Beautiful city rule: stay in scale!

I love the way the NY times writes about this tower that is oversized for it’s neighbourhood:

“The tower is not beautiful but is impossible to ignore. The top floors are set off from the rest, and the crown is flat rather than a spire. It looks as if a rocket were stowed up there, an escape vehicle for the tech overlords when the city is consumed by disaster.”
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Parks and bush-land saves minds and lives!

Well well well, an economist has discovered the many amazing benefits of having green spaces near where we live. The data grows, the studies compound; the verdict is in. Green is good!

Keep calm: reasons to head for the park not the beach

Ross Gittins

Published: December 27 2017 – 12:01AM

My father was always disapproving of people who excused their failure to turn up to his Sunday meeting by saying they’d been “worshipping God in the great outdoors”. But the older I get, and the more I read, the more I think it’s not such a bad idea.

I’m much attracted by the American biologist Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis of biophilia, that humans have an innate tendency to seek connection to nature, for its calming effects.

While most people will be heading for the beach in the next few weeks, I usually head for a national park, to lift my quota of trees, bush, grass and anything else that’s green.

This time, however, we’re heading for a jungle – otherwise known as Manhattan – to do babysitting duty. Ideally, this means I’d be virtually living in Central Park, but that may be a bit too snowy.

My regular reading of the universities’ blogsite, The Conversation, has garnered a fair bit of evidence for biophilia.

According to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2007, each year one in five Australians experiences a mental disorder. Most common are anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Zoe Myers, an urban design specialist at the University of Western Australia, says research shows that city dwellers have a 20 per cent higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40 per cent greater likelihood of developing depression.

Fortunately, research also shows that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest green space are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health.

Myers says more than 40 years of research shows that exposure to nature increases calm and rumination, decreases agitation and aggression, and improves concentration, memory and creative thought.

But it’s not emptiness or quiet that has these good effects, she says. “Nature in its messy, wild, loud, diverse, animal-inhabited glory has most impact on restoring a stressed mind to a calm and alert state.

“This provides a more complete sense of ‘escape’ from the urban world, however brief.”

Many studies have attested to the restorative effects of forests but, though holidays in national parks are nice, we need something closer to home.

Melanie Davern, of RMIT University, with colleagues from Melbourne University, say recent research on the benefits of urban greening has found, for instance, lower rates of anti-depressant prescriptions in neighbourhoods close to woodlands in Britain, happier people living in areas with more birdlife, and better health in areas with increased neighbourhood tree coverage in the United States.

Planting trees in parks, gardens or streets has many benefits: cooler cities, slower stormwater run-off, filtering of air pollution, habitat for some animals (such as birds, bats and bees), making people happier and providing shade that encourages more walking.

Professor Pierre Horwitz, of Edith Cowan University, is a great advocate for urban bushland – a bush park of native trees, a wetland, or any native vegetation characteristic of the local region.

“With its undisturbed soils and associated wildlife, urban bushland is more diverse than other types of green spaces in our cities, like parks. The more unfragmented the landscape, or unaltered the bushland, the more likely it will be to retain its biodiversity,” Horwitz says.

“Exposure to biodiversity from the air, water, soils, vegetation, wildlife and landscape, and all the microbes associated with them … enhances our immunity. This is thought to be key to the health benefits of nature.”

Horwitz says we know that wealthier people tend to live in greener suburbs, and that wealthier people tend to be healthier. So is it wealth rather than nature that’s doing the good work?

Fortunately, no. Many studies have controlled for wealth but still found direct health benefits from exposure to biodiversity.

The benefits go not just to individuals, but to the wider city. Forests and woodlands clean our urban air by removing particles and absorbing carbon dioxide. This reduces premature death, acute respiratory symptoms and asthma across the city.

As well, urban bushland improves city water. Wetlands and the vegetation around them clean water by filtering, reducing exposure to pollutants carried in groundwater or surface run-off.

And not forgetting that vegetation moderates extremes of temperature, providing shade when it’s hot and less exposure when it’s cold, thus reducing heat- or cold-related illnesses.

Trouble is, urban bushland shrinks as new suburbs are developed on the outskirts of our cities. Worse, bigger houses and more high-rise living is causing backyards to be shrinking, too, even though they contribute to our health and our kids’ development.

Not to worry. There’s a lot of urban roof space, and we’re getting more rooftop gardens. Sara Wilkinson and Fiona Orr, of the University of Technology Sydney, studied the use of a rooftop garden at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney as part of two “horticultural therapy” programs for people recovering from mental illness.

