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Category Archives: Infrastructure

Urban Land Management In A Post Scarcity Economy

This post is inspired from exchanges with Robert Stark of Stark Truth Radio and is part of the lead-up to our next podcast.

A glimpse of the the disordered sprawl of a typical American city from the air, especially the Sunbelt and West of the Mississippi River, tells you everything you need to know about the culture.  The cityscape itself is a Hobbesian nightmare and tragedy of the commons.  A monstrosity that sprang up over-night like a weed.

Except in the very core downtowns, land management seems almost non-existent.  Whoever buys land uses it however they want within the zoning rules and most architecture is rushed.  It can be hard in a town like Phoenix or Vegas to decide what is more disagreeable, grey stucco boxes or the cookie cutter houses with the fake terra-cotta roof tiles.

Because individuals run rampant, it becomes impossible to do anything without cars.  Even public transportation doesn’t work well when the distances are too great and even urban areas too diffuse for any coherent collective activity.
Every single house stands alone with its own lawn.  At the same time all the houses are nearly identical.  In a glimpse, we see the banality and horror of individualism without duty to others.

The price of everyone snatching their little plot is most have to live far away from where they want to go.  Yet every day they climb into their cars, navigate the labyrinth of their neighborhood and then make their way to the same highway everyone else wants to use at the same time of day.

Of course, in America, few people will object much to living far away from the center because they know what the alternative is.
One direct problem of a civilization in denial is the overunning of urban areas by the underclasses.  
The twin threats of skyrocketing property values from making control of land a free-for-all and underclass dysfunction in the city centers creates a perfect pressure cooker that keeps millions of workers stuck paying huge mortgages and car payments for the honor of driving 2 hours each way to work every day.

When we consider it takes 2 incomes to keep up this facade, it’s no wonder the fertility rate of cooperators has plummeted.  They may even have decent money in the bank after all their toil, but they are worse off than homeless bums when it comes to the critical resources of time and energy.

Not only do these harried worker bees struggle to have time to settle down and have a family, they don’t have time to sustain friendships or participate in civic activities.
The setup of the zoned residential neighborhood ensures that they can spend the rest of their lives shuttling between house and job never coming into contact with strangers in a fun and positive way.

When nothing is close to the house but other houses, it creates a dis-incentive to go anywhere.  Any activity outside of the house, even to get groceries carries an extra time penalty that eats up even more of what little is left.

Now that we’ve examined the problem before us, we can see the solution lies in creating pleasant space-efficient walkable areas to live.

In many city centers people live in apartment buildings where the bottom floor is all businesses. Within a block of someone’s flat, they can stop by the pharmacy for aspirin and by the bakery for a loaf of bread.  They get a little bit of exercise, and come into constant contact with strangers who live near them.  The same activities that are annoying chores in the suburbs can be part of a pleasant daily routine where residences are organized around human needs.

This village structure mimics natural habitats peoples have lived in for thousands of years.  Urban sprawl as we know it, on the other hand has been around for barely 70 years and in that short time has contributed to the civilization-wide collapse of commonality and culture.

Clearly, the village structure where commerce and residences coexist in a walkable core should arise as the new unit of urban organization, even as we get further from city centers.  That way, they aren’t as far and they are compact enough that public transport remains practical.

I was already very skeptical about American cities after seeing Argentina and Europe but what really demolished established ideas for me was the several months I lived in Ansan, South Korea as an English teacher.

The town was planned out as a suburb of Seoul during the rule of the dictator Park and didn’t even become a city until 1986.
This town that’s younger than me now has 700,000 people in a roughly 5×5 mile square.  Even so, it didn’t feel crowded and there were parks and greenspace within easy walking distance of downtown.  In 5 minutes, I could walk from my apartment on a busy street to fields of flowers and follow a path by a river where I’d frequently see large herons fishing for prey.

Just as it’s obvious the typical American city visually represents a cacaphony of individual wills colliding, it was clear from one look that Ansan was planned out and built as a single project.

