triple-paned, optical-quality fused silica windows. There are six thermal panes in the windshield, two in the overhead windows (observation windows) and one in the side hatch.


The outer pane, also called the thermal pane, is a .6 inch thick plate of fused silica glass, approximately 35″ x 45″.

The outer panes of the windshield serve as a critical part of the thermal protection system, keeping the high heat of reentry away from the manned compartment of the vehicle. The inner panes form part of the pressure vessel where the crew lives.

In more than sixty missions over the fourteen years, space shuttle windows have had a few encounters with on-orbit particulates (space debris and micrometeoroids).  In that time, 177 impact features (chips) were found on the STS outer windows (through STS-65). Forty-five of the damages were large enough to warrant replacement of the window.

Orbital impacts and the Space Shuttle windshield

International Space Station cupola

The Cupola is an ESA’s  contribution to the space station assembly.

It is a spectacular technological, robotised control room with seven windows, which will allow the astronauts to see 360° around the International Space Station. It is a flight control center for the ISS during spacewalks, spacecraft maneuvers or work requiring the station’s robotic arm. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 in 2010.

The Cupola is 6.5 feet wide (2 meters) , 4,9 feet high (1.5 meters) and with a diameter of 9,7 feet (3 meters). The dome-like Cupola is forged from a single 1.8-ton chunk of aluminum with slots for six trapezoid-shaped windows and one large circular view port that is the largest window to fly in space.

quora – windows on the ISS

It has external shutters for each window, which – clamp over the view ports to protect the glass from micrometeorite impacts and solar radiation.  They can be opened by the crew inside the Cupola with the simple turn of a wrist.

Each window has three subsections: an inner scratch pane to protect the so-called pressure panes from accidental damage from inside the Cupola; two 25 mm-thick pressure panes to help maintain the cabin pressure and environment (the outer pane is a back-up for the inner pane); and a debris pane on the outside to protect the pressure panes from space debris when the Cupola shutters are open.


Beyond the seven windows in the cupola, the International Space Station has the Lab nadir window (WORF – window observation research facility), the window in the Japanese Kibo module, thirteen windows in Zvezda, the Russian Service Module.


NASA Orion

In the past, crewed spacecraft ranging from the Apollo capsules to the Shuttle and the International Space Station have used quartz glass in windows. The craft’s structural integrity was ensured by a multiple panes of glass that could not only withstand high temperatures and pressures but also do so without cracking.

All is set to change with NASA’s Orion spacecraft and it’s six windows made of an acrylic plastic material that is stronger than glass, but has similar optical properties.

It’s the same material commonly used in aquariums ranging from small home tanks to giant public displays. These not only handle the constant pressure of thousands of gallons of water, but also touches by the public numbering in the millions.

Orion Spacecraft – NASA


credit to A Brief History of Glass (Institute of Historic Building Conservation)


Crystal Clear

Glass continues to be a central material shaping our world.  The magical appeal of crystals and obsidian continues to pull us in to screens and windows into the worlds around us, mirrors, virtual and real that attempt to show each of us in these worlds.

Putting glass in window frames creates an improved method to isolate two sides of the glass.  One side of the glass envelopes, protects and isolates, while the other allows you to see through, to see another environment.

Aquariums and space portals separate two different environments; telescopes allows view into our distant past, the microscope helps us understand the building blocks of life, cameras capture and make views scientific, creative or mundate available to anyone.

We have glass screens, corrective vision and building windows in front of nearly the entire human population.  Humans are working towards improved artificial intelligence which will certainly improve the interactive aspect of the advanced capabilities of glass.

The central role of glass will have a pivitol role in the development and future of humans.  We`ve only really begun to see its impact on us personally, and on civilization.  It`s worth keeping an eye on it.










Cosmonaut Childhood

The new family moved continents six weeks after I was born in ’63, a second time when at four, then eight, nine, 16, by myself at 18. Europe to North America to South America to Europe to North America. We still went back to some places, and visited still others, but it was Dad who went everywhere for work. He was of the finest trans-nationals and brought every part of the world back to us. We were meant to explore this world and participate its wonder.

