Throughout human history, material innovation has been defined by the persistent testing of limits. Transmaterial is a catalog of materials, products and processes that are redefining our physical environment, based on a compi-lation of Blaine Brownell’s product of the week electronic journal developed at nbbj.

Download the intro on PDF.


At 19:20, MichaelV said…OL I heard that it’s a good idea to loosen the guitar strings when shipping it by air (FedEx or as a cargo luggage) Strings tend to expand/shrink drastically due to climate change and near zero temperatures. What’s your experience about this. Have you lost a guitar because the neck felt apart after shipping it?

That is true for steel-stringed guitars, but Flamenco and Classical guitars use nylong strings and the tension is much lower. Steel strings require a serious amount of tension, hence the steel rod inside the neck of every steel string guitar including electric guitars. I also think that nylon strings do not expand and contract as much as metal strings. I haven’t loosened my guitar strings for a flight in a decade… if I did It would take even longer to get the guitar to stay in tune after a flight! My guitars definately don’t like the altitude, lack of pressure and low temperatures on the plane. The guitar won’t like the three shows in Mexico next month. Play a show in Tijuana and get on the red-eye to Mexico City. Arrive in the morning and play the same evening…

ACS – Part 2

Lookout! It’s another long post without photos…. ah, what the hell – here is a gratuitous guitar-shot:

Other Options Speaking of alternatives, if we don’t move toward an ACS or an Entertainment Coop, what is likely to happen? Most likely, one of three things:

1. Unauthorized copying continues to increase, and consumers increasingly rely up materials obtained (free) online for their entertainment needs. The film industry, in its current form, collapses – perhaps replaced by small, independent studios, financed by donations from corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Musicians continue to make recordings (inexpensively, using the rapidly improving digital recording technologies) but don’t earn any money from them, treating them instead as advertising for their performances.

2. The record companies and film studios, dismayed by the prospect of #1, persuade Congress to reinforce the copyright system substantially – for example, by adopting the INDUCE Act and sharply increasing criminal penalties for unauthorized reproduction of digital recordings. We see a protracted “war on piracy” very similar to the longstanding “war on drugs.”

3. Alternatively, the record companies and film studios persuade Congress to adopt some version of the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act – which requires the manufacturers of all consumer electronic equipment to embed in their products technology that recognizes and respects watermarks, and to remove from their devices all analog ports.

I’ve already explained in prior posts why I think #1 is an unattractive outcome – though plainly I have not persuaded everyone. That said, #1 is the least probable of the scenarios. The record and film industries are sufficiently powerful, and the majority of Congressmen are sufficiently sympathetic to them, that, if the fundamental transformation contemplated by #1 seems imminent, we will see legislation of type #2 or type #3.

Any thoughts, folks? Also, check out this response the author has for the value question:

Excellent question by Cory, echoed by Erik: “It doesn’t seem that this system addresses variation of value to the consumer. The Economist, for example, can charge a significantly higher yearly subscription fee than Entertainment Weekly, because its relative value to its (I suspect) smaller subscriber base is much higher. How does this system support niche items of high value to their niche?” It’s quite right that my proposal contains a mechanism for incorporating only one of the many variables that give rise to differences among recordings in terms of their value to consumers – namely, duration. But that seems to me acceptable with respect to music and film, where differences in value are not very great – as reflected in the fact that, in the current, market-based system, CDs and DVDs of all types sell for very similar prices, and the cost of admission to theatres varies little with the content of what’s shown on the screen. The same cannot be said (as Cory’s example notes) for print media, software, or games – which partly explains why I haven’t proposed incorporating such materials in my plan.

Perhaps, if we are to change the way we do business in the whole music and film industry, we should consider adding value differentiation to music and film? I have mentioned this before, specifically commenting on the fact that acoustic music is more expensive to produce than midi-music for example.

Coffee-Based Log Burns Cleaner

The Java-Log weighs 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms), and it’s a little smaller than a sawdust log. It comes in a wrapper, which is used to light the log. It burns for two to three hours, the same as a regular log, but it produces three times the flame capacity of wood.
(Via Mekka.)

Also check out this and this.


Check out the sounds Matmos have used on their recordings! I’d love to do an album with these guys. Create beats and bleeps from nothing but guitar sounds…