Building the World

April 11, 2019
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SPACE: Photo of Infinity?

Enter here: matter, time, and space. Black hole Messier 87,  galaxy located in Virgo cluster 53 million light years away. “Black Hole” photograph by Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, 10 April 2019. Image: wikimedia commons.

April 2019. A photo of a black hole just gave the world first view of what was thought unseeable. Black holes are so termed because matter, time, space, even light, are pulled into the vortex and never come back, or perhaps become suspended in the energy field around the black hole called the Event Horizon, identified by Stephen Hawking and suggested by Einstein. Messier 87, a very large black hole photographed today, is termed “a supermassive spacetime deforming structure.” (Heater, 2019).

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team. Image: wikimedia.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration worked as a team of eight telescopes around the world, including coordination by NASA. One of the project heroes: Katie Bouman, postdoc fellow from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Bouman will teach at Caltech in the fall of 2019), who worked on the CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) algorithm that combined the eight data flows into one image. Also on the CHIRP team: MIT’s Haystack Observatory and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Event Horizon’s photo may place Bouman in the tradition of Photo 51. It’s worth noting that Event Horizon’s historic photo is evidence of the essential importance of global collaboration in space; is this hope for a path to peace?

Bever, Lindsey. “Katie Bouman helped the world see a black hole. Fans want ‘a rightful seat in history’ for her.” 11 April 2019. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/04/11/katie-bouman-helped-world-see-black-hole-fans-want-rightful-seat-history-her/.

Bouman, Katie. “How to take a picture of a black hole.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/katie_bouman_what_does_a_black_hole_look_like?language=en.

Event Horizon Telescope. https://eventhorizontelescope.org

Ghosh, Pallab. “First ever black hole image released.” 10 April 2019. BBC Science and Environment.

Hawking. “Black holes store information.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkRDmJpthXg. KTCH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, 2015.

Heater, Brian. Here’s the first image of a black hole.” 04/10/2019. TechCrunch.

MIT CSAIL. @MIT_CSAIL.

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

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March 31, 2019
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First Poem written from SPACE

“Good Morning from the International Space Station.” Image: nasa.gov

31 March 2009. Astronaut Wakata Koichi wrote what may be the first poem ever written by a human being in space. Wakata Koichi floated into view on the computer monitor at JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, (counterpart to NASA) at the Tsukuba Space Center. From the International Space Station, called Kibo or Hope in the Japanese language, the scientist/poet held a sheet of paper and wrote something; upon completion, Wakata-san turned the paper to the camera and spoke these words:

Afloat in the darkness before my eyes,

the watery planet bluely glows

How strong is my affection for that ancient home of ours,

how deep my gratitude for the gift of life.

Tomorrow, I will dare the blue sky

and open up worlds unknown

For there we have our dreams.

Wakata Koichi, astronaut, 2009

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Space Poem Chain. http://issjaxa.jp/utiliz/renshi/index_e.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 Licen

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March 26, 2019
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Cities: Singapore’s 3 Core Values

“Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky.” Photographer: Merlion444. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore will mark its bicentennial this year, 2019, after celebrating its golden anniversary of independence in 2015. It was 200 years ago that two visitors rowed ashore to visit with a certain Sultan; Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles may not be enshrined by all, but still made a mark, including founding the Singapore Institution, one of the first global educational institutes. But many would say that Singapore’s core values were present long before either foundational event, and relate to openness as shaped by its extraordinary geography. Some historians cite Singapore’s three core values as:

Openness

Multiculturalism

Self-determination.

Not everyone would agree: for example, rights regarding sexual and gender orientation are still under trial, with relation and adoption key. Other concerns: water quality and deforestation threaten inclusion of the environment in future plans, but green building has been mandatory since 2008, influenced by Cheong Koon Hean, architect and urban planner.

Masjid Sultan, Singapore. Photographer: Terence Ong, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore’s recognition of many languages (Cantonese, English, Hokkien, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil) and faiths (observed in houses of worship such as the Buddhist Kuan Yin Temple, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, the Sultan Mosque, and the Taoist Wak Hai Cheng Temple) may raise hope of an evolving culture of inclusion. If you are in Singapore during March 2019, you may participate in the Festival featuring heritage trails, and performances, and installations. Or, take a virtual trip, here.