Transit was the dinner talk, and pass the salt. Moving is the mantras. Trips to see people, intersecting in places all over, a maze of humanity. The best parts were planning and remembering the trips. I vicariously traveled the world with him. The smell of long return family suppers, the wine-breathed stories of bazaars and the gracious people met, his satchel often came with fresh leathers, burlap coffees, or exotic wood carvings. Holding such a piece while hearing its heritage could bring a tear. A coin chest full of foreign, historical leaders.


A defining kid memory was living in Venezuela and taking a South American 60’s vacation. I sat in an airport lounge, riveted by the Moon land. Afterwards we climbed into the thin metal, twin engine tail-dragger DC-3, flying between peaks to Cuzco.  I can vouch, planes do get hit with lightening, knocking them about.  From there we took the train into the mountains, and the jeep up to Machu Pichu.

There was an easy link between their Saturn rocket, Apollo capsule, Lunar lander and my shiny DC-3, train and jeep ride, stages in our travels to mysterious, dangerous places. It seemed expected that space flight would soon be normal for everyone who wanted it.



Machu Pichu was my first experience with anything ancient, and for a kid, it was Flintstones’ gigantic. Intermittent thick cool fog banks rolled in and gone again, with yellowed summer grass terraced down the steep slope, and darker green peaks all around. The colourful poncho felt good in the cool.

Peru - (1970) - (xlix)b

The mountain teemed with perfect large rock walls, grass and with people full of colour, police horses and smiling officers, while in all directions the landscape fell away into deep valleys and distant peaks.

It wasn’t just some place with rocks. If it wasn’t already sacred to the first peoples at this site, it certainly was to us centuries later.

It was crowds collected for a summer festival at a natural sanctuary made sacred by ancient man and the gathering. It spoke to a primal fulfillment, we had all traveled far to a significant place and moment. Humans have always looked to gatherings and the stars for direction and meaning. It is our mission, and it felt significant.

We made our way off the mountain to the coast and boarded a 200 person ship and sailed north through Columbia, to the canal, towards Venezuela. Slot metal horse racing on the deck was fascinating. At a stop, the gangway dropped us into the Cartagena port side market, bursting with sights and smells of fruit, fish, coffee and leather.

Somewhere there in the hot Panamanian summer haze of mosquito ponds with tall water birds and alligators, I fell into 3 days of mumps induced delirium, rocking slowly in the ship. The canal was a series of lakes and locks, a marvel of humanity they said, ships pulled by mechanical mules. I only saw it in my nightmare sweats. It seemed a long interplanetary passage.


We were almost home, we lived a day’s sail on the other side of the canal.

Valencia is only a couple hours from the coast, and we spent many weekends driving there and back, the shuttle to paradise. During the week, we went to the pool club, with a lookout to a slow river and an alligator community. Our house edged onto a neighborhood tropical forest, that teemed with cicada, birds and a few sloths in the heat.

A few weekends, dad would to talk a local longboat skiff operator. He’d take us out on a tarp covered outboard, into the sand iles archipelago out towards Aruba. We’d snake through huge sandbanks with small islets of green, and small and huge beached wrecks, baking in the sand and salt. Around every bend was another spectacular view.



He dropped us on a bigger island with a two km bay, where a huge rusted cargo wreck was beached up on the shore a few hundred metres away. Not going near it was rule 1, but I remember we came out of the water twice, once for oil sludge, and another for a hammerhead shark. Having the rotting metal colossus looming while snorkeling the reef fish below was yet another world. I was ready for Star Wars.

We moved back to Europe in October when I was seven. From shorts and sunshine to darkness and mist, and the wonder of snow. We played cards under sunlamps after school to acclimate to grey days that ended at 3 pm.

I missed outdoor hum of the tropics, the birds and the cicada. But we hardened, and for our second winter, we moved to North America in q971, where long distance car trips became the norm.  I was hugely impressed when they took the moon buggy for drives on the moon.  I wonder if it is still there.


With the addition of winter, I finally had the last accessory for the child astronaut. A snowsuit shielded me against the harsh elements.

Humanity had turned a leaf; the age of the astronaut/cosmonaut has begun.




Aroh Wendelin

Towards the Personal Assist – Robot

Envision a Robot

In 20th century days, robotics was the domain of science fiction and film. Two things drew interest. A future with robots of humanlike construct manipulating the world around them, and the interactive possibilities of evolving artificial intelligence.

