Entries Tagged as 'Featured'

Harnessing the Value of UX from Jason Ulaszek

Jason Ulaszek is one of the most forward thinking people I know about user experience and it’s growing importance, not just in business, but to humanity. Here’s a recent presentation he gave at the Product, Customer, and User Experience Summit (16 June 2014). Look and learn.

Harnessing the Value of UX from Jason Ulaszek

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.

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.

Your Kid Can Still Dream of Being an Astronaut!

“My kid said he wanted to be an astronaut” there goes that dream!” space evangelist Tim Bailey overheard that statement while standing in line to pick up tickets for a planned (but canceled) space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year. The speaker went on “Unless maybe he learns to speak Russian.” What made these sentements even more depressing to hear was that they came from a member of the media covering the event.

Tim, always a fast thinker, pointed out to the reporter that NASA was at that very moment holding a press conference awarding contracts to US commercial providers to create a new fleet of space vehicles. But if this is this the way most of the press is thinking and reporting “that there is no future for space flight, and America is only dreaming” what hope does the prospect of manned space exploration have for our children? Is the dream really dead? Will astronauts become nothing more than the stuff of legend, like cowboys and knights in shining armor? I don’t think so.

By the time you read this, the last space shuttle — Atlantis — will have launched, marking the end of the US Space Shuttle program and the end of an era in manned US space exploration. There are a lot of people who are decrying this as the end of the United States dominance in space exploration. Maybe, maybe not, but it really depends on how you define dominance. There’s little argument that NASA has achieved some astonishing and wondrous things — both with manned and unmanned craft — but NASA is best when it is pushing the boundaries of space exploration and science, and NASA will dominate that arena for the foreseeable future.

If you look at the history of human exploration, however, you will quickly realize that many of the great “discoverers” were private individuals who may have been government sponsored, but not a part of the government itself, and many where completely private ventures. Consider Christopher Columbus. He was a Genoan flying under the flag of Spain, but only because King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were footing the bill.

There are a few notable exceptions to this, but it’s generally people in the private sector who move quickly into undiscovered (or recently discovered) territory, but only if there is the hope of profit. The future of your child’s dreams of becoming an astronaut (or cosmonaut or taikonaut) are less likely to reside with the fate of any particular state or governemt, but instead with humanity’s ability to find out-of-this-world commercial opportunities.

There have been close to 550 individuals trained as astronauts, but until 2004 anyone going into space had their training sponsored by a government. That changed with the launch of SpaceShipOne, the first wholly private venture into space. Virgin Galactic is building on the success of SpaceShipOne, planing to launch its first commercial space flights for adventurous sight-seeres.

Virgin Galactic is now taking reservations at $200K a pop for a trip 70 miles straight up — you can download the brochure here. Although the exact length of the trip is unclear, you and five other passengers get to float above the earth, looking down on the world where, as Carl Sagan so eloquently put it, “everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

Still, taking a quick and expensive picnic into space is not the same thing as working and living in space. The dream of being an astronaut is about a profession, not a hobby. So that’s where those commercial contracts Tim was telling the reporter about are important. NASA has awarded four contracts for commercial crew development. This is what NASA should also be doing: encouraging the private sector to take on the more day-to-day aspects of space travel, while they push the frontiers. According to the NASA press release:

Each company will receive between $22 million and $92.3 million to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft.

OK, so that isn’t exactly Buck Rogers, but it’s an important start. We may be in a slight lull between epochs of manned space exploration, but a new paradigm will emerge, where we go into space, not just because “it’s there,” but because of what is there. NASA is constantly discovering resources that are hard or impossible to find on the Earth. That’s where your kids can still dream of being an astronaut — aboard missions with a purpose. Not just to go there, but to go there, do something, bring something back, and sell it. What will eventually drive our children into space is not just the desire for discovery, but also the promise of profit.

Top 10 Fictional Geek Dads

I think we can all agree: The best dads are geek dads. After all, we generally share a lot of interests in common with our kids—like, reading comic books, playing video games, and building Lego— and we are far more likely to want to play a game of D&D with our kids on a Saturday morning than, say, go play a round of golf with “the guys.” So, why are there so few geek dads in fiction? When I first proposed a list of fictional geek dads, there were many here in the slave pits at Geek Dad who didn’t think I could find 10 fictional dads geeky enough to make the list. “Pshaw,” I said, “stand back.” It turned out to be tougher than I thought.

The problem with being a fictional dad (especially a fictional geek dad) is that, to make a compelling story, there has to be some element of danger. Someone’s life has to be on the line. Some tragedy has to be hanging over everybody’s heads. The protagonist (often the kid) has be risking certain death, or the story is just not going to be very interesting. Yet, one of the primary goals of being a dad (or at least a good dad) is to keep your kids out of danger. So, when looking for fictional geek dads, my criteria included how much time they spent with their children, how cool a geek they are and finally how often they place their children’s lives in mortal danger.

10. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Gear Head

Kids: Luke and Leia

Grade: F/A+

Ok, I concede that his list of villainous crimes is lengthy: killing billions of people, torturing his own daughter, and cutting the careers of many a promising Imperial officer tragically short, to name just a very few. He may have even killed his own wife (of a “broken heart,” really?!) and tries at various times to kill his own children. But Anakin Skywalker comes through in the end, saving his boy from the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. That’s got to be worth at least a few thousand points. And, yes, Anakin is a total gear-head geek: Even as Darth Vader, he loved his tricked out TIE Fighters.

9. The Doctor, Doctor Who

Marital Status: It’s complicated

Geek Type: It’s complicated (Varies depending on regeneration)

Kid(s): It’s complicated

Grade: N/A

We know he had a granddaughter, Susan, but her mother and father are never mentioned. At least she called him “Grandfather.” But, “Grandfather” might have been more an honorific rather than indicative of their actual relationship. And recently when asked if he had any children the Doctor said “no.” But, then there’s that episode called “The Doctor’s Daughter.” But she was actually a clone. But clones are people, too. As I say, it’s complicated.

8. Arthur Dent, Mostly Harmless

Marital Status: Single

Geek Type: Hitchhiker

Kid: Random (no, not random children. Her name is Random — Random Frequent Flier Dent).

Grade: D

Arthur Dent may be the worst father this side of a father who is actively trying to kill his own children (see above). More than neglectful, he seems incapable of anything close to a paternal feeling.

7. Wayne Szalinski, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Amy and Nick

Grade: C

Wayne is trying to create a shrink ray, which, of course, is best left in an attic where your nosey kids can easily find it. Talk about not kid-proofing your house!

6. Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Hacker

Kid: Sam

Grade: B−

Kevin may be the ultimate absentee father, but he does sacrifice himself to save his son. Plus, it’s not like he wanted to be trapped on the Grid for all of those years. Just the line “We’re always on the same team” chokes me up every time I hear it.

5. George McFly, Back to the Future

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Nerd/Sci-fi Author

Kids: Marty, Dave, Linda

Grade: B

George is hard to nail down as a dad. He starts out as a nerdy dad who loves his kids, but is basically ineffectual at every level (Grade: C−). However, through the magic of time travel, he ends up being the cool sci-fi author dad who buys his kids jeeps (Grade: A+). Averaging things out, we’ll call that a B.

Dr. Benton Quest

Image © TBS

4. Dr. Benton Quest, Johnny Quest

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Scientist

Kid: Jonny

Grade: B+

Benton is really smart, loves his son, and takes him to some cool out of the way places. We shouldn’t hold it against him too much that those places generally have giant lizards, flying saucers, and frog men trying to kill Jonny. But we will a little.

3. Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Jeremy and Jemima

Grade: A−

Caractacus (no relationship to Galacticus) is an inventor, and, although his kids sometimes feel a bit neglected, he has a flying car to take them on picnics and tell them cool stories. His stories involve the children being abducted by a creepy child catchers, imprisoned in dungeons and then saved by Benny Hill. Minus a few points for that.

2. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Goth

Kids: Wednesday and Pugsley

Grade: A

Gomez loves his wife (a lot!), stays at home with the kids, and is always available for fun and games. The games generally involve sharp objects, explosives, or predatory flora and fauna, but do you really think that Child Services is going to be stopping by to ask any questions? I don’t think so.

