31 August 2009

Before New York ~ NatGeo Views the Pre-City

My favorite monthly magazine, National Geographic, delights again with a story by Peter Miller about Before New York: When Henry Hudson first looked on Manhattan in 1609, what did he see? This is a preservationist perspective...
"The Mannahatta Project, as it's called (after the Lenape people's name for "island of many hills"), is an effort to turn back the clock to the afternoon of September 12, 1609, just before Henry Hudson and his crew sailed into New York Harbor and spotted the island. If people today could picture what a natural wonder Hudson had looked upon, [...] maybe they'd fight harder to preserve other wild places."
What I'm especially interested in is blending both -- having a vibrant, vital city full of gardens, greenscrapers, roofgardens, widewalks, greenways, etc. Imagine morphing together the top and bottom pix...

Nick Veasey ~ Amazing X-Ray Photographs!

Thanks to the Telegraph for sharing these X-rays by Nick Veasey... Be sure to click thru the whole photo gallery!

Disney Swallows Marvel ~ Major Media Mashup

Disney to buy Marvel for $4 billion screams Reuters headline! Mickey Mouse pwns Incredible Hulk (and 4,999 other Marvel characters). Read here the deal statement. Wags are a sketchin'...

30 August 2009

Implantopsy ~ Tiny Injectable Cancer Monitor

Very cool that MIT's injectable bio-scope's in Beyond the Biopsy: A Tiny Monitor for Cancer by Anne Eisenberg in the NYTimes...
"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created prototypes for cancer monitors the size of a grain of rice, small enough to fit easily into the bore of a biopsy needle. Tiny coated particles inside the devices can bind with molecules linked to cancer at the site, creating minuscule clumps that can be detected by a non-invasive scan like an MRI, said Michael J Cima, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT and leader of the team that created the devices."

Tragic Triage ~ Tough Calls During Katrina...

Kudos to the NYTimes for choosing to publish the troubling piece Strained by Katrina, a Hospital Faced Deadly Choices by Sheri Fink...
"The floodwaters from Katrina had knocked out the power. Doctors and nurses were overstretched and overtired, patients were dying and the evacuation of many of the sickest seemed impossible. Injecting drugs was one answer that some members of the medical staff decided on. Were they trying to comfort those patients -- or hasten their deaths?"
The subtleties and various dimensions of this tragic emergency experience -- a direct consequence of governmental and civic incompetence and exacerbated by political idiocy -- can't be easily summarized. And the pontifications of "bioethicists" are not helpful here either. I most strongly recommend reading the full story and drawing personal conclusions.

Yes, Inhabitats! ~ Lovely Locales & Greenscrapers

More fantastic greenliciousness from Inhabitat! Click-on these...

It IS Brain Surgery ~ Two MIT Neuro Talks...

This Mon & Tues 2pm at MIT, Brain Surgeons share latest... Interested parties should also consider our Neurotechnology Ventures seminar this Fall.

Afghanistan Tourism ~ Rebuilding Bamiyan...

Intriguing piece by Ivan Watson of CNN on Afghanistan's Bamiyan province struggles to build tourism spotlighting the lovely environs, historically famous Buddha statues -- desecrated by Taliban Islamist swine -- as well as scrappy businesswomen like Hotel Silk Road proprietor Hiromi Yasui...
"The Hotel Silk Road has been open for less than two years. The green concrete walls of this compound jar somewhat with the brown, mud brick architecture of Bamiyan Valley. But the hotel is probably the largest foreign private investment in Bamiyan's fledgling tourism industry since the overthrow of the Taliban eight years ago. Aid workers say tourism is one of the greatest economic hopes for reviving this isolated, yet visually -- and archaeologically -- stunning part of Afghanistan, a region that has seen little infrastructure development over the last eight years, even though Bamiyan is one of the safest parts of the country. "The natural resources and cultural resources here are probably the single best place for economic development to happen, around revitalizing the tourism industry here," says Bob Thelen, the representative for the Aga Khan Development Network in Bamiyan. The nonprofit organization has been working with the government of New Zealand to distribute $1.2 million over a three-year period to develop eco-tourism as an industry in Bamiyan."
They support young Afghani entrepreneur Jawad Wafa...
"Though only 23 years old, this ambitious young Afghan plans to launch a tourism and logistics company, complete with a fleet of rental vehicles and guides. "The first thing we need to have more tourists in Bamiyan, we need security and peace. The second one is roads," Wafa says."
Fascinating and inspiring. Yes, I plan to visit.

Ferrari 458 ~ More Italian Auto Innovation!

Lots of good things coming out of Italy, including some automotive innovation at the high end. Yes, I want one...

29 August 2009

Emergency ~ Beyond Jung (War) in Afghanistan

Cambridge's CCTV just replayed the documentary Jung (War) in the Land of the Mujahedin by three Italian filmmakers, Fabrizio Lazzaretti, Giuseppe Petitto, and Albert Vendemmiati. Read here the review by Stuart Klawans in The Nation. The central story is that of Italian NGO Emergency, its founder Dr Gino Strada and his efforts together with colleague Kate Rowlands and their larger team to build a hospital in Charikar, Afghanistan in 1999-2000. This pre-9/11 period saw intense clashes between the Taleban and the Northern Alliance forces. Caught in the cross-fire, of course, were millions of Afghan civilians. Gunshot victims, kids mangled by land mines, women hit by mortar rounds. And they come for help to the Emergency facilities. Watch here Strada tell his story, drawing from his book Green Parrots: A War Surgeon's Diary... And see here the Emergency summary promo video...

28 August 2009

Good Enough ~ Cheap, Fast, Simple... Fine!

Thanks to colleague José Gómez-Márquez for spotting this WIRED article The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine by Robert Capps. Skype, Kindle, Hulu, MP3, SketchUp, Netbooks, AUVs, MinuteClinics, the Flip -- all examples of low-end innovations blossoming and dominating their respective sectors. Writes Capps...
"The Flip's success stunned the industry, but it shouldn't have. It's just the latest triumph of what might be called Good Enough tech. Cheap, fast, simple tools are suddenly everywhere. We get our breaking news from blogs, we make spotty long-distance calls on Skype, we watch video on small computer screens rather than TVs, and more and more of us are carrying around dinky, low-power netbook computers that are just good enough to meet our surfing and emailing needs. The low end has never been riding higher. So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they're actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as "high-quality." And it's happening everywhere. As more sectors connect to the digital world, from medicine to the military, they too are seeing the rise of Good Enough tools like the Flip. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit."

MakerFaireAfrica 2009 ~ Video Vignettes!

Great to see this AfricaNews video story by Kent Mensah, Esme Aku Atsyornu, and Bertil Van Vugt about MakerFaireAfrica 2009 in Accra, Ghana!

27 August 2009

Reaper Curve ~ The Poverty of "Bioethics"

Ever since I was in a very unsatisfying undergrad class at MIT which challenged us students to consider the "ethical implications" of new biotechnology, I have been pretty non-plussed by the so-called "bioethics" community. Our guest speakers on that theme were unimpressive thinkers who came up with ill-considered faith-based or socialistic prognostications about appropriate medical treatment. To-whit, this Reaper Curve by Ezekiel Emanuel, who is apparently health advisor to Obama, according to Betsy McCaughey's piece in the WSJournal Obama's Health Rationer-in-Chief...

Chinglish ~ China's English Challenges ;-)

Chris Hogg of the BBC writes that Shanghai seeks end to 'Chinglish'...

Mindset = Dataset? ~ Hans Rosling Mythbusts...

Gapminder.org impressario Professor Hans Rosling mythbusts the gap between average people's mindset about global issues and the actual facts in the historical dataset...

MRI Sex ~ Pek van Andel's Ig Nobel Efforts!-)

Thanks to Paul Hsieh from GeekPress for spotting this stunning sextape released online!-0 Indeed, Ig Nobel Laureate Pek van Andel's pioneering medical study of coitus in a cannon -- or rather, inside an MRI machine -- is now on the 'Tube! If you can't deal with pornology, don't watch these forbidden bits... FYI, the nth Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony approaches! Go!

26 August 2009

Carter Dunn ~ MIT $100K D-Track Lead...

I had a great chat with MIT Sloan MBA second-year Carter Dunn on my MaximizingProgress.tv show tonight! Carter spent his Summer in India working with Infosys on their healthcare IT strategy for the home market as he writes about in this Xconomy article Up and To the Right: Learning from the Healthcare IT Market in India. Fascinating stuff, especially since Infosys has been overwhelmingly offshoring oriented to-date. Turns our Carter has also been leading the Development Track of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition which had a great group of teams this past Spring 2009. Prior to all this, Carter studied at Stanford in biomedical engineering disciplines and worked at Guidant / Boston Scientific. We finished our evening brainstorming about the emergent possibilities in inexpensive penny diagnostics, personalized medical innovations generally, and other compelling everywhere technologies!