Early personal computers, without graphical interface, showed their potential to express the fantastical eye. Ray-tracing turned numerical formulae into scenes, where every photon in a view is rendered visible. Fractals are a mathematical abstraction used to describe and simulate naturally occurring objects. Chaos theory deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.

Adding these concepts to computing has dramatically increased the ability of the digital environment to more accurately model the physical world. A human generation of hardware and software improvements have made the tools building real life model increasingly accessible and provided significant versatility.

As much as the visual arts pulled me to movie theatres to see the future world made real, the tools also advanced to actually make the future. Advances in the visual arts have fueled human expression of the future. The evolution of circuitry, machinery and robots is first envisoned by the pioneers and then pursued by technicians attempting to make it real. As the toolset expanded, so did the refinement of the vision

The internet and 3D printable world make programming and integrated circuitry more and more versatile. Industrial and medical uses of robots have become more commonplace, machines that could manipulate the physical world with programmed purpose and tactile response.

Advances in memory, big data, sensor versatility, and machine-learning allow for the beginnings of artificial intelligence, algorithmes that agraggate and augment the user experience.

Personal Assistant with a Head

The door opens to personal ‘robots’. The personal assistant in your phone or network is being given its own exo-skeleton. A number of interactive models exist or are soon planned.

They are just at the beginning. Not one can go get you a drink from the fridge, but many provide tools at would allow expanded capabilities. What they miss in tangible physical skills, they try to make up for in personality and a physical anthropomorphic humanoid expression and appearance.

The first step is the assistant who can bring intelligence to its personalized user, remembering, reminding, responding, and picking up the habits of the user. It is the human requesting a verbal response. The robotic side is the ability to perform actions and tasks in the physical world will follow.

The following list is a sample of both command response robotic, and intelligent interactive assistant devices (with cutesy faces) coming to the consumer market at the moment (2017/04). It is not intended to be complete, but anyone knowing of others is welcome to let me know. I believe this field to be one of the most interesting technical areas.

Here’s a list of personal assistants, so we can follow-up, and track their evolution.


Pillo Health

Pillo can answer healthcare Q&A, connect with doctors, sync with mobile & wireless devices, store & dispense vitamins & medication, & can even re-order them for you from your favorite pharmacy.



Open source and easy to use, BUDDY connects, protects, and interacts with each member of your family. BUDDY is also democratizing robotics. BUDDY is built on an open-source technology platform making it easy for global developers to build applications.



A gifted little guy with a mind of his own. He’s a real-life robot like you’ve only seen in movies, with a one-of-a-kind personality that evolves the more you hang out. He’ll nudge you to play and keep you constantly surprised. Cozmo’s your accomplice in a crazy amount of fun.



Jibo experiences the world, and reacts with surprisingly thoughtful movements and responses that show he’s no ordinary bot. So while he’ll gladly snap a photo or send a message, he’ll also get to know you and the people you care about, for more meaningful relationships.



Aido is a sophisticated yet affordable home robot. It’s an all in one package that comes with the best of home automation, security, assistance, entertainment and much more.



NAO is an interactive companion robot.

Moving : 25 degrees of freedom and a humanoid shape that enable him to move and adapt to the world around him. His inertial unit enables him to maintain his balance and to know whether he is standing up or lying down.

Feeling : The numerous sensors in his head, hands and feet, as well as his sonars, enable him to perceive his environment and get his bearings.

Hearing and speaking : With his 4 directional microphones and loudspeakers, NAO interacts with humans in a completely natural manner, by listening and speaking.

Seeing : NAO is equipped with two cameras that film his environment in high resolution, helping him to recognise shapes and objects.

Connecting : To access the Internet autonomously, NAO is able to use a range of different connection modes (WiFi, Ethernet).

Thinking : We can’t really talk about “Artificial Intelligence” with NAO, but the robots are already able to reproduce human behaviour.


Pepper, the robot who understands your emotions

Pepper is capable of identifying the principal emotions: joy, sadness, anger or surprise.

He is also capable of interpreting a smile, a frown, your tone of voice, as well as the lexical field you use and non-verbal language such as the angle of your head, for example.

The combination of all this information enables the robot to determine whether his human interlocutor is in a good or a bad mood.