Rick Castle: #1 Geek Dad

Rick Castle – Image © ABC Studios

1. Richard Castle, Castle

Marital Status: Divorced

Geek Type: Literary & Secret Fanboy

Kid: Alexis

Grade: A+

Rick is always there with the father-knows-best advice, yet still finds time to listen to his daughter’s own words of wisdom. He has a cool Manhattan apartment, sends his daughter to the best schools, and only occasionally gets paranoid about her boyfriends. What’s not to love? Okay, so he needlessly endangers his own life fighting crime with the New York City Police Department, thus risking leaving his daughter fatherless. Nobody’s perfect.

OK, I’m sure I left some great geek dads out (what about Arthur Weasley?) and maybe you disagree with my ratings (Anakin got an A+?!). Let me know in the comments.

Springbrook High School Web Design Students

Just found this video of me speaking to a class of budding web design students at Spring Brook High School.

The Doctor Looks Great in Anime

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.

Originally Published on GeekDad»

Doctor Who Recap: The Almost People

When last we left The Doctor, he had just discovered that he had a Flesh dopplegänger, or gänger. Let’s call him DoctorG, to try and avoid confusion, because the only other way anyone has of telling them apart is by their shoes. The DoctorG has original shoes, while The Doctor has a pair of barrowed boots he got after his own shoes were eaten by acid. With me so far?

The DoctorG seems every bit as charming as The Doctor, but almost immediately goes into convulsions as he tries to integrate his past regenerations. Imagine going through 9 regenerations all at the same time. He starts spouting out catch phrases from the past, and I’m pretty sure we even hear Tom Baker’s voice at one point (the Fourth Doctor).

DoctorG: Reverse the jelly-baby of the neutron flow.

There’s also an interesting bit where The Doctor quizzes The DoctorG on various aspects of their life—including a brief discussion of cybermats—to confirm that he (The DoctorG) is in fact him (The Doctor). Still with me?

However, The Doctors and Company—including Amy (no Rory) along with the human staff of the factory (Foreman Cleavas, Jimmy, Buzzer, and Dicken)—have a bigger problem: their gängers are at the door and out for blood. The gängers tried breaking the door down, to no avail. So they began to use acid to try and melt the door (remember this is an acid factory). The Doctor and The DoctorG are seen plotting something, while being highly complementary of their own intelligences, and work to find an escape route, eventually landing upon a rather convenient air vent.

Doctor: Yowza… An Escape Route.
Amy: (Mouths “Yowza” with quizzical look)
Doctor: You know I’m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang out with me.
DoctorG: Do we tend to say “Yowza”?
Doctor: That’s enough, let it go, OK. We’re under stress.

The Doctor suddenly yells “Breathe” at Amy. No particular reason. He just does.

The gängers enter the room at last, only to find the birds have flown the coop.

JenG is still skulking about the castle—Drawing strange circles on the walls with Flesh—and Rory is shadowing her. The acid is still pouring out, interacting with the stone walls to create a noxious gas.

This gas forces the humans to head to the evac tower to get above the gas and contact the mainland to be evacuated. As it turns midnight, Jimmy thinks of his son, Adam, and the little dance he does when he gets excited. Once at the evac tower, first they have to restore power to the systems. Queue The Doctors behind a bank of machinery repairing away. The problem is we can’t tell which is which as they pop-up like a whack-a-Doctor game. We’ll call them DoctorX on the left and DoctorY on the right.

Amy: Look but hang on. You said the TARDIS is stuck in acid, so won’t she be damaged.
DoctorX: Nahh, she’s a tuff ol’ thing
DoctorY: Tuff… old… sexy
DoctorX: Tuff, dependable, sexy

After bringing the power back on line, the humans are able to send a message asking for a rescue. Foreman Cleaves sets up the rescue and then sends a typed codeword to make sure any changes can’t be made by the gängers. She also asks that the gängers be wiped out after the humans are safely away. The gängers are listening in, though, and begin their own plans.

Meanwhile, JenG has become obsessed with revenge on the humans, all humans, for what they have done to The Flesh who are decommissioned, or “executed” as she puts it. She has a plan to destroy them all. We next see Jen as she tries to do something at the thermostatic override control panel, but apparently it can only be used by a real human. Are her plans thwarted. I think not.

The Doctor is making mysterious phone call, as Amy suddenly sees a wall slide away and our mysterious eyepatch woman appears startling her. Amy tells The Doctor, but he reassures her that it was probably nothing.

