31 March 2009

Diseasome ~ Mapping the Genetics of Ailments

Click on and check out this interactive map of the Diseasome linked from this NYTimes related article Redefining Disease, Genes and All by Andrew Pollack. It's from nearly a year ago, but I think it's a great example of visualizing interconnections in health and disease. FYI, the key people behind this interactive map are Marc Vidal, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, and Michael Cusick who published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...

30 March 2009

Clowns Without Borders ~ Boosting the Bellydex!

Delightful to read in the BBC that Clowns bring smiles to DR Congo! Indeed, Clowns Without Borders -- a.k.a. the Spanish organisation Payasos Sin Fronteras -- a.k.a. Clowns.org -- is on a mission to conflict-torn Goma, DR Congo to help the many refugee children overcome their trauma, or at least smile and laugh and think of something else for a while. They do this by bringing a bit of circus and crazy performance art to challenging situations and appealing especially to the kids. Fantastic! This reminds me of one of my favorite conversations with genius inventor engineer Saul Griffith when he floated his idea for a Bellydex -- some measurement or index of how frequently and richly people laughed. And not just any laugh, really raucous belly laughs;-) Saul's idea was that this would probably be a far better indicator of human vitality and resilience than any other. Well, here's a whirlwind summary of the Clowns Without Borders contribution to boosting the bellydex!

Barcelona 1908 ~ Via Tram, Walking, and Bicycle

Here's a lovely video retrospective on Barcelona a century ago! I'm a big fan of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and this time warps us back to days when the dominant urban transport modes were tram, walking, and biking (and, as you can see in the video, horse-drawn carriages and early horse-less carriages too!) Also check out this interleaving of the same pathway in 1908 and 2008. Thanks to Neatorama for spotting this via Dark Roasted Blend.

Solar Storms ~ Terrestrial Catastrophe Risk...

Interesting to read Michael Brooks' piece in NewScientist on Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe where he spotlights the NASA-funded US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts...
"The effects of space weather on modern technological systems are well documented in both the technical literature and popular accounts. Most often cited perhaps is the collapse within 90 seconds of northeastern Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid during the great geomagnetic storm of March 1989, which left millions of people without electricity for up to 9 hours. This event exemplifies the dramatic impact that extreme space weather can have on a technology upon which modern society in all of its manifold and interconnected activities and functions critically depends."
Here's a map of the speculated impact of a severe geomagnetic solar storm on US electric power grid infrastructure... And here's a timelapse of Coronal Mass Ejection, the causal source behind solar storms... This is but one of the many Global Catastrophic Risks as surveyed by works compiled by editors Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic.

29 March 2009

Emerging Markets, Emerging Models ~ Monitor!

Monitor just released their Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Market-Based Solutions to the Challenges of Global Poverty report by Ashish Karamchandani, Michael Kubzansky and Paul Frandano...
"...analyzing the actual behaviors, economics, and business models of successful “market-based solutions”--financially-sustainable enterprises that address challenges of global poverty. Compiled in an effort to use fact-based research to move beyond stereotypes, anecdotes, and common assumptions about the potential of market-based solutions, Monitor’s findings highlight actual data from global working models."
In addition to reading the full report, here's the intro article from Monitor online Addressing the Challenges of Global Poverty and about their Inclusive Markets practice area. This is great work and highly recommended!

Reinventing Cities ~ Seeking Urban Innovations...

In his NYTimes piece Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now, Nicolai Ouroussoff writes...
"We long for a bold urban vision. With their crowded neighborhoods and web of public services, cities are not only invaluable cultural incubators; they are also vastly more efficient than suburbs. But for years they have been neglected, and in many cases forcibly harmed, by policies that favored sprawl over density and conformity over difference. Such policies have caused many of our urban centers to devolve into generic theme parks and others, like Detroit, to decay into ghost towns. They have also sparked the rise of ecologically unsustainable gated communities and reinforced economic disparities by building walls between racial, ethnic and class groups. Correcting this imbalance will require a radical adjustment in how we think of cities and government’s role in them."
Ouroussoff goes on...
"...to look at four cities [New Orleans, Los Angeles, The Bronx, and Buffalo] representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable."
These are further evidence that the time is now for Metro Ventures seeking out and commercializing Urban Innovations to be the top focus of our attention at MIT and other innovation epicenters. The 4.292 Responsive Cities seminar that Kent Larson and I run is just one small contribution towards this larger goal.

