Implanting electrodes in the brain can help treat neurological problems, but the hard plastic used to make them lessened the positive effects of the treatment. In 2008, scientists at Case Western Reserve University looked to sea cucumber skin for a solution.
In addition to sea cucumbers, worms and sharks, Discovery News’ “Top Ten Materials that Emulate Nature” shouts out 2009 PopTech Fellow Eben Bayer’s fungi-focused products (slide 3) as well as 2004 PopTech speaker Janine Benyus’ Biomimicry Institute’s work to create sustainable technologies (slide 1).
After wondering for some time whether it was possible to image the sky from one morning to the next where I live in Athens Greece, I decided to give it a try. After hours of planning and preparation, and a full day of shooting, the image above is the result of this labor of love. It took me about 12 hours to pull together and process a single image that included over 500 star trails, 35 shots of the Sun and 25 landscape pictures.
Image: Chris Kotsiopoulos
Our friends at The Economist recently presented findings from their Intelligence Unit’s pilot Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, which looked at “laws, regulations, practices, actions, and attitudes that allow women to participate in the workforce under conditions roughly equal to those of men” by examining a cross section of 113 countries around the world.
Four factors were taken into consideration when determining each country’s ranking: labor policy and practice; access to finance; education and training; and legal and social status. The country with the greatest progress to advance economic opportunities for women was Sweden; the worst was Sudan. The United States came in 15th, a ranking which was determined mostly by its lack of mandatory maternity leave rights for women.
For more results, check out this animated video.
Know an innovator working to solve a major global challenge?
We’re looking for 10 to 20 world-changers who are ready to accelerate their path to greater social impact. Fellows attend a five-day, all-expense paid training program followed by the annual PopTech conference, which includes an opportunity to present on stage in front of an audience of thought leaders. They gain the tools, insights, visibility and social network they need to help grow their efforts to new heights.
Nominations will be open through March 31. Generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation help make this program possible – and so do you, by nominating someone with a big idea and the right stuff to take it to scale.
From the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information to the L.A. Times, crisis mapping is being used to track and facilitate the ongoing protests in Egypt. To see a collection of protest maps from the past week, check out Patrick Meier’s list here.
Image: L.A. Times crisis map via iRevolution
There’s always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week’s highlights follows.
- According to Roger Ebert, The Interrupters, a documentary that reveals the amazing work of our friends at CeaseFire, is “Oscar calibre”. CeaseFire is a national and international public health strategy based in Chicago that has been scientifically proven to reduce shootings and killings using behavior change and disease control methods. The Interrupters had its World Premiere at Sundance 2011.
- Last week Clay Shirky took on Tunisia and the political power of social media on Public Radio International’s The World. This week Shirky was part of a panel focused on WikiLeaks, a production of the Personal Democracy Forum.
- Social historian Stephanie Coontz talks about her new book, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s on Fresh Air.
- Global Citizen Year was cited as an example of how a gap year between high school and college doesn’t need to break the bank by offering scholarships to help defray the cost. “What we’ve seen so far is our kids after this year are hungry for college,” explained CEO Abby Falik. “They have a skill set that will help them be much more self-directed.”
- 2002 PopTech speaker, Stephen Wolfram compares the alternate ways that Wolfram|Alpha and IBM’s Watson approach answering questions. In brief, Wolfram|Alpha deals directly with raw, precise, computable knowledge while IBM Watson relies on statistical matching procedures.
Image: Stephen Wolfram
The DARPA Network Challenge: “Be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States.” Although Riley Crane found out about the contest only four days before it started, four days, eight hours, and 52 minutes later he and his fellow MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team, had won it. A postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Media Lab, Crane devised a system that allowed his team to harness the power of individual social networks by crowdsourcing the DARPA Red Balloon Challenge.
“It was a great network and winning the challenge was fun, but the real question is: what can we use it for?” Crane said. “If we want to see new things happen that are going to blow our minds, we need to start to really rethinking the way we communicate. If we do, the world will become really responsive to large-scale change.”
During PopTech 2010, Treehugger founder Graham Hill announced the launch of LifeEdited, an online competition to design a tiny, 420 square foot, ultragreen apartment. With up to $70,000 in prize incentives, and inspired by the concept that less is better, countless designs were submitted for consideration.
Who best made room for the good stuff? We find out today when the LifeEdited design contest winners are announced live at 12 pm EST. Watch the announcement here.
A casual listener to the first thirty minutes of last night’s “Win the Future”-themed State of the Union speech could be forgiven for thinking it was written by Thomas Friedman. Amid references to South Korean broadband and Chinese cleantech, President Obama laid out a national strategy for America in the age of the flattening world, rooted in increased R&D investment, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, entrepreneurialism, and foreign talent retention.
Although he didn’t get a direct shout-out from the President, there was one very special guest in the room, sitting with the First Lady, who embodies many of these themes: Brandon Ford, a high school junior at West Philadelphia High School and a member of its Hybrid EVX Team, led by ‘mad scientist-meets-science-teacher’ Simon Hauger.
Together, Hauger and his students have created a one-of-a-kind program in which a team of twenty or so students and seven instructors design and build road-ready, next-generation hybrid electric automobiles. Last year, the team drew national attention in their quest to compete for and win the Automotive X Prize; although they didn’t ultimately win, they were serious competitors, besting several elite university programs and commercial teams backed by more money, age, and experience.
The initial “Is WikiLeaks good or bad?” debate was not the main focus at Monday’s WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom panel. Rather, the conversation centered on the implications for transnational activism, freedom of the press, and personal privacy. Hosted by PopTech board member Andrew Rasiej’s Personal Democracy Forum in partnership with NYU’s ITP, panelists’ perspectives ranged. And that lack of consensus was just the point explained Micah Sifry, the evening’s moderator and PDF Editor and Curator. He reinforced that we’re only beginning to understand WikiLeaks’ implications. “The WikiLeaks debate has hit a plateau but the reverberations continue to fly.”
Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament who is currently challenging the U.S. Justice Department’s request for her Twitter records, weighed in with her thoughts via Skype. She recounted a question recently posed to her about whether governments should keep secrets. Of course certain things, like national security, should be kept secret, she had responded. When pressed for more details, she realized she was answering on autopilot. Most secrets are kept because they’re ‘secrets by default,’ and it’s what we’ve come to expect. But the reality is that we need to push ourselves to think through that lack of transparency further. Perhaps if there had been whistle blowers in Iceland, she continued, the country’s financial crisis would have been averted. “WikiLeaks has been an icebreaker, a wake up call,” she explains. “WikiLeaks has made it cool to blow the whistle.”
Gabriella Coleman, assistant professor of media, culture, and communications at NYU, explained the history of Anonymous, the entity that defended WikiLeaks and is known for its “ultra coordinated motherfuckery.” Working to defend freedom of information and protesting against internet censorship, Anonymous’ loosely coordinated cyber attacks have targeted Amazon, PayPal, and Mastercard’s denial of service linked to WikiLeaks as well as the Church of Scientology and most recently the Tunisian government’s website. Anonymous, while faceless, has been an entry point into politics for internet users and geeks and has continued to play an important roll in transnational activism.