He put his passwords online, and he doesn’t care

This is an incredible interview with my new hero, Y. Woodman Brown, the “idiot” who posted his passwords as a comment on the Washington Post. Predictably he got hacked, but not the way you might think.

He’s interviewed on the podcast TLDR, and explains why he did it, and I have to admire him for what he has to say.

I feel similarly, but have to admit that I’m not ready to follow in his foot steps.

UX For Good

You Can Help Do Some UX for Good

Originally posted in GeekDad »

UX for Good is an organization that brings user experience skills to bear on some of the most difficult social issues we face. For this year’s annual challenge, UX For Good be working with Aegis Trust, which established the Kigali Genocide Memorial on behalf of the Rwandan people in 2004. More than a museum or shrine, the memorial serves as the final resting place for 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide.

You don’t have to be a social worker, diplomat, philanthropist, or other do-gooder to do good. The best way to affect change in the world is to apply your own skills to fixing the big gnarly problems the world faces. For user experience (UX for short) professionals, like myself, this means bring our skills at creating the best user interfaces to bear. But we are always strongest when we work as a group.

Since 2011, UX for Good has worked to empower designers to solve problems to make the world a better place. UX For Good has tackled some difficult problems over the years, such a raising awareness.

Previously, the challenge was to improve the income of working musicians in New Orleans Street Musicians increase their income. The designers’ answer was “Tip the Band,” a collection of tactics and tools to encourage and enable visitors to support musicians.

The problem this year is the biggest yet: Can we harness feelings to end geonocide? Like genocide memorials around the world, the Kigali Genocide Memorial site produces powerful feelings in all who visit it. UX designers have a unique capacity to understand the steps that take place between emotion and action. In Kigali, we’ll ask them to apply that skill set on behalf of all humankind.

As part of the Annual Challenge, UX designers from across the globe will visit Kigali for several days of exploration, research and debate. Then the team will reconvene in London, where they’ll design an original way to translate the feelings evoked by genocide memorials into sustainable action. Finally, they’ll share their findings to leaders from Aegis and other advocates for human dignity.

UX for Good has started the Kickstarter project: Harnessing Feelings to Prevent Genocide to share what we discover with the world. To generate as much impact as possible, they need your involvement, your support, and your commitment.

Contribute anything from $10 to $10000 dollars to help the team help the the Kigali Genocide Memorial raise awareness, and you can benefit, not only as a human being but as a UX professional as well. Sponsors will receive, virtual seminars, original posters, A full-color, hardcover book detailing the ideas that come out of the challenge, up to a day long workshop with UX For good professionals.

The Doctor Looks Great in Anime

Originally Published on GeekDad»

©2008-2011 ~MightyOtaking | Doctor Who © BBC

©2008-2011 ~MightyOtaking | Doctor Who © BBC

The Doctor is no stranger to animation. Even before the current reboot, for the 40th anniversary of the show the BBC released a six part animated series in 2003 called Scream of the Shelka, using a Ninth Doctor who is not a part of the official continuity. More recently, the Tenth Doctor has appeared in his own animated episodes — although the CGI animation is a bit stiff. There are also some fan attempts to animate all of the missing episodes of Doctor Who that were destroyed by the BBC.

One project in particular that has been getting attention over the past few years as short clips have been released is this Japanese Anime-inspired fan created movie. It was created by UK amateur animator Paul “Oatking” Johnson, who (according to his YouTube bio)…

…lives, breathes and sleeps classic 80s and 90s anime, back when it was still good. He also sings, animates, translates and writes about himself in the third person.

I’ve been watching the development of this video over the four years it has taken Paul to complete his twelve minute and thirty second masterpiece. There are Cybermen and Daleks and Sontarins (oh my!) going up against the Third Doctor (“The Dandy”, played in the original live action series by the late Jon Pertwee). Most of the voices are a pastiche of clips from previous episodes, with Paul and a few friends providing additional voices.

Although it’s a bit rough and the story is somewhat disjointed, if the BBC is smart, they’ll hire this guy and start an animated adventures series.

