Building the World

March 16, 2017
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Secret of the Sphynx

Le Sphynx après les déblaiements et les deux grandes pyramids.” Bonfils. Library of Congress. Image: wikimedia commons.

Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra might grieve over the alarming change in one of the world’s most fertile deltas. As water flows north from Ethiopia, through the Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean, nutrients enrich the Nile River Delta. The Aswan Low Dam (1902) and Aswan High Dam (1965), along with the newly constructed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, to be the largest hydroelectric facility in Africa, are in part responsible for changing conditions. Now, less than 10% of the Nile’s waters reunite with the sea. Land subsidence and sea level rise are also factors threatening the Nile Delta. Studies of pollen and charcoal found preserved in delta sediment date back 7,000 years, to the time of the pyramids, may reveal ancient responses to similar conditions. Will the Sphinx reveal the secret?

For more: Stanley, Jean-Danaiel and Pablo L. Clemente. “Increased Land Subsidence and Sea-level Rise are Submerging Egypt’s Nile Delta Coastal Margin.” GSA Today, 2017. DOI: 10.1130/GSATG312A.1. www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/27/5/abstract/GSATG312A.1.htm.

United States Geological Survey. “Climate and drought lessons from ancient Egypt.” ScienceDaily, 16 August 2012. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816110839.htm. 

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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March 10, 2017
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Bridge to the Future

Bridges to the future: in the next 15 years, the world will build more infrastructure than is currently on the planet. Photo: “Gaoliang Bridge: The Summer Palace” by Hennessey, wikimedia commons.

Rebuilding may characterize the next era. Bridges, roads, rail, energy, and water systems are in need of an upgrade. There is so much backlog in the United States, costs are estimated at $4.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon states it’s not just the United States, or even North America. Global infrastructure needs an upgrade. History suggests a few guidelines. Focus on projects; jobs will follow. Target both macro and micro: on the grand scale, choose iconic projects of national (or regional) impact; on a micro scale, concentrate on towns and local improvements that can be seen in four years. Government allocations should not focus on profit (certain infrastructure pays for itself in tolls, as Charlemagne proved, and such ventures can be public/private), but on rights and commons. Consider creation of a national clearinghouse where states and cities can learn from each other (such as the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program). Some of these suggestions are offered by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, and others by Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust in their recent announcement: “Helping mayors do their job.”

Felipe Calderon adds: “There’s evidence that 1% of GDP spent on infrastructure can lead to a 1.5% increase in GDP within 4 years. But, given the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are accumulating, the type of infrastructure we build matters more than ever. Building a solar plant is better than building a coal plant. Building light rail is better than expanding a highway. Solid flood defense systems can hold back rising seas. We will be building over the next fifteen years more infrastructure than currently exists on the planet.

Global infrastructure investment, over the next 15 years, is expected to reach $90 trillion. It’s an opportunity for structural sustainability perhaps unprecedented in history. Can we build the bridge to a better future?

For more: “America’s Infrastructure Scores a D+” American Society of Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card. http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Bloomberg, Michael R. and Drew Gilpin Faust, “Helping mayors do their job.” The Boston Globe, 25 August 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/08/25/helping-mayors-their-job/1HblR7a4hKsQMJEbXmnAgP/story.html

Calderon, Felipe. “Global infrastructure needs an upgrade.” 7 October 2016. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/07/news/economy/felipe-calderon-oped-us-infrastructure/index.html

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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March 6, 2017
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March!

St. Petersburg: price of admission to the new city was one large stone, by order of the tsar. Image: wikimedia commons.

March! It’s a month that begins with a command. In fact, some opine that the fourth day may be pronounced as an imperative. Many great achievements thus began: Cyrene was discovered and built in response to a command of the Oracle at Delphi; the Grand Canal was dug by orders of successive emperors. St. Petersburg was built in stone, by directive of Tsar Peter who set, as price of admission to the new city, one large stone. What commands your attention, and action, to march forth?

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 23, 2017
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Watcher of the Skies

TRAPPIST-1, impression by ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger. Image: wikimedia.

The first known system of seven Earth-sized planets clustered around a single star, much like our solar system, has been discovered. It’s name? TRAPPIST-1, a salute to spotting telescope in Chile. Three of the exo-planets (nomenclature indicating an orbit around a star, not a sun) are in what NASA terms the ‘habitable zone.’ All seven possess potential for water. On March 13, 1781, Sir William Herschel announced a new planet, the first discovered by telescope. Keats included Uranus in this poem:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been,
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

– John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

More? Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKFaAS30X8

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 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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