In some areas nearly identical apartment buildings were built like a line of dominoes and had big numbers painted on them.  This wasn’t appealing visually and felt alien but as I got to know the place I saw it was a superior system.  I found multiple high rises were often organized around central courtyards that spontaneously became community common areas. 

I’ve never forgotten walking through these squares and seeing little old ladies putting out red chile peppers out in the sun to dry on blankets.  People were going going about their daily chores in public like they actually lived there.  It was mundane details like this that made me realize how screwed up things were back in the USA where everyone is afraid to go outside and suffer the scrutiny of their neighbors. 

Because thousands lived in high rises, there were always green areas nearby.  In the other direction would be city streets with occasional small grocery stores and internet cafes.  Every 5 or 6 blocks, there was a heavily commercial street with restaurants, bars, and shopping.  Because of this, few residences were more than 10 minutes walk away from a wide variety of services.

The use of space on the commercial streets also intrigued me.  In US cities, it’s usually just the street level that has businesses.  In Korea, I saw four story buildings, each with businesses on every floor.
It blew my mind how half a strip mall worth of rented office space plus parking lots and bland landscaping was put in a single building instead and repeated down a whole city block.  This compression made it so that one block could serve the needs of thousands of people living nearby without feeling congested.

This also made it so enough activity was concentrated in one place that it felt like an active community with plenty of things to do.  This to me was in especially stark contrast to the lifeless and sterile American-style suburban sprawl.  To top it off the Korean suburb’s size made it practical to connect to the big city.  When I got off work on the weekends, it was a 40 minute train ride into Seoul.

My experiences in Korea, the US, and around the world showed me that more control, not less, is needed for a modern society to thrive.  Nations like South Korea and Chile that greatly improved their fortunes both had dictators set up the framework their current democracies grew into and that is likely a common factor in their successes.

In the case of land, it is abundantly clear by now that it cannot be treated like another commodity.  The amount of land never changes and its primary value for most people in modern life is strategic rather than economic especially when it comes to cities.

Barely a century ago, most people were still farmers and our ideas and laws about land still reflect that.  What we need to consider is that very few people now make their living off the land itself.  Land in modern life primarily determines where people can exist in relation to jobs, services, mates, family, friends.

Thus, the main objective of modern urban land management is to keep life near cities affordable for as many productive people as possible with high quality of living.  It should be treated as a basic means of stimulating the economy and incentivizing people to bring forth the next generations of society’s cooperators.

While I’ve been influenced by living in a real-life example of a planned city, with a little imagination we could do it a lot better by enforcing high aesthetic standards,  for instance making each high rise distinct, yet part of a unified theme for the whole town.  I also recognize, that city centers have historically been “gene shredders” with net negative fertility.  This state of affairs was more sustainable in an age where there was always a countryside brimming over with armies of new young people fresh off the farm.  In our present reality most people now live close to urban areas.  That’s where all the jobs are and that’s where the young women go.

 In a modern civilization, the city has to become capable of sustaining and propagating human life for the first time in history.  Where urban sprawl was a new invention that made ancient problems worse we must now figure out how to make urban life demographically sustainable.

Abolishing Compulsory Schooling

The problem with compulsory public schooling is most kids don’t want to be there.  It’s really just taxpayer daycare while parents are busy at work.  My whole youth I remember two dominant emotions most people had for school: boredom and contempt.
I remember well the textbooks we were issued, that must have cost 200 dollars apiece and each of them was trashed and filled with the lewd graffiti scribbles of a captive audience.  Nobody trashes resources they care about and respect.
In a properly run state, the people have a sense of awe and respect at all levels and the way public daycare works now gives its inmates 18 long years of instruction in official incompetence, undermining the credibility of the ruling order for anyone inclined to think for themselves.

