Saving the Earth, One Beer at a Time.
28 February 2010
Great to see MIT alum entrepreneur Eric Fitch and his company Purpose Energy spotlighted in the Boston Business Journal article by Jackie Noblett on Waste not: Brewing beer byproducts into energy. Purpose Energy builds bio-digestors next to beer breweries to take in fermentation byproducts and convert them into biogas, which is largely methane. This is a win-win -- breweries save money via lowered waste disposal expenses plus they cut energy bills by purchasing the biogas. Purpose Energy makes good money in the middle. Their motto?
BIG architect Bjarke Ingels at TED offers several hilarious architectural tales at warp-speed! Several delightful nuggests, including an architecture comic book called Yes Is More, the role of Darwin and evolutionary design, and commentary about doing better than settling for un-fun sustainability -- why not make such cities more fun? He calls his ethos Architectural Alchemy not choosing between competing options, but blending into best of both...Thanks to Evolution for spotting this!
Thanks to WIRED's Jason Paur for his piece, Eurocopter Moves One Step Closer to 'Whisper Mode' spotlighting their Blue Edge and Blue Pulse technologies which dramatically cut helicopter blade noise...
"Normally, the entire length of the rotor blade interacts with the vortex of the preceding blade. With the Blue Edge rotors, the double-swept tips of the rotor blade reduce the length of the blade-vortex interaction, and it does it at the tip where the blades are moving the fastest relative to the air. The result is a decrease in the sound produced due of the wake interaction at the tip. Both the new rotor blade and trailing edge flaps are part of what Eurocopter is calling its "Bluecopter" technology. The company says the goal is to create more environmentally friendly helicopters from both a noise and emissions standpoint."This is a crucial urban innovation making such flight vehicles much more acceptable over cities -- something we're already seeing in Brazil as Eduardo Martino of Documentography shows in this Guardian photo series -- just check out the number of rooftop helipads in São Paulo... P.S. Also check out this photocollection of Rooftop Helipads!
27 February 2010
Renée Loth asks in the Boston Globe, What’s Vancouver got that we don’t? Some answers comparing Vancouver to Boston include...
- "Political will," said Tom Piper, research scientist at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning," and a set of procedures and practices that balance the public interest with the creativity of the development community."
- "They support the enterprise of development in recognition of the added value that wealth creation can bring to the community," agreed Richard Dimino, president of the downtown business group A Better City.
- "They understand the economic and place-making value of density," added Fred Kramer, president of the architectural firm ADD Inc. and chairman of the Urban Land Institute of Boston. Vancouver, he said, is a showcase for well-planned, thoughtful density that is "incentivized rather than feared."
- "Density was very much our goal,’" [former co-director of planning for Vancouver, Larry] Beasley said. An economic analysis showed that Vancouver was 75,000 residents short of the critical mass needed to keep the downtown vibrant. "But we didn’t talk about density, we talked about quality of life. We had to make it delicious." Vancouver’s residential towers are tall by Boston standards, but thin enough to protect view corridors and make the best use of natural light in a gray climate. The bases of the buildings are at a more human scale [...] For Beasley, density is the secret to sustainability, because big population increases create enough wealth to support good amenities and public spaces."
Thanks to Jon Donnison for his BBC News report from the West Bank on Building the first 'Palestinian settlement' about Rawabi...
"Standing on the hills of Rawabi just north of Ramallah on the West Bank, at the moment there's little more than a stunning view. On a clear day you can see as far as Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean. But the bulldozers are here and building is now under way in what will be the biggest construction project in modern Palestinian history. Rawabi, which actually means "hills" in Arabic, will be the first purpose-built Palestinian city."I'm very excited about this. Among other things, I think such developments are a good idea both in Palestine and in the border zones of neighboring countries. For instance, consider purpose-built city ideas such as West Rafah and Greater Taba in the Egyptian Sinai as well as Greater Aqaba, New Jericho, and New Pella in the Jordanian East Bank. In any case, check out the Rawabi project concept video...
26 February 2010
Great to read about San Francisco's Pavement to Parks initiative in an Inhabitat piece by Ariel Schwartz...
"The program’s three new mini-parks -- Castro Commons, Showplace Triangle and Guerrero Park -- have already proved wildly successful, with a 29% increase in pedestrian traffic at Showplace Triangle alone. Now the city has announced it will install 12 new pavements-to-parks in 2010."
