Sunday, October 26, 2014

The future has arrived: the sci-fi inventions that have become reality

The Guardian

They are the inventions and happenings that were once only dreamt up in the pages of fantasy novels and the far-flung corners of the imagination.

But, in a week where the first man with a severed spine has walked again and scientists have created their own versions of a tractor beam, it seems that inventions that were once a futuristic impossibility are now moving into the realm of reality. Will this be remembered as the week the future happened?

Science fiction, both in books and on screen, certainly has a good track record for predicting, or even laying the groundwork, for inventions we now take for granted. From IVF in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to flip mobile phones and automatic sliding doors in Star trek and even the internet search engine in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, each began life as a fictional fantasy before science and modern technology caught up.

Now, inventor Greg Henderson has unveiled a prototype for a fully-working hoverboard, the fictional levitating device iconically used by teenager Marty McFly in the 1989 film Back to the Future II and one of the most lusted-after fictional inventions.


Strategy as a Creative Act – Making Space for Radical Ideas

Design Mind

…frameworks will almost always kill radical ideas.  And they will prioritize ideas and opportunities that are closest to your core business today.  Corporate antibodies will come out of the woodwork with dozens of (good) reasons why something can’t be done.   

Yet it is the radical ideas that have the capacity to create tremendous value for an organization.  These are the ideas that ultimately deliver visionary transformation that sets the company on a new trajectory.


So how can strategists and business people make space for radical ideas? How do you nurture an environment in which new products and services beyond the organizations current “way things are done” are allowed to take root? How do you allow product strategy to alter corporate strategy?


First, focus on the user. 

Second, suspend judgment. 

Finally, become more comfortable with lateral thinking. 


The Workday Secrets Of The World's Most Productive Philosophers

Fast Company

Haters gonna hate, thinkers gonna think, philosophers gonna philosophize.

But how does one philosophize? Would someone whose thoughts would later shape the world shape their days differently than you and I? As Josh Jones notes at Open Culture, the answer is "not really"--aside for some serious devotion to long, lonesome walks.

As we'll see below, the irregularly outsize output of Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Immanuel Kant was marked by exceedingly regular days. As the literary saying goes: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work."


Here Are 10 Must-See Stats From This Week in Digital Marketing Entails Facebook, Tumblr, Kraft, Foursquare and Visa


1. Facebook posts with only 40 characters get 86 percent more engagement, according to researchers Daniella Franco and Kimi Mongello.

3. Kraft is collecting 22,000 different kinds of data from its 100 million online visits each year. The packaged-goods marketer employs such stats from 500 segments of consumers to buy ads against.

4. Tumblr now has 420 million monthly visitors and has grown to 205 million blogs.

6. Visa orchestrated real-time marketing based on social data in 65 countries during the World Cup.

7. Foursquare hit 55 million registered users, increasing its audience by 15 million since roughly the same point in 2013.


Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to Mars, Starting with Orion’s First Flight

STEM Connector

If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

But the journey for your name doesn’t end there. After returning to Earth, the names will fly on future NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. With each flight, selected individuals will accrue more miles as members of a global space-faring society.

The deadline for receiving a personal “boarding pass” on Orion’s test flight closes Friday Oct. 31.


How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself: A Timely Vintage Field Guide to Self-Reliant Play and Joyful Solitude


A celebration of makers and hackers from half a century before they were called makers and hackers.

Legendary psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has written beautifully about why the capacity for boredom is essential for a full life and Susan Sontag contemplated the creative purpose of boredom. Perhaps we understand this intellectually, but we — now more than ever, it seems — have a profound civilizational anxiety about being alone. And the seed for it is increasingly planted in childhood — in an age when play is increasingly equated with screens and interfaces, being alone with a screen is not quite being alone at all, so the art of taking joy in one’s own company slips further and further out of reach.


The Secret to Customer Engagement? Shrink Your Big Data

Content Loop

Across the world, there is a tectonic cultural shift redefining customer behavior. Today’s customers are doing more, demanding more and engaging with companies on their own terms. Businesses are being forced to rapidly change the tactics they use to reach out to and serve customers as they come to grips with the new rules of the road. What’s more, the way in which the new customer interacts can be seemingly at random across a growing array of touch points. The customer experience can no longer be ‘defined’, or relationships ‘managed’. We can’t rely on a single channel to capture attention, convert, or serve a customer. Yet still today, most businesses ‘manage’ customer relationships by channel and struggle to understand or serve how customers interact today.


