Stopping Free Parking from Strangling Society

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Urban planners spend the last hundred years modifying cities and policies to cater to the car – and that’s been harming us ever since. We’ve looked at how changing parking culture can save America’s economy, cities, increase transportation efficiency, and removing spaces can even make parking easier. Slowly, we are seeing change happening around the world. San Francisco, London, and Buffalo have removed their minimum parking spaces rules. Mexico City is switching their parking laws for new buildings from minimum required parking spaces to a maximum.

Municipal governments are learning that cities are for people and not for cars standing still. It’s time to end free parking and the assumption that the first mode of transportation cities should plan for is cars.

Water companies are not obliged to supply all the water that people would use if it were free, nor are power companies expected to provide all the free electricity that customers might want. But many cities try to provide enough spaces to meet the demand for free parking, even at peak times. Some base their parking minimums on the “Parking Generation Handbook”, a tome produced by the Institute of Transportation Engineers. This reports how many cars are found in the free car parks of synagogues, waterslide parks and so on when they are busiest.

The harm caused begins with the obvious fact that parking takes up a lot of room. A typical space is 12-15 square metres; add the necessary access lanes and the space per car roughly doubles. For comparison, this summer The Economist will move into a building in central London where it is assumed each employee will have ten square metres of space. In cities, such as Kansas City (see map), where land is cheap, and surface parking the norm, central areas resemble asphalt oceans dotted with buildings.

Once you become accustomed to the idea that city streets are only for driving and walking, and not for parking, it is difficult to imagine how it could possibly be otherwise. Mr Kondoh is so perplexed by an account of a British suburb, with its kerbside commons, that he asks for a diagram. Your correspondent tries to draw his own street, with large rectangles for houses, a line representing the kerb and small rectangles showing all the parked cars. The small rectangles take up a surprising amount of room.

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Get Water from Air by Using a Windtrap

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In Frank Herbert’s book Dune the inhabitants of a desert planet collect water using giant “windtraps,” now we can do the same on earth. Researchers at MIT have built a prototype, which can be easily scaled up, that can capture a lot of water from even the driest of places. Basically, air is filled with moisture and when it flows through the wind collector it comes in contact with a slightly charged surface that sucks the water right from the air. The amount of power needed is negligible, which means that the device can run using only solar panels.

The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.

“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”

And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.

There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.

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Thanks to the Flea!

Cancer Survival Rates Higher Thanks to Years of Progress

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Science is awesome! Over the last few decades survival rates of leukemia have increased thanks to research into how cancer functions and how to stop it. Cancer is incredibly hard to control and taking a moment to reflect on the success we’ve had is worth it. Thanks to ongoing research we’ve now got survival rates as high as 90% in some parts of the world. Now that we know how to hold back leukemia we can focus on improving access to proper care around the world.

“The study shows that the probability that children survive at least five years after diagnosis has increased in most countries for the two most common types of childhood leukemia,” said lead author Dr. Audrey Bonaventure, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, U.K.


“In 1960, the survival was zero. There was no treatment. Children lived for a month or two after diagnosis and died,” Grundy told CBC News. “In all of medicine, I think this is one of the top success stories: in just 50 years, to go from zero to 90 per cent survival.”

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Coal Museum Powered by Solar Panels

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If the end of coal wasn’t obviously upon us, it is now. The Kentucky Coal Museum has switched to solar power for energy and cost savings. Yes, in what might be a wonderful display of irony, the museum centred on celebrating the region’s coal culture has switched to a green energy source.

“It’s a little ironic or coincidental that you are putting solar green energy on a coal museum,” said Roger Noe, a former state representative who sponsored the legislation that created the coal museum. “Coal comes from nature, the sun rays come from nature so it all works out to be a positive thing.”

The museum is in Benham, once a coal camp town whose population peaked at about 3,000, according to 85-year-old Mayor Wanda Humphrey. Today, it has about 500 people, and Humphrey says she is the mayor because no one else wants the job.

“The people here are sort of in awe of this solar thing,” Humphrey said.

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Millennials Don’t Want to Work for Jerks

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Generational distinctions are mostly meaningless, although sometime there is a glimpse into cultural trends based on age. One generational difference that is a good one to see (among many) is that “millennials” don’t want to work for jerks. Workplaces used to worship the leaders who pushed people around and were overly assertive; today the standard is changing to bosses who actually realize that humans work for them and they aren’t just disposable “human resources.” Sure, there aren’t as many jobs out there as before, but we must remember that millennials have grown up in an economy without care for them (serially underemployed with no job security, pension, or even a ‘normal’ 9-5 pay cheque), so a jerk boss has little sway to keep employees around since millennials don’t have much to loose by going elsewhere.

Let’s hope that the changing workplace to a friendly space can also make the economy a little more human too.

In some workplaces, making a colleague cry is considered a sadistic rite of passage. In the culture of commerce, behaviour that would be inexcusable in pretty much any other context is not only tolerated, but rewarded.

To what end? What real benefits are conferred on a business when its leaders are nasty? Abusive behaviour sure doesn’t spur productivity: A 2006 Florida State University study of 700 employees in a variety of different roles found that those with abusive bosses were five times more likely to purposefully slow down or make errors than their peers, and nearly six times more likely to call in sick when they actually felt fine. Nor does it do much for employee morale: As Stanford organizational behaviour professor Robert Sutton wrote in his 2007 bestseller, The No Asshole Rule, brutish managers “infuriate, demean and damage their peers, superiors, underlings and, at times, clients and customers, too.”

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