"life" entries

Glowing Plants

I just invested in BioCurious’ Glowing Plants project on Kickstarter. I don’t watch Kickstarter closely, but this is about as fast as I’ve ever seen a project get funded. It went live on Wednesday; in the afternoon, I was backer #170 (more or less), but could see the number of backers ticking upwards constantly as I watched. It was fully funded for $65,000 Thursday; and now sits at 1340 backers (more by the time you read this), with about $84,000 in funding. And there’s a new “stretch” goal: if they make $400,000, they will work on bigger plants, and attempt to create a glowing rose.

Glowing plants are a curiosity; I don’t take seriously the idea that trees will be an alternative to streetlights any time in the near future. But that’s not the point. What’s exciting is that an important and serious biology project can take place in a biohacking lab, rather than in a university or an industrial facility. It’s exciting that this project could potentially become a business; I’m sure there’s a boutique market for glowing roses and living nightlights, if not for biological street lighting. And it’s exciting that we can make new things out of biological parts.

In a conversation last year, Drew Endy said that he wanted synthetic biology to “stay weird,” and that if in ten years, all we had accomplished was create bacteria that made oil from cellulose, we will have failed. Glowing plants are weird. And beautiful. Take a look at their project, fund it, and be the first on your block to have a self-illuminating garden.

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Four short links: 27 February 2013

Four short links: 27 February 2013

Open Source Cancer Informatics, NPR Framework, Littery Junk, BitTorrent Sync

  1. Open Source Cancer Informatics Software (NCIP) — we have tackled the main recommendation that came out of our June meeting with open-source thought leaders: Keep it simple. Make barriers to entry as low as possible, and reuse available resources. Specifically, we have adopted a software license that is approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and have begun to migrate the code developed under the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid® (caBIG®) Program to a public repository. Our goal in taking these steps is to remove as many barriers as possible to community participation in the continuing development of these assets. Awesome! (via John Scott)
  2. NPR’s Framework for Easy Apps — their three architectural maxims: Servers are for chumps; If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work; and Build for use. Refactor for reuse..
  3. Random Junk in People’s Labs (Reddit) — reminded me of the contents of my “tmp” and “Downloads” and “Documents” directories: unstructured historical crap with no expiration and no current use. (Caution: swearing in the title of the Reddit post) (via Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi)
  4. Sync — BitTorrent’s alpha-level tech to “automatically sync files between computers via secure, distributed technology.” Not only is it “slick for alpha” (as one friend described), it’s bloody useful: I know at least one multimillion-dollar project built on their own homegrown implementation of this same idea. (via Jason Ryan)
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Four short links: 17 July 2012

Four short links: 17 July 2012

Studying Newspapers, Explaining Psychology, Pathology of Stuff, and Petite Javascript

  1. What’s Next for Newspapers?three approaches: Farm it [...] Milk it [...] Feed it. (via Stijn Debrouwere)
  2. Why The Fundamental Attribution Error Exists (MindHacks) — assuming causation, rather than luck or invisible effects, is how we learn.
  3. Stuff Makes Us Sad (Boston.com) — The scientists working with UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families studied the dual-income families the same way they would animal subjects. They videotaped the activities of family members, tracked their moves with position-locating devices, and documented their homes, yards, and activities with thousands of photographs. They even took saliva samples to measure stress hormones. Studying our lives with an eye to understanding and improving it: the qualified self. (Long story short, as Cory Doctorow summarized: Stuff makes us sad)
  4. chibi (GitHub) — A tiny JavaScript micro-framework.
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Four short links: 31 May 2012

Four short links: 31 May 2012

Internet Trends, LLVM Guts, DNA Font, and Self Control

  1. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2012 (PDF) — what caught my eye: a Japanese games company with USD418 ARPU via in-game currency sales; she has a fantastic array of “technology has changed everything” slides topped by a sharp “and that’s just the beginning” slide; she’s bearish on US and global economies.
  2. The Design of LLVM (Dr Dobbs) — nifty technical introduction to an amazing but under-praised piece of technology. (via Hacker News)
  3. DNA Sans — writing 100nm tall, in DNA. There’s even a font sample. This is so cool. (via Ed Yong)
  4. New Digital Divide = Wasting Time Online (NY Times) — “Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.” Self-control and internal discipline is just as important in kids as adults: success in school and in life only comes with the ability to say “no” to Facebook, porn sites, endless IM, and all the other distractions that the Internet offers.
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Four short links: 8 May 2012

