by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.
The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.
Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.
Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.
|If you haven't noticed, the US has a problem with public transportation. The problem is it sucks.
Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars.)
Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.
While this article is about two and a half years old, the issues it addresses certainly haven't improved.
One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world.
And now the world has surpassed it, but we don't have it in us to envy them.
Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.
Hence "per capita," duh.
This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not.
The automobile has one major advantage over any sort of public transportation: convenience. No need to concern oneself with any schedule other than that of whatever place you're heading.
This is, of course, only possible because of vast public expenditures in private transportation infrastructure (as the article mentions later), as well as the willingness of city planners to allow for stupidly generous amounts of parking. Having designed a few parking lots, I'm not entirely ignorant on the subject.
So there are a few environmental concerns going on: autos themselves (mitigated somewhat by the inevitable switch to electric cars), ever-wider roads, and huge amounts of impervious surface in the form of parking lots.
Now, here's the thing: I've really given up on the whole "save the environment" thing. It's clear that governments aren't really on board with this; the best they seem to be able to do is come up with things like mandating low-flow toilets (which use 1/3 the amount of water but have to be flushed three times) and low-flow shower heads (which use 1/2 the amount of water but require showers to take twice as long). I've resigned myself to the fact that there is not a goddamn thing I can do about it, myself; any attempt merely inconveniences me and amounts to one less snowflake in a blizzard.
I mean, there are things I do. I installed insulation and better windows. I replaced all my lightbulbs with LEDs. I recycle. This is because like most people, I respond to incentives: insulation and better windows keep my heating / cooling bills low; LEDs have a high up-front cost but last 20 years and I hate changing lightbulbs; and the city provides free single-stream recycling.
Absent these incentives, I simply can't be arsed. I didn't have kids, so fuck it, I could spend the rest of my life flying a private jet (if only...) and not even come close to the total carbon emissions of someone with offspring.
And I like to drive.
I say all these things mostly to point out that despite all of this, I would totally use public transportation if it didn't suck.
A bus that comes once and[sic] hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.
I've been bitching for years, both as a potential consumer of public transportation and as someone with a background in transportation engineering, that US cities go about the whole PT thing ass-backwards. They seem to get the idea that, well, we'll just put a line in from Point A to Point B, run a carriage every hour during daylight, and see how much revenue we can get for expansions.
With a schedule like that (and the complete disregard of Points C through Z), they set themselves up to fail. Miserably. Then they throw up their hands and go "See? No one wants public transportation."
My small town is better than many of its size in that regard, but many's the city council meeting I used to sit in on where they'd go, "Let's reduce the parking requirements to incentivize people to use the buses." Meanwhile, a good half the people who need to get into town live beyond the bus service, so they have to drive in... but now there's not enough parking. And what parking there is is marked "no commuters," like private shopping centers and such.
This town needs a monorail.
What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.
Or this happens.
Anyway, the article is a pretty good overview of the history of transportation.
It may be that, like a lot of things, the actual solution will be something else entirely -- like if we could get people to stop being scared shitless of autonomous vehicles. Auto accidents cause fatalities every damn year in the range of something like (can't be arsed to look it up but this number is what's stuck in my head) 30,000 dead people: drivers, passengers, pedestrians. Thirty. Thousand. People. A year.
An autonomous vehicle, in beta, kills ONE person and people freak the fuck out.
Look: you're never going to get fatalities down to zero. Not unless you ban transportation entirely, and good luck with that. And yeah, there are some things to work out, but goddammit, stop being afraid of anything new or robotic. I'm reminded of how people are scared shitless of flying, but think little of speeding in their car to the airport; the latter activity being several orders of magnitude more dangerous.
If autonomous vehicles can reduce that by as little as 3,000 fatalities a year, I'd consider it a win. But I'm convinced that most people will focus on the glass half empty (27,000 fatalities a year) rather than the glass half full (3,000 fewer than before).
Because, by and large, people are utter shit at understanding risk management and statistics, preferring to go with emotional reactions.
Need I point out that this is similar to the COVID vaccination thing? Half a million dead from Trump Mumps, millions more disabled by it, possibly permanently, but one person has an adverse reaction to the vaccine and all of a sudden it's "I don't trust it. I'll take my 1% chance of dying a horrible death rather than the 0.00000001% chance of having a bad reaction to the vaccine." (Note: I pulled those numbers out of my ass but the point remains valid.)
And this. This is why I've quit giving a shit about the environment. No one will learn until we all burn.