28 November 2011

Fun-Vii ~ Toyota's Smartcar Concept Vehicle...

I love the idea of every surface a display, but this car is ugly...

San Francisco in Ruins ~ 1906 Kite Aerial Photo!

Given the great work here at MIT Civic Media by Jeffrey Warren and colleagues on Grassroots Mapping and the recent C3 Technologies acquisition by Apple, I was fascinated to run across more about Kite Aerial Photography and especially the backstory to this amazing San Francisco in Ruins photograph from 1906 taken by George Lawrence with a kite-borne camera -- a.k.a. his "captive airship". Simon Baker writes about this history and about the less well-known parts of the story!

McBoof's Back! ~ Dr Noize Delivers for Xmas!

Beware and behold the brand new Return Of Phineas McBoof album and book by Dr Noize and his merry brood of misunderstood geniuses! Musical performaestro Cory Cullinan and a cast of hundreds produced this acoustic ode to kids and creativity! Sayeth he...
"If you believe kids are creative and smart enough for something that gives and expects more of them than normal children's media, please consider our special Holiday Gift Packages for every child and family in your life this holiday season."
Lovely stuff! Some audio samples include Better Eat It Quick and Carry On and, of course, the de rigueur Making Of video...
Plus check out Dr Noize LIVE looping;-)

27 November 2011

Twine ~ ML Alum Cloudable Node on Kickstarter!

Excellent to see MIT Media Lab alum Supermechanical inventor-entrepreneurs David Carr and John Kestner's new Twine on Kickstarter!
"Twine is the simplest possible way to get the objects in your life texting, tweeting or emailing. [...] Twine lets you create Internet-connected systems and objects anywhere you have WiFi. Compact, low-power hardware and real-time web software work together to make networked physical computing simple and versatile. [...] Twine is a wireless module tightly integrated with a cloud-based service. The module has WiFi, on-board temperature and vibration sensors, and an expansion connector for other sensors. Power is supplied by the on-board mini USB or two AAA batteries (and Twine will email you when you need to change the batteries). The Spool web app makes it simple to set up and monitor your Twines from a browser anywhere. You set rules to trigger messages -- no programming needed. The rules are put together with a palette of available conditions and actions, and read like English."
Back them!

R.I.P. Emeka Ojukwu ~ Biafra Secession Leader...

Very sad to hear that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has passed away at age 78. Leader of Nigeria's breakaway Republic of Biafra during its failed secession battles of the late 1960s, Ojukwu spent 13 years in exile only to return to Nigeria after unconditional pardon in 1982. The obituary by the Guardian's Kaye Whiteman is among the more complete. I first came to appreciate the viciousness of the fighting and the travesty of colonial and commercial meddling in Nigeria through the writings of Frederick Forsyth, who initially covered the conflict as BBC correspondent, then wrote his first book, The Biafra Story, and soon thereafter wrote the fictional but poignant The Dogs of War in 1974, and even wrote Emeka, a biography in 1982. The brutality and suffering of this Nigerian civil war touched many people. For instance, current Nigerian finance minister (and MIT alumna) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remembers at age 15 carrying her 3-year old sister to a hospital during the depths of the conflict, something she shared at TEDGlobal (~9 minutes in). Dr Bernard Kouchner rejected the Red Cross gag order preventing him from speaking about his witnessing the federal Nigerian military murdering civilians and starving children and ended up co-founding Médecins Sans Frontières in 1971. The colonial borders and arbitrary aggregations into post-colonial nations remains a challenge to many. It's a minor miracle that South Sudan has managed to achieve independence relatively peacefully. Perhaps more regions can now follow?

26 November 2011

San Antonio++ ~ Crowdsourcing Placemaking

Great placemaking design tool from PPS -- the Project for Public Spaces -- engaging San Antonio's citizens in re-thinking downtown...
"Home to countless attractions, our city has prospered since its beginnings. It is a crossroads for commerce, a haven for tourists, and a source of pride for its residents. Downtown San Antonio has the potential to be so much more. Help us build off of San Antonio 2020 and previous planning efforts to inform the strategic plan for improving the downtown area by mapping your ideas about how to make downtown a great place. This evolving plan will consolidate the visions put forth by previous plans and identify specific projects which can be implemented to reinvigorate downtown San Antonio and consequently, the city as a whole. Together, we can make a good downtown, a great one!"
This effort builds on their Power of Ten concept that...
"A great place typically has at least 10 things to do in it; a great downtown has at least 10 great places."

