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Carl Sagan once noted, quite sententiously: “The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” Still, nothing will deter human kind from finding Blue Dot copies among the stars and proving him wrong. Some are convinced Earth will become uninhabitable, through climate change, or some apocalyptic disaster etc., sooner rather than later. Others just like to dream big and indulge in humans’ natural, if often destructive, imperialistic tendencies.

On that note… introducing the QUEEN B!

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The artist who worked on these sketches couldn’t be pegged as a budding colonizer – like most artists, Noah Hershberger puts his mind and his imagination to work on larger-than-life concepts merely for the thrill of the adventure. This time the stakes were even higher: he concocted a would-be Mars dwelling for humans at the behest of NASA – their Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Makerbot thought to open the hunt for most feasible Mars architecture to everyone, via a competition. Hershberger’s winning specs feature a beehive-like structure which would filter out Martian air and radiation, while keeping the inside quarters lung-friendly. Dust storms and low temps would also be no match for Hershberger’s nifty hive, which would be weatherized with hot water tanks tucked under the floors!

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It would ideally be 3D-printed out of dust found on the Red Planet itself, rather than traditionally built, but as for everything else, he’ll be letting the worker-bee engineers sweat the how-to’s. What do you make of this ingenious model: sci-fi hokey-pokey or a valid answer to the questions of the future? Check out more photos of the “indoors” blueprints on the Queen B’s Thingiverse page and leave your thoughts below!

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When all the diplomatic cards have been played, all the threats have been made and all the sanctions enforced – maybe, at the end of the day, it’s the all-mighty power of money that will sway Vladimir Putin. The Virgin Group founder is staking his cred and his entire business network on that assumption, as he wades into the Cold War-like tensions between Western leaders and Putin’s Russia. The intervention staged by Richard Branson comes in the form of an open letter, which he got major business leaders from both sides of the current Ukrainian drama to sign – most notably, five of the top-ranking businessmen in Russia!

The signatories include high-profile names from the West (the chief executive of Unilever, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, former eBay president Jeff Skoll among them), but also the “self-made” heads of Russian businesses that stand to lose their a villa or two, should their president stay the warmongering course. The cooler heads at the helms of mobile phone retailer Svyaznoy, retailer Foodline Group, the Rolf Group, as well as business lobbyist Igor Yurgens and serial restaurateur Arkady Novikov, have all answered Branson’s clarion call. The letter they signed aims to make the Russian president see the error of his ways and get him to the negotiating table.

But can this really make a dent in Putin’s stance toward the Ukraine? It’s unlikely that he’ll turn around and defuse tensions with a snap of his finger, but I guess it can’t hurt to have him backed into a wall by his own people – the rich oligarchs, that is, whose woes might actually count for something in his eyes. Or this stunt of Branson’s – a decidedly Western approach – might just fuel Putin’s land-grabbing fire even more. Either way, it’s great to see the business world waking up to the fact that war doesn’t pay.

This has got to be a sign that we’re edging ever closer to the pinnacle of robot evolution – introducing JIBO:

Having already reached and surpassed its $100,000 goal tenfold and then some on KickStarter, this cute white family robot designed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. To get the obvious questions out of the way, JIBO is a “he.”  He’s programmed to be a communicator (he has the smoothest voice!), an emotional presence around the house, an autonomous camera-operator, a nanny for your kids, a conveyor belt for texts, voice call messages and everything in between and so much more. The pint-size robot (11-inch tall and as light as a laptop) is also connected to the cloud, so no data will ever be lost.

This is, in effect, the next major leap towards that new lifestyle the tech world’s raving about: the Internet of Things. So hurry up if you want this little guy in your home: with just a couple of weeks left of the crowdfunding campaign, time is running out fast on your getting your mitts on the JIBO Home Edition at a veritable bargain! And another thing – don’t you find JIBO vaguely familiar? (Hint: That’s Eve from Wall-E on his right, there! A match made… right here on Earth.)

