The city as a living organism

Did you know that urban one-way streets were inspired by the blood circulation system in the human body?

This past year many people left cities to live in smaller towns from where they could still run their Zoom calls. But city life is about more than commuting to and from work. Even when everything was locked down, people in cities could go for a walk and discover a new neighbourhood, support local small businesses, meet people outside. The community that forms a city was still there, even if the commuting crowds were not. 

This is on my mind because I’m currently reading a book called Building and Dwelling, by Richard Sennett, which touches on the difference between a city as a place and the city as a sum of its people. It goes into the history of urban design and planning and uses examples from all over the world. 

There is a lot of clever thinking behind things such as sidewalks or trees or how many floors a building has. In a way, cities resemble entire organisms: You need to consider the people, the infrastructure, the climate, and how all the little parts work together to be able to understand how it works. So it made perfect sense when I read in Building and Dwelling that urban one-way road systems were directly inspired by the blood circulation system in the human body. Of course they are! Cities are alive!

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Interesting links and newsletters

  • For even more on urban planning, see the Not Just Bikes YouTube channel  

  • Museums are already working on the COVID exhibits of the future

  • A game based around sending letters shows that internet trolls need kindness

  • If you’d like to explore new newsletters, The Sample sends you one issue of a random newsletter every day. 

  • One newsletter that I think you will like is 10+1 Things, a curated newsletter that covers science, art, sustainability, books, music and more.

Science and art

Emily Graslie launched a new YouTube series about art and science. Check out the first video below. 

What the talking drum has to say about music and language

For Forbes.com I wrote about the dùndún “talking drum”, and new research that explored in which communication settings it most resembles spoken Yoruba. 

“Yoruba has three distinct pitches, which affect the meaning of a word. Experienced dùndún drummers can mimic these pitches on the hourglass-shaped instrument. Combined with the right rhythm, they can make their instruments sound just like Yoruba, hence the nickname “talking drum”.”

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