infrastructure & design

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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Off-grid water: the social dimension

Up to 1,500 litres of that water are needed to grow enough biofuels to move one car ten kilometres. 2,000 litres are needed a day to feed each one of us. It takes 140 litres of water to grow enough beans for a single cup of coffee. It sounds, and is, unsustainable. Over-exploitation impacts heavily […]

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