The Gopher That Lives in Russia's Main Space Launch Facility

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We have the makings of a hit Pixar movie: A gopher on the steppes of Kazakhstan at a Russian cosmodrome. Just imagine all his wacky hijinks!

This is a Russian YouTube video of the playful creature who lives in the shadow of a rocket launch pad at Baikonur, a space facility in Kazakhstan. We could leave it there.

But this little guy reminds me of the talk that Geoff Manaugh (author of BLDGBLOG) gave at the Aspen Ideas Festival last month, in which he urged us to look at the "unofficial users" of the city: Weeds, Vermin, Robots, and Burglars. As architects and designers render the vast urban futures of tomorrow, Manaugh said, they tend to leave out the very things that make cities feel like cities. The weeds, the rats, the thieves.

At the core, it was an argument about how to make our thinking about the future more realistic and weirder. A rocket launchpad doesn't just help us send things to space, it also creates an ecosystem that can support particular types of life on Earth who prefer those surroundings to the "natural" alternative.

And if we want to imagine what humans will be doing 30 years hence, what the "jobs of the future" might be, we can't forget the groundskeepers and gopher whisperers, somehow figuring everyone will become an in-vitro farmer or biotechnician or green roof designer. We gain more insight by following the synthesis spiral of the wild and the controlled. We change the environment and it adapts. We, in turn, adapt, and change the space again. So it was and so it will ever be.

Also: how cute is that gopher when it tries to eat the camera?

Via @heathermg

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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