25 November 2011

Stellar Evolution ~ Fate of the Protostars..

Very nice Stellar Evolution chart mapping Mass vs Time...

Supercommittee ~ Are Oxymorons Running US?

The oxymoronic Supercommittee delivered as expected... Failure. Among the choicer commentary...
  • "I think this super committee is about as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime." -- Gingrich
  • "It's a punt. I mean, it's one more occasion where Congress has basically punted, kicked the can down the road, use what metaphor you want." -- Zakaria
  • "The downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges ... (we are) pessimistic" -- Standard & Poor
  • "[Obama's] done nothing. It is another example of failed leadership." -- Romney
  • "Cutting $1.2 trillion over 10 years is chicken feed. What it really needs to do is cut $1.2 trillion per year. This shows how unserious politicians are about our very serious debt problems,” -- Paul
  • "Any serious blueprint to reduce the national debt -- now $15 trillion -- requires both more revenue and brakes on automatic spending" -- Cleveland Plain-Dealer
  • "The next step? Split the differences down the middle and end up with a $1.6 billion package that is 65 percent based on spending cuts and 35 percent on tax increases -- or at least something in that neighborhood." -- Baltimore Sun

24 November 2011

Timber Corruption ~ Sierra Leone Story on AlJaz

Al Jazeera's Africa Investigates series spotlights Sierra Leone: Timber! ~ Corruption that is stripping the west African country bare...
"Illegal logging is laying waste to Sierra Leone’s endangered forests. Despite years of laws and bans, its precious timber is still being exported abroad and unless something is done the country’s woodlands will have been destroyed within a decade. So why can the authorities not do more to stop it? In this edition of Africa Investigates, reporter Sorious Samura exposes the high level corruption that is stripping his homeland bare. With an undercover team he discovers that an illegal multi-million dollar timber trade is flourishing under the nose of the government and that associates of one of the most powerful politicians in the country are involved."

Multi-Storey Streets ~ Historic Cross-Sections...

I love the history of the future -- i.e. looking at how people in past times imagined how tomorrow might become. Specifically, I'm interested in thinking about future cities and how to deal with multi-modal traffic, high density, mixed-use, congestion, safety, and more. So here's a look at how the urban planners and streetscape designers and transit engineers of a century ago thought things might go! First some 1911 ideas about Paris... Dreams of New York 1928... Under London as thought of in 1905... A Five-Storied Street in Cassier's Monthly 1913... Double-Deck Streets in Scientific American 1907... These last two illustrations from the Wishful Thinking chapter in MIT DUSP & History Professor Robert Fogelson's latest book, Downtown! And, of course, Fritz Lang's epic 1927 SF film, Metropolis! And here are two SciAm cross-section views from 1912 about Grand Central Station...

Chilly Brinicle ~ BBC's Frozen Planet Timelapse

The DailyMail spotlights BBC Frozen Planet footage of Brinicles -- ultra-cold brine plumes which freeze the surrounding water and catch sealife in an icy grip! Check out the timelapse imagery (video apparently available only via the DM)

Giving Thanks ~ Ingersoll's 1897 Epic Sermon!