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The upscale (to say the least) residence sitting atop a 560ft double skyscraper, the second tallest building along the Mediterranean coast, will let its owner look down on the world in style. It’s been dubbed the world’s priciest penthouse and, looking at the facilities alone, you get why someone would shell out a fortune (it’s expected to go for upwards of €300m) to get their hands on it. Wouldn’t you?

To watch this bee-stung babe traipse around the tower, looking for her date who, wouldn’t you know it, she finds grabbing a massage… you’d be tempted to fly over there in a jiffy and take a gander at the amenities offered by the luxury dwelling. Or you could just settle into your chair and drool over the specs and photos below:

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The foremost eye-catching feature of this sprawling, four-story penthouse is its private infinity pool that overlooks the sea. It even comes with a waterslide that connects the top floor to the pool, located several floors down – the best bit of a waterpark, right at your fingertips! Designed by Albert Pinto, the peerless penthouse also has the foodies covered, with a kitchen on each floor, and features five bedrooms, a dining room and a living room – all affording awe-inspiring vistas in every direction.

And, if you’re wondering what prompted the high-rise being built in the first place, it’s all about the money – unsurprisingly enough. Monaco has long been granting shelter from taxes to the super-rich, but given the latest globalization trends, it’s quickly becoming the only option for billionaires who want to flaunt their stuff without anyone looking under the hood. Switzerland, the other go-to safe haven in Europe, has recently been pushed into releasing its citizens’ banking behaviors to tax authorities elsewhere, which made its jet sets jittery enough to jump ship into Monaco.

So you’ve got one year left to grow your fortune: come September 2015, when the works on the Tour Odeon are scheduled to wrap up, this jaw-dropping piece of real estate will be commanding its price, and taking a lot of hearts prisoner, I bet!

Leave it to an inventor-artist to start our day off on cloud nine! David Bowen is the brains behind kinetic devices that bring the outdoors in: by tapping into the power of water, wind and, now, clouds, the innovator manages to scale nature down, translate it into movements that our minds can grasp, and fit it all under our roofs. Look at his latest contraption, for instance:

The whole rig might look complicated, because it probably is, but the gist of it comprises a video camera pointed at the clouds and connected to a robotic mechanism that mimics their shapes, billows and sways. By taking a regular run-of-the-mill grand piano and mounting this one-of-a-kind thingamajig (yes, we’re going with that) inside, Bowen basically brings the clouds down to earth. Or takes us up to the heavens – however you want to look at it.

If you find yourself in France this autumn, you should check out the artist’s latest work at L’assaut de la Menuiserie, where he’ll be putting on a solo exhibition. Until then – if you’ve finished picking up your jaw from the floor! – take a look at some of Bowen’s other, equally amazing installations:

In the very near future, flying will be an altogether different experience – if Technicon Design has anything to say in the matter. The design company’s French branch saw their specs for the IXION windowless private jet win an International Yacht & Aviation Award back in May, and for good reason. The concept they came up with would scrap the window and seating arrangements we all know and loath, advancing the more streamlined look of one all-round screen, running the length of the cabin, which would project images from outside the plane for all the passengers inside!

victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project6If these designers have their way – and the signals from other innovators all point in that direction – our future airplane rides will be as immersive as an IMAX screening, with the added bonus that the motion picture would actually be a live show. The live feed would come courtesy of cameras mounted all over the wings and outer body of the plane, that would capture everything along the aircraft’s path… on the fly!

victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project4 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project3 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project2 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project1victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project5As a frequent flyer myself, I wouldn’t think twice about boarding one of these jets, but I imagine they look even more appealing to those who are afraid of flying: the mammoth floor-to-ceiling window into the clouds virtually clears up cabin fever. Sure, there’s an off chance that a glitch in the system might crash the live feed, leaving passengers with no choice but to stare into the daunting blackness and feel the claustrophobia creeping back in… But that’s a brain-twister for another day, the date these babies go into production, and we’ve no word yet on when that will be.

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