Building the World

August 10, 2018
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Powering the Future

“Brain Power.” How will we power the future? Image credit: aboutmodafinil.com, Allan Ajifo, 2005. Credit: wikimedia.

California may build a regional power grid, but environmentalists worry the very existence of a cleaner system might encourage partner Wyoming to continue to rely on coal. Moving from 38 separate grid management companies to one could streamline the regional power system. What are the precedents for effective consolidation and management of disparate, separate, divergent power systems? Would privatization be a strategic option?

United Kingdom, Image: wikimedia.

A possible precedent study might be PowerGen, one of three companies formed by the British government from the former CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board). The three were: Nuclear Electric, comprised of all the nuclear stations in t \he UK; National Power, 70% fossil fuel; and PowerGen whose mission was to generate electricity in a free market. In addition to the three new entities, the government spun out twelve electricity distribution companies, led together through National Grid, owned by the twelve. While power resources grew, human resources reduced: the organization went from 1,800 to 400. Two years later, PowerGen and National Power privatized. As nations and regions develop their future energy strategies, will PowerGen’s experience suggest approaches? Another option for a regional strategy of power generation and revenue sharing might be the experience of Brazil and Paraguay with Itaipú. What forms of energy – coal, hydro, nuclear, renewables like wind and solar – will power the future? Should energy be public or private, or both? Where will future leaders emerge? Appointed chief executive just before the transformation of PowerGen, later Ed Wallis became chair of the Natural Environment Research Council.  A life motto: Every private should have a field marshal’s baton in knapsack, just in case. How might the UK further develop an effective energy strategy in light of Brexit? Are there lessons – in PowerGen or Itaipú – for the United States? What can California, and the western region, do to generate, distribute,  preserve, renew, and share energy? How do you think we should power the future?

Green, E.J. “On the emergence of parliamentary government: the role of private information.” Federal Reserve of Minneapolis Quarterly Review 17 (1), 1993, pp. 2-16.

Gribben, Roland. “Ed Wallis: the power man turns himself green.” 9 July 2009. The Telegraphhttps://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/profiles/5779034/Ed-Wallis-the-power-man-turns-himself-green.html

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “The Privatization of PowerGen.” Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. ISBN: 0131488910. Prentice-Hall: 1996, pp. 95-105.

National Environment Research Council (NERC). https://nerc.ukri.org/search-results/?keywords=ed+wallis&siteid=nerc

Penn, Ivan. “California Wants to Reinvent the Power Grid – So What Could Go Wrong?” 20 July 2018. New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/business/energy-environment/california-energy-grid-jerry-brown-plan.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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August 3, 2018
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Last First Chance?

“Sadnecessary” studio album by Milky Chance. Image: wikimedia.

In 1979, we knew enough about climate change and how to stop it. We didn’t. Now, according to environmental scientists, two-degree warming (goal of the Paris climate agreement) is our best case scenario, albeit with dire consequences. Three-degree warming: goodbye to most coastal cities. Four-degrees? China, India, Bangladesh become deserts; Colorado River, a mere trickle, Polynesia, gone. Unfortunately, the proposal drafted in 1989 to freeze carbon emissions that would have held warming to 1.5 degrees never made it: delegates from 60 nations met in the Netherlands and came up empty. Fast-forward: last year’s hurricane season in the United States saw inundations when Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, leaving 60 inches of rain and $185 billion of rebuilding costs. And that’s just the United States: the cost of climate change worldwide is so enormous as to almost incalculable. We missed our first chance. But sustainable solutions may yet be possible. Better global communication could lead to understanding, commitment, and change. What can you do to protect and preserve the earth, in what may be the last first chance in history?

