Five quick links for a Thursday morning:
1) “AT&T is launching a free wi-fi network for its customers in New York City’s Times Square,” Business Insider explained last week. “This will take a load off AT&T’s battered 3G network, by pushing peoples’ email, web, and app traffic onto wi-fi and off of 3G. And it should speed up downloads for AT&T customers in the area.” I’m reminded of Charles Komanoff’s proposed transportation policy changes for New York City, in which bus rides would always be offered free of charge, “because the time saved when passengers aren’t fumbling for change more than makes up for the lost fare revenue.” In other words, both cases suggest that offering certain urban services for free, at moments of high-intensity usage, often makes much better financial sense than charging for everything, all the time.
2) “In these hard economic times, when much of the country could use a walk in the woods or a night in the mountains or a wade in the river or a picnic by the lake, states across the country seem to be creating obstacles to the great outdoors… Campgrounds are closing, fees are increasing, employees have been laid off.”
3) In a look at impending, and possibly extreme, seismic activity in the Pacific Northwest, Nature writes that “public officials should maybe look at the new numbers and think about this earthquake as a real possibility in the next 50 years.” Watch this video to see what a strong quake hitting Seattle can really look like. This brings to mind the overdue earthquake long expected for Istanbul, “where tens of thousands of buildings throughout the city, erected in a haphazard, uninspected rush as the population soared past 10 million from the 1 million it was just 50 years ago, are what some seismologists call ‘rubble in waiting.'” After all, “expected earthquakes in this region represent an extreme danger for the Turkish megacity.”
4) Genetically Modified Fruit Flies Can Smell Light: “Blue light smells like delicious bananas.”
5) “Exploiting a political crisis, Malagasy timber barons are robbing this island nation of its sylvan heritage, illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of the valuable logs to China,” the New York Times reports. Worse, following a March 2009 coup and the island’s now “weakened and tottering government that is unable—and perhaps unwilling—to stop the trafficking,” the illegal timber trade “has increased at least 25-fold.”