Okay, enough words. Enjoy the movie:

Update

The video will not play anymore, because the creator is now under contract to do work for the BBC (WOOT!) Here’s the explination from his Deviant Art page:

I am now contracted to work with Theta-Sigma, in partnership with Big Finish, on some secret BBC animation projects for 2entertain. This is very exciting news and, though I can’t say anything about it, there is an absolutely top class team assembled, and the recreation of some extremely long awaited lost stories is now going to become a reality for a very large number of people who’ve been waiting for them for many, many years.

50 Years of Americans in Space: Remembering Alan Shepard

Originally published in GeekDad»

Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7 before launch

Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7 before launch

Alan Shepard, was close, so, close — he ventured into space 50 years ago today, the first American in space, but a little less than a month too late to be the first human being in space. That honor went to the Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

As the saying goes, “Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.” Still, it’s important to remember the achievement of America’s first man in space on May 5, 1961 on board the Freedom 7 — an achievement that would eventually lead to the first moon landing. It’s debatable which was the more significant accomplishment (first person in space or first person on the Moon), but no one can argue with the bravery or pioneering spirit of all any of the Astronauts and Cosmonauts risking their lives to take those first steps away from Mother Earth.
For Shepard, this was the culmination of years of rigorous training and a selection process that chose him from amongst the hundreds of other test pilots vying for the distinction to be chosen as one of those with the “right stuff.”
The countdown for the Freedom 7 flight started at 8:30PM the night before, but Shepard did not enter the capsule until 5:15 AM on May 5th, 2 hours before the “planned” take off time, but the lift off would not happen until 9:20 AM. This was the period when Shepard is supposed to have coined what would become know as Shepard’s Prayer “Dear Lord, please don’t let me f--- up”, although Shepard claims the exact words to be “Don’t f--- up, Shepard…” (Do I see a possible orthodoxy war in the far future between Shepard Fundamentalist and Reformist sects?).

MOON SHOT: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landing by Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, Updated by Jay Barbree
With an estimated 45 million people watching him on TV in the United States, he lifted off from Cape Canaveral. Shepard did not achieve orbit as Gagarin did, but he did control his own ship whereas Gagarin was basically just a passenger along on an automated ride. Shepard was able to position his ship, practicing different maneuvers, before finally splash-landing in the Atlantic ocean having traveled 302 miles in just over 15 minutes.
It’s also important to remember Shepard’s other great accomplishment: Besides being the first American in space, Shepard was also the fifth man to walk on the moon, clocking the longest moon walk and also becoming the first (and, as far we know, only) human to play golf on another world.
Before he died in 1998, he and fellow Mercury Astronaut Deke Slayton (who served as Director of Flight Crew Operations throughout the Apollo program) recorded their first-hand experiences in the book MOON SHOT: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landing, which is being re-released as an enhanced ebook for the 50th anniversary of his momentous journey. The new version has been updated by noted journalist Jay Barbree, who has covered every American space flight. In the new edition, Barbree includes never-before known or told stories of Apollo missions, embedded video, and Barbree’s thoughts on the state of the American space program today.
Below, you can enjoy the commemorative video NASA has put together to celebrate the occasion.

David Edwards Is Out of the Lab to Find Art in Science: The GeekDad Interview

Originally published in Wire GeekDad»

David Edwards, Author of The Lab

David Edwards, Author of The Lab

There is a lot of lip-service given these days to the importance of innovation in our society. You often hear that we live in an “innovation economy,” or that we can innovate our way out of a crisis— implying that innovation is something that spontaneously happens with little or no effort. True innovation rarely comes so simply. It is most often the result of the intersecting of two or more seemingly separate and often disparate ideas (you got your chocolate in my peanut butter). We may be banking our future on innovation, but our educational system is not set up around innovation. No, you can’t teach innovation, but you can foster an environment of innovation while learning. Instead, disciplines are taught in independent silos called “classes” with little or no overlap.

David Edwards wants to change that. In his recent book The Lab, David explores the frontiers of learning to promote the theory that innovation comes when we worry less about the scientific “disciplines” involved and more about the desired outcome. In other words, figure out what you need to do and then what scientific tools you need to bring to bear on the problem to solve it.
David has a history of combining art and science in new ways both as a teacher at Harvard University and as founder and director of Le Laboratoire in Paris, France. For example, one of the most striking examples he gives is how he and a class of his solved the problem of being able to quickly and cleanly transport water for people in areas without running water. To create the device — called “The Pumpkin” — David and his students at Harvard combined biology and engineering to create a device inspired by the way in which living cells transport water.
A few other of his innovations include:

  • La Whaf — A way of “eating” by inhaling liquid droplets
  • La Whif — Breathable chocolate, coffee, and even vitamins.
  • Andrea — A system that uses plants to clean indoor air.

