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Author: Jarrett Walker

Description: In these days of Uber & Lyft, the proliferation of electric scooters, and other individual ride services, it may seem that the best way to move people around a city is to go small–vans, cars, and other dial-a-ride/microtransit type services. But, it’s not; “the best way to get the most people around a city efficiently and cheaply” is still large, fixed-route buses. Why is microtransit inefficient? A driver in a smaller van responding to individual requests for rides and not following a fixed path, can only make 4 to 7 stops in an hour; meaning that the smaller van may carry only 4 to 7 people during that hour. In comparison, large fixed-route buses carry on average 12 to 45 people an hour. And, in dense cities like Philadelphia, USA, the number can exceed 80 people per hour. Also, it may seem that a smaller van or car would be cheaper to run than a large bus. But, as long as a human driver is involved, at least 70% of the operating cost of passenger transport is labor–paying the driver’s wages. The driver’s time is far more expensive than maintenance, fuel, and other costs of operating a vehicle. Because of that, a driver of a larger bus is more efficient than a driver of a smaller vehicle. “The ‘to your door’ convenience offered by microtransit is so expensive per rider that it cannot possibly scale to the volumes of people traveling in a city.” Microtransit certainly has its niche such as serving disabled persons or “low-income people living in a hard-to-serve place.” But, it will never be a high-ridership tool for an urban transit agency. “Fixed public transit deploys large vehicles flowing along a set path, and riders gathering at stops to use them.” The buses or trains can follow a fairly straight line “and they don’t need to stop once for every customer.” “It is one of the best ideas in the history of transportation."

Title: The Bus Is Still Best: Ride-shares aren’t the most efficient way to move lots of people around cities.

Year: 2018

Publication: The Atlantic

Full text: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/10/bus-best-public-transit-cities/574399/

Dig deeper: http://www.septa.org/service/bus/network/pdf/2018-philadelphia-choices-report-executive-summary-cover.pdf

Serial Number: 66
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Author: Jeffrey Brainard

Description: Even though much of our society and even our very lives is built upon and made possible through scientific advances, there is a significant anti-science bias in the United States–coming from people across the political spectrum. One way to try and overcome this bias is for scientists to communicate directly with the general public–rather than stay within the scholarly communication cycle (which provides more rewards in academia). Beyond writing for newspapers, popular magazines, doing interviews, etc., some scientists have also turned to social media as a way to reach the public. Here, building an audience is key; is there a threshold beyond which the communication reaches more non-scientists? A recent study “analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology.” For those who had less than 1,000 followers, the majority of those followers were other scientists–an average of 60%. But, once scientists’ Twitter accounts broke through the 1,000 follower level, “the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, and members of the public with no stated association with science.” The greater the number of non-scientist followers, the reach of the scientists’ Twitter accounts increased exponentially ."

Title: Scientists, do you want to succeed on Twitter? Here’s how many followers you need

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/08/scientists-do-you-want-succeed-twitter-here-s-how-many-followers-you-need

Dig deeper: http://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/10.1139/facets-2018-0002

Serial Number: 64
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Author: Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer, Michael H. Keller, and Aaron Krolik

Description: Echoes of Orwell and 1984–if you have a cell phone in the United States and have downloaded free apps, your location is probably being tracked many times each day often very precisely. “At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information.” The movements of people are tracked “in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.” “These companies sell, use, or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior.” While the companies claim this tracking is anonymous, it is not. Particular cell phone users can be followed or, in reverse, identified by their movements. “The explanations people see when prompted to give permission [to enable location services with apps] are often incomplete or misleading.” Be smart–think twice before downloading apps (especially “free” apps), and go into the settings on your iPhone or Android to stop or limit location tracking.

Title: Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret: Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it’s anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is.

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

Dig deeper: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/technology/prevent-location-data-sharing.html

Serial Number: 72
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Author: JoAnna Klein

Description: Bumblebees are vital pollinators for flowers and crops. But, bee populations have been declining world-wide due to “pesticides, disease, and habitat loss.” A recent study sought to track and explain anecdotal evidence that more bees are being found in urban areas. In the study, bee colonies “placed in agricultural fields produced fewer reproductive offspring and fewer workers, and their queens died sooner.” These colonies broke down faster and had “fewer nutrient resources.” In comparison, colonies placed in suburbs and in the center of the City did much better. While this news is somewhat positive, the greater challenge is to make modern agriculture more friendly to bees–a vital part of human food production.

Title: Bumblebees Thrive in the City but Struggle on the Farm

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/science/bumblebees-cities-urban.html

Dig deeper: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1881/20180807

Serial Number: 9
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Author: Jonathan Watts

Description: Earth Overshoot Day, the point at which yearly consumption of carbon, food, water, fiber, land, and timber exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate, has been moved to August 1--the earliest date ever recorded. In comparison, when first measured in 1970, the Overshoot Day was December 29. “While ever greater food production, mineral extraction, forest clearance, and fossil-fuel burning bring short-term lifestyle gains” for some, the long-term consequences for all “are increasingly apparent in terms of soil erosion, water shortages, and climate disruption.” Research indicates that group political action is more effective than individual choices in reversing these trends.