Not Poor, Poorly Managed ~ Africa's Plight

Why is the African continent poor? asks Mark Doyle, seasoned BBC world affairs correspondent, who investigates...
"...why it is that the vast majority of African countries are clustered at or near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index -- in other words they have a pretty appalling standard of living. [One element:] War makes you destitute. [And yet...] "Tremendous land! Very fertile, enormous rainfall, tremendous agricultural resources. Minerals! We have oil and many other minerals -- go name it!" The paradox of rich resources and poor people hints at another layer of explanation about why Africa is poor. It is not just that there is war. The question should, perhaps be: "Why is there so much war?" [Partly colonialism and plunder, but also...] Almost every African I met, who was not actually in government, blamed corrupt African leaders for their plight. [...] Even President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia came close to this when she told me she had underestimated the level of corruption in her country when she took office. "Maybe I should have sacked the whole government when I came to power," she said. "Africa is not poor," President Johnson-Sirleaf added, "it is poorly managed."
See also the ongoing blog follow-up discussion on this. (And everyone should read the Frontline interview with Mark Doyle about his experience reporting from Kigali during the Rwandan genocide.)

25 August 2009

Leasing Ukraine ~ Big Grainbasket Investments

Fascinating piece by the BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Cooke on Leasing Ukraine: Foreigners are taking over tracts of the ex-breadbasket...

Global Development @ MIT ~ Fall 2009 Classes

There's a great suite of new and revised course offerings this Fall semester 2009 at MIT focused on different dimensions of global development, including at least these...
  • 14.73 The Challenge of World Poverty ~ MW 1-2:30 pm ~ Esther Duflo ~ Development economics and poverty action;
  • 11.487 Urban Public Finance in Developing Countries ~ M 5-7 pm ~ Annette Kim ~ How to choose and pay for urban public services in developing countries;
  • STS 032 Energy, Environment, & Society ~ Fall ~ Clapperton Mavhunga ~ Energy issues beyond US borders, on a global scale, and within the rural villages and towns of the developing world, helping understand the multiple and different social, political, cultural, policy, and technoscientific contexts;
  • SP.721/11.025/11.472 D-Lab Development ~ MW 3:30-5 pm ~ Amy Smith, Bish Sanyal, Victor Grau Serrat ~ Addresses issues of technological improvements at the micro level for developing countries -- in particular, how the quality of life of low-income households can be improved by adaptation of low cost and sustainable technologies;
  • SP.720 D-Lab ICT4D ~ Information and Communication Technologies for Development ~ TR 3:30-5 pm ~ Rich Fletcher, Victor Grau Serrat ~ An engineering lab class that teaches the use of Information and Communication Technologies to address specific needs in developing countries;
  • SP.712 D-Lab ~ Cycle Ventures ~ MW 3:30-5 pm ~ Gwyn Jones ~ Explores bicycle technology to provide human power for an increasing array of other purposes including water pumping, grain grinding and transport of loads in underserved communities with the aim to offer economic opportunity.
  • 15.375/MAS.665 Development Ventures ~ MIT Emerging Market Innovations Seminar ~ Th 4-6 pm ~ Joost Bonsen, Sandy Pentland ~ Action Lab on founding, financing, and building entrepreneurial ventures targeting developing countries, emerging markets, and underserved consumers everywhere;
  • MAS.551 Design Without Boundaries ~ R 10-1 pm ~ Bill Mitchell et al
  • MAS.960 Design for Empowerment / Engineering for Empowerment ~ T 10-1 pm, F 1-2pm ~ Leah Buechley ~ Technology is increasingly shaped and developed by users who design, build, and hack their own devices, and the goal of this class is to understand, contribute to, and support these creative communities.
  • 15.389 G-Lab ~ Global Health Delivery ~ MW 4-5:30 pm ~ Anjali Sastry ~ Tackles practical constraints to delivering health care in resource-poor settings in Africa via international projects pairing students with real-world enterprises and organizations;
And certainly check out our new D-Lab website!

24 August 2009

Ved Arya ~ SRIJAN Promoting Rural Livelihood

My MIT Media Lab India Initiative colleagues and I were delighted to host Ved Arya for a talk today. Ved shared his experiences founding and building SRIJAN -- "Creation" in Hindi, and an acronym for Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action. I was especially impressed with Ved's holistic perspective on the value chain of self-help and joint-support and cluster development and technological innovation which come together to be of differentiating benefit to rural Indian farmers and their families.

