Building the World

February 14, 2017
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Where did the Valentine Heart originate?

Coin from Cyrene, 630bce, with image of silphium. Image: Kürt Baty, 2006, wikimedia commons.

Where did the Valentine Heart icon come from? Perhaps Cyrene. When the ancient Greeks were told by the Oracle of Delphi to leave drought-stricken Thera (present-day Santorini), pioneering migrants sailed to Libya, settling in Cyrene because of its moist, fertile land. So fertile, in fact, that a magical plant grew there. Some attribute silphium’s powers to the flowering of culture that Cyrene fostered. Resident Eratosthenes measured the earth’s circumference, opened research into prime numbers, and drew a map of the stars (tallied at 675). Silphium stirred minds, and hearts: legend whispered the plant possessed amatory properties. Silphium drew so many people to the new city, stimulating not only the economy but the populace, that the plant’s heart-shaped seed was imprinted on coins. Cyrene became so famous that Pindar wrote an ode in praise. Was Cyrene the origin of one of the world’s first emoticons?

To hear the music of Pindar’s odes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB49E2ozEPM

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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February 10, 2017
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Trains that fly

Trains that fly: Hyperloop. Image: Camilo Sanchez, 2015. Wikimedia commons

Trains that fly? In tubes? Like the Channel Tunnel designed for trains, Hyperloop (a term coined by Elon Musk; the competition is sponsored by SpaceX), uses tubes to enhance transport. The difference? These trains fly: Hyperloop is maglev. In development through open competitions inviting students to design the transit pods, HyperLoop has now achieved another milestone: first-ever low pressure Hyperloop flight. MIT won the award for safety and reliability, placing in the top three along with Delft University of Technology and Team Warr (pronounced Varr) of the Technical University of Munich. The goal? Los Angeles to San Francisco, or Amsterdam to Paris, in 30 minutes.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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February 3, 2017
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Glass of Air

“A glass of water” by photographer Derek Jensen, Tysto, 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

In a world where water is increasingly scarce, can the answer be in the air? In a time when streams may be endangered, where can clean water be found? Water has occasioned innovation from ancient times to present; China, Italy, England, Australia – the most arid country on earth – have all transformed their lands and economies through water innovations. Chilean innovator Hector Pino pursued a new idea when his baby daughter was born with a kidney condition requiring sodium-free water. Now, a parent’s love may change the world.

Pino and co-founders Carlos Blamey, engineer, and Alberto González, designer, are utilizing technology originally developed in Israel to draw water from air. It can run on solar, too. The 748 million people without water infrastructure could now draw clean water in amounts sustaining a household. In cities where old water systems leak lead or in streams once protected now compromised, where could consumers turn? The household FreshWater device produces 28 liters of water per day. A mochila version is in development, making air the ‘magic water bottle’ in your backpack.

For Fresh Water Solutions’ video: http://www.freshwatersolutions.org/#new-page

For more: “How to pull clean water from air.” Bloomberg, Businessweek, 12 January 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-12/pulling-clean-water-from-thin-air

For the Stream Protection Rule, protecting 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest, added as clarification to 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act:https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=OSM-2010-0018-10631

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 27, 2017
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Wake Up Call

Year of the Rooster. Image: Jianzhi, wikimedia commons.

Enter the Rooster, herald of the wake up call. Each Spring Festival opens a new year, inspired by the characteristics of a new animal. The tradition of the new year, spiraled in 60-year cycles, began in 2637 bce. Emperor Huangdi’s minister Ta Nao is said to have suggested the Chia-Tzu or Kan-chih cyclical system. China added the Gregorian calendar in 1912, generally used from 1949. China understands long time frame. The Great Wall was built over the course of dynasties. The Grand Canal, longest continuous building project in history, broke ground in 600 bce; latest phase of improvement, to be completed in 2050, will feature design projects by students. Each new year is an invitation to a new generation to rebuild the world in an improved version; this Spring Festival, it’s the Rooster’s turn,a wake up call. Make it your ringtone.

For More: “Rooster Crowing Compilation” by YANG Edwin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwnzDT56VAU/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 20, 2017
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The Big Picture

The big picture – “Montagem dos corpos do Sistema Solar, seus tamanhos e distânces relatives.” Image: nasa.gov

Visions of the Future” might reveal the world is smaller, and larger, than any one moment in time, or space. NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shared a wider perspective, with posters downloadable for free, for all to see the big picture.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 12, 2017
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The New Atlantis

Visage au dessus de l’ocean” by photographer, Rukaeru. Image: wikimedia commons.

Studies by Princeton’s Climate Central and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Physics Institute of Potsdam University, reveal how sea level rise might affect coastal cities. Inundations will change the lives and livelihoods of people from Bangkok to Boston, San Diego to Singapore. Predicted loss of the Antarctic iceberg and Larsen C ice shelf may lead to a rise in sea levels. Might a new era of coastal cities emerge, combining ancient responses by areas like the Netherlands, with futuristic floating cities envisioned by Kiyonori Kikutake? Will New York become the New Atlantis?

