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Science Technology

Location Selected For $1 Billion Ghost Town 172

Hugh Pickens writes "Although a fully operation city with no people sounds like the setup for a dystopian sci-fi novel, the Boston Globe reports that the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation will develop a $1 billion scientific ghost town near Hobbs, New Mexico to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings, says the town will be modeled after the real city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. Unlike traditional cities, City Labs will start with its underground 'backbone' infrastructure that will allow the lab to monitor activity throughout the 17-mile site. Since nobody lives in the Center's buildings, computerized systems will mimic human behavior such as turning thermostats up and down, switching lights off and on, or flushing toilets. The Center's test facilities and supporting infrastructure may require as much as 20 square miles of open, unimproved land where the controlled environment will permit evaluation of the positive and negative impacts of smart grid applications and integration of renewable energies for residential, commercial and industrial sectors of the economy. 'It's an amusement park for the scientists,' adds Brumley."
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Location Selected For $1 Billion Ghost Town

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:30AM (#39985135)

    this one should be interesting

  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:34AM (#39985157) Homepage

    Seriously, Facebook costs the same as 100 fully-automated and instrumented cities.

    Economy is doing fine, indeed...

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Seriously, Facebook costs the same as 100 fully-automated and instrumented cities.

      While that's interesting, what are we supposed to get from that? Could be an indication that the "city" above is overpriced.

      • Could be an indication that the "city" above is overpriced.

        My eyes are rolling at 7200rpm.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          I must admit that my eyes rolled at a slower RPM when I read your post. Still my point is valid. Virtual services can be extremely valuable in themselves. Merely having a high price tag doesn't tell us anything.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Much of Detroit consists of vacant buildings these days, with at least some sort of roads still in place.

      In a way, the government is already "employing" (i.e., wasting welfare dollars on) most of the people still living there. Turning lights on or off and flushing toilets for research purposes would at least indirectly allow them to provide something of value to society, rather than merely being the drain they currently represent.

  • by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:35AM (#39985161)
    Wouldn't it be easier to just add sensors to Rock Hill, SC? Or better yet, play Sim City.
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:42AM (#39985195)
      Obviously the scientists would rather live in the desert than in Rock Hill, SC. Having gone to college only about 20-30 miles away over the border in North Carolina, I wouldn't want to live in that area either.
      • I hope I'm the only slashdotter who's actually lived there. It was thoroughly a shithole.

        I was driving around with a friend, and we stopped to visit some good ol' boy. Said GOB had underwear and a tshirt but no pants. The reason for his error in overdressing became clear as he lifted his shirt to reveal the nastiest scar that I hope to see. It looked like a drunk had stitched him together with twine. GOB had traded a kidney for crack. "You know the urban legend about people waking up in a bathtub full of ic

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
          The school I went to, about 30 miles to the east in North Carolina, literally had 2 stoplights, and that was it. It was a bout half a mile from one side of the town to the other. The nearest "big" town, had maybe a few thousand. That whole area is about a country as you can get. Charlotte was a pretty town too, but still too small for my tastes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      Wouldn't it be easier to just simulate the entire city on a supercomputer? And when it's not calculating wattage of incandescent vs led lightbulbs, it could do something, oh, I don't know, useful, like curing cancer?

      • They're planning on buying empty land and selling a whole fucking city. Selling a computer simulation won't generate as much profit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Simulations won't work because we don't know enough about the line to fully simulate the system.

        Testing on existing homes won't work because existing utilities don't have the right to force a homeowner to endure low power quality while some engineer runs a test.

        I would rather see the money being used to pay off homeowners to deal with testing that may destroy their homes. However, most people would rather it be done on another person's home.

      • Wouldn't it be easier to just simulate the entire city on a supercomputer?

        Simulations only work work when you have sufficient input data for the model to accurately reflect reality. This is, for any non trivial simulation, A Very Hard Problem - especially when the simulation is multi-dimensional.

        For example, any errors in your model multiply across the interfaces. If your electrical model is only .999 accurate, and your sewage system (which uses electricity for the pumps, etc...) is only .999 accu

        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          They could use this full scale model to help learn how to build accurate supercomputer models of cities. They can do experiments to help test the models that would not be viable in a real live city.
          • Well, you seem to miss the point - this isn't a real live city.

            • by TheLink ( 130905 )
              YOU miss the point. It isn't a real live city that's why they would be able to do experiments/tests that won't be viable in a real live city.

              In a real live city you'd get in big trouble if you tried to repeat a disaster with a few changes, just to see if the results agree with what the computer simulation predicts.
              • The point you claimed I missed is exactly the point I made... Are you drunk, stoned, or just fucking stupid?

                • by TheLink ( 130905 )
                  Your original point was saying simulations only work if you have the data and the model is accurate enough.

                  My point was the town can help improve simulations.

