Building the World

May 18, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Volcanology and the Future

“Kilauea at Dusk,” photographed in 1983 by G.E. Ulrich, USGS. Image: wikimedia.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, dangerously. But it is always in some form of activity, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, and is therefore heavily instrumented. Volcanic prediction is feasible, according to Paul Segall, professor of geophysics at Stanford University; whereas earthquakes, caused by similar disturbances below Earth’s surface, are less predictable. Volcanos may become an important factor in mitigating climate change. Here’s why:

Iceland is the site of CarbFix, exploring the future of carbon capture. When CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, at a plant near Reykjavik’s Hellisheidi power station, it is pumped underground to combine with basalt. As a result, the combination becomes rock. In fact, the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to form a particular building material. Basalt contains calcium, magnesium, and iron – elements that bind easily with CO2; basalt is like a sponge for CO2. Could this be answer to Earth’s carbon crisis? Maybe – basalt is the most common rock type on the planet; it’s even found on the ocean floors. India, Saudi Arabia, and Siberia are particularly well-endowed. Problem? CarbFix is water-intensive, not ideal for the already thirsty water planet. It takes 25 tons of water to transform one ton of CO2. Humans cause the emission of 35 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tons) per year. But the potential encourages research by CarbFix partners including Columbia University in New York, National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Reykjavik Energy in Iceland. Theoretically, the amount of world basalt could store all the CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, since Prometheus.

Kilauea is a basaltic shield volcano, producing an eruptive form of basalt called Tholeiite, according to Ken Rubin, professor of geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii.  It’s the dominant basalt type on Earth. In the future, we may learn to work with volcanic basalt to combat CO2 emissions and build a better climate. Meanwhile, if you would like to give support to those in need, due to Kilauea’s recent eruption, here are some ways to help.

For more:

Ancheta, Dillon. “Here’s how to help those affected by the Big Island eruptions.” 5 May, updated 22 May, 2018. Hawaii News Now. http://www.hawaiinewsnowcom/story/38119223/heres-how-you-can-donate-to-those-impacted-by-the-kilauea-eruption/.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Philosopher’s Stone?” 17 June 2018, Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/06/17/philosophers-stone/

CarbFix. https://www.or.is/carbfix

Perasso, Valeria. “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever.” 18 May 2018. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-43789527/.

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

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

January 1, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image: https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Seen from space, the Americas look a bit like a green 8 in a sea of blue. One glance reveals our planet is made of regions, not nations. Rivers do not stop at lines arbitrarily drawn on a map: transboundary waters are shared resources. Another interconnection: land use, including transport. Great rail systems of history such as the Trans-Siberian or Canadian Pacific railways redefined connection through rapidly advancing transit technologies. Now, electric highways, autonomous vehicles, and hyperloop transit could link continents in innovation.

In 2018, Canada, Mexico, and the United States debate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiations should include transboundary water resources; legal precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations. Nafta truckers could pioneer automated highways that might steer negotiations. But Nafta may be too small to address macro issues.

Is it now time to extend the north american discussion, to a broader regional scope? Afta Nafta. Decisions about water quality in one nation may impact another; transit links continents, not countries. Oceans may ultimately determine the fate of cities: from Natal to New York, many are coastal. What if everyone in the Americas learned at least one of the languages of their neighbors? Language-based education and cultural exchange might stir innovation in areas such as shared water resources, intelligent highways, public health, and rights. Could there be a regional tour of beauty, instead of a tour of duty? Xchange students and volunteers could form corps maintaining readiness for disaster response (by definition, regional) while practicing environmental service, in an updated CCC of the Americas. Potential logo? Green 8 in a Circle of Blue.

It might be noted that 8, viewed on the horizontal plane, is the infinity symbol. System scientists may suggest that two interconnecting loops could form a renewing system. The infinity symbol was the creation, in 1655, of John Wallis (he also served as chief cryptographer for Parliament). Whether it remains infinite or not, our shared environment depends upon our actions. Perhaps it is time to dedicate at least one year, per decade, to improvement of our shared resources: celebrate the 8’s by honoring interconnection.