For more, “Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level.” by Benjamin H. Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Anders Levermann, edited by James Hansen. PNAS, 3 November 2015, vol. 112, no. 44. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13508.full.pdf.

Potsdam-Institut Für Klimafolgenforschunghttps://www.pik-potsdam.de/institut/mission

VIDEO: “Larsen C iceberg about to break off Antartic shelf.” The Guardian. 6 January 2017, NASA: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/may/15/antarctic-larsen-b-ice-shelf-nasa-video

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 6, 2017
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Grid-Iron

China built the equivalent of 10,000 football fields in solar panels in 2015, a rate of one gridiron per hour. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s produced solar panels equal 10,000 football fields, the average of one football field per hour, every day of 2015. Builders of the Grand Canal, and the Great Wall, may soon set another record. Pledging $360 billion to building of renewable energy systems, China set course for leadership in the field by 2020. The announcement comes at a time Beijing woke up repeatedly to smog. Several of China’s large cities are coastal, vulnerable to sea rise. Environmental woes might be addressed by the strategic focus. Progress is swift; China installs one wind turbine every hour. Half of all wind power and one-third of all solar panels globally built in 2015: China. It’s good economics: the number of new jobs created by funding innovation in renewable clean energy? 13 million. The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will expand through commitments of the Paris Agreement. Gridiron may soon take on a new meaning.

Video: “China Investing Billions in Renewable Energy” by Neeti Upadhye, The New York Times, 5 January 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004855712/china-investing-billions-in-renewable-energy.html

Myllyvirta, Lauri. “China: Six little known facts about the country’s solar and wind boom.” 8 September 2016. Greenpeace, Energy Desk. http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/09/08/china-six-little-known-facts-countrys-solar-wind-boom/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 31, 2016
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New Year’s Bonus

“Happy New Year” by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, photographer. Image: wikimedia commons, 1 January 2013, Copacabana, Rio de Janiero.

The traditional New Year’s Eve kiss might linger a little longer, this year. The world will add one second tonight as 11:59:59 flutters a new beat, according to the International Earth Rotation Reference System Service (IERS). Global time was the idea of Sandford Fleming, surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railway: new train systems across the continent required precise coordination. Google, however, is handling the extra second in an extra-long fashion: the tech giant is running computer clocks slower by 0.0014% for ten hours before, and after, the midnight hour. Osculatory results may be observed.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 24, 2016
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Protective Freeze on Melting Seas

Ursus Maritimus: a family of polar bears. Image: wikimedia commons.

20 December 2016: Canada and the United States moved to protect designated areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, making the waters off limits to leasing and oil drilling. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska, emptying quantities of crude oil into the waters and damaging 1,300 miles of coastal land. Animals in the area are still struggling to recover. More recently, Shell’s drilling ship Kulluk ran into Arctic trouble: the accident halted any further exploration for oil. The December 20, 2016 agreement, signed cooperatively between Canada and the United States, regards the Arctic Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to New England. Canada and the United States also cooperated in the face of danger when building the Alaska Highway. Recently, the Antarctic Marine Sanctuary in the Ross Sea created the first marine protected area in international waters, during the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In shared waters, cooperative agreements can place a protective freeze on melting seas.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 16, 2016
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Water Weal

“Una gota de agua.” Photographer: Jose Manuel Suarez, 2008. Image with permission: wikimedia commons.

We can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. A Texas town has closed schools, and issued a warning not to use tap water to drink, cook, wash, or irrigate. The cause? Back-flow of industrial chemicals, petroleum-based. A crisis of water pollution spurred building of the Roman aqueducts; in 1846, the world’s first water treatment plant was invented in England, due to a cholera crisis. England had long practiced water weal (as in common weal or commonwealth). When King James I of England and Hugh Myddleton, entrepreneur (and formerly jeweler to His Majesty) collaborated, in 1605, to bring fresh water to London, the New River transformed the fate, and future, of the metropolis. How can we bring safe water to over one billion people who lack access? Innovations, such as filters developed by Askwar Hilonga or the team of Annan, Kan-Dapaah, Azeko, and Soboyejo, can lift the billions who suffer from access. Will aging infrastructure, in places like Flint, Michigan, lead to responsible stewardship? Initiatives such as Jardine’s MeterSave, may help to sustain this most precious resource. Water is one of five failures facing the future. Today, what can you do to protect water?

Annan, Ebenezer, Kwabena Kan-Dapaah, Salifu T. Azeko, Wole Soboyejo. “Clay Mixtures and the Mechanical Properties of Microporous and Nonporous Ceramic Water Filters.” Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering 28 (10):04016105, May 2016. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533.0001596

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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