To navigate this landscape, a new set of rules is needed. We can no longer depend on isolated batch processes that defined traditional segmentation-based marketing tactics or Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Today we need to define context and drive relevance in order to serve a customer. A great sales person can do this, but they do not do it by processing a billion bits of past data. They do it by listening and reacting to the context and what a customer asks and tells.


Nate Silver’s model shows digital video winning for FiveThirtyEight


Seven months after launching FiveThirtyEight as an standalone site under ESPN, founder Nate Silver is bringing his data-flavored journalism to video.


On Wednesday, Silver and FiveThirtyEight unleashed the first episode of “Signals,” a documentary film series that aims to tell compelling stories with data and analytics at the forefront. The premiere entry, the 17-minute featurette “The Man vs. The Machine,” examines the 1997 face-off between world chess champ Gary Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer, a topic Silver previously explored in his 2012 book “The Signal and the Noise.” Future episodes will tackle female software pioneer Grace Hopper, a math-driven basketball training regimen and a computer program that changed football drafts forever.


FiveThirtyEight has grown inconsistently since its March launch, with traffic peaking this summer and settling down at just over 2.1 million unique visitors in September, per comScore. The well-produced “Signals” series could help the site attract a broader audience between promotion on ESPN properties and partner ABC News.


Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2014 Longlist announced


the Royal Society has announced their Long List for their prestigious Winton Prize for popular science books! Yes, my book-loving geeky and nerdy pals, we have twelve wonderful science books to read whilst waiting for, or sitting on, airplanes, trains or buses, whilst hanging out at the beach, in hotels, bars -- or even whilst soaking in a candle-lit bath!


These twelve books were selected by a panel of distinguished judges from more than 100 popular science books that were nominated for this year's prize. "Choosing just 12 books from the over 160 that were submitted for this year's Prize was a very difficult task", said Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges.  Professor Clayton and the panel of judges were impressed with the overall quality of popular science writing that is being published today. "There really is a plethora of good science writing out there at the moment. In the end though, we did have to agree on 12 and we're delighted with those we've selected."


Ford to Add Pedestrian Detection to Its Cars

MIT Technology Review

Ford is giving its cars the ability to spot—and avoid hitting—pedestrians using a combination of radar and camera sensing. The system will appear in Europe next year on Ford’s Mondeo sedan.


Although similar technology is available in some high-end cars, like the Mercedes S-Class, the move from Ford shows how rapidly automation is coming even to modest vehicles. The pedestrian detection that Ford is developing could also prove crucial to fully automated vehicles capable of driving in complex situations—something that remains out of reach.


“It will scan the road for pedestrians and issue a warning [to the driver],” says Scott Lindstrom, manager of driver assist technologies at Ford. “And if the warning isn’t sufficient, it’ll auto-brake.”


Genius is in the Groove


Vijay Iyer doesn’t like the term “genius” and the jazz pianist is on a roll explaining why. “The ‘G word’ is often used to shut down conversation or inquiry into a particular artist, into his or her community and connection to others,” Iyer says. “No music happens in a vacuum.” What’s more, the label undercuts an artist’s ambition and drive. “Artists seek not just to be themselves but to transform themselves, to actually become something else,” Iyer says. That’s the force that revolutionizes their culture and ours.

Iyer, 42, is an ideal guide. A 2013 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, he is versed in seeing the world through the lens of science. Iyer’s Yale undergraduate degree in math and physics paved the way to his Ph.D. in technology and the arts at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation explores how our minds and bodies beat in sync with the rhythms of West African and African-American musics.

The pianist, who has recorded over 15 albums of jazz, ranging into raga and hip-hop, has applied science to his own compositions. He rescored the beats of the ’70s soul tune “Mystic Brew” to the Fibonacci Sequence, the series in which each number is the sum of the preceding two (1,1,2,3,5,8…). The ratio of any two successive Fibonacci numbers, the “golden ratio,” is seen in nature, from atoms to sunflowers, and has inspired artists such as Da Vinci and Debussy. (Iyer’s Guardian essay on his music and the golden ratio was reprinted in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010.)