“From Singapore to Singaporean.” https://www.bicentennial.sg

Cheong Koon Hean, “How we design and build a smart city and nation.” 17 December 2015. TEDx Talk. https://youtu.be/m45SshJqOP4

Galloway, Lindsey. “The three values that shaped Singapore.” 18 March 2019. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190317-the-three-core-values-that-shaped-singapore/

Kolczak, Amy. “This City Aims to Be the World’s Greatest: As Singapore expands, a novel approach preserves green space.” 28 February 2017. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/.

Koutsoukis, Jason. “Singapore Elite Backs Push to Overturn Anti-Gay Laws.” 2 October 2018, Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-02/singapore-elite-backs-push-to-overturn-country-s-anti-gay-laws.

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March 20, 2019
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Welcome, Spring

“Barsana Holi Festival” by photographer Narender9. Image: wikimedia.

Color is associated with spring, perhaps nowhere more brilliantly than in India. In the land of the Taj Mahal, the iconic edifice famously inlaid with jewels like lapis lazuli and rubies, spring’s celebration of Holi invites people to bedeck each other with color and sometimes scented water. Dating to a 4th century poem, and featured in a 7th century play written by emperor Harsha, Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Phalguna; in 2019, the holiday is 21-22 March. The holiday has spiritual roots: some relate it to the love of Krishna and Radha; others, to the story of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada, and Holika, whence the holiday takes its name. Are you feeling spring in the air?  Wear, or exchange, a bit of color to welcome spring. The vernal equinox 2019 occurs in Boston on 20 March at 17:58:00.

Suri, Manveena. “Why India celebrates Holi: The legends behind the festival of color.” 19 March 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/travel/articlel/holi-festival-india/index.html.

India Times. “Consent is important; even on Holi.” https://www.facebook.com/indiatimes/videos/622357941510873?sfns=vmo.

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March 12, 2019
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Happy Birthday, WWW

“30” by photographer Claude Covo-Farchi, Paris, France. Image: wikimedia

It’s been thirty years since the World Wide Web was invented. Like many innovations, it was the solution to a problem: a young computer scientist found it inconvenient to switch computers when the data needed was not on the machine at hand. What if a shared database of hypertext links could be sent across a network? The scientist was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and the network was the three www sequence we now see in http://www. Empowered by COMSAT, an array of communication satellites, the internet and the world wide web have changed the transport of ideas and exchange of cultures. But there are problems: Berners-Lee issued an assessment:

Problems of World Wide Web (and possible paths to their solutions)

Deliberate, malicious intent resulting in hacking, crime, harassment – (laws and codes of conduct);

System Design that creates perverse incentives – (redesign for incentives);

Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design – (research and new models).

Summing up the import of the web’s 30th birthday milestone, Berners-Lee stated: If we give up on building a better web now, the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.

What actions can we take in the next thirty years to build a better web?

Berners-Lee, Tim (Sir). World Wide Web #30. https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/

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

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March 8, 2019
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Cities: Green Jewel in Hong Kong

Sandpiper. Image: wikimedia.

Bird watchers in Hong Kong? Nature lovers in Shenzhen? In between these two megacities with a combined population of 20 million, rare birds fly and feed in one of the world’s most precious wetlands. Egrets, herons, sandpipers abound on the mudflats. Will the wetlands, about 4,000 acres, continue to be the green jewel of Hong Kong? Mai Po Nature Reserve is protected by the Ramsar Convention. But Nam Sang Wai, about 400 acre parcel, recently debated a proposal for 10% of the area to build apartments for 6,500 people. Henderson Land Development pledged to model the project on the London Wetland Centre where financing included provisions to preserve the natural habitat. Another precedent? The New River, bringing fresh water to London while preserving a natural walking path, albeit not residential but just recreational. Meanwhile, if you visit Hong Kong or Shenzhen, consider the sampan ride across the Shan Pui River; it’s the only human-powered ferry in Hong Kong.

