27 April 2011

Poor Economics ~ Really Fighting Global Poverty

Check out piece by MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Foreign Policy, More Than 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World, which is excerpted from their book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty...
"...the story of hunger, and of poverty more broadly, is far more complex than any one statistic or grand theory; it is a world where those without enough to eat may save up to buy a TV instead, where more money doesn't necessarily translate into more food, and where making rice cheaper can sometimes even lead people to buy less rice. But unfortunately, this is not always the world as the experts view it. All too many of them still promote sweeping, ideological solutions to problems that defy one-size-fits-all answers, arguing over foreign aid, for example, while the facts on the ground bear little resemblance to the fierce policy battles they wage. [...] To find out whether there are in fact poverty traps, and, if so, where they are and how to help the poor get out of them, we need to better understand the concrete problems they face. Some aid programs help more than others, but which ones? Finding out required us to step out of the office and look more carefully at the world. In 2003, we founded what became the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL. A key part of our mission is to research by using randomized control trials -- similar to experiments used in medicine to test the effectiveness of a drug -- to understand what works and what doesn't in the real-world fight against poverty. In practical terms, that meant we'd have to start understanding how the poor really live their lives."
Read it all! J-PAL is centrally about researching and developing effective facts for humanity! And most definitely get the book.

25 April 2011

Fab Tool ~ MTM Snap Desktop Mill for Makers

Nadya Peek salutes MIT CBA fab tool, the MTM Snap Desktop Mill!

Airports ~ Amazing Translogistics Superhubs!

Sitting in the lounge, drinking a few beers, I am temporarily distracted away from life's painful unavoidables and contemplating the modern translogistics miracle which is the international airport...These transportation superhubs are spread planet-wide... ...and together with airplanes make possible getting halfway around our globe in less than a day. A remarkable testament to human ingenuity and engineering achievement!

Tiger Birth ~ Witnessing New Cub Emerge!

Tiger Birth on NatGeo! Spotted by UniqueDaily!

Joichi "Joi" Ito ~ New MIT Media Lab Director!

The new MIT Media Lab head will be 44 year old Joi Ito, a Japanese intellectual and financial venture capitalist and citizen of the planet. News broken by John Markoff of the NYTimes, who points out...
"...he is neither a conventional Japanese technologist, nor your average college dropout. Raised in both Tokyo and Silicon Valley, Mr. Ito was part of the first generation to grow up with the Internet. His career includes serving as a board member of Icann, the Internet’s governance organization; becoming a “guild master” in the World of Warcraft online fantasy game; and more than a dozen investments in start-ups like Flickr, Last.fm and Twitter. In 1994 he helped establish the first commercial Internet service provider in Japan. He was also an early participant in the open-source software movement and is a board member of the Mozilla Foundation, which oversees the development of the Firefox Web browser, as well as being the co-founder and chairman of Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that has sought to create a middle ground to promote the sharing of digital information."
Here's official MIT anno. And here's Joi sharing the news (and interesting backstory with MIT alumna, entrepreneur, and trustee Megan Smith!-) And here's Joi's first videochat w/ MLab...

Symmetry ~ Everynone Presents Parallels...

Paul at GeekPress spots Symmetry by Everynone...

24 April 2011

Golden Rule 2.0 ~ He With Gold, Makes Rules!

Eli Broad on 60 Minutes tonight. Exemplar of Golden Rule 2.0 -- not "Do Unto Others..." but rather, "He With The Gold, Makes The Rules"!

Sperm Bullitt ~ Brilliant Bicycle Delivery Service!

Thanks to Copenhagenize.com for spotting the Sperm Bullitt!
"Just when you thought you had seen everything in the Copenhagen bicycle culture, the Sperm Bullitt appears on the cycle tracks of the city. Yes. The Sperm Bullitt. This is brilliant. If you're cycling around Copenhagen, keep your eyes peeled for this bike. Nordisk Cryobank (European Sperm Bank) is one of Europe's leading sperm banks and the company was looking at environmentally-friendly alternatives to how they could transport their sperm samples to the fertility clinics around Greater Copenhagen."

Design With Nature ~ McHarg on Planet Earth...

Perhaps the most memorable elements of volunteering at the founding summer session of the International Space University at MIT was attending the lectures. This is how I met landscape architect and regional planner, Ian McHarg, and then read his epic 1969 book Design With Nature. There McHarg insisted we look at the many aspects of the entire system we're designing when building streets, structures, and cities. That instead of having the hubris to fight against natural forces, to rather design in harmony with them. And he showed how to do this, with modern tools, analytic overlays, GIS mapping, and a fact-based approach. Beautiful stuff and more relevant than ever.

