Thursday, September 04, 2003

How new is new?

On the way to Stansted airport yesterday, I found myself unexpectedly in Broxbourne in Hertfordshire for about half an hour. Near the railway line was something called the "New River Path", a walking track running beside a watercourse. Although this was called "New River", river was clearly the wrong word. It was far two straight, far too narrow, far too deep, and in the wrong location (on the top of an artificial looking ridge) to be a natural river. My first guess was that it was a canal. However, I found a sign explaining that it was in fact a channel forming part of the London water supply system. I have no idea how London's water system works, but I suspect it is made up of lots of little pieces of infrastructure like this rather than the more monolithic infrastructure in more marginally located cities such as Sydney or New York. I really must learn about it. (There was a fabulous piece on New York's water system and the immense third tunnel under construction in the New Yorker last week. Sadly, they haven't put the article on line).

In any event, the New River is not actually a river. Also, it has been flowing since 1613, which may be "new" relative to Stonehenge, but probably isn't to the rest of us..

(While on articles in the New Yorker, this piece on the Galileo Jupiter mission is excellent, too. (Every now and then, NASA seems to produce "the little space probe that could", and Galileo was one of those). The magazine seems to have improved a lot since Tina Brown left).

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