Ramsar Konvention on Wetlands of International Importance. https://www.ramsar.org.

Ramzy, Austin. “A Rural Patch of Hong Kong Where Rare Birds Sing and Developers Circle.” 17 November 2018. The New York Times. https://nytimes.com/2018/11/17/world/asia/hong-kong-wetlands-mai-po-nam-sang-wai.html.

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March 1, 2019
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Should Trees Have Standing?

Trees, Rivers, and the Evolution of Inclusive Rights. Image: “Willow in Japanese Garden, Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge, WA, USA” by Photographer Geaugagrri, 2007. Wikimedia.

Legal rights, including recent developments regarding “personhood” of rivers like New Zealand’s Whanganui, India’s Ganges and Yamuna, and others soon to follow, may be seen as milestones in history, of the most inclusive definition of civilization. Human rights are still evolving; but what about animal and planetary rights, like water, or the rights of earth itself? Some credit Benton MacKaye, forester and originator of the Appalachian Trail proposed in a 1921 article. Others point to the work of Christoper B. Stone whose article and book, Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights For Natural Objects, launched an awareness of Nature’s legal rights that eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. Many date the birth of the environmental movement to Stone’s seminal paper published during a time when deforestation began to trouble the erudite reader of Darwin, Service, and Marshall. As a lawyer, Stone noted that many entities other than humans have been granted rights: Corporations, Church, State, for example. In our present era of climate change, forestation is one of the key determinants of the future, and a central feedback driver in climate systems including C-ROADS, a simulator guiding the COP21 Paris Agreement. As we continue to improve climate and rights, we may find inspiration in the work of Christoper Stone that traces “history through each successive extension of rights.”

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable free computer simulator that helps us recognize the long-term climate impacts of actions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

MacKaye, Benton. “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Journal of American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921(: 325-30.

MacKaye, Benton. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Stone, Christopher D. “Should Trees Have Standing? – Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972) pp. 450-501. https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/stone-christopher-d-should-trees-have-standing,pdf

Stone, Christoper D. Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment. 3rd edition, 2010 (originally published 1973). Oxford University Press (ISBN-13: 9780199736072; ISBN-10:0199736073.

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February 23, 2019
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Water Rights

Yamuna River, India, now has personhood rights. Image: wikimedia

We are the water planet. Throughout history, we have determined water rights in agreements and laws like the Colorado River Compact and Itaipú. But now, perhaps we are reaching a new era of respect for water. Does water itself have rights? New Zealand granted “personhood” rights to the Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori people and to the environment. India followed that precedent, establishing personhood rights for the Ganges and Yamuna rivers; India granted rights for the rivers as a whole including regulation of construction of damsColombia mandated the rights of Amazon forest and the Atrato River, setting a law for an intergenerational pact for the Colombian Amazon. In the USA, Ohio will vote on personhood rights for Lake Erie. Bolivia may have established the broadest environmental rights with the Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra (Law of the Rights of Mother Earth). It would seem that precedent has been established. What waters will next be granted rights?

Bolivia: Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra – Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Colombia. “Climate Change and Future Generations Lawsuit in Colombia: Key Excerpts from the Supreme Court’s Decision.” by Dejusticia. 13 April 2018. https://www.dejusticia.org/en/climate-change-and-future-generations-lawsuit-in-colombia-key-excerpts-from-the-supreme-courts-decison/

India. “India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers Are Given the Rights of People.” By Jason Daley, 23 March 2017. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-given-rights-people-india-180962639/

India. “Uttarakhand HC recognizes Ganga and Yamuna rivers as ‘living entities.'” By Priyanka Mittal and Mayank Aggarwal. 21 March 2017. livemint.com. https://www.livemint.com/Politics/lwxheezmdiazU5mWtiWU2K/Uttarakhand-HC-recognizes-Ganga-and-Yamuna-rivers-as-living.html.