The first step would be to stop making school compulsory.  One of the best and most reliable ways to earn contempt in this world is to keep giving people nice things they haven’t earned, even after they spurn your offerings.  They learn you’re an easy mark—that they can take a steaming dump on your face and won’t get called out.  The parents learn they can just forget about their kids for 18 years using taxpayer nannies and the kids learn that no matter what they do, they’re stuck there getting thousands of dollars spent on them every year.

Society has forgotten that school is for those who want to learn and the needs of those who learn best come first.
All through my youth in public schools even the most competent teachers struggled against the dead weight of students who were forced to be there. These students weren’t interested to begin with, but being forced encouraged them to passively aggressively disrupt classes for everyone else.
Teachers could have found ways to mitigate this if the system had backed them up, but instead the bureaucracy forced them to teach to the lowest common denominator, a decent strategy for an ant colony perhaps, but not the way to success for a civilization.

The purpose of schools is to teach willing, sufficiently talented students. People who don’t want to study have no business being students. That’s all.
I look back on my first 18 years of school and ask myself “In all that massive investment of time and taxpayer money, what did they teach that I’ve actually used in the real world?”
I could think of two things everyone needs to know for basic participation in society that school teaches, if we don’t learn at home.
-Basic literacy
-Basic arithmetic
That’s all most people will need or ever want to know.
And a decent proportion at the bottom of aptitude will never learn even these very well.

So I would posit that we could still have a compulsory workshop on the public dime, a year worth of classes or so spread out over a few years of life perhaps where everyone still gets taught to read, write, and perform basic mathematical operations. Before public schools, a few months of school here and there when not needed on the farm seemed to get the job done for most people. Those kids that like it and can handle the basics can then go to school.
For the rest, maybe we still have state daycare just to prevent the emergence of child gangs roving the streets, but there would be no more confusion. It would be called what it is. The kids there wouldn’t go to classes. They’d get movies, lunches, maybe some activities. No one will consider that 14 year old that still goes to daycare a student. They’d just be children, no higher ranked than 1st graders. It would still be a bullshit waste of millions of people’s time but still better than what we do now: almost 2 decades of make-believe.
This distinction would be important, because all taxpayers would pay for real schools, just like we all pay for roads and the military. However, those who want to use public daycare would pay all the taxes for it, so they can’t just waste everyone else’s time and money.

A better way I think, would be to keep children busy even if they don’t go to school. They might learn and practice work-related skills until they reach minimum working age and can go out and get a job. Most 10 year olds would be better off learning how to type fast, mop a floor, cook the perfect burger, use microsoft office, or how to use basic tools rather than learning earth science or “social studies.” They’d be better off by age 15 than millions of 20-somethings coming out of college with 0 experience and unemployable degrees.

I thought of a lowering in working age so kids could join the job market earlier but it quickly occurred to me that jobs are already scarce in a post-industrial economy and one of the functions of public schools is to delay the entry of young people into the job market. Even colleges serve to relieve pressure on older workers and give warm bodies a way to stay on the shelf until the economy actually needs them. One of the ironies of our entire modern lifestyle is how we destroy huge amounts of youthful productivity and wealth on a big ceremonial pyre for the sake of wealth production and call it the best system on earth, the best of all possible systems.

So, really, our underlying problem is the hollowness of The Economy as God. With no higher purpose or mission, we struggle along aimlessly applying flimsy bandaids or even eating our young to keep the status quo superficially intact. The truth is modern labor has become so productive that we don’t need to work that much but The Economy requires that every adult seems busy in a way that shows up on the balance sheets. It would be much harder to maintain the illusion were we to abolish the public daycare system and return education to its rightful place in society.
Millions of kids would go home and maybe some millions of adults would realize it’s more profitable just to stay home with the kids than pay for daycare, relieving more pressure on the job market than locking up teenagers ever did.
Millions more kids might spend their formative years learning how to be successful workers rather than learning boring facts about the Earth’s core or the Founding Fathers that they will soon forget.
Millions more kids with even a bit of brains and curiosity would be sent by their parents to school where they would learn a broad range of knowledge without constant disruption.
Because non-students would be filtered out, public schools would have a reasonable baseline of quality anywhere you go. Middle caste and above would no longer be forced into just a few crowded neighborhoods with “good school districts” where all the money that would have nurtured children goes into the mortgage instead. Those starting out their lives among the lower castes would get a chance to rise.

