Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Mathematical Theory of Cities.
July 31, 2011 9:50 AM   Subscribe

"Every week for the forseeable future, . . ., more than a million people are being added to our cities." Geoffrey West applies the paradigms of physics to cities, businesses, biological and social sciences. Extra. Previously.
posted by Obscure Reference (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Before (or while!) watching West's talk you should probably read Cosma Shalizi's explanation of the incorrectness of West's mathematical model.
posted by escabeche at 10:18 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


So much fail in this talk.
Does anyone doubt that, per capita, city dwellers use fewer resources & produce less pollution than those living in less urban places? His first premise was awful (though he did backpedal on it somewhat later).
Are they a group of economists? Their mathematical models sound… naïve.
posted by davel at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2011


That TED page has comments that pick the talk apart better than I could.
posted by davel at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2011


tl;dr version of Shalizi's paper: power laws are diagnosed by finding straight lines. If you squint everything looks like a straight line. (I actually haven't read Shalizi's paper but this is a common criticism.)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:50 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoa. I never realized that the comments on TED videos were worth reading. It's like an anti-YouTube.
posted by schmod at 11:16 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


My immediate reaction was to divide 1 million by 7 billion and then multiply by the weeks in the year.

With .74% of the population moving into cities every year, it doesn't seem like such a big crisis.
posted by happyroach at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, happyroach, that makes me a little sadder, since I think people moving to cities is an improvement rather than a crisis.
posted by davel at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


A blog-scale version of Shalizi’s paper: “So You Think You Have a Power Law — Well Isn't That Special?”
posted by migurski at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, I thought economies of scale have been discovered for quite some time already.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


With .74% of the population moving into cities every year, it doesn't seem like such a big crisis.

Sure. But if you extrapolate linearly, everyone will be living in cities in seventy years or so.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2011


What did Cosma and I tell you about extrapolating linearly???
posted by escabeche at 11:56 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course I shouldn't extrapolate linearly! But someone out there is actually making this extrapolation in all seriousness, I'm sure.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:17 PM on July 31, 2011


Darn linear extrapolators.
posted by panaceanot at 3:12 PM on July 31, 2011


Aw, happyroach, that makes me a little sadder, since I think people moving to cities is an improvement rather than a crisis.

Yeah; we should encourage people to move into cities and live in high density housing. Which is one reason why the mortgage deduction in the US tax code is awful, awful, awful.
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on July 31, 2011


Encouraging people to move into cities and live in high density housing only works if we get to zero population growth. Otherwise we're just increasing the overall density.
posted by straw at 4:16 PM on July 31, 2011


1) Density is the definition of cities. 2) Population growth or reduction is different topic.
posted by davel at 5:01 PM on July 31, 2011


Global human population - the absolute numbers of us - is the elephant in the ecological room. I am no longer surprised by the countless creative ways people come up with to mistake its effects for primary causes.
posted by flabdablet at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


5-6 billion people need to favorite flabdablet's comment and then be teleported to uninhabited Earthlike planets elsewhere in the universe.
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2011


Yeah, cause having everyone abandon their farms for jobs in cafes and clearance stores is a great idea for the ongoing survival of our species.
posted by Jilder at 9:46 PM on August 1, 2011


Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2011


« Older How Christian is Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life?...  |  I Do Not Have an Eating Disord... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments