Category Archives: Uncategorized

An illustration of values

At Urbanism-TU Delft, we are always trying to understand what are the values that should direct our actions as planners and designers of the built environment.

They are not only our personal values. There are societal values embedded in the activity of urban designer and planner.

Since we come from all over the world, we must discuss which are the basic values that should guide action.

This is an illustration that might help the discussion.





Umberto Eco, Planning Education, and Urban Space


Umberto Eco, Planning Education, and Urban Space


Lindsay Davis / Flickr

Dean Saitta's picture

The great Italian literary critic, philosopher, novelist, and University of Bologna semiotics professor Umberto Eco died last week. On the surface this event is probably of little consequence to professional urban planners. However, by the end of this essay I hope to make the connection between Eco’s work and urban planning a little clearer.

Umberto Eco in 2011. (Copyright: Das Blaue Sofa / Club Bertelsmann)

Some lessons learned at a recent conference in Bologna help advance the case. The Contours of the City Conference in 2012 was sponsored by the University of Bologna’s Laboratorio di Ricerca Sulle Città (Laboratory for Research on the City). The conference honored my colleague Giovanna Franci, a professor of American literature at the University and one of the co-founders of the Laboratorio. Giovanna was the European side co-director of a multi-year, interdisciplinary project on Global Cities/Global Citizenship that linked my university to the universities of Bologna, Nottingham (England), and Portland State. Sadly, Giovanna died in 2009. As one might expect for a conference held in a great Italian city (one that is on the cutting edge of thought about the urban commons) it was all good: inspiring setting, an elegant meeting room, stimulating company, and great cuisine. An original and interdisciplinary thinker, Giovanna received fitting tributes from many colleagues, including Professor Eco, who cheekily praised her for serving as an “ambassador of Italian culture in barbarian countries.”

Contours of the City Conference meeting room: Capella Farnese, Palazzo d’Accursio, Bologna (Photograph by D. Saitta)

The Bologna conference included papers on urban destruction and regeneration, urban “mapping” (in both its physical and ideological senses), urban sustainability (including problems around fear and security), and representations of the urban (including case studies of Venice, Paris, London, Mumbai, and Rio). Dushko Bogunovich, a professor of Urban Design at the Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand, set the tone with his presentation “The City and The Crunch: Contours of a Pending Disaster.” Bogunovich predicts an impending “perfect storm” for cities wrought by climate change, population growth, resource depletion, and biodiversity loss. He suggests that to weather the storm we must change our collective institutions (what Dushko terms “groupware”), individual behavior (“software”), and technology (“hardware”). One of Bogunovich’s key points is that low density urbanism is not necessarily a barrier to a sustainable future if it is resilient. This viewpoint very clearly contrasts with those who argue that the best path to urban sustainability is through central city densification. Most significantly, Bogunovich emphasized that what we do in our educational institutions will be key to addressing the emerging crisis. Specifically, we need to rethink dominant paradigms in town planning, urban design, and civil engineering.

Guido Moretti, a Bologna-based urban planner and engineer, picked up on some of these themes. He struck a more hopeful note in a very interesting paper on “Protecting Cities” that examined urbanism in the Islamic tradition. Moretti detailed some characteristics of the often secluded medina that spring up, and thrive, in surroundings that present severe challenges of extreme heat and scarce water. The medina embody knowledge, accumulated over thousands of years, about how to plan and build in such environments so as to guarantee not only survival but also an intense, productive, and secure social life. Streets are lively, welcoming areas of socialization and commerce. Towers, domes, patios, underground canals, fountains, reflecting surfaces, and other elements of infrastructure harvest water from desert winds and sands and thermos-regulate the city. In Moretti’s words, the Islamic medina “represents a useful and topical reference point with respect to our wastefully expensive and negligent modernity.” In other words, they provide lessons in appropriate and sustainable urbanism. I’d argue that such cross-cultural reference points and lessons, along with the paradigmatic rethinking mentioned by Bogunovich, should be a vital part of any progressive curriculum in contemporary urban planning and design.