Amy is still distrustful of The DoctorG, who says something about something being in his head and leaves, stepping outside. Amy follows to apologize and confesses that she’s seen moment of Doctor’s death. Could it have been The DoctorG not The Doctor she saw? The DoctorG suddenly turns violent, and throws Amy against wall apparently distressed over dying gängers. Amy is now completely freaked by The DoctorG and hurries back to the others.

Rory hears Jen in distress. He finds both Jen and JenG but can’t tell which is which. One Jen is limping from a previous wound. The two Jens fight and one is pushed in acid and decomposes into the Flesh. The remaining Jen has the limp. I guess that settles that.

Back in the evac tower, the crew see Rory on the monitors and decide to go after him. At first Amy wants to go, but The Doctor hands over the sonic screwdriver to The DoctorG to go find Rory. Amy balks at going with him, so Buzzer goes instead.

Foreman Cleavas: You can’t let him go… are you crazy.
Doctor: Am I crazy Doctor.
DoctorG: Well you did once plug your brain into the core of an entire planet just to halt it’s orbit and win a bet.

Foreman Cleavas is not looking so good. The Doctor does a quick scan and tells her that she has an inoperable blood clot causing her headaches. The evac tower becomes unstable and they have to evac the evac and head to another evac position. Foreman Cleaves tries to radio where they are headed to the rescue ship, but gets cut off before she can send the codeword. Foreman CleavasG intercepts and sends her own message for new a new rendezvous location and guesses the code word, “bad boy”. They are the same person after all.

Jen leads Rory to the thermostatic override that she says will restart the oxygen and prevent an explosion. She asks big strong Rory to turn wheel to open it, but first needs to activate with hand pad which responds “Human source recognized” The thermostatic override is engaged and the temperature immediately begins to rise. On their way to find the others, Jen shows Rory pile of discarded Flesh that has been left to rot in full conscience. Rory is and indeignant, but it’s clear that Jen is playing on Rory, asking him to trust her.

The DoctorG, using the sonic screwdriver, finds Dead Jen (the real one; the other one with Rory is Flesh), but Buzzer knocks The DoctorG out, muttering that it was the Foreman’s orders.

Buzzer: I should have been a postman like my dad.

Buzzer comes across Jen soothing the pile of discarded Flesh, angry that she killed the real Jen. JenG shows her ability to change her body as she rushes Buzzer and we hear him scream (off screen).

The Doctor and Co. are walking down hallway where there are huge eyeballs sticking out of the stone work—remember the circles created by JenG. They make it to thermostatic override, but it’s too late. Everything will explode. They head off to find Rory.

The DoctorG is found by other gängers, and revives an old name.

Foreman CleavasG: You’re on of us doctor.
DoctorG: Call me Smith. John Smith.

Rory and Jen lead Doctor & Co into acid room and Jen locks the door as Rory realizes he has been tricked. The gängers have set the room to overheat, killing everyone inside. Rory confronts JenG, and The DoctorG seems unconcerned about humans, even physically stopping Rory from going to help them. The gängers, led by Jen, want to head to mainland and start the revolution.

And then the phone rings. The DoctorG answers holo call and it’s Adam, Jimmy’s son. JimmyG is moved and dashes out to save his human self.

JenG: You tricked him into an act of weakness.
DoctorG: No, I’ve helped him into an act of humanity.

Foreman CleavasG orders the acid be pumped out to save the humans. She’s tired of the war and what they are becoming, but JenG will have her revenge

DoctorG: It doesn’t have to be about revenge. It can be so much better than that.

JimmyG is too late. Jimmy is hit with acid and lies dying on the floor, but makes JimmyG promise to be a dad to Adam and “remember her” as he hands JimmyG the gold ring he had on a chain around his neck.

With everyone reunited — Amy and Rory have a big hug — JimmyG talks to Adam and adam does his little dance of excitement. But the reunion is short lived as JenG transforms into a true monster, chasing everybody throughout the tunnels. It appears that they are trapped with the mad JenG at the door, when suddenly the TARDIS breaks through roof.

Doctor?: Ohhhh, she does like to make an entrance.

Someone has to hold JenG back while the others escape, and also prevent her from reaching the mainland. Amy, in a moment of revelation decides she wants to save both Doctors, but they come clean and admit DoctorG is actually the Doctor. The Doctors had swapped shoes almost from the very beginning. Only one can be saved as they leave The DoctorG and Foreman CleavasG behind to deal with JenG using the sonic screwdriver to send a pulse that will disrupt the Flesh, unfortunately it will disrupt them as well.