                  And you then said I miss the point and it isn't a real live city (which was kinda obvious already and didn't even need saying).

                  So what have I missed so far?
    • Yep, the only way this makes sense if they want to test dangerous or potentially dangerous technologies without humans getting in the way. If it was really just wireless networks and automated appliances, they could just hand out/install the new bleeding edge technology out for free in a volunteer test city.

      • Haven't you heard, cell phones and Wi-Fi are dangerous technologies. Allergies, cancer, other mystery ailments....

        And broadband internet access, that's an extremely dangerous technology, just ask the MPAA, RIAA, or DHS.

    • I don't think they could raise a billion dollars for that. To grab the interest of investors/suckers, you need to come up with something grandiose like building a whole city with no people in it.

      But don't worry. If you build it, they will come. I think that's part of their rationale.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    People are losing their houses due to the housing bubble and they are going to build an entire town where no one is allowed to live and have computers simulate human activity?

    I ... I don't even know how to express my feelings for just how wrong this is on so many levels.

    • "People are losing their houses due to the housing bubble and they are going to build an entire town where no one is allowed to live and have computers simulate human activity?"

      Sounds like a guarded walled community for rich people existing today.
      Only nowadays the robots turning thermostats up and down and cleaning the toilets are called Conchita and Manuel.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      People are losing houses they could never have afforded and shouldn't have been approved for anyway due to the housing bubble


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A 2 bedroom house should cost about $50-$100k ANYWHERE, and I'm being generous. If real effort were made, the house:car price ratio would routinely be 2:1 instead of 10:1.

      It will never happen because there are too many incentives built into the system which require housing to be expensive.

      1. The biggest and cruelest joke: Politicians who express a desire for affordable housing. Nonsense. The tax base comes from a percentage of the assessed value of the house. Affordable housing would just give them a

      • Houses generally ARE only worth about $100k.

        Its the land that costs so much money.

        Also, I don't know what its like in the US, but in New Zealand and in the UK you can buy leasehold properties (as opposed to freehold properties that you are aware of.)

        In those cases, you buy the "house" and ONLY the "house". ie, what is built upon the land. And you pay rent (which is reviewed every 7 years or so) for the land.

        The crux of this, is, it allows you to buy a nicer house in a much nicer area than you could ever pos

  • by waltmarkers ( 319528 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srekramtlaw}> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:47AM (#39985219)

    I know it's not as controlled, but letting actual people live in this town would have a few benefits.

    1. Some people would get a place to live.
    2. If you want simulation data for humans, why not just use humans?

    Seriously, let people live there for free or nearly free and the deal is they have to let scientists into their homes whenever for testing and upgrades. They also give up privacy for all of their anonimized actions and give up certain privacy for identifiable information, like photos. Bonus round, let them run the businesses too. Seriously, in the days of the WPA there were all sorts of co op planned communities that went up all at once, like Greenbelt, MD. Many of them are still thriving.

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      Probably the answer is "some bloody insurance company doesn't allow it". Nevertheless, this place is begging to be occupied against the will of the owner. They should set an end date for the experiments and then sell the real estate for people who would commit to actually live there.

      • Would you want to live in a structure that the contractor who built it knew that it was not intended for human habitation? To keep costs reasonable, the contractors building the town would likely stipulate that the buildings never be occupied.

    • If they used real people then the scientists couldn't test out their pet theories about how much energy could be saved if people changed their behaviors. You can program robots to behave differently, you can't make 50% of a real population live on night schedules to balance the grid load.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        Might be a valid thought, though if you can't even make 50% of a real population change their schedule for the sake of an experiment, what does that imply for the practicality of results? If in theory changing human behavior would help, but in practice you can't make that happen, that's less than useful....

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Marketing manipulation in promoting the city and denying people access in order to generate desirability so that instead of paying people to inhabit the test site people will pay to inhabit the test site.

      Getting the right sort of people to inhabit the test environment is not as easy as it sounds and getting them to do it with least cost to the developers is obviously a high goal.

      It is not about abandoning privacy in that city it is about giving doctorates in psychology and developers the opportunity to

    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      They probably want to be able to run simulations that are actually dangerous. Or be able to assume crowd behaviors.

      They might want to simulate a terrorist attack or a plague. They might want to use various traffic mitigation strategies with the same traffic jam over and over and over.

    • Seriously. For a minute I was thinking this would be a modern incarnation of the original vision for the Epcot. Instead, it's just an automated city. I'd love to see an actual "city of tomorrow" being built and populated as an example to other cities of how things could be.

  • by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:50AM (#39985235) Homepage Journal
    Why don't they just lease downtown Detroit?
    • Or since the government already owns Times Beach and a bunch of other sites purchased with the super fund, why not use one of them, or even an abandoned/closed military base.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
      They don't want to get shot?
  • or are they testing something else where the presence of witnesses would interfere/hamper the test?

