PopTech Blog

Posts by Emily Qualey

This week in PopTech: Pay-as-you-go solar and DIY toasters

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.

  • This week, Thomas Thwaites (PopTech 2011) of The Toaster Project was interviewed on The Rumpus. Thwaites talks about wondering where things come from, ruining his mother's microwave and taking another crack at building a toaster from scratch...on TV. 
  • Bloomberg profiles PopTech 2011 Social Innovation Fellow Paul Needham's pay-as-you-go solar venture, Simpa Networks.

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Image: Thomas Thwaites

This week in PopTech: Rebuilding the dream, designing for impact, and taking back the purple

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.

  • Van Jones (PopTech 2007) is founding president of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. In Jones' new book, Rebuild the Dream, he reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider. For the first time, he shares intimate details of his time in government – and reveals why he chose to resign from his post as a special advisor to the Obama White House. Read an excerpt from the book on GOOD
  • 2008 PopTech Fellow Heather Fleming founded Catapult Design, which helps foundations and non-profits apply design thinking to global development. Interested in learning how to use design to positively impact society? Check out Catapult Labs this May in San Francisco!
  • Artist eL Seed's (PopTech 2011) works are a mixture of street art and Arabic calligraphy. Last week eL Seed brought what he calls calligraffiti to Harvard University and created a piece entitled "Taking Back the Purple." He explained that, “You have to be a kind of ‘artivist,’ an artist and an activist at the same time, and I believe that is the duty of art: to speak what other people do not want to speak. Say loudly what other people don’t want to say.” 

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Image: eL Seed

This week in PopTech: White House love, domestic farming and rainbow tango

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.

  • 2011 Social Innovation Fellow Jake Porway’s Data Without Borders brings data scientists and social organizations together to design transformative visualizations and decision-making tools. Yesterday, the White House recognized Data Without Borders in their “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” announcement.
  • 2009 PopTech Fellow Jason Aramburu launched re:char in 2005 to develop low-cost technologies that fight climate change while improving the quality of degraded soils. re:char’s systems convert agricultural waste into renewable fuel and into biochar, sequestering atmospheric carbon and improving soil quality. Previously focused on bring biochar to developing countries, Aramburu is expanding his work stateside with a Kickstarter campaign to kick off a trial to evaluate the effectiveness of biochar for domestic farmers and gardeners. 
  • Finally, some lighthearted Friday fun. OK Go (PopTech 2010) has teamed up with College Humor to announce OKGopid, the world's most fun and least successful dating site. In music news, OK Go released a rainbow of tango, or what you might call a music video for the song "Skyscrapers" yesterday. Have a great weekend! 

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Image: OK Go

Mapping the wind

This mesmerizing visualization of wind flowing over the U.S. hits on a number of our interests: data, design, mapping, and energy. Trust us, you're going to want to check this out. 

An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. 

This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US right now. 

Read more about wind and about wind power

(via It's Okay To Be Smart)

This week in PopTech: Power poses, health education and mobile money

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.

  • At PopTech 2011, Amy Cuddy revealed that we can actually change feelings we have about our own status through the physical positions we take with our bodies. Her research participants had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol after only two minutes in a “power pose”. Cuddy is profiled in this week's issue of Time Magazine as a game changer who is inspiring change in America. Go go Power Poses! 
  • ZanaAfricafounded by 2011 Social Innovation Fellow Megan Mukuria, empowers Kenyan girls to break cycles of poverty through simple, sustainable solutions. With sanitary pads and health education, girls can stay in school with confidence. To tell this story, ZanaAfrica teamed up with longtime PopTech collaborator Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studio to make an animated promotional video.

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Image: Alphachimp

This week in PopTech: Book releases, musical reviews and food rules

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.