28 March 2009

Boda Bodas ~ Affordable Scooters Move Kenyans

Dutch videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp tells the entrepreneurial story of the rise of affordable motor scooters in Kenya, the Boda Bodas...
"Is it a menace, or affordable transport? Cheap motor bikes from China take over Kenyan roads"...
Banks are loaning the $1-2,000 which scooter operators can pay back in a half-year or so by renting out their transport services. Naturally the taxi operators are upset. And competitive pressures are driving rates down. But overall this seems to be a case of affordability triumphing.

Megawatt Kites ~ Saul G at TED on Makani Power

Saul Griffith at TED showing how Makani's megawatt kites can harness the wind and power the world...

Extreme Longevity ~ Towards Real Methuselahs...

This past week I stumbled across my copy of Robert A Heinlein's 1941 story Methuselah's Children -- and related Future History shorter pieces collected together as The Past Through Tomorrow -- and gave it a quick read-through. First of all, a great fiction story by an SF grandmaster. Second, the whole extended saga of Lazarus Long and family includes many aspects of a really interesting and even quite attractive imagined far-futureworlds, including ubiquitous computing, immersive interfaces, robomation everywhere, smart homes, systems sociology, and much more. Third, Heinlein touches on some hard truths about human nature, the persistence of individual irrationality and herd mentality and other social dysfunctionality. Fourth, this got me thinking about the prospects for Extreme Longevity (or indefinite lifespans), a topic broached by many SF writers and a growing number of speculative futurists, transhumanists, and, increasingly, biological engineers who actually might be able to deliver the goods. So it was interesting to see Rebecca Sato's piece yesterday in the Daily Galaxy about Can the Human Lifespan Reach 1,000 Years -- Some Experts Say "Yes" touching on the work of, among others, Cambridge biogerentologist Aubrey de Grey and his Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project. Compelling stuff.

27 March 2009

MIT AITI ~ Teaching Mobile Apps-Dev in Africa

I met with the MIT Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI) President Michael Gordon earlier this week, and was delighted to hear about the renewed and vital action agenda he and fellow MIT students are planning for this summer in Africa. The entirely student-run AITI...
"...promotes development in Africa through education in appropriate information and communication technologies (ICTs). During MIT's summer recess, AITI sends MIT students to Africa to teach African undergraduate and high school students. AITI partners with local African institutions to offer classes focused on mobile phone application development with an emphasis on independent research, problem-solving, and entrepreneurship."
This decade-old activity has educated and inspired over 1,000 students attending partners schools in Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia. Now in collaboration with Nathan Eagle of MIT's Entrepreneurial Programming & Research on Mobiles (EPROM), their goal is to co-develop mobile programming curricula and bolster each institution's local capacity for teaching the material and supporting emergent student ventures. Fantastic!

25 March 2009

Nuked Twice ~ Yamaguchi-San's WWII Experience

Amazing, but true, officials certify that 93 year old Japanese citizen Tsutomu Yamaguchi is the only known survivor of both WWII nukes, first Hiroshima and next Nagasaki, as reported by BBC article Man survived both atomic bombings. We now know that Weapons of Mass Destruction are fundamentally immoral, in my opinion. Perhaps it took closure to WWII to realize it, but from now on I hope we instead concentrate on Tools of Mass Construction!

