31 October 2009

Birdmen ~ Wing Suited Extreme Adventurers

60 Minutes spots the Birdmen, wing suited extreme adventurers...

Faith In Technology ~ TimeWarp Meets SawStop!

Would you stick your finger into a saw to illustrate its safety features? Right, well, these jokers do just that! Thanks to MIT's Amy Qian for spotting how TimeWarp delivers answers to our inquiries... Being pretty objectivist, I ought to think of this as "Confidence In Technology" given the data, facts, and evidence which show that SawStop works. Nevertheless, I'm ultra-conflicted about how willing I would be to stick my own paw into the maw! That would be as close to an act of faith as I'd ever get!

Howtoons Your Halloween! ~ Costume Contest...

Best Costume? Let's Howtoon it! Bring your cloak on!

Containerized Development ~ Health Clinics Next

For a while now I've been interested in finding more Urgent Solutions, rapidly deployable Containerized Infrastructure, and living quarter innovations such as Tempohousing. So I'm pleased to see another addition to this mix in Bridgette Meinhold's Inhabitat article, Shipping Container Health Clinics For Developing Countries...

Inhabitat This ~ Glorious Green Goods & More!

Inhabitat delivers the latest! Get your click on these...

David v Goliath ~ Kingbird Pwns Red-Tailed Hawk!

Thanks again to the Daily Mail for spotting another epic nature story, How little bird David defended his young from Goliath the red-tailed hawk (with a mid-flight peck on the head)...

M51 Composite ~ Glorious Whirlpool Galaxy!

Thanks to BBC for posting this ESA/NASA composite image of M51...

29 October 2009

AssuredLabor ~ David Reich @ MIT D-Ventures!

Excellent to have David Reich return to our MIT Development Ventures class to share his experience over the past two years founding and building AssuredLabor -- including recently launching their Spanish-language site Empleolisto in start-country Nicaragua! David and classmates first started planning this concept as the Ad Hoc Labor idea back in Development Ventures Fall 2007 class. Since then they've adjusted business models a couple times, secured some angel financing, key partnerships, and -- most important -- thousands of company and employee customers! They're creating the Monster.com for Emerging Markets and boosting employment to the benefit of all! FYI, here's Nicaraguan TV coverage...

Bicycle Parking ~ Robotics Transforms Storage!

I've written about this bike robo-storage system before, but this video renders it very clear, including how to fast-fabricate the deployment... This is a fantastic example of a robotics and automation-enabled urban innovation.

28 October 2009

Homemade Hero ~ Howtoons Your Halloween!

DIY Super-Homemade Hero costume for superior candy capture...

Hector Hernandez ~ Grokking Extremophiles!

Delighted to have MIT post-doc extremophile scholar Hector Hernandez on MaximizingProgress.tv tonight! We talked about his studies in the biogeochemistry of carbon sequestration. This is an important topic since so little is known about how underground microbial ecologies will affect how carbon is trapped or the operational efficiency of CO2 injection into subsurface volumes. We've known each other since serving together on the task-force advising the MIT Presidential search process, i.e. while Hector was an MIT Chemistry grad student. After Hector "made like a cylinder and graduated" he's worked together with other colleagues in MIT's Parsons Lab exploring the wide-open and still poorly understood topics of ecobiology, long-term environmental impacts, and other frontiers of environmental science and engineering!

Natural Gas ~ Meet the Methane Makers...

Thanks to BBC Magazine for spotlighting Lord Stern's report on the impact of meat production. Among other things, lots of natural gas...

26 October 2009

Energy in Brazil ~ Engevix Co-Founder Tue 10/27

Don't miss a great chance to hear about achievements, challenges, policies, and opportunities for Energy in Brazil this Tuesday, October 27, 2009 from 6:30p–8:00p in E51-115, the Wong Auditorium in MIT Sloan's Tang Center. Mr. José Antunes, Co-Founder and COO of Engevix, a fast-growing nearly $1B/year clean energy engineering firm, will speak about the Brazilian energy landscape, drawing from a 40 year career in the sector, highlighting biopower, hydropower, and solarpower. Fascinating opportunity to hear from a key player from one of the BRICs!

Reinventing Syria ~ Playing a Pivotal New Role

My favorite monthly magazine, National Geographic, spotlights Syria in the latest issue in an article by Don Belt and photos by Ed Kashi...
"Forty years of socialism -- this is what we're up against," said Abdallah Dardari, 46, a London-educated economist who serves as deputy prime minister for economic affairs. [President] Bashar has recruited Syria's best and brightest expatriates to return home. The new team has privatized the banking system, created duty-free industrial parks, and opened a Damascus stock exchange to encourage more of the private and foreign investment that has quickened the pulse of the capital and launched dozens of upscale nightclubs and restaurants. "My job is to deliver for the people of Syria," said Bashar, who is known for occasionally dropping by a restaurant, leaving the bodyguards outside, to share a meal with other diners. In his push to modernize, Bashar's most potent ally is his wife, the former Asma al-Akhras, a stylish, Western-educated business executive who has launched a number of government-sponsored programs for literacy and economic empowerment. Daughter of a prominent Syrian heart specialist, Asma was born and raised in London."
The whole story is fascinating and timely -- especially since I've been keenly supporting the Innovate Syria initiative born here at MIT -- and because Syria is the lynchpin for enabling a peaceful and vital Levant.

