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Small scale innovations occur every day, propagating though our culture and economy organically as more and more people and businesses adopt and adapt new products.  Because these changes come in small packages — think microwave ovens or even cell phones, requiring either no infrastructure improvements or ones which do not upset the current existing systems — they can often be tested and implemented without first reinventing the world.

But what about large-scale endeavors?  How do we rethink huge undertakings like power grids without implementing them, at the cost of inconveniencing tens of thousands of people resident to the municipality? The same goes for data networks, solar power, etc.

A company called Pegasus Global Holdings has an idea: build a town with capacity for 35,000 residents — and then, invite absolutely no one to live there.

The town, called The Center, will be a twenty square mile faux municipality in New Mexico.  It will be a working city from an infrastructure perspective, with an in-place power grid and a central control system which, among other things, allows scientists to control everything within the (unoccupied) homes remotely, to test everything from potential improvements in heating and air conditioning to more efficient municipal sewage systems.  (Want to see what happens when everyone in town turns up their thermostat four degrees? As New Scientist points out, that’s not problem for The Center.) The environment also allows for researchers to safely test things which, if let loose in a real town, would be criminally dangerous — things like driverless cars or water treatment “improvements.”  In fact, Pegasus’ business model is not focused directly on the innovations themselves — the company plans to rent The Center out to corporate R&D teams in need of a real-life (minus the “life”) laboratory conditions.  And Pegasus will have to sell a lot of research time, as according to SF Gate, The Center will cost them approximately $200 million to build.

The exact location of The Center is not yet determined, but Pegasus hopes to break ground by the summer of 2012, and open its doors to the scientific community two years after.

Bonus fact: In 1982, Atari came out with a video game based on the movie E.T.  Due to the movie’s popularity, the video game was expected to be a big hit — but it flopped.  Atari made millions of copies of the game and had them sitting in a warehouse in El Paso, Texas, with nothing to do with them.  Rumor has it that Atari shipped them (via 10-20 semis) to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where a landfill awaited.  The Alamogordo landfill was of particular interest because they ground up their trash and, in any event, were closed to scavengers — thereby preventing Atari from further eroding whatever customer base was out there for the video game.

From the ArchivesEternal Vacancy: The Varosha quarter of Famagusta, Cyprus has lots of hotels — but never any guests.

RelatedE.T., the video game.  It’s now a collector’s item, running $50.

Originally published

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