New Zealand. “New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being.” By Eleanor Ainge Roy, Dunedin, 16 March 2017. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/16/new-zealand-riverr-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-being?CMP=share_btn_link

New Zealand. Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill). “Innovative bill protects Whanganui River with legal personhood.” New Zealand Parliament. 28 March 2017. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/innovative-bill-protects-whanganui-river-with-legal-personhood/

USA. “An Ohio city will vote on whether Lake Erie has the same rights as a person.” By Ryan Prior, 21 February 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/us/ohio/city/lake-erie/rights/trnd/index.html

Appreciation and recognition for this post topic to discussions with colleagues.

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February 20, 2019
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Building Better Coasts

Climate change is causing sea rise resulting in coastal erosion, flooding, and threatening ports and cities. Jakarta is in extreme danger: thirteen rivers run through the city, causing frequent flooding. The mega-city of 10 billion is doubly endangered: urban land is suffering subsidence, parts of Indonesia’s capital  (some predict 95%) could be deluged by 2050.

Reed beds revitalize polluted waters. Image: wikimedia

Even rivers like the Thames and Lea in London are not immune. But the city of London Bridge is responding. Thames21 is planting reeds that oxygenate rivers, restoring the habitat marred by pollution; reeds convert toxic ammonia to nitrate. Reed beds also provide habitat for aquatic life. In an echo of the Canal des Deux Mers, the canalized section of the River Lea will receive new reed beds every 300 meters over the length of the river coursing through London.

Indonesia, image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Jakarta is exploring response including artificial recharge, a method used a half-century ago by Tokyo in a time of subsidence; to support the program, groundwater extraction was halted and businesses were required to utilize reclaimed water. Jakarta would need to use only rainwater; could catchment systems help? The Dutch, formerly involved in the region, have returned: Institute Deltares reported on the efficacy of the current plan to build the Great Garuda Sea Wall (32 km) along with 17 artificial islands at the cost of (US$) 40 billion. Included in the plan is a new lagoon waterway that can be lowered during floods allowing water to drain. Another method: biopori – digging a hole of 100cm depth to allow rainwater to more easily absorbed into the land, replenishing groundwater. Indonesia may offer an example to many places in the world surrounded by water; how can we build better coasts?

“Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 12 August 2018. By Tom de Souza, with interactive elements by Arvin Surpriyadi, Davies Surya, and Leben Asa.

“Project Reed Beds.” Thames 21. https://www.thames21.org.uk/project-reedbed-2/

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February 9, 2019
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SPACE: Naming the Future (and searching for Photo 52)

Rosalind Elise Franklin, once and future DNA pioneer. Image: wikimedia.

Space: will we find life? If we do, Rosalind Franklin will be part of history – again. It was Franklin who helped to discover the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images led to the detection of the double helix. Under Franklin’s direction, a photo, famously called Photo 51, revealed the structure of life itself.

Life takes a Selfie. Photo 51, most important photo ever taken – yet. Image: wikimedia.

Many scientists believe that Franklin would, and should, have been awarded the Nobel Prize, along with Crick, Watson, and Wilkins in 1962; her untimely passing may have eclipsed her significant contribution.

When the European Space Agency (ESA) sends its Mars Rover in search of life, the explorer will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin. NASA is already on Mars, and SpaceX is planning for habitation. As the human race proceeds into space, there will be discoveries that may reframe what we know as civilization, and life.

Franklin, Rosalind E. “Influence of the Bonding Electrons on the Scattering of X-Rays by Carbon. Nature 165, pp. 71-72. (1950).https://www.nature.com/articles/165071a0

NOVA, “The Secret of Photo 51,” Public Broadcasting Service, PBS. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/photo51/

Space.com. “European Mars Rover Named for Crystal Scientist Rosalind Franklin,” by Meghan Bartels. 7 February 2019. https://www.space.com/43259-exomars-rover-named-for-rosalind-franklin.html

“All the countries (and companies) trying to get to Mars.” Mary Beth Griggs, 20 September 2017. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/who-wants-to-go-to-mars?” 60mGfwRBa7H1hCz4.03.

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

 

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