25 October 2009

MIT Elevator Pitch Contest ~ Finale Thurs 10/29!

Definitely check out the Finale of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition's Elevator Pitch Contest this week Thursday, 29 October 2009 from 7-9pm in Kirsch Auditorium! Last year Riccardo Signorelli won for his one minute Pitch on electricity storage venture FastCap. Who of the over 300 entrants this year will make it all the way to the Finale? Twelve semifinalists (two from each track) will be announced in random order and invited to redeliver their new venture Pitch in one minute or less. Both a new panel of Judges and the audience will decide on 4 prizes for $10,000 in cash. $1,000 for the Audience Choice award, $2,000 for 2nd and 3rd place winners, and $5,000 to 1st place winner for the best Elevator Pitch overall. That's serious coin for 60 seconds of work;-) See you Thursday night!

Maasai: At The Crossroads ~ Premiere Fri 10/30

Harvard's Calestous Juma, the Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project helps launch Maasai: At The Crossroads this Friday in a world university premiere. This 45-minute documentary narrated by Juma is about enriching the lives of Maasai children through education while respecting their customs, traditions, and way of life. The special showing is in Harvard's Science Center Lecture, Hall D this Friday, October 30, 2009 from 6:30-8:30pm and is open to the public. MIT Media Lab spinoff One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) will demo the XO laptop after the screening. (FYI, see Dutch videojournalist Ruud Elmendorp's recent piece on XO laptops in Kibwezi, rural Kenya.) And producers and founder of Africa Schools of Kenya (ASK) will also be there.

D-Lab Design ~ OpenCourseWare Shares All!

MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) staff spotlight D-Lab Design! OCW is MIT's project to share via web nearly all MIT course content openly and freely available to the world. We hope that other engineering colleges and universities -- or even motivated individuals -- can benefit from having these materials to either start or enhance great offerings at their own locations.

Black Like Me ~ Exploring 1950s US Prejudices

Thanks to the BBC's Kevin Connolly for Exposing the colour of prejudice asking...
"How much does the colour of our skin make us who we are, and shape the way the world sees us?"
...and spotlighting a 50 year-old book by John Howard Griffin who...
"...embarked on one of the most remarkable one-man social and psychological experiments in history. Griffin was the white man who fooled hundreds of Americans into believing he was a black man as he travelled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia -- and who felt at first hand the bigotry that meant. The whole business of racial impersonation might make us feel vaguely uncomfortable now, but in 1959 a black writer simply could not have found an audience for such a graphic portrayal of African-American grievance. Only a white writer prepared to take the extraordinary steps that Griffin took could tell the story. [...] He took a drug called Oxsoralen, which is to combat Vitiligo [...] and got under an ultra violet sunlamp."
This procedure worked and allowed him to embark on a six week journey in the Deep South, including working various trades. Griffin published Black Like Me in 1961 describing the problems he encountered in finding food and facilities as well as the default hatred of many everyday white people towards him. Connolly concludes...
"It is worth reading what he wrote -- and then reflecting, in this age of the first African-American president, on how far we have come. And how far we have to go."

24 October 2009

Vintage Cycle Chic ~ The Bikable, Livable City!

One of my favorite sites is Copenhagen Cycle Chic which consistently and delightfully celebrates the vibrant cycling lifestyle and sensibly designed, cycle-friendly cities! Usually the spotlight is on contemporary beauties -- i.e. photos of cyclists in all seasons, in all situations, especially in Copenhagen, but with guest excursions to lovely spots elsewhere. Today Mikael spotted two vintage clips from Holland and Denmark -- being biased, I re-post here the Dutch one;-) And I remind all of the remarkable century-old Barcelona video!

Inspiring Inhabitats ~ Let's All Live In These!

More lovely Inhabitats! Get your click on these...

Great Charter Cities ~ Historical Travelogues...

I've been quite fascinated by Paul Romer's idea for Charter Cities -- i.e. city-scale special administrative zones with rule-of-law, openness to migrants, and attraction to investors -- as well as the pro's and con's of urban renewal and regeneration -- i.e. the tearing up of the old and building of the new. See especially recent Charter comments on urban housing. So thanks to Erica Young and Cory Kidd for spotting these late-1930s vintage travelogues. Yes, the voice-over is laced with the imperialist and racist western outlook of the time, but the images capture an important historical view on what are arguably today our greatest cities. First Hong Kong, "Gateway to China"... Second, Singapore, "Crossroads of the East"... Fascinating historical perspectives on two cities which were clearly vital freeports and transport hubs already at that time. Curious too is the emphasis on "British Imperial Power" since both of these cities would fall shockingly rapidly to Japanese forces just three years after these images were shot. Post-WWII led to the emergence of the modern Commonwealth with Singapore today a thriving independent city-state and, since 1997, Hong Kong as a special administrative region of mainland China, but effectively still a highly autonomous city.

Storing Wind ~ Obama Hears Slocum's Solution

Wind power when the wind isn't blowing? Check out the MIT way!

23 October 2009

Remembering DEC ~ Epic MIT Spinoff Firm...

Innovation Economist Scott Kirsner writes about Remembering DEC: Memoir from Co-Founder Harlan Anderson Due Out in November...
"Harlan Anderson just turned 80 this month. With Ken Olsen, he started Digital Equipment Corp., which was one of the pillars of the Route 128 era here in Massachusetts, and at one point was the second-biggest technology company in the world. Next month, his memoirs are out: Learn, Earn & Return: My Life as a Computer Pioneer. [...] Olsen and Anderson left MIT in 1957 to start a company that would design new computers that took advantage of the shift from vacuum tubes to transistors. [...] At its peak, DEC employed an incredible 140,000 people worldwide. Olsen was replaced as its leader in 1992, and in the late 1990s, many Digital businesses were sold off, culminating in the sale of the company to Compaq in 1998."
The photo of the early DEC Board is pretty epic in that it reminds us of Jay W Forrester, MIT Sloan Professor Emeritus whose former students have gone on to found more high-impact ventures than any other Institute faculty member! Digital, MITRE, 3Com, Patni, Pugh-Roberts, Meditech -- this list continues. Jay even used his own System Dynamics methodology to model the growth of startup companies... and used it as a board member at Digital;-)

21 October 2009

Amanda Parkes ~ Toys, Energy, DIY, Media, more!

It was excellent to have MIT alumna engineer-designer-entrepreneur Amanda Parkes joining me on MaximizingProgress.tv tonight! After going through Stanford's undergrad Design program, she worked in the museum exhibits sector culminating in the awesome SF Exploratorium! Attracted to the MIT Media Lab, Amanda worked with Tangible Media innovator, Professor Hiroshi Ishii on several projects, including especially DIY dynamic toys Topobo together with collaborator Hayes Raffle. This project is akin to one of my favorite DIY toys -- Legos -- in that it's assemble-your-self, but it has the additional glorious property that it also remembers how you manipulate it! So if you physically tweak it -- and thus mimic walking, for example -- then Topobo remembers how to walk! That's just brilliant! Amanda also runs the FutureCraft class with collaborator doctoral student and innovation impressario Leo Bonanni, protagonist of the Sourcemap open supply chains initiative. Beyond lab and class, Amanda connected with Sam Hill and co-founded BodegaAlgae, a clean energy company which was Finalist in the 2007 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and continues to pursue their algae-based biofuels business!

Speed Demon ~ Wind + Paper Plate = Howtoons!

Blow this plate and get your Speed Demon on!

Internalizing Externalities ~ Sobering Realities...

Two great pieces today in the NYTimes, one by Matthew Wald on Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says and another by Leslie Kaufman on Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. Both stories are fundamentally about accounting for what historically cost nothing: the environmental and health impact of absorbing pollution and waste. That's changing fast. Fossil fuel...
"...costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution. [...] "The largest portion of this is excess mortality -- increased human deaths as a result of criteria air pollutants emitted by power plants and vehicles," said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who led the study committee. Nearly 20,000 people die prematurely each year from such causes, according to the study’s authors, who valued each life at $6 million based on the dollar in 2000. Those pollutants include small soot particles, which cause lung damage; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog; and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain."
At the same time, for solid wastes...
"Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as "zero waste" is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations. The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can. Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere."
By accounting for true costs, and internalizing these historic externalities, economic rationality drives us to minimize these costs. This is a good thing!

19 October 2009

Wind to Grid ~ Early MIT Alumco Energy Invention

Thanks to WIRED archival review This Day in Tech for spotting Oct. 19, 1941: Electric Turbines Get First Wind...
"In 1941 the Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine fed AC power to the electric grid, the first wind machine ever to do so. The unprecedented project was built up from nothing, practically conjured, by Palmer Putnam, an MIT-trained geologist with no formal education or experience in wind power. He was a fascinating character, a clean-energy entrepreneur 70 years ahead of his time..."
Interesting longer story, including an epic failure mode! Plus check out video of the original turbine in action and more info about the Smith-Putnam turbines!

18 October 2009

Density Is Green ~ The Case For Cities...

Witold Rybczynski in the Atlantic makes The Green Case for Cities...
"Density is green. Does this mean that we all have to live in Manhattan? Not necessarily. Cities such as Stockholm and Copenhagen are dense without being vertical. And closer to home is Montreal, where the predominant housing form is a three- or four-story walk-up. Walk-ups, which don’t require elevators, can create a sufficient density -- about 50 people per acre -- to support public transit, walkability, and other urban amenities. Increasing an area’s density requires changing zoning to allow smaller lots and compact buildings such as walk-ups and townhouses. In other words, being truly green means returning to the kinds of dense cities and garden suburbs Americans built in the first half of the 20th century. A tall order -- but after the binge of the last housing boom, many Americans might be ready to consider a little downsizing."

Tailball ~ Dolphins Kick Around Jellyfish;-)

Thanks to Cynical-C and Dangerous Minds for spotting the BBC short piece Dolphin Football off North Coast and related video...