Rich, Nathaniel with photographs and videos by George Steinmetz. “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.” 1 August 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.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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July 27, 2018
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Red Sky At Night

“Lunar Eclipse 2018 07 27” Image: nasa.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” goes the saying. This weekend’s red sky is also a watcher’s delight. Mars, the red planet, will be at its closest to Earth (a cosy proximity not achieved since 2003). Also visible in this weekend’s night sky, moving from strawberry moon to blood moon, the lunar body glows rosy during a rather prolonged eclipse.

Both celestials have reason to blush, with pride:

Mars: is the subject of scientific discovery rapidly unfolding. SpaceX is planning a landing and habitation. Transport innovations like reusable rockets make a station possible. Recent discovery of a lake on Mars may hold more than promise.

Moon: July 1969, NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing and Return, witnessed by practically everyone on earth with a new device called a television (just invented a few years before), saw the first human step on a surface that was not Earth. Humanity collectively held its breath. Since then, the sky has been busy. New industries have been born, with many new technologies from rockets to satellites. COMSAT put the world in the sky, with satnav, gps, cellphones, internet. Currently, lunar explorations include NASA’s Lunar Quest Program: the multi-element array includes flight missions, instruments for lunar missions of opportunity, research

Seeing Red This Weekend: From July 27-31, Mars will be particularly visible to the naked eye: here’s the red moon recap of July 27. Mars and Moon glowing red – at the same time? Perhaps Mars and Chang’e are blushing.

Halton, Mary. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars.” 25 July 2018. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44952710/

NASA, “Watch: Total Lunar Eclipse (JULY 2018) NASA TV #Longest eclipse of this century.” https://youtu.be/uqBStEIVF80.

Space.com “Chang’e 4.” https://www.space.com/40715-change-4-mission.html

Yann Charront, Robert Moss, Stephen Edwards, and Dimitri N. Mavris. “Utilization of System Dynamics to Model a Self-Sustained Mars Surface Colony.” August 31-September 2, 2015. Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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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July 20, 2018
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Two paths diverge: road or rail?

“Night lapse of the 401” by Kennymatic, 2008. Image: wikimedia

Road ahead? Concrete decisions may determine the future of cities. Many urban centers are opting for surface transport: whether fuel-powered or electric, whether driven or driverless, whether bicycles or pedestrians, the future looks paved. Rome built its legendary roads with a special concrete strengthened by a mix-in of volcanic ash; in modern times, basaltic rock has shown to be effective carbon dioxide absorbent, turning the unwanted gas into stone so hard it’s being used to build roads, and towers. So settled on surface are some cities that even New York City, where the subway is in need of expensive repair, may consider just paving over the tunnels for underground vehicular lanes. It was in 1939, at the World’s Fair, that General Motors showcased the concept of “magic motorways” and in 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower, when returning from Germany where the general had glimpsed the Autobahn, opened U.S. Federal Highway System for bidding.

Buffalo Metro Rail Station, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York. Image: wikimedia commons

Rail, known to be the fastest and most environmentally efficient way to move people, and goods, may be better. Las Vegas is betting on light rail: the $750 million project will bring trains along a route named the Maryland Parkway; real estate development is planned to link, and the stops will include Sunrise medical area and UNLV. It can be noted that former UNLV president, Don Snyder, serves as chair of the community advisory group. Then there’s the Windy City, where a plan to run a Chicago HyperLoop to O’Hare Airport, inked by Mayor Ron Emanuel and HyperLoop Advocate Elon Musk, may zoom from midtown to out of town in just 12 minutes.

Transport systems are expensive, and need to be rebuilt when in disrepair. Many existing roads and bridges are crumbling in highway systems that need repair. Cities have the power to determine transport: linking public transit to affordable housing, or community educational and medical facilities, must be part of the plan. The United States may spend a considerable sum to rebuild American transport infrastructure; what is your vision?

Badger, Emily. “Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars.” 20 July 2018. The New York Times.