Wow, check out this epic tilt-shift timelapse delighter -- The Sandpit -- a day in the life of New York City by Sam O'Hare! Many thanks to UniqueDaily for spotting this stunning visual storytelling!
David Hembrow writes in Car Mad Britain about how awful the situation is for UK children walking and biking to school -- i.e. when asshole automobile drivers illegally and egregiously block crossings, park on sidewalks, and speed with unsafe abandon. Here's the evidence... To address this horrorshow, David reminds us of the wonderful Beauty and the Bike project and documentary contrasting bicycle ridership amongst young women in the UK and Germany. The project is at root about Teenage Girls and Urban Mobility Culture and documents the differences between travel customs -- what's cool and attractive versus what's not...
"The film follows two groups of young women from Darlington and Bremen. Between them, they discover what makes -- and stops -- teenage girls from cycling. The answer? "It's the Infrastructure, stupid!"Watch here the trailer... I'm not against cars or driving or parking, but I believe children and pedestrians generally should have their safety ensured as the baseline mode. Bicyclists also should not need to wear helmets -- they should feel safe about and while biking. Achieving this means a combination of proper walkways and bikelanes -- i.e. vital infrastructure -- and a minimal mix of cultural courtesy and suitable legal enforcement. Any physically threatening behavior by automobile drivers -- nevermind actually hitting people -- should be considered a criminal felony offense with severe penalties, something on the order of drunk driving, which has been criminalized in all civilized countries.
Thanks to UniqueDaily for spotting this compelling demonstration of a seemingly unbreakable display that can be pounded and bent... I personally really want a "Sword-Sceptre-Scroll" form-factor where I can pull out a large surface-area display from a tube the size of a closed umbrella. This kind of rollable technology makes it possible!
Thanks to MIT D-Lab / IDI colleague Jose Gomez-Marquez for spotting CNN's Ebonne Ruffins piece on Teaching kids to read from the back of a burro, all about Luis Soriano's traveling library in Colombia...
25 February 2010
24 February 2010
Check it out! Flyfire -- a hovering, programmable swarm of individual helicopter AUV-mounted LEDs developed by MIT's SENSEable City Lab in collaboration with the ARES Lab for Aerospace Robotics and Embedded Systems. They turn ordinary volumetric air space into a holistic interactive video display -- both 2D and 3D!
Thanks to Aaron Saenz for spotting the CubeStormer -- a LEGO Robot Solves Any Rubik’s Cube In Less Than 12 Seconds...
"CubeStormer is the latest creation from Mike Dobson, aka Robotics Solutions, and not only is it made entirely out of Legos, it can solve any 3×3x3 rubik’s cube in less than twelve seconds. Often it can finish in less than five! This thing looks badass and is incredible to watch."
The Economist writes about Printing body parts: Making a bit of me: A machine that prints organs is coming to market...
"The great hope of transplant surgeons is that they will, one day, be able to order replacement body parts on demand. At the moment, a patient may wait months, sometimes years, for an organ from a suitable donor. During that time his condition may worsen. He may even die. The ability to make organs as they are needed would not only relieve suffering but also save lives. And that possibility may be closer with the arrival of the first commercial 3D bio-printer for manufacturing human tissue and organs."I've written about both Bionics and Growing Body Parts before. This genre of Personalized Medical Solutions is burgeoning! MIT alumcos like Brontes, Atlantis, Angstrom, and more are all exemplars-emergent!
I'm delighted by the emergence of DIY photo-cartographics like the Grassroots Mapping project...
"Grassroots Mapping is a series of participatory mapping projects involving communities in cartographic dispute, started by Jeffrey Warren of the MIT Media Lab’s Design Ecology group and the Center for Future Civic Media. [...] Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers used helium balloons and kites to loft their own "community satellites" made with inexpensive digital cameras. The resulting images, which are owned by the residents, are georeferenced and stitched into maps which are 100x higher resolution that those offered by Google, at extremely low cost. In some cases these maps may be used to support residents’ claims to land title. By creating open-source tools to include everyday people in exploring and defining their own geography, we hopes to enable a diverse set of alternative agendas and practices, and to emphasize the fundamentally narrative and subjective aspects of mapping over its use as a medium of control."Great initiative! Plus, check out their illustrated "how-to" guide!
