31 December 2007

Running on Oobleck! Vibrating Oobleck!

The right mix of cornstarch and water becomes a non-newtonian fluid. Like a solid under stress, like a liquid otherwise! It also behaves in a stunningly bizarre fashion when vibrated at various frequencies!

Ambani's Greenscraper

Indian zillionaire Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries, is building Residence Antilia, his personal greenscraper in Mumbai, newer design on the left, older on right...

Kudos to EcoGeek (and Daily Dose...)

On the lookout for greenscrapers, I came across this EcoGeek column on Uber-Eco-Towers by Jon Schroeder at where he spotlights top-ten green skyscrapers, including this Urban Cactus in Rotterdam (more photos of Urban Cactus courtesy the Daily Dose of Architecture)... EcoGeek also showcased a great time-lapse video about the construction of a wind turbine by ecotricity in England...

30 December 2007

Baby Anime !-)

I admit that I'm a sucker for silly humor. Well, Wilkinson Sword, the razors company, made this Fights for Kisses anime pitting baby vs daddy for the affections of mommy. Ridiculous, but it cracked me up, especially the natural gas-powered baby moment. Brought forth mixed memories of my ultra-Freudian English teacher in High School...

Use the Trendalyzer, View Gapcasts...

Play with the online version of the Trendalyzer from Gapminder (although they spunout development to Google) where you can dynamically compare trends-over-time among a couple dozen dimensions over several decades...
And certainly take a look at the Gapcasts by Hans Rosling and colleagues, each a short video using the Trendalyzer to investigate some aspect of the human condition (e.g. Globalization, Urbanization, Maternal Mortality, etc).

29 December 2007

Visualizing Human Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality Worldwide

It's useful to spotlight the different dimensions of Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality of peoples around our planet. Just a few examples here. First the combination of the UNDP's Human Development Index together with Conservation International's Biodiversity Hotspots...
And Transparency International's Index of Perception of Corruption... And the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom compiled together with the Wall Street Journal... And the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index (4 colors Dark-to-Light Red then Light-to-Dark Green representing Worst-to-Best)... And the Freedom House Map of Freedom in the World... Finally, the real way to see all these kinds of data is with Gapminder, whose impressario of ideas, Hans Rosling, delivered an impassioned talk at TED 2007 visualizing poverty dynamics worldwide...

Really Green Buildings

Roof gardens, green walls, and other key elements making for really green buildings. We need entire vital cities filled with such structures!

Both GardenVisit and BusinessWeek imagine such a future!

28 December 2007

Afghan Entrepreneurship DESPITE the USAID...

Sarah Chayes writes in the December 2007 Atlantic Monthly an article entitled Scents & Sensibility, about her experience starting and building Arghand, an Afganistan-based soap and body-oil business gainfully employing Afghans and locally-sourcing materials, and how she "overcame the incompetence of America’s aid establishment." Humorous and yet a sad testimony to the lousy judgment and misguided incentives of government bureaucrats and the international development aid industry.

Green Lungs for Vital Cities -- e.g. Al-Azhar Park in Cairo

My Developmental Entrepreneurship student Zehra Ali reminded me of the hugely important role the Aga Khan plays in global development, most especially in the areas of architecture, design, planning and above all, vital cities.

One glorious example of this sustained interest -- over several decades -- and enduring support is the creation of Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt, a wonderful example of urban innovation and greenscaping. A former municipal dump has been transformed into a "green lung" for the biggest city in Africa and an inspiration for vital cities worldwide!

26 December 2007

Wiimote Projects from Johnny Lee @ CMU

Great example of what the Nintendo Wii will soon enable in the realm of consumer virtual reality. Johnny Lee of CMU shows how simple hardware plus clever code turns everyday display into a VR display with depth! Great video about his Wiimote...

24 December 2007


This is the season for Howtoon-ing, learning-by-doing through play that matters!
For instance, use an Air Cannon to blow out your candles!

10 December 2007

Celebrating Development Innovations @ MIT

This coming Tuesday 12/11/07, I'm running an informal end-of-semester International Development reception at MIT.

We will serve up a buffet of tasty morsels, both veggie and carne. Our goal is to help connect people from throughout our greater-Cambridge global development community and to especially spotlight emerging opportunities in the upcoming Spring Semester.

Joining us will be members of several project teams from Fall Semester 2007 development-related courses including Digital Innovations, Developmental Entrepreneurship, D-Labs, and more. Also invited are the leaders and membership of TechLink, SEID, GSW, GPI, AfricaBusinessClub, NetImpact, and other clubs, as well as organizers & participants in the IDEAS and the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competitions and the International Development Network (IDN) at MIT. Finally, the instructors & organizers of several key IAP & Spring 2008 development-related seminars at Harvard & MIT will join us, specifically people representing ICT for Development, Global Health Delivery, Wheelchair Design, Water & Sanitation, Prosthetics Design & Development, Projects for Change, Nuts & Bolts of Business Plans, D-Labs, Responsive Cities, and more.

Quite cool!

06 December 2007

Exponential Innovations

Howtoons had a very nice write-up by MIT Science Writer David Chandler in TechTalk today. We very much hope to reach millions of children worldwide with DIY play and experiential learning.