“Paris Street, Rainy Day,” by Gustave Caillebotte, 1877 (Wikimedia Commons)

Other Bologna conference presentations dealt with the flâneur—the writers, poets, intellectuals, and assorted others who observe city life by walking among the crowd. Although I assign a bit of John Gay when I teach study abroad in London, prior to this conference I hadn’t thought much about what the literature on flânerie could contribute to understanding and regenerating the city. I certainly learned that there’s significant debate about how to define and deploy the concept of flâneur in urban studies. These debates notwithstanding, I was struck by the suggestion of Giampaolo Nuvolati, an urban sociologist at the University of Milan, that we might produce better urban planners—and thus better physical contexts and settings for conducting urban social life—if we require our students to experience the city as flâneurs. This suggestion dovetails with those of Bogunovich and Moretti that a transformation in planning education is required if we’re to deal with the complexity of the urban problems that bedevil us.

American planning professors have independently embraced the educational challenge presented at the Bologna Contours of the City conference. This was directly evidenced by a symposium I attended at the 2013 Society for American City and Regional Planning History meeting in Toronto called “Teaching the Built Environment Outside of the Professional Box.” The most compelling of the pedagogical strategies reported in the symposium directed students to gain a sensory experience of cities via fieldwork. For example, Dan Campo of Morgan State University asks students to walk between two places in Baltimore and then tell a story about that experience that references particular sights and sounds. Margaret Crawford of the University of California, Berkeley assigns students the task of experiencing the city by not only playing the flâneur, but also by playing the tourist, the detective, the sleepwalker, and other roles. Dolores Hayden of Yale University spoke to the pedagogical utility of having students write a “poetics of landscape” as part of their graduate planning education.

There’s a lot to love in these educational strategies. Especially if one appreciates the virtues of “thick description” for putting us in touch with the existential realities of urban life. While I’m not a planning professional, the original fieldwork that I ask students in my urban anthropology course to conduct in Denver’s Civic Center Park never fails to generate interesting social encounters and insights of potential use to city planners. As Giampaolo Nuvolati suggested in his Bologna conference paper, such exercises in “sensorial understanding” and story-telling are useful strategies for seeking “urban porosity” and for capturing the genius loci of cities: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feels, the chance encounters, the brushes with human difference.

And herein lies the critical connection back to Umberto Eco. Eco fused his various scholarly and novelistic pursuits together rather than maintaining a firewall between them. Carlin Romano, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, notes that Eco had an uncommon ability to “talk and write in the language of the street,” and that he strenuously “opposed artificial disciplinary boundaries.” Giovanna Franci, exquisite interdisciplinary thinker that she was, shared this ethos. A commitment to such fusion and fluidity, and the intellectual openness that informs it, can be risky business in the academy. However, the progressive planning educators who spoke in both Bologna and Toronto, and presumably others who are out there, invite us to act like Eco: to use personal narratives, novels, poems, art, ethnographies, and perhaps even a keener understanding of semiotics (signs and meaning-making)—which, for Romano, Eco “pulled down from the clouds”—to cultivate in their students a sensitivity to the lived experience of ordinary citizens. Pragmatist philosophers (like Richard Rorty) note that humanistic approaches, focused on thick description of the intimate and idiosyncratic (rather than approaches of a more theoretical, generalizing, and scientific character), offer our best hope of binding human beings together. It is from these little pieces of revealed experience that we might best forge a path toward human solidarity and, perhaps, urban spaces that better serve the common good.

Postscript: A volume of the 2012 Bologna conference proceedings containing some of the papers discussed above was recently published. It is titled Contours of the City: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Study of the Urban Space, edited by Fabio Liberto. The book contains a chapter by my University of Denver and Global Cities/Global Citizenship project colleague Roberta Waldbaum entitled “The University and the City: Strengthening Students’ Global Learning”, and another by my York University (Canada) colleague Shelley Hornstein entitled “Demolition City and Modern Madness.” My chapter on “The Urban Imaginary and American Infill: Intercultural Place-Making” is available here.