Tech Companies Hope to Introduce Coding to 100 Million Students

Wall Street Journal

The CEOs of two dozen major tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, will announce their support on Wednesday for a project by nonprofit that seeks to introduce computer science to 100 million students worldwide. The companies will promote's Hour of Code campaign, which encourages students to explore computer coding through hour-long online tutorials. The support will take the form of encouraging their employees to try out Hour of Code tutorials and encourage students to do the same during Computer Science Education Week this December. The companies also will encourage their employees to contribute to an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that seeks to raise $5 million to help train teachers in providing computer science education. The effort is an attempt to help encourage broader participation in computer science among women and minority communities as well as to meet anticipated growing demand for workers with computer science skills. ACM and CSTA are major partners in Other companies supporting Hour of Code include Disney, Dropbox, Eventbrite, GoDaddy,, Target, Yelp, and Zillow. "Some of these companies are competitors," says CEO Hadi Partovi. "We represent a nice, safe place for them to channel their efforts."


Fueled by Algorithms

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

An international team of researchers has examined the maximum bipartite matching problem using existing combinatorial optimization algorithms designed to find the best solution with minimum enumeration. The researchers say the study involved exploiting modern multi-core computers, and provided a new parallel version of the push-relabel algorithm for bipartite graph matching that works well for shared-memory computing systems. The research also included an examination of the algorithmic performance, showing viable and improved scaling on various multi-core machines. "We are exploring a new class of algorithms for maximum matching that have direct implication for other algorithms, such as network flows," says Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher Mahantesh Halappanavar. As part of the research, the team tested several techniques to expedite the computation of maximum matching, including using greedy initialization algorithms, search-space pruning techniques, and switching to serial computation when the algorithm runs out of concurrency. The researchers then compared the method with a separate class of algorithms based on the standard technique of augmentation. In the future, the team wants to expand the research to include preflow-push algorithms used for computing maximum flows.


Gartner Lays Out Its Top 10 Tech Trends for 2015


Gartner analyst David Cearley presented the firm's annual list of strategic technologies for the year ahead during its annual Symposium/ITxpo. The list focuses on merging the real world with the virtual one, and the implications for analytics and the type of information technology (IT) that has to emerge to manipulate it. Gartner sees computing everywhere, or ubiquitous access to computing capabilities, as a top trend, and Cearley notes companies may need to acquire new expertise in this area. The firm also expects to see more intelligent screens and connected devices, and in many different forms, sizes, and interaction styles. Moreover, Cearley says Gartner foresees major applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), and he encourages IT managers to experiment and empower people to develop uses for connected devices and sensors. Cearley notes with IoT, small sensors could be used to detect early problems in equipment, which could save businesses thousands of dollars. Gartner's list for 2015 also includes three-dimensional printing; advanced, pervasive, and invisible analytics; context-rich systems; smart machines; cloud and client computing; software-defined applications and infrastructure; Web-scale IT; and security, with particular emphasis on application self-protection.


Clip-On Turns the Playground into a Life-size Game Console


The Hybrid Play sensor can be clipped onto any playground structure to turn it into a life-size game console for a smartphone app

The Hybrid Play sensor looks like a giant clip. Inside,  it sits a three-axis accelerometer, infrared sensors and Bluetooth connectivity that will turn a swing set, slide or seesaw into a gaming console.

The Hybrid play system was designed to be operated by kids. Because of its design, it will cling to any playground set securely. The console works by detecting any motion on the seesaw or swing or if someone uses the slide. For example, if clipped to a seesaw, the specially-built game “Space Kids” requires the players to balance in a specific way to control the main character. The way the children balance on the actual seesaw dictates how the space explorer moves in the game.


The tool is a great solution to the growing number of children substituting physically-engaging activity with more passive video games or TV-watching.


We believe in technology. But also we believe in the benefits of playing outdoors. We want to live in communities that actively welcome kids playing outside, and that’s why we designed Hybrid Play.


The ingenious device was designed to work with kids 6 to 12-years-old. It doesn’t only promote physical activity but also healthy socialization. Most of the games are best played in teams: one team on the swing, seesaw or slide while another watches over the game on the screen.