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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September 15, 2017
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Cassini: ave atque vale

Saturn. Image: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Over the course of ‘goodbye kisses’ with moon Titan, Cassini circled deeper and deeper into Saturn‘s atmosphere until, in a fiery immolation, the spacecraft became part of the planet. A collaborative macroengineering project by Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California Institute of Technology), Esa (European Space Agency) and Asi (Italian Space Agency), Cassini-Huygens launched on 15 October 1997, explored areas including Venus, Jupiter, and Asteroid 2685 Masursky, before falling into attraction with Saturn, entering the planet’s orbit on 1 July 2004 never to return. Dancing through the rings, the spacecraft sent back data that will continue to live on for many years after Cassini merged with Saturn on 15 September 2017. Cassini-Huygens was named after Giovanni Domenico Cassini, discoverer of Saturn’s rings; and Christiaan Huygens, discoverer of Titan.

For More:

“100 Beautiful Images by Cassini,” The New York Times, 14 September 2017.  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/14/science/cassini-saturn-images.html?mcubz=3

“The Goodbye Kiss.” BBChttp://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41259524

Free E-book: “The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini.” Nasa: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/7777/

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 8, 2017
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21 billion kilometer record

 

“Sounds of Earth” Golden Record, launched in 1977, plays on. Take a listen. Image: nasa.gov.

It’s a shiny gold record compiled by a team headed by Carl Sagan, honored with the NASA Apollo Achievement Award. And it’s also just set a record, as the farthest human-made object from earth. Sending our best in sound from Bach and Beethoven (String Quartet 13) to Solomon Islands’ Panpipes, from the haunting whistle of a train to the coo of a baby and the sound of a kiss, the record contains an homage to our planet. “Sounds of the Earth” also includes greetings in 55 languages including cetic (whale). “Sounds of the Earth” was launched in 1977, on two Voyager space probes. And now, along with space residents who may be receiving the message, you can hear it, too.

Pescovitz, David. “Voyager’s Golden Record still plays on.” 5 September 2017. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/04/opinions/pescovitz-opinion/index.html

Sagan, Carl. ed. (1973). Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-19106-7. LCCN 73013999. OCLC 700752.

Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth. NY: Random House, 1978. https://books.google.com/books/about/Murmurs_of_Earth.html?id=oD90-PBNyr8C

For your listening pleasure and inspiration: “Sounds of the Earth”: https://soundcloud.com/user-482195982/voyager-golden-record-sampler-1

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 1, 2017
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Water Crisis

September 1, 2017: Hurricane Harvey moves from Texas to Tennessee. Image: Nasa.gov. Here’s how to help.

Hurricane Harvey pelted Houston, Texas with twenty-seven trillion gallons of water. Homes, schools, hospitals, roads were damaged. But when a hurricane causes power outages, another kind of water problem occurs. Beaumont, Texas got 29 inches of rain from Harvey, knocking out the town’s water pumping station on the swollen Neches River, leaving 120,000 people without drinking water. While major beverage manufacturers switched their production lines from beer to cans of water,  to care for the thousands who had to evacuate their homes and flee to shelters, Beaumont can’t get this emergency relief: roads are flooded, making Beaumont a temporary island. Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey might include study of post-Sandy New York, guided in part by the Netherlands. Meanwhile, here’s how to help.

Boulder, Michael. “The entire city of Beaumont, Texas, has lost access to clean water.” 31 August 2017, PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/entire-city-beaumont-texas-lost-access-clean-water/

Tillman, Claire. “Anheuser-Busch repurposes its brewery to make drinking water for Harvey victims.” 30 Augut, 2017. Fortune. http://fortune.com/2017/08/30/hurricane-harvey-houston-water-anheuser-busch/

Building the World. “A river runs through it.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

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 25, 2017
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Zoom…

Trains that fly? In tubes? Hyperloop has reached another milestone. Image of a Copenhagen pipe tunnel, Wikimedia.

