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JPL - NASA / NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids
« Last post by feeds on Today at 11:45:45 AM »
NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids

NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, the agency’s first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule for launch Saturday, Oct. 16.
Source: NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids
JPL - NASA / NASA Transfers Air Traffic Management Tool Updates to FAA
« Last post by feeds on Today at 11:45:45 AM »
NASA Transfers Air Traffic Management Tool Updates to FAA

As part of an effort aimed at making aviation more sustainable, NASA has transferred findings from an air traffic management project to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for nationwide implementation, the two agencies announced at a media briefing Tuesday.
Source: NASA Transfers Air Traffic Management Tool Updates to FAA
What If Getting a Kids’ Vaccine Approved Is the Easy Part?

Just because something has the FDA’S green light doesn’t mean it’s simple to obtain—or that everyone wants it.
Source: What If Getting a Kids’ Vaccine Approved Is the Easy Part?
Greta Thunberg mocks world leaders' words at Youth4Climate

Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, uses a speech to mock world leaders, including UK PM Boris Johnson.
Source: Greta Thunberg mocks world leaders' words at Youth4Climate
Australian researchers uncover fossil of new eagle species

Palaeontologists from Australia found the 'exceptional' fossilised remains in 2016.
Source: Australian researchers uncover fossil of new eagle species
COP26: Australia PM undecided on attending crucial climate summit

The coal-supporting nation has faced increasing pressure to commit to a net zero emissions target.
Source: COP26: Australia PM undecided on attending crucial climate summit
Atlas V: Rocket launch creates strange lights in UK sky

Amateur astronomers across the UK capture the strange cone-shaped lights from their back gardens.
Source: Atlas V: Rocket launch creates strange lights in UK sky
MIT Research / Citizens emerge from the slums
« Last post by feeds on Today at 11:45:43 AM »
Citizens emerge from the slums

Do the world’s nearly 1 billion urban poor, who subsist without legal housing, reliable water and sewer infrastructure, and predictable employment, lack political engagement as well?

Ying Gao does not buy the claim by many social scientists that social and economic marginalization necessarily means political marginalization.

“My results contradict the prevailing wisdom about slums and the political behaviors they are believed to foster,” says Gao, a doctoral student in political science. “I’m discovering that people do not participate less in politics (by voting), in labor markets (by getting jobs), or in social activities (by being active in community groups), just because they lack legal housing.”

Gao’s dissertation project focuses on Indonesia and plumbs a massive dataset tracking a representative sample of 30,000 individuals over 20 years. Her initial findings reveal “a kind of shared urban political culture that is more subtle and interesting than unconditional theories of marginalization would suggest.”

A politically active urban populace, previously unacknowledged and neglected, could prove consequential in the efforts of developing nations to improve the lives of the poor. This is an increasingly urgent matter, Gao says, as developing cities big and small swell with new residents and struggle to meet their needs.

With a background in urban studies and planning and international development, Gao hopes her continued analysis and research will point to public policy interventions that prove useful to governments and aid organizations.

Poverty, but not always a trap

At the heart of Gao’s dissertation research lies the question: In cities of the developing world, do citizens in informal (unregulated) housing or jobs participate in politics differently from those situated in legal housing or employment arrangements?

“The common narrative is that when you move to a slum, there is less access to good services, and it’s harder to get good jobs, which leads to even less social mobility,” says Gao. “This poverty trap story also suggests that under such conditions, where people don’t see much public service because the government is spending more time in places better off, marginalized citizens don’t have as much incentive to vote and demand better services.”

Gao set out to test the premise of these stories, drawing on fine-grained quantitative resources. She seized on the Indonesian Family Life Survey, conducted between 1993 and 2014. “These are high-quality, underutilized datasets that allow me to tease out housing conditions, connect them to social and political outcomes, and enable me to talk about slums and their effects on average people in a way that’s chronological and different from one-off qualitative studies,” says Gao.

Gao also relied on her own fieldwork involving informal workers in Jakarta — motorcycle delivery drivers — conducted in 2017 and funded by MIT GOV/LAB and MIT D-Lab. During this research, she explored the differences between areas of the sprawling megacity populated by informal workers residing in informal housing. Gao learned that many of these laborers grouped themselves into cooperative associations, where they could advocate for wages and project “a sense of influence beyond their members.”