Title: Earth's resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes: Study says the date by which we consume a year’s worth of resources is arriving faster


Year: 2018

Publication: The Guardian

Full text: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/23/earths-resources-consumed-in-ever-greater-destructive-volumes

Dig deeper: https://www.footprintnetwork.org/

Serial Number: 36
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Author: Katherine Kornei

Description: A significant finding for countries that experience tornadoes; for decades, the theory has been that tornadoes form high in the atmosphere and then later touch down on the Earth’s surface. Now, surprising research based on tornadoes that occurred in Oklahoma and Kansas, USA, suggests that the tornadoes’ “swirling winds first develop near the ground.” The research “compared radar measurements that tracked wind speed” with photographs and videos of tornadoes taken by storm chasers.The tornadoes’ “funnel was already on the ground several minutes before the radar data–taken roughly 250 meters off the ground–recorded any rotation.” In addition, radar measurements taken nearer the ground “found rapid rotation … before it appeared higher up.”That pattern has been confirmed in multiple tornadoes. This research has important “implications for how weather forecasters issue tornado warnings.” If tornadoes actually form first at ground level, weather warnings based on readings taken higher up may be slow “in sounding the alarm for tornado-strength winds."

Title: Surprise! Tornadoes form from the ground up

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/12/surprise-tornadoes-form-ground

Dig deeper: https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm18/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/432399

Serial Number: 75
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Author: Katie Langin

Description: One apparent result of a changing climate is that spring seems to be starting earlier than in the past. Yet, it has been hard to substantiate this claim. There has been little actual evidence to prove this assertion either way. Now, researchers have used “old television footage of outdoor sporting events” to get real data on “how early trees and other plants are leafing out.” Using TV footage of the Tour de Flanders cycling race–an event that has been run in early spring in Belgium since 1913–“researchers watched more than 200 hours of video for races from 1981 to 2016.” Based on the observations, in the 1980’s, trees had almost never flowered or leafed-out by the time of the race; in contrast, by the period 2006 to 2016, the probability of the trees flowering had increased 67%.

Title: 36 years of bike race footage reveals how Belgium’s climate is changing

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/07/36-years-bike-race-footage-reveals-how-belgium-s-climate-changing

Dig deeper: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/2041-210X.13024

Serial Number: 2
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Author: Kelly Servick

Description: A theory was proposed more than 10 years ago that “the seeds of Parkinson’s disease somehow climb out of the gut and into the brain.” In particular, a misfolded form of a protein known as alpha-synuclein may play a vital role. In its clumpy state, the protein “may damage and kill neurons including those near the base of the brain that help control movement” leading to the tremors and body rigidity of Parkinson’s disease. A new study found that the appendix–even in healthy people–has a supply of alpha-synuclein. The theory is that the misfolded, clumpy form of this protein can spread from the appendix to the brain. The new study tracked the medical records of 1.7 million people since 1964. From that analysis, the people who had their appendix removed 20 or more years in the past had a 20% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s, especially those who lived in rural areas-meaning there may also be an environmental link to Parkinson’s (possibly pesticide exposure). What does this all mean? There may well be a causal tie between the human gut and the development of Parkinson’s disease. Research teams around the world are focusing on this connection.

Title: Seeds of Parkinson’s disease may hide in the appendix

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/seeds-parkinson-s-disease-may-hide-appendix

Dig deeper: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/10/465/eaar5280

Serial Number: 65
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Author: Kendra Pierre-Louis

Description: In 2017, Hurricane Harvey moved slowly across Texas (USA) dropping “more than 30 inches of rain in two days and nearly 50 inches over four days.” “Harvey’s rainfall exceeded every known flooding event in American history since 1899.” The reason for the high rainfall totals was the slow movement of the storm–and a 2018 study reports that “between 1949 and 2016, tropical cyclone translation speeds (how quickly a storm moves) declined 10 percent worldwide.” While a 10% change may not seem significant, the reality of Hurricane Harvey and other recent storms show the effect–“devastating flooding and billions of dollars of damage” as well as death, trauma, stress, widespread and long-lasting environmental damage, and the list goes on. Hurricanes are becoming more dangerous, and climate change is playing a role.

Title: Hurricanes Are Lingering Longer. That Makes Them More Dangerous: A new study shows that storms are staying in one place longer, much like Hurricane Harvey did last year.

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/climate/slow-hurricanes.html

Dig deeper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0158-3

Serial Number: 20
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Author: Kendra Pierre-Louis

Description: Most of the world’s fresh water is found frozen in Antarctica. And, that ice is melting today–and the melting is happening at an increasing rate. A new study estimates that the rate of melting “has tripled since 2007.” “Between 1992 and 2017, Antarctica lost 3 trillion tons of ice.” At this rate, the melting ice will “contribute 6 inches to sea-level rise by 2100.” While this may not seem threatening occurring over decades, it will cause substantially increased coastal flooding; many coastal areas globally are highly populated. Sea level rise is impacting people living on coasts today–including and especially in the U.S. The economic costs will be immense. What can we do to mitigate and adapt?

Title: Antarctica Is Melting Three Times as Fast as a Decade Ago

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/climate/antarctica-ice-melting-faster.html

Dig deeper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0179-y

Serial Number: 23





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