Why exactly does the melting of the West Antarctica ice sheet matter? (Hint: look at that image.) What's the secret to seamless driving in Google's automated car? Why are we racing slime molds? Catch up in this week's Landscape Reads!
The Race of the Slime Molds
"The race set off late in the afternoon on Friday at Massachusetts General Hospital: 15 competitors from across the world gathered for a neck-and-neck journey through a twisting maze"—a maze on a microscope slide. It is the World Dicty Race, a competition for doped up and genetically altered slime molds. And why should this race around a landscape in miniature matter? How cells make their precisely calibrated movements—immune cells to a site of trauma, brain cells during development, cancer cells that seed new tumors—is quite poorly understood. We might as well start by studying genes that control this movement and amuse ourselves along the way. [Boston Globe]
Bonus: Did you see how brain-less slime molds can grow a network that replicates the Tokyo subway system?
Yet Another Unintended Consequence of Fracking: Drugs
The streets look quite different in south Texas these days, which is to say there are streets at all. "The web of roads that the energy industry has built or paved on once-desolate ranches has created avenues for smugglers to move drugs they've brought from Mexico around the inland Border Patrol checkpoints," writes reporter Ben Geman. "The heavy truck traffic in this newly industrialized zone provides chances to stash drugs in vehicles disguised as industry trucks and blend in. That has left law enforcement scrambling to adapt to a radically altered landscape that's now buzzing with activity." [National Journal]
To Create a Self-Driving Car, Google Has First Created a Digital Reproduction of Mountain View
Google's car drives seamlessly in Mountain View; it does not (yet) drive as well anywhere else in the world. That's because the roads of Mountain View are mapped down to precise details like the height of traffic signs, the position of curbs, and implied speed limits—a map that is really Mountain View as a virtual track. To create a viable self-driving car is to first create a digital infrastructure on top of the roads. Who else but Google to pull it off? [The Atlantic]
This Is What Your City Looks Like With Climate Change
The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet may seem like far-off event—until you see what it can do to your city. Artist Nickolay Lamm teamed up with Climate Central to imagine the worst case scenario: what our cities will look like with 12 feet of sea level rise. While this is not likely happen for at least several hundred years, there is something visceral about seeing familiar sites, like San Francisco's AT&T Park, above, under an enveloping green flood. [Climate Central]