Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012 in the City

by Viva Avasthi

Now that we've (successfully) come to the end of another year (because the world hasn't ended), here's a useful overview of the major political and economic occurrences this year from The Week magazine.

Note that if you open the images in new tabs, you'll be able to read the text far more clearly.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Demand and Supply Analysis to solve Parking Problems?

by Karina Shooter

In many crowded cities across the world it is common for frustrated drivers to be unable to find a parking space. In fact, it has been estimated that about one third of congestion in cites is caused because drivers circle the streets in order to find an empty parking spot. This not only inconveniences the drivers themselves, but also has a big social cost - cars circling the streets produce extra fumes and pollution (which otherwise would not have been produced had a parking space been available) and it also increases the risk of accidents - a driver looking for a parking space is much less likely to notice an oncoming pedestrian or cyclist. 

In order to combat this problem, San Francisco has introduced a high-tech parking system called SFpark. The aim is to keep one parking space free per block at any one time, by using supply and demand analysis. 

Since sensors have been installed into parking bays around the city, which register when the parking bay is being used, drivers now pay flexible parking rates in accordance to how busy the parking spaces on that block are. The rates are reviewed every two months. If a block of parking spaces is particularly popular and rarely has a free parking space, rates for that block can be increased by 25 cents, whereas if a block frequently has free parking spaces, prices can be decreased by up to 50 cents in order to increase demand and reduce the number of available parking spaces until only one per block remains. 

SFpark has also made it easier for people to pay for parking, by introducing credit card machines in parking meters. In addition, people are able to check online, via text or on their smartphones whether the area which they would like to park has any available parking spaces - this may encourage people travelling to busy areas to use public transport. 

Although it is too early to conclude whether the new parking system has been effective, preliminary data suggests that three-quarters of the blocks have either hit their targets or moved closer to the overall goal of one available parking space per block. In addition, the scheme seems to be more successful on weekdays than weekends. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Cuts cost Growth

by James Wand

This week's Autumn Statement was possibly the bleakest outlook on the economy for more than sixty years. The economy is in an appalling state of stagnation and collapse, the foundations are failing and plans to secure its recovery are faltering at every turn. George Osborne has failed to heed the warnings from the IMF and the World Bank, and is placing ideology and addiction to public sector cuts before the necessity of supporting the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. This Urgent Statement addresses the horrifying Autumn Statement.

As we further move towards winter we must face the reality that what lies immediately ahead will be the twenty-first century version of the winter of discontent. Osborne, addicted to cuts, deeper cuts, and even deeper cuts admitted today that Plan A had failed and austerity would last until 2018 at the earliest. Average growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the IMF, EU Commission and Credit rating agencies have even suggested that such claims are unrealistic; with comparisons to the March Budget suggesting that confidence even within the inner circle of the Treasury has all but disappeared. We face a decade of decay and austerity – this is no less than a national disaster and one that we must address quickly.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Stem Cell Research: Life-Saving or Cold-Blooded Murder?

by Sparshita Dey

^Embryonic stem cells
Stem cell research may be the next scientific breakthrough. Scientists think that if we can discover how specialised cells turn off/on certain genes to give them particular functions and characteristics, we can start "growing" specific cells using stem cells from a person's body. These can be used to cure genetic diseases (which cannot be cured at the moment and can result in a lifetime of pain and discomfort, including early deaths) as well as other diseases that are not yet curable e.g. diabetes and paralysis. So surely using stem cells should get the go-ahead straight away? Then why do so many people oppose it? 

What is Stem Cell Research and what are Stem Cells?

Stem cell research is to do with the research of undifferentiated cells (i.e. cells with the ability to differentiate/specialise into any type of cell with any type of function in the body depending on where it is needed/ used). In plants, specialised cells can become unspecialised again (like stem cells) and then re-differentiate if needed. However, in animals, like humans, the stem cells differentiate very early on in the development of the organism (from just after a zygote is formed – i.e. in the embryonic stage) and this change is permanent.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Academies: The Dangerous Schools

by James Wand

michael gove, secretary of state for education, education secretary, academies
Michael Gove, the UK's Secretary of State for Education
Image courtesy of The Times
After disappointing results for thousands of students in their GCSE exams this summer, those entering secondary schools for the first time this week will be going in with more trepidation than ever before. It’s hard not to feel that the class of 2012 have been hard done by as they bear the brunt of Michael Gove’s radical reforms. Radical reforms that have resulted in schools changing from local education authority lead establishments to academies and free schools, moving away from the safety net that is local government and towards the dangerous and volatile world that is the educational free-market.