Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.
This week is all about being humbled. New images from NASA remind us how truly small we are, while a blind computer artist reminds us we could try harder. Perhaps the "easiest" feat this week is a village that is redirecting the sun for five months of the year. No biggie. This is alt-week.
If you felt your north-facing condo had poor natural light, then spare a thought for the town of Rjukan, Norway. A small dusting of houses and businesses along the bottom of the rich, green Vestfjord valley may sound idillic, but for five continuous months, it's bathed in complete darkness. The same mountain peaks that provide the picture-postcard setting, also stop the sun peeping though for nearly half of the year. This winter, however, there's some respite thanks to three computer controlled mirrors set in place to reflect sunlight onto the town square. The mirrors will follow the sun throughout the day, providing 2,150 square feet of light in the town centre for residents to enjoy. While this is a new installation, the idea originally dates back to 1913, but was abandoned in favor of a gondola that residents could use to ride up to the sunlit mountain tops. The "solspeil" project has almost everything in place, with the last details arriving in time to cast its first rays in September, when the darkness first creeps in.
From sunlight, to... Earthlight? Well, that's a bit of a stretch (it all comes from the same place, after all,) but a recently unveiled image of Earth -- as seen from Saturn -- almost gives that impression. Taken from the Cassini spacecraft, the above picture shows a vista of our planet from beneath Saturn's majestic rings. The small, blue, illuminated dot representing our little blue rock's sum impact on the solar system. A "mere" 900 million miles away, the image shows Earth to almost have a star-like quality, but what makes this unusual is that under normal conditions visibility would not allow such clarity -- as seen in this comparison. Either way, feel small yet?
We were going to tell you about how a team of scientists managed to completely stop light in its tracks for a whole minute. But, then we saw the artwork you see above. What's so special about it? Well, whether it's to your particular taste or not, we think the fact that it's created by 97 year-old Hal Lasko using Paint on Windows 95 makes it at least noteworthy. Oh, and he's legally blind, suffering from wet macular degeneration -- affecting the center of his vision. That's pretty good going. Lasko isn't entirely new to art, though, having created maps during the second world war, before moving on to become a typographer. See him in action in the video below, we're just imagining what he could do if he ever upgrades to Adobe Creative Suite...
Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.
[Image credits: Visit Rjukan, NASA, Hal Lasko]