I had a chance to talk with David through email and ask him about education, art, science, and raising kids.
GeekDad: Science and art — like science and religion — are popularly shown as being at odds and incompatible— truth can’t be beautiful — but in your book, The Lab, you argue that laboratories have to erase “conventional boundaries between art and science.” Why are those boundaries a problem?

David Edwards: Obviously we value a work of art, a MET performance of The Nose of Shostakovich, very differently than we value a work of science, like the discovery of the latest Mersenne Prime, as valuable works of the human mind art and science appeal for different reasons. What interests me in the context of laboratories, a general term I give to environments that “curate” the creative process, is less, however, the “works” of art and science than the creative processes by which we get them, the one being aesthetic, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, guided by images, true in that it is inalienable in some way from the human condition — the other being scientific, analytical, guided by equations, able to simplify a complex world to problems that can be solved, true in that it is reproducible.
GD: What would a world be like where the boundaries did not exist?
DE: These two processes, “art” in the sense that we imagine how Beethoven “lived” and thought and “science” in the sense that we imagine how Einstein “lived” and thought, actually merge in the creative process, and that fascinates me. In the process of discovery, whether with purely artistic, scientific, or some other ends, discoverers — how I think of creators — dream, and analyze, induce and deduce, are comfortable with uncertainty and are capable of reducing a complex world to resolvable problems and meaningful solutions. Creative lives are like this.

GD: So, what’s happening to the creatives in our society?
DE: With the specialization of knowledge, we now teach, learn, and perform within environments that are specialized to promote dreaming, or to promote analysis, or to promote questioning, or to promote solutions, but these environments are murderous to creative thought, a good reason why the most creative minds often flee institutional environments.
GD: Is the Internet helping to dissolve these boundaries?
DE: Perhaps largely as a result of the Internet Revolution, the “information providing” value of institutions has suddenly been overrun by the “innovation providing” value of institutions. And our institutions remain too focused on the old value model. The boundaries between art and science, as processes of creative thought, become a major obstacle to institutions and society adapting to the conditions of the 21st century. Remove these barriers and the anxiety many now feel facing a future that is so full of uncertainty will be replaced by the freedom a creator feels in a world where dreams can matter.

GD: How long do you think it will take our current mindset about creativity to change?
DE: I think it is indeed a transition that is taking place with the generation that is growing up today. We look at the young today and are shocked by what often seems to be an attention deficit problem. One thing however that strikes me in teaching at Harvard University is how young people, who have grown up surfing the Internet, moving in a matter of seconds from “recombinant RNA” to “Jackson Pollack,” don’t feel the same knowledge restrictions previous generations grew up with, actually recognize, experimentally, the great value of leaping from one culture to the next, feeling your way forward in innocence, discovering.
GD: Many seem to despair a culture where the novice and uninformed have the same access to many-to-many communication as the professional and studied. Do you see this as a problem, and how do you think we are dealing with it?
DE: I actually think that in the world we live in today we find the sources of information, the communities, which suit us, and, yes, I do agree that disastrously uninformed souls can influence millions, billions probably, but I’m not sure that the elite, the most educated and informed, ever had much more influence on human affairs than they do today. What has really changed is that we all, as individuals, have tremendously more outreach than we did. What we say – and do – is amplified. But the elite have always dialogued with the elite. What to do? Making innocence an asset, as it is for an infant, who learns so quickly, may be a goal, and guiding the elite toward more creating, along with the observing, might be another. I keep coming back to the contemporary power of the creative mind.