Dean Saitta is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Urban Studies Program, University of Denver

150 Weird Words That Only Architects Use

For most students of architecture, the first few years of learning involve a demanding crash course in architectural jargon. From learning terms as obscure as “gestalt” to redefining your understanding of ideas as simple as “space,” learning the architectural lexicon is one of the most mind-bending processes involved in becoming a designer.

This challenge is clearly a universal experience as well: when we asked our readers last month to suggest their picks for the “weirdest words that only architects use,” we were inundated with suggestions – including 100 comments on the post itself and over 400 comments on our first Facebook post. Perhaps even more striking, though, was the fact that in all of these comments, there was remarkably little overlap in the words and phrases people were suggesting. The huge variety allowed us to select a list of 150 words – just a fraction of the total suggested.

Why Do Architects Use Such Strange Language?

First up, to give our list some context we’ll be discussing our readers’ comments about the issues surrounding architectural language – those who are here for the list alone, feel free to scroll down!

Architectural language can, of course, be used for good reason. Sometimes, concepts are too complex to express in everyday language, and some words refer to obscure architectural ideas that the general public would likely not have previous knowledge of. This was pointed out by jsarhitekt:

“Why limit, criticize or mute expression? Architecture has its own language, not unlike other professions, pursuits, and genres. Does everything have to be diminished and diluted to lowest common denominator?” – jsarhitekt

But as noted in Dougilis’ response to jsarhitekt, there’s a difference between talking to other architects and talking to people outside the profession:

“I don’t think we are contributing to public discourse by using a language that is incomprehensible to a layman. When I talk to a physicist, I expect him to be able to translate his work into terms that I can understand, and all trades and professions should be held to the same standard. If you cannot explain your work simply, you don’t fully understand your work.” – Dougilis

As Lee Calisti points out, the important distinction to make is about intent:

“Perhaps it’s the wrong question to ask. Motivation is more important. Is one trying to be a better storyteller with their words or simply being pretentious?” – Lee Calisti, AIA

Margit Rudy points out how our use of language therefore impacts the way others think about architects:

“If those of us calling ourselves ‘architects’ want our hard-earned skill sets taken seriously in the larger context that we actually view to be our field of relevance, then it’s high time we meet that broader field at least half way in terms/terminology that we all understand.” – Margit Rudy

And finally, perhaps the best argument for simple language was made by Greg Hudspeth, a builder who clearly isn’t impressed by architects’ intellectual posturing:

“As a builder who has been in the industry for over 20 years, I understand what I’m doing and consider myself intelligent enough to grasp relatively complex concepts in construction. However, I have a running list of the ridiculous words and phrases that the architects we work with are using. I spend a portion of each day stripping away the fluff and overly complicated explanations and descriptions for simple ideas. It is the biggest waste of time and ego. Sell that stuff to the client but give me the design and plans in the most direct and correct manner. I can work faster and make fewer changes.” – Greg Hudspeth via Facebook

150 Weird Words That Only Architects Use

Bearing in mind the above comments, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a list of words you should immediately stop using; simply be aware of who you’re talking to, and be sure that if you do use any of these words they are necessary and appropriate in the context you use them.

This list is by no means exhaustive; with over 750 comments across our original article and threeFacebookposts, we had to cap it somewhere! Included here are the words that were mentioned most often and which we had encountered ourselves. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is our readers’ list of 150 weird words that only architects use:

Architecture-specific jargon:

  • Pastiche
  • Sustainability
  • Ergonomy
  • Genius loci
  • Facade
  • Charette
  • Regionalism
  • Threshold
  • Massing
  • Enfilade
  • Materiality
  • Poché
  • Post-industrial
  • Diagrammatic
  • Vernacular
  • Modular
  • Deconstruction
  • Typology
  • Parametric
  • Program
  • Skin
  • Building envelope
  • Vault
  • Arcade
  • Fenestration
  • Truncated
  • Parti
  • Flâneur
  • Phenomenology
  • Brutalism
  • Cantilever
  • Curvilinear
  • Rectilinear
  • Miesian
  • Corbusian
  • Permaculture
  • Blobitecture
  • Exurbia
  • Walkability
  • Pilotis
  • Verticality
  • Rebate
  • Mullion
  • Muntin
  • Gentrification
  • Stylobate

