The winner of this year’s James Dyson Award, Edward Linnacre’s Airdrop is a device that extracts water from air for use as in irrigation. If this sounds, like a Tatooine moisture farm, it should. However, unlike Uncle Owen’s GX-8 water vaporator, the Airdrop doesn’t use refrigerant, but rather the temperature differential from air to soil.
The Airdrop consists of a small reservoir buried about two meters in soil. Rising out of the tank and up to the surface is a cylinder containing a copper coil filled with copper ball bearings used in home distilleries. The copper tubing continues up to a turbine like those used on attic vents, but with the vanes turned around so that air is driven into the tubing instead of out of it. Also in cylinder is a submersible pump that transfers water from the tank to a drip irrigation line. The pump is controlled by an embedded microcontroller and solar powered. In times of little wind, the turbine can be powered by an electric motor.
I now have a Diaspora account, so I figure it’s time to revisit my thoughts about it. Last time I mentioned Diaspora, it was just a kick starter project. A sketch of an idea, but nothing else. Now there’s something to actually look at an interact with.
Diaspora isn’t fun. While it may be a work in progress, it has squandered a lot of momentum, and certain things are just the kind of mistakes you’d expect from four (now three) undergrads with no experience with Internet scale. First, it is incredibly hard to find anyone. Search is slow, and it only return less than 10 hits, with no ability to move beyond the first page of results. If you want to invite your friends, you can either use Facebook, or manually upload your address book one email address at a time. That’s just horrible. It advertises integration with other services (namely Twitter and Facebook) but with the exception of Facebook, it doesn’t access the address book.
Second, while you can follow tags, almost every tag is content free. Why? The first post every account is encouraged to send is, “Hey! I’m #newhere and am interested in #foo, #bar, and #baz!” And so every tag is filled with these #newhere posts. While a welcome-a-total-stranger post may have sounded like a good idea when you have low tens of users, it is obvious this can’t scale, especially when you’re trying to attract many new users.
Third, the stream only supports two types of content: text and pictures. Want to share a link? You can’t. I don’t know quite what to say about that. It’s just weird.
Since I have literally two connections on Diaspora it’s very hard to get anything out of it. Especially since the community features (i.e. tag following) is broken, and quite honesty even when you scroll through 20 #newhere posts just to find one piece of actual content, the content is rather crappy. I don’t blame Diaspora for that though. I blame the Internet.
New Scientist links to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s Global Urbanisation and Accessibility Map – part of the World Bank’s 2009 World Development Report. The maps is made by plotting the estimated travel time to a “major” city. They conclude that only 10% of the world is more than 48 hours from a city. Primarily the most remote places are the poles, southern Venezuela, and central Tibet. Even the Sahara is comparatively more accessible.
Song Youzhou showed off his design for bus that allows traffic to pass underneath, at last May’s Beijing International High-tech Expo. The idea is passengers would board the bus at elevated stations, without interrupting traffic flow. Song proposes that streets be modified to either have rails for the bus to ride on (effectively turning it into a tram), or installing an optical guidance system (probably similar tot he one installed on some TEOR buses.) to aid in driving.
Song claims that Beijing’s Mentougou District (a Beijing suburb) will adapt 186 km of roads for the bus, beginning at the end of this year.
When I first saw the picture for this, I though that passengers would board at street level perhaps through either a stairwell mounted in the legs, or maybe retractable stairs. An elevating platform would available for wheelchair access. I’m kind of disappointed that this design requires elevated platforms, but it probably for the best. What will be interesting will be to see how drivers react to encountering one of these busses. The use of special traffic lights for cars under the bus, is a good idea.
It will be interesting to see if this is actually built, and if it is is widely adopted.
Jianjun Chen in China proposed an interesting idea for eliminating station dwell times for trains. In his/her design, each train has a detachable boarding shuttle mounted on the roof of the train. Passengers who wish to disembark leave the main passenger compartment of the train, and enter the shuttle. Meanwhile, embarking passengers board an identical shuttle already located at the station. As the train approaches, the shuttle mounted on the train, disengages so it can slow to a stop at the station, while the shuttle is grabbed and mounted onto the moving train.
By using a separate boarding shuttle, passengers can board and unboard at their leisure, while transiting passengers can continue on their journey. By eliminating dwell time, passenger throughput can be increased, and travel times diminished. Chen calculates that such a system would would decrease the travel time between Beijing and Guangzhou from an estimated 8 hours to approximately five and a half, if five minute stops on all 30 intermediate stations were eliminated.
In the original Sim City there were these scenarios that you could play. You were given a city and problem to solve. San Francisco 1906? Earthquake. (Remember, in the even of a major disaster, you may need to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours. Are you prepared? I’m not.) Tokyo 1961? Monster. You get the picture. They were all fairly straight forward, except one. Detroit 1972. Problem? Well… Detroit.
It’s become a contemporary American past time to bash Detroit. I’m not looking to do that. All I will say that I’ve been to Detroit, and it’s the only place I’ve been where the nightlife was in suburbs instead of the city, and peeking over the sound barriers on the freeway never revealed a nice part of town. It’s clearly a city that has seen better days, and has earned its distinction of being a “donut city.”
Detroit’s population has steadily shrank since the 1970s, but it still rated as the 11th most populous city, just between San Jose and San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, the city hasn’t depopulated in a controlled manner, so there population is spread thin across the 139 square mile city. This means that Detroit has to maintain an infrastructure for the population 2 million, when less than a million actually use. 40% of the city is fallow. (Of course, this isn’t Detroit’s only problem.)
For years now, one proposed solution to this problem has been to shrink the city. Unoccupied buildings would be condemned, occupied ones bought, and the population relocated closer to downtown. A more controlled Devil’s Night, if you will. Surprisingly, the talk turned serious last year, with the mayor proposing to shrink the city by a fourth.
Will it work? In 1961, Jane Jacobs described the city as being “largely composed, today, of seemingly endless square miles of low-density failure.” If that’s true, then there’s no core to build around.
Facebook always gave me that shit tasted walled garden feeling of the late 90s. I hated how it how it seemed that more and and more techsavy people actually used it to send messages, rather than – you know – email. I like that status updates. I liked that sharing of links, but when I visted CNN.com after viewing Facebook, and seeing my friends’ activity on CNN, I flipped. There’s no reason why that information should be shared. I don’t think I got one of those damn pushed malware apps from Facebook, but I don’t know. Sure, I could have just configured some firewall to block a bunch of stuff, but voting with my feet is much more satisfying.
Still, I like the social aspect. I am going to miss Mike and Lisa‘s comments. I really will. I like the sharing, but I want an archive of my activity. I want control. What should I do?
He calls his proposal, “The Bay Line,” is a combination of the Florence’s Ponte Vecchio and New York’s High Line. The upper deck would be converted into a greenway, while the lower deck (originally designed for freight trains) would contain commercial and residential spaces. Since the deck can support much weight than a typical home, additional space can be hung directly underneath the bridge.
Rael’s graduate studio, have come up with other similar ideas, but they’re all essentially the same thing.
It’s an interesting idea, but I do have some concerns. First, there’s going to be another earthquake. There just will be. So why would you want to be suspended a couple of hundred feet above the water, in a box that has been bolted onto a structure that is over 70 years, that is literally falling apart. (Well at least it’s not as bad as the oldCape Girardeau bridge. Yet.) Rael points out most of the damage back in 1989 was on the approach, not the cantilevers, but I still have my doubts. My other concern is that it’s right next to new bridge. Which means, you’re living right next to a freeway, and that’s got to ruin your view.