John Harthorne ~ MassChallenge.org Co-Founder

FYI, this is a really massive idea... I'm delighted to have had John Harthorne, co-founder and CEO of the Mass Challenge on my MaximizingProgress.tv show. As John describes it, the Mass Challenge is an "annual Massachusetts state-sponsored Business Plan Competition to catalyze innovation and high-value job creation." This is a topic he knows something about having both won the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and been co-lead of the MIT Global Startup Workshop (GSW), the conference for business plan competition organizers. The Mass Challenge comes at a key point in this time of economic turmoil, and...
"...we will need to radically alter our economy and the types of businesses we generate and patronize. This is the perfect time to catalyze the enlightened, high-growth firms and industries of the future. We are therefore proposing the immediate launch of a $25M annual Massachusetts state-sponsored business plan competition across 6 categories: Life Sciences. IT, Software, and Gaming. Clean Technology and Energy. Social Development and Non-profit. Open Category, Seed Funding. Open Category, Expansion Funding"

23 March 2009

Epic Roman Tunnel ~ 100km Thru Jordanian Rock

Thanks to Der Spiegel story The Ancient World's Longest Underground Aqueduct by Matthias Schulz for showcasing this discovery by Mathias Döring, a hydromechanics professor in Darmstadt, Germany...
"Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria [in today's Jordan]. The monumental effort took more than a century. "Amazing" is the word that the researcher uses to describe the achievement of the construction crews, who were most likely legionnaires. The soldiers chiseled over 600,000 cubic meters of stone from the ground -- or the equivalent of one-quarter of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. This colossal waterworks project supplied the great cities of the "Decapolis" -- a league originally consisting of 10 ancient communities -- with spring water. The aqueduct ended in Gadara, a city with a population of approximately 50,000."
If the Roman's could do this two millennia ago, surely we today can build waterworks and other translogistics infrastructure to support a prosperous and vital Levant!

Bertrand Sosa ~ MPower Labs & NetSpend Story

I had the pleasure of meeting Bertrand Sosa and colleagues last week at MIT (courtesy of my colleague Professor Sandy Pentland and our former student Damien Balsan, co-founder of WAY Systems, now with NOKIA). Bertrand and his brother Roy co-founded NetSpend, a pioneer in pre-paid card sales to lower-income folks who lacked bank accounts. NetSpend was sold in 2007 to CapitalOne. Most recently Bertrand and Roy have founded MPower Labs and a whole family of empowerment ventures leveraging the emergence of mobile phones. Fantastic! Check out this brief interview with Bertrand to get a sense of their entrepreneurial vibe...

LOLrio Kart ~ Charles Guan's Hilarious Build-Epic!

Charles's LOLrio Kart build-project at MIT is a "work" in "progress" as you too can see from his still unfolding epic saga! Note his thoughtful addition of a warning light up front...

21 March 2009

Skinny Blonde ~ Aussie Beer w/ Surprise Label ;-)

Ooh, how naughty! Crazy Australian brewers Richie Harkham, Jarrod Taylor and Hamish Rosser are using thermochromic ink on their beer bottles to spread a little bit of natural humanity for the joy and delight of all, except, I suppose, medieval misanthropic religious wingnuts! According to painstaking reporting by Sophie Tedmanson in her London Times article Skinny Blonde: rock 'n' roll beer with a naked twist as many women as men enjoy Skinny Blondes! Why? In addition to the all-beer content...
"The Skinny Blonde bottle features a 1950s-style pin-up called Daisy whose red bikini disappears as the beer level drops and the bottle warms up, thanks to the modern ink technology used on the labels."
It should go without saying, but we all would benefit from having more Skinny Blondes around!

20 March 2009

Rural African Women ~ Day In The Life Of...

I had a great discussion earlier this week at MIT with Zubaida Bai who's currently at Colorado State working with Paul Hudnut and colleagues on Global Social and Sustainable Enterprises. Zubaida is especially interested in empowering rural women globally. So we got to talking about what such women need most -- how do they currently spend their time and scarce resources, what are their prime burdens, what do they wish was easier or cheaper -- and so forth. This is an ongoing market research project, but there are some aggregate data available. The Rehydration Project, in particular, has a set of graphics about Women-at-Risk including this chronograph of a day in the life of a typical rural African woman... And this Division Of Labour chart...