Marroquin, Art. “Light-rail line could spur development along Maryland Parkway.” 19 June 2018. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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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July 14, 2018
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Ghost of a Chance

Image: NASA

Space research just opened a new chapter: the “ghost particle” neutrino was found on earth, having come from a blazar galaxy to the left of Orion, 3.7 billion light years away. Ghost particles can pass through any kind of matter without changing. The team that found the neutrino is based at the University of Wisconsin, joined by 49 collaborating institutions worldwide, including NASA‘s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The detector, called the IceCube, is located in Antarctica’s South Pole. The long-sought neutrino gives evidence of cosmic rays, and accelerators, opening a new view of space and energy. Summing up the discovery, Naoko Kurahashi Neilson of Drexel University stated: All of astronomy is light.

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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July 6, 2018
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New York/London: 2 Hours or New York/Shanghai: 30 minutes

Hypersonic 51A “Waverider” from US Airforce. Image: wikimedia.

Faster: that’s the quest of transport. From wheel to rail, from sail to steam, from wing to rocket, the history of transportation might be summed up in one word: speed. Speed changes economies: when the Transcontinental Railroad connected the United States, travel from coast to coast went from several months to just 10 days. Two new developments may set a new pace. Boeing announced development of a hypersonic jet with the speed of 3,800 mph, cutting the current 7 hour New York to London trip to 2 hours. Not fast enough? Why not hop a ride on BFR that may fly from New York to Shanghai in 30 minutes, when it is not landing on Mars, predicted by 2022, by Elon Musk of SpaceX.

Musk, Elon. “BFR: Earth to Earth.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqE-ultsWt0.

Wattles, Jackie. “Boeing’s hypersonic passenger plane could get you from New York to London in 2 hours.” 27 June 2018. CNN tech. http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/27/technology/future/boeing-hypersonic-plane-concept/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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June 28, 2018
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Life on Enceladus?

The global ocean of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, may contain organic molecules that are the birth of life. Image: NASA.

Water is one of the foundations of life: on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft has discovered “complex organic molecules” in the plumes of spray from the ocean of Saturn’s moon. In 2015, Cassini found a global ocean beneath the crust of Enceladus. The mission collected data that will drive research for decades to come, even though Cassini immolated itself in September 2017, merging and disintegrating into the atmosphere of the planet it had come to explore, to court, and finally to become. Is there life on Enceladus?

Postberg, F, et al. “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus.” 28 June 2018. Nature, Volume 558, p. 564 ff. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0246-4.

Strickland, Ashley. “Could life exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus?” 27 June 2018. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2018/06/27/us/enceladus-saturn-search-for-life/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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June 22, 2018
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Migrants and the Renewal of Culture

“Detail of Cyrene bronze head, circa 300 bce.” Image: British Museum and wikimedia.

Migrants have been a source of change, and renewal, throughout history. Cyrene, founded in 630 bce, several miles south of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, became the first of five flourishing cities called the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica. Cyrene’s migrants brought fertile minds to a new land: it was here that Earth’s circumference was first determined by Eratosthenes. Fresh thinking, fostered in an atmosphere promoting science, technology, and art, produced an early map of the stars, the mechanics of doubling a cube, and research that developed prime numbers. The poet Apollonia was also a resident of Cyrene. What policies and cultural practices fostered such innovation? In today’s world, with migrants on the move and in the news, can we draw inspiration from Cyrene to build a better future?

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June 15, 2018
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Voice of the Future 2018: Stephen Hawking

15 June 2018, Westminster Abbey, message sent: 15 June 5518, 1A 0620-00, message received. As Stephen Hawking’s mortal remains were interred between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, the visionary physicist’s words were sent, with music composed Vangelis for the occasion, to the black hole closest to earth, 3500 light years away.

Stephen Hawking, Voice of the Future. Image: European Space Agency.

Hawking’s Voice of the Future is “a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet,” stated Lucy Hawking, the physicist’s daughter.

Black Hole 1A 0620-00 calls home a binary system with an orange dwarf star. According to Günther Hasinger, European Space Agency’s Director of Space, “when Stephen Hawking’s message reaches 1A 0620-00, it will be frozen in the event horizon.”