  • At PopTech 2009, Jonah Lehrer, the best-selling author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, noted that, paradoxically, lacking expertise on a subject can be an asset. “It’s what allows us to see the connections, to see the problems that no one else can see.” Lehrer's lastest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, will be released this Monday, March 19th. 
  • Singer-songwriter Ethan Lipton (PopTech 2005) has created “No Place to Go,” a musical ode to unemployment at Joe's Pub in the East Village. The show received rave reviews in the New York Times this week. 

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Image: Marija Jacimovic

This week in PopTech: Wonder women

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.

  • Collaboration alert: Our friends at Hot Studio conducted a facilitated workshop for PopTech 2011 Social Innovation Fellow Megan White Mukuria's organization, ZanaAfrica. In their structured brainstorming session, Hot Studio and Zana developed a framework for designing the web components of Zana's services.
  • Congratulations to PopTech Fellow Hayat Sindi who was named 1 of the 100 most influential Arab women of 2012 by Arabian Business.com! A leader in both science and social innovation, Sindi launched i2, the Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity at PopTech 2011. Sindi created the Institute to bridge the gap between education and opportunity in the Middle East.

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Image: Zana Africa and Hot Studio

This week in PopTech: Cerebral matters, education toolkits and sports racers

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.

  • Sports Racers rejoice! Ze Frank (PopTech 2004, 2005) of videoblogging fame is bringing back "The Show,” a webseries that's a continuation of an experiment with interactive storytelling he began six years ago. As he says, "...the core of the original show was never really about what I did. It was about what you did. And I have no idea what is going to happen there. It's risky, unknown and awesome." 
  • Graphic designer Nicholas Felton (PopTech 2009) is obsessed with data. He knows how many songs he’s listened to and how much it costs him per mile to fly. Felton visualized these numerous details in personal “Annual Reports.” This week Felton released The 2010/2011 Feltron Biennial Report.
  • At PopTech 2011, author Robert Neuwirth talked about life in the informal economy. Neuwirth contributed to the Mobility Issue of Makeshift, revealing the world of shadow goods, legal items that are sold around the world in quasi-legal ways. He described how these interactions can cause unexpected feedback loops. 
  • Adrian Owen (PopTech 2010) and his collaborators have utilized their own game-changing technology – previously developed for use with patients in a vegetative state – to assess a more prevalent group of brain-injured patients, those in the minimally conscious state (MCS). Their findings were released earlier this week in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
  • Yasser Ansari’s (Social Innovation Fellow 2010) Project Noah (Networked Organisms and Habitats), strives to be what he calls “a field guide for every organism.” Today Project Noah released an education toolkit with tools and resources to help teachers and students harness the powert of Project Noah in the classroom. 

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Image: Ze Frank

Stop, calibrate and listen: Leap Day's back with an extra day given


Today is February 29, that special day that rolls around every four years, with a few exceptions. Why do some years have an extra leap day and what is it for? 

Once every four years, we tack on an extra day at the end of February to calibrate our human-made calendar to the natural world — the Earth does not orbit the sun in an even 365 days, but rather in 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds.

This extra day has given rise to several traditions and superstitions over the years, especially in the Middle Ages. In many European countries, women were allowed to propose to men on Leap Day. In Greece, it's bad luck to marry in a Leap Year at all, let alone on Leap Day itself. In Scotland, it's considered unlucky to be born on Leap Day, and it was once believed that Leap Day babies, or "leaplings," as they were called, were sickly and hard to raise. If you are born on February 29, you're eligible to join the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. 

- The Writers Almanac

Video: cgpgrey

This week: Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub

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.

  • Tuberville is an organization dedicated to reducing hunger within our communities by focusing on engaging farmers to set aside a few acres of land to harvest and donate the crops to local food banks. The Tuberville web series, whose first episde was released last week, was inspired by a desire to find an innovative and entertaining approach to raising awareness and grow the Tuberville organization. PopTech has worked with a number of folks on this film crew and we're proud to call them our friends. 

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Image: Brent Harrewyn for Tuberville