Police Are Powerless Without Consent

90% of police work is accomplished simply by being legitimate in the eyes of most people.  This legitimacy is the most important resource cops possess.  If they were more aware, they would guard this easily squandered wealth most jealously of all.

Police are relevant only when most people in a neighborhood will turn in criminals.  If people don’t call the police, the police are blind.

When the police no longer have the consent of a neighborhood, they have failed.  The next step is military occupation and a system of paid spies and informants.  This sort of escalation makes an area vastly more expensive to govern until it becomes a net loss for the state.

3 Dictators Who Weren’t Pure Evil?

1. Park Chung Hee – South Korea

park chung hee

Usual claim to fame: Kidnapping political opponent and future South Korean president Kim Dae Jung from Japan in broad daylight and taking him out for a ride on a boat.
Kim Dae Jung came within minutes of “sleeping with the fishes” and certainly would have if not for immediate US diplomatic pressure.
The Dictator Park was known for allowing torture, the creative use of electric shock was a specialty during his rule.
Above all he turned South Korea into corporate oligarchy mainly concerned with the needs of a few ‘chaebol’ mega-companies. Funny how they never seem to mention that both North and South Korea were dictatorships for decades.

Not Pure Evil?: Park despite his abuses is commonly credited with getting things done and putting the infrastructure in place that has allowed South Korea to become the economic superpower it is today.

Bonus: His daughter is now the president of South Korea.

Park Geun Hye


2. Augusto Pinochet – Chile

Augusto Pinochet

Usual claim to fame: Made thousands of political opponents “disappear.”

Not Pure Evil?: Pinochet turned around Chile’s economy overnight using his dictatorial power to simply get things done. Ever since, Chile has consistently been the most prosperous and stable country in South America.

Bonus: His look has had enduring influence.

Pinochet and M. Bison

Capcom vs. Reality

Also, the only of these 3 dictators to die from old age…in his 90s.


3. Rafael Trujillo – Dominican Republic

Rafael Trujillo
Usual claim to fame: Rose to power as a US puppet who was installed to collect debts the Dominican Republic had defaulted on. Soon he owned most of the country’s economy and was more than willing make opponents “disappear.”

Not Pure Evil?: Like the other two dictators Trujillo is credited with strengthening the economy and infrastructure of the Dominican Republic despite making the country into an oligarchic nepotocracy.
Perhaps more remarkable is Trujillo’s establishment of a system of national parks, regulation of logging and slash and burn farming.
Somehow people end up paying more attention to these kinds of regulations when there’s a ruthless dictator enforcing them…
The results of Trujillo’s policies speak for themselves.
Here’s a picture of the border of Haiti and the Dominican republic.

Border Dominican Republic and Haiti

Bonus: How many dictators could be marketed to the green and “fair trade” crowd? Couldn’t you envision him with that trademark smug smirk on the front of a bag of organic coffee?


Is Air Conditioning A Cause of Obesity?

It’s over 100 degrees and there’s no climate control.

What do you crave more?

A big greasy burger with salty fries?


Lots of fruit and salad?

In the past people ate with the seasons and not just because lots of foods weren’t available all year round but because you feel like eating different things depending on the weather.

Our bodies pick up on seasonal signals. Appetite and food preference change accordingly.

But what if you’re stuck in an office all day long?
The air is always crisp and chill. You live your life in a perpetual autumn. Winter is coming. The harvest is finished.

Autumn is the time of year for bacon, ham, apples, turkey, gravy…
So that bacon cheeseburger is what’s for lunch…every day.

I came to this realization when I performed an experiment on myself.