GD: For some, inventing new ways to carry water may seem like re-inventing the wheel, but you led a class that did just that over nachos and salsa at the Border Café in Harvard Square (I have to admit, I always found their Margaritas to be an excellent creative lubricant when I visited Boston). How did you bring science and design together to build a better, safer way to move water around?
DE: Getting drinkable water from its source to those in need of it without wasting it is a growing problem, of course. In biology the canonical transporter of water is the biological cell. We thought a few years ago that we might be able to learn from the cell to carry water more efficiently. This led eventually to an object that we’re making right now called The Pumpkin, because it sort of resembles a pumpkin when it is all curled up. The Pumpkin is, in one form, an interesting hand bag that doubles as a thermos. You can pull your lunch out of it like you can drink from it. But it also can expand in size, and carry increasing volumes of water, so that you can carry 10 or more liters of water strapped around your shoulder, or around your neck and torso. In developing world environments or disaster relief situations where water transport is a major challenge and head transport often occurs, The Pumpkin is designed to get lots of water safely to where it needs to go without messing up the neck and spinal cord, without making you drag something over tough terrain. Anyway the biological cell is a little like this — a lunch box that expands to carry lots of water or a little, depending on what you need.
GD: How have you been able to apply your own view of creativity to raising your children? Do you ever experiment ideas on them?
DE: My children — and I talk about them in my book — teach me more about creativity than I do them, I’m sure. If anything I may feel more peace than some in watching my three little boys learn in the rough and tumble way they learn. Yes, they were the first kids in the world who “whiffed” chocolate, the first kids probably who “ate bottles.” Since they are growing up in a very formal French school, I suppose having the father who comes home with Le Whif has marked them especially, hopefully an immunization against the worst outcome of a very fine if rigid educational system.

The Doctor Can Travel Through Space and Time, But What About in America?

Doctor Who will be returning to our screens in a little less than a week (23 April) with the season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, and it’s clear that while the Doctor may be chasing aliens, the BBC is chasing the Colonies. Although the less than lustrous Doctor Who: The Movie was set in the States, the Doctor seems drawn like a Dalek to Davros to that tiny little island off the cost of France known as Britain.

If the season 6 trailer is any indication, Doctor Who will be getting even bigger and better.

A few observations about the trailer (no real spoilers here):

  • We will be hearing “Hello, sweetie” a lot this season as River Song will be a major player. We may even find out about her mysterious past.
  • The overarching story will be about a new menace called “The Silence” who are responsible for the events of last season.
  • There will be one or more episodes not just set, but actually filmed in the United States.

Make no mistake, the Doctor will still be spending plenty of time in Blighty, but there will be at least a few episodes set in North America. It’s not just a change in scenery, though. In addition to episodes set in my country ’tis of thee, BBC America is doing a full court press with their marketing of the show, running two page front cover ads in magazines like Spin. My feeling is this a good bet on their part. The Doctor’s popularity seems to have only been growing in the US over the last few years, and this season looks like it just may be a home run for them (I thought about continuing the sports metaphors here by making a joke here about bowling a century, but came to my senses in time. You are welcome.)

To get you ready, The Beeb have released a prequel to the first episode of the new season — a little taste of things to come — featuring Richard Nixon in the Oval office having his own Empty Child moment. Now we know what was on those missing tapes!

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Celebrate 50 Years of Human Space Flight on Yuri’s Night

Yuri's Night 50th Anniversary

Yuri’s Night 50th Anniversary

This April will see the 50th anniversary of the most important event in all of human history: the first time any of us left the planet. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin pierced Earth’s thin shell of atmosphere to (literally) boldly go where no one had gone before. Yuri orbited the earth once in the Vostok 1, taking 108 minutes. Admittedly, this is a bit like dipping the tip of your toe into the ocean and considering yourself a great mariner, but many of us hope this event will be remembered as the first day of the migration of humanity to the stars.

That day should be commemorated.

In 2001, for the 40th anniversary of Yuri’s epic flight, the team of Trish Garner, George Whitesides and Loretta Hidalgo established April 12th as Yuri’s Night and began to sponsor a night of parties celebrating human space flight. The idea was simple: establish a Web site where anyone could register their party, letting the rest of the world know that they were celebrating. The Web site also provides some basic information on how to throw a party and where to find parties that are open to the public. Parties can be private or public, sedate or wild, scientific or hedonistic. It’s up to you.

Yuri's Night: San Francisco 2009

Yuri’s Night: San Francisco 2009

Over the decade since it was first established, Yuri’s Night has grown from a few dozen parties a year to over two hundred parties all around the world. Parties range in size from a few dozen people to a few thousand and have been staged on every continent (including Antarctica) and the International Space Station and in Second Life. The largest parties are generally in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but there are always some great events in almost every major city on the planet. Some parties are still on the 12th, but some opt to celebrate on the closest Saturday (this year, the 9th).

