An App For Democratizing Street Design

When autonomous vehicles take over the streets, the streets will change to accommodate them: Expect special priority lanes, curbside pickup “docks,” and a massive reconfiguration of superfluous parking spaces once people no longer drive themselves.

Put in charge, how would you shape the thoroughfares of the future? A simple but intriguing tool called ReStreet invites any would-be transportation engineer to flesh out ideas. Developed and released a team of planning and design specialists at the University of San Francisco and California Polytechnic State University, ReStreet offers two template streetscapes, one urban and suburban, for reimagining.

Designate a preferred width for the street, and a use for the land sandwiching it—homes, vacant lots, a waterfront, and high-density apartments are all options. As you see fit, drag and … Read the rest

Where New York City Is Going Next

Few people have had a greater impact on the look and feel of New York City than Dan Doctoroff. As deputy mayor of economic development for the first six years of the Bloomberg Administration, he presided over the fine-grain rezoning of 40% of the City, as well as the mega-projects that have come to define 21st century New York.

This is part two of my Q&A with Dan Doctoroff, who recently published a memoir, Greater Than Ever, about his time in the Bloomberg administration. In part one, we discussed the City’s post-9/11 transformation. In this installment, we look to the future of transportation and technology, and discuss Donald Trump’s temperament.

A mantra today among urban economists is to get rid of zoning and build Read the rest

How Superstitions and Myths Affect Animal Conservation


Caroline Ward had brought snakes back to camp with her, and the locals were not happy.

The Malagasy villagers who passed through the camp, located in Northwest Madagascar, cautioned Ward that she should kill the snakes before they killed her. (Never mind that the University of Leeds PhD student was studying the species, known locally as fandrefiala, for her conservation research.) Yet the reason for their fears wasn’t that the snakes were poisonous or aggressive—rather, it all had to do with the color of their tails. Because the fandrefiala has a tail the brick-red color of dried blood, the Malagasy believe that the snakes can transform themselves into spears, plummet out of trees and kill anything passing below them.

It was a connection that Ward’s … Read the rest

Scientists Have a New Tool for Improving Food Security in West Africa


One of the most important crops in West Africa, the white Guinea yam, also happens to be rather challenging to cultivate. Despite that, 63 million tons of yams were produced worldwide in 2013, mostly in Africa. Scientists are turning their attention to the crop, hoping to improve the tuber and make it a more reliable food source in a changing world. Now they have a new tool at their disposal—the yam’s genome.

Yams grown in Africa are nothing like the orange, sometimes mislabeled, sweet potatoes that grace American Thanksgiving tables. They are starchier and much larger—Guinea yams can grow to nearly five feet long. They are also much more difficult to grow. The white Guinea yam’s climbing vines not only require tall supporting … Read the rest

Barbed Wire Telephone Lines Brought Isolated Homesteaders Together


American patent clerks in the 1870s could scarcely have imagined how two inventions, filed two years apart, would together change the lonely lives of frontier Americans. In 1874, there was barbed wire, and in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary telephone. Together, in an amazing display of rural ingenuity, they connected isolated homesteads to their rural neighbors and the rest of the world.


Left to telephone companies and their bottom lines, farm people would not have had telecommunications at all. Building lines was expensive, and hardly worth the effort in sparsely populated areas. But, according to historian Ronald R. Kline, manufacturers underestimated the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of these men and women. “Ranchers and farm men built many of the early systems as private lines to hook up … Read the rest

Author Interview: Jordan Reyne, “Choice of the Cat”

Knock things over. Take a nap. Enslave humanity. Power, fame, and catnip are yours for the licking! Choice of the Cat is a hilarious 600,000-word interactive novel, the biggest text-based cat simulator ever written; you’ll play it many times as different kinds of cat! As a rescue cat, looking for a family to love and obey you forever, you find yourself sharing a home with a family on the brink of divorce. You’ll learn to manipulate your owners, their neighbors, and even their other pets to get what you want. (The humans think they’re in charge! Aren’t they cute?) I sat down with author Jordan Reyne to talk cats, dogs, and the world of this game. Choice of the Cat releases Thursday, September 28th. 

Choice of
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