“Infinity Symbol” Image: wikimedia commons

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

December 15, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.08926eab4d6a

https://www.cdc.gov

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

November 3, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

First Migration: Next Mission

Image: United Nations University. www.merit.unu.edu

Humans fanned out to encircle the world; now, we hold its destiny in our hands. Originating in Africa, traversing the planet by waterways, roads, trains, and air, human builders created the Grand Canal of China, the Roman roads and aqueducts, united lands by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Channel Tunnel, ultimately following Daedalus to take wing above and beyond the world. See the path of human migration in this animation map. Migration is still one of the top five challenges of civilization. Now that we have put our collective arms around the planet, what work must we do with hand, mind, and heart? Will the next migration include a fuller definition of nature, and the role we now take in shaping destiny?

Thanks to George H. Litwin, Isabel Rimanoczy, and Laurie Smith Weisberg for suggestions.

American Museum of Natural History. Video showing human migration over 200,000 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation Series. Gnome Press, 1951 ff.

Gugliotta, Guy. “The Great Human Migration: Why humans left their African homeland 80,000 years ago to colonize the world.” July 2008, Smithsonian Magazinehttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-great-human-migration-13561/

Kalin Anev Janse. “How to Manage the Top Five Global Economic Challenges.” 1 November 2017. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/what-are-the-top-five-challenges-for-international-organizations/.

Rimanoczy, Isabel. Big Bang Being: Developing the Sustainability Mindset. Greenleaf Publishing: 2013.

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

July 2, 2014
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

23% Solution

Lake Baikal, southern shore. Image: wikimedia commons.

Lake Baikal, world’s deepest lake, contains 23% of the world’s freshwater reserves. The size of Switzerland, Lake Baikal posed an almost insurmountable challenge to builders of Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. At first, travelers traversed the 250-meter (400-mile) lake by boat; during winter, traditional sleighs were used. Finally, 200 bridges and 33 tunnels completed the rail route, hugging the Baikal’s southern shore. The Trans-Siberian Railway inspired Wallace Hickel, twice governor of Alaska, and Mead Treadwell, current lieutenant governor, to visit Russia to consider development of a link across the Bering Strait. In 2012, Ernst Frankel described the potential of such a route. How can the environmental integrity of lakes, rivers, and oceans be preserved while exploring transport options?

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

June 3, 2014
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

May 16, 2013
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

International Railway Corps

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/BalticRailTerminal008.jpg

What is the destiny of train transport? The Trans-Siberian Railway set a model not only for rail, but also social, engineering. When the Russian line, completed in 1904, needed upgrading in 1917, Russia and the United States entered into a cooperative agreement. George Emerson, an executive in the American rail industry, was called to Washington with an urgent mission: recruit a corps of 300 Americans from leading U.S.  railway companies to join the Russian Railway Service Corps. Executives left Chicago and New York, moving to Russia for eight years to work side-by-side with their engineering colleagues. One might imagine there was toasting, as well as technology transfer. For more on the Russian Railway Service Corps, visit http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/collection-guides/warren-f-hockaday-collection-ca-1899-ca-1934.pdf. Should today’s transport engineers found an International Railway Corps to design regional and global systems? Will Mead Treadwell’s proposal for rail across the Bering Strait be built via Nafta/Alena/Tlcan? Might Svetlana Kuzmichenko’s report on extending the Trans-Siberian to Japan for a Tokyo-Moscow-London line or to South Korea via North Korea for a Seoul-Moscow-London line become reality, perhaps studied at a station/university like the venerable Baltic Rail Terminal?

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

April 30, 2013
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

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?

Creative Commons License
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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

August 14, 2012
by zoequinn001
0 comments

What a Trip!

Although travelling across the vast continent of Asia by train may not be the most convenient means of doing so, it is a trip many choose to make in order to see those parts of the world they cannot experience by plane, and likely could/would not get to otherwise. In the 2008 film, Transsiberian, the characters played by Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer try to do just that, but get caught in some unwelcome business. Below is the trailer:

It’s good to see that the Trans-Siberian Railroad is still inspiring artists today!

Creative Commons License
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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Skip to toolbar