America paved over a big chunk of the West, creating cities like Los Angeles (its largest sprawling city) and Phoenix (its sprawlingest large city). It created huge parking lots for its cars, among other mistakes. These days, though, because of online shopping, transportation apps, and the possibility of self-driving vehicles (or at least, robo-valets) those overbuilt lots may eventually be built over. Some will become homes, some (drought permitting) gardens. And some could be used for sports.
So, here’s a future sport you can play in the vacant mega-lots of American superstores. It’s called Gunslinger:
How to Play
Well, there it is: Gunslinger. Should be fun. It’s a simple, speedy game of sharpshooting skill — yet also a game with a cat-and-mouse sort of strategy. Sticklers and Gunslingers will have an advantage when the ball is on the ground; Racketeers when the ball is in the air. Each team will have 3 of each (3 racketeers; 2 Sticklers + 1 Gunslinger). And, of course, that Lone Gunslinger will have to be especially skillful and cool. As any Gunslinger worth the name must be.
Hello! I hope you are all doing as well as possible right now. Since many of us are stuck inside for the time being, I’m going to try to revive this blog a bit.
For this first post, let’s talk about space-based solar power. The idea is a popular one; it is exciting (outer space!) and has some logic to it (there are no clouds, nights, seasons, or land-use-constraints in space!). Sadly, though, if you look into the topic – for example, if you read this very well-thought-out piece from Do The Math – you see that even with extremely optimistic assumptions, it seems unlikely that sending energy from solar panels located in space to earth will become economically worthwhile any time soon, if ever.
And yet, perhaps these analyses are missing something. From what I can see — with the huge, twin caveats that I haven’t looked too deeply into the subject, and that I understand almost nothing about the physics involved in it — recent discussions about space-based wireless power transmission have been limited almost entirely to the idea of generating power in space and sending it to earth in order to provide civilians with clean, reliable energy. There might, however, be alternative uses and methods for wirelessly-transmitting energy via space. For example:
Obviously, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about here. So I’m asking, is there anything to these ideas? Are there other similar ideas that I’ve left out? How might these factors change the math when it comes to thinking about the future economics of energy in space?
Finally, if the civilians-piggybacking-on-the-military-surplus-capacity-of-triangulating-energy-from-earth-to-space-back-to-earth idea is anything other than totally ridiculous, which power sources would be best suited for it? Would solar panel companies in the Australian Outback benefit, for example, by being able to wirelessly send their otherwise-remote, Southern Hemisphere-summer energy to military and/or civilian locations in other parts of the world?
An in-depth version of this article was originally published on Rosa and Roubini Associates
GDP can often be a misleading measurement, and a year can sometimes be a misleadingly short period of time to measure. A review of a past year’s GDP growth trends may nevertheless serve as a useful starting point for understanding the world’s markets. Carrying out such an exercise in economic hindsight for 2019, we might settle upon the following list of approximate growth trends:
Perhaps the most notable regional trend in Europe was the slow growth within Central Europe, most notably in the Germany-Switzerland-Italy corridor of nations. Germany and Italy had by far the slowest growth among G7 economies: Germany grew at 0.5% (down from 1.4% in 2018), Italy grew at 0.2% (down from 0.8% in 2018). Most countries around them also had slow growth: France 1.3%, Belgium 1.3%, Sweden 1.3%, Austria 1.5%, the Netherlands 1.7%, Switzerland 0.8%. Even the Czech and Slovak economies slowed, to around 2.5%, down from the 3-4% range they had grown at in previous years. The Central European slowdown was probably the dominant trend in the EU in 2019. The previous dominant trend, namely Southern Europe’s slow growth, did not disappear (Italy, after all, still struggled) but it was eclipsed. Spain’s economy grew at 2.1%, Greece 1.9%.
Rwanda may have led all countries in 2019, with 7.8% growth. Ethiopia may have led among all large developing countries, with 7.4% growth. Uganda, Kenya, and Egypt all grew between 5-6%. There were high growth numbers in some other parts of Africa too, but in the largest regional economies, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, and Algeria, growth was slow. Nearby in the Middle East, the Gulf Arab states’ GDP stalled and Iran’s shrank.
What if, instead of building subway mezzanines underground, we put them at surface level, creating the space to do so by preventing automobiles from passing directly above each subway station?
We probably shouldn’t need excuses to limit cars’ space or speed in urban areas, but all the same, a subway station could be an excellent excuse for doing so. Better yet, why not make the street above the entire subway line car-free? That way it would become even easier to get to and from stations, and the area around the entire subway line could become much nicer to spend time in, or to walk or roll through. I’m looking at you, Yonge Street.
Imagine there existed a Narrow Tram: a streetcar or light rail train that is only about half as wide as the streetcars and LRTs most cities use today.
Narrow trams could fit more easily on narrow streets where there is not otherwise room for a transit-only lane. They might also squeeze into unused edges of existing railway or expressway corridors, where they could avoid red lights. On wider streets, narrow trams could have room for double sets of tracks in each direction: one lane to provide local transit service, the other for express.
For passengers to comfortably navigate such narrow vehicles, each narrow tram could have an unprecedentedly large number of doors – the more doors the better. Each door would open only if passengers indicate they are getting on or off at that precise section of the vehicle. Platforms would tell passengers in advance which sections of each approaching narrow tram are crowded. Fold-up chairs would be located along one side of the vehicle, only one chair per row. Some chairs could be sideways-facing to let people to sit together, others would be front-facing.
