Category Archives: Linked List

Why we go through energy transitions

David Wogan, writing for Scientific American:

There are three themes that run through U.S.’s energy history:

  • We go through energy transitions regularly, largely out of necessity (running out of forests or whale oil (Peak Whale) or with the discovery of a better fuel source;
  • We tend to diversify our fuel mix as time goes on (again, finding new, better fuel sources) by adding new fuel sources more than we retire fuel sources;
  • We tend to decarbonize as time goes on (from carbon-intensive wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas).

Wired Science Map Lab

If you haven’t dropped by Wired Science’s new map blog, check it out. Still new, but off to a good start.

Digital mapping files are public records, state Supreme Court rules

Tony Barboza, writing for the Los Angeles Times:

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that digital mapping files known as geographic information systems must be released under the state’s public records law.

The decision could make it easier for media organizations, advocacy groups and others to obtain government GIS databases, rich collections of data that can be used to display and analyze multiple layers of geographical information.

History's lessons on climate and government

Historian Geoffrey Parker, being interviewed by Hillary Rosner for the Boston Globe:

All over the countries of the world there is a fear of central government. It’s not unjustified. But when it comes to preparing for climate change, only big government has the resources to act in advance. That’s the dilemma we face.

Startup to SF: Just Avoid that Pesky Transit Strike via Helicopter!

Sam Biddle, writing for Valley Wag:

Here’s how thinking about the world works in Silicon Valley: when public transportation is disrupted (in the old sense) due to labor disputes, that’s not an inconvenience! It’s an opportunity to plug your app and offer helicopter rides—literally fly over society’s problems

Transit Strike Shows the Dark Side of Silicon Valley’s Privatization Fetish

Kevin Roose, writing for New York Magazine last week:

The kudzu-like spread of private transportation companies in San Francisco has been good for city residents who can afford to use them, and the dot-com founders that have gotten rich by replacing public-sector functions with their own services. But yesterday, when a system-wide BART strike took down the Bay Area’s best form of public transportation, we saw the dark side of Silicon Valley’s obsession with privatizing everything. Namely, it has created a two-tier transportation caste system, where the private-sector solutions flourish, often at the expense of the public infrastructure that a large part of the population still depends on to get to work and go about their lives.

World's Biggest Offshore Wind Farm Switched On in Britain

Dave Levitan, writing for IEEE Spectrum:

The speed at which these enormous projects are popping around in the waters around the U.K. is impressive, especially considering the ongoing difficulties with getting even a single offshore turbine up and running in the U.S. (Cape Wind might have one by next year! Maybe!) There are now around 20 distinct offshore wind farms around the U.K., generating enough power for 2.3 million homes; when all offshore turbines that are spinning, in construction, or planned are combined, they total 15 gigawatts of capacity—about a quarter of the entire U.S. onshore wind power capabilities.

How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities

Nick Bilton, writing for the New York Times:

Imagine a city where you don’t drive in loops looking for a parking spot because your car drops you off and scoots off to some location to wait, sort of like taxi holding pens at airports. Or maybe it is picked up by a robotic minder and carted off with other vehicles, like a row of shopping carts.

Inner-city parking lots could become parks. Traffic lights could be less common because hidden sensors in cars and streets coordinate traffic. And, yes, parking tickets could become a rarity since cars would be smart enough to know where they are not supposed to be.

As scientists and car companies forge ahead — many expect self-driving cars to become commonplace in the next decade — researchers, city planners and engineers are contemplating how city spaces could change if our cars start doing the driving for us. There are risks, of course: People might be more open to a longer daily commute, leading to even more urban sprawl.

How the Supreme Court Made It Harder to Prepare for Climate Change

Anthony Flint, writing for the Atlantic Cities about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent land-use ruling:

Coastal metropolitan regions have faced up to the fact that there will be increased flooding, volatile weather, and sea level rise. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stepped up with a model $20 billion plan that is a mix of living with water and keeping it out. This is the great planning challenge of our time – and it’s expensive. So private developers should be expected to contribute to the cause. Build on a waterfront? Sure, but a condition of the permit is a contribution to a floodgate fund.

With Koontz, lawyers now have a perfect opportunity to say no way, that such a requirement is out of proportion with the modest scope of an individual development. The Koontz family bristled at the idea of restoring wetlands miles from their property. Why should one builder be held accountable for a problem the whole world is responsible for?

These are going to be tricky waters to navigate (pun intended and apologized for). Building at the water’s edge is a risk, and building codes have been established to minimize the risk of fire, flood, and so on from harming a building’s inhabitants. In some ways, mitigation funds are like building codes. But not in every way, and that’s what is going to make this complicated. 

Poverty moves to the suburbs

Emily Badger uncovered these maps by Brookings Institution researchers Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone comparing poverty in 1980 to 2010. Poverty is no longer confined to the inner city.