Thanks to Cynical-C for spotlighting Ingersoll's 1897 epic Thanksgiving Sermon! This is just an excerpt, my favorite parts...
"Standing here at the close of the 19th 
century -- amid the trophies of thought -- the triumphs of genius -- here under the flag of the Great Republic -- knowing something 
of the history of man -- here on this day that has been set apart for thanksgiving, I most reverently thank the good men. the good women of the past, I thank the kind fathers, the loving mothers of
 the savage days. I thank the father who spoke the first gentle 
word, the mother who first smiled upon her babe. I thank the first
 true friend. I thank the savages who hunted and fished that they 
and their babes might live. I thank those who cultivated the ground
 and changed the forests into farms -- those who built rude homes
 and watched the faces of their happy children in the glow of
 fireside flames -- those who domesticated horses, cattle and sheep
 -- those who invented wheels and looms and taught us to spin and
 weave -- those who by cultivation changed wild grasses into wheat 
and corn, changed bitter things to fruit, and worthless weeds to
 flowers, that sowed within our souls the seeds of art. I thank the 
poets of the dawn -- the tellers of legends -- the makers of myths
 -- the singers of joy and grief, of hope and love. I thank the
 artists who chiseled forms in stone and wrought with light and
 shade the face of man. I thank the philosophers, the thinkers, who
 taught us how to use our minds in the great search for truth. I
 thank the astronomers who explored the heavens, told us the secrets 
of the stars, the glories of the constellations -- the geologists 
who found the story of the world in fossil forms, in memoranda kept 
in ancient rocks, in lines written by waves, by frost and fire -- the anatomists who sought in muscle, nerve and bone for all the 
mysteries of life -- the chemists who unraveled Nature’s work that
 they might learn her art -- the physicians who have laid the hand 
of science on the brow of pain, the hand whose magic touch restores
 -- the surgeons who have defeated Nature’s self and forced her to
 preserve the lives of those she labored to destroy. I thank the discoverers of chloroform and ether, the two 
angels who give to their beloved sleep, and wrap the throbbing
 brain in the soft robes of dreams. I thank the great inventors -- those who gave us movable type and the press, by means of which
 great thoughts and all discovered facts are made immortal -- the
 inventors of engines, of the great ships, of the railways, the 
cables and telegraphs. I thank the great mechanics, the workers in
 iron and steel, in wood and stone. I thank the inventors and makers
 of the numberless things of use and luxury. I thank the industrious men, the loving mothers, the useful
 women. They are the benefactors of our race. The inventor of pins did a thousand times more good than all 
the popes and cardinals, the bishops and priests -- than all the
 clergymen and parsons, exhorters and theologians that ever lived. The inventor of matches did more for the comfort and
 convenience of mankind than all the founders of religions and the 
makers of all creeds -- than all malicious monks and selfish
 saints. [...] I thank the statesmen who have preserved the rights of man. I
 thank Paine whose genius sowed the seeds of independence in the
 hearts of ’76. I thank Jefferson whose mighty words for liberty 
have made the circuit of the globe. [...] I thank the great scientists -- those who have reached the
 foundation, the bed-rock -- who have built upon facts -- the great
 scientists, in whose presence theologians look silly and feel
 malicious [...] I thank the 
scientists one and all [...] I thank the heroes, the destroyers of prejudice and fear -- the dethroners of savage gods -- the extinguishers of hate’s
 eternal fire -- the heroes, the breakers of chains -- the founders
 of free states -- the makers of just laws -- the heroes who fought 
and fell on countless fields -- the heroes whose dungeons became
 shrines -- the heroes whose blood made scaffolds sacred -- the 
heroes, the apostles of reason, the disciples of truth, the
 soldiers of freedom -- the heroes who held high the holy torch and
 filled the world with light. With all my heart I thank them all."

MIT SEID + $100K Mixer ~ Emerging Markets++

This coming Monday night 28 November 2011 at the MIT Stata Center, the student-run SEID and MIT $100K Emerging Markets Track are hosting an informal mixer 6-9pm in the R&D Commons to encourage cross-links and developmental venturing! This is the home stretch to submitting idea in MIT $100K Accelerate Contest next Friday 2 December 2011. Past Emerging Markets track winners have met team-mates at just such mixers, btw, so they're quite worthwhile!