Hyperloop has achieved another milestone: the first trial run of the passenger pod destined to carry commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 650 miles per hour. Transportation advances have changed the world. China’s Grand Canal transformed a region into a nation; the New Silk Road may link 40% of the world. Once united by the Golden Spike, the Transcontinental Railroad shortened the trek across the United States from six months to 10 days. The Erie Canal reduced the cost of shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City from $100 to $10. The Channel Tunnel made breakfast in London and lunch in Paris an everyday occurrence. Now, with Hyperloop, London/Paris transit time could be 25 minutes; Dubai to Abu Dhabi: 12 minutes. What advances in business, culture, and perhaps even cooperation and peace, might come from a more connected future?

For a video test ride: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-40811172/hyperloop-one-passenger-pod-tested-successfully

To calculate time between any two destinations: https://hyperloop-one.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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August 19, 2017
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Eclipses and Innovations

Solar Eclipse: Image: NASA, 2016.

The Great American Eclipse, 21 August 2017, may lead to innovations. Thomas Edison is said to have invented the incandescent light bulb after witnessing a total eclipse in Wyoming, USA in 1878. Just the year before, at the age of 30, Edison had invented the phonograph. Friends engaged Edison’s scientific and technical curiosity with word of an impending celestial wonder; a train ride to Rawlins, Wyoming ensued. The town was tiny: there was only one hotel and only one room left; Thomas Edison, Henry Draper, and the whole expedition bunked there and waited. The night before the eclipse, Edison recalled reclining outdoors and staring at the star-lit sky; suddenly the idea for a light bulb appeared. Perhaps Edison was also influenced by recent demonstrations of Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov’s arc lighting at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878. A few years later, Gustav Eiffel would open the Paris International Exposition of 1889 with the Eiffel Tower.

Wear special sunglasses to view an eclipse. For more, see: eclipse@siu.edu. Image: wikimedia.

Yablochkov’s arc lamps were used by early movie studios for indoor scenes, but produced so much ultra-violet light that actors had to wear sunglasses. Even more protective are the special glasses viewers must don to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017. MIT’s Haystack Observatory will study the eclipse effects on space weather with radar and navigational satellites. Nasa and scientists worldwide will study the space phenomenon from every place on earth, and above. Eyes on the sky: what inventions and innovations may result?

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 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

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 4, 2017
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Space Agent Wanted: Apply Here

“Buzz Aldrin Walks On Moon.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Just two more weeks to apply for an out-of-this-world job: Nasa is seeking a “planetary protection officer.” Think public health on a galactic level. Spacecraft land on planets, but they rarely take their shoes off upon returning home. Similarly, as humans set foot on lunar and other surfaces, what might they carry  on those moon boots that will forever contaminate new worlds?

In 1967, the United Nations Outer Space Treaty stipulated that nations take heed of contamination, but the law applied only to countries; at the time, COMSAT was just forming, nor were private space enterprises such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, Inc, and SpaceX yet anticipated.

“The Day the Earth Smiled.” On 19 July, 2013, Cassini slipped behind Saturn for this photo. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Nasa is so careful about contamination, according to current PPO Dr. Catharine Conley, the agency learned a lesson on 21 September 2003 when Galileo, first spacecraft to visit an asteroid (two, actually: Isa and Gaspra), observer of Venus, explorer of Jupiter, where it discovered the saltwater ocean on Europa and volcanic activity on Io, and a magnetic field on Ganymede, plummeted into Jupiter’s atmosphere rather than crash into Europa. It is there one might find life. Cassini, currently orbiting Saturn, will be similarly decommissioned.

If you become the successful applicant for HQ17S0010, as PPO it may be your responsibility to update the Outer Space Treaty? What will you do to protect interplanetary public health?

For More:

Outer Space Treaty. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

Galileo: End of Mission Status. https://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/galileo_final.html.

