31 May 2009

Manish Bhardwaj ~ MIT PhD to Lead India TB-treat

I had an excellent brunch this morning at the Miracle with one of my favorite people, Manish Bhardwaj, newly minted MIT PhD who will soon be heading to Bihar, India to start building up a transformative TB-treatment delivery organization. He and colleagues have really big goals -- to treat 1 Million patients within the decade -- but the problem they're addressing is even bigger since India has nearly 2 Million new TB patients per annum. TB or Tuberculosis is a widespread infectious disease caused by mostly Mycobacterium Tuberculosis which usually attacks the lungs. The central challenge is not only identifying infected patients, but getting them to consistently take a 6-months treatment without lapse. Those who stop too early or take medicine only intermittently run a very high risk of developing MDR-TB -- multi-drug resistent TB -- which costs orders of magnitude more money to treat and is more deadly. For Manish and colleagues to succeed they need to figure out scalable solutions which fit in with the current political and medical and other players in each locale.

Libertarian Middle ~ Absorbing Republican Exodus

As the Republican Party becomes increasingly dominated by cantankerous religious zealots and right-wingnuts, millions of dismayed sensible centrists are seeking a new political home. One option is for the Republicans to wake up and exorcise the narrowminded red-meatheads and banish them to a more appropriate Conservative Party home. Or perhaps we will witness the surgence of a new Libertarian Middle, a coalition of those with a widely shared freedom philosophy combining fiscal prudence with social liberalism. Simply put:
"Don't over tax us, just spend on what's really needed and keep us secure. Don't interfere in our lives and try to impose your morals on us, but do help those unable to help themselves."

30 May 2009

Howtoons ~ DIY Tools of Mass Construction!

Do-It-Yourself! DIY! Let's move beyond balky North Korea's Weapons of Mass Destruction and pick up everyday Tools of Mass Construction! See Howtoons at MakerFaire this weekend! Plus props to superhero illustrator Nick Dragotta and team for new delight site... And, for good measure, here's some energetic Howtoons to inspire your imagination about our Planet's energy future...

SF Ship Traffic ~ Visualizing One Port's Flow...

Thanks to gCaptain for spotting interesting timelapse maritime happenings, including this one month mapping of ship flux in and out of San Francisco bay... And for a special bonus, here's one timelapsed hour of the Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 first visiting SF bay!

Payback's a Bitch ~ Bull Sticks It To Matador...

From the WSJournal's photogallery -- Spanish bull gives matador Israel Lancho a taste of his own medicine...

29 May 2009

Slavery Persists ~ Join Boubacar Messaoud's Fight

The BBC writes in Anti-slavery gong for Mauritanian of both uplifting and distressing news -- some 600,000 Mauritanians in Africa are slaves today despite slavery being illegalized (finally?) in 2007. But putting a spotlight on this ugly situation...
"A Mauritanian non-governmental organisation run by the son of a slave has won this year's Anti-Slavery International Award. SOS Esclaves was set up by Boubacar Messaoud, whose father was a slave, and Abdel Nasser Ould Othman Yessa, a former slave-owner."
See here Boubacar Messaoud explaining how he escaped slavery and yet why it persists. It's dismaying -- and evidence of a disturbingly uncivilized culture with diseased religious beliefs -- that something so basically vile as human involuntary servitude still endures in the modern era. This includes everything from inherited debts to bonded labor to forced marriages to military conscription and even to taxation without representation. I salute the heroism of those such as Mr Messaoud who shed their shackles and actively fight unjust powers and despicable ideas.

Inside the Pride ~ Auto-Cameras Snap Lion Life

Here are just two of the great images captured by Kenyan-Indian wildlife photographers, Anup and Manoj Shah, and posted in the Lions of the Masai Mara photogallery of the Telegraph. With remote control cameras hidden in grass and dung, they capture life inside the pride...

28 May 2009

Reality Mining ~ Nathan Eagle Uses Socioscopes

I was delighted to see our MIT Media Lab alumnus Nathan Eagle come back for a visit today. Nathan's doctoral thesis on Reality Mining was the first large-scale use of mobile phones as Socioscopes, my own spinonym for those instruments which allow us to observe systemic sociological behavior in real-world settings. Much like Galileo invented Telescopes to study the stars and Leeuwenhoek invented Microscopes to study cells, so too we need to invent ever better Socioscopes to study society. Eagle's own work has pioneered mining mobile phone carrier datasets for many compelling uses, at levels of analysis spanning a few individuals up through much of humanity. One very exciting direction is helping understand economic clusters in developing countries and emerging markets -- meaning the flow of people, remittances, payments generally, and the various affinities of tribe and class and trade. This effort is something Nathan's pursued for years now as part of his ongoing EPROM research agenda -- EPROM = Entrepreneurial Programming & Research on Mobiles -- fantastically interesting work with far-reaching implications for the emergent and powerful discipline of Social Systems Engineering.