23 November 2011

Diaspora Networks ~ Mapping Migrant Clusters

The Economist Daily Chart spotlights Indian & Chinese diasporas...
"Where are the world's biggest Chinese and Indian immigrant communities? More Chinese people live outside mainland China than French people live in France, with some to be found in almost every country. Some 22m ethnic Indians are scattered across every continent. Diasporas have been a part of the world for millennia. But today their size (if migrants were a nation, they would be the world’s fifth-largest) and the ease of staying in touch with those at home are making them matter much more. No other social networks offer the same global reach—and shrewd firms are taking notice..."
Plus related Economist article on The magic of diasporas notes...
"Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy. Rich countries should welcome them. [...] Diaspora networks -- of Huguenots, Scots, Jews and many others -- have always been a potent economic force, but the cheapness and ease of modern travel has made them larger and more numerous than ever before. [...] These networks of kinship and language make it easier to do business across borders. They speed the flow of information. [...They] also help spread ideas. Many of the emerging world’s brightest minds are educated at Western universities. An increasing number go home, taking with them both knowledge and contacts. [...] Diasporas spread money, too. Migrants into rich countries not only send cash to their families; they also help companies in their host country operate in their home country. [...] Rich countries are thus likely to benefit from looser immigration policy; and fears that poor countries will suffer as a result of a “brain drain” are overblown. The prospect of working abroad spurs more people to acquire valuable skills, and not all subsequently emigrate. Skilled migrants send money home, and they often return to set up new businesses. One study found that unless they lose more than 20% of their university graduates, the brain drain makes poor countries richer."

Trust Center ~ MIT Sloan Entrepreneurship Home

Very exciting to see MIT alumnus Martin Trust '58 step up with a US$10 Million gift to name the MIT Sloan-based Entrepreneurship Center! While both organizationally and physically based on the far eastern-end of campus at the management school at MIT, this Center seeks to serve students from all parts of the Institute. Hosting many of MIT's key entrepreneurship classes and clubs, the Trust Center collaborates with us at the Media Lab and other parts of MIT to properly support our venture-minded students! P.S. While I'm really delighted about the new Trust Center nomenclature, it's also bittersweet since I was the guy who renamed the then-MIT Venture Initiative -- something previously known as the regretably stillborn MIT Center for Entrepreneurship -- and decided to call it the MIT Entrepreneurship Center all the way back in 1995, when yours truly was running the now MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition!

22 November 2011

Chinese Slavery ~ Prisoners as Laogai Laborers

Al Jazeera exposes the Chinese unelected autocracy's Prison Slaves in their latest episode of Slavery: A 21st Century Evil...
"Once an isolationist communist state, over the last 20 years China has become the world's biggest exporter of consumer goods. But behind this apparent success story is a dark secret -- millions of men and women locked up in prisons and forced into intensive manual labour. China has the biggest penal colony in the world -- a top secret network of more than 1,000 slave labour prisons and camps known collectively as "The Laogai". And the use of the inmates of these prisons -- in what some experts call "state sponsored slavery" -- has been credited with contributing to the country's economic boom."

Mother of All Demos ~ Epic Engelbart NLS Debut

The Mother of All Demos is SRI innovator Doug Engelbart's 1968 public reveal of UI ideas which are now ubiquitous. He introduced the computer mouse, video & teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, WYSIWYG, proto-Powerpoint, hypermedia, and a collaborative real-time text editor. Epic! Here's a nice WIRED 40th anniversary piece by Dylan Tweney and here at the Stanford archives, a nice selection of clips from the demo, and, yes, SRI's own archives.

EXOdesk ~ Interactive Tabletop PC Experience

Thanks to UniqueDaily for spotting the EXOdesk...

Road Kills ~ Witness the Automotive Slaughter...

20 November 2011

Stellar Troika ~ Photo of Aurora, Galaxy, Meteor!

DailyMail spots Tommy Eliassen's lovely photograph of three natural phenomena -- the Northern Lights, Milky Way and a meteorite! (Or was it a man-made satellite? Who cares;-)

Urban Escalators ~ Hong Kong's 800m System!

