Functional public art and a troubled experiment

Today we have a follow-up to two recent posts. They come courtesy of my friend Sandy, who let me know about these items. Thanks, Sandy!

First, are you in a New York state of mind? You may recall we wrote recently about the unique bike racks designed by artist David Byrne in Manhattan. The idea was to give everyday public objects a different look. Byrne's designs are directly related to the neighbourhood in which they're located.

Now an avenue in Queens is experimenting with designer subway grates (link below). These are special grates because they have a dual role: they are aesthetically pleasing, but are also barriers against flooding. They allow air circulation, but are raised to prevent water from flowing into them. Prevent water? Yes, this is required because the subway system screeches to a halt when drains cannot handle excessive rainfall and the water seeps into the tunnels. Hillside Avenue in Queens seems to be the most vulnerable spot and so became the focus of the design project.

The grates by Rogers Marvel Architects are designed to prevent flooding but also be artistic and functional. You can see an example in the New York Times article here.

Rain water collecting in the subway system is no minor matter, based on the information collected after the last major shutdown in the summer of 2007. In another New York Times post, we get a chilling description of the problem:

"As water seeps onto subway tracks, it is electrified by the 600 volts running through the third rail, causing the water to boil and setting floating debris on fire. The water also short-circuits the
electrical signals and switches, making it impossible for train operators to know when it is safe to stop or go."

I hope we don't face the same problems in the Toronto subway system.

Secondly, an update on the Large Hadron Collider, that massive underground ring in Switzerland designed for smashing sub-atomic particles into each other in the hope of understanding a lot of weird and wonderful things about the universe.

It looks like the world's most expensive experiment will cost more and will be shut down for at least two months because of mechanical failures. First a 30-ton transformer broke down and then a gigantic magnet failed on Friday. The repairs will take a long time and could jeopardize the schedule of experiments for the rest of the year.

You can read the details here.
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