The important thing is to celebrate, and now is the time to start planning. Here’s how you can get involved:

Top 10 Things Science Fiction Promised Us That DID Happen in 2010

Total Recall

Total Recall

Earlier this week I published a list of top 10 things science fiction promised us that didn’t happen in 2010. So, lest you think I’m completely negative, let’s take a look at a few things that did happen in 2010 that were predicted in science fiction. The funny thing about progress is that it’s rarely confined to just one year. This list collects some of the important stuff that either happened or reached a tipping point in 2010. They are my favorites, but feel free to share yours in the comments below.

  1. Walk through X-ray airport scanners — Who can forget the classic scene in Total Recall where Ahnuld walks through the scanner at the space port and we get a full x-ray of his body? Well, for some reason, people didn’t think this technology was quite as cool when it was brought to an airport security line near them this year. Maybe it was the the thought that someone in a dark room is looking at virtual nudie pictures of us. Maybe it was the increase in radiation bombarding our bodies. Whatever it was, many want to leave this advance behind in 2010.

  2. Video phones — This one has been possible for a long time, but just never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was the expense or the fact that to use it the other person needed the same equipment, but both of those issues were solved when the personal computer entered into the equation. With the growing popularity of Skype, Google Chat, and the new Apple FaceTime protocol, we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of each other in 2011.
  3. Alien Life — Admittedly it was not extra-terrestrial alien life, but a complex life form completely unlike our own was discovered this year. Rather than being carbon-based like us (and every other form of life we’ve known so far) this small microbial life form thrives on arsenic. This is a far cry from pointy eared Vulcans or acid drooling bugs, but it means that life seems to have developed twice on one planet greatly increasing the likelihood of ETs. [UPDATE: This one has since been shown to be slightly different than initially thought. The lifeforms thrive in arsenic and use arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA but are still carbon based.]

  4. 3D TVs — Well, it’s here. 3D TV. Yippee. And for a mere 4000 or so dollars and another $800 for goggles for the family you too can watch any of the 50 videos Amazon has in 3D. This one still has a ways to go. Of course this catalog will grow over time, and some TV shows may even make the switch, but I still see this as more of a gimmick than a real technological break through. I think a more ground breaking technology is Sharp’s Aquos TV that adds a fourth color (yellow) to the standard red, green, and blue, vastly increasing the color gamut (possible colors that can be displayed) for your screen, meaning sharper and more realistic images.
  5. Big Brother — I remember as a young lad reading George Orwell’s masterwork, 1984, with great fear, but being highly skeptical of the entire concept that the government could spy on all of the people all of the time. That would take an awful lot of people watching. The answer, of course, is to have everybody watching everybody. It may not be exactly what Mr. Orwell predicted, but we are all watching each other these days using the Internet. Whether it’s an old lady in the UK throwing cats into trashcans or the broken condoms of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, we are all now up in each others’ business to an unprecedented degree. And these people are all publicly taken to their own virtual Room 101 to repent their actions.

  6. Telepathy — Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then you’re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves aren’t just early adopters.
  7. A Permanent Space Station — Although started in 1998 and not slated for final completion until 2011, 2010 was the first year in which the International Space Station (ISS) was fully crewed with 14 occupants. It may not be the double ringed floating Hilton envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it still counts.

  8. Tablet Computers — Kirk had them in the 23rd century. Picard had them in the 24th century. Now you can have them in the 21st century. The iPad and other tablet devices are changing the way we will be consuming and creating content. How do I know? I’m typing this article on one.
  9. The Web — Yes, the Web has been around for 20 years now, but 2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internet’s most popular offspring. “Web 2.0″ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up. If you are using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS devices or other tablet devices to view the Web, then you are getting a taste of things to come. Expect the static pages you are viewing now to come alive, transforming The New York Times into something more akin to the The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.
  10. Cyber Wars — 2010 has already been labeled the Year the Internet Went to War and I can go along with that. The information warfare started by Wiki-leaks blossomed into a fully formed conflict, as sides began DNS attacks both for and against the embattled secret-spilling Web site. These conflicts will only grow in size, but may avoid public attention for a long time, since there is no obvious collateral damage. We’ll probably only find out the true size of these wars when someone brings down a bank or a national power grid. Strange days indeed.