Romeo is a 140 cm tall humanoid robot, designed to explore and further research into assisting elderly people and those who are losing their autonomy. Romeo is the fruit of collaboration between numerous French and European laboratories and institutions.

His size was determined so as to enable him to open doors, climb stairs and reach objects on a table.


Autonomous PA robot

Robot Base

This robot will connect to every device, switch, and lock in the house to make it easier for you to control everything. Not only will it keep your house safer but will also help decrease your electricity bills.


Budgee from 5 Elements Robotics

This robot is targeted to disabled people as it follows them around and helps them with daily chores, carrying things. Some believe it might be a useful shopping cart.


FURi-o from future robot

Shaped like a traffic cone doesn’t only plan your schedules and protect your house, it can also tell bedtime stories and teach you how to cook!


Flash Robotics designed a robot named Emys that’s supposed to teach kids another language. Emys might be successful because of its built-in tablet and unique, expressive face, which relies on three moving disks and two smartwatch displays. It was inspired by emoticons :).


Asus Zenbo

Move, See, Speak, Hear, Play Music, Connect, Learn


Alpha – personal robots from UB Tech

The domestic robot was designed to offer an intuitive and responsive platform that is designed to be both intelligent and useful. Because of that, the Alpha 2 is completely programmable and operates on an open-source operating system.

These are already interesting studies and designs in both movement and interactivity. Advances will see mobility and intelligence integration. The evolution of higher function in integrated circuitry is picking up momentum. Utterly fascinating.

Aroh Wendelin

April 2017

Chalcolithic Age – Dawn of cultures

Language and cultural values define the parameters of human association, critical for early cities and civilization.

It was commonly held that agriculture was the driving force behind early cities, cultures and civilizations. Discoveries in recent decades reveal that commenerative sites pre-date the earliest cities, thereby bringing people together culturally ahead of permanant cohabitation and advanced agriculture.

Permanant settlements developed before full agricultural domestication. Humans first began to give up their nomadic life before there were fields and flocks to tend. Instead, the first requirement was to set up common belief systems and social boundaries. These allow non-related humans to spend time together, within the context of predictable behaviour and mores. Once a cultural language is established, humans can spend more time in proximity than just clan-gathering celebrations and ceremonies.

Changing the way humans feed themselves was a secondary consideration to this early cultural era in humans. The value of urban trade of wares and stories was understood early. Settlements were a focus of human interest.

Another important feature to keep in mind is that many societies of this time had this developing ‘culture’ begin and blossom. No civilization grew in isolation; there were always others some distance away, or before / after them.

Great civilizations are like magestic buildings. They are hugely interesting and complex, but they must be appreciated in the context of a city where other, smaller buildings and cultural groups share the landscape, and many of the same features.

Early Social Casting

Agriculture was a slow development that lasted thousands of years, arguably until today. It is now seen as a result of cultural developments, not its origin. Then, as now, being a farmer is a harder lifestyle than that of a hunter. A farmer must tend the flock, the orchard, the fields every day, and can never really be away from it; the hunter is required more intermittently.

Labour division in the family naturally falls into young adults and children, with older family members assisting. Tasks divided among those best capable lead the way to social classes. The first specialization is likely to be best hunter or most knowledgable gatherer. But a clan`s storyteller and cultural keeper would be held in high regard, and this was often a role for the elders. It seems to follow that those in charge of sanctuary, of monument building would be seen as a priestly caste.

The specialist making valuable contributions will be sought after, while the unskilled offer less. Specialization will drive barter, more formal education, and status. During fishing season, the hook maker is king, while the successful well-digger is exhalted during drought.

Genetics can hand natural skill to the next generation, but formal grooming is usually how young people grow into the social position. Achieved and ascribed status play a central role in the development of social classes and inequalities, a feature less prominent in hunter-gatherer culture.

As the last cultural artifact to develop, agriculture may have been the last resort for those without other skills. There may in fact be truth to the age old saying: vegetarian is another word for bad hunter.