I've written about various funicular solutions for moving people up hills, and about various uplifting innovations, and even about the Norwegian Trampe bicycle-assist escalator, but this Hong Kong urban escalator is a truly epic innovation!
"Since [the Central–Mid-levels escalators] was officially opened to the public on 15 October 1993, the elevator system has played a very important role in pedestrianising the Western District. It links Des Voeux Road in Central with Conduit Road in the Mid-levels, passing through narrow streets. The daily traffic exceeds 55,000 people, although originally forecast 27,000. The escalators are 800 metres (2,600 ft) long with a vertical climb of 135 metres (443 ft). The total travel time is twenty minutes, but most people walk while the escalator moves to shorten their trip. Due to the geographical situation, the same distance is equivalent to several miles of zigzagging roads if travelling by car. It consists of twenty escalators and three moving side-walks. According to Guinness World Records, these escalators together form the longest outdoor covered escalator system. The escalator daily runs downhill from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and uphill from 10:30am to midnight. Apart from serving as a method of transporting, it is also a tourist attraction and has restaurants, bars, and shops lining its route. There is an entrance and exit on each road it passes, often on both sides of the road."
Here the BBC's Vaudine England shares a Close-Up on the system... And Hong Kong Stories are quite interesting... See also Pruned links and this photoessay in Polar Inertia. Finally, Merlion Tales visits...

Night Secrets ~ Frontline on Dubai's Sextrade...

Check out this 2007 PBS Frontline piece on Dubai's Night Secrets by photojournalist Mimi Chakarova...
"I was prepared to confront the human degradation [...] but I was surprised to find something else. I met women working as prostitutes who told me that they were doing so because they had chosen to. Sasha, for example, was trafficked from Siberia and serviced clients against her will. But then she managed to run away from her madam and decided to continue to work as a prostitute on her own. [...] Men outnumber women 3 to 1 in Dubai, and the variety of places to purchase sex is abundant -- from the brothels where Vika described being sold and resold and the back alleys where migrant workers pay for a few minutes of pleasure, to the mainstream Westernized nightclubs, often inside upscale hotels, where women from all over the world congregate according to their nationalities awaiting the next client. In a Muslim country, where prostitution is illegal, we decided the only way to get a closer look at Dubai's barely disguised sex trade was to visit some of these clubs and capture for ourselves the city's night secrets."

Alaska Ocean ~ McD's Catcher-Processor Fiship...

Thanks to gCaptain for spotting the Alaska Ocean -- what they call the "McDonald's Fish Ship"...
"If you have ever eaten a McDonald’s Filet-o-fish there is a good chance that it came from the Alaska Ocean. The Alaska Ocean is the largest catcher/processor ship in the U.S. fleet with a capacity to catch and process 300 tons of Alaskan Pollock each day. The Alaska Ocean yearly catch accounts for nearly 40% of commercial caught fish in the U.S."
The image above is actually of a beautiful scale model custom-built for the Smithsonian by Erik Ronnberg Jr. And here's a little snippet from NatGeo about the AO...

19 November 2011

Kinect Promo ~ Implications of Gesture I/O...

CNN's John Sutter writes How Microsoft Kinect changed technology...
"Technologists are attaching motion-sensing cameras to all kinds of things -- using them to control consumer electronics and contribute to scientific research. And they're tapping into old-school cameras, too, turning simple gadgets like smartphones into body reading machines."
This Microsoft promo for their Kinect speculates nicely...

Pest Control ~ New York Takes Out The Trash...

When the rats and cockroaches and other pests "occupying" civilized humanity exceed reasonable thresholds, then Take Out The Trash...

18 November 2011

MEDIK ~ MIT's IIH Medical MacGyver Kits!

PopSci salutes MIT's MEDIK Medical MacGyver kit...
" José Gomez-Marquez, who heads the Innovations in International Health program at MIT, calls the MEDIK a “medical Erector set.” The kit, designed for doctors trying to treat people in places where electricity and other basic services are unavailable, contains dozens of parts that can be combined into hundreds of devices, including a cauterizing pen powered by a solar cell and a nebulizer (for inhalation therapy) that fits a bike pump. $50/kit"

16 November 2011

Fandom Unbound ~ Connected Otaku Culture!

MIT CMS & Civic Media together with MIT Cool Japan Research Project are hosting UC Irvine cultural anthropology Professor Mimi Ito to speak about Fandom Unbound -- how a marginalized popular culture comes to play a major role in Japan’s identity at home and abroad...
"Otaku culture represents a newly participatory fan culture in which fans not only organize around niche interests but produce and distribute their own media content. How did this once stigmatized Japanese youth culture create its own alternative markets and cultural products such as fan fiction, comics, costumes, and remixes, becoming a major international force that can challenge the dominance of commercial media? By exploring the rich variety of otaku culture from multiple perspectives, Prof. Ito will provide fascinating insights into the present and future of cultural production and distribution in the digital age."