Top 10 Things Science Fiction Promised Us That Didn’t Happen in 2010

The Jetsons

Image © Warner Bros. Animation

Science fiction makes a lot of predictions about the future — that’s really the point, isn’t it? The best science fiction looks at the future, trying to see where we are headed and what it will be like when we get there. Some authors are so good at this it seems as though they actually are able to peer into the future (even if only through a scanner darkly) and tell stories of what is to come. But even the best sci-fi has, over the years, gotten a lot wrong about what was the future when it was written.

2010 is almost over, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at a few things that were supposed to happen (or have happened) by this year, but didn’t.

  1. Flying Cars — This is a popular one to gripe about, but I’ve got bad news for you: it ain’t ever gonna happen. It’s not that flying cars are technically impossible, but they are socially impossible. I have little doubt that if our best and brightest applied themselves to the task, we could mass-produce personal travel devices that would allow us to rise off the ground and zoom through the air just like George Jetson. But imagine a world where the millions of cars on the road are replaced by millions of flying cars, or, should I say, millions of potential flying bombs. Even if we were to create some system that automatically forces cars to avoid buildings, how long before some moron with a beef against a particular government, philosophy, or just against sanity in general hacks that system and heads towards the closest sky scraper in a flying car packed with C4 explosive? No thanks, I’ll stick to the ground.
  2. A Moon Base — We were supposed to have Moon Base Alpha by 1999, or at least by 2001, but for sure by 2010. That didn’t happen. What did happen in 2010 was some unmanned moon landings (deliberate crashes, really) that provided new evidence that it might be technically possible and financially rewarding one-day to establish a permanent (but small) outpost on our lonely satellite. Well, I guess that’s something. The goalpost for a working Moon base has now been pushed all the way to 2069, according to a recent design challenge from Shift Boston. I’ll be 101 years old in 2069, so I just hope we have anti-aging pills soon.
  3. Anti-Aging Pills — Although you can not yet pop a pill and stay 36 forever, the possibility of arresting or reversing aging is looking promising. New advances in unlikely places such as nano-technology are pointing to ways that we might ingest little robots that rebuild our systems from within. But nano-bots are also the bane of a lot of sci-fi stories, turning the world into a mass of gray goo.
  4. Trips to Jupiter — Zooming off to planets far was a staple of 1950s sci-fi. What’s changed in the nearly-50 years since Yuri Gagarin took the first off-planet jaunt is that we learned space is a really inhospitable climate. No air, no water, no heat, no gravity and no magnetosphere leads to dead humans. And recreating all of this in a portable format has proven far more elusive than the dreamers of the golden-age of sci-fi first thought. Even the more realistic versions shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010: Odyssey Two may be centuries away.
  5. Nuclear Holocaust — OK, so it’s a good thing this one didn’t happen, obviously, but when I was a child in the 1970s, it seemed like a high probability. Growing up with the specter of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, for anyone too young to remember it) looming over you was a way of life that we hoped no one was mad enough to test. The made-for-TV movie The Day After scared the hell out of me when I was a teen. But no one would have guessed in 1980 that by the end of the decade the Soviet Union would no longer exist. The nuclear threat may not have disappeared with it; however, the constant specter of nuclear holocaust has, if not disappeared, at least become less of a daily concern.
  6. Virtual Reality — Sure, we have Second Life, World of Warcraft and Toy Story 3D, but the truly immersive user interface that is virtual reality is still just a dream. There’s some promising work being done with wearable computing, but its still a long way from being able to jack your cranium straight into the net as in Neuromancer, or even hacking your optic nerve with VR goggles as in Snow Crash.
  7. AI Robot Butlers & Self-Driving Cars — I want my piña colada served to me on the veranda at the perfect temperature by a slave robot. I want to be chauffeured around the city at night in my high speed luxury electric car while it reads to me the news of the day customized to my unique interests. I want all of this and I want it all guilt free. Oh sure, I can get a Roomba to vacuum my house or a Lexus which can park itself, but that’s not really the same thing, is it.
  8. Computer Overlords — On the up side, none of the non-existent robot butlers and self-aware cars have risen up to overthrow their human oppressors and imprison them in The Matrix. We’ll call this one and #7 even.
  9. Commercial Supersonic Air Travel — We actually had this mode of travel, but lost it in 2003 with the last flight of the Concorde (although we did get a very funny semi-eponymous TV show). There is some movement to bring back supersonic commercial flights, but I suspect you’ll be buying tickets to Moon Base Alpha before you are buying supersonic airplane tickets again.
  10. Cheap, Clean, and Unlimited Energy — Nikola Tesla’s dream of free and unlimited electricity seems even more impossible today than when he first proposed it in the early 20th century. Many of the wars on this small blue marble we call home are in large or small part over energy resources. Global climate change is intrinsically linked to the ways in which we produce energy. Whether it’s gas for your car or electricity for your house, we all spend a lot of money on energy. A limitless, non-polluting, inexpensive (or even free) energy source could completely transform humanity, taking us out of the energy dark age we live in now, and leading to a true peace on Earth and good will between all mankind. That’s my wintertime wish for the future. Do you have one?