Simple words given new meaning by architects:

  • Concept
  • Space
  • Fabric (urban or building)
  • Metaphor
  • Legibility (of something other than writing)
  • Dimension (meaning a characteristic of something)
  • Moment
  • Celebrate
  • Negotiate
  • Dynamic
  • Language
  • Context
  • Gesture
  • Proud (“the countertop is proud of the cabinet”)
  • Taxonomy
  • Hierarchy
  • Scale
  • Section
  • Formal
  • Nodes
  • Pods
  • Grain
  • Extrapolate
  • Device
  • Elevation

Obscure words that architects overuse (or misuse):

  • Iconic
  • Organic
  • Dichotomy
  • Eclectic
  • Kitsch
  • Sequence
  • Stasis
  • Interstitial / Interstice
  • Iteration
  • Juxtapose/Juxtaposition
  • Stereotomic
  • Tectonics (and architectonics)
  • Liminal
  • Articulate
  • Ephemeral
  • Domesticity
  • Anthropogenic
  • Regenerate
  • Hybrid
  • Generative
  • Ambiguity
  • Catalyst
  • Penetrate
  • Appropriate
  • Inspiration
  • Contemporary
  • Amalgamation
  • Performative
  • Hegemony
  • Curate
  • Bifurcate
  • Superimpose
  • Confluences
  • Gestalt
  • Zeitgeist
  • Banal
  • Blasé
  • Motifs
  • Procession
  • Homogenous
  • Palimpsest
  • Paradigm
  • Dissonance
  • Adjacencies
  • Parallax
  • Assemblage
  • Aesthetic
  • Monolithic
  • Uniformity
  • Morphology
  • Duality
  • Nuance
  • Transient
  • Redundancy
  • Robust
  • Bespoke
  • Holistic (sometimes even wholistic)
  • Simultaneity
  • Esoteric
  • Concretization
  • Schism

Unusual terms or phrases that architects love:

  • Play with (light, space, materials)
  • Human scale
  • Create/provide a gesture
  • How the ____ is received by the ____
  • Spatial composition
  • Map out
  • Explores the notion
  • Programmatic adjacencies
  • Activate the space
  • Public Realm
  • Outdoor room

Strange concepts within architecture:

  • Solid/Void
  • Interiority/Exteriority
  • Push/Pull
  • Bottom up/Top down
  • Transparency/Opacity
  • Served and Service
  • Negative/Positive space

Article by Rory Stott. “150 Weird Words That Only Architects Use” 19 Oct 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Oct 2015. <;

How PowerPoint is killing critical thought
by Andrew Smith

Published by The Guardian on Wednesday 23 September 2015

Bored students is the least of it – the bullet point-ization of information is making us stupid and irresponsible
University lecture using PowerPoint
‘Lecturing is a form of performance and must be treated as such.’ 

I still remember the best lecture I ever attended. It was part of a joint series offered by the English and philosophy departments in my first term at university and, given that the subject was Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, should have been the dullest event in Christendom that night. But it wasn’t. The lecturer, Thomas Baldwin, had a deceptively simple style: he would write a proposition on the blackboard facing us and gaze at it for a moment, like a medium beckoning a spirit. Then he would turn and smile, and start to explain.

