Nov 28, 15

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Mechanized Evolution

Ally #1 has a fine new column out, tackling the Singularity. If this stuff's your cuppa, you might also check out Science Fiction, Futurism and the Failure of the Will to Imagine


New Class of Extrasolar Planet

We've posted in the past about notable discoveries of planets outside of our solar system. In every case, however, the planets identified (over 125 so far) were so-called "gas giants" -- planets like Jupiter or Saturn, not rocky "terrestrial" planets like Earth or Mars. Despite occasional anxious supposition that this may mean that Earth-like planets are vanishingly rare, the reality is that our current tools for finding planets outside the solar system work best at finding very large planets...


Ox-Powered Reverse Osmosis

Researchers in West Bengal have come up with what looks from a distance like an intriguing hitech/lotech hybrid tool for purifying water: The Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavnagar, Gujarat has developed a desalination unit that is run with the help of a pair of oxen using an indigenously developed reverse osmosis membrane. ... A pair of sturdy oxen is tied to one side of a 4-metre long mechanical link. The other side of the link is coupled to the input...

Un-Electric Fridge in Darfur

In March, Dawn posted about Mohammed Bah Abba's "Pot-in-Pot" refrigerator design, used in Northern Nigeria. This week, brings us a lengthy article about the proliferation of the Pot-in-Pot in Darfur, Sudan. Known locally as the "zeer," they are being produced by the Women's Association for Earthenware Manufacturing. Use of the zeer reduces waste for the (mostly) women who sell vegetables in the local markets, thereby increasing their income. One disturbing aspect of the article,...

UN International Open Source Network

As Taran told us, Software Freedom Day was August 28; it turns out that the United Nations was celebrating along with the rest of us. The International Open Source Network is an initiative from the UN Development Programme focusing on spreading the use of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in the Asia/Pacific region. IOSN has primers on understanding FOSS, and using it in government and in education. From a fairly quick scan of the site, this looks to be one of the better resources out there...

Freifunk and Wireless4Development

If you're interested in how wireless systems can impact development, and happen to be Europe this weekend, check out wireless4development, part of the Freifunk Summer Convention. Or just drop by their site and check out the examples. Cool stuff. (Thanks, Howard)

Population and its Discontents

Worldwatch (which has an excellent population portal) is putting out a whole issue of its magazine on the topic Population and its Discontents. The articles (only a few of which are free to view, unfortunately -- what's up with that, Worldwatchers?) cover a lot of provocative ground: the challenges created by the confluence of swelling populations and unsustainable forms of affluence; an overview of population trends to date; the emergence of the "youth bulge" in developing nations; why aging...

Project Small Family

Reader John Norris recommends Project Small Family, an effort to encourage family planning and reproductive choice in India's Seoni and Chindwara districts by paying women Rs.250 a month not to become pregnant. The women themselves are free to choose any method of avoiding preganacy, "from abstinence to abortion," and the program claims not exercise any form of coercion (though the threat of losing Rs.3000/yr might well be seen as economic coercion by many). There's no mention of what would...


"Weapons of Mass Mobilization"

Ally Gary Wolf has written an insightful piece on the nature and meaning of MoveOn for Wired: Barely six years old, MoveOn has become one of the most revered activist groups in America, supporting Democratic political candidates with tens of millions of dollars in advertising, as well as countless hours of telephone and door-to-door fieldwork. So different, unpracticed, and uncompelling are its founders that Republicans have been provoked into speculating that the group is merely a false...

Solar Lanterns for Indian Villages

Ken Novak points us to an article in The Hindu noting that 660,000 houses in 1,000 villages in the state of Karnataka will receive solar-powered lanterns "as part of a 'self-village energy security programme' involving the State Government and the Union Ministry for Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES). This is part of a scheme to electrify 'remote' hamlets using renewable energy." The project will cost about $20m; 90 percent of the funds will come from MNES, and villagers would pay Rs. 40...

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