Among the many benefits participants identified were regular connection with others, developing friendships, experiencing enjoyment and restoration of health.

And if you don’t have a spare rooftop, you can join the latest trend and install a vertical garden.

Sorry, I’m getting a bit over-excited here. I wonder if “green space” still counts as green when its covered in snow? Hope the apartment we’re renting at least has some indoor plants.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

This story was found at:

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Why Alice Friedmann is wrong

Just 16 months ago Alice Friedemann asked:-

Diesel is finite. Trucks are the bedrock of civilization. So where are the battery electric trucks?

The answer is Tesla!
Tesla electric trucks will be not only be safer, smarter, faster, and more reliable than diesel trucks, they’ll work out 20% cheaper! They’ll have emergency self driving capabilities, and with bullet-proof glass enjoy less time off road. (In today’s best diesel trucks, mere windshield damage is at least an annual cause of late delivery of goods). They have a 500 mile range and recharge in 30 minutes while they unload.
Oh, and for fun it was carrying the new 2020 Tesla roaster as a “But wait there’s more!” moment. It will be the “fastest production car, period!” and have a 1000km range. That’s Sydney to Melbourne in one charge.
Posted in Alternative fuels, Doomer, Electric Vehicles, Transport | Leave a comment

Please, no third Blade Runner movie!

No third movie! Not if the point is “tidying everything up in a nice bow”, as Collider said in the video below. The 2 Blade Runner movies are the Socratic method at its best: asking the ultimate questions about the value of human life, what is sentience, who are we, and how are we to live? A third movie would reduce these classics to a mere Hollywood ‘story’, something synthetic like Joi, a product. But as they are right now, they are something more. Some have asked what all the hype is about the original Blade Runner movie given the plot is quite thin and it takes a long time to unfold. But these movies are positioned and sound-scaped to make us feel something beyond the plot. The mood is the meaning. They are high art. I fear answering all our questions would shirt-circuit the whole point of the two Blade Runner movies and ‘tidy them up’ in a manner that was too domesticated for the raw emotion intended in these masterpieces.
Posted in Movies and TV, robots, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Forget Left V Right, meet Up V Down-wing!

Wow, I’m having flashbacks to my peak-oiler days. “Left” and “Right-wing” versus “Up” and “Down-wing”. I used to have time to read and discuss this stuff. Those were the days! This great article from Slate discusses how elements of both left and right fall into regressive localism “Down-wing” of the modern world, and how elements of both left and right should try and align with a more technologically optimistic “Up-wing” view that celebrates high tech that can both eradicate poverty and protect ecologies. It’s time to move UpWing, and save both people and the planet. 
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How a legacy of racist American suburban planning impacts coloured people today

ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING explains how economic segregation in American suburbs and schools  is still going strong generations after the actual segregation policies ended.
Posted in Stress | Leave a comment

SpaceX airlines?

The EveryDay Astronaut has a good breakdown of the much longer, rambling Elon Musk presentation. It’s 11 minutes compared to Musk’s 40 minute presentation.
In a nutshell, Space X couldn’t fund last year’s plans for a truly gigantic 12m diameter giant ITS (Interplanetary Transport System), because it would have required them to front the cash for a whole new rocketfactory first!
Instead, Elon has decided to scale back the ITS to “just” a 9m diameter ITS — which will still be the biggest rocket the human race has ever built — and build it in the existing factory. It’s so big, and so reusable, that it will be far cheaper than their existing fleet of much smaller rockets. It’s going to become their main workhorse in the satellite, ISS, and moon market, and eventually will replace all their existing rockets.
It will be bigger and cheaper than anything in the rocket market today, and let them cut into the airline industry! This rocket will get you most places in 30 minutes (and anywhere on earth to anywhere in an hour). If they can do that and still turn a profit, then this is the system that will eventually get us to Mars.
Who knows? If in a decade or so SpaceX has enough money, maybe they’ll build a new factory for the 12m diameter ITS, or something even bigger? But for now, I’m excited by the fact that the ITS looks like a practical workhorse for SpaceX to make us an interplanetary species, and one of the biggest questions going is what will they name the thing? I like cool names like the “Super-Dragon” or any other bird of prey name, but Spacey McSpaceface has also been suggested. 😉


Posted in Aircraft, Alternative fuels, Futurism / Singularity, Mars, Space, Transport | Leave a comment