In certain cases, narrow trams could perhaps free up enough room for platforms on both their sides – the Spanish Solution – in order to simplify boarding and alighting and allow passengers to transfer very easily between local and express vehicles. Spanish Solution narrow trams might have to have even fewer seats, but this might be manageable, since express trams would be able to travel further in less time than conventional transit, so passengers might be more willing to stand. Plus, with multi-multi-door vehicles and smart-platform systems, you might be able to put chairs close to doors without creating passenger blockages, so the number of chairs might not have to be reduced too much even with the Spanish Solution’s addition of doors along both walls.
Narrow tram systems that have separate local and express tracks might also eventually help to facilitate the use of freight trams, at least during times of day when there is not a high demand for passenger transit. With two tracks per direction, a narrow freight tram could linger in one spot to be loaded or unloaded without blocking other trams behind them. If, for example, the process of loading and unloading goods from trucks and trains becomes automated, leading to an increase in multi-modal freight transport or nighttime freight delivery, freight trams might become useful in urban areas because of how quiet, clean, and battery-free they are. Narrow trams might also serve well as freight trams by being able to squeeze into the edges of certain railway or expressway corridors where industrial and freight-transport infrastructure already exists.
Narrow trams might also allow for longer vehicles, at least on their express lines or on grade-separated sections. They could have more room to carve out the wide turns needed by longer vehicles, since their narrow size might allow them to make diagonal cuts to avoid intersections without taking up too much valuable street-corner real estate. Such diagonal cuts would also them to have useful indoor stations. Their longer length could help compensate for narrow trams’ smaller number of passengers per row. Eventually, perhaps, driverless vehicles (at least, in grade-separated corridors) might also allow for viable narrow trams that do not have long lengths.
In some cases, it would not just be the width of the vehicle that would be narrow, but also the diameter of the vehicle. A Narrow-Diameter tram would have both a narrow width and a low ceiling. A ceiling height of seven or eight feet, for instance, would be relatively low, yet would not be so low as to make passengers too uncomfortable, particularly given that the plentiful doors and smart-platform system would help prevent passengers from having to fight their way through a crowded vehicle. The benefits of having a lower ceiling and smaller diameter could be significant. Lower ceilings can make it easier to use underpasses or get in and out of tunnels. Smaller diameters also reduce the required size of tunnels. A tunnel with a 7-foot diameter, for example, would have a volume that is only a quarter as great as that of a tunnel with a 14-foot diameter.
Hypothetically – very, very hypothetically – a city could even take an existing subway tunnel and repurpose it to run local and express narrow subway trains in each direction, with the express narrow trains being so narrow that they could able to bypass the local trains at certain points. Even more unrealistically, a city could build a futuristically tubular train with a diameter of only, say, 4.5 feet, in which most passengers would have to sit in order to fit on board, like in a car. A 4.5-foot-diameter tunnel would have a volume only around one-tenth that of a 14-foot one.
Of course, such extreme steps are not needed. There might be benefits to be gained from making vehicles even just a little bit narrower than they are today. Technologies such as digital payment systems that make it easy to board any door on a vehicle, transit apps that make it easy to choose between local or express vehicles, the possibility of smart-platforms that can indicate which sections of approaching vehicles are crowded, and perhaps eventually also the possibility of automation, might all make narrower trams more viable than they have been until now.
Reward regular season success and increase fan excitement with an Opponent Draft: the 1-seed gets to pick its first-round opponent from any of the bottom-eight seeds among playoff teams (conferences will no longer matter in the playoffs), then the 2-seed picks from any of the remaining bottom seven, then the 3-seed picks, and so on. So, for example, last season the playoff Opponent Draft would have begun with Milwaukee picking its first-round opponent from among the bottom-eight seeds (Clippers, Celtics, Spurs, Thunder, Pistons, Magic, Nets, Pacers) then the Raptors would pick, then Golden State, then Denver, then Portland, then Houston, then Philly. Utah (the 8–seed) would then have played the last remaining bottom-8 team.
The Washington ex-Pos won the World Series earlier this week, at the end of a very exciting playoff run. It would be nice if Montreal could get a team again: hopefully they will take Tampa Bay’s, and so join their neighbours Toronto, Boston, New York, and Baltimore inside the American League East.
If Montreal decides to build a new stadium, what should it be like? Here are two half-baked ideas:
Baseball, arguably, needs more running and fielding plays, more extra-base hits and fewer shallow home runs. There may be a great way to achieve this: have part of the outfield wall be slanted. For instance, put a pitched roof over the outfield bullpens, with the roof serving as an angled extension of the outfield wall rather than part of home run territory. Very long fly balls and line drives would then bounce off the slanted roof and back up into the outfield into play, creating doubles and triples, attempts at triples, first-to-home scoring attempts, maybe even the odd inside-the-park homer.
If you really want to go big, you could even create a sort of angled version of Fenway’s Green Monster. This Monstre Bleu would produce exciting running and fielding plays and extra base hits, rather than the singles and shallow homers that Fenway’s Monster creates. What’s the ideal size and angle for a slanted portion of an outfield wall? I don’t know: maybe ten feet long, forming a 45-degree angle with the normal outfield wall from which the slanted section extends?
Half a dozen MLB teams have stadiums with retractable roofs, and one team, Tampa Bay, has a permanently closed roof. Retractable roofs are useful obviously, but they are also expensive and far from aesthetically ideal. Montreal has arguably the best summer baseball weather of any MLB city, but also the coldest weather in spring and fall. Maybe, then, instead of building a stadium with a conventionally retractable roof, it could pioneer a seasonally enclosed stadium of some sort, to be open in the summer but enclosed in spring, fall, and winter.
Ideally, such a stadium would overcome some of the financial and aesthetic limitations of conventional roofs. Perhaps, depending on how much time and effort would be needed to open and close the roof, the stadium could also be enclosed ahead of summer weeks when the forecast calls for lots of rain.