Night Mail shows both the daily operations of two of the most efficient infrastructures ever developed, mail and rail, and something that today sounds so fantastical that it could have walked out of a steam-age fantasy or magical realism novel: a rolling post office speeding down the rails all through the night, humming with postal clerks, never once stopping as it delivers and picks up mail from each station along the route. Continue reading
Casey Niestat takes a look at New York’s new bikeshare program, and compares it to New York’s other transportation options. It’s a pretty great vid, though I found myself wishing he was testing a commute with some real distance – say Brooklyn to Tribeca. A 1.3 mile walk would take about as long as his taxi ride, make all possible options of his tested commute about equal, time-wise, on the scale of NYC commutes, and the Brooklyn availability of bikes is a big issue.)
Wired reports that CitiBike users have started turning the seat backwards on bikes that require maintenance, as a signal to other users to move on to the next bike.
Makani Power, recently acquired by Google as part of their billion-dollar renewable energy initiative, want to make wind power, which is already pretty efficient in the world of renewables, even more efficient and appropriate for a wider range of locations, by using 90% less materials than standard turbines and taking advantage of high-altitude winds, with tethered flying turbines that have minimal impact near the ground. (Wind at the turbine’s flying altitude, reported to be between 250 and 600 meters, is stronger and steadier than wind currents nearer the ground.)
While their goal is an industrial-sized offshore wind facility, one of these would be pretty darned awesome flying over the ol’ homestead some day – the limited ground impact and visibility is a huge benefit in residential areas, where people struggle with the impact of a retrofit, and there’s not much cooler than a flying kite-like propeller-driven flying turbine. (Admittedly, this may be wishful thinking for some time to come, as residential zones may simply be too dense for it to land for maintenance. But given all the small towns installing wind turbines for municipal power, this could be an interesting twist, especially for towns with concerns about historic districts and turbine visibility.)
See below for footage of a recent testing flight:
According to BBC Future, energy use in developed countries is 200-600% higher than the global average, and with several large developing nations and a rising global urban population, tomorrow’s cities will likely need to switch to green energy or face shortages. Just as well, then, that green energy prices are dropping, bringing them in line with fossil fuel costs. Thank you, Swanson’s Law – which predicts still further drops as research improvements move into factory production.
Remember Walkscore? Well, that’s good. But how about a little oxygen to fill up your lungs as you stroll through your walkable urban wasteland? Try ParkScore, which will tell you how your city’s photosynthesis facilities and giant communal back yards compare to other those of cities.
(Then feel burning envy of Minneapolis, which rates number one in the ParkScore ratings. According to The Atlantic: Cities, “Ninety-four percent of people in Minneapolis live within a 10-minute walk of a park, [and the] city is woven with arguably the best green space of any large metro in the country. The parks there are plentiful, they’re large, they have real amenities, and the city actually spends money on them.”)
To be filed under “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”: robotic underground bike storage in Japan, via Boing Boing, who describe it as a somewhat neo-Lovecraftian process where “these machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts”. So, a) very cool, b) an interesting addition to the urban bicycle infrastructure, and c) subterranean bike robots? Very cool.