Davos Newbies Home

Candidate for most useful species 

In a day of fascinating conversations, one of the most interesting was a discussion with George Church about the prochlorococcus cyanobacteria.

It turns out that prochlorococcus is the major photosynthesising organism on earth, responsible for extracting 17% of global CO2 each year. This was only figured out in 1999, even though we’ve known about photosynthesis for a few hundred years.

Our ability to live on earth depends greatly on prochlorococcus, but we have no idea whether the environmental changes we are wreaking may reduce the population (which outnumbers the earth’s human population by 14 logs) and thus make life unliveable here. George accurately calls prochlorococcus our “new hero” species.

The escalator test 

I have very few data points, I have to admit, but I’m wondering whether there’s an inverse relationship between escalator speed and economic dynamism.

In New York yesterday I was struck by how painfully slow escalators from the depths of the subway move (this is exacerbated by the fact that everyone stands on both sides of the escalator, so there isn’t even a “fast lane” for walking up, as in London). I suspect there’s a spurious safety reason. (And this isn’t confined to New York. If memory serves, the Bay Area’s Bart system has the same slow plague.)

In London and most of the rest of Europe, escalators move at a fair clip. But the fastest escalators I’ve ever been on were in the Moscow metro during both the Soviet era and in the democratic years since. If you aren’t alert on these occasionally massively long escalators, you could be in seriously trouble when you get off.

So the dynamism of New York is accompanied by glacially slow escalators; European economic muddling through has ones that muddle through; and problematic Russia rushes along. Hmmm.

One thought on “Davos Newbies Home

  1. Mike Alexander

    The escalators in the Washington DC Metro System are perpetually broken. I rarely take a trip on the Metro where the escalators are not being repaired at one or both stations. That being said, they move at a moderate pace and people are generally good about obeying the walk left, stand right rule.


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