Later this week: 10 for ‘10: 10 things sci-fi promised that DID happen in (or by) 2010.

Dream Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of: Parabolic Flight Crew

In Douglas Adam’s book Life, The Universe, and Everything, he shares the secret of flying: it’s the art of learning how to “throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Tim Bailey  teaches people how to do just that:  throw themselves at the ground (in an airplane) and miss in order to fly.

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Professionally speaking, Tim wears a lot of hats. Although his LinkedIn profile gives his job title as simply “Catalyst”, it  then lists 10 separate jobs under “Current”. To name just a few, he works on SpaceVidcast, Space Task Force, Yuri’s Night (The World Space Party), and is the co-founder and Chief Operating Office of Sky Fire Lab—an independent organization promoting space travel in the media. See a theme yet?  But if you scroll down to the bottom of his lengthy list of job titles, you will see that he is also a member of the Parabolic Flight Crew for the ZERO-G Corporation. What’s that you ask? parabolic what?

Tim’s job is the closest thing there is to being an astronaut without actually going into space. He spends his days assisting and training people in aircraft flights that simulate a microgravity environment—effectively he’s a flight attendant teaching people how to fly—and he is one of only nine people on the planet qualified to do this.

Tim has performed over 150 such flights, each with multiple parabolas—where the craft goes up and down at a steep angles to create a “weightless” free-fall environment inside—equating to over 24 hours of his life that Tim has spent unencumbered by the Earthly bonds of gravity. This has led to Tim’s unique ability to, as he puts it,  “execute some fairly bad-ass flips in any axis [x, y, and z].”

In addition to being an evangelist and trainer for manned space travel, though, Tim is also a husband and recent father. Judging by his recent Twitter posts, he spends a lot of time with his family going between  Kennedy Space Center and Disney World—a true geek dad’s paradise!

I recently chatted with Tim about his job, his work advocating for manned space travel, and his own future in space.

Read the full interview on GeekDad »

Whatever Happened to Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith?

The Sarah Jane Adventures wrapped its fourth season last Tuesday night (10/15) … at least it did in the UK. Alas, for we poor souls in the Colonies there is no firm date for us to enjoy the exploits of the plucky investigative journalist and her brave band of teenage sidekicks as they repel a seemingly endless stream of alien invasions. This is a shame because TSJA is one of those rare sci-fi series that my kids, my wife, and myself can all equally enjoy.

Read the full story Whatever Happened to Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith? on  GeekDad »

Web Designers VS Web Developers

Some one sent me this insanely funny info graphic on Web Designers VS Web Developers. It reminds me of the series of articles I did for Webdesigner Depot: 5 Pet Peeves Designers Have With Developers (and How to Avoid Them … and the sequel 5 Pet Peeves Developers Have With Designers (and How to Avoid Them …

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10 Geeky Web Tricks with HTML5 and CSS3

It’s a glorious time to be a web geek! Did you see the cool effect the folks at Google added to their logo the day before they made their big announcement about changes to the perennial search engine? It’s gone now, but for a brief period when you moused over the logo, it flew apart in colorful blobs avoiding your mouse.

