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Smarter Cities

Illuminating Discovery: Lighting Roads Without Electricitiy

The project of smart highways: interactive and sustainable
The project of smart highways: interactive and sustainable
Itay Lahat

TEL AVIV — Vincent van Gogh's famous oil painting "Starry Night Over the Rhone" displays a wonderful enchantment technique. Occupying two-thirds of the canvas, the night sky is dotted with moon and stars, creating an illusion of movement, as if they were trying to burst out of the canvas. It's not just a masterpiece. It also uses paint as if it were light itself.

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"Starry Night Over The Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh

When Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch designer focusing on phosphoric lighting, was commissioned to design a bike path in the Eindhoven region of the Netherlands, where van Gogh once lived, he used colorful stones that glow in the dark. During the day, the path hoards solar energy, which is then emitted at night, making the trail look as if it were itself a van Gogh piece.

Roosegaarde is a European leader in smart roads — interactive, friendly and environmental thoroughfares. One of the ways he makes roads smarter is by using colors that glow in the dark.

Instead of requiring huge amounts of energy to illuminate roads that are often unused at night, Roosegaarde uses phosphoric colors to print the lanes on his experimental road in the Netherlands. At night, they turn the driving experience into something between a discotheque and a futuristic world.

[rebelmouse-image 27088084 alt="""" original_size="1349x900" expand=1]

Daan Roosegaarde and the director of Heijmans, major European construction-services company. Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

The project's inspiration came from the depths of the ocean, from bacteria and other marine creatures that glow in the dark. And the experiment joins a growing number of projects that harness progress in this field over recent years. A year ago, British firm Pro-Teq released a product called Starpath, a phosphoric liquid particle that can be sprayed on any surface. The energy accumulated in the chemical during the day is emitted at night in the form of blue phosphoric light. Cambridge City Council has already started converting its park trails into phosphoric blue in favor of the old lighting.

At the same time, the American company Bioglow has begun marketing saplings of the plant known as Starlight Avatar. These are simple plants that have been genetically modified to include phosphoric lighting from deep sea creatures. They look like any other plant during the day but become a luminescent green source of light at night.

The field holds immense promise, as it could pave the way, so to speak, to the end of public lighting that requires electricity. Street lights eventually may be replaced with trees that have been genetically modified to glow in the dark.

The phosphoric pastel, in other words, is the new green.

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AI And War: Inside The Pentagon's $1.8 Billion Bet On Artificial Intelligence

Putting the latest AI breakthroughs at the service of national security raises major practical and ethical questions for the Pentagon.

Photo of a drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Sarah Scoles

Number 4 Hamilton Place is a be-columned building in central London, home to the Royal Aeronautical Society and four floors of event space. In May, the early 20th-century Edwardian townhouse hosted a decidedly more modern meeting: Defense officials, contractors, and academics from around the world gathered to discuss the future of military air and space technology.

Things soon went awry. At that conference, Tucker Hamilton, chief of AI test and operations for the United States Air Force, seemed to describe a disturbing simulation in which an AI-enabled drone had been tasked with taking down missile sites. But when a human operator started interfering with that objective, he said, the drone killed its operator, and cut the communications system.

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