Baldwin paced the room – but slowly. On occasion he would stop altogether, appearing lost, a moment in which all the world’s logic seemed at stake, before somehow refinding his path to a second thrilling proposition. At one point he stood with his forehead in his hand for so long we almost called for a medic. He was so engaged, so present, that you could almost feel the motion of his mind – and through his, your own. I doubt if fewer words have ever been spoken in the course of an hour-long disquisition, and yet we all tripped to the bar buzzing with excitement afterwards. To this day, if I’m feeling blue I think back to Baldwin’s explication of the logical transition from anguish to nausea, and invariably I feel better.
Baldwin’s talk came to mind recently when I listened to a debate, on Radio 4’s Today show, about lecturing standards at British universities. I have two children at uni who have both have found lectures frustrating, so the contention of the education minister Jo Johnson that quality in this area was “highly variable” came as no surprise to me. What’s more, during sample orations on open days, I had the same experience of being bored to tears by things I felt I should have enjoyed. So when my daughter reported an exception to this rule, I knew what my first question would be.

“Did the lecturer use PowerPoint?”

“Hm. No, he just spoke,” she said.

PowerPoint is so ubiquitous that Lotte hadn’t made the connection. But the lectures I attended had left me in no doubt that Microsoft’s wildly successful “presentation” program is not just inimical to, but destructive of, deep thought, and could have been scientifically designed to put the most eager mind to sleep. The more I inquired into why this might be, the more I began to see its somnolent reflection everywhere.

Let’s stay with teaching a moment. PP’s enthusiasts claim that it emboldens nervous speakers and forces everyone to present information in an ordered way. To an extent, both contentions are true. But the price of this is that the speaker dominates the audience absolutely. Where the space around and between points on a blackboard is alive with possibility, the equivalent space on a PP screen is dead. Bullet points enforce a rigidly hierarchical authority, which has not necessarily been earned. One either accepts them in toto, or not at all. And by the time any faulty logic is identified, the screen has been replaced by a new one as the speaker breezes on, safe in the knowledge that yet another waits in the wings. With everyone focused on screens, no one – least of all the speaker – is internalising the argument in a way that tests its strength.

So, a few bored students: how serious is this? If the problem ended there, the answer would be, not very. But it doesn’t – and a glance at PowerPoint’s origins helps to explain why.

While there had always been meetings, now there were meetings about meetings and the modern world was born
The genesis story runs like this: from the late 1950s corporations began to realise that, rather than going to the trouble of developing new products they hoped would meet a need, they could use marketeers to create the perception of need, then develop products to meet it (a shift brilliantly dramatised in the TV series Mad Men). To do this, different departments had to be able to speak to each other, to sell ideas internally. So while there had always been meetings, now there were meetings about meetings and – hey presto! – the modern world was born.

The presentational precursor to PowerPoint was the overhead projector, which is why PP screens are still called “slides”. The program owes most to Whitfield Diffie, one of the time lords of online cryptography, but it was quickly snapped up by Microsoft. Its coding/marketing roots are intrinsic to its cognitive style, being relentlessly linear and encouraging short, affirmative, jargonesque assertions: arguments that are resolved, untroubled by shades of grey.

Do we notice that, as the Harvard Business Review has observed, “bullets leave critical relationships unspecified”? No, because thanks to the relatively low resolution of most projectors, fonts must be large, words few, and thus slides many. In the face of such a procession, we switch off, because nothing is being asked of us. As the academic visual-presentation expert and PP sceptic Edward Tufte notes: “PP actively facilitates the making of lightweight presentations.” Through PowerPoint, everything has a tendency to resemble a pitch rather than a discussion: information is “storyboarded”, as for a movie – but the presentation is not a movie and the presenter is rarely Brad Pitt. No wonder we are bored.

And bored is the least of it. It’s no coincidence that the two most famous PowerPoint presentations are: a) the one presented to Nasa managers by engineers, explaining with unarguable illogic why damaged tiles on the space shuttle Columbia were probably nothing to fret about; and b) General Colin Powell’s equally fuzzy pitch for war with Iraq. Now, blaming PowerPoint for Iraq would be a bit like blaming Darwin for Donald Trump, but the program made scrutiny of the case harder. Not for nothing did Brigadier General McMaster, of the US military, subsequently liken the proliferation of PP presentation in the military to an “internal threat”, saying: “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems are not bullet-izable.”