Doctor: Your molecular memory can survive this, you know. It may be that this is not be the end.
DoctorG: Well, If I turn up and knick all of your biscuits, then you’ll know you’re right.

As the TARDIS dematerializes, The DoctorG opens the door, pulls the trigger and all three flesh forms disintegrate. Let’s just hope they don’t come back as some kind of hybrid.

After escaping, it’s only JimmyG, DickenG, and Foreman Cleavas left, but the gängers are stabilized and fully human. After reuniting JimmyG with his son, The Doctor drops off Foreman Cleavas and DickenG at a press conference to expose how the Flesh is being treated.

Doctor: Dicken, remember, people are good, in their bones truly good. Don’t hate them, will you.
Dicken: How can I hate them… I’m one of them now.

Now for the season arc story. The Doctor turns to Amy and tells her to breathe, something he has been repeating inexplicably for a while now. Amy doubles over in pain as they take her to the TARDIS, The Doctor explains she’s in labour. That’s right, she’s having a baby. Right now. And this isn’t the real Amy, but a Flesh construct and has been for a while. The Doctor suspected this, which is why he needed to visit an early version of the Flesh to find the frequency that would disrupt it.

Doctor: I was going to drop you off for fish and chips, but things happened, and there was stuff… and shenanigans. Beautiful word… shenanigans.

The Doctor points the sonic screwdriver at Amy and her Flesh construct dissolves…

…Amy wakes up in small white room. The wall across from her opens to show our one eyed matron who tells Amy that’s she’s about ready to pop. Amy is pregnant and delivering the baby right now. “Here it comes.”

Memorable Quotes:

DoctorX: And we both wear the same bow-tie, which is cool. As bow ties are…
DoctorY: …And always will be.

Doctor: If you have a better plan I’m all ears. In fact. if you have a better plan, I’ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.

DoctorG: Well my death arrives I suppose…
Doctor: But this one we we’re not invited to.

Next Time: Some answers as a good man goes to war

David Edwards Is Out of the Lab to Find Art in Science

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.

 Originally published in Wire GeekDad »

Doctor Who Recap: “The Day of the Moon”

Originally published in Wired’s GeekDad»

Doctor Who: The Day of the Moon

Doctor Who: "The Day of the Moon"

Spoiler alert: While we will discuss what happened in last Saturday’s episode, we’ll avoid talking about any future plot details.

Despite giving us a good-old fashioned cliff hanger at the end of “The Impossible Astronaut” — Amy taking a shot at the little girl in the big astronaut suite — the follow-up episode does not pick up directly where it left off. Instead, we jump several months ahead with Amy, Rory, and River on the lam while the Doctor has been imprisoned — in Area 51, naturally — and then jump back and forth with flash back to fill in the pieces. The team’s new “ally,” secret agent Canton — ably played by Battlestar Galactica actor Mark Sheppard — is hunting them down across the US. Their mission is to see how extensive is the infestation of the Silence. The answer: they are everywhere and have been her for millennia.
So, how do you defeat an enemy who is everywhere but you can’t remember as soon as you look away? (First Steven Moffat gave us the Weeping Angels who turn to stone when you are looking at them; now Moffat gives us the Silence who, essentially, cease to exist as soon as you look away. It seems as if Moffat has been reading a lot of the french philosopher Michel Foucault, who also had a thing about the power of the gaze.) According to the Doctor “We’re not fighting an alien invasion, we’re leading a revolution.” The Doctor’s solution turns out to be ingenious and direct: feed all of humanity a subliminal message to rise up against their oppressors, played at a moment that almost all of humanity will be watching: Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

River: Apollo 11’s your secret weapon?
Doctor: No, no, it’s not Apollo 11. That would be silly. It’s Neil Armstrong’s foot.

But that all happens later in the episode. After rescuing the Doctor from a cell made of Zero Balanced Dwarf Star alloy (that’s right up there with “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow!”), the team has to split up again to track down leads while the Doctor goes on a secret mission to “NASA” (i.e. Cape Canaveral) to place something in Apollo 11 capsule that will allow them to broadcast their alien subversion message.
Oh, and Amy’s not pregnant. Or, well maybe she is. Or she’s not. We can’t be too sure, but that’s what happens with the timey wimey wibbly wobbly… stuff. This entire episode is told in flash-forwards, flashbacks, and I think there are even a few flash-sideways.