In the summer of 2010, I was living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I turned off the AC for a couple of weeks just to see what it was like.

As my body tried to cope with the 110-112 degree heat, my appetite plummeted.
All I ever wanted to eat was watermelons and cucumbers.
I’d go through multiple lemons a day drinking tons of lemon water.
I relied heavily on the quinine content in tonic water to make me feel just a bit cooler and would go to sleep wrapped in wet towels.

The human body disperses heat better when it is leaner, so my body was doing its job, desperately trying to shed extra mass as quickly as possible.

By the end of my experiment, the 90 degree lows at night felt very cool and comfortable. Air conditioned buildings felt icy inside. My body was adjusting.

My trial run finished, I realized that in the past, people must have gained weight in the autumn and then lost it all again in the summer. It all balanced out.

But perhaps those ancient instincts malfunction when we live all year round at a constant ideal temperature and thus become a contributing factor behind the trend of obesity.


Even CNN Understands Jobs Are Obsolete In Post-Industrial Abundance

“New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures — from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.
We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.
And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs — as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.”

Even if it’s an opinion piece, a lone voice in the wilderness, I’m very surprised to see this kind of sentiment in an MSM publication like CNN.

ezpass booth

Real Cost per Acre of Grains vs. Meat

“I was told that we could feed many more people with the same amount of land if we all became vegetarians. I was swayed…until I realized that we’re talking about feeding people only corn and potatoes. The truth is that creating protein is expensive in terms of land use whether you’re growing soybeans or raising cattle…
What about if we instead raise our livestock on pasture and feed them food waste where appropriate? For cows, you won’t see much difference, but pigs and chickens really begin to shine once you return to a more traditional feeding system. Both of these animals are well adapted to foraging on scraps…
In societies that don’t depend on huge agricultural corporations to feed the masses, a family is likely to have a pig and a flock of chickens that they feed mostly or solely on waste from the farm and kitchen. Remember that adding some livestock to your diversified homestead also equates to manure to fertilize your veggies, and it’s suddenly hard for me to merit the idea of planting a field of soybeans instead.”

US Leaning Towards Third World: No Electricity In the Capital

The air was heavy and oppressive with searing humidity as a cloud-swollen night sky boiled with lightning. It was about 11 PM, Friday June 29th, 2012.

As I prepared to leave for my job on the night shift, a massive wall of wind smashed into the neighborhood. The ponderous tree tops instantly accelerated into a frenzy; lights flickered and then died. Oh well. I shrugged. The same exact thing had happened again just a few days before. At work a generator had activated in response to the outage. The lights had been dim, an emergency light flashed on the ceiling, an alarm buzzed endlessly. Employees putting in hours of overtime far into the night had been frantically rushing back and forth hauling hundreds of pounds of meat and seafood off to the large freezers. As I performed my typical menial labor, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was a heroic protagonist trying to aid Soviet defectors aboard the Red October or busy fighting my way out of a research facility after an experiment gone horribly wrong.

This time was worse.
Even as I approached the door the streets were flooded within seconds. I grabbed a rain coat before wading out into the deluge but it provided little real protection.
This wasn’t rain as you would usually think of it. It did not fall. Rather, it was flung to the earth. It foamed and roiled as it struck. As I made my way to the metro station, I was actually thankful that the power was out. Swaying power cables were all around me and so was lots of water.
As I made the short walk, I was nearly forced to my hands and knees by the sheer force of the gusts. By the time I arrived, I was soaked through and had to wring out my socks…

Some geniuses who must have known hurricane force winds are not uncommon in the mid-Atlantic summer had decided on a brilliant way to implement an electrical grid: A random spaghetti of power cables running sloppily from house to house, many going right through the tree tops. Whenever a high wind arose, fast moving tree branches were sure to send broken power cables flying everywhere.
As it was, extensive localized damage was to be expected but this was somehow the least of it. Somehow stations and substations went down all at once. There was no backup plan nor any kind of temporary generator. Of the local power company’s 700,000 customers, over 400,000 were suddenly without electricity.
3 million people across the entire East coast and Midwest were without power.
The storm, while violent, had barely lasted half an hour as it passed through.