Met IDEO's Tim Brown today at Andrew Collins's MITX Fireside Chat. Asked him about products which empower exploratory users to be co-designers of their own experience. iRobot co-founder Rod Brooks was in attendance and his Roomba open-access interface is a live-case study of just such user-empowerment. Also in attendance were MIT Sloan's Jim Utterback, Dave Weber, and multiple Sloan Fellows. Google's Rich Miner was especially interested in the role of voice interfaces; Tim admitted that most designers were ignorant of that dimension (!) Uber-blogger Dan Bricklin was on-duty and captured the essence of things. Technology Review's Kathleen Kennedy was in the house, as was old compatriot Bruce Journey.

Earlier this evening, xconomy.com hosted a fascinating panel on building billion dollar ventures in New England. Chief Xconomizer Bob Buderi rallied Tim Greeley of IDG Ventures to moderate, Christophe Westphal of Sirtris (and Alynylam, Polaris, et al), Frank Moss of Media Lab (and Infinity, Tivoli, et al), and Helen Greiner of iRobot to hold forth on how-why-when we might giga-venture.

Lots afoot. I co-founded MIT's Developmental Entrepreneurship initiative so we could really dial things up, including granting travel moneys for students to field-test their venture plans over January. The MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition Judging is soon and will be announced next week December 13th, 2008.

More happening. New startups. Cluster crafting. Ecosystem engineering. All is going exponential.

30 November 2007

High Technology; Massive Impact

At tonight's Deshpande Center gathering, I connected with both Charlie Cooney, Faculty Director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, and Alec Dingee, Founder of the MIT Venture Mentoring Service. Both rockstars in the MIT venture ferment.

I shared our latest Howtoons with both of them, especially our new book HOWTOONS: The Possibilities Are Endless published by Harper Collins.

Also connected MIT Nuclear Engineering Research Scientist Dick Lanza with MIT HST Professor Utkan Demirci. Lanza's first Deshpande grant for Low Cost X-Rays remains a really great open opportunity. Demirci's Health Technology Innovations class in Spring 2008 might be just the venue for escalating this idea!

Afterwards went to the MIT Muddy Charles Pub for chat with Cory Kidd, imminent alumnus from the MIT Media Lab Robotic Life Group.

Beyond that was a crazy extended interlude best left undocumented...

29 November 2007

Urban Innovations & Developmental Entrepreneurship

I interviewed Kareem Howard, founder of VehicleSense, on my TV show today. His technology allows tracking cars and trucks for the purpose of managing parking spaces and spreading information about spot availability. This is a great example of an urban innovation, something which will enable ever more responsive cities which are both economically viable and ecologically sustainable. This is a powerful theme, one which forms the basis for a new seminar I'm incubating together with MIT Professors Bill Mitchell and Kent Larson for Spring 2008.

I then went to the MIT Stata Center for the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition's Development Track mixer. Guest speaker Illac Diaz -- formerly of MIT SPURS, now a KSG Mason Fellow -- spotlighted his four (4) winning entries in both IDEAS and MIT $100K! Amazing stuff and evidence of the tremendous entrepreneurial vitality of Illac and his Filipino teammates. This kind of venture crafting and innovative leadership is just what we are seeking to support through our Developmental Entrepreneurship initiatives.

Afterwards Illac and I headed to the MIT Muddy Charles Pub where we met with MIT Sloan MBA First-Year Jenny Kwan to talk shop about her efforts with SEID, energy in China, and a new ultra stealth-mode solar-thermal venture. They were both in good humor so it turned into Roast Joost night.

Even newly minted PhD Dave Danielson weighed in (presumably to maintain his cred as a "minor Muddy legend").

27 November 2007

MIT Campus as Living Learning Lab

I had a great chat with Jason Jay and Elsa Olivetti at the MIT Muddy Charles Pub this evening about "Greening MIT" and turning the MIT campus into a Living Learning Laboratory for exploring energy and sustainability innovations. Rather than just studying or helping others be sustainable, the idea is to Walk the Talk and actually be ever more sustainable. Inspired by the new MIT Sloan Porter Building, which will achieve the highest level of LEED on campus, I suggested we try to generalize and begin to think about creating a LEED Campus (and for that matter aspiring towards LEED Cities, LEED Countries, and indeed, a LEED Planet).

Just a few hours earlier I hosted Professor Steven Lerman as guest speaker at our Understanding MIT seminar. Dean Lerman shared with us his experience starting and running Project Athena, a 1980's campus computing initiative. Project Athena was a remarkable technology testbed which also incubated several key inventions, including Kerberos authentication, X windowing system, and Zephyr instant messaging. Athena made it possible for MIT students to be among the first and fastest adopters of the web in the early 1990's. The key thing is that any anthropologist (or market researcher) observing student behavior would have seen the future first. Athena made MIT a predictive microcosm of the world to-come with people experiencing web-equivalent services -- e.g. anywhere email, online file storage, served applications, pervasive IM -- roughly 5-10 years before people in the rest of the OECD.

The ambitious Living The Future initiative (f.k.a. MIT Project Mercury) seeks to do the same thing at MIT for all things mobile and wireless.

This is starting to happen with energy and sustainability at MIT. Elsa's own efforts to document and minimize energy use in research labs lead to tangible efficiency gains. Other students are pushing for using biodiesel in campus vehicles. And more. But more coherent and faculty-driven support is needed to take this from being fragmented and extracurricular to central and enduring.

29 September 2007

MIT's Innovation Gallery

The MIT Museum's new Innovation Gallery is definitely worth a visit. Many ongoing research projects at the Institute are on display, including the Robot Wheel, autonomous drive+brake+steer+suspension modules, and the City Car, a sharable, stackable vehicle.