House of Wisdom ~ al-Khalili on Islam & Science

Thanks to Jonathan Berkey for reviewing The House of Wisdom by Jim al-Khalili in the Sunday Chronicle, which highlights how...
"...Muslim scientists laid the foundations for the scientific and technological transformation of the modern world. [...] The name of the great mathematician al-Khwarizmi (d. 850), for example, has given us the word "algorithm," while the Arabic title of his book "Kitab al-Jebr" lies behind the name we attach to its subject: algebra. Some of the most commonly used and essential tools of modern medicine, including the syringe and the forceps, were invented by the medieval surgeon Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi. Point to a star in the sky, and there is a good chance it received its name from a medieval Arab astronomer. [...] Khalili, a British physicist of Iraqi-Iranian extraction, challenges the Muslim world to embrace its scientific heritage. He admits that Muslims in recent years have contributed little to science. "Fortunately," he says, "things are changing fast." He wrote those words before the political upheavals of recent weeks. Whether that turmoil will ultimately produce another Ibn al-Haytham or al-Razi remains to be seen."
Interesting historical and cultural elements which should not be forgotten.

Last Stand ~ 3rd Place in Jerusalem 2111 Contest

Last Stand -- Third in Jerusalem 2111 competition...

African Cats ~ Disneynature Earth Day Promo...

Nice promo for African Cats by Disneynature...

23 April 2011

Free Gambling ~ Decriminalize Victimless "Crime"

The Economist writes about online gambling, Poker face off: A crackdown on internet poker may be a prelude to legalisation...
"Although it would appear that the chips are down for internet gambling, the prosecutors’ crackdown may in fact turn out to be the last before Congress reverses itself and scraps prohibition. There are prominent supporters of legalisation in both parties pressing for such a change. An attempt to pass new legislation late last year looked promising at first, but folded when Harry Reid, a senator for Nevada, misplayed a good hand. With lobbying from 10m disconnected punters and the big casino companies (which have belatedly realised how much money there is to be made online) plus the enticing prospect of much-needed tax revenues, Congress has plenty of reasons to get its act together, despite the inevitable moral objections of a minority of members."
Yet another domain of human activity which the State should just get and stay the hell out of. Liberty!

Planet Greensburg ~ Post-Tornado Regeneration

I recently saw a documentary show on Planet Green about rebuilding a central Kansas town, Greensburg in a sustainable way after it was whacked by a huge tornado.

Amorphophallus ~ Titan Arum "Corpse Flower"!

The DailyMail delivers again in the piece What a stinker! World's smelliest flower opens for the first time in a DECADE, this time showing graphic evidence of the Amorphophallus "Corpse Flower" Titan Arum busting forth on Good Friday at the University of Basel, Switzerland. It's expected to remain open until Easter Sunday!

VroniPlag ~ Outing Plagiarizing Politicians...

Oliver Trenkamp writes in Der Spiegel that Web-Based Plagiarism Hunters Have Politicians Nervous...
"It started with Germany's defense minister. But once Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lost his job, many of the researchers who uncovered his plagiarized dissertation have moved on to new targets. The activists prefer to remain anonymous, but their VroniPlag Wiki page has proven remarkably effective."
The color bars show what pages are suspected of being partially or entirely plagiarized and whether it's confirmed...

Open Source Ecology ~ Civilization Starter Kit...

Marcin Jakubowski speaks at TED2011 on Open-sourced blueprints for civilization and the DIY hardware maker culture...
"open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000)."

Iconoclastic Swoopiness ~ Gehry's Architorture...

Delightful piece in the WSJ by Joe Queenan on An Architect's Blueprint for Overexposure about Frank Gehry and his artrocities, here quoting an anonymous philanthropist and art aficionado...
"Don't get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy," says the philanthropist, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of enraging close friends in the art world. "I like Czech dance halls that look like a 747 plowed right into the façade as much as anybody. I bow to no man in my admiration for an architect who can design an art museum that looks like a intergalactic recycling center."
Indeed.