Analyzing her varied datasets, a process still underway, Gao finds that Indonesian families move fluidly between formal and unregulated housing and “are not marginalized,” she says. “They are more ordinary than we might have thought, being active in labor markets, and are as socially engaged in their communities as people in good housing.” This is in contrast, Gao notes, “to what we know about people in poor housing and disadvantaged neighborhoods in rich countries, who on average have lower opportunities for social association.”

Her studies have yielded additional insights into what makes slums livable for people who experience them: residents form self-help social groups, including rotating savings and credit associations, “where people pool money and everyone draws on that pool once in a while.” At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gao ran an original online survey of informal workers across different job sectors in Indonesia, and found that these small committee groups “had a big influence in encouraging people to comply with government lockdown policies.”

If the urban poor are indeed engaged citizens, with neighborhood and worker-based associations, and able to cooperate across ethnic or religious differences, can governments and aid agencies find productive measures for working together with them to improve their quality of life?

In the final phase of her dissertation, Gao will run surveys in Indonesia to examine if public policy interventions can make a positive impact on the lives of urban poor. She will be looking specifically at whether an Indonesian participatory slum-upgrading program leads to better infrastructure by enhancing the political capacity of community leaders in informal communities.

Place and political identity

The specific ways a place shapes identity has long fascinated Gao. Born in China but raised in Japan, her bicultural lens made her acutely aware of “how people develop a sense of belonging to a place and how that can have big political consequences.”

Gao studied international relations at Georgetown University. But her interest began turning toward international development after graduation, when she spent several years at financial firms in Japan, and later with the UN Human Settlements Programme, working on problems of sustainable urban development in low-income countries in Asia. “These regions were so dynamic because of all the people moving to cities,” she says. “Urbanization is one of the biggest trends of humanity, and presents enormous opportunity and risk.”

Intent on understanding how cities cater to the welfare of residents, Gao earned a master’s degree from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning in 2014. It was there that she homed in on unregulated housing and the informal economy as robust topics for academic exploration, and as potent targets for public policy that could change people’s lives.

Gao was drawn to MIT’s political science doctoral program by its tradition of “research that goes against the grain, which looks at how people actually live in developing societies and questions how things are done in the field of development.” She hopes to follow in the footsteps of a “long lineage of engaged women scholars” at the program and across the Institute, such as thesis committee member Lily Tsai, Ford Professor of Political Science.

“I want to move between research and policy contributions, continuing to work on questions that lie at the intersection of urbanization and development,” she says. “How can developing nations solve the physical problems of inadequate housing in a way that could improve relations between citizens and government, so that poor urban citizens can participate politically and lift themselves up?”

Source: Citizens emerge from the slums
MIT Research / Making roadway spending more sustainable
« Last post by feeds on Today at 11:45:43 AM »
Making roadway spending more sustainable

The share of federal spending on infrastructure has reached an all-time low, falling from 30 percent in 1960 to just 12 percent in 2018.

While the nation’s ailing infrastructure will require more funding to reach its full potential, recent MIT research finds that more sustainable and higher performing roads are still possible even with today’s limited budgets.

The research, conducted by a team of current and former MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (MIT CSHub) scientists and published in Transportation Research D, finds that a set of innovative planning strategies could improve pavement network environmental and performance outcomes even if budgets don’t increase.

The paper presents a novel budget allocation tool and pairs it with three innovative strategies for managing pavement networks: a mix of paving materials, a mix of short- and long-term paving actions, and a long evaluation period for those actions.

This novel approach offers numerous benefits. When applied to a 30-year case study of the Iowa U.S. Route network, the MIT CSHub model and management strategies cut emissions by 20 percent while sustaining current levels of road quality. Achieving this with a conventional planning approach would require the state to spend 32 percent more than it does today. The key to its success is the consideration of a fundamental — but fraught — aspect of pavement asset management: uncertainty.

Predicting unpredictability

The average road must last many years and support the traffic of thousands — if not millions — of vehicles. Over that time, a lot can change. Material prices may fluctuate, budgets may tighten, and traffic levels may intensify. Climate (and climate change), too, can hasten unexpected repairs.

Managing these uncertainties effectively means looking long into the future and anticipating possible changes.

“Capturing the impacts of uncertainty is essential for making effective paving decisions,” explains Fengdi Guo, the paper’s lead author and a departing CSHub research assistant.

“Yet, measuring and relating these uncertainties to outcomes is also computationally intensive and expensive. Consequently, many DOTs [departments of transportation] are forced to simplify their analysis to plan maintenance — often resulting in suboptimal spending and outcomes.”