LaHood wants HSR network in 25 years

Somer Mathis, interviewing transportation secretary Ray LaHood for the Atlantic Cities:

You’ve also predicted that 25 years from now, 80 percent of the United States will be connected by rail.

That’s the plan.

Twenty-five years isn’t that long from now.

No, I know it’s not. And it’s a good plan. It’s the president’s plan. That’s the kind of vision that Eisenhower had about the interstates. And we’ve gone through a lot of presidents and a lot of Congresses and a lot of governors, and we built the interstates. I hope we continue to have people of vision that will carry out this idea that the country will be connected [by rail].

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism lives on

Patrick Marley, writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Walker will allow the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism to remain on the UW-Madison campus. Lawmakers had added a provision to boot the center from Vilas Hall and bar university staff from collaborating with it.

They declined to say which lawmaker was behind the idea, but said they believed the center had a left-leaning bias and they believed journalists should not rely on state subsidies. Critics called it an assault on journalistic independence and said it appeared to be payback for their stories, including one breaking the news about a physical altercation between two state Supreme Court justices.

Walker said arrangements between the university and private groups should be addressed by the UW Board of Regents, not lawmakers in the state budget.

Google Reader shutting down July 1

If you read Per Square Mile via Google Reader, you probably already know Google is shutting the service down July 1. Not to worry—there are several viable replacements out there. But the first thing you should do is export your subscriptions list

Next, take a look at the spate of replacements (linked above). I haven’t chosen mine yet since I mainly used Google Reader to sync between my various RSS apps, which come Monday will be as communicative as an estranged family. Hopefully, things will sort themselves out in the coming months. But in the meantime, export and migrate so you don’t miss any articles from PSM or any of your other favorite feeds.

To cut pollution, install green power in the coal belt

Kate Prengaman, writing for Ars Technica:

Current US renewable energy policy encourages development where the best resources, wind or sunshine, exist to create the most power. But the authors of a new study argue that analyzing the benefits of renewable energy projects should include the environmental cost of the electricity being supplanted.

Basically, if you install a solar array in the sunny Southern California desert, that power mostly replaces electricity made with relatively clean natural gas. In contrast, if you installed the same solar panels in considerably less sunny Ohio, you’d be primarily replacing capacity at a coal-burning power plant, reducing far more air pollutants than in California.

SCOTUS ruling set to change land-use

John Echeverria, in an op-ed for the New York Times:

As Justice Kagan correctly explains in her dissent, the decision will very likely encourage local government officials to avoid any discussion with developers related to permit conditions that, in the end, might have let both sides find common ground on building projects that are good for the community and environmentally sound. Rather than risk a lawsuit through an attempt at compromise, many municipalities will simply reject development applications outright — or, worse, accept development plans they shouldn’t.

Grocery store geography

Nathan Yau:

I’ve been poking around grocery store locations, courtesy of AggData, the past few days.

There’s a grocery store just about everywhere you go in the United States, because, well, we gotta eat. They look similar in that they sell produce on one side, meat in the back, and snacks and soda on the side opposite the produce. Magazines and small candies are carefully situated at eye-level by the cash registers. There’s usually a deli counter and prepared foods near the bread section. And yet, despite the generic format and layout, these stores can remind us of places and specific periods of our lives.

How Removing Trees Can Kill You

Jason Kane, writing for the Newshour:

The trees died first. One hundred million of them in the eastern and midwestern United States. The culprit: the emerald ash borer, a beetle that entered the U.S. through Detroit in 2002 and quickly spread to Iowa, New York, Virginia and nearly every state between. The bug attacks all 22 species of North American ash and kills nearly every tree it infests.

Then came the humans. In the 15 states infected with the bug starting, an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease compared with uninfected areas of the country.

(Thanks to PSM reader Michael Kenny.)

Placing Literature maps book scenes in the real world

Amanda Kooser, writing for CNET:

One of the first things I did when I visited London a few years ago was to go on a Sherlock Holmes walking tour. I’m not the only avid reader compelled to seek out the real-life settings found in books. This desire is what has brought about Placing Literature, an interactive site dedicated to plotting scenes from books onto real-world maps. It’s like a heady mixture of a database, Google Maps, and the efforts of a bunch of literature geeks.

The App Craze Branches into Forestry

Conor Myhrvold, writing for Technology Review:

In a small office near Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across from Starbucks, is a small startup with a big idea for balancing biodiversity with business. SilviaTerra has developed better ways to identify and quantify the trees in forests, using smartphones and satellite imagery. The company’s goal is to help landowners, conservation groups, and timber companies manage their inventory and preserve valuable natural habitats.

Climate policy, at long last

Philip Bump:

With airplanes flying over regularly, and sweat dripping from his brow, the president unveiled the most ambitious climate change plan in American history today in a speech at Georgetown University. The biggest unexpected news: among his proposals, detailed here, the president set a critical emissions measure for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama’s rhetoric was typically powerful. “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I am here to say: We need to act.”