Lighting the Grill ~ New Use for LEDs as Bodmods

Thanks to UniqueDaily for delivering the oral action! These are some pimp LEDs lighting up this joker's grill... I await the wirefree version and, of course, underskin implantables next;-)

True Pricing ~ A Gallon of Gasoline's Real Costs

While surfing Wikipedia about Amtrak and inter-city rail transit generally, I found the term "Recovery" which turns out to mean the "Farebox Recovery Ratio of a passenger transportation system: the proportion of the amount of revenue generated through fares by its paying customers as a fraction of the cost of its total operating expenses." But why does such a seemingly prudent, energy efficient, and pleasingly comfortable transportation mode as passenger rail require such subsidies? The answer seems to be the lack of True Pricing in other modes. If the total Real Costs of building roads, subsidizing automobiles, and guzzling gasoline were actually and properly accounted for -- and charged to the beneficiaries -- then the situation would be rather different. This means Internalizing Externalities -- so-called "side-effects" like pollution currently dumped into the environment at no cost, or costs borne equally by everyone thus unfairly including non-users. The particular case of Gasoline is fascinating...
"A study by the International Center for Technology Assessment found that after accounting for government subsidies, pollution cleanup and other costs, the real price of gasoline is estimated to be somewhere between US$5.60 and US$15.37 per gallon. Were gasoline sold within this range of prices, people might voluntarily drive less, choose more fuel-efficient vehicles, and use mass transit."

Predictably Irrational ~ Dan Ariely's TED Talk...

Thanks to In Demo Veritas demoguru Daniel Rosenberg for spotting MIT Professor Dan Ariely's TED talk about one slice of his work on predictable irrationality... FYI, Venkat Rao summarizes Ariely's Predictably Irrational book nicely.

19 March 2009

Prosperity Gardens ~ Local Sourcing, Organic, DIY

Interesting to read in the NYTimes today that America's First Family, the Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House, as reported by Marian Burros...
"While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern."
Burros notes that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt cultivated a Victory Garden during WWII, a time of national crisis and need for extra self-help and citizen solutions. Perhaps today we too can rally around the promise of urban harvests, educate our offspring, and help deal with contemporary crises by seeding Prosperity Gardens, grow-it-yourself agri-DIY zones!

Underwater Volcanoes ~ Extreme Geothermal;-)

I had just read Thomas Massie's latest post on Geothermal in his timberframe home when I happened upon The Big Picture spotlighting this amazing underwater volcanic eruption off of Tonga in the Pacific. Talk about extreme geothermal! Maybe I'm overly cautious, but aren't these people and photographers ridiculotastically close to a major geo-tectonic event?! Read about Krakatoa and its tsunami aftermath!

Susan Murcott ~ Pure Home Water & MIT H20-1B

We were really pleased to have Susan Murcott from MIT's Civil & Environmental Engineering Department join us in our SP.713 Social Entrepreneurship seminar tonight. Susan's a passionate pioneer of off-grid clean water solutions for the over 1 Billion people worldwide who drink water contaminated with especially biological and chemical impurities -- i.e. microbes and poisons. She runs the H20-1B Water & Sanitation projects at MIT and teaches a class on that theme as well as 11.953/SP.723 D-Lab III: Disseminating Innovations for the Common Good with Professor Alice Amsden. Susan also collaborated for years with the wonderful Professor Don Harleman, champion of inexpensive wastewater treatment technologies (and who with his wife Martha were my next door neighbors for years). For this past decade, Susan's been working in rural and underserved urban communities on technologies to clean water -- to go beyond "improving" water (in UN parlance) to actually making it safer to consume. In Nepal, treatments included arsenic chemical removal. More recently in Ghana, the core challenge is removing particulates as well as coliform and microbial contaminants. Especially interesting about this most recent work in Ghana is Pure Home Water, the social enterprise she co-founded which concentrates on commercializing a Nicaraguan innovation -- clay pot filters for water. Susan's experiences serve as a live-case study, a compelling learning lens to help our students appreciate both the troubles and triumphs of starting and building a development venture. Check out this one of her several TechTV videos...

18 March 2009

David Merrill ~ Inventor of Siftables Interfaces!

It was great to catch up with MIT Media Lab PhD student David Merrill tonight on my MaximizingProgress.tv show (f.k.a. HighTechFever) where he shared his personal pathway from tinkering as a kid, through computer science and music at Stanford, to time in the research groups of both Professor Joe Paradiso and Pattie Maes. Most recently he's famous for Siftables, simple sensor-networked tangible user interfaces built into dominoes-like display widgets. These are a platform for many possibilities, from play toys to physical games to brainstorming tools and more. Check out David's TED demo talk...