All this had happened in the midst of one of the worst heat waves ever recorded in the area. Temperatures soared into the triple digits.
I lived a full 3 days without access to electricity in these conditions. All of my perishable food spoiled and of course I couldn’t cook anything. In the worst of the heat, I had to sleep on a small stretch of cool concrete floor in the basement by the washing machine.

As I write this, there are still more than a million without power.
Perhaps a million people will be facing Independence Day without any electricity at home. In some places, 4th of July celebrations have already been canceled.

There’s no reason any of this needed to happen.
Things go wrong from time to time. Storms arise. But a massive breakdown of critically important infrastructure at the first sign of trouble tells us important things:

-The socially adept but incompetent have triumphed.

-If you’re just one of the peasantry you aren’t nearly important enough to be supplied with reliable utilities. Too expensive to plan a reliable system and maintain it properly? How much do you suppose it collectively cost ordinary people for all the inconvenience and spoiled food? The whole thing could be seen as a big ‘fuck you’ from the rich.

-Social atomization has progressed so far that the ability to work together to create functional public resources has vanished.

-The one thing a country like the US has long had in its favor: It’s been a decent place to settle for awhile and make some money. Reliable infrastructure is one of the key lubricants of commerce. If these basic services become unreliable, everyone has to spend their time and resources planning around it. The whole society becomes poorer. We have a phrase that’s often used to describe a society like this: ‘third world.’

-Loss of face and legitimacy. It is an embarrassment when a ‘developed’ country can’t even sustain an electrical grid in its Capital City.
The present system’s Mandate of Heaven is eroded that much more.

More On SCADA Attacks: In-the-wild attacks against electrical utilities coupled with extortion demands: implications for response to criminal and terrorist action

Dated 2008

 In the past two years, hackers have in fact successfully penetrated and extorted multiple utility companies that use SCADA systems, says Alan Paller, director of the SANS Institute, an organization that hosts a crisis center for hacked companies. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been extorted, and possibly more. It’s difficult to know, because they pay to keep it a secret,” Paller says. “This kind of extortion is the biggest untold story of the cybercrime industry.” Link

SCADA: Vital utilities vulnerable to hacking

Undertaken by the Dutch research lab TNO Defence, based in The Hague, the water industry study examined the security measures taken by the 10 companies that control the Netherlands’ drinking water. At issue are the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADAs) which, at a water plant, control processes like water intake, purification, quality control and pumping to homes.

A SCADA sends instructions to shopfloor machines like pumps, valves, robot arms and motors. But such systems have moved from communicating over closed networks to a far cheaper conduit: the public internet. This can give hackers a way in. Eric Luiijf of TNO Defence and his colleagues found a litany of insecure “architectural errors” in the waterworks’ SCADA networks (International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcip.2011.08.002).

Some firms did not separate their office and SCADA networks, allowing office hardware failures, virus infections and even high data traffic to potentially “bring down all SCADA operations”. While remote internet access to SCADAs is supposed to be possible only with strict security controls, the researchers found this was often not the case. And some water firms allowed third party contract engineers to connect laptops to their SCADA network with no proof they were running up-to-date antivirus software. Indeed, it has emerged that a US contractor logging on to check the Illinois water plant from Russia, while he was away on holiday, was behind the Illinois ‘Russian hacker’ scare.

This was compounded by news of the hack at the Texas water plant, where on 20 November a hacker named “prof” gained access to the plant’s systemsusing a three-character default password on an internet-accessed SCADA made by Siemens of Germany. “No damage was done to any machinery; I don’t really like mindless vandalism. It’s stupid and silly. On the other hand, so is connecting your SCADA machinery to the internet,” he wrote on the Pastebin website.