Excellent to interview Dimitris Papanikolaou on MaximizingProgress.tv tonight! A researcher in the MIT Media Lab's Smart Cities group, Dimitris specializes in understanding the role of incentives and pricing and policies on managing fleets of shareable vehicles. This is part of a larger effort to build Mobility-on-Demand systems. Systems like Zipcar, born here in Cambridge, and Velib, the Parisian bike-share, are both example urban ventures which are changing how people need cars and other vehicles in the city. Many of my friends, for instance, have no interest in owning a car. Instead they rent, on-demand, when they need one! But understanding such systems well enough to make sure they operate effectively is not easy. Bikes in the Velib system, for example, tend to accumulate at popular destinations which today means employees have to re-distribute them, a major expense. So Dimitris uses MIT's System Dynamics computer modeling and simulation method to see how incentives and discounts and pricing can motivate users to keep the overall system in balance. Very cool!
Check out this Virtual Rehabilitation prototype demonstration resulting from the Health and Wellness Innovation "Hackathon" this past January 2010 at MIT! A key goal was to develop fun and engaging rehabilitations outside hospitals!
23 February 2010
Dutch videojournalist Ruud Elmendorp covered Tullow Oil recently, reporting that Uganda oil findings to benefit all, says government... P.S. FYI, interesting follow-up article in The Times by Robin Pagnamenta about Tullow CEO and Founder Aidan Heavey, Monday mainifesto: From streetfighter to big hitter.
Excellent to see Georgetown's William Jack and MIT Sloan's Tavneet Suri's paper on Mobile Money: The Economics of M‐PESA spotlighted by MIT today as Banking on mobile money by Peter Dizikes. As Jack & Suri write...
"In March 2007, the leading cell phone company in Kenya, Safaricom, formalized this procedure [of the informal use of airtime minutes as cash] with the launch of M‐PESA, an SMS‐based money transfer system that allows individuals to deposit, send, and withdraw funds using their cell phone. M‐PESA has grown rapidly, currently reaching approximately 38 percent of Kenya’s adult population, and is widely viewed as a success story to be emulated across the developing world. This paper provides a description of the service and a review of the potential economic effects primarily at the household level, but also in terms of macroeconomic and monetary aggregates. It then provides a detailed portrayal of patterns of use across urban and rural populations, using data from the first large household survey focused on money transfer services in Kenya."This is one of several interesting cases to study and draw lessons from!
Anne Eisenberg writes in the NYTimes about a new plasma-based cleaner allowing Hospital-Clean Hands, Without All the Scrubbing. This works by making...
"...antibacterial cocktails by running electrical current through air, said David B. Graves, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley [...] The electric current ionizes the oxygen, nitrogen and water vapor in the air, he said, eventually creating the nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide and particles that are so effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi."But hand sanitation is just the tip of a big iceberg of possibilities...
"Many other cleaning applications of plasma are being researched. In addition to hand sanitizers, Michael G. Kong, a professor of bioelectrics engineering at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, has developed a prototype for plasma jets that can be built into air-conditioning systems. As air is transmitted through the system from one hospital room to another, for example, the jets inactivate microorganisms, fungi and viruses in the air. In the Netherlands, Gerrit M. W. Kroesen, a professor of plasma physics at the Eindhoven University of Technology, is focusing on the treatment of burn wounds. "We have seen that plasmas help with disinfection," he said. "They also stimulate regeneration of tissue." [...] other potential applications, including treatment of burns or cancers, are further away. "We are able to do miracles with this technology" he said, "but we have to make sure the treatments are not toxic."
22 February 2010
60 Minutes opens the kimono on Bloom Energy fuel cells... They're a bit hyperbolic about Bloom achieving "off grid" power since it still has to suck on a natural gas pipeline. That's a "grid" too...
Nice demo of Ilan Moyer's MTM Multifab performing auto-pipetting. The key additional functionality was built with Amber Houghstow and Jose Gomez-Marquez of Innovations in International Health to automate XoutTB diagnostic assays, but has potential use in DIY bio...
21 February 2010
I just read about Joel Kotkin new book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 US future...
"In stark contrast to the rest of the world’s advanced nations, the United States is growing at a record rate and, according to census projections, will be home to four hundred million Americans by 2050. This projected rise in population is the strongest indicator of our long-term economic strength, Joel Kotkin believes, and will make us more diverse and more competitive than any nation on earth."While it's sometimes fashionable to bash American foibles -- and I'm certainly guilty of that -- it is also an epic country, one with principled birth which continues to be a beacon to migrants from worldwide. Kotkin builds upon his prior works Tribes, The New Geography, and sweeping The City: A Global History, and explores nothing less than the future of US.