Amy from the Day of the Moon

Pond or Scully? You decide.

…which is I think how Amy and Canton arrive at Graystalk Hall Orphanage, looking for the small girl in the space suite. The caretaker for this orphanage, a Mr. Refrew, is obviously unhinged, and the entire house is filled with graffiti, saying things like “Get Out,” and… OK, this whole part of the episode is incredibly X-Files — with Amy looking particularly Scully-eque — and loads of seeming non-sequiturs like an unknown woman with an artificial eye at a door saying “No I think she’s just dreaming.”
This is one episode you will have to watch a few times through to make complete sense of.
Unlike most Doctor Who episodes, this story does not tie together very neatly at the end. Although it looks as if the Silence has been defeated, it’s clear that there is a lot more to this story. The end of this episode leaves us with seemingly more questions than it actually answered:

  • How and why were The Silence manipulating events last season?
  • Why does The Silence need the girl?
  • Why is the girl in the space suite and how does she get out?
  • Why does The Silence need a space suite?
  • Did the person in the space suit (we’ll assume it’s the girl) really kill the Doctor?
  • According to the life support software, the girl is human, but incredibly strong. But she’s regenerating at the end of the episode, so she must be a Time Lord, right?
  • Is Amy pregnant? If so, is the little girl her child? If so, The Doctor her father? If not, is Rory? If he is, does that mean that Rory is not an Auton? Earth girls may be easy but I don’t think a lump of plastic could get one pregnant.
  • If the girl is a Time Lord, which one is she? The Doctor’s daughter with Amy? The Doctor’s female clone from the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”? Could it even be Romanadvoratrelundar, last seen stranded in eSpace? I can hope, can’t I?

Obviously “To Be Continued.”
Great lines from this episode:

Amy: Is this very important flirting, because I feel I should be higher on the list right now.

River: What are you doing?!?
Doctor: Helping!
River: You have a screwdriver. Go Build a cabinet!
Doctor: That’s really rude!

Rory: So, what kind of doctor are you?
River: Archeology… love a tomb.

Doctor: You could let me fly it…
River: …or we could go where we’re supposed to.

Next time: Pirates and Mermaids!

Doctor Who Recap: “The Impossible Astronaut”

Originally Published in GeekDad»

Doctor Who ©BBC

Doctor Who ©BBC

The sixth season of the new Doctor Who Series premiered Saturday night in both the UK and the USA, with only a few hours difference to take account of the time zones. This was a first in the show’s 50-year history, meaning that American fans only had to put up with spoilers from across the pond for a few hours before joining the fray.

Last season began with The Doctor regenerating for the 10th time (his 11th body) and ended with him confronting all of his worst enemies at the same time and the destruction of the entire Universe. Although the Universe was restored, a new enemy was revealed — although not shown — called The Silence. The last we saw The Doctor was during the Christmas Special where his current companions, the recently wed Rory and Amy, were honeymooning on an apparently doomed spaceship.

Spoiler alert: while we will discuss what happened in last night’s episode, we’ll avoid talking about any future plot details.

Season six opens with the Ponds (Amy and Rory) living a domestic life back on earth and River Song still in jail, when they all receive an invitation to — inexplicably — meet in the middle of the American Southwest. It’s unclear if the reason for this location will become apparent or whether this was just an excuse to film in some beautiful American scenery, but it makes for some pleasant locales for reunions.

Then The Doctor is killed. Dead. No, really. Stone cold dead. They cremate his body and everything. Of course The Doctor has been through worse. I mean, last season he ceased to exist altogether, and didn’t seem to slow him down, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when the companions run into him again a bit later at a truck stop restaurant. They soon discover, though, that this is a much younger Doctor, ignorant of the machinations of his future self.

This leads us to wonder “what could possibly happen next?” The Doctor will die in the future, that’s pretty much inescapable, but has Steven Moffat (the executive producer and author of this episode) written this series into a corner in the first fifteen minutes of the season by showing how it happens? Or will history be rewritten… again? But those are questions for a later date, as this episode quickly drops us into the middle of the mystery of aliens on earth in 1969, haunting President Nixon. The thing is, these aliens (Roswell aliens dressed in Men in Black suits) are instantly forgotten as soon as you look away.

