At their core, cities are hubs of social networks and are therefore continually reshaped by the technology at their occupants’ disposal. Mobile phones and cars, for example, are creating unprecedented opportunities for connection and facilitating rapid urbanization. But the line between that growth and broader global change, particularly environmental events, isn’t always clear, explains Santa Fe Institute researcher Luis Bettencourt in an interview on the podcast Generation Anthropocene. Bettencourt is developing an equation—yes, a mathematical one—that can be used to assess cities past and present globally, considering factors like infrastructure, building footprint, GDP, and the number of patents filed. In his view, cities tend to foster sustainability due more to proximity and density—promoting walking over driving, for instance—than a conscious choice to think green. He wants to give urban planners and developers a tool to build cities that can not only respond to major environmental events but allay their effects in the first place. []

Robotic aerial construction took another step forward with the recent news from ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, regarding the construction of a full-scale, structural bridge whose rope supports were woven by a team of flying quadcopters. While there’s still a lot that drones can’t (legally) be used to do—in the U.S., at least—test cases like this help to prove a future where construction can happen, literally, on the fly. [Robohub

If those tiny plastic Lego people were life-sized and human, they’d make up the world’s largest population—cue the A.I. fever dreams. That, and more Lego fun-facts. [Popular Mechanics]

PlanGrid, an app that lets project teams put building plans in the cloud much like Google Drive, launched in 2011 to help disseminate new drawings among team members faster while reducing paper waste. But bringing a digital distribution platform to an industry that has historically relied on analog tools to communicate in the field was a challenge. [TechCrunch]

Joining the growing class of designers that are making the materials from which they fabricate their signature products is the U.K.–based husband-and-wife design duo Solidwool. The pair combines wool and bioresin to create a glass fiber–like material that forms the basis for their line of tables, chairs, and accessories. [Fast Company's Co.Design]

A new large-scale solar photovoltaic installation near the JFK Airport, in New York, will help run Bloomberg L.P.’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan and its downtown data center. [Inhabitat]

Drilling geothermal wells isn’t an easy endeavor. As Wired reporter Shara Tonn explains, a crew drills two sets of wells: one to pump water deep into the earth and another to tap that pumped water, harvest its heat, and circulate it. The teams typically can’t see what’s going on during the second phase, adding an inconvenient element of guesswork and, sometimes, extra chemicals to the job. That could soon change. By wrapping balls of DNA in silica, one Stanford researcher found a way to code the water so drilling crews know where it's coming from. [Wired]