Tag Archives: The Atlantic

Are Dockless Bikes a Cybersecurity Threat?

On a blue-sky day in Washington, D.C., dockless bikes are the ticket to ride. Key in your credit card digits into any one of five dockless bikesharing apps, locate a candy-colored two-wheeler nearly anywhere in town, and unlock it with a QR-code scan. For just a buck or two an hour, you can cruise to your heart’s content.

Meanwhile, your personal data is also taking a little trip. From unlocking to relocking, your name, payment information, geographic location and route are getting beamed, via smartphone and a chip on the bike, to company servers. Where? It depends on which company you’re riding with.

If your bike comes courtesy of the Beijing-based companies Ofo or Mobike—the two dominant dockless players, now muscling their way into … Read the rest

What Color Is a Tennis Ball?

It seemed like an easy question.

The query came from a Twitter poll I spotted on my news feed last week, from user @cgpgrey. “Please help resolve a marital dispute,” @cgpgrey wrote. “You would describe the color of a tennis ball as:” green, yellow, or other.

Yellow, obviously, I thought, and voted. When the results appeared, my jaw dropped with cartoonish effect. Of nearly 30,000 participants, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.”

I was stunned. I’d gone from being so sure of myself to second-guessing my sanity in a matter of seconds. More than that, I could never have imagined the question of the color of a tennis ball—surely something we could … Read the rest

The Quiet Rise of the Downtown Tech Campus

Last week, it was revealed that Google will buy the Chelsea Market building in Manhattan, across the street from its main offices in the old Port Authority building, for as much as $2.5 billion. The mind-boggling sales price would make this the second-most expensive real estate deal in New York City history, and it demonstrates the lengths to which Google is willing to go to consolidate its burgeoning presence in Chelsea.

The move is also indicative of a far wider trend: While all eyes have been trained on Amazon’s salacious HQ2 search, Google and its peers have been quietly transforming many urban neighborhoods into de-facto tech campuses.

When the Chelsea Market deal goes through, Google will own or lease approximately 4.6 million square feet in … Read the rest

People Have Believed a Lie About Rabbit Domestication for Decades

It is often said, in both popular articles and scientific papers, that rabbits were first domesticated by French monks in 600 AD.

Back then, Pope Gregory the Great had allegedly decreed that laurices—newborn or fetal rabbits—didn’t count as meat. Christians could therefore eat them during Lent. They became a popular delicacy, and hungry monks started breeding them. Their work transformed the wild, skittish European rabbit into a tame domestic animal that tolerates humans.

This was the story that Greger Larson from the University of Oxford heard when he first started studying domestic rabbits. Almost on a whim, he told his student Evan Irving-Pease to find a reference from the Vatican that they could cite. “I said: I’m sure there’s an edict or something,” Larson tells me. … Read the rest

The Real Cause of the Opioid Crisis

America’s devastating opioid epidemic is one of the biggest problems the country faces. More than 2.5 million Americans are currently addicted to powerful opioids. Drug deaths have shot up since 2010, rising some 28 percent in just the past year, with nearly 175 Americans losing their lives to opioids everyday.

One persistent narrative, backed by a good deal of expert opinion, is that the epidemic is an outgrowth of deepening economic and geographic inequality, with “deaths of despair” brought on by the lack of high-paying, family-supporting jobs for working- and middle-class Americans, who then turn to drugs to cope with the pain and distress of economic dislocation.

A recent NBER study provides new evidence that lagging economic conditions are not the primary explanation. The working paper, … Read the rest

Paris Plans a Suburban Forest Five Times the Size of Central Park

With its car bans, huge transit expansion, and radical pedestrianization plans, Paris has been developing quite a name for itself recently as an aggressive fighter against urban air pollution. For its next major assault on bad air, however, the metro area is proposing to deploy an ancient weapon: trees. In fact, it would be using one million of them.

These trees would be planted as part of what could yet be this century’s grandest urban and suburban re-greening projects: the creation of a new forest north of the city limits that, at its final 1,350 hectare (5.2 square mile) extent, will be five times the size of New York’s Central Park.

The plan to plant a new forest on the plain at Pierrelaye-BessancourtRead the rest

These Crickets Can’t Sing Anymore—But They’re Still Trying

It took several years for the crickets of Kauai to fall silent. When Marlene Zuk first visited the Hawaiian island in 1991, she heard the insects chirping away, loudly and repeatedly. But every time she went back, the chirping diminished. In 2001, she only heard a single male, apparently singing into the void.

The crickets had disappeared from sight, too. But when Zuk returned to Kauai in 2003, she started seeing them again, seemingly in greater numbers than before. They were there, sitting on blades of grass, illuminated by her headlamp. They just weren’t singing.

To be a quiet cricket is to defy the essence of cricketkind. Crickets sing. Crickets are noisy. The males attract females by calling with a pair of specialized structures on their … Read the rest

Where an HQ2 Could Most Help Me Find a Boyfriend

After reporting on the Amazon bidding war for several months, I think I have finally determined the perfect region in which to locate an HQ2, for me, a single girl in Washington, D.C., specifically: Washington, D.C.

Okay, hear me out for a second. I know all the shortlist options are, like, special in their own ways, and believe me, I know there are issues with the whole Amazon HQ2 situation writ large. Bidding wars hurt cities, and an Amazon HQ2 in D.C. would probably wreak more than a bit of economic and infrastructural havoc. (Read CityLab. We cover that.)

But as Valentine’s Day nears, I couldn’t help but wonder…would the hunt for Amazon HQ2 also help me find a boyfriend?​

​Jeff, just HUMOR ME, … Read the rest

A New State Preemption Battlefield: Dockless Bikesharing

Last July, bright green bikes from the dockless bikeshare company LimeBike started appearing in Miami Beach. It wasn’t immediately clear if the company was trying to quietly launch their system, or if people were just riding the bikes the 15 miles from Key Biscayne, where LimeBike had legally set up shop.

Miami Beach officials deemed them “unauthorized” and responded with $1,000 fines for the company and threats to impound the bikes. A LimeBike spokesperson says it was a misunderstanding caused by Key Biscayne users bringing bikes to Miami Beach; the issue was resolved after they came and collected their stray bikes.

The situation was demonstrative of the typical give-and-take between municipalities as this polarizing new mobility mode emerges and individual communities decide whether or not to … Read the rest

Astronomers Are Already Planning for the Next ‘Pale Blue Dot’

In 1977, humans launched twin robotic probes into space several weeks apart. The two Voyager spacecraft barreled away from Earth for a tour of our planet’s siblings in the solar system. At each encounter, the Voyagers set records for the best-looking pictures of these planets humanity had ever taken, far better than anything seen through a telescope. There was Jupiter, furiously churning with gargantuan storms. There was Saturn, encircled by vinyl-like rings. There was Uranus, robin’s-egg blue and featureless. There was Neptune, cloud-speckled and cerulean.

When the planetary safari was over, Voyager 1 turned back toward Earth in 1990 for one last picture before its cameras were shut off. The resulting photograph, the “Pale Blue Dot” image at the top … Read the rest