Scientific American September 2011
The Latest in Science News
Cities: Better, Greener, Smarter
Bigger cities around the world outperform smaller ones on wages, productivity, and innovation. As Edward Glaeser writes, as part of Scientific American's special issue on cities, the ideas and technologies available to urbanites provides a collaborative environment for essential economic growth and progress- Silicon Valley for technology or Boston for biotech. Celebrating cities from Lagos, Nigeria to New York City, this month's issue highlights how cities are smarter, greener, and better urban areas, providing some of the solutions for the world's biggest challenges.
In the U.S., modern cities have become unanimous with skyscrapers and busy skylines, but with a modern twist. Mark Lamster's feature looks at the modern skyscrapers, a technologically and environmentally advanced creation, such as the Bank of American building in New York City which creates two-third of its own energy.
In another feature Carlo Ratti and Anthony Townsend write about how cities can encourage their citizens to better address their community's needs by simply providing the network. For examples, in Seattle, one project used electronic tags to track the movement of more than 2,000 waste items-ranging from recyclable materials to old electronics-to see how far they traveled across the U.S. The information can help promote behavioral changes to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transportation of wastes. The authors encourage governments to build such networks, and then step pack: "By empowering people to devise ways to run their daily lives as smartly, as possible, we can make their extended community-the actual embodiment of a city-smarter, too."
As presented by the writers in this month's issue, by building upwards and integrating densely populated communities, cities can provide greener and healthier living, showing a brighter side to our busy urban areas.
Science of Health: Stamping out vaccine fears early
Discussions with parents about vaccinations for their babies should take place during, or even before, pregnancy, suggest Matthew Daley and Jason Glanz in an article in this month's Scientific American.
Vaccination rates in some parts of the US are trending down and outbreaks of preventable diseases are increasing. Yet, as the authors note, physicians typically do not talk to parents about inoculations until two months after a baby is born-by which time many parents may have already absorbed misinformation about vaccines from friends, family or the Internet. Daley and Glanz, who have studied both vaccines and parental attitudes about vaccines, argue that the healthcare system doesn't do a good job of communicating the counterarguments in a timely or effective manner.
Daley and Glanz propose that talks about vaccinations should begin in a prenatal class devoted to vaccines or thorough web chats with physicians and vaccine researchers. They suggest that web interactions in particular may encourage prospective parents to openly air their concerns and pose questions that they may not feel comfortable asking their own physician face to face.
The authors caution that unless the message about the importance of vaccinations is spread widely and effectively more parents will find themselves "in emergency rooms and isolation wards watching children suffer with the devastating effects of measles, whooping cough or some readily preventable infectious disease."