Rethinking Engagement in Cities: Ending the Professional vs. Citizen Divide

Rethinking Engagement in Cities: Ending the Professional vs. Citizen Divide

Cities are among humankind’s grandest and most complex creations. Even small urban communities represent the cumulative result of literally hundreds of thousands of public and private, individual and collective decisions over time. They are the playgrounds of spontaneity.

Such an understanding of how cities come into being and evolve is hardly new. Nor are its implications for how we plan and govern cities. While the language has changed, these ideas — and how those with custodianship for urban life approach their responsibilities — have been around for nearly as long as there have been cities. We can look to Ancient Greek political thought for notions about participation and empowerment that have been dressed up for our own times.

We need not look back so far. Anyone who has thought seriously about the contemporary urban condition, for example, has encountered the writings of Jane Jacobs. The specific insights of the ancients and the contemporary deserve serious engagement, criticism and debate. The importance of community engagement and mobilization, one might have thought, has become indisputable over several centuries of reformulation.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, a plentiful number of urban professionals around the world – including economists, planners, architects, and administrators of all types – have dismissed citizen participation as an extravagant expense that only gets in the way of efficient urban management. They reveal a steady re-entrenchment of top-down approaches to shaping the city in which professionals know best. Involving citizens, it seems, just costs too much.

Continue reading @ Rethinking Engagement in Cities: Ending the Professional vs. Citizen Divide.


Space Farming: The Final Frontier

NASA looks to grow fresh veggies, 230 miles above the Earth

By Jesse Hirsch on September 10, 2013

Photographs by Stephen Allen

Last year, an astronaut named Don Pettit began an unusual writing project on NASA’s website. Called “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” the blog took the perspective of an actual zucchini plant on the International Space Station (ISS). Entries were insightful and strange, poignant and poetic.

“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me,” wrote Pettit in the now-defunct blog. “I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini — and I am in space.”

An unorthodox use of our tax dollars, but before you snicker, consider this: That little plant could be the key to our future. If — as some doomsday scientists predict — we eventually exhaust the Earth’s livability, space farming will prove vital to the survival of our species. Around the world, governments and private companies are doing research on how we are going to grow food on space stations, in spaceships, even on Mars. The Mars Society is testing a greenhouse in a remote corner of Utah, researchers at the University of Gelph in Ontario are looking at long-term crops like soybeans and barley and Purdue University scientists are marshaling vertical garden design for space conditions. Perhaps most importantly, though, later this year NASA will be producing its own food in orbit for the first time ever.

And if space farming still seems like a pipe dream, the zucchini also served a more tangible purpose. It kept Pettit and his crewmates sane…

via Space Farming: The Final Frontier – Modern Farmer.

Strength Of Gravity Shifts, And This Time It’s Serious!


The resulting value for G is 240 parts per million bigger than the official one, set in 2010. James Faller of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who tested G in 2010, is holding out for an error: “Errors are like violets in the springtime: they can spring up in any group’s experiment,” he says. “Logically, either some of the experiments are wrong, or G isn’t constant,” says Mark Kasevich of Stanford University.

Continue reading @ Strength Of Gravity Shifts And This Time It’s Serious.

Cities Could Use Your Tweets To Build Better Infrastructure

These days, people are more likely to gripe about civic issues on Twitter than actually talk to city officials. But in some cases, that social media activity is all a city needs.

This week, IBM unveiled the results of its Social Sentiment Index on traffic in India. The index, which looked at 168,330 comments on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites and “derived 54,234 High Value Snippets through a series of advanced filtration techniques for insight analysis,” reveals some strong conclusions about traffic in the country, and how city planners might alleviate it in the future…

Continue @ Cities Could Use Your Tweets To Build Better Infrastructure | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

Tunnel Vision: Subterranean Park to Stay Sunny with Fiber-Optic Skylights

Tunnel Vision: Subterranean Park to Stay Sunny with Fiber-Optic Skylights [Slide Show]: Scientific American

More than a decade ago a group of New York City residents launched an ambitious experiment to build a park atop an expanse of abandoned elevated freight train tracks. Today the High Line, which opened in 2009, provides locals, commuters and tourists with more than a kilometer of green space several meters above the urban bustle below. Emboldened by the project’s success, a team of designers and engineers has proposed the polar opposite idea: transform a deserted underground trolley depot into a haven for leisurely recreation.

New Yorkers are getting a glimpse this month of what the Lowline park might look like thanks to an exhibit demonstrating technology that channels enough sunlight to subterranean spaces to support plant life. The exhibit—on display September 15–27—features a skylight that delivers the sun’s energy from an outdoor solar collector to an indoor canopy for distribution. Living below the aluminum canopy is an impressive array of flora specially chosen for its ability to thrive in low light…

Continue @ Tunnel Vision: Subterranean Park to Stay Sunny with Fiber-Optic Skylights [Slide Show]: Scientific American.

Were Two Pyramids Just Discovered in Egypt Using Google Earth?

Egypt Pyramids

Here’s a good one for all those who got excited when it was rumored the lost continent of Atlantis was found on Google Earth: A researcher now thinks she’s found two undiscovered pyramids in Egypt on Google Earth.

The two possible complexes are located about 90 miles apart from each other in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country). Satellite archaeology researcher Angela Micol wrote on her website Google Earth Anomalies that the sites contain unusual mounds with noteworthy features.

“Upon closer examination of the formation, this mound appears to have a very flat top and a curiously symmetrical triangular shape that has been heavily eroded with time,” Micol.

via Were Two Pyramids Just Discovered in Egypt Using Google Earth?.

“Dramatic” New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces


Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.

Long since lost to the Guatemalan jungle, the temple is finally showing its faces to archaeologists, and revealing new clues about the rivalrous kingdoms of the Maya.

via “Dramatic” New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces.

Malta is ‘safest place on earth’


If you want to avoid becoming a victim of a natural disaster or of climate change, you could do no better than to live in Malta or Qatar, according to a new United Nations study which says these two small countries are the safest in the world.

The World Risk Report for 2011, conducted by the UN’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, is based on an index related to the exposure of countries to natural hazards and climate change, as well as social vulnerability.

It rates the island of Vanuatu in the Pacific as the most dangerous place in the world, with very high exposure to natural disasters and high social vulnerability.

If you lived on this island, your risk of falling victim to a natural disaster would be 32 per cent.

At the other end of the 173-country league of risk lie Malta and Qatar. Both have very low exposure to earthquakes, floods or rising sea levels and their societies and infrastructure are well-prepared to tackle such events, according to the report.

In Malta, the risk of becoming a victim of a natural disaster is 0.72 per cent while that of Qatar is just 0.02 per cent…

via Malta is ‘safest place on earth’ –

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