Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy
College Station, Texas 77843
With millions of interacting people and hundreds of governing agencies, urban environments are the largest, most dynamic, and most complex macroscopic systems on Earth. The interaction between the three fundamental components of that system (human, natural, and built) can be studied much like any physical system, with observation and application of physical principles to the collection and analysis of that data. I will describe how persistent, synoptic imaging of an urban skyline can be used to better understand the urban system, in analogy to the way persistent, synoptic imaging of the sky can be used to better understand the heavens. At the newly created Urban Observatory at the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), we are combining techniques from the domains of astronomy, physics, computer vision, remote sensing, and machine learning to address a myriad of questions related to urban informatics. I will demonstrate the power of these techniques from the point of view of urban energy and environmental impact of a city, which can lead to improved city functioning and quality of life for its inhabitants.