27 May 2009

Leveraging the Stimulus ~ Key MIT CoLab Project

I was pleased to interview both Uyen Le and Carlos Espinoza-Toro on MaximizingProgress.tv about their MIT CoLab project on Leveraging the Stimulus. Their goal is to make the Stimulus package opportunities more transparent to all by mapping it at all levels of action and helping communities think creatively about using it towards economic empowerment, social justice, green jobs, and building a sustainable and vibrant economy. Both of my guests came to MIT from quite different beginnings but sharing a migrant's pathway of discovery and self-realization. After an architecture undergrad and then Habitat-for-Humanity experience for Carlos and time in post-Katrina New Orleans after political science studies for Uyen, each came to pursue Urban Studies & Planning at MIT. First Carlos and then Uyen connected with the Community Innovators Lab -- or CoLab -- at MIT. The CoLab is all about supporting...
"...the development and use of knowledge from excluded communities to deepen civic engagement, improve community practice, inform policy, mobilize community assets, and generate shared wealth."
Excellent organization and compelling and timely project too!

Robotherapy ~ Helping Children Develop & Thrive

Thanks to Anne Trafton from the MIT News Office for writing Robotic therapy holds promise for cerebral palsy, highlighting the great work by MIT's Hermano Igo Krebs, Neville Hogan, and colleagues in helping children with cerebral palsy and other brain injuries develop their motor skills and thrive with increasing independence. As my colleague, Media Lab Director Frank Moss, notes, there's perhaps no higher imperative than investing in new systems and solutions for those traditionally viewed as Disabled, Disadvantaged, and Dismissed. See here the kids going robo!

Carfree Times Square ~ Rebirth of the Civil City!

Wow! NYTimes architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff writes in Lose the Traffic. Keep That Times Square Grit. that going carfree has enhanced the qualities and appeal of this most essential elements of New York City! See here BEFORE...
And AFTER the banishment of those pestilential horseless carriages...

Rescuebots ~ Shigeo Hirose's Ambulatory Robots

Thanks to BBC for spotting Tokyo Institute of Technology Professor Shigeo Hirose's Rescuebots...

26 May 2009

Modern Mirrors ~ Lovely Reflective Designs!

Thanks to Steve from WebUrbanist for assembling a lovely sampling of Modern Mirror designs! Reflect on these...

3D Wall Art ~ John Pugh's Giant Illusion Murals!

Thanks to John Mills for pointing out the Daily Mail piece Off the wall: The astonishing 3D murals painted on the sides of buildings by a trompe l'oeil artist spotting John Pugh's giant visual illusions! Notes the Daily Mail...
"The incredibly lifelike scenes are actually huge works of art, painted on the side of perfectly intact buildings. [...] The paintings, which have fooled many, were created by John Pugh, who specialises in trompe l'oeil -- or 'trick of the eye' -- art. He uses his skills to delude the viewer into seeing 3D scenes painted on flat surfaces. The Californian-born artist said: 'It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.' His works can been seen all over the world..."

25 May 2009

Outliers ~ Malcolm Gladwell's Survey of Success

A good friend loaned me his copy of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and suggested I should read it. Interesting stuff. Recommended. Basically Gladwell documents how success is not only a function of ability but substantially also of timing and circumstance. In addition to Nature and Nurture, we need to account for eNvironment or coNtext. His concluding bottom line:
"To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success -- the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history -- with a society that provides opportunities for all."
See here one of many interviews with and talks by Gladwell...

Inhabitat Redux ~ More Delightful Green Designs

Inhabitat's latest designliciousness...

Monet's Garden ~ Invented Landscape in Giverny

Thanks to NYTimes Globespotter Pat Ryan for announcing the opening of Monet’s Garden in Giverny. The newly renamed Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny is where, as gardener, Monet invented and shaped the landscape which then became the subject of his later paintings. His art doesn't impress me, but the gardens are glorious!

24 May 2009

Clocky ~ A Salute to Robot Designer Gauri Nanda

Excellent to see the Globe featuring Twelve robots that have invaded American homes including the Roomba family from iRobot and more. But my favorite is definitely the Clocky! This scrappy little alarm clockbot runs away ringing and beeping and thus forces you to get up and actually wake up. Genius! This product is the brainchild of MIT alumna designer Gauri Nanda who originally designed Clocky for a MIT Media Lab class project. After pictures of the prototype spread virally online she then decided to launch her own design firm -- Nanda Home -- with Clocky as flagship product. Dozens of honors later -- including covershot of Inc magazine and winning the IgNobel Prize in Economics for boosting human productivity! -- she's well on her way to design stardom. Check out this video interview on The Big Idea...

