Category Archives: Linked List

An Architectural Reflection of George W. Bush

Henry Grabar, writing for the Atlantic Cities:

The Bushes are passionate about sustainable architecture, and the Center has reflective roofs, solar panels, and the infrastructure to harvest rainwater. It is LEED Platinum-certified. 

Seriously? I’m not doubting Grabar’s reporting on this, but I’m struggling to square the Bushes’ “passions” with his actions while president.

Secrets of Cloud Formation, Revealed in the Amazon

Adrianne Appel, reporting for NOVA Next:

There is so much particulate matter in the air in heavily developed regions like North America and Europe—mostly from pollutants—that scientists are unable to easily study which particles impact cloud formation and how. The “cleanest” atmosphere in rural North America, for example, has 2,000 or more particles per cubic centimeter; most are from pollution. Those numbers soar near cities, where densities can be as high as 10,000 to 100,000 particles per cubic centimeter. “There is too much noise in the atmosphere,” Martin says.

There are a few places where particulate signals are quieter.

One guess where one of those is.

How the Decline of the Traditional Workplace Is Changing Our Cities

Emily Badger, writing at the Atlantic Cities:

For decades, cities have reflected the neat separation of work and home, with residences in one part of town, offices and industry in another, and infrastructure (highways, parking garages, hub-and-spoke transit systems) built to help connect us between the two around what has been for many people a 9-to-5 work day. But what happens when more people start to work outside of offices, or really anywhere – at all times?

The internet's image problem

Alex Wild wrote about image sharing (without attribution or concern for copyright) run rampant at his blog, Compound Eye. The object of his ire is I Fucking Love Science, a keen Facebook page that’s become a hub of science outreach on the web. It’s a great page, but many, many images are posted there daily without attribution, and Elise Andrews, who runs the page, makes money off the venture.

But I’d argue that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Andrews is an independent operator, and her transgressions are minor and, as Wild rightly points out, could be easily remedied. The bigger problem is that large, corporate sites, often with millions of dollars in revenue or deep pockets lined with venture capital, have the same blasé attitudes about creator’s rights. They frequently misappropriate copyrighted images to generate traffic and ad impressions on their sites, sending paltry traffic to the original site. I’m talking about BuzzFeed, Gizmodo, Popular Science, Business Insider, and others. I’m speaking from experience here. They’ve all taken my infographics, without permission, and posted them to their sites, in some cases without even proper attribution or a link.

I’ll grant that the internet is still a bit the Wild West, but that doesn’t mean it should be a free-for-all. Even Huffington Post writers have gotten in trouble for “over aggregation” of written posts. (Sad, in a way, because I’m sure the writer was pressured to do exactly that.) But with images, there seem to be fewer qualms. What makes images different?

I’ll leave you with a few words from Ed Yong, who chimed in last night on Twitter: “If someone posted my writing on their site w/o link or credit, I’d be fucking outraged. This is not different.”

Converting city buses into showers for the homeless

Christina Farr, reporting for Venture Beat:

San Francisco is teeming with tech entrepreneurs who want to save the world but who’ll pass by the homeless person on the street without a second glance. Doniece Sandoval, a Bay Area tech entrepreneur, is not one of them. Her latest trick? Turning retired city buses into mobile showers for the homeless. The initiative, known as Lava Mae, is a response to a desperate need in the city. According to the most recent count, more than 6,500 homeless people sleep on the street or in shelters in San Francisco, and there are only eight shower facilities specifically available to the homeless, and most of these have just one or two stalls and aren’t open every day.

Mahogany’s Last Stand

Scott Wallace, writing for National Geographic:

The last stands of mahogany, as well as Spanish cedar, are now nearly all restricted to Indian lands, national parks, and territorial reserves set aside to protect isolated tribes. As a result, loggers are now taking aim at other canopy giants few of us have ever heard of—copaiba, ishpingo, shihuahuaco, capirona—which are finding their way into our homes as bedroom sets, cabinets, flooring, and patio decks. These lesser known varieties have even fewer protections than the more charismatic, pricier ones, like mahogany, but they’re often more crucial to forest ecosystems.