When my friend experimented with removing PowerPoint from lecture theatres, his students demanded it back
Perhaps even worse, in the context of the 21st century, is a charge levelled by the French writer Franck Frommer in his book How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid. Because PP can only present propositions and arguments as equations, he says, they appear to have no owner; no one need feel responsible for them. In the post-banking-crisis world, we know both how seductive this is – and how dangerous. Some canny business leaders are now following Steve Jobs’s example, and Tufte’s advice, by restricting PP use to pictures.

I spoke to a former colleague, now a professor of journalism: a super-smart, tech-savvy man who has thought about this a great deal. He reminds staff that lecturing is a form of performance and must be treated as such. He thinks the new pressure on universities to generate revenue – to behave like businesses – has tipped the balance from communicators to researchers. (Though in truth, what doesn’t take the form of a pitch in the financialised world of 2015?)

My friend also told me that when he removed PowerPoint from lecture theatres, his students demanded it back, because without it they had to organise their own notes. In this century, it seems to me, our greatest enemy will not be drones or Isis or perhaps even climate change: it will be convenience.

The University of North Carolina Academic Writing Handouts are out!

Writing the Paper
College Writing
Color Coding 
Drawing Relationships 
Evaluating Print Sources
Figures and Charts
Getting Feedback
Paragraph Development
Reading Aloud
Reading Aloud 
Reading To Write
Reorganizing Drafts
Reverse Outlining 
Revising Drafts
Thesis Statements
Understanding Assignments
Understanding Assignments 
Writing Anxiety
Writing as

Writing Groups
Citation, Style, and Sentence Level Concerns
Citation Resources
How We Cite 
Why We Cite 
Editing and Proofreading
Fragments and Run-ons
Gender-Sensitive Language
Latin Terms and Abbreviations
Modal Verbs
Passive Voice
Passive Voice 
Relative Clauses
Semi-Colons, Colons, and Dashes
Should I Use “I”?
Sentence Patterns
Transitions (ESL)
Verb Tenses
Word Choice
Specific Writing Assignments/Contexts
Annotated Bibliographies
Application Essays
Book Reviews
Business Letters
Classroom Culture
CVs and Resumes
Conference Papers
E-mail Communication
Essay Exams
Grant Proposals
Group Writing
Honors Theses
Literature Reviews
Oral History
Poetry Explications
Scientific Research

Working With Your International TAs
Writing for Specific Fields
Art History
Communication Studies
Literature (Fiction)
Political Science
Religious Studies
Links with a  are multimedia writing strategy demos (require the latest Flash Player)

We welcome feedback about these handouts and suggestions for additional handouts. Please email us or call us at (919)962-7710 with your ideas. If you enjoy using our handouts, we appreciate contributions of acknowledgement.

Interstellar ‘should be shown in school lessons’: Science, research and creativity go hand in hand. 

Originally published by the BBC HERE.

Interstellar ‘should be shown in school lessons’

Media captionChristopher Nolan talks about the importance of science in creating Interstellar

The film Interstellar should be shown in school science lessons, a scientific journal has urged.

They say their call follows a new insight gained into black holes as a result of producing the visual effects for the Hollywood film.

Experts have also confirmed that the portrayal of “wormholes” is scientifically accurate.

Scientific papers have been published in the American Journal of Physics and in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

Dr David Jackson, who printed one of the papers in this month’s AJP, said “publishing this paper was a no-brainer”.

He added: “The physics has been very carefully reviewed by experts and found to be accurate. The publication will encourage physics teachers to show the film in their classes to get across ideas about general relativity.”

The director of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, told BBC News that Dr Jackson’s comments and the two journal publications were “very important” to him.

“Right from the beginning we all really believed it’s time to inspire another generation to really look outwards and to look to the stars again.

“We hoped that by dramatising science and making it something that could be entertaining for kids we might inspire some of the astronauts of tomorrow – that would be the ultimate goal of the project,” he said.

This is how a wormhole might appear – like a crystal ball – with a distorted view of a distant galaxy inside

Mr Nolan worked with Kip Thorne, a professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) who was also one of the film’s executive producers. Prof Thorne’s vision was to produce a sci-fi film with real science woven into the fabric of the story.