Just watched CBS tv show Undercover Boss for the first time tonight. 7-Eleven CEO Joseph DePinto left the suit at home, put on jeans and shirt (and uniforms), and worked in several stores, a delivery truck, and played other essential everyday-roles meeting dozens of employees while undercover -- they don't know he's the boss, just that there is a camera crew following some newbie around! Sure some commentators (e.g. WashPost, EWeekly, LATimes) have panned the show as "cooked up" or "publicity stunt" but many of the employee reactions seem quite authentic -- i.e. they call stupid mistakes just that and don't hold back with constructive criticism of either DePinto or 7-Eleven. I also thought DePinto's moves to celebrate his employees skills and dreams was pretty classy. Great show! Check out just a clip with Dolores...
20 February 2010
Join us at our Development Pubnight for drinks & informal discussion this Monday, February 22nd starting at 7pm at the MIT Muddy Charles Pub. Nina and Paul from Seeding Labs and yours truly welcome interested folks to an an informal evening of drinking and thinking about science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and international development!
- P.S. the uncivilized and unconstitutional Masstapo drinking age rules apply, so bring your 21+ ID.
- P.P.S. because some of our MIT Sloan colleagues have classes later at night, some of us will start as early at 5pm to begin the discussions! Join us at any time!
18 February 2010
Just watched the first half of For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots on WGBH! Since before the birth of the US -- from Crispus Attucks to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers through the Buffalo Soldiers, Harlem Hellfighters, Tuskegee Airmen, and the contemporary achievements of Colin Powell and colleagues -- African Americans have served "in harms way". The glory of the story is that despite enormous injustices at the time and over the decades, these discriminations and inconsistencies have been largely rooted out and inequities corrected. Liberty triumphant! Check out the intro...
Just had a great session with 130+ guests at IdeaStorm 8 at the Cambridge Innovation Center. IdeaStorm is a...
"...a fast-paced, lightly moderated, high energy brainstorming session. Creative Ideas + Entrepreneurial Minds = Great Teams + Hot Startups."The event sequence which organizers Morgan, Adam, Slava used is...
- Welcome -- Schmooze, food, and drink;
- Challenge Question -- e.g. “What is the future of banking?”
- Elevator Pitch -- Float a few new ideas;
- Founders Dilemma -- Startup founder poses core challenges;
- Wrapup -- Share and vote on Best & "Worst" ideas!
17 February 2010
Seeing The Future: A Guide to Visual Communications is the latest production from Nick, Ingrid, Saul and the Howtoons crew in collab with Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams, the invention & entrepreneurship programs for kids of all ages -- but especially high schoolers!
Wonderful to interview Ani Vallabhaneni on MaximizingProgress.tv tonight! Ani was part of two Development Ventures teams -- VALA and Sanergy -- which both were semi-finalists in the Development Track of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition's Executive Summary Competition. VALA won the track, btw, with team leader Craig Edelman from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government giving the Elevator Pitch! VALA's all about helping informal market merchants in big Indian cities connect better with repeated and valued customers. This is to the advantage of both parties and represents a compelling opportunity for the 15 million street vendors and the 100M+ customers. Sanergy is all about optimizing the sanitary waste solutions value chain. Their goal is to weave together the toilet services vendor with the waste transport handler with the biodigestor waste-handler with the fuel, electricity, and fertilizer consumers. Epic value-chain orchestration!
Discovery-of-the-Day! Taybeh Beer brewed and bottled in -- where else -- Taybeh, which is a village near Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestine a bit north of Jerusalem. Taybeh's of course an Arabic name, but one which, providentially, means "delicious"!-) Founded in 1994 by Nadim Khoury, who returned from Boston, MA, together with brother David Khoury, and their father Canaan the year after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. Very compelling entrepreneurship story amidst challenging circumstances! And while they have primarily served their Christian brethren, they today also brew a non-alcoholic Green Label to quench the thirst of abstainers as well!
Thanks to the Economist for spotting a hilarious and perhaps effective initiative in their piece A zero contribution: An unconventional way to combat petty corruption. The 5th Pillar movement adds to India's four pillars of democracy -- the legislature, executive, judiciary and the media -- by seeking to eliminate corruption, "the misuse of entrusted power for private gains". The Zero Rupees notes are given to extortionist officials as a polite but clever way of saying No.
