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July 18, 2009

Foundational Papers in Complexity Science

From the website of Santa Fe Institute:

Peeling Back Pavement to Expose Watery Havens

From NY times:

Peeling Back Pavement to Expose Watery Havens

Talking about downtown or CBD, what naturally comes to our mind is the daily hustle and bustle. Yet in Seoul, South Korea, a clean stream named Cheonggyecheon goes through the center of the city. It is an amazing scenery. How awesome it feels to find a place so close to nature in a busy business area. I visited Seoul in the February of 2006, and I was naturally drawn to the bank of this little stream and played water with my friends. As described, "picnickers cool their bare feet in its filtered water, and carp swim in its tranquil pools."

All this came at a cost. This stream, officially opened in 2005, was liberated from its dank sheath and burbles between reedy banks after after a $384 million recovery project. But I believe most Seoul citizens love this idea. As reported, "Some 90,000 pedestrians visit the stream banks on an average day."

Now US planners begin to talk a lot about walkability, bicycle-friendliness, and transit-friendliness, after seeing the social problems in US cities in late 20th century. And to increase workability, in addition to building more pedestrian sidewalks or bicycle lanes, it is also of great importance to build lively neighborhoods with pleasant amenities which attract people to come, rest, and play.

It is time for civil engineers and urban planners to think and act in community terms.

July 17, 2009

U.S. and China Agree to Study Ways to Make Buildings More Energy-Efficient

From NY Times:

U.S. and China Agree to Study Ways to Make Buildings More Energy-Efficient

China is also erecting new buildings at a breathtaking pace and now accounts for half the square footage of buildings under construction around the world, Mr. Chu said in Beijing on Wednesday. The Chinese government has started urging developers to install insulated windows and compact fluorescent bulbs.

"If China were to adopt green construction methods, that would result in millions of jobs for the Chinese people," Mr. Locke said.

Investing and researching in the environmental industry seems to be a very hot topic now. And Gary Locke, current United States Secretary of Commerce and a Chinese American, is a China hand. To boost the economic growth, the Obama Administration knows one thing well: although all is not a bliss, China is a good place to invest.

July 10, 2009

City road networks like flowers

Although summer in MN is very short, it is often very nice. The flowers in the yard in front of my apartment are flourishing now. When I was enjoying their beauty and fragrance, I also realized that the texture of some flowers is similar to some road networks. To illustrate, here is the picture of a flower I took this afternoon:


And here is the road map of the Big Boston Region:

road map of boston.jpg
(Source: mapquest.com)

This road network exhibits itself in a hub-and-spoke shape, with some minors roads attached to the major roads. A study about the growth of city road networks and their similarities to biological systems can be found here. The researchers from France have examined this kind of road network growth from the perspective of probability models; yet no economic mechanism was included explicitly.

It should be noted that not all road networks look like that. Some networks are very grid-like, such as the road network in the Twin Cities, MN:

(Source: http://www.aaccessmaps.com/show/map/us/mn/minneapolis_metro)

July 6, 2009

Independence Day Syndrome

Independence Day is a good time both for commemorating the founding of this country and for personal relaxation. However, all is not a bliss. Some side-effects (fatal cashes and air pollution, e.g.) may have come along, as what I call Independence Day Syndrome.

8 killed in four Massachusetts Independence Day crashes


BOSTON -- Eight people are dead after four separate Independence Day crashes in eastern Massachusetts.

Two of the accidents were triple fatalities, including a single-car crash at about 1 a.m. on Saturday in Walpole and a rollover on Route 95 in Attleboro at about 2:45 a.m.

A 31-year-old Florida man faces three counts of motor vehicle homicide after allegedly speeding and driving drunk before the Walpole crash. Police said Jason Wayne Spurlin of Lake Worth, Fla., was scheduled to be arraigned Monday at Wrentham District Court.

The accident killed Nicholas Kelly and Anna Dubois, both 20 of Walpole, and Amanda Murray, 23, of Medfield.

Independence Day deadliest holiday for alcohol-related crashes

Nation's deadliest days:

Fourth of July 2007: 200 deaths (44 percent were alcohol related)

Labor Day (Sept. 1 to Sept. 3, 2007): 519 deaths (40 percent)

New Year's (Dec. 30, 2006 to Jan. 1, 2007 ): 391 deaths (40 percent)

Memorial Day (May 26 to May 28, 2007): 491 deaths (38 percent)

Christmas (Dec. 22 to Dec. 25, 2007): 468 deaths (36 percent)

Thanksgiving (Nov. 22 to Nov. 25, 2007): 548 deaths (35 percent)

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007 data

Other news: 4th Of July Disney Crash Turns Deadly.

About air pollution caused by fireworks: Twin Cities air quality befouled by fireworks (star Tribune):

Particle pollution in the Twin Cities was elevated Sunday because of Saturday night's fireworks all over the metro area, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Sunday.

The agency issued an "orange" notification after light winds failed to disperse the pollutants that lingered after the celebratory fanfare and fumes. People with asthma and other health problems, as well as elderly people, were advised to stay indoors, and everyone was urged to avoid prolonged outside exertion.

July 5, 2009

Conference: Harvard Political Networks

I just got to know this conference: Harvard Political Networks Conference, which was held from June 11 to 13, 2009. This seemed to the second annual conference. I don't know much about political science, but looking at politics and governance from the perspective of social networks is undoubtedly very interesting.

In fact, I was in Boston during this period of time. Had I known it beforehand, I would definitely have shown up in some of the workshops.

July 3, 2009

For whom the bell tolls

From star Tribune: Bicyclist, 60, killed by car in Blaine

Last year was the deadliest year for bicyclists since 2000. In all, 13 cyclists died in accidents on Minnesota roads.

Despite the increasing bicyclists' fatalities, here is the good news: Highway deaths fall in 2009, lowest since '61

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday about 7,689 motorists were killed in the months of January through March, a 9 percent decline from a year ago.

Reporting ahead of the July 4 holiday, a busy period on the nation's roadways, the government estimated that 37,261 motorists died in 2008, the fewest since 1961. If the 2009 fatality trends continue, fewer than 31,000 people will die this year.

In this tough period of economic downturn, probably fewer people are using cars (or at a lower frequency) and more people tend to become bicyclists. So the recession saves lives on highways, yet the bell may toll for more bicyclists/pedestrians.