One of PRECYSE’s main approaches to securing systems will be “whitelisting”, a way of ensuring only authorised users obtain access. This is the opposite of the approach used by antivirus software. “Instead of hunting for malicious code, as in an antivirus blacklist, this only lets the known good guys connect,” says security engineer Sakir Sezer at Queens University Belfast in the UK. Unusual behaviour – such as attempting to extract the control codes used to drive equipment – would also mean access is blocked. Deep-packet inspection, normally used to spot copyrighted material on the net, could be harnessed to ensure no attack code is injected. Link

4 Things the Roman Aqueducts Can Teach Us About Securing the Power Grid

Back then, as now, the perception of risk had a direct correlation to how systems were designed. Over time, a decreased sensitivity to security risk in ancient Rome resulted in design modifications that made the aqueducts more vulnerable to disruption. Roman engineers began to incorporate architectural “advances” into the aqueduct system, adding magnificent arcades with arches and other above-ground structures that advertised Roman greatness.

Unfortunately these structures also made the aqueducts vulnerable to exploitation, because the water supply was no longer protected underground. Thus, the infrastructure changed from a hidden and purpose-built system into a visible symbol that invading forces found appealing. Eventually those vulnerabilities were exploited by invading German tribes, who damaged the aqueducts, disrupting water supplies. The disruption of large portions of Rome’s aqueducts contributed to the symbolic capitol’s diminished role in the western Empire and imposed further limits to Rome’s military, economic and political power–all of which played a part in the fall of the Roman Empire. As the flow of water dwindled, so did the hope of Rome’s ability to repel the foreign invaders. Ironically, the only aqueduct left in commission after these invasions was the Aqua Virgo, which had been built underground. Link

America’s Infrastructure Report Card Overall: D

You can get the report card here. It says it will take 2.2 trillion to fix it.

Within the next five years, an estimated 45 percent of engineers in U.S. electrical utilities will be eligible for retirement or will leave for other reasons, according to a 2008 survey by the Center for Energy Workforce Development. That percentage translates into some 7,000 power engineers that will be needed in the electric utility industry alone. But the problem doesn’t stop there. According to the report, two to three times as many electric power engineers may be needed to fulfill the needs of the entire economy. 

Even if universities and colleges were teeming with engineering students, the educational institutions may not be well equipped to handle the demand. The Collaborative estimated that within the next five years, 40 percent of full-time senior engineering faculty will be eligible for retirement and that 27 percent may actually do so. A number of historically strong power engineering programs have ended or are close to doing so. Emerging programs provide hope for the future, but more support is needed. “Besides educating the next generation of power engineers, universities are sources of technology innovations needed for our nation’s energy future,” Reder says.

Edited: The bank bailouts amounted to roughly 29 trillion. Priorities.

Dyson Sphere

Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure originally described by Freeman Dyson. Such a “sphere” would be a system of orbiting solar power satellites meant to completely encompass a star and capture most or all of its energy output. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization, and proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the detection of advanced intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Since then, other variant designs involving building an artificial structure or series of structures to encompass a star have been proposed in exploratory engineering or described in science fiction under the name “Dyson sphere”. These later proposals have not been limited to solar-power stations. Many involve habitation or industrial elements. Most fictional depictions describe a solid shell of matter enclosing a star, which is considered the least plausible variant of the idea (see below). Link

Dealing In Security

City Crippler Car Worms

The idea would be to launch a worm that would spread on the Internet (in any of a number of well explored ways) looking for vulnerable smart phones.  Smart phones have GPS devices in, so the worm, having infected the phone, could ensure it was only operating in some geographic area of interest (eg the US, or a particular city).  The worm could then check if it was on a smart phone that happened to be plugged into a car, and if so compromise the car.  It could then use whatever wireless opportunities were available to compromise any other cars within the attack range.  It could also disable the car (eg by locking up the brakes, stopping the engine, etc). Link

The 4MAT System Used For K-12

Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid

The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation’s electrical systems. Link

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