Outsourcing Agriculture ~ Talent & Money Flows

The latest Economist has an interesting piece on Outsourcing's third wave ~ Buying farmland abroad where they ask...
"Rich food importers are acquiring vast tracts of poor countries' farmland. Is this beneficial foreign investment or neocolonialism?"
Fascinating new developments here and on unprecedented scales... At the same time we have Michael Allen writing in the WSJournal that the Republic of Congo Goes Farming for, Well, Farmers...
"South African commercial farmers, mostly the descendants of Dutch and French pioneers who began settling the continent's southern tip centuries ago, are renowned for their ability to coax food out of African soil. Eager for their expertise and capital, African countries from Ghana to Nigeria have offered them incentives to set up shop. South African farmers have turned Mozambique into a banana powerhouse. Zambia became self-sufficient in maize after welcoming farmers from Zimbabwe and from South Africa. Such programs can be controversial, touching on sensitive issues of race, colonialism and land tenure. Agri-SA is addressing the concerns with a multiethnic expedition. "The farmers going to the Congo aren't just white farmers," said Andre Botha, who leads the initiative. "There's black farmers going with us...white commercial farmers...colored commercial farmers...Indian commercial farmers -- going to the Congo as South African farmers."
Both very interesting and emergent elements of the global trendscape. And as Paul Collier has noted, there's lots of promising opportunities for African agricultural reform.

21 May 2009

Moon Hack ~ Apollo 11 Lands on MIT Great Dome

Lovely to see MIT student hackers celebrating the greatest human high-tech achievement of the past century -- the Apollo 11 lunar landing some 40 years ago. Oops, we missed the Moon and landed on the MIT Great Dome instead... And, of course, you can watch the MIT Facilities clean-up crew deal with the hackish aftermath;-)

20 May 2009

Erdin Beshimov ~ Kyrgyz Entrepreneur at MIT!

I had the good fortune of interviewing Kyrgyz expat Erdin Beshimov on my MaximizingProgress.tv show. Erdin's newly admitted to the MIT Sloan MBA class of 2011 and is already connected to the MIT TechLink and E-Club networks and plans to be part of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program run by MIT Entrepreneurship Center Chairman, Professor Ed Roberts. Erdin and I discussed both the challenges and opportunities facing Kyrgyzstan -- both the historical drastic changes following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Western economist inspired "Shock Therapy", plus the more recent boom and bust investments in tourism, resource exploitation, and more. Furthermore, we covered a wide range of entrepreneurial opportunities and interests, including the need to dramatically improve the area of salesforce software. I think viewers were witnessing the birth of a startup!

The Daily Galaxy ~ Several Interesting Posts...

A shout out to The Daily Galaxy for several recent posts including: Biologists Say Planet is Undergoing Mass Species Extinction spotting the need for a exploration mission to Planet Earth to discover all the current unknowns in our really near neighborhood. On Bike Sharing ~ The Global Trend to Eco-friendly Urban Transport And, Shanghai Tower ~ The Sustainable, Vertical City of the Future?

19 May 2009

Green Inhabitats ~ Another Dose of Designs!

Another delightful dose of designs from Inhabitat! Note the emerging emphasis on roof gardens and vertical farms...

18 May 2009

Kinetic Art ~ Blurring Twixt Engineering & Delight!

Thanks to Dark Roasted Blend for spotting Mesmerizing Kinetic Sculptures, including this snippet about Dutchman Theo Jansen... I especially resonate with Theo's charge that distinctions twixt engineering and art are mostly made up -- by us. Resident MIT artist Arthur Ganson first shared with me (and fellow Delight-by-Design attendees) Theo's living sculptures a half-decade ago. Delightful stuff!

Simplify This ~ Improving Handheld Corn Shellers

My MIT D-Lab colleague Amy Smith and others have been trumpeting simple handheld corn shellers for a couple years now, and especially celebrating simplifications in the build-process or alternative designs favoring local materials and fab capabilities... So I'm pleased to add to this emergent design mix my ultra simple build -- the result of yours truly (with much appreciated help from D-Lab mentor Dennis Nagle) banging away at an everyday tin can, just so. As I did with Amy earlier today, I dare y'all to simplify this!

17 May 2009

Portfolios of the Poor ~ $2/Day Family Finances

Thanks to the Economist article Smooth operators for spotting the much needed and very timely new book Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven...
"Over 250 families in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa participated in this unprecedented study of the financial practices of the world's poor. These households were interviewed every two weeks over the course of a year, reporting on their most minute financial transactions. This book shows that many poor people have surprisingly sophisticated financial lives, saving and borrowing with an eye to the future and creating complex "financial portfolios" of formal and informal tools."
See here Chapter One. We will be incorporating this in our Fall 2009 MIT Development Ventures class.

Liberia Library ~ Two Books in My Reading Queue

I just read Helene Cooper's NYTimes book review Madame President of the memoir by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf titled This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President. This got me curious not only about reading the excerpted first chapter, The Beginning, and listening to her NPR interview, and thus deciding to buy President Ellen's book! But I also became curious about Helene Cooper too, since she wrote In Search of a Lost Africa in the NYTimes which turns out to be an excerpt from her autobiographical The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood. Both of these are now in my reading queue. Here's Helene speaking about her personal experience and the context of her homeland's ongoing saga more generally... And just so you appreciate how recently Liberia has been at peace, view here Martin Adler's July 2003 coverage of the fighting...