Weinzierl, Matthew and Angela Acocella: “Blue Origin, NASA, and New Space” Harvard Business School, HBS Case Collection, 2016. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=50708

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 21, 2017
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Forest Cities

We emerged from the forest; will forest cities return us to our natural state? Image: Shennongjia Forest, Hubei, China. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s plans for a “Forest City” may establish a vision for a better urban future. New cities have often marked turning points in history. In the year 145 (or A.D. 762), the new Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty decided to move the capital to create a fresh vision. Setting off on horseback, Al-Mansur saw an auspicious spot, leapt from his steed, drew his sword, and carved three concentric circles upon the land. The new city? The Caliph named it Medinat as-Salam, “City of Peace.” Today, it is called Baghdad.

Liuzhou Forest City will not only be attractively leafy, it will literally eat smog. Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning, Stefano Boeri Architetti designed the green vision:

Hosting 40,000 trees;

Growing 1 million plants of 100 species;

Absorbing 10,000 tons of CO2;

Eating 57 tons of fine dust and pollutants;

Producing 900 tons of fresh Oxygen.

Liuzhou, famous place on the Silk Road, builds upon the vision of Vertical Forests, as seen in Milan, Italy, or the Meir Lobaton & Kristjan Donaldson Torre Cuajimalpa in Mexico. Comparisons might also be made to Rhode Island’s tree-planting project designed by the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation of Roger Williams University.

No room to plant trees? Answer: CityTree, a green “wall” of plants with as much air-purifying power as 275 trees. Co-founder Zhengliang Wu of Green City Solutions recommends moss cultures because of their larger leaf surface areas.

Green Wall at Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid. Photographer: Mike Dixon. Image: wikimedia.

Cities around the world are seeking resilient responses to climate change. Energy, water, and transport systems are among the areas experiencing innovation. Sea level rise threatens many coastal cities including San Francisco and Silicon Valley, studied by system dynamics experts Christiansen and Libby. And it is not a moment too soon: by 2050, 75% of all the people in the world will live in cities. Will Liuzhou Forest City mark a point in history turning toward sustainability?

For Liuzhou Forest City video: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-40502622/welcome-to-liuzhou-forest-city

“Changing Cities in a Changing Climate,” Alexander F. Christiansen and Bradd Libby, DNV GL Group Technology and Research, Climate Action Programme. https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/city-resilience/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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July 14, 2017
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Eye on the Sky

Jupiter’s “Red Eye in the Sky” image by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the Juno NASA mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS/Jason Major. Nasa.gov.

Juno met Jupiter this week. NASA‘s Juno mission flew over the planet’s 10,000-mile-wide (16,000 kilometers) storm, so big that three earths could fit inside of the Great Red Spot. Since 1830, sky-watchers have kept an eye on this mysterious spot marking a storm that has raged for eons. When the Juno mission launched in 2011, the spacecraft did not arrive in orbit around Jupiter until July 4, 2016. Since then, it’s been photographing Jupiter, and will continue operations until 2018. Knowledge gained by Juno may serve useful in updating the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space that entered into force in 1967. Principles include:

“Exploration of space for the benefit of all countries and all humankind;

Outer space not subject to national appropriation or occupation;

Outer space to be free of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction;

Countries and states shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects;

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

At the start of the Space Race, only governments were thought to be financially and technologically capable of Space missions. But now private enterprise has taken impressive steps; Weinzierl and Acocella recently introduced a Harvard Business School case on the ownership of space with a close up of Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Planetary Resources, Inc, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic are also prominent, joined now by an enterprise hoping to win Google’s $20million Lunar X Prize, Moon Express.

COMSAT might be an organizational model to follow. On 31 August, 1962 the Communications Satellite Act became law and set a new tone of inclusiveness that transformed the space race with greater multinational, public/private cooperation. New agreements about the future of space may foretell a mixed-economy organization to promote world-wide distribution of solar power.

Outer Space Treaty:http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf

Google Lunar X Prize:http://lunar.xprize.org

COMSAT:https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-76/pdf/STATUTE-76-Pg419.pdf

Space Solar Power:https://archive.org/details/sps91powerfromsp00unse

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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