Friday, June 23, 2006

I had one of those conversations.

The conversation started as a review of biodiversity in various aquatic environments. I was mislead into thinking that the mid-Pacific Ocean was teeming with different types of organisms. While the region does teem with biomass, the variety of fishes, plankton, and critters can be lacking. Apparently, the key species can be mapped out with little complexity.

There is a interesting relationship between nutrient flow and the amount of biomass in an aquatic area. The fishies die, and instead of providing nummies for lower organisms, they fall way down to the ocean floor. These nutrients get wisked away on currents to provide for growth in other areas.

However, some of the places with the most biodiversity are actually nutrient-poor. Coral reefs can respond negatively to an influx of nutrients from external sources, which makes runoff and chemical dumping dangerous for various coastal areas. Despite the lack of fishey treats, the coral areas teem with life... and with notable techniques, you can create the same effect in a mid-Pacific area.

This transformation can be achieved by simply placing a large floating block of wood on the surface of the water. This object creates spatial heterogeneity, which means that the environment consists of different places to visit, hide, or look for food. The tiny space under the object will create a place for fish to hang out. These fish attract other fish. The numerous fish attract predators. These predators, in turn, bring even more complexity to the little spot.

The same thing happens in coral reefs, except there are even more nooks and corners to explore. With all these different areas, life thrives, and mother nature provides us with some of her most beautiful artwork. If I was a fish, I'd much rather live in a reef than the open ocean. Apparently, many fish agree and share my sentiment.

This got my friend and me thinking. Human settlement seems to be based on nutrient flow rather than spatial heterogeneity. Think about it. Cities, in the Western sense, are mostly about commerce. We lace our homes with concrete road to export goods and wreath ourselves in industry to ensure our ability to gather resources and utilize them efficiently. While this might seem like a natural thing to do, I am haunted by an alternative. Reefs, simply by their complex nature, are able to support a vast array of life. Is there a way to emulate this for humanity?

I think so. I also know that people are trying. People have been trying the 'ideal community' thing for a while now. So far I haven't heard of any overwhelming success. Usually, the results are self-limiting. That, or the smell of pachouli and marijuana choke the inhabitants to death, forcing them to giggle uncontrollably as their crops wilt and die. While I appreciate different lifestyles, a city of nothing but metaphysical, co-op stoners is not my idea of paradise. This also doesn't provide the diversity needed for proper complex community development. One would need a way to blend scientific, corporate yuppies with their more smelly counterparts.

It might be difficult, but if it could be done, nothing would keep me from living there... short of a plague outbreak and general famine. It would be a city of greatness to rival the Rome and Babylon we imagined as children. On top of all this, we've worked out a general guideline for this wonderful 'reef'-city.

The details are a bit complex, but they generally go as such:

Start out with a university. Why? Well, because that's what we, the creators, are used to. That, and it would bring in initial resources needed to start up the city. Besides money, it would also bring in a diverse population of people from different schools of thought. It also sets the groundwork for drawing in technology industry.

We imagined the city as almost completely car-free. We can take our obsession for producing as much as possible, and turn it into social capital. Use the space for more public buildings and programs for the residents. This would form more inter-personal complexity, if done correctly, which helps to utilize resources more efficiently. Reduce the waste, minimize the large corporations that just take your money and take it to Switzerland.

This increase of social capital would also be nice leverage to encourage community engagement. We can pair this capital with an eclectic variety of spaces to work and live. Sections of the city would being to reflect the melange of denizens that inhabit it, and people would feel like they actually have an influence over their environment. This empowerment could lead to more feeling of community and willingness to engage with your neighbors. Studies show this increases community stability, not to mention more participation in community projects and improvements.

Ensure that the city does not rely on conventional building types. Some communities encourage spaces that represent different cultures of backgrounds. Make the ideal city one of them. Not only does this help reflect the diversity inherent to the community, but it gives a larger palate to meet the needs of your populace. We can break the need for cultural similarity in a region and use whatever space that would best meet the needs of the area. After a while, the city would develop totally new spaces altogether. It would be a culture unto itself.

There's more, but the list will have to stop here.

Maybe the ideal city, which is rooted in both science and fancy, will exist in more places than my imagination. I know it could be done, and the experiment alone would be worth the effort. How bad could it be? If noting else, you'd have created one more institution of higher learning, and that is an expense I could live with.

Until then, I can only hope to live my next life as a wrasse... or maybe one of those lionfish. That would be cool.

Monday, June 12, 2006

If I said I was bound to it forever,
Would you match me word for word?
If my heart didn't know it was over,
Would you understand the circumstance?
If I said I remember our love,
Would you seek me out?
If I could feel you enter the room,
Would you say you ache the same for me?
If I couldn't turn back,
Would I ever find that heart again?
If I said I had one regret,
Would time stop?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Although the question has never crossed my mind before, I have recently been forced to ponder the question:

Is it better to have NO art, rather than BAD art?

They've invaded Madison, Wisconsin!!! AHHHHH! The cows have landed!!!


Leave it to Wisconsin to mix Dadaism, Drugs, and Dairy.

I'll never understand this place.