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

March 10, 2017
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Bridge to the Future

Bridges to the future: in the next 15 years, the world will build more infrastructure than is currently on the planet. Photo: “Gaoliang Bridge: The Summer Palace” by Hennessey, wikimedia commons.

Rebuilding may characterize the next era. Bridges, roads, rail, energy, and water systems are in need of an upgrade. There is so much backlog in the United States, costs are estimated at $4.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon states it’s not just the United States, or even North America. Global infrastructure needs an upgrade. History suggests a few guidelines. Focus on projects; jobs will follow. Target both macro and micro: on the grand scale, choose iconic projects of national (or regional) impact; on a micro scale, concentrate on towns and local improvements that can be seen in four years. Government allocations should not focus on profit (certain infrastructure pays for itself in tolls, as Charlemagne proved, and such ventures can be public/private), but on rights and commons. Consider creation of a national clearinghouse where states and cities can learn from each other (such as the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program). Some of these suggestions are offered by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, and others by Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust in their recent announcement: “Helping mayors do their job.”

Felipe Calderon adds: “There’s evidence that 1% of GDP spent on infrastructure can lead to a 1.5% increase in GDP within 4 years. But, given the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are accumulating, the type of infrastructure we build matters more than ever. Building a solar plant is better than building a coal plant. Building light rail is better than expanding a highway. Solid flood defense systems can hold back rising seas. We will be building over the next fifteen years more infrastructure than currently exists on the planet.

Global infrastructure investment, over the next 15 years, is expected to reach $90 trillion. It’s an opportunity for structural sustainability perhaps unprecedented in history. Can we build the bridge to a better future?

For more: “America’s Infrastructure Scores a D+” American Society of Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card. http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Bloomberg, Michael R. and Drew Gilpin Faust, “Helping mayors do their job.” The Boston Globe, 25 August 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/08/25/helping-mayors-their-job/1HblR7a4hKsQMJEbXmnAgP/story.html

Calderon, Felipe. “Global infrastructure needs an upgrade.” 7 October 2016. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/07/news/economy/felipe-calderon-oped-us-infrastructure/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.

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 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.

September 30, 2016
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A Planet of Opportunity

A Planet of Opportunity: Mars. Image: Hubble 2003, wikimedia commons.

Want to be one of a million who begin a new branch of human civilization? Elon Musk has presented, in Guadalajara, Mexico at the International Astronautical Congress in September 2016, four factors to achieve multi-planetary success. The SpaceX Mars mission will take off from the launch pad that Nasa used for Apollo 11. Mars could have a new city with one million people by 2060. Musk states: “It will be a planet of opportunity.”

For Elon Musk’s presentation, “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” with specific details, at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFA6DLT1jBA.

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.

September 17, 2016
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Auto-Mobile

What will soon be missing, in Uber cars? The Driver. Image of an Uber car (and driver) in Bogota, Colombia: wikimedia.

When driving your car, how many times do you look at the distance between your vehicle and others on the road? How about 1.4 million times — per second? That’s what Uber’s driverless cars do, and that’s why many believe autonomous vehicles will ultimately be safer. Uber made history this week, becoming the first commercial service to offer driverless cars. The chosen location? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fourteen cars are at the ready, each with two professional drivers, just in case, to serve 2,000 Uber customers who have signed up for the beta test drive. When the United States Federal Highway System was built, the goals were the same: seamless and safer roads and fewer accidents. The autonomous vehicle market is estimated to reach $42 billion by 2025.

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 25, 2016
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TransAtlantic Flight — without a drop of fuel

Solar Impulse. Wikimedia commons.

Solar Impulse 2 crossed the Atlantic ocean without a drop of fuel, making history and opening a wing to the future. New York to Seville in 71 hours, Betrand Piccard landed escorted by an honor guard. Some might say you’d have to be crazy to fly across an ocean without fuel; but Piccard is a psychiatrist, a balloonist, and a pioneer. Tweets aloft included a photo of an oil tanker, contrasting fossil fuels with solar tech. Picard and partner Andre Borschberg share the adventure of flying SI2 around the world: “You can now fly longer without fuel than with fuel, and you fly with the force of nature, you fly with the sun. It’s the new era now for energy.” Flight history was made by Nasa when the Apollo team traversed space to land on the moon. Solar flight may be next the “giant leap.” While floating above, Piccard read Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing, poems written in reflection in meditation, and set to music by Philip Glass, who also composed Itaipu. An excerpt?

I know she is coming

I know she will look

And that is the longing

And this is the book.

  • Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing, read by Piccard on historic solar flight over Atlantic.

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 9, 2016
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Tunnel (En)Vision

World’s longest tunnel, Gotthard. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, world’s longest, opened to fanfare and diplomacy, and a ballet corps of 600, in June 2016. The Gotthard massif has long challenged transport efforts; Gotthard now joins the Mont Blanc Tunnel in traversing mountainous terrain. Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project also features a tunnel to bring vehicular traffic underground while a new greenway park graces the urban landscape above. Tunnels are an ancient instinct: moles know the routes underground, while human endeavors appear to have been early home-improvement projects by cave dwellers adding a second room. Land tunnels preceded water transit ways such as the Channel Tunnel. But all tunnels have one aspect in common: emissions trapped in a contained environment. Research contrasting on-road carbonyl emission factors in two highway tunnels, Caldecott Tunnel near San Francisco, California and Tuscarora Mountain Tunnel in Pennsylvania, was conducted 2002. WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended jet fans to move fumes through long road tunnels. But could there be a better solution? Will the EPA‘s capture and sequestration research apply to tunnels? Might ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy‘s innovation to cleanse carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas- and coal-fired plants be applied to other situations? Carbon capture could take on a new meaning if tomorrow’s tunnels might become channels for environmental improvement.

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 18, 2016
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8 billion hours

Traffic jam in Beijing, 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

Americans spend 8 billion hours a year stuck in traffic. When the Federal Highway System was built, roadways did not anticipate the lure of the automobile and individual transport. China’s traffic is legendary; Beijing’s 50-lane stall resulted in a film. Aging infrastructure, bridges and roads, present both a danger and an opportunity. As transportation systems are replaced and improved, should solar highways be considered, or lanes for autonomous vehicles? What about filling stations that offer flexible fuel options including electrical charging? Will new transit forms including the Hyperloop transform commuting, reclaiming and returning those 8 billion hours?

Watch a traffic jam in Beijing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3kL6nMap2s

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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