22 April 2011

Aurora Over Earth ~ NatGeo sees Heavenly Lights

NatGeo spots Aurora Over Earth...
"During a geomagnetic storm, a neon green ribbon of aurora australis danced over Earth in this 2010 photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station..."
And Heavenly Lights captured by Norbert Rosing...
"A magical variety of shapes and colors dance in the sky as solar wind buffets Earth's magnetic field. When the aurora peaked in the late 1980s, shows over Churchill, Manitoba, included a green ribbon and a rosy curtain."
Finally, some epic Northern Lights...
"...one of nature's most spectacular visual phenomena, and in this time lapse video they provide a breathtaking display of light, shape, and color over the course of a single night in Norway"
Plus this lovely piece by Terje Sørgjerd...

China in Africa ~ Economist Spots Trade & FDI...

The Economist Daily Chart spotlights Chinese in Africa...
"Business is booming in Africa thanks mostly to the Chinese. Trade between the two surpassed $120 billion in 2010, and in the past two years China has given more loans to poor, mainly African countries than the World Bank. [...] 14% of China’s investment abroad found its way to sub-Saharan Africa. This has brought increased employment and prosperity to the region, but also allegations of damage to local businesses, corruption and the hoarding of natural resources."

Lamborghini Aventador ~ Tasty Set of Wheels!

Lamborghini Aventador. Want!

Financial Inclusion ~ Branchless Banking in Brazil

CGAP's Kabir Kumar & Yanina Seltzer ask Meanwhile in Brazil... are we there yet?
"...financial inclusion in Brazil still has a long way to go. CGAP has studied the branchless banking market in Brazil over the past few months and has written a country note. [The top points include]:
  1. "Brazil’s agent business is changing and it is unclear how it will evolve."
  2. "Cell phone-based financial services are still new to Brazil but we can expect major developments in the next couple of years that could benefit Brazil’s poor."
  3. "Brazil’s urban poor still do not have access to adequate financial services and branchless banking and mobile banking could help"
"Because Brazil is further along in financial inclusion via branchless banking than some of the other countries we work in, its challenges are a significant source of learning for those countries."

Skyracks ~ Manifesto's Vertical Bicycle Hangers!

Thanks to Lily Kim for spotting these Skyrack vertical bicycle hangers from Manifesto! Clever alt to underparking...

Charter Cities ~ Paul Romer on Zurich.Minds...

Charter Cities impressario Paul Romer interviewed on Zurich.Minds...

Global Health ~ Models for Sustainable Scaling

Very exciting to see MIT Sloan colleague Anjali Sastry's new Fall 2011 offering, 15.S02 Global Health Delivery and Management: Business models for scale and sustainability in low-resource settings exploring...
"...what differentiates successful enterprises from those that fall short in delivering healthcare in the most challenging settings. A survey of bottlenecks, constraints, and opportunities sets the context for our investigation of the business model and social enterprise innovations that hold the most promise. We draw on an engaging mix of content, case studies, and class guests to develop our own insights."
Replication and reach, accessibility and affordability, effectiveness and endurance -- all key needs for effective global health solutions.

Atlas Is Shrugging ~ FreedomWorks Salutes...

FreedomWorks salutes the new Atlas Shrugged film via their Atlas Is Shrugging mashup of contemporary civic stupidity with clips from this independent epic production...
"The film is set in a not-so-distant future in which government has taken control of the means of production, bureaucrats have impose harmful regulations on businesses and turmoil in the Middle East has sent oil prices skyrocketing. Sound familiar? Rand’s iconic novel provides striking parallels to today’s political rhetoric."
Thanks to Scott Schneider for spotting this Hollywood Reporter story How 'Atlas Shrugged' Shocked Hollywood's Marketing Machine which in turn points to the FreedomWorks video!

Innovation and the Global City ~ Glaeser Keynote

RPA’s 2011 Regional Assembly -- Innovation and the Global City -- explored what global cities are doing to remain competitive on the world stage. Here's keynote talk by Harvard's Edward Glaeser, author of The Triumph of the City (starting at ~10 min in)...

20 April 2011

Global Entrepreneurship ~ WEF Report 2011...

Thanks to Harvard colleague Calestous Juma for spotting BBC article on WEF Global Entrepreneurship Report...
"Just 1% of start-up companies create 40% of new jobs -- a far smaller number of companies than had been thought -- a World Economic Forum (WEF) study has found. The WEF said governments looking for growth through entrepreneurship should examine what made these successful. It said that they should do this rather than "replicate Silicon Valley". [...] The WEF Entrepreneurship Report, in collaboration with Stanford University and Endeavor Global, said: "After avoiding the collapse of the global financial and economic system, governments around the world are now focused on building a foundation for future growth." It said the purpose of its report was to provide insight into how to successfully foster entrepreneurship, with "the ultimate goal of improving economic growth, prosperity and quality of life."
Worthy thoughts. Check out the Report.

