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Vienna ranked world's most livable city — for second consecutive year

Vienna leads as the most livable cities in the world.

Vienna ranked world's most livable city — for second consecutive year
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit just released its annual Global Livability Ranking for 2019.
  • Vienna has come out on the top for its second year in a row.
  • The top 10 cities all score highly or perfect scores on the factors that the (EIU) sets out to determine livability.

Livability is a simple concept. On the whole, it's a metric that assesses which cities provide the best (or worst) living conditions for humans. This said, the city of Vienna, Austria, has taken the gold, again, as the most livable city in the world, according to the (EIU) Economist Intelligence Unit's most recent index report.

The Austrian capital scored a near perfect score in all of the factors that (EIU) categorizes to create a "livable city" score.

The EIU index ranks 140 cities and takes into account 30 factors that are broken down into a subset of five categories: stability, culture and environment, education, infrastructure and health care. Vienna scored a 99.1 out of 100.

The top spots have been filled by cities located predominantly in Australia, Canada, and Japan.

"Overall, our index remains dominated by medium-sized cities in wealthy countries. These cities have well-funded public healthcare systems, compulsory and high-quality education, and functional road and rail infrastructure," the report noted that these factors need to also be paired with other progressive cultural political systems. "The provision of these services is assisted by the presence of fully democratic electoral systems and generally low levels of corruption."

High crime rates and inferior infrastructure stopped most larger and American cities from breaking into the top 10. A notable exception was Tokyo, which shows that size isn't always an exclusionary factor for becoming a livable city.

"The presence of Tokyo in the top 10 demonstrates that it is possible to scale up these characteristics, but maintaining these levels of performance in cities with two, three or four times as many people is challenging, especially when such cities also tend to be greater magnets for crime and terrorism."

World’s most livable city rankings

Sydney, Australia

Photo credit: vaun0815 on Unsplash

To assess living conditions, the index takes into account all of these 30 factors and then compiles them together to create a weighted score between 1 and 100.

The group has been publishing the annual Global Livability Ranking for a number of years to track and chart the progress of cities worldwide. Over the past year, they've observed that, on average, scores for stability have risen, one factor being the perceived threat of terrorism has subsided. Improvements in local citizenry relations has increased in a number of places throughout the United States, such as "Seattle and Houston in the U.S., and Seoul in South Korea."

Paris, France, has been one of the highest ranking cities to have fallen in terms of stability score, owing to the anti-government protests that started late last year in 2018.

Vienna is exemplary in all metrics, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact standout factor for its livability score. It's easier to look at what constitutes a lowered standard of livability and compare that to see how major world renowned cities, such as New York City (ranked 58th), come up short.

For example, most American cities are low on stability and infrastructure. There's too much of a prevalence of violent crime, civil unrest, lack of quality housing, and out-of-shape transit networks. For the most part, American cities are keeping pace in other areas such as the environment.

That's something that cities in emerging markets have to take into account as they're the most susceptible to the calamities of the worldwide climate crisis. According to the researchers:

"A slew of cities in emerging markets that are among the most exposed to the effects of climate change have seen their scores downgraded. These include New Delhi in India, which suffers from appalling air quality, Cairo in Egypt (where air quality is also a major issue) and Dhaka in Bangladesh."

Indeed, both emerging markets and top index cities need to be wary of climate change. A lack of a concentrated global effort puts every city at risk for losing livability when it comes to the environment. The report also states:

"The incidence of extreme weather events, such as flooding and heatwaves, is rising around the world, and cities in emerging markets are often the most directly affected and the least resilient. That said, we see climate change as a global phenomenon, which threatens the livability of cities at the very top of the index too."

Countering rising temperatures and climate devastation is the only way to maintain the current levels of livability we're seeing across the world.

What makes a city livable?

Tokyo, Japan

Photo credit: Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

The five main categories of this report consisted of qualitative and quantitative factors that measure livability. Each factor is then analyzed as either: acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable.

Individuals can determine how this might affect their lifestyle in a given location and then compare it between other locations.

Assessing livability has a broad range of uses, from benchmarking perceptions of development levels to assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.