“Films such as Interstellar or Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey are inspirations for young people. A number of people I trained as a physicist with got involved with science because of movies like these. So if you are going to have a film that really does attract young people to science it had best be scientifically accurate,” he said.

Designers drew on scientific equations when creating their computer-generated effects. Particular attention went into the representation of the super massive black hole in the film and a wormhole that connects our Solar System to another in a different galaxy.

Christopher Nolan’s hope is that the science of Interstellar will inspire a new generation. Here, he is pictured with Profs Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox and Kip Thorne

The visual effects company Double Negative developed a new suite of software that enabled them to calculate the way light rays travel across the warped space around the black hole.

The software was developed to produce extremely high resolution images suitable for a Hollywood film. The resulting pictures revealed delicate filigree patterns never observed before.

These raised new questions that were of sufficient scientific interest that they prompted a publication in the Institute of Physics journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The wormhole produced in the film is unlike any other seen in Hollywood films. Typically, they are shown as a giant cosmic drain with material falling into them. But by turning to physics the scientists determined that it would look like a crystal ball hanging in space. Inside was a distorted image from the galaxy on the other side.

These new discoveries prompted Prof Thorne and the visual effects team at Double Negative to publish two scientific papers.

“What was really exciting was that we were able to show the reality of the Universe was stranger than anything we could imagine,” said Paul Franklin, the film’s visual effects supervisor.

“You can tell an exciting story in all sorts of different ways. But by incorporating the reality of how extraordinary the Universe can be in Interstellar we ended up with a more exciting film than if we made it all up.”

Amazing concepts

Christopher Nolan told BBC News that scientific accuracy helped him tell a better story.

“The importance of the science was baked in, very much in the DNA of the project from the beginning. And we tried to be true to that initial impulse of looking at reality and what’s available to us in terms of the body of knowledge, real physics, real astrophysics and the narrative possibilities that those amazing concepts offer.”

This image produced for Interstellar has given scientists new insights into black holes and raised interesting new questions

Mr Nolan told BBC News that he has always been interested in science and was inspired by Carl Sagan’s popular science TV programme Cosmos when he was younger.

“I got a lot of fascinating insights into the possibilities of the Universe and so we felt a real responsibility with the film to try to inspire young people in the same way,” he explained.

And he added that getting the science wrong in films these days is no longer an option.

“Consumers have a lot more immediate access to information. If you go and see a film about a particular subject, particularly a true life story, you can go home and look it up on Wikipedia and see if the basic things portrayed in the film are true or not and the same is true of science in the films.”

Scientific credibility

In general, Hollywood does seem to be getting better at portraying science in its blockbuster films. This may partly be due to an initiative by the US National Academy of Sciences called the Science and Entertainment Exchange. This puts scientists in contact with film-makers and TV producers in order to get more accurate science on the big and small screens.

Prof Kip Thorne believes that it has been a successful initiative and recalls how films used to be.

“My only pet peeve is the Disney movie, The Black Hole, which was both a bad movie and a bad depiction of the science. I understand Disney is remaking it and presumably this time it will do a far, far better job,” he said.

Prof Thorne may have some insight into how attitudes at Disney have shifted because he was giving a talk at the corporation’s studios two weeks ago about the science of Interstellar.

“There is a lot of interest from Disney in this movie and the methods we used to get the science right,” he said.

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The Muppets explain Phenomenology

This is an original post from

You can find the original post HERE.


“Phenomena – It’s all around us.

Phenomenology was pioneered by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century and studies the “structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The field has influenced a wide array of critical theorists, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger.

Online questionnaire: Attitudes towards academic research in areas of planning and design practice

This questionnaire was originally conceived for the project ‘Research into Practice’ of the University of Hertfordshire, led by Professor Michael Biggs and Daniela Buchler.

In order to answer this questionnaire, please do so without consulting sources on the Internet. This questionnaire is about what you know now, and about how you deal with research in areas of planning and design practice.

