On a muggy summer afternoon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a dozen people are hard at work on the patio behind a local church. They're stripping old bicycles of their brakes, cables and chains, and sanding and spray-painting them white.
But behind the lighthearted chatter, there's a more somber purpose to this gathering: They're building "ghost bikes."
Painted all white and adorned with colorful notes and flowers, ghost bikes are the cycling community's equivalent of roadside shrines dotting the highway; they mark the spot where a rider was killed in traffic.
While many cities around the country grapple with drought and excessive heat this year, city planners in Boston have something else on their minds: the prospect of rising water.
In this coastal metropolis, scientists and computer models predict that climate change could eventually lead to dramatic increases in sea level around the city. Coupled with a storm surge at high tide, parts of the city could easily end up under water.
In Nairobi, Kenya, when friends want to celebrate a birthday, the end of bachelorhood or a graduation, they often go out for goat. This communal and culinary tradition in Kenya is called nyama choma — literally, roasted meat. While it's usually goat, some places offer beef, chicken and lamb. If you know where to look, you can even get illegal zebra and and wildebeest meat.
When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate, Catholics passed a milestone. For the first time in history, both vice presidential candidates, Ryan and Vice President Biden, are Catholic.
But if Biden and Ryan share the same faith, they couldn't be further apart in their cultural and political worldviews. On issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, taxes and Medicaid, they are miles apart.
Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has died. He was 57 years old. Meles was reportedly being treated at a hospital in Belgium. He came to power after leading rebels and overthrowing the country's dictator in 1991. He was a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, but was also increasingly authoritarian.
With all its current troubles, Pakistan has not been attracting much foreign investment recently. In fact, China seems to be the only country that's prepared to pour money into Pakistan in a big way.
But a boost in Chinese investment has sparked resentment in southern Pakistan, where activists accuse China of trying to be a new colonial power. A bomb blast recently hit near the Chinese Consulate in Karachi — an ominous sign of the rising tensions.
Cities may be the defining element of human civilization.
The path from hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era 25,000 years ago to the high-tech, high-wonder jumble we inhabit today runs straight through cities. In traveling that path, our construction of cities has always been a dance with physics. In some cases, that physics was explicitly understood; in others, its manifestation was only recognized in hindsight.
As our cities have become more complex the physics embodying their behavior and organization has also become more nuanced, subtle and profound.