The top 10 list of most livable cities in the world according to the Global Livability Index 2019 is as follows:

  1. Vienna, Austria (99.1)
  2. Melbourne, Australia (98.4)
  3. Sydney, Australia (98.1)
  4. Osaka, Japan (97.7)
  5. Calgary, Canada (97.5)
  6. Vancouver, Canada (97.3)
  7. Tokyo, Japan (97.2 tie)
  8. Toronto, Canada (97.2 tie)
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark (96.8)
  10. Adelaide, Australia (96.6)

Anything from a range of 80 to 100 showcases a great living environment. Seventy to 80 shows that regular day-to-day living is fine in general, but you could run into some problems. Sixty to 70 is when negative factors have an impact on your everyday life, while 50–60 livability is considered substantially constrained. Finally, 50 or less and most aspects of living are severely restricted.

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  • Quantum tunneling is not a new discovery, but there's a lot that's unknown about it.
  • By super-cooling rubidium particles, researchers use their spinning as a magnetic timer.

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Exactly why or even how quantum tunneling happens is unknown: Do particles just pop over to the other side instantaneously in the same way entangled particles interact? Or do they progressively tunnel through? Previous research has been conflicting.

That quantum tunneling occurs has not been a matter of debate since it was discovered in the 1920s. When IBM famously wrote their name on a nickel substrate using 35 xenon atoms, they used a scanning tunneling microscope to see what they were doing. And tunnel diodes are fast-switching semiconductors that derive their negative resistance from quantum tunneling.

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Steinberg is a co-author of a study just published in the journal Nature that presents a series of clever experiments that allowed researchers to measure the amount of time it takes tunneling particles to find their way through a barrier. "And it is fantastic that we're now able to actually study it in this way."

Frozen rubidium atoms

Image source: Viktoriia Debopre/Shutterstock/Big Think

One of the difficulties in ascertaining the time it takes for tunneling to occur is knowing precisely when it's begun and when it's finished. The authors of the new study solved this by devising a system based on particles' precession.

Subatomic particles all have magnetic qualities, and they spin, or "precess," like a top when they encounter an external magnetic field. With this in mind, the authors of the study decided to construct a barrier with a magnetic field, causing any particles passing through it to precess as they did so. They wouldn't precess before entering the field or after, so by observing and timing the duration of the particles' precession, the researchers could definitively identify the length of time it took them to tunnel through the barrier.

To construct their barrier, the scientists cooled about 8,000 rubidium atoms to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. In this state, they form a Bose-Einstein condensate, AKA the fifth-known form of matter. When in this state, atoms slow down and can be clumped together rather than flying around independently at high speeds. (We've written before about a Bose-Einstein experiment in space.)

Using a laser, the researchers pusehd about 2,000 rubidium atoms together in a barrier about 1.3 micrometers thick, endowing it with a pseudo-magnetic field. Compared to a single rubidium atom, this is a very thick wall, comparable to a half a mile deep if you yourself were a foot thick.

With the wall prepared, a second laser nudged individual rubidium atoms toward it. Most of the atoms simply bounced off the barrier, but about 3% of them went right through as hoped. Precise measurement of their precession produced the result: It took them 0.61 milliseconds to get through.

Reactions to the study

Scientists not involved in the research find its results compelling.

"This is a beautiful experiment," according to Igor Litvinyuk of Griffith University in Australia. "Just to do it is a heroic effort." Drew Alton of Augustana University, in South Dakota tells Live Science, "The experiment is a breathtaking technical achievement."

What makes the researchers' results so exceptional is their unambiguity. Says Chad Orzel at Union College in New York, "Their experiment is ingeniously constructed to make it difficult to interpret as anything other than what they say." He calls the research, "one of the best examples you'll see of a thought experiment made real." Litvinyuk agrees: "I see no holes in this."

As for the researchers themselves, enhancements to their experimental apparatus are underway to help them learn more. "We're working on a new measurement where we make the barrier thicker," Steinberg said. In addition, there's also the interesting question of whether or not that 0.61-millisecond trip occurs at a steady rate: "It will be very interesting to see if the atoms' speed is constant or not."

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