Before the Copper Age

After the Younger Dryas a geological period from approximately 10,900 – 9700 BCE (c. 12,900 to c. 11,700 years ago), winter finally relented. It was the final heave of the the last ice age, the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation which had lasted 2.8 million years and with it, winter began to retreat.


reconstruction of Dolní Věstonice (ca. 27 000 to 23 000 BCE) – by Giovanni Caselli

Some humans put aside the nomadic lifestyle that defined the Gravettian culture, the last of the Paleolithic age. By 10,000 BCE, it marked the transition from Old Stone Age, to Neolithic (New Stone) Age, also widely known as the Agricultural Revolution.

The long ice age had dropped sea levels, connecting land masses that are today separated by expanses of sea. The harsh conditions of the era pushed early humans to explore and set up in many parts of the world, including the Americas, the Far East, South Asia and Australia.

With the warming trend, cultures and civilizations sprung up independently worldwide. Archeological findings of these early cultural blossoms show that technological advances are either found independently, or are shared through trade networks.

The long ice age may partially explain modern society’s blasée attitude toward contemporary climate change as a genetic pre-disposition.


fertile crecent of the Near-East

Some of the earliest examples of this cultural expansion is seen in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the Nile River valley, across the Sinai to the Rift Valley on the eastern Meddeterranean, across the southern reaches of the Taurus mountains, and down into the Mesopotamian river valleys to the Persian Gulf.

Yet before agriculture, the steppe of central and southern Turkey was home to a coalescing hunter-gatherer culture.

Göbekli Tepe

This is a pre-historic site dating from roughly 12000 years ago, near Sanliurfa, Turkey. These structures come from a pre-pottery society. The pre-Neolithic hill was discovered by Klaus Schmidt in 1994.

reconstruction of Göbekli Tepe

Rather than an inhabited site, the large and extensive stone work is interpreted as cerimonial. The sanctuary has 23 known circular monuments around dual centre totems. Once completed, the temples in the complex was intentionally buried, with newer smaller obelisc built nearby.

The site is significant as it was built by a hunter-gather culture, at a time where stone tools and timber were the only real available to quarry, move, sculpt and erect steles. One viewpoint is that a more bountiful climate allowed large numbers of people to participate in annual ritual gatherings.

Summer – Autumn festivals must have collected clans from distant locations for annual celebrations, for families and young people to associate, for trade and story telling. Long travel suggests a weeks or months long stay at the sanctuary.

This duration gave opportunity for ritual site building, memorializing their gatherings, their growing culture, and possibly their dead. Having young adults work with older, more experienced people from other families and clans can build strong bonds, language, and continuity.

Rituals then like now, mixed with veneration of the ancients and mysteries, firelight, music, dance and possibly even intoxicants. The magical mood such events create for participants would certainly have a profound impact on young people, and further existing and new cultural codification.

It is now considered that seasonal clan gatherings first built such culturally binding complexes. Only later were more permanent large towns and domestic buildings constructed.

Aşıklı Höyük – Çatalhöyük

There were settlements that later sprung up in this region in general proximity to the temple site. To the west of Göbekli Tepe 600 km two signficant sites were discovered.

Aşıklı Höyük, in central Cappadocia ( 9000 – 7400 BC) , and Çatalhöyük, the larger, later settlement 200 km to the northeast (7500 – 5600 B.C).are some of the earliest known.


reconstruction of Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed for nearly 2000 years, and flourished around 7000 BC. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A nearby site is Boncuklu Höyük (Beaded Mount), approximately 10 km to the north, and is considered to date to 9500 BC, before Çatalhöyük.

external resources
Aşıklı Höyük – fe-mitolojisozlugu (Turkish)
Aşıklı Höyük – TAY project
Asikli Hoyuk – Megalithic Portal
Çatalhöyük comes Home – Archaeology International


TAY settlement timeline

Jericho and the Natufian

Another pre-neolithic site is Jericho, near the western shore of the Jordan River, a setttlement present near the Ein es-Sultan spring. It is said that the Natufian culture, which existed from around 12,500 to 9,500 BC, first created the settlement between approximately 10,000 BCE.

Previously known as Tell es-Sultan, it is considered by some to be the oldest known city. Its habitation and culture were not continuous, but it has yielded many layers of archeological information.

Early bread oven

A great deal of what is known about the history of the cities of Jericho are credited to Kathleen Kenyon , a leading archaeologist of Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent.