To give DOTs accessible tools to factor uncertainties into their planning, CSHub researchers have developed a streamlined planning approach. It offers greater specificity and is paired with several new pavement management strategies.

The planning approach, known as Probabilistic Treatment Path Dependence (PTPD), is based on machine learning and was devised by Guo.

“Our PTPD model is composed of four steps,” he explains. “These steps are, in order, pavement damage prediction; treatment cost prediction; budget allocation; and pavement network condition evaluation.”

The model begins by investigating every segment in an entire pavement network and predicting future possibilities for pavement deterioration, cost, and traffic.

“We [then] run thousands of simulations for each segment in the network to determine the likely cost and performance outcomes for each initial and subsequent sequence, or ‘path,’ of treatment actions,” says Guo. “The treatment paths with the best cost and performance outcomes are selected for each segment, and then across the network.”

The PTPD model not only seeks to minimize costs to agencies but also to users — in this case, drivers. These user costs can come primarily in the form of excess fuel consumption due to poor road quality.

“One improvement in our analysis is the incorporation of electric vehicle uptake into our cost and environmental impact predictions,” Randolph Kirchain, a principal research scientist at MIT CSHub and MIT Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) and one of the paper’s co-authors. “Since the vehicle fleet will change over the next several decades due to electric vehicle adoption, we made sure to consider how these changes might impact our predictions of excess energy consumption.”

After developing the PTPD model, Guo wanted to see how the efficacy of various pavement management strategies might differ. To do this, he developed a sophisticated deterioration prediction model.

A novel aspect of this deterioration model is its treatment of multiple deterioration metrics simultaneously. Using a multi-output neural network, a tool of artificial intelligence, the model can predict several forms of pavement deterioration simultaneously, thereby, accounting for their correlations among one another.

The MIT team selected two key metrics to compare the effectiveness of various treatment paths: pavement quality and greenhouse gas emissions. These metrics were then calculated for all pavement segments in the Iowa network.

Improvement through variation

 The MIT model can help DOTs make better decisions, but that decision-making is ultimately constrained by the potential options considered.

Guo and his colleagues, therefore, sought to expand current decision-making paradigms by exploring a broad set of network management strategies and evaluating them with their PTPD approach. Based on that evaluation, the team discovered that networks had the best outcomes when the management strategy includes using a mix of paving materials, a variety of long- and short-term paving repair actions (treatments), and longer time periods on which to base paving decisions.

They then compared this proposed approach with a baseline management approach that reflects current, widespread practices: the use of solely asphalt materials, short-term treatments, and a five-year period for evaluating the outcomes of paving actions.

With these two approaches established, the team used them to plan 30 years of maintenance across the Iowa U.S. Route network. They then measured the subsequent road quality and emissions.

Their case study found that the MIT approach offered substantial benefits. Pavement-related greenhouse gas emissions would fall by around 20 percent across the network over the whole period. Pavement performance improved as well. To achieve the same level of road quality as the MIT approach, the baseline approach would need a 32 percent greater budget.

“It’s worth noting,” says Guo, “that since conventional practices employ less effective allocation tools, the difference between them and the CSHub approach should be even larger in practice.”

Much of the improvement derived from the precision of the CSHub planning model. But the three treatment strategies also play a key role.

“We’ve found that a mix of asphalt and concrete paving materials allows DOTs to not only find materials best-suited to certain projects, but also mitigates the risk of material price volatility over time,” says Kirchain.

It’s a similar story with a mix of paving actions. Employing a mix of short- and long-term fixes gives DOTs the flexibility to choose the right action for the right project.

The final strategy, a long-term evaluation period, enables DOTs to see the entire scope of their choices. If the ramifications of a decision are predicted over only five years, many long-term implications won’t be considered. Expanding the window for planning, then, can introduce beneficial, long-term options.

It’s not surprising that paving decisions are daunting to make; their impacts on the environment, driver safety, and budget levels are long-lasting. But rather than simplify this fraught process, the CSHub method aims to reflect its complexity. The result is an approach that provides DOTs with the tools to do more with less.

This research was supported through the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub by the Portland Cement Association and the Ready Mixed Concrete Research and Education Foundation.

Source: Making roadway spending more sustainable
Wired - Science / Oregon Is Burning Trees in Order to Save Them
« Last post by feeds on Today at 02:10:17 AM »
Oregon Is Burning Trees in Order to Save Them

Sudden oak death, rampant in California, is spreading to the north, leaving the Forest Service with a tough option: Send them up in smoke.
Source: Oregon Is Burning Trees in Order to Save Them
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