Pico del Tiede ~ NatGeo Spots Lovely Timelapse

NatGeo's video pick of the week!
"A time-lapse video shot [...] on Spain's Pico del Teide captures the beauty of the world around us, including the Milky Way as seen through a Sahara sandstorm."

UScapeit ~ DIY Panorama App from EveryScape

Thanks to Scott Kirsner for spotlighting EveryScape's UScapeit app...
"...[which] makes it easy to produce and share panoramas using an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad 2 -- and it's free. To create a panorama using UScapeIt, you just switch the device into video capture mode, hold your arm out, and walk slowly in a circle, keeping the device at the center. Once the video is uploaded to the Web, it is transformed into a panorama by the UScapeIt servers, and you can then view it on your phone, or share it via Facebook or e-mail."

19 April 2011

Atlas Made ~ Film Producers @ Reason Weekend

Latest about making Atlas Shrugged, Part I...
"On April 16, at Reason Foundation's annual Reason Weekend, Nick Gillespie interviewed producers John Aglialoro, Harmon Kaslow, and Mike Marvin, and actor Matthew Marsden (he plays James Taggart) live in front of about 100 people. They talked freely about the challenges of making the film on a tight budget and an even tighter deadline; how Rand's politics play in Hollywood (spoiler alert: poorly!); where the inspiration for the film came from; how the train and other memorable scenes were shot..."

Skynet Self-Aware ~ You've Been Terminated!

Thanks to Liz Kelly Nelson in Zap2It for reminding us April 19, 2011: Skynet becomes self-aware tonight!
"...per "Terminator" lore, the vast network of computers known as Skynet became self aware at 8:11 p.m. and slowly began a systematic campaign to rid the earth of humans. Somehow they weren't smart enough to do a better job than the average pest control guy does with roaches, so they resorted to creating "terminators" -- cyborgs that looked like 'roided-out bodybuilders, infiltrated our "nests" and then blasted our kind into bits."
Yes, this was the Governator's breakthru SF movie role!

18 April 2011

Manned Spaceflight ~ Reaching For The Stars!

The Economist salutes Reaching For The Stars...
"Fifty years have elapsed since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lit the blue touchpaper on the era of manned spaceflight. Progress was rapid -- only eight years separated Gagarin's flight from the infinitely more complicated mission that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon in 1969. Although the moon landings handed victory in the space race to America, the Soviet Union dominated manned spaceflight for the next decade, including some pioneering missions to the Salyut space stations to test the effects of long periods spent aloft. Only with the rise of the Space Shuttle programme in the early 1980s, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union a few years later, did America retake the crown. Manned spaceflight is now no longer a two-horse race. China first sent men up in 2003, and a year later three privately funded sub-orbital missions were made in SpaceShipOne."

Corporate Extortion ~ Illegitimate Tax Burden...

Barron's Gene Epstein writes about Corporate Tax Hurdles...
"Does a high corporate tax hurt a country's economic growth and global competitiveness? "The Effect of Corporate Taxes on Investment and Entrepreneurship," a study published last year by the American Economic Association, found a "large adverse impact" from high corporate tax rates on aggregate investment and entrepreneurial activity. In any case, even if the U.S. trimmed its corporate rate a bit more, it still wouldn't be low, relative to other countries'. Japan, whose economy has been stagnant for years, might want to ponder this."

Libraries Will Die ~ Caldwell in FT on Future Fate

FT's Christopher Caldwell writes It is the fate of libraries to die...
"Libraries belong to a brief transitional period at the end of the 19th century -- after the rise of democracy but before the rise of the welfare state. [...] Such thinking is opposed to the spirit of the computer age. Today, it is considered immoral and inefficient if information does not flow freely from one jurisdiction to another. But, like the military sector, the library sector confounds every attempt to make it more efficient. [...] Modern people often make the mistake of assuming that “cultivation” or “polish” is the important thing libraries give their patrons. It is not. What is important, is that people build a basic toolkit of literary communication that leaves them uncowed by accounts built out of words, sentences and paragraphs."
Intellectual liberation is what's critically important; warehousing dead wood pulp physical media is not.

Liebherr LTM 11200 ~ Biggest Mobile Crane!

Dark Roasted Blend spots Liebherr's Most Powerful Crane!

Delicious Inhabitats ~ Tasty Design Delighters!

It's high time for another serving of delicious Inhabitats!