Oh, and Amy is pregnant. Surprise!

Moffat is a master of the twist and surprise in plot that come together in the long run. But what he does best is great dialog and character development. What was best about this episode was the growing relationship — not to mention the sexy, clever banter — between The Doctor and River. There’s a great exchange between The Doctor and River about Nixon where River is commenting on Nixon’s record:

River: Vietnam, Watergate… There’s some good stuff too.
Doctor: Not enough.
River: Hippie!
Doctor: Archeologist.

Or my favorite line of the night when The Doctor tells River to shout if she gets in trouble, to which she quips “Don’t worry. I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.” And that’s not all we learn about their relationship and the hardship of living it “back-to-front.”

“The Impossible Astronaut” was an impressive beginning to what looks to be an impressive season. If you haven’t been watching Doctor Who, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The Doctor is a free agent who uses his wits and intelligence and will do anything to save a life. He’s not a part of a military or government agency, he’s just a good guy going around doing good things. “The Impossible Astronaut” is the first episode of a two part story, leaving us with a cliffhanger, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for next week.

Note: The episode was dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen (1948 – 2011) who died earlier this week.

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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Envision Yourself at WebVisions

If you’ve ever wanted an in-depth crash course in web typography, here’s your chance. I’ll be presenting a half day marathon workshop at WebVisions in Portland this May to help you understand the NEW Web Typography. My workshop covers recent advances in technology and focuses on case studies that that provide a framework and techniques for successfully implementing online typography. Designers will see how they can use the new Web typography to set their work apart from the rest of the herd.

What you’ll learn:

  • How do I use Webfonts?
  • How do I find Webfonts?
  • How do I choose webfonts?
  • Where can I find inspiration for new Web typography techniques?
  • What are the technologies that have shaped the evolution of Web typography?

In addition to me, there’s other great stuff to do. WebVisions is a nationally recognized conference exploring the future of Web and mobile design, technology, user experience, and business strategy.

  • A great selection of workshops with me and others.
  • Keynotes by Douglas Rushkoff and David Armano.
  • Shorter, punchier sessions on the event’s Main Stage, and BarCamp style presentations in the Design, Tech, DIY and Business Pods.
  • Fun parties and networking events like the Stumptown 40, The Webvisionary Awards with Presentation Karaoke, A Meet the Speakers Mixer, and the famed wrap party.

Register before April 5th to get the Early Bird rates »

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:

20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi

SXSW 2011

South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the “techy” portion of SXSW—the others are Film and Music—and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isn’t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. It’s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.

This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years I’ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.

While I’m by no means an old pro—this is the conference’s 25th anniversary—I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.

NOTE: If you’re going to be at SXSW let me know and maybe we can get a GeekDad meet-up together.

Continue Reading “20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi” on GeekDad »

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Doctor Who Inforgraphic © All rights reserved by bob canada

© All rights reserved by bob canada

The next season of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but there’s no time like the present to catch up on the good Doctor and his time traveling adventures with this handy-dandy Doctor Who infographic by noted illustrator Bob Canada. He did the layout and the illustration for the TARDIS all using Adobe InDesign, but ran into the same issue generations of Doctor Who illustrators have discovered:

I think this is the first time in my life I’ve ever drawn the TARDIS. It was surprisingly hard! It seems like it would be simple; after all it’s just a blue box with some windows. But there are tons of little details and recessed panels and whatnot, and it took forever to get it all straight.

You can download a hi-res version of the poster (1800 × 2700) on Flickr.

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 »

Adding Transparencies and Gradients With CSS

24 Ways

24 Ways

The way you handle color in your web designs is about to change. Perhaps you’ve been playing around with hexadecimal color values since you were a wee web-babe; if you were, get ready to to grow up fast. CSS3 has arrived, and your palette is about to get a whole lot bigger.

Compared to what’s coming, it’s sas though designers have been color-blind, working with only a small part of the chromatic spectrum. No, new hues will not be added to the rainbow.

What will happen is that color values will be defined in new ways, the entire spectrum of opacity levels will be added and gradients based on pure CSS rather than images will be thrown in, too.

Some forward-thinking websites, such as the impressive 24 Ways to Impress Your Friends, are already playing around with RGBa for text and background color effects—and the results are great.

Read the full article on Webdesigner Depot »