23 August 2009

Inhabitats ~ Great Green Design & Development

Lovely stuff from Inhabitat this past week!

Medical Tourism ~ Cutting Costs, Aiding Growth

Nice piece in USAToday by Tom Murphy of the AP spotting that Insurers aim to save from overseas medical tourism, including this case example photographed by Kent Gilbert of Costa Rican Dr Luis Obando about to root canal Texan patient Bill Jones in a San Jose, Costa Rica dental clinic... This is an interesting emerging phenomenon, writes Murphy...
"Growth has been slow in part because some patients and employers have concerns about care quality and legal responsibility if something goes wrong. Plus, patients who have traditional plans with low deductibles may have little incentive to take a trip. But a growing number of consumers with high-deductible plans, which make patients pay more out of pocket, could make these trips more inviting. In the meantime, the insurance industry's embrace of overseas care has had a pleasant side effect at home: some US care providers are offering price breaks to counter the foreign competition."
Perhaps another compelling consequence is that this boosts the healthcare capacity in emerging markets and keeps a combination of talent at home and brings an influx of dollars into developing country economies.

22 August 2009

Growth Is Good ~ Better For Enviro, Less Poverty

Extremely interesting to see the Next Big Future spotlight Maximizing Economic Growth and Aid to the Poor, emphasizing that Growth is Good, and pointing to Daniel Ben-Ami's 4 May 2006 essay Who's afraid of economic growth? in Spiked...
"Behind today's trendy arguments about environmentalism, ethical living and happiness, there lurks a deep disdain for material progress. We live in a world in which there is an unprecedented degree of cynicism about the benefits of economic growth. Even though increasing affluence is still generally accepted as a worthwhile goal in principle, it is typically subject to numerous caveats. Among other things it is accused of damaging the environment, leading to inequality and failing to make people happy. "
After considerable elaboration, Ben-Ami concludes...
"For anyone committed to human progress it is imperative to launch a counter-attack against growth scepticism. Anti-growth thinking is a central part of the narrow consensus that nowadays passes for politics. Growth scepticism is integral to the idea that human potential should be constrained as a dangerous force. Therefore restating the case for growth is a central part of arguing for the power of humanity to create a better world."
Indeed, that's the goal of Maximizing Progress. Onward & upward!

6-Pack Rings ~ How To Invent Better Alternatives

Nick D and our InvenTeams friends shout out this Howtoons story on inventing better alternatives to environmentally malign artifacts like non-biodegradable Six Pack Rings...

Ali, Hussein, and Samira ~ Urgent Solutions Now

Thanks to Reuters photographer Ali Jarekji for spotting Ali, Hussein, and Samira...
"Iraqi children who were injured during the Iraq war, play during their visit to a children's museum in Amman, Jordan August 20, 2009. Both Hussein and Samira have undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries and are two of dozens of Iraqi children that attend the daily therapy sessions run by the French aid organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)."
I don't know who or what are most to blame for the despicable brutalities these kids have endured, but I do know we all urgently need to do right by them -- and that means continuing treatment and rehabilitation (indeed, many thanks to MSF personnel and others in the care chain), inventing and perfecting personalized medical innovations, and doing our best to eliminate armaments, those who use them, and the societal need for their use.

20 August 2009

Memory Books ~ Ugandan Save & Share Solution

The BBC delivers again with this poignant photoessay by Kate Holt of HelpAge International on Ugandan Memory Books, a means of saving and sharing family memories amidst an epidemic of AIDS and other deadly ailments ravaging parents with young children... This is crushingly heartbreaking. We need cures now. And we need more civic media innovations, including digital, affordable, empowering improvements on this essential project. Everyone needs to know of their roots, their clan, their community, their rights, and their loved ones.

Avoidable Deaths ~ Latest Statistics & Strategies

Nice post in the Next Big Future on Avoidable Deaths Worldwide -- Scope of issues and What can and is being done -- spotlighting the latest WHO report. Preventable infections, avoidable air pollution, cleanable water, inexpensive nutrients, and unnecessary road accidents are all the top items on the list... Beyond dealing with these relatively easy challenges, of course, there's the big kahuna: halting and even reversing the ravages of aging through transformative Gerontechnology. Let's get on it!