  • Some one is living is the past if self-flushing toilets are so new they need to be tested like that.

    • They're testing new infrastructure ideas, not new toilet ideas. And to properly test the infrastructure, they seem to think they need to have actual toilets running. Seems like a simulation could handle that well enough, but meh.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how many letters the MPIAA will be sending there.

  • Is that a monorail around the city?
  • At a time when millions of homes are foreclosed funding is available for this project, as it seems.

    Talk about an imbalance in distribution of wealth in a system.

    To get this fixed would probably worth spending some energy.

    • Forget China.

      This explains what those pesky North Koreans have been doing... those aren't really propaganda cities you know......

  • Now has a place to vacation at.
  • The point of all of this is to test all of these things on existing infrastructure. But, if you have to go out and build the infrastructure, then it really isn't existing infrastructure is it?

  • First we have these already! Second if they are still in development shouldn't the ones in store bathrooms have warning stickers on them?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You could test various algorithms for traffic control, "platooning" and high(er) speed avoidance.

    Have you seen the computer simulation for robotic cars that are under computerized traffic control (I don't know if it's centralized or swarm intelligence). Pretty amazing, frightening yet undoubtedly efficient. It would be really something to see in real life, the intermeshing of high speed vehicles, inches from each other, on separate trajectories! (I remember watching a video of Italian motorcycle cops per

  • What happened.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ash11888 ( 2208822 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @09:49AM (#39985569) all the traditional slash-dotters I know?!? Do you people not do your research? If you paid attention to who it was and did a little, few minute research, you would find out that this is a global private company. They can do whatever the frak they want with their money. Before you start to go off on the "gov't," do some research to find out.
  • It's not a ghost town if it has never been occupied. This would be a sham city, like the sham Paris [] of World War I.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:07PM (#39986399) Homepage

    This looks like some kind of scam or hoax. There's a web site [] for the project, but it's all clip art. "Pegasus Global Holdings" is suspicious. The "Pegasus Global Holdings" behind this project is here. [] But there's also Pegasus-Global Holdings [], with a dash. The one with a dash seems to be real. The one without the dash, the one behind this project, not so much.

    Their "head office" is supposedly at 1875 "I" Street, NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20006. Many other companies have the same address, including a small law firm and a PR firm. It seems to be a mail drop of some kind. Their address in Reston, VA is a small furnished space currently for lease. [] Their "London office" is a is a "virtual office" package []: "Executive Offices Group can provide a Virtual Office business address at any of our 34 highly sought after locations. "

    "Pegasus Global Holdings" isn't listed in the SEC's EDGAR system, so they're not publicly held or doing anything big financially. They previously announced a "commercial spaceport" project; nothing came of that.

    • editors should add your post to TFS, but that would take all the fun out of it.

    • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:58PM (#39987731) Homepage

      The more I look at this, the worse it gets. The company isn't in Dun and Bradstreet. They have no significant completed projects. Another (real) company owns the trademark "Pegasus-Global". Resume checks on the published bios of the principals aren't looking good. There's no indication of where the financing will come from, or how the project makes money. Twenty minutes with a web browser will confirm everything above.

      I've been sending notes to the AP and other press outlets. Either I'm totally wrong or the whole project collapses tomorrow.

  • by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:19PM (#39987413)

    It takes a special person to decide the real problem with design is too much user input. By all means, enjoy your city-of-things. But for the love, please don't bring any of it back to the real world until you run it by some humans.

  • Is it voluntary? Or did they taxpayer funded?

    If it's government funded, one billion means they are spending the entire lifetime disposable income (i.e. everything but basic food and housing) of three thousand people, just to set it up. What benefits can this research have that will pay off more than that?

  • And Eureka is in it's final season. Coincidence? I think not!
  • Aaaah yes. They spend 1 BILLION dollars to enable tests like "intelligent traffic systems" or "self-flushing toilets".

    Certainly. Of course.
    And it has absolute NOTHING to do with training combat of, say, military people in a city, defending the state against the citizens. Nothing about rising water or sinking fuel amounts or anything like that.

    Nothing new hare, move along.

  • with the immense problems the USA has with poverty and homelessness (problems the GOP in particular wishes to ignore), spending a billion dollars on a city no one will live in is a good idea? I think not. This project has waste, boondoggle and white elephant all over it. This makes the GSA scandal look like efficiency in comparison. I think we all, as a Democrat, have every right to make sure that government money is actually being spent properly such as to help the poor. And thats what Democrats are really

  • Sounds like a front for the Umbrella Corporation to me. Be very concerned when they start discussing pharmaceuticals here...
  • Instead of investing this into a city like Detroit to bring it back to full swing and full economic promise, where there are already plenty of skyscrapers and etc,etc....
    I see this move as a waste of tax payer dollars that could be used to help the people not the government contractors trying to stuff their pockets full of government money!

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors