Building the World

September 22, 2017
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Mexico

Mexico. How to help? Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico suffered two devastating earthquakes within weeks. A coastal temblor reached Chiapas and Oaxaca with disastrous damage. Soon thereafter, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake on 19 September 2017, anniversary of the 1985 temblor that also crushed lives, and buildings. In September 1985, 9,500 people died, 50,000 were injured, and 250,000 buildings were destroyed. In September 2017, building codes improved disaster statistics: fatalities were fewer than 1,000 but 3.8 million were without power, 27 buildings collapsed, and all schools were closed (2,000 were damaged). Rescue operations continued at the Colegio Enrique Rébsamen where children and adults perished, and hope raced the clock for those missing, some of whom messaged from within the rubble. Rescuers adopted a gesture requesting silence, saving lives as a result.

Mexico City was originally designed to float. Mexica leaders of the triple alliance that formed ancient Mexico (and gave it its name) ruled an enormous empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of (also named after) Mexico. Their choice for capital? An island in the middle of a lake. Lake Texcoco was the largest of five interconnected lakes. The Mexica built Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco, intersecting canal waterways as other cities used streets. Over 200,00 people lived there; 45 government buildings were surrounded by a main temple, ball fields for sport, and Montezuma’s palace of 100 rooms, each with its own bath.

Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s once and future capital that became Mexico City. Image: wikimedia.

In 1521, conquerors destroyed Tenochtitlan, drained Lake Texcoco, and built Mexico City. Consequences of locating the city on a drained lakebed appeared over time: during the past 100 years, Mexico City has sunk more than 30 feet. But the biggest problem may only now be realized. Since 1975, the area around Mexico City has suffered more than 50 earthquakes. The sedimentary lakebed is a dangerous foundation.

Earthquakes are particularly destructive in dense cities, especially capitals. Image: wikimedia.

Mexico City’s vulnerability is magnified by its population density coupled with its central position as capital. What other capital cities are similarly susceptible? Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; New Delhi, India; Islamabad, Pakistan; Manila, Philippines; Kathmandu, Nepal; Port au Prince, Haiti. Doxiadis developed an anti-seismic plan for Pakistan’s new capital. Japan considered seismic implications when building Shinkansen. Now, Tokyo has launched an initiative to build a “spare-battery capital” to preserve essential records and services in an emergency. Mexico City may be particularly suited to such an approach: the heart of the city – the D.F. (Distrito Federal)  or CDMX – founded in 1824, has only 9 million people; the greater city population is 20.4 million, and growing. The DF is 500 square miles (1,485 square kilometers): is it movable?

Rebuilding Mexico will follow rescue and recovery. Building codes, especially for schools, hospitals, and multi-story construction, will improve. Decisions may shape destiny. How should essential systems like water, energy, transport, and city planning respond? Meanwhile, to help, here are some options: Topos México, Mexican Red Cross, Direct Relief, Global Giving, and Fondo Unido México.

For More:

Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/crscad

Rebuilding After Disasters: From Emergency to Sustainability. Edited by Gonzalo Lizarralde, Cassidy Johnson, Colin Davidson. Rutledge, 2009.

Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Edited by Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Yachter. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Podcast: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/podcast/inex.html#birchwachter/

Watkins, Derek, and Jeremy White. “Mexico City Was Built on An Ancient Lake Bed. That Makes Earthquakes Much Worse.” 22 September 2017. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/22/world/americas/mexico-city-earthquake-lake-bed-geology.html?mcubz=3

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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November 4, 2016
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Faster Than A Speeding Bullet Train

Chuo Shinkansen: Japanese “flying trains” will travel 1 mile every 10 seconds. Image: wikimedia commons.

What’s faster than a speeding bullet, a phrase used to describe Superman? The new Shinkansen, or Japanese bullet train. Japan Rail announced the design of a magnetic levitation train that will achieve speeds over 600 kilometers per hour (374 miles per hour), or 1 mile (1.5km) every 10 seconds. Maglev trains are already in regular service in China: Shanghai and Changsha; as well as Korea, in Incheon. When Japan hosted the 1964 Olympics, Shinkansen was introduced, with the Tokyo-Osaka line. By  2002, Shinkansen had transported 382 billion passengers, with a 99% on-time record. Japan’s success inspired France’s TGV and Germany’s Intercity-Express. Maglev Chuo Shinkansen will shoot from Tokyo to Nagoya in 40 minutes; the line will soon extend to Osaka. Japan will follow a new law passed in 2001 that decrees that developers need not purchase land above, if digging more than 40 meters (131 feet) below. The law names the underground territory as daishindo (extreme underground). When will Amtrak emulate Japan’s leadership in train transport?

Hongo, Jun. “Tokyo underground: taking property development to new depths.” Japan Times. 12 April 2014. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/04/12/lifestyle/tokyo-underground/#.WBuoQygylDJ/

Lo, Andrea. “Can mega-fast maglev revive Japan’s rail reputation?” 3 November 2016. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/31/asia/japan-record-breaking-maglev-train/

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 8, 2016
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Olympic Feat

Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps, Beijing 2008. Image: wikimedia commons.

Olympic Games are paved with gold (and silver, bronze, and brilliance.) In Rio, Olympic Gold was won by Michael Phelps, crowning the swimmer as the most decorated Olympian, adding to eight golds awarded in Beijing 2008, four golds and two silvers in London 2012. During the London Olympics, a parallel Olympic feat, or perhaps one should say ‘feet,’ marked a milestone in energy and environment. The West Ham Tube station near the London Olympic stadium was paved with 12 electricity pavers, activated by a million footsteps. Renewable, wireless electricity, thus generated, powered 12 LED floodlights at the subway station during the Olympic and Paralympics Games. Laurence Kemball-Cook conceived the idea as a university student, at the age of 25, and soon founded PaveGen. Generative floors power only the immediate area, only when stepped upon, but that’s enough to illuminate an LED street lamp. Or imagine a mall or hospital lobby where an average of 250,000 steps occur; that’s enough to power 10,000 mobile phones. PaveGen technology grows stronger; over 100 locations worldwide, including dance clubs, shine. Will Fitbit readouts soon include energy generated? Kemball-Cook observes that “the average person takes 150 million steps in their lifetime, just imagine the potential.” Future goals: paving areas in Mumbai, where people currently lack access to electricity. More visions: universities, schools, sporting venues, hospitals, shopping malls, grocery stores, greenways and sportsways — places where many steps are taken — could add floors to their energy system. When Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics, a milestone in transport and energy was achieved: Shinkansen. Tokyo will again host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics; Beijing, 2022. PyeongChang is next, in 2018. The Olympic path has always been paved with gold; now, also paved with light?

Lawrence Kemball-Cook, TEDtalk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_vPbhYqg2k

“Green sidewalk makes electricity — one footstep at a time.” George Webster, CNN, 13 October 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/tech/innovation/pavegen-kinetic-pavements/

http://www.pavegen.com

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, 2016
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Hyperloop Pod(cast)

Duke Ellington’s theme song: “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Duke Ellington once sent a note to Billy Strayhorn, giving directions to his New York apartment. As the Pennsylvania pianist rode the rails, another kind of note came to him, a song: “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Public transport, whether the A Train or the Hyperloop, is an opportunity to engage the traveler. For example, in Beijing, on subway Line 4, riders can scan a barcode on their mobile device, opening a cultural window. Each month, ten works of Chinese culture are offered, the collection rotating in connection with the China National Library. Opportunities for bystanders to become understanders could expand in Japan, originator of the QR code that combines four modes: numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji. Shinkansen, Japan’s fast train network, opened to success for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. As Shinkansen improves and expands, will Japan use QR codes as cultural portals? Hyperloop is projected to zoom from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes. At speeds reaching up to 760mph, (as contrasted with proposed high-speed rail taking 2.5 hours at a top speed of 200 mph) passengers will remain seated, perhaps especially ready for a Hyperloop podcast. Design of Hyperloop passenger pods recently opened to student competition.  MIT won the January 2016 round when Elon Musk invited top contenders to demonstrate their designs on the SpaceX California Test Track later in 2016. Included in the design of the passenger experience might be cultural transport with a nod, and a note, to Ellington and Strayhorn.

Ella Fitzgerald sings “Take the ‘A’ Train.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ_4cRG8B1g

Nath, Trevor. “Hyperloop System Vs. High Speed Train: What’s Best for California?” 29 October 2015. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/050815/elon-musks-hyperloop-economically-feasible.asp

Patel, Neel V. “After Winning the Hyperloop Competition, MIT Looks Ahead.” National Geographic/Inverse.com. 17 February 2016.

