Building the World

May 17, 2017
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Silk Road 2.0

Yo-yo Ma, founder of Silkroad, playing the cello at the World Economic Forum, 2008. Photographer: Andy Mettler. Image: wikimedia commons.

Yo-yo Ma, cellist and founder of Silkroad, might write new music for what is being referred to as the “new silk road.” The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 2017 concluded this week in Beijing, with 1,000 international government representatives; 68 countries signed on to jointly develop infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a big route, linking China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians might add North America: the Canadian Pacific Railway customized railcars to transport silk worm cocoons from Vancouver’s docks to the mills of New Jersey and New York. The so-called “Silk Trains” carried armed guards, so valuable was the cargo. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a land and maritime vision including Railway to London, Railway to Iran, Gwadar Port, Asian Gas Pipeline, and Khorgos Gateway for the biggest dry port in the world. Asian Development Bank estimates the need for $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to respond to growth and climate change. Macro by any definition, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road or perhaps to be called BRI) may open an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the world for inclusion and environment, a topic worthy of the future 2019 Summit. The Grand Canal of China may be an inspiration. Will the Confucius Institute lead the way?

Confucius Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius and https://m.facebook.com/The-Confucius-Institute-at-UMass-Boston-187408381366993/

National Development and Reform Commission. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. 2015/03/28. People’s Republic of China. en.ndrc.gov.cn/news/release/201503/t20150330_669367.html.

Liu Qin. “China needs to pave ‘One Belt One Road’ with green finance, say experts.” 07.01.2016, chinadialogue.net. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8532-China-needs-to-pave-One-Belt-One-Road-with-green-finance-say-experts-

Quinn, Zoë G. “Silk” 17 July 2012. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2012/07/17/silk/

Tweed, David. “China’s Silk Road.” 15 May 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/china-s-silk-road/

For a map: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701505-chinas-foreign-policy-could-reshape-good-part-world-economy-our-bulldozers-our-rules

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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April 1, 2017
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April 1st: Poisson d’Avril

April 1 is known in France as Poisson d’Avril. Image: “Clown Fish” by Adrian Pingstone, 2004, wikimedia commons.

Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway, first suggested coordinated time zones, an idea adopted at the 1884 International Meridian Conference. But some claim we owe the merriment of April Fools or All Fools’ Day to rebellion and renewal. When Pope Gregory shifted the new year from spring to January 1, in 1582, local folk continued to follow the practice of all things new in the first full month of spring. For example, the French placed paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting people: the prank led to April 1 having its own name of Poisson d’Avril. Some note that on April 1, in Languedoc of the Canal des Deux Mers, an uprising gave birth to the French Revolution.

More? Museum of Hoaxes details some of the best April 1st spoofs:http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool/

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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November 18, 2016
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In A Timely Fashion

Minutensprunguhr: by Hk kng. Wikimedia commons.

Today is the birthday of time, it might be said. On 18 November, 1883, the General Railroad Time Convention agreed that a new time standard would take effect. It was just in time. Cities and towns used to set their clocks at noon: noon being one moment in Chicago and quite another in Los Angeles. Such a system proved imperfect when railroads began to stream across the continent: how could train times be coordinated? Public safety demanded a solution; it came from Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway route. The Canadian Pacific and the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad came together (even before the Canadian Pacific was completed) and agreed jointly on a system of time zones. Eventually the idea gathered such force that the entire world became galvanized by this innovation. In 1884, the International Prime Meridian Conference, held in Washington, DC, endorsed and inaugurated a worldwide system of time zones. Ever wonder why we say “9am” or “9pm?” The suffix stands for ante-meridiem or post-meridiem. How many other whole world agreements have been universal?

For more:

McNamara, Robert. “Why We Have Time Zones.” http://history1800s.about.com/od/railroadbuilding/fl/Why-We-Have-Time-Zones.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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April 22, 2016
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(Re)New Earth Day

First view of the entire sunlit side of earth, 6 July 2015. Image: Nasa.

Earth Day: 2016. The largest number of nations ever in history to sign an international agreement in a single day, 175 countries from around the globe pledged to follow the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Other world-wide agreements that changed history include the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884 where nations agreed upon time zones based upon a meridian to be the common tuning fork “for time-reckoning throughout the whole world.” Adopting policies for renewable energy, reduced global warming, and a sustainable environment, Earth Day 2016 may be a turning point in the history of hope.

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 14, 2015
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Building a Better World: Climate

Eiffel Tower as signpost during United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. Image appreciation and credit: nrdc.org

World-inclusive agreements, such as the International Meridian Conference, or the UN Paris Climate Accord, are historic. In such accords, the world agrees upon its future. Recently, the world came together to pledge improve to earth’s climate. Throughout the Paris negotiations, the Eiffel Tower served as signpost. While some might complain the Paris agreement could have been more demanding, and some nations advocated 1.5 as a goal, many hope that COP 21 will spur actions to build a better world. What other kinds of world-inclusive agreements are needed? And, in the light of Paris, what can you do to improve climate? Here is a link to Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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 30, 2015
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It’s About Time

Prague Astronomical Clock. Wikimedia commons.

When Wordsworth talked about the magic of a “spot of time,” the poet may not have imagined what digital challenges would be required by the adjustment of modern clocks to the world’s slightly irregular rotation. June 30, 2015, will have one extra second. We owe thanks to Sandford Fleming, surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railway, who first suggested universal time standards. The International Prime Meridian Conference, held in Washington, DC, endorsed and inaugurated a worldwide system of time zones. What will you do with your extra second of time?

Wordsworth, William, The Prelude, Book 12 http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww298.html

International Prime Meridian Conference http://www.ucolick.org/~sla/leapsecs/scans-meridian.html

Extra Second on June 30, 2015

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33313347

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, 2015
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Frozen Treasure

Arctic sea ice: 22% of earth’s undiscovered energy resources may be hidden beneath. Image: wikimedia commons.

Lomonosov Ridge is 1,120 miles (1,800 km) long, but, unlike the Appalachian Trail, no one has hiked it. That’s because Lomonosov lies underwater, and is considered to bifurcate the Arctic. The North Pole was formerly the focus of “claim,” but little treasure lies beneath Frederick Cook and Robert Peary’s achievement. Canada and the United States have expressed interest in the frozen north, cooperating to build the Alaska Highway and Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Now, scientists predict 22% of earth’s undiscovered energy resources may be located at Lomonosov Ridge, named by Russia, spanning the New Siberian Islands to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Recently, the Lomonosov Ridge has been claimed to be an extension of Greenland’s shelf, drawing interest from Denmark. The United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, in accord with the Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 76, paragraph 8), will make a determination on Lomonosov Ridge in 2015. How should this treasure be safeguarded? Findings may influence the world’s energy future.

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 3, 2014
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Linking North America by Train

 

Why not build a train route linking Canada, United States, and Mexico? Image: wikimedia commons.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, Montreal suddenly became married to Vancouver. The Canadian Pacific Railway employed 3.5 million workers, another benefit. Should Nafta encourage a vac-train line linking Canada, United States, and Mexico? Might the route include a Sportsway? North America could found a Center for the Study of Trains, patterned after the Russian Railway Service Corps, via universities of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Education and employment might combine in a rethink of the medieval guilds, helping to achieve what Christopher Wilson of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars terms “globally literate workforces.”

For more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/world/americas/as-ties-with-china-unravel-us-companies-head-to-mexico.html

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/mexico-institute-the-news-arizona-manufacturer-sees-mexico-key-to-growth

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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