Real trees (right) and their simulation in Washington State University's new cyberforest program (left).
Washington State University Real trees (right) and their simulation in Washington State University's new cyberforest program (left).

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) can grow a forest in three weeks—through computer simulation, that is. Designed to help forest managers better understand which kinds of trees and other ecological factors will help forests grow back after wildfires and other events, WSU's software scales up 100-square-meter stands of drought- and shade-tolerant trees to the size of a real forest. To develop their models, the team used existing forestry databases from industry organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they also collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to image existing forests with drones. The complex system includes everything from the tree canopy down to the roots. “Each leaf competes for sunlight, while beneath the virtual earth, the organisms’ roots compete for water resources,” Gizmag explains. WSU's goal is to predict how events like wildfires, droughts, increasingly warm weather, and other effects of climate change are affecting North American forests growth. [Gizmag + Washington State University]

ICYMI: Why the earth needs more wildlife-only areas, and what the AEC sector can do about it. [ARCHITECT]

Exponential growth in the prowess of key technologies—computing power, data, robotics, and more—is poised to accelerate their impact this century and beyond. [Nature]

NASA is applying its current technology for stabilizing an aggressively shaking rocket to counter the vibrations of tall buildings during earthquakes. [CityLab]

A hiring spate could give Google’s slow-growing Sidewalk Labs initiative, which aims to use data to troubleshoot urban issues including congestion, energy consumption, and housing availability, the jolt to move its initiative beyond New York. [Wired]

Two MIT research labs—the Sustainable Design Lab and the Lincoln Laboratory—have partnered with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to develop a city-scale building energy model that estimates the hourly gas demand and energy load of every structure in Boston proper. [MIT News]

Informed by the “bumpy shell of desert beetles, the asymmetric structure of cactus spines, and slippery surface of pitcher plants,” a novel material developed by researchers at Harvard University offers a new way to gather and retain moisture from the environment. [Harvard University]