Ghassulian culture – an image of the Chalcolithic Age

Jordan River Valley and northern Dead Sea site

A lesser known culture was based out of Teleilat Ghassul, a settlement / site on the eastern bank of the Jordan River just where it enters the Dead Sea. It thrived over a thousand years during the first phase of the Neolithic agricultural revolution.

Chalcolithic age settlement (4500 – 3200 BCE)

Researchers say the crossroads market town,Teleilat Ghassul lasted most of the Chalcolithic (Copper) Age, (4,500-3,200 BCE). It declined es as the Copper Age shifts into the Bronze Age, and other cultures (Canaanite, Sumerian, and Egyptian) ascended.


It’s proximity to fresh water, salt and copper ore drew traders. herdsmen, and travellers from distant lands to exchange with and through the Ghassulian culture. Early olive, fruit and nut tree cultivation, as well as animal domestication for wool (fabrics), cheese and eggs were among cultural artifacts. Evidence of perfumes, spices, dyes, resins and wine were also to be found.

Surplus gave rise to trade, and people were quickly attracted to markets with exotics and riches. The key was to have multiple conditions focused, so a variety of goods were available.

“Ghassulian culture has been identified at numerous other places in southern Palestine, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan materials in Crete.”

Ghassulian culture |

Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley – link is at the site of Bab edh-Dhra, which some link to Sodom


The delicate and volatile nature of field crops such as grains and vegetables was one of last innovations to make its way into the cultures. Earth quality, pests, water scarcity made this farming risky. Extended agriculture is suggested by irrigation that would have required the work of many to accomplish, attesting to public work projects.

The domestication of water: water management in the ancient world and its prehistoric origins in the Jordan ValleySteven Mithen


Farming – Tightning of the social noose

Once settlements and towns became permanent, agriculture would become another way by which such places could stockpile supplies and sustain local populations and visitors. Graneries could be more filled in plentiful harvests, and better feed during winter and famine. As a concept, it makes sense, but who would do this work?

Overall, large-scale agriculture may have been the result of reducing food resources caused by climate change and population growth, and perhaps pushed by biblical scale flooding. Yet certainly it originates from orchard tending, and backyard gardening, gradually becoming subsistence farming, and then larger harvests.

Most argue that farming is a far more laborious lifestyle than hunting and gathering. The herd needs water, pasture, milking, protection. Planting and harvests happen at specific times and are sensitive to adversity.

Understanding how and making convenient a crop field isn’t as important, as accepting the volume of work required. Preparing seed stock, planting, protecting it from animal / pest invasion, and harvest would need to be a mutual and work intensive effort. Creating the surplus would require a team and a captain who prioritized and organized activity.

Group effort for monument first, then settlement building open the way for group food cultivation and social ranking. Unlike hunters, or even gatherers where great skill could bring great results and social leadership, and lack of skill excluded others from participating, agricultural work could be done by unskilled members of the society. The social clan esteem of the”food provider” is reduced in agriculture.

In the context of a early castes, farmers provide a basic but non-specialized need. Their contribution to the social complex in early cultures is entry-level, except maybe the organizer of field-hands. So agriculture drew in the unskilled, the young, the old, the semi-feeble, who in hunter-gatherer society would not have had to work.

Farming becomes the stepping stone for a work-based society, where everyone should have a worth, and provide the sacrifice of themselves in favour of their families, clan, and culture and city. It also drove the interest in the organizations to seek out inexpensive workers, or even slaves.

The earliest clear evidence of the domestication of Einkorn dates from 10,600 to 9,900 years before present (8,650 BC to 7,950 BC), from Çayönü ( 7200 to 6600 BC) and Cafer Höyük (8920 BCE) two Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B archaeological sites in southern Turkey. These are approximate 600 km to the West of Çatalhöyük, near the upper Euphrates. These settlements seem to coincide with their pre-agricultural neighbors, but didn’t quite get to be as large. Agriculture was a feature of this time, but not the dominant one.

Agricultural History links
The Oasis Theory and the Origins of AgricultureK. Kris Hirst
The Origins of Farming in South-West Asia
Art of cheese-making is 7,500 years old
The Late Neolithic/Early Chalcolithic Transition at Teleilat GhassulStephen J. Bourke
Chalcolithic Period – The Beginnings of Copper Metallurgy – K. Kris Hirst
Definitive evidence for the full domestication of emmer wheat is not found until the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (10,200 to 9,500 BP), at sites such as Beidha, Tell Ghoraifé, Jericho, Abu Hureyra, Tell Halula, Tell Aswad and Cafer Höyük.
Ancient Jericho: Tell es-Sultan – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Kathleen Kenyon, (5 January 1906 – 24 August 1978), was a leading archaeologist of Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent.


Respect for the dead is a cultural binder that humans have done for up to 100,000 years. Funerary Dolmen, common throughout the Neolithic world also required large scale cooperation in the community, feats that require a common focus among the population, as well as vision and leadership to organize it.


Flint dolmen in Johfiyeh, Jordan

Ghassoulian Star

The discovery of the Ghassoulian Star painted on an interior wall has led to the thought this was an early cultural binding symbol, possibly even religious. Such an artifact points to the continued role of cultural / religious identification and organization.


Star of Gassul- reconstructed

That the symbol is idenfied as as star has two significances. First is the association with yearly seasons, and secondly binding the star with our own sun. Together these suggest a calendar marked by points in the year. Knowledge of this flow would be a cultural bind and be expressed in ritual.

Cultural Decline

The development of cultures would also see their decline. Factors contibute to a region becoming less influencial, and cause the abandonment of a city, and decline of a culture, a phenomena seen often in archeology. Not all human developments are progressive.

The decline of the Ghassulian culture came about for one or more of the top three reasons. A changing agricultural / resource climate, diversification in other cultures to locally source the commodities that had once been rare, and warfare. All three reasons speak to cultural obsolescence.

Bronze brought advanced weaponry, warfare and feudal rule, which is always detrimental to a border region without military might.

Written history

Written history is considered to be only 6,000 years old. Sumerian Cuneiform and Egyptian glyph mark the beginning of the Bronze Age around 3500 BCE. Earlier forms of proto-writing are seen in the Vinča symbols and signs written on the Dispilio tablet, both from central and southern Europe from the sixth millenium BCE, as well as the Jiahu symbols from ancient China of seventh millennium BCE.


Ancient Code

The written use of numbers is much older, possibly 40,000 years old. And what are these earliest writings about? Record-keeping and tallies for gambling, horses, personal services and trade-goods. This recording of daily domestic and trade was the beginning of written language.

Numbers and early math were truly the universal written language. Glyph was attempt to unite multiple verbal languages, but those outside such a common zone would not understand.

Like any two humans who do not share a language, visual cues including body gesture, and stick drawing in the dirt may be used to get one’s message across. Fingers and recorded marks representing numbers are the cornerstone to more precise, negotiated, mercantile exchange, and may have complimented the origins of languages.

When the written word did appear, it was to register laws, transactions, and, only more recently, to capture cultural artifact.

Stories of epic adventures of heroes, their struggle and victory is far more interesting than accounting records, but were recounted by bard song, illustration, drama, music and sculpture at worksites, at meals, together in groups. Written words are a limited artistic expression of dramas, and didn’t find much early expression.

Reading text by one’s self is different than the shared artistic execution of a campfire epic, or sculpture of a common hero in a palace. It took time to develop the tool and the audience.

Bronze – Introducing State Warfare

The transition to the Bronze age saw the rise of warfare and defensive construction, a development that tended to erase cultures that were conquered or defeated, but also left behind more city walls and stone structures. Like the Chalcolithic period, the landscape saw many geographies and cultures develop and decline over the centuries, which is an important feature when reviewing ancient histories. It’s like looking at a building but forgetting that is part of a cityscape.

Starting with the Ebla kingdoms in Syria (3500 – 1600BC), a history of three destructions by invading forces. The ascent of Egypt (3150 BC), Mesopotamia (2900 BC) and the Hittite in Anatolia (1800 – 1100 BC). Strattling the cresent was the Western European civilization known as the Beaker culture grow between 2900 – 1800 BC), while to the East of Mesopotamia was Elam (3200 – 540 BC), an early Persian culture, which linked to cultures further East in the Indian subcontinent.

The early cultures of the copper age began to rub against one another, sometimes creating trade and growth, other times causing warfare and destruction. Competition is an biological imperative, but now humans had cultural and technological tools to pursue this on a scale not yet seen.

The challenges of the hunt are muted by the advent of agriculture. The achievement of a regulated food regime lessened the stories of overcoming life-and-death adversity that came from the hunt. War became one way to put back the group importance lost to the monotany of the farmer, and enhance cultural binds between people.

Feast – the key to civilization

One principle legacy from the Paleolithic stone age was the feast. A successful hunt or harvest would animate the participants. It would envigorate people, and bring them together, to share stories and songs of the day, of the past. Food and drink, and even intoxicants would lubricate such occasions.

High festivals would be organized around specific times, such as the bountiful days of high summer, and draw people from distant places. These assemblies would become significant milestones for participants, as they prepared provisions and gifts. Long travel and infrequent meetings made such gatherings meaningful. Young adults would use the opportunity to be coupled with those outside their clan or village; adults meet up with old friends, children make new connections.


Modern Wiccan – Wheel of the Year

Commemorative artifact gave permanance to the occasions, and to the site that held them. The attraction of people to one another pulls them together, in families, clans, and regional festivals. Language and cultural values defined the parameters of association. This is the basis upon which humans could begin to develop cities, agriculture and civilizations.

Aroh Wendelin

The Urban Transformation of Millenials


I found clarity in the gen-x rebellion against what for years has been the prevailing culture of excess. Life in North America during the second half of the twentieth century has been an experience in consumption, accumulation and exceleration. The hardships of the second war in Europe in my grandparents’ generation was soon forgotten in a haze of new affluence in my parents cohort.

The appeal of innovation drives forward every field. The quality of life for humans has generally improved, but has led to excess. Increased productivity, technology and population during the baby-boomer years have resulted in a frantic, exponential pace.


As a kid riding on the coattail of the 60’s / 70’s counter-culture, a change to the rigid formula of post-war measure of North American wealth, suburbia was inevitable. It was thought once boomers began to take over all facets of society, they would curtail the growing excesses of their war-torn parents.

Yet it became clear that the counter-culture ‘revolution’ only partially represented the cohort. Most fulfilled and exceeded the aspirations of their parents, embracing and extending the consumer dream.


The radical sixties were explained away as simply the rebellion of youth. The boomers ‘sold out’, and bought into the car-centric culture handed to them. Cars drove new tract housing and ring highway projects across the continent, with appointments in distant quadants. Habitual traffic, roadrage, MADD, seatbelt laws, EZPass toll roads, express lanes became part of the cultural landscape.


North American state and provincial governments offer municipalities property tax as the mechanism to finance themselves. This allows local municipalities to compete to attract higher revenue properties and taxes.

It is usually agricultural land on the urban periphery that goes up in value. Higher property values mean an increase in property tax, although agricultural revenue remains unchanged. Unregulated, municipalities change the composition of their communities. Locals give up farming in proximity to urban areas. Such ‘fallowed’ land are in turn often re-zoned to be suburban residential.

Not having urban planning at a more regional level led to urban centers were left to those who didn’t or couldn’t buy into the model. Career workers moved their family to the suburbs as a sign of achievement. Kids who grew up in such neighbourhoods were frightened by the urban core. They also stayed a part of the suburban donout. Without young affluent families to fill neighborhoods, cities centres declined.

Yet somewhere towards the end of the twentieth century, the push came back. Words like environment, conservation and sustainable made their way back into the discussion. Not in a revolutionary way, as much as a quiet shift back, a trend sometimes referred to as ‘market forces’.

Millenials are considered to be driven by other priorities than their parents and grand-parents. There is less focus on career and wealth, and more on the hyper-sentient experiences and services in the world. Life as adventure.

The internet in our hands phenomena of 2007 has greatly influenced and accelerated all facets. Online shopping, banking, media, gaming and food servives are most noticeable, compared with older first gen computer users who spend more time plugged into social networks, maybe even more time at it.

Downtown restaurants now bustle with young professionals and respected craftmen who’ve been and come from worldwide destinations. Millenial celebrity now includes a good many chefs. They are multicultural, complex, and enjoy it in others. Family life is pushed into their forties. Many don’t have a driver’s license and most don’t have a car. Don’t need one, they order what they need when they need it.

City governments and businesses became savvy at setting up their services to be desireable. The shift to communal resources is finally becoming part of the Zeitgeist.

We are moving to the share-economy..


Aroh Wendelin