Ave atque vale is a phrase credited to the Roman poet Catullus, who wrote in elegy numbered 101: Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale, meaning “And for eternity, brother, hail and farewell.” In 2018, the poet’s words rang along with the chimes of Westminster.

Stephen Hawking, who wrote A Brief History of Time, may have changed the definition of the temporal dimension.  For Hawking’s TED Talk, “Questioning the Universe,” click here.

More:

Hawking, Stephen W. A Brief History of Time. 1988. ISBN: 9780553380163.

Stephen William Hawking, 1942-2018. http://www.hawking.org.uk.

Vangelis, Chariots of Fire. The Hawking CD, beamed into space 15 June 2018, was given to those attending services at Westminster Abbey. The public will soon find the album beaming worldwide.

Westminster Abbey. “Ashes of Stephen Hawking buried in the Abbey.” 15 June 2018. https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-news/ashes-of-stephen-hawking-buried-in-the-abbey/

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June 9, 2018
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The Deep Future of Blue

Sea turtle, photo by Ukanda. Image: wikimedia.

Deep – from 650 to 3,200 feet; vast – composing 71% of Earth’s surface; unknown – only 15% of it is mapped; alive – 10 billion metric tons of marine life; treasure-filled: with troves of diamonds (De Beers is already there, with a $157 million dollar vessel sweeping the Atlantic seafloor off the coast of Namibia, and minerals (the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, in the Pacific from Mexico to Hawaii, contains cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, zinc), what was once called the Twilight Ocean, now termed the Mesopelagic Ocean, may be the most important area of exploration of the future. Opportunities are significant and perhaps dangerous; environmental agreements are essential and increasingly urgent. Precedent, and lessons learned, might be seen in the Treaty of Tordesillas, the founding of Singapore, or even the Outer Space Treaty. Who owns what might be found in the deep blue? How are the rights of the original denizens protected?

The future of blue, considered in the G7 Summit (or perhaps termed the G6+1), may advance foundational policy regarding Oceans, Seas, and Coastal Communities. The Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas, and Resilient Coastal Communities Communique includes a statement on IUU fishing with a vessel certification and identification program. The Communique also includes an Annex: for the first time in history, there is an Ocean Plastics Charter: “We, the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union taking a “lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship on land and at sea.

Interested in the strategic future of the blue? The International Seabed Authority, established by United Nations 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, offers educational opportunities for polymetalic exploration with two Offshore Internships in the first quarter of 2019. Focus? Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Application deadline: 28 June 2018. Get involved now.

For More:

Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas, and Resilient Coastal Communitieshttps://g7.gc.ca/en/official-documents/charlevoix-blueprint-healthy-oceans-seas-resilient-coastal-communities/

International Seabed Authority. “Global Sea Mineral Resources Internship 2019” https://www.isa.org/jm/formación/gsr-contractor-training-program/

Packard, Julie and Chris Scholin. “The Deep Sea May Soon Be Up for Grabs.” 8 June, 2018. New York Times.

Pew Trusts. “The Clarion-Clipperton Zone: Valuable minerals and many unusual species.” Fact sheet: 15 December 2017. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2017/12/the-clarion-clipperton-zone/.

Thomson, Peter. United Nations Special Envoy for the Ocean. “The G7 should take the lea on ocean targets for 2020.” World Economic Forum, 8 June 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/the-g7-should-take-the-lead-on-ocean-targets-for-2020/.

Trudeau, Justin. Prime Minister of Canada. “World leaders coming together at the G7 Summit to protect our oceans, seas, and coastal communities.” 1 June 2018. https://pm.gc.ca/news/2018/06/01/world-leaders-coming-together-g7-summit-protect-our-oceans-seas-and-coastal/.

United Nations. Convention on the Law of the Sea. http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention_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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