16 February 2010
MIT alumna Lily Kim has been exploring the intersection of medicine, technology, and business anchored in her doctoral background in microfluidics / MEMS. Like many of us, she wants...
"...to know more about the latest research, but also [...] to understand how these technologies could be brought into the world to help solve real problems."Hence check out her new blog -- FluidicMEMS.com
15 February 2010
Thanks to Michael Rosenblatt for spotting Draganfly, the "Innovative UAV Aircraft & Aerial Video Systems" business. I'm fascinated by the rapid largely-autonomous aerial surveillance and info-response opportunities -- security, emergency response, crowdviewing, eventcasting, etc, etc. Check it...
Clicked on the 'telly and caught Looking for Lincoln on PBS. This historic retrospective presented and written by Henry Louis Gates Jr reviewed the epic nature of this US President's role in the end of slavery and his continuing impact on America. Wow.
14 February 2010
Thanks to CCTV10 and LinkTV here in Cambridge for showing the BBC Four's 2005 African School series via The Open University about...
"...the daily lives, concerns and personalities of young Africans and their teachers in the Ugandan town of Masindi. African School features two of the town’s schools -- Kamurasi Demonstration School (a primary school) led by the resourceful and positive Mr Byoona, and Masindi Secondary School (known as “Massesco”) under the leadership of Mrs. Mukasa (the second youngest female head in the country). [...] Poverty is a part of daily life for many of the pupils, yet the appetite for life is undiminished. There is a thirst for school, where the chance of education and the opportunities it offers can transform one’s life (some children who cannot afford senior school fees even break in to get to classes). Coupled with the extraordinary enthusiasm and openness of the pupils and teachers, the series gives an entertaining, refreshing and up-lifting insight into understanding what life is really like in Africa today."The 10 half-hour episodes featuring challenges of money, ambition, sport, politics, religion, sex, and, of course, education and development are dramatic and eye-opening "reality TV".
13 February 2010
Cool integration of maps plus 3D street photoscapes plus archival photos overlaid plus 3D inside maps plus live video overlay plus integration with stellar data...
12 February 2010
A phrase from Andrew Revkin's DotEarth post on A Menu for Feeding 9 Billion caught my attention -- Sustainable Intensification -- about the cocktail of wise policy, food pricing, and irrigation and production technologies needed to feed extra billions of hungry mouths over upcoming decades in a way that's not ecologically rapacious. The next thing I read was by Joel Broekaert and Reinier Kist in NRC International dealing with the challenge of So many bikes, so little space, meaning massive overcrowding of bicycles and the tragedy of the parking commons in the Netherlands. Stunningly parallel challenges in seemingly totally different domains. In bike parking there too is a need for sustainable intensification using savvy social strategies, proper pricing and sharing-models, and scalable automation such as robostorage solutions!
11 February 2010
Madiba -- Nelson Mandela -- was convicted of treason and sabotage in 1964 with a life sentence. On 11 February 1990 -- two decades ago, today -- he was finally released from prison. Mandela and FW de Klerk shared in winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. And in the 1994 first free all-races elections in South African history, Mandela was elected President. Epic! As his autobiography calls it, a Long Walk to Freedom and to building a new, ever-more prosperous Rainbow Nation. One of my favorite late-1980s songs was "Free Nelson Mandela" -- and it actually happened!
10 February 2010
Excellent interview tonight with Santiago Ocejo-Torres on MaximizingProgress.tv! Currently a Harvard School of Public Health master's student, Santiago's passionate about medical device and health innovations. Born and raised in Mexico, Santiago went to Monterrey Tech -- the "MIT of Mexico" -- for his MD. He had a very compelling interlude at Stanford as an Innovation Global Fellow in the Biodesign program where he co-founded Respira Design, winners of the BASES Social E-Challenge and makers of an effective, affordable asthma-treatment device enabling the efficient delivery of medication from an inhaler into a child's lungs. Now at Harvard engaged in Public Health, Santiago's interested in transforming healthcare through ultra-affordable design!
Humorous and poised speech by 18 year old Spencer Horne at the Grand Opening Gala Dinner of the African Leadership Academy (ALA). Early on Horne reminisces about "When I was young..."
09 February 2010
Charlie Rose interviews one of Brazil's most interesting entrepreneurs, Eike Batista, whose holdings began in trading and mining and are increasingly in energy and logistics, the EBX Group...