City Solutions ~ Kunzig in NatGeo on Urban Hope

Very compelling piece in my favorite monthly journal National Geographic on City Solutions by Robert Kunzig (with great associated photo gallery)! He writes about...
"Why cities are the best cure for our planet’s growing pains. [...] Urbanization is now good news. Expert opinion has shifted profoundly in the past decade or two. Though slums as appalling as Victorian London's are now widespread, and the Victorian fear of cities lives on, cancer no longer seems the right metaphor. On the contrary: With Earth's population headed toward nine or ten billion, dense cities are looking more like a cure -- the best hope for lifting people out of poverty without wrecking the planet. [...Says economist Edward Glaeser...] Successful cities "increase the returns to being smart" by enabling people to learn from one another. In cities with higher average education, even the uneducated earn higher wages; that's evidence of "human capital spillover." Spillover works best face-to-face. No technology yet invented -- not the telephone, the Internet, or videoconferencing -- delivers the fertile chance encounters that cities have delivered since the Roman Forum was new. [...] It's easy to see why economists would embrace cities, warts and all, as engines of prosperity. It has taken a bit longer for environmentalists [...] Cities allow half of humanity to live on around 4 percent of the arable land, leaving more space for open country. Per capita, city dwellers tread more lightly in other ways as well, as David Owen explains in Green Metropolis. Their roads, sewers, and power lines are shorter and so use fewer resources. Their apartments take less energy to heat, cool, and light than do houses. Most important, people in dense cities drive less. Their destinations are close enough to walk to, and enough people are going to the same places to make public transit practical. In cities like New York, per capita energy use and carbon emissions are much lower than the national average."
The goodness goes on! Also check out the photos, of which these are but a sampling...

15 November 2011

Impossible City ~ Discovery Show on Dubai!

2008 piece on Discovery about the Impossible City -- Dubai!

First Digital Camera ~ Why Couldn't Kodak Win?!

Fascinating interview with creator of first digital camera (made and tested in 1975)... Key question is how could Kodak have been such a pioneer in digital imagery and yet screwed up their lead so badly?!

Eurasian Commonwealth ~ Post-Soviet Union!

Fascinating to read Russia's Vladimir Putin's proposed New integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making...
"The road to this milestone was difficult and often torturous. It began two decades ago when the Commonwealth of Independent States was established after the Soviet Union’s collapse. To all intents and purposes, the selected model helped preserve the myriad of ties, both of civilisation and culture, which unite our peoples and also forged links in production, the economy and in other vital areas essential for our lives. There are different views on how efficient the CIS is, and disputes over its internal problems and failed hopes have the potential to run and run. But it is difficult to argue with the fact that the commonwealth remains an irreplaceable mechanism that helps bring our positions closer together and enables us to elaborate a common view on key issues facing our region, in addition to the tangible benefits it affords its members. Moreover, the CIS experience enabled us to launch a many-tiered, multi-speed integration process in the post-Soviet space..."
Beyond Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the smaller Stans, this emergent new Eurasian Commonwealth could successfully engage Mongolia, Turkey, Scandinavia, Korea, and Japan in a transformative new kind of polity, one as resourceful and industrious and heavy-weight as India and China. Very exciting!

13 November 2011

Epic Earthscapes! ~ Lovely NASA ISS Timelapse!

Whoa, thanks to DotEarthling Andrew Revkin for spotting this stunningly epic timelapse of photos by NASA ISS crews of Expeditions 28 & 29 aesthetically stitched-together by Michael König...

Methuselah Grove ~ True Forest of the Ancients!