19 August 2009

Richard Monte ~ Streema.com Global Radio

Excellent to be able to host Argentinian MIT alumnus entrepreneur Richard "Ricky" Monte again on my MaximizingProgress.tv show! Ricky's co-founder of Streema.com, an "online radio tuner to listen, discover and share radios with your friends." We talked about the entrepreneurial scene in Buenos Aires, his co-founding the company here in the US and there simultaneously, the blossoming IT offshoring sector (and wine intake sector;-), and the power of social media!

Changing Chibolya ~ Maiko Zulu's Music Mission

Another ear- and eye-opening BBC audio slideshow by Jo Fidgen, Kieron Humphrey and Paul Kerley on The Music of the Ghetto...
"Disease, deprivation and drugs are the realities of daily life in Chibolya -- a slum in the Zambian capital, Lusaka -- which has inspired reggae artist Maiko Zulu. Let him take you on a musical tour of the area..."
Maiko Zulu's clear-thinking, truth-speaking, and reality-minded, in my opinion. And one of the far too many Zambians oppressed by incompetent civic authorities (nevermind suffering from overzealous law enforcement and the immoral criminalization of narcotics.)

18 August 2009

More Pedal Powering ~ Speaking of Leg-Driven;-)

Given my recent flurry of posts on pedal-powered things, it's pretty hilarious that Inhabitat coincidently has this wave of semi-ridiculous leg-driven machines;-) Yes, that is literally One Horse Power, alright!-)

MirageDrive ~ Pedal-Powering a Hobie Kayak!

Just got sent a cool link by MIT alumna Mimi Slaughter for the ingenious Hobie MirageDrive -- a pedal-powered paddle add-on for a kayak! Powerful stuff as you can see in the tug-of-war between the inventor pedaling and an Olympian paddling... While this particular mechanism was invented over a decade ago, the general field of pedal-powering things is still blossoming!

Global Cycle Solutions ~ Venturing in Tanzania!

Very cool to see this AFP documentary video story about our 2008 MIT D-Lab Development Ventures class alumco Global Cycle Solutions -- also the winner of the 2009 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition Development Track (and Audience Choice Award!) -- showing their Corn Sheller at the Nane Nane agri-fair in Tanzania... Congrats to Jodie, Lisa, Caroline, Semyon, Alex and the rest of the team who continue to build up the business. Be sure to check out their GCS blog and Fan them on Facebook too!

José Gómez-Márquez ~ Humanitarian of the Year

Congratulations to my colleague, MIT's José Gómez-Márquez, for being tapped as 2009 Humanitarian of the Year by Technology Review's TR35 Young Innovators for his work running Innovations in International Health where he -- and a globally distributed network of collaborators -- design and deploy practical medical devices for use in developing countries!

Trabilectric ~ German Ostalgie Gets Electrified!

Anna Maria Jakubek writes in PopSci about An All-Electric Makeover For the Trabant, East Germany's Iconic Communist-Era Ride;-)
"In what could very well become the auto industry’s greatest comeback story, a trio of German companies is hoping to introduce a revamped version of the pride of DDR auto engineering: the Soviet-era Trabant. [...] The companies behind the idea -- German auto parts maker IndiKar, engineering group IAV, and toy (yes, toy) car producer Herpa -- plan to unveil the prototype of the New Trabant at Frankfurt [...] Commercial availability is definitely looking likely considering the Trabis’ cult-like following and Germany's love of anything DDR kitsch -- Ostalgie, or nostalgia for the East"

17 August 2009

Green Tech ~ Financing a New Boston Revolution

Thanks to MIT alum entrepreneur and now General Catalyst VC Bilal Zuberi for pointing out -- and being quoted in -- Martin LaMonica's How to finance a green-tech revolution in CNet. Includes commentary about the challenges and opportunities in Green Tech as well as special slideshow on the greater Boston, Massachusetts cluster of clean energy companies.

16 August 2009

African Farmland ~ Investors as Neo-Colonials?

Horand Knaup and Juliane von Mittelstaedt write in Der Spiegel of the The New Colonialism: Foreign Investors Snap Up African Farmland...
"Governments and investment funds are buying up farmland in Africa and Asia to grow food -- a profitable business, with a growing global population and rapidly rising prices. The high-stakes game of real-life Monopoly is leading to a modern colonialism to which many poor countries submit out of necessity."
(Thanks for translation from the German by Christopher Sultan)

Great Inhabitats ~ More Lovely Green Designs!

Click on these pix to see the latest lovelies from Inhabitat...