To most people’s surprise (OK, maybe only to most web geeks’ surprise), this interactivity was not created with Adobe Flash, but instead using the most recent versions of common Web technologies. It’s likely that you’ve already benefited from these new Web technologies: HTML5 and CSS3. They are already popping up all over the place, despite the fact that they are not supported in the most popular browser, Internet Explorer <insert dramatic pause here> at least not until today!

That’s right, the next version of Internet Explorer version 9 will support HTML5 and CSS3 and that version will be released today 15 September as a public beta!!

And there was much rejoicing!!!

Our long nightmare is finally over. Now everyone will be using a modern browser and Web designers can finally do really cool things without Flash. Ok, maybe I’m being premature — it’ll take a while before everyone is upgraded — but a guy can dream, can’t he?

The great thing about any ground breaking technology is all of the cool experiments that get thrown together. The early adopters are less worried about finding practical applications and more interested in just playing around to create new toys. Let’s play with a few today!

Below is a list of my favorite 10 new Web toys. Of course you will need a modern browser — Safari 5 or Chrome 6 are usually best, but Firefox 3.6 will work for a lot of them. If you are running Windows — and are very brave person — you should go download Internet Explorer 9 right now and test these toys out. Let me know in the comments if all of them are working for you in your browser of choice.

Continue Reading “10 Geeky Web Tricks with HTML5 and CSS3″ on GeekDad»

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Beyond Biff, Bam, Pow: 10 Graphic Novels To Enjoy With Kids of Every Age

The Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson

The Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson

Comic books, graphic novels, sequential art or manga; whatever you call them, illustrated books are a great way to tell a story. I’ve been reading comics for most of life, except for a brief period from age 12 to 16 when I thought I was too old for them. Boy was I wrong.

I’ve been reading comics to my kids almost since the day they were born, mixing them in with other storybooks and eventually novels. One of the great things about reading comics is that graphic stories cut out all of the boring “He said” and “She said” stuff. If you combine this with distinctive voices for the different characters, your kids will always know who’s saying what, making stories much easier to keep up with.

Here are a few of their favorites, roughly arranged for age appropriateness from younger to older readers.

Read the full article on GeekDad »

What Kind of Conductor are You?

I’m back from my whilrwind tour of Berlin and London, and still trying to process the great big bolus of knowledge I aquired during my travels. My own sessions went well, and I’ll be sharing more about those later. For now, you can view some of the photos I took , including more panoramic shots I’ve been taking on my iPhone with the remarkable application Pano.

I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks about Next10, but I had to start with what was surly the most remarkable and inspirational session I saw while there. A Noted conductor Maestro Itay Talgam spoke about what might seem like a non-sequitur at a tech conference—music conductors and their conducting styles. To be honest, I was very surprised how wonderful and useful this information was. I had not planned on attending this keynote, but after watching a few minutes of the live feed on my laptop in the main hall, realized I needed to see the rest in person. I’m glad a I did!. It starts a bit slowly, but what Itay has to say about the different methods conductors have to work with their symphonies, and by implication how good managers can best work with their team, should be required viewing for all managers. Here is his talk from Next10 in it’s entirety. There are two problems with this video. First, the audio is out of synch and second is they do not show the video examples he is using to illustrate his points—which does cut down on its effectiveness—but I think you will get the point.

How I changed my mind about iPhone Dev

From time to time, I have been called on to design iPhone apps, both native and Web apps. If you don’t know the difference, it’s simple: native apps are written in a computer code called Objective C (hard) while Web apps are created using the core Web technologies of CSS, JavaScript, and HTML (easy). I’ve always assumed that if you really wanted to do something cool with your iPhone apps, the best solution was native apps because, although they are harder to create, they have a lot more power.

I saw both of these presentations at SXSW, and they literally changed the way I was thinkning about developing apps for iPhones and other mobile devices. The first helped me better understand the User Interface principles particular to the iPhone (remember: 44px). The second convinced me that, contrary to what I thought coming into the room, iPhone Web apps are not only easier to create, but can be just as powerful.

Thanks for a Great Time at WebVisions 2011!

I want to thank everyone who came to see me speak at WebVisions 2011 last week. I had a great time teaching the intricacies of web typography to the 35 people at my Wednesday session and talking about the ins and out of selling progressive enhancement to the around 200 people at my Thursday session.

If you were there, please take a few moments to rate my performance.

The Voice of Jason Cranford Teague

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