David Lepeska rounds up the photography of two academics, David Schalliol and Michael Carriere, who are documenting urban revitalization—or lack thereof. These snaps document the Midwest. They’re a subtle reminder that the region may be down, but it’s not out.
Kaid Banfield rounds up some of the latest on ambient noise in urban environments and the effect its having on our health.
Brandon Keim, writing for Wired:
On the surface, these core-and-branch systems — evident in New York City, Tokyo, London or most any large metropolitan subway — may seem intuitively optimal. But in the absence of top-down central planning, their movement over decades toward a common mathematical space may hint at universal principles of human self-organization.
More on rivers: A few years back, Robert Krulwich linked together a series of channel maps tracing the many paths of the MIssissippi River. The river—Twain’s river, as Krulwich points out—used to be in constant flux. Today? Not so much.
Few river systems have been as heavily engineered as California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their combined delta. Yet despite—or perhaps because of—near constant meddling, we know little about what the river looked like before it was dammed, diked, and redirected. The San Francisco Estuary Institute is hoping to change that, and KQED Quest has taken their current findings and assembled an interactive feature with a data-rich webGIS.
Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab:
One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it.
So much of science and technology has been about pursuing efficiency, scale and “exponential growth” at the expense of our environment and our resources. We have rewarded those who invent technologies that control our triumph over nature in some way. This is clearly not sustainable.
We must understand that we live in a complex system where everything is interrelated and interdependent and that everything we design impacts a larger system.
My dream is that 100 years from now, we will be learning from nature, integrating with nature and using science and technology to bring nature into our lives to make human beings and our artifacts not only zero impact but a positive impact to the natural system that we live in.
Mims’s perspective is spot on, too.
The Tokyo Hotaru Festival 2012 is a modern twist on the age-old Japanese love of watching fireflies along waterways. Some 100,000 blue LED light bulbs floated down the Sumida in imitation of the insects, long celebrated in haiku and other verse.
It’s a gorgeous sight, I’m sure. But of all the coverage I’ve seen on this, not one has mentioned why Tokyo doesn’t have the real thing anymore. We should be restoring the river’s health, not merely emulating it.
Michael McAuliff, writing for the Huffington Post:
The House voted Wednesday to eliminate the detailed surveys of America that have been conducted by the Census Bureau since the nation’s earliest days. House Republicans, increasingly suspicious of the census generally, advanced a measure to cut the American Community Survey. It passed 232 to 190.
And from Nate Berg:
While the elimination of the ACS would take a slight nibble out of the roughly $3.8 trillion in government expenditures proposed in the 2013 federal budget, its negative impacts could be much greater – affecting the government’s ability to fund a wide variety of services and programs, from education to housing to transportation.
I suspect that this—not feigned horror at violated privacy—is the entire reason for this. How much longer is this nonsense going to continue?
A nice tribute to the recently deceased Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia. If you haven’t read his book, check it out. Though it’s definitely a product of its time and place—the counterculture 1970s in the Bay Area—Callenbach spins an alternate universe in Ecotopia where Northern California, Washington, and Oregon have split from the Union over various environmental grievances.
I dare say it has more travel modes and route options than Google Maps does today.
Fantastic webGIS. To explore the full home range of a particular species, search by common or scientific name and then select a layer with an “expert range map” icon, which looks like an avant-garde, neon green dove (the UI still needs a little work).
Their data seems limited to animals at the current time, but I’m hoping they’ll add plants soon.
A striking infographic from National Geographic of how many varieties of common food crops we’ve lost in the last century.
Matt Novak, writing at his brilliant Paleofuture:
In 1922, eccentric magazine publisher Hugo Gernsback decided that the world needed a 1,000-foot tall concrete monument to electricity. Gernsback imagined that this monument might last for thousands of years, and rather than some static behemoth stuck in time, the interior of his monument would be constantly changed to reflect the technological advances of each new generation.
A museum of modern technology, to be housed in a skeuomorphic monolith that was all-but-certain to become outdated. I’m guessing the irony was lost on him.
What form would a Gernsback monument take on today? A solar panel? A windmill? A server farm? Somehow those don’t seem to be equivalent to a dynamo. Maybe a better question is, is there anything from today that is worthy of or fitting for skeuomorphism on a monumental scale?
Rachel Nuwer, reporting for the New York Times:
Earth-observing systems operated by the United States have entered a steep decline, imperiling the nation’s monitoring of weather, natural disasters and climate change, a report from the National Research Council warned on Wednesday. Long-running and new missions are frequently delayed, lost or cancelled because of budget cuts, launch failures, disorganization and changes in mission design and scope, the report said.
Glenn Collins, reporting for the New York Times:
Every weekday in recent months, fancy-food trucks have been rumbling into the gigantic freight elevator of the Starrett-Lehigh Building at 601 West 26th Street in West Chelsea. After being hoisted aloft, they roll out into the concrete truck bays on the upper floors of the 81-year-old, 19-story commercial building. There, they post menus and proceed to sell inventive meals to office workers and their guests.
Totally awesome? Or a sign that the food truck craze has jumped the shark? I can’t decide.
Crystal Bennes, reporting for Domus:
The press release doesn’t specify how it was exactly that Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda came to meet Mitsuru Kariya, project designer for the new Honda Civic, but I bet that it wasn’t in a cloakroom in Davos. Swipes at the AccelorMittal Orbit aside, for Ikeda’s newest work, data.anatomy [civic], Honda stumped up a lot more than mere cash: Kariya’s team handed over the complete set of CAD files and wireframes for the brand new, ninth-generation Honda Civic. Ikeda said it was like being given a secret file from the FBI.
Something I’ve long meant to post about—and isn’t news at all—is the fact that there is a lost lake in the basement of the Empire State Building. Or a pond, more accurately speaking.
One of many sad stories of street grids running roughshod over the landscape. But still a great ghost of geography.
John Schwartz, reporting for the New York Times:
Shippers complain that a load of freight can make its way from Los Angeles to Chicago in 48 hours, then take 30 hours to travel across the city. A recent trainload of sulfur took some 27 hours to pass through Chicago — an average speed of 1.13 miles per hour, or about a quarter the pace of many electric wheelchairs.
And I thought rush hour on the Kennedy Expressway was bad. The good news is, they’re in the process of fixing it. Amtrak and the Metra commuter rail should benefit, too. The commingling of freight and passenger rail traffic is one of the American rail system’s many flaws. Separating the two—even if only in the tangled parts of Chicago—should help smooth operations throughout the country.
One question, though: Why has this taken so long?
Mapping your five minute stumbling distance. An unconventional approach to urban planning.