Striking images made just that much more beautiful upon realizing that in this grove is a nearly five thousand year-old bristlecone pine! These photos by Domingo Milella in the NYTimes magazine Look section showcase the Forest of the Ancients! Writes Julie Bosman...
"High in the White Mountains of eastern California is a forest of trees that are among the oldest living things on earth. The Great Basin bristlecone pines are so ghostly, gnarled and ashen that they almost look their age: some trees are nearly 5,000 years old. The bristlecone pine thrives where almost nothing else does, in high-altitude ranges in California, Nevada and Utah. Their wood is so dense and full of resin that they are protected from insects and diseases that would easily kill other trees. (Even mighty California redwoods don’t live beyond 2,000 years.) The rings of the bristlecones are startlingly accurate, preserving records of volcanic eruptions and celestial events (like meteor showers) and even helping scientists improve their estimates of historical events. The patriarch of the bristlecones -- known as Methuselah -- is older than the Great Pyramid of Giza. (The Methuselah Grove is accessible to hikers, but the tree itself is unmarked.) Yet for all their longevity, they are not invincible. The leading cause of death of ancient bristlecones, said Adelia Barber, a researcher at U.C. Santa Cruz, is fire. "Some can survive lightning strikes," she said. "But ultimately lightning sets the trees on fire, and they die."

Grand Strategies ~ Cohesive US Global Visions...

Thanassis Cambanis writes in the Globe Wanted: A grand strategy ~ In search of a cohesive foreign policy plan for America...
"A “grand strategy” describes the real-world framework of basic aims, ideals, and priorities that govern a nation’s approach to the rest of the world. In short, a grand strategy lays out the national interest, in a leader’s eyes, and says what a state will be willing to do to advance it. A grand strategy doesn’t prescribe detailed solutions to every problem, but it gives a powerful nation a blueprint for how to act, and brings a measure of order to the rest of the world by making its expectations more clear. [...] Earlier this year a top Obama aide seemed to belittle the very idea of a grand strategy as a simplistic “bumper sticker,” something that reduced the world’s complexity to a slogan. But, in a sense, that’s exactly the point of having one. To be truly helpful in time of crisis, a grand strategy must be based on incredibly thorough and detailed thinking about how America will rank its competing interests, and what tools it might use to project power in the rest of the world. But it also demands simplicity: a principle, even a simple sentence, reflecting our values as well as our interests, based on right as well as might, and as clear to America’s enemies as it is to the American electorate."
The historic & contemporary examples mentioned include...
  • Manifest Destiny ~ "Natural" expansion across the continental Americas;
  • Wilsonian Idealism ~ Self-Determination in the face of retrograde powers;
  • Kennan's Containment ~ Cold War-era defense against Communist expansionism;
  • Bush's Freedom Agenda ~ Spreading democracy thru means including preemptive war;
  • Obama's Basket of Tactics ~ A few medium-sized ideas and improvised responses to unexpected crises;
  • Off-Shore Balancing ~ Keeping America strong by keeping the rest of the world off balance;
  • Internationalist Tinkering ~ America should focus on rebuilding its international relationships and coalitions, while reserving America’s right on occasion to act decisively and alone;
  • Declinism ~ Fearing America’s economy and domestic infrastructure are collapsing, and the nation’s global influence will follow, unless America concentrates its resources on rebuilding at home;
  • Neo-Imperialism ~ America needs only be more brash and more demanding and think of selves as “global dominators”.
Fascinating stuff. Of course, I think they all miss the boat entirely.

NYTimes Diagnosis ~ Appreciating MD Thinking!

Dr Lisa Sanders latest Diagnosis case Hurt All Over in the NYTimes is an epic illustration of MD thinking -- and why both this column is important and more generally why Doctors earn their pay!
"‘Will you please see my sister?’ the young woman asked Dr. David Podell, who was a friend of a friend and had a reputation as a kinder version of TV’s Dr. Gregory House. People told her that Podell was a doctor who specialized in diagnosing odd diseases, and she hoped he might finally solve the puzzle of her older sister’s mysterious illness. [After an involved pathway, the Dr diagnosed Celiac Disease -- a Gluten-sensitivity] “I was very enthusiastic about this diagnosis. And I thought she really had it. So maybe it was the nonscientific component -- the salesmanship -- that made her try and stay with it.” This case is a reminder of an important precept in medicine: a diagnosis isn’t really final until it is embraced by both the patient and the doctor. That’s the real art of diagnosis and an essential part of the cure."
This is one of the weekly diagnostic mysteries unsleuthed by this fantastic NYTimes series!