Terrafugia Flies! ~ Roadable Aircraft is Flying Car

Congrats to Carl, Anna, Samuel, Andrew, Alex and the Terrafugia team for taking off for real! Is the Transition a roadable aircraft or a flying car? Both! And here you see it flying on the 'Tube...

Really Baaaaad ~ Totally Sheepish Art in Wales;-)

LED's and livestock make for a really baaaaad combination...

17 March 2009

16 March 2009

Cajun Crawler ~ Eat Your Heart Out, Segway!

Whoa, creepy! Wheels? Who needs wheels when you've got crawlers!

Population Growth ~ Hans Rosling's Overview...

Gapminder's Hans Rosling introduces global population dynamics... I'm especially curious, however, what happens when gerontechnology enables ever more dramatic longevity for ever more people.

15 March 2009

Local Venturing ~ Emerging Market Entrepreneurs

It's great to see two recent examples of African local development venturing, the targeting of in-country markets by organizations which either or otherwise would be primarily export-minded. First we have Blue Skies, written about by Will Ross, of the BBC in Ghana, in his article Ghana's juicy economic lesson...
"What do you do when your buyers in Europe start cutting their orders? Target the local market. That is the strategy being used by Blue Skies -- which exports pre-packed fruit salads and juices to Europe but has now realized their products can also tickle the taste buds of Ghana's more affluent customers."
And second we have Zambeef, written about by Ian Brimacombe of the BBC in Zambia, in his article Zambia's agri-business powerhouse...
"The company that runs this processing plant, Zambeef, began as a small butcher shop in the capital, Lusaka in 1991. Since then it has grown to become one of the biggest food production businesses in Africa. Place "Zam" in front of just about any food product, and there is a pretty good chance this company is producing it."
Especially worthwhile is BBC reporter Komla Dumor's video-interview of Francis Grogan, the managing director of Zambeef. Fantastically entrepreneurial efforts! These folks are transforming areas of Africa for the better through business. The BBC's on top of this entirely -- I'm impressed & delighted -- including their spotlight on Top tips from Africa's entrepreneurs featuring great advice from designers, brokers, restauranteurs, florists & more.

Mapping Impact ~ Visualizing Environmental Hits

Reading in the BBC about Australia Coast Half Clear, got me thinking about ways to map environmental impact, either forecasting future consequence, or as in this case, simply conveying the dramatic consequences of an oil spill and similar environmental disasters... This is only one case, but I want to salute BBC for conveying the essentials so clearly.

14 March 2009

Ebtihal Mubarak ~ Fearless Female Saudi Journo

Fascinating to view this CNN Inside the Middle East piece on the 'Tube about Ebtihal Mubarak, a female Saudi journalist who reports on everything from scandal, corruption, and civic incompetence to rather more touchy subjects like discrimination, basic human rights, and the role of women in her society...

10 March 2009

Beer & Civilization ~ Inspiring Hunters to Farm...

I overheard tonight at the MIT Muddy that beer was supposedly the central catalyst getting humans to civilize -- that is, settling, cultivating, and urbanizing. At first blush, very humorous. Inebriation = Civilization! But a quickie search reveals no less than George Wills on the Survival of the Sudsiest where he salutes the saving graces of tasty brews...
"The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World." It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way: "The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."
I personally suspect that the tasty additional qualities of beer had a lot to do with its "rapid adoption" and, indeed, inspired many hunters to shift to farming;-) Especially precious is Wills' closing comments...
"...the good news is really good: Beer is a health food. And you do not need to buy it from those wan, unhealthy-looking people who, peering disapprovingly at you through rimless Trotsky-style spectacles, seem to run all the health food stores. So let there be no more loose talk -- especially not now, with summer arriving -- about beer not being essential. Benjamin Franklin was, as usual, on to something when he said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

09 March 2009

Future Visions ~ Imagining Possible Tomorrows

Thanks to Randy Krum for spotting this Microsoft 2019 Vision video... And there's other future visions videos from Apple... And more, including this Intel piece I pointed to a while ago. And there's also a really far-out end of this genre spectrum, including this World Builder vid pointed out by Ben Shultz crafted by the remarkable Bruce Branit...