Hyperloop.mit.edu; @MITHyperloop.

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, 2015
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Open Bar(code)

Could transport link to transporting poetry? Image: wikimedia commons.

Take Line 4, when riding the Beijing metro; then, scan a barcode to access Chinese literature and philosophy. China’s National Library, cooperating with Beijing’s municipal government, will change the ten-tome selection monthly. Of course, barcode can transport to music, dance, drama, and other cultural expressions. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Channel Tunnel recently added wifi; might there be a special channel within? Shinkansen will soon upgrade to new efficiency; what may Japan create? What opportunities are inherent in public transportation to make readers of riders?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30830472

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 30, 2014
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Winter Innovation

 

Basketball. Image: wikimedia commons.

December is the birthday month of one of America’s most popular sports. Stormy New England winters confined college athletes in Springfield, Massachusetts, indoors. Using two peach baskets affixed to the railing of a balcony, Dr. James Naismith invented, and named, the game of basketball to keep athletes in shape throughout the winter of 1891. The game of hoops proved to be a rapid success. The first international match was played in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1909 (the American team lost); by 1936, basketball entered the Olympics (the American team won).

For more: www.hoophall.com.

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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September 27, 2013
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2020 Vision: Seikan and Chunnel

Seikan Tunnel, Japan. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Japan will host the Olympics in 2020. What innovations might appear? Shinkansen, fast-trains developed and inaugurated for the Tokyo 1964 Games, proved to be successful — in safety and profitability — from the first day of operation. Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, completed for rail traffic in 1988, confirms the convenience of rapid rail; when the tunnel opened, it largely replaced ferryboats plying the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido. Similarly, the Channel Tunnel, with debut of rail service in March 1995, improved travel time from London to Paris to just over two hours. Environmental benefits are among those recognized and valued. What will Japan offer in 2020? Japanese animation may introduce spokesperson Sakura Heiwa (http://tokyomewmewfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Sakura_Heiwa). Might new transport designed for the Olympics welcoming so many nations include representatives, images, art, music, and poetry promoting Peace?

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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September 2, 2013
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High-Speed Trains: Shinkansen to Hyperloop

Image by Elon Musk, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When Japan pioneered high-speed trains, the new form of intercity transport was successful and profitable immediately. Why? Japan’s Shinkansen opened 10 days before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, guaranteeing plenty of users and global publicity. Linking Paris and London via train service through the Channel Tunnel proved successful in 1995. With high-speed rail now common in Europe and other areas of the globe, is the world ready for Hyperloop? Will the 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo once again, debut transport innovations, perhaps patterned on Elon Musk’s 2013 proposal for passenger travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes? http://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/blog_images/hyperloop-alpha.pdf

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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April 30, 2013
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Singin’ in the Train

 

SFOT Red Train 4 by James Murray from Wikimedia Commons, at wikimedia.org.

Haunting whistle in the night, hypnotic rhythm of wheels on rail, panting acceleration of uphill runs breathed heavily by a 2860 engine, sigh of brakes — these were sounds quite new in the landscapes of the world until rather recently. The business of constructing rails was introduced in England in the seventeenth century. British mapmaker and engineer Captain John Montressor built the first American railway in Lewiston, New York in 1764. Nearly a century later, the Golden Spike was driven, completing the Transcontinental Railroad; it was now possible to traverse the country in 10 days instead of six months. The Transcontinental Railroad (1869), Canadian Pacific Railway (1885) and the Trans-Siberian Railway (1904) introduced soundscape to the landscape — the train whistle. Japan’s Shinkansen(1964) added a new note: each commuter station is announced by an electronic tune, composed to reflect the culture of the district. For a train soundscape, enjoy a listen (and look) via YouTube “Sound of Royal Hudson steam engine with O Canada horn ‘Good Times Express'” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQNQbuXjF2M). Finding music in the midst of urban sound, George Gershwin who included in “American in Paris” the blare of French taxi horns, might agree with Mozart: “Music is continuous, listening is intermittent.” As new trains, and cars, are developed, should musicians be on the team to create the ideal soundscape?

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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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