The vast web of geometries traced out in light shows you cities as a kind of infestation. They’re like living networks spreading across the planet.
From 20,000 feet (or better yet from orbit) our perspective actually shifts from physics toastrophysics because now we begin to get a kind of planetary view of cities. I think its best to call this an astrobiological perspective. Astrobiology is relatively new field where researchers ask about life in a planetary context. It combines astronomy and biology, of course, but also involves lots of other fields like geochemistry and atmospheric science to create a truly global view of life and planets.
Astrobiology asks how the evolution of a planet can affect conditions for life. For example, how do changes in a planet’s orbit over time make it more or less hospitable to life? Thinking this way has really helped folks look at the problem of the origin and evolution of life in some new and interesting ways. But for me what’s really remarkable about this perspective is that it’s also shown that, just as planets affect life, life affects planets too!
See on www.npr.org