infrastructure & design

Blood Minerals and Cellphones

“Increasing pressure on electronics companies to ensure that their products do not contain illicit minerals from the killing fields in eastern Congo is beginning to have a significant impact. With bills on conflict minerals moving through Congress, the electronics industry has spent about $2 million per month lobbying Senate offices to relax the legislation” The […]

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A Reading List for Mr Monti

As an exercise, I thought I’d share with you (and Mr Monti) the best writers on my reading list – in the order I’ve read them, not in chronological order. 1. TOM MURPHY – DO THE MATH If you suspect, but cannot prove, that modern life simply does not add up, you’ll love Tom Murphy’s […]

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Evolving into the Ice Age

This, I kid you not, is the “control” panel in my room at the Inn at Penn here in Philadelphia. I’m sorry the pictures here are a bit blurred, but I’m not in tip top shape. What happened is that I woke up at 3am gasping for air – only to discover

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Virtual Boring Agent

I’ve seen this Virtual Boarding Agent a couple of times now at Orly Airport in Paris. A It’s a life-sized, life-like, two dimensional human figure that talks pleasantly about liquids and gels. It’s spooky, clever, and very well executed – and most people seem to ignore it after a first casual glance. I therefore feel […]

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Water: the bad news and the good news

A new book by Alex Prud’homme called The Ripple Effect addresses the “vast and desperately serious subject” of water. The author does not hold back: all the world’s water problems are here. The sewage, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, plastics, paint, drugs, and hand soap, among other contaminants, that find their way into the world’s rivers every […]

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Life is a Picnic in The Fertile City

If you’re in Paris before 24 July a spectacular exhibition called The Fertile City: Towards An Urban Nature is well worth a visit. The show’s OTT poster does not over-promise. The exhibition explores nature in the city from multiple perspectives: historical, social, cultural, botanical, ecological. Two narrative sequences overlap: an “immersion in the urban-vegetal world”, […]

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Bad taps, good taps

Continuing our theme of systems thinking and the need for a new aesthetics – oh, what the heck, let’s talk about taps. I have encountered many wonderful things here in Mexico, but these taps are not among them. After nearly a week, I still have no idea which I am supposed to turn them to […]

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Sweat equity infra

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Millau Viaduct that’s down the road from where I live in France. The tallest bridge in the world boasts an eight-span steel roadway, is supported supported by seven huge concrete pylons, and weighs 36,000 tonnes. But consider this: The great pyramid in Egypt weighs 180 times more […]

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Energy: A Sense Of Loss

Whenever electricity is transmitted from one place to another a certain amount is simply lost. In older grids, energy is wasted overcoming resistance in the lines themselves. In extremely high voltage lines, so-called corona discharge losses [as shown in the image above] can offset the lower resistance losses. Whether system-wide electricity losses amount to three […]

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