06 March 2009

Diane Darling ~ Doyenne of Venture Networking

Hey, one of my favorite people is in the local news today! Diane Darling, venture networker extraordinaire and founder of Effective Networking, is the subject of Irene Sege's Boston Globe piece A savvy, sought-after survivor of debt... My MIT colleagues Joe Hadzima and Yonald Chery and I invited Diane to address our Nuts & Bolts of Business Plans class this past January 2009 because so much of the "plan" is in fact the people and the process these people go through while planning! They get to know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, their core motivations, and their abilities to focus, persevere, thrive, get-it-done, and more. That's where Diane's advice enhances entrepreneurial effectiveness.

Development Ventures ~ MIT $100K D-Trackers

Excellent to see the Semifinalist announcement last night at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. This entirely student-run Competition has...
"...facilitated the birth of over 85 companies with aggregate exit values of $2.5 billion captured and a market cap of over $10 billion. These companies have generated over 2,500 jobs and received $700 million dollars in Venture Capital funding."
Lots of worthy ideas generally this year, but I want to spotlight the Development Track (or D-Track) especially as announced by MIT Sloan MBA student Carter Dunn, the track leader. Out of the two dozen entrants to the Track, five teams advanced forward to the Semifinals...
Plus there were at least a dozen additional ventures which were in other Tracks but are really also transformative Development Ventures, including these three Semifinalists!
  • Dinube -- Mobile Cloud Financial Services;
  • Graphite Power -- Energy Storage Innovation;
  • Mobility-on-Demand -- Electric Wheels Everywhere;
Congratulations to all!

20 Years ~ MIT $100K Business Plan Competition!

Yes, indeed, this is the 20th year of what's now the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition! I'm proud to have been lead organizer for two years 1993-4 and 1994-5...

05 March 2009

Penny Diagnostics ~ Microfluidics On Paper!

It's great to see MIT Technology Review special report Paper Diagnostics by Kristina Grifantini spotlighting Harvard Professor George Whitesides' work on cheap, easy-to-use diagnostic tests...
"Paper tests [...] could make it possible to diagnose a range of diseases quickly and cheaply. A small drop of liquid, such as blood or urine, wicks in through the corner or back of the paper and passes through channels to special testing zones. [...] These tests are small, simple, and inexpensive."
What's especially cool is that these kind of penny diagnostics are incredibly useful in a developing country context, which is exactly what spinoff company and 2008 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition Winner Diagnostics for All is targeting!

04 March 2009

Robots ~ The Big Picture Spotlights Automata!

Alan Taylor, impressario of The Big Picture, delivers the visual goods again, today with lovely pix of Robots, including these favorites (do you recognize the Governator;-)

03 March 2009

Atlas Mugged ~ By Republicrats & Demoblicans...

A lot of people, including GeekPress impressario Paul Hsieh and WSJournal columnist Stephen Moore, are comparing the fiscal profligacy and contemporary statism of the basically equivalent (while narrowly rivalrous) Bush-Obama governmental factions to their parallels in Ayn Rand's epic Atlas Shrugged. Rand used the medium of speculative fiction -- over fifty (50) years ago -- to evoke a world of Republicrats and Demoblicans who differ on trivia but agree that they have the right to essentially view citizens as serfs, as chickens to be plucked, as sheep to be shorn -- i.e. to tax without representation, to spend with abandon, to impose various flavors of political correctness, to extract value without recompense, and worse. How awful. Each of us -- that is, all of us who are actually productive members of society, and especially those who are innovators and entrepreneurs -- we are Atlas. What we most urgently need now is a new freedom movement -- let's maybe call it Atlas Unleashed -- a libertarian centrism which respects the financial and property rights of all while allowing the social choices and personal empowerment of each individual. But it's worth asking why is this so difficult when it is so obvious? We need to insist that politicians actually live up to the American Declaration of Independence and US Constitution and stop telling us what to do and stop stealing from our wallets what is ours. Anything else continues to mug every one of us individually while cynically pretending that it's for all of us collectively.