Please, grade the sentences bellow following the system: (1) Fully disagree, (2) Slightly disagree, (3) Neither agree nor disagree, (4) Slightly agree, (5) Fully agree.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to Roberto Rocco at

TU Delft resources about citations, quotations and plagiarism

TU Delft has great resources that explain to students the difference between citation, quotation and paraphrasing. Please visit the webpage HERE

How to cite

 Paraphrasing or citing?

Paraphrase if the idea or theory is important, but the exact words less so; cite if the exact words are as important as the ideas expressed.
Generally, arts scholars tend to cite, while science scholars paraphrase.

Paraphrasing: using your own words to describe someone else’s idea, theory or design.
Always refer to the original author’s text and clearly separate the paraphrased text from your own ideas.

 Example 1:
Low power digital hardware and computational algorithms
frequently trade energy for quality. (Min and Chandrakasan, 2003) …
Example 2:
According to a study by Hendriks et al. (2006) the accuracy of these models…

: using someone else’s words to describe their idea, theory or design
Always put the text between double quotation marks and refer to the original author’s document.

“Water content is an important factor in the acid- and alkaline-catalyzed transesterification of vegetable oil” (Kusdiana and Saka, 2003).

Keep your quotes short, too long quotations make your text difficult to read. Quotes substantiate your arguments, but it is your own input. Paraphrasing is often better than quote. You can view ideas often clearer and shorter in your own words.

Why paraphrase or cite?

Scholars almost always paraphrase or cite other people’s work in their papers or scientific articles.
Why is that?

  • At the start of a paper or a scientific article you often have to give an overview of research that has already been carried out before.
  • You need factual (e.g. statistical) data taken from the official source.
  • You want to support your own arguments by using the words or ideas of influential scientists in the field.
  • Sometimes you want to illustrate your point.

What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?
A reference list is a list of documents (books, articles, papers, presentations, e-mails…) that you cite or paraphrase from. You should always add a reference list at the end of your paper if you cite or paraphrase in the text.

A bibliography is a list of documents (books, articles, papers, presentations, e-mails…) that you have consulted during your research whether or not you cite or paraphrase from. A bibliography contains all references from the reference list.

When is using someone else’s work plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using someone else’s work or findings without indicating that you have done this. This is also valid for pictures and photographs etc. that you use to illustrate your arguments. Without a reference to the original author’s work, you give the impression that the ideas are your own. This is not allowed, and may result in your expulsion from university.

There is an exception: if knowledge is deemed common knowledge – in other words, something which everyone in a particular field knows – you do not need to refer to an original author. However, in this case it is a good idea to be cautious: if you are not sure, it is better to include a reference.

Citation styles
There are many different citation styles, with their own formatting rules and their own order for the literature in the reference list or bibliography.

Two important groups are the parenthesised styles and the numbered styles.

Parenthesised styles use an abbreviation of the full references immediately following the citation or paraphrase in the text (typically, the author’s name and date of publication; page numbers may be included), with a full reference in the reference list at the end of the paper. The reference list is usually ordered alphabetically according to first author’s surname.


A litre of water is required to produce every calorie of food (International Water Management Institute, 2006).
International Water Management Institute, 2006. Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.

Numbered styles
 use a number immediately following the citation or paraphrase in the text (either in superscript or between square brackets), with a full reference in the reference list at the end of the paper. The reference list is numbered sequentially, which means that the references occur in the same order in which they occur in the text.


A litre of water is required to produce every calorie of food [1].
[1] Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (International Water Management Institute, 2006).

Which style?

Different subject areas favour different citation styles. Some popular styles are Harvard, APA, Chicago and Numbered Style.
Examples of citation styles.

  • Ask your teacher which style to use.
  • If you are publishing, check the publisher’s ‘instruction for authors’.
  • Otherwise, simply choose the style you like best, but be consistent.

Further reading…


See also:

 Source:TUDelft (2015). “How to Cite.” Retrieved 20 February, 2015, from

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