Remembering Life in Arcosanti

James McGirk reminisces about his time spent at Arcosanti:

In a similar sense, Arcosanti felt like an anachronism, a permanent representation of a different time and a different ideology. Walking through the domes felt like walking through ruins, rather than the white-hot center of architectural thought it ought to have been, and to many, always seemed so close to becoming. (The idea of arcology has always been touted as of crucial importance — just not yet.) Unlike New Delhi, which has blossomed since I lived there, Arcosanti was too rigid of a structure — literally, its physical plant couldn’t adapt, and figuratively, its social structure was too fixed — to contain the full spectrum of people a city needs to survive; not just high priests and acolytes, but entrepreneurs and rogues too.

Personal space in major cities

Andrew Bergmann’s take on population density in select cities around the world for CNN Money.

Clever, but his title is all wrong. Bergmann is measuring population density, not personal space. For example, do you count freeways and parking lots as your personal space? Probably not. To get at true personal space, he would have to calculate home sizes or something similar. 

One-third of U.S. rivers contaminated with ag runoff

China’s environmental degradation has gotten a lot of attention lately—remember the story about 16,000 dead pigs found in the river that supplies Shanghai’s drinking water? But American waterways aren’t faring too well, either. Scott Johnson at Ars Technica summarizes a recent EPA report that shows nearly one-third of U.S. rivers are too high in nitrogen and nearly 40 percent too high in phosphorous. 

Lake Erie's future?

John Mangels, reporting for the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The record-shattering glut of toxic algae that fouled much of Lake Erie in 2011 wasn’t a fluke, but a sign of what’s likely ahead for the troubled lake, researchers say.

A combination of weather extremes and long-standing farming practices that unwittingly aid algae growth spawned the 2011 mega-bloom, a team of Midwest scientists who spent months examining the phenomenon reported Monday.

Algae Blooms Threaten Lake Erie

Michael Wines, reporting for the New York Times:

The algae are fed by phosphorus, the same chemical that American and Canadian authorities spent billions to reduce — for good, they believed — in the 1970s and ‘80s. This time, new farming techniques, climate change and even a change in Lake Erie’s ecosystem make phosphorus pollution more intractable.

Study: Nuke Power Has Saved Millions of Lives. Media Yawns.

Keith Kloor:

How does mainstream media not jump all over the news that nuclear power has apparently saved millions of lives? Then there’s the climate change angle, the massive amount of carbon emissions that seems to have been prevented. This strikes me as big!

He’s got a point.

Nuclear power may have saved nearly 2 million lives

Ashutosh Jogalekar, writing at The Curious Wavefunction:

A new paper from NASA’s Goddard Institute authored by Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen in the journal Environmental Science and Technology purports to do just that. Hansen is well known as one of the founders of modern global warming science. The authors come up with the striking figure of 1.8 million as the number of lives saved by replacing fossil fuel sources with nuclear. They also estimate the saving of up to 7 million lives in the next four decades, along with substantial reductions in carbon emissions, were nuclear power to replace fossil fuel usage on a large scale. 

Why did 28,000 rivers in China suddenly disappear?

Amar Toor, writing for The Verge:

“Our research has shown that in some areas, especially in north China, rivers are drying up or turning into seasonal rivers,” Ma said in a phone interview with The Verge. There are several explanations for this phenomenon, including deforestation and, to a less certain extent, climate change, though Ma says the two primary catalysts are pollution and overpopulation.

L.A. synchronizes its stoplights

Ian Lovett, reporting for the New York Times:

Other cities have chased to keep up, adopting centralized control of at least some traffic signals. But Los Angeles has remained at the forefront, with a system that is not only more widespread, but also faster and more autonomous than most others.

Now, the magnetic sensors in the road at every intersection send real-time updates about the traffic flow through fiber-optic cables to a bunker beneath downtown Los Angeles, where Edward Yu runs the network. The computer system, which runs software the city itself developed, analyzes the data and automatically makes second-by-second adjustments, adapting to changing conditions and using a trove of past data to predict where traffic could snarl, all without human involvement.

No mention of whether they’re prepared to integrate autonomous vehicles into the system.

Correlation, Speculation and the Periodicity of Environmental Journalism

Thomas Hayden, writing for The Last Word on Nothing:

So if it’s not sun spots, and it’s not just an inherent societal attention span, what else could be driving the ups and downs of environmental reporting, at mainstream outlets at least? I think it comes back to the faddishness of journalism. The news business is by definition about the pursuit of novelty. Sure, conflict, personal impact, horrifying disasters and political battles are nice too. But at the end of the day the great majority of reporters, editors, producers and managers in the media are fiends for the new.

Keen insight. Sadly, he’s probably right.