Building the World

January 1, 2018
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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

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

February 10, 2017
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Trains that fly

Trains that fly: Hyperloop. Image: Camilo Sanchez, 2015. Wikimedia commons

Trains that fly? In tubes? Like the Channel Tunnel designed for trains, Hyperloop (a term coined by Elon Musk; the competition is sponsored by SpaceX), uses tubes to enhance transport. The difference? These trains fly: Hyperloop is maglev. In development through open competitions inviting students to design the transit pods, HyperLoop has now achieved another milestone: first-ever low pressure Hyperloop flight. MIT won the award for safety and reliability, placing in the top three along with Delft University of Technology and Team Warr (pronounced Varr) of the Technical University of Munich. The goal? Los Angeles to San Francisco, or Amsterdam to Paris, in 30 minutes.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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

 

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.

April 7, 2015
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PanAmerican MagLev

“Ciudad de Panama de noche” image: wikimedia commons.

Cumbre de las Americas, 2015 Summit of the Americas, in the panel on “Infrastructure, Logistics and Connectivity: Bringing the Americas Together,” could inaugurate a new vision for the Pan American Highway. Planned as a railway, the route might realize its original vision, with designs by Ernst Frankel, Frank Davidson, and Elon Musk. Could the PanAmerican MagLev take inspiration from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Vactrain? The 2015 Summit convenes in Panama, renowned for success of the Panama Canal. Should Panama propose an elevated mag-lev train to improve the environment, and unite the Americas in La Via Panamericana?

http://svc.summit-americas.org/?q=vii_mandates

http://www.oas.org/en/default.asp

https://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-101207-130034/unrestricted/IQP.pdf

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/69842/warren-kelchner/the-pan-american-highway

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.

February 19, 2015
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Scale of Success: China

 

Great Wall of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

While Frank P. Davidson is considered by historians to be the founder of the field of macroengineering in 1984, today China is advancing large scale infrastructure. The nation that built the Great Wall must think big, because it is so big; large scale endeavors are now appearing with velocity as well as capacity. For example, the Dalian to Yantai Tunnel spanning the Bohai Strait, twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, planned as a rail link between China’s northern ports, would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel. And, the Grand Canal may soon become even grander: the $80 billion plan to bring water over 1,000 miles from the abundant south to the arid north may reach fruition in 2025, making that waterway, begun in 600 BCE, the longest continuous construction project in history. Should China celebrate this Spring Festival with an announcement of the Center for the Study of Macro?

David Baroza, “In China, Projects to make Great Wall Feel Small,” The New York Times, January 12, 2015.

Minnie Chan, “Plan to build world’s longest undersea tunnel from Dalian to Yantai,” South China Morning Post, July 11, 2013. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1280386/china-plans-worlds-longest-undersea-tunnel

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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