Lightning ~ Glorious Terrestrial Electrification!

Lightning is probably one of the most compelling and glorious natural phenomena reality provides on our planet! Yes, earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes and volcanoes have their disastrous place, but Earth's daily discharges are both dangerous and delightful... And, of course, lightning strikes on the 'Tube...

Geoffrey von Maltzahn ~ Top MIT Grad Inventor!

Congratulations to Geoffrey von Maltzahn for winning the 2009 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Invention Prize! Geoff's particular inventions are both a new class of targeted thermal cancer therapeutics and a new approach for enhancing drug delivery to tumors and have already lead to eight patent applications, nearly twenty papers, and starting up two companies, Nanopartz and Resonance Therapeutics. Today's prize announcement also spotlighted runner-up finalists Aviva Presser and Erez Lieberman and last night's special event hosted by past Lemelson-MIT honoree David Berry at Flagship Ventures featured the rest of the candidates for the prize including such fantastic people as Amos Winter, Alex Sappok, Leo Bonnani, Anna Jaffe, and more!

02 March 2009

Steam Café ~ One of MIT's Few Delightful Places

I'm sitting outside the Steam Café at MIT just now. That's the fourth floor space around the inner dome of Lobby 7. It's an attractive place for all sorts of people to pop by; indeed, I've already had three serendipitous meetings with people from Urban Studies, the International Development Initiative, and from Mechanical Engineering. And it's a well-lit space with big windows and great lines of sight so you can see who's about and yet sit at one of the several tables and slurp on some coffee and WiFi. A lot of the core aesthetic and appeal of the Café and environs was established by these two guys, Architecture graduate students Scott Francisco and Nick Senske... As Sasha Brown wrote in her piece Students' idea for new café serves up nicely, this is one of the few cases where MIT actually listened to students and implemented something beautiful and sensible -- and have actually mostly kept it up!

01 March 2009

Köppen Climates ~ Mapping Global Geo-Biomes

One key worldmap of global climate classifications is Köppen's...

Planet F#<&ers ~ Saul Griffith Fears For Earth...

Inhabitat's Olivia Chen sums up the recent GreenerGadgets conference in her post Greener Gadgets Buzz From Around the Web. Keynote genius MIT alum inventor-engineer Saul Griffith uncorked, decrying wasteful eco-trashers as Planet F#<&ers. I still haven't sussed out whether this means he thinks we're probably all doomed already or whether, like soberly optimistic MIT Professor John Sterman, he hopes there's "just enough time" to stop screwing everything up. Or maybe he's just being hyperbolic to penetrate thick skulls? Probably shades of all three. Gristmill summarized Saul thusly...
"...narrowly focusing on one ingredient of "going green" means missing the larger environmental picture. A carbon footprint calculation alone is not enough. It's not nearly enough. What about toxins released into the environment? What about water consumption, or waste? Energy consumption? If we nail it on recycling but not on environmental hazards, for instance, we release "a litany of horrors."
Inhabitat's Jill Fehrenbacher in her GG09 summary adds additional elements, including the...
"...need to create ‘Heirloom Gadgets’, and foster a culture of maintenance and repair of existing electronics, rather than constantly upgrading and replacing cheap electronics every year. Hearkening back to a time when there were watch repair shops everywhere, people held on to their watches for years and even passed them down to their grandchildren, Saul Griffith suggested we change the name of the conference to ‘Greener Electronic Objet D’Art’, and focus our efforts on creating BETTER, longer-lasting products that people will form emotional attachments to and will want to keep for years."
Yes, Timeless Technologies, Enduring Innovations, and Forever Wares!

Yes They Can! ~ Hans Rosling's Big World View

The wonderful Gapminder founder -- Professor Hans Rosling -- here gives another fact-based talk on global trends as part of the Gapcast video series, this time titled Yes They Can! -- about developing countries indeed being able to "Live Like Us"... We at MIT need an introduction to global challenges class run along these lines! As a further illustration, here's another great video showing that developing countries have and can even Beat The Rich in achieving key Millennium Development Goals...