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From Wall Street to Chennai

I never thought I'd be blogging an old-school publication like The New Yorker on WorldChanging; it's not exactly the title on the lips of the technorati, but steady WC readers will probably have guessed by now that I am a bit of a nostalgist. I highly recommend a trip to the magazine stand or library for this week's issue, dated July 5, 2004, to read The Best Job in Town, a ground-level look at economic globalization. Writer Katherine Boo outstandingly documents the light and dark of it,...


Better motors "could save 100 million tons of CO2"

Everyone knows that efficiency helps, but do you know how much it helps, and what the most important targets for efficiency improvement are? Well, now you can get some numbers on a big culprit: electric motors. ENDS Environment Daily reported in May about a study done by the European Copper Institute. The study shows that switching industry over to more efficient motors could save: 202 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year 10 billion Euros per year in electricity costs another...


Saturn Awaits

Tomorrow, at 7:36pm PDT (10:36pm EDT), the Cassini-Huygens probe, a joint NASA/ESA/ASI mission, will make its orbital insertion burn to slow down and enter Saturn's orbit. Launched October 15, 1997, it's the most expensive unmanned mission yet -- and probably the last of its kind for awhile. If all goes smoothly (and, so far, all has gone smoothly with Cassini-Huygens), the craft will spend the next four years studying Saturn, orbiting around the planet more than 70 times. The pictures (and...


Roll Out the Solar

Wired reports on the US Army's tests of the flexible solar panels developed by Iowa Thin Film Technologies. The solar film can be embedded in soft building material, providing an ongoing source of electricity to allow soldiers in the field to recharge the ever-increasing number of batteries required for their hardware. This could provide a tactical advantage over the current system of either carrying extra batteries or diesel generators. A largish tent could produce up to 1 kilowatt,...

community in .za

Net Art News points us to 52 weeks, 52 works. 'net and broadband access are still pretty limited in South Africa, but Capetown artists James Webb and Thomas Cartwright have nonetheless mounted this ambitious effort in which participating artists submit one work a week for 52 weeks to the uncurated online exhibition/archive. Contributing artists, mostly based in South Africa, are also in the US, Japan, Germany and Sri Lanka. The weekly projects range from workshops and exhibitions, to...


It Runs 'Til It's Finished When Powered By Spinach

Nature and Science News are reporting on research at the Laboratory of Organic Optics and Electronics at MIT using photosynthetic proteins derived from spinach to produce electricity. While the light->electricity conversion efficiency is only 12%, the researchers are confident that they'll be able to boost it to at least 20% in relatively short order. Even if they can't get it up past commercial silicon-based solar cells, protein-based cells would have some interesting advantages: For...


Evolution in Action

Evolution is a pretty amazing process. The combination of internal change (mutation) and environmental pressure (fitness) can have pretty dramatic results, given enough time. And when you do it in a computer, "enough time" can be surprisingly brief. Evolutionary design is a computerized creative process which relies on the same notions of natural selection and mutation that underlie biological evolution. Take a large number of individuals, each slightly different. Introduce some mutation,...

Annotated UK ID Proposal

Mark Simpkins of Nodal Research wrote to tell me of his group's latest project: taking the consultation document (PDF) proposed by the UK's Secretary of State concerning identity card legislation, and converting it into web-readable form. Not just HTML, though: the team translated it into a Moveable Type blog document, allowing comments and annotation of each section of the proposal. As security expert Bruce Schneier can tell you in detail, ID card laws are terribly ineffective forms of...

e/merge 2004

Running June 28-July 10, e/merge 2004 is a "virtual conference" showcasing developments in "blended learning," which combines face-to-face schooling with distance learning and online education. What makes this particularly notable is that it's organized in South Africa, and has a decided focus on the needs of the developing world, particularly Africa. South African collaborative learning blog Critical Methods describes its content in this way: There is something for everyone with an interest...

Help Keep Government Weather Data Free

For awhile now, the National Weather Service has been making weather data freely available in XML format over the Internet. Although technically "experimental," dozens of applications have sprung up to allow people to access this data on their personal computers (I use the open source "Meteorologist" application for my Powerbook). The NWS now wants to make this free access official, reasoning that since taxpayer money pays for the data, taxpayers should have access to it (the proposed policy...

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