Beauty of Pollination ~ Time Warping Nature!

Thanks to Miss Cellania for spotting the Beauty of Pollination!

Crowdsourcing Science ~ Cook on Discovery++

Gareth Cook in Globe Ideas writes How crowdsourcing is changing science...
"Science is driven forward by discovery, and we appear to stand at the beginning of a democratization of discovery. An ordinary person can be the one who realizes that a long arm of a protein probably tucks itself just so; a woman who never went to college can provide the crucial transcription that reveals a spidery script to be a love poem from 2,000 years in the past. Nobody can say where the movement will go, but among the new pioneers of crowd science, there is a palpable sense that they have just happened upon a powerful, poorly understood new resource."
Lots of interesting examples mentioned, including iSpot, NOAH, SETI@home, Galaxy Zoo, Zooniverse, and others!

MIT's AITI ~ Igniting Mobile Ventures Globally!

Excellent to see MIT's AITI -- Accelerating Information Technology Innovation -- continuing to ignite mobile ventures in emerging markets, in Africa and beyond!
"AITI partners with universities and organizes advanced courses taught by MIT student/instructors. Our courses focus on mobile and Internet technologies, and are structured so that our students are awakened to the commercial possibilities of the technologies. Components of the course include detailed technical curriculum, funded business competitions, guest lectures, and networking events. [...] Mobile phones are tools that can promote development by inspiring new business opportunities and increasing efficiencies. Local entrepreneurs' innovative use of mobile technology is at the heart of this revolution."

CIMIT Accelerator ~ Medical Device Venturing!

Just heard from one of our alumnae about being incubated in the CIMIT Accelerator Program for medical device commercialization...
"It is difficult to introduce an innovative medical device into the marketplace, and many clinicians do not have the business expertise to plan for the many stages involved in commercializing a new product. The Accelerator program was created to provide innovators with support and specialized expertise in intellectual property protection, patents and licensing, technology implementation, regulatory issues, fundraising, commercialization, and much more."

12 November 2011

Rethinking Education ~ "My Teacher Is an App"

The WSJ's Stephanie Banchero and Stephanie Simon write My Teacher Is an App...
"In a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school, states and districts nationwide are launching online public schools that let students from kindergarten to 12th grade take some -- or all -- of their classes from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. Other states and districts are bringing students into brick-and-mortar schools for instruction that is largely computer-based and self-directed."

Traffic Garden ~ Dutch Teach Kids Self-Reliance

Copenhagenize spotlights how Dutch kids' Self-Reliance Grows in the Utrecht Traffic Garden by Streetfilms...

Ali Cohen Extended ~ Alta Bikeshare's President!

Fantastic to see MIT alumna Ali Cohen, Alta Bicycle Share president, dialing things up in this social innovation rockstars piece by Yoxi!

06 November 2011

Megacities ~ FT's Pilling on Urbanizing Humanity

Megacities -- writes David Pilling in the FT -- are humanity's future...
"By 2050, three-quarters of the world’s population will be urban. That means more -- and much bigger -- metropolises. [...] The character of cities -- and their larger cousins the megacities -- is being rapidly redefined [to mean] massive agglomerations, mostly in the developing world. In truth, more of the world’s population is moving to second-tier cities than to the megacities. But huge conurbations have a symbolic potency. For some, they represent a brave new world in which Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and others in the developing world are clambering from poverty. For others, the megacity is nothing less than a nightmare. [...] Whether we like it or not, it is no longer possible to keep the bulk of humanity down on the farm. By 2050, three-quarters of the world’s population will be urban. That means more cities -- and more megacities. “These megacities are a big part of humanity’s future and the prospect should be both exhilarating and terrifying,” says [Harvard's] Glaeser. The examples of Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai show that megacities don’t have to be monstrosities. For many of us, the megacity is our fate. The goal of humanity should be to manage that fate, not succumb to it."
Read the rest of the piece.