Four short links: 8 May 2012

Archiving Gmail, Apps vs Web, Historical Fame, and Travel Tips

  1. Gmail Vault — app to backup and restore the contents of your gmail account. (via Hacker News)
  2. Leaving Apps for HTML5 (Technology Review) — We sold 353 subscriptions through the iPad. We never discovered how to avoid the necessity of designing both landscape and portrait versions of the magazine for the app. We wasted $124,000 on outsourced software development. We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company. There was untold expense of spirit. I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and printlike on something open, new, and digital. (via Alex Howard)
  3. Your Two Weeks of Fame, and Your Grandmother’s (PDF) — researchers mined 20C news articles to see whether shrinking news cycles caused briefer fame. Instead they found duration of celebrity is largely steady across the entire century, though depending on how they measured celebrity they could sometimes see changes in the duration with the most famous. (via Google Research)
  4. Dan Pink’s Travel Tips — the author travels a lot and has passed on his tips in these videos.
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Into the wild and back again

Into the wild and back again

Ryo Chijiiwa, a software engineer who left it all behind, shares the benefits of off-the-grid living.

Burnt out from years of school and tech work, Ryo Chijiiwa quit his job and moved off the grid. In this interview, Chijiiwa talks about how solitude and time in the wilderness has changed his perspective on work and life.

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Four short links: 29 October 2010

Four short links: 29 October 2010

Tablet Magazines, Ubiquitous Urban Computing, Families and Work, and Twitter Query Language

  1. My iPad Magazine Stand (Khoi Vinh) — My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They’re bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all. (via Shawn Connally)
  2. Dan Hill Keynote (video) — beautiful and thought-provoking presentation on mining, using, and presenting data in the urban environment.
  3. The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship Continued (Pete Warden) — “work/life balance” is so trite, but I’ve been fascinated by how people deal with it since I heard Joe Kraus talk at Web 2.0 about what he was doing different at his latest startup. He replied that he was working fewer hours because he had a family, and that it was a difficult line to walk but he felt that he was managing it better because it was his second time around.
  4. TweeQL — query language for tweets. Query languages encode use scenarios. They limit what can be done easily but those limits also permit optimizations. I note the arrival of new query languages (cf Yahoo! Pipes) for these reasons. (via raffi on Twitter)
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Four short links: 23 September 2010

Four short links: 23 September 2010

Location Services, Clever Cursors, Intuitive Trouble, and Maturity Wins

  1. Universal Location Service — API access to location information from mobiles on Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T. “Universe” here is defined, naturally, to be “United States of America”.
  2. The Bubble Cursor in Javascript — Javascript implementation of a circular cursor that grows and shrinks in size depending on proximity to something interesting.
  3. The Revenge of the Intuitive (Brian Eno, Wired) — now I’m struck by the insidious, computer-driven tendency to take things out of the domain of muscular activity and put them into the domain of mental activity [...] This appetite for emotional resonance explains why users – when given a choice – prefer deep rapport over endless options. You can’t have a relationship with a device whose limits are unknown to you, because without limits it keeps becoming something else.
  4. “Wait, What?” (Alex Russell) — I didn’t try to organize people who didn’t see the value in organization: instead, I tried to organize folks whose experience was valuable in terms of personal maturity and not just facility with code. We picked a hard technical problem and an easier social problem knowing that the social aspects were more critical.
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Four short links: 3 August 2010

Four short links: 3 August 2010

Structured Data, Graph Tools, Photo Lives, Prize Theory

  1. OpenStructsan education and distribution site dedicated to open source software for converting, managing, viewing and manipulating structured data.
  2. TinkerPop — many (often open source) tools for graph data.
  3. Polaroid a Day — a moving human story told in photographs.
  4. Prizes (PDF) — White House memorandum to government agencies explaining how prizes are to be used. The first part, the why and how of contests and prizes, is something to add to your “here, read this” arsenal.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 21 July 2010

Four short links: 21 July 2010

Health, Profit, Policy, and Semantic Web Software

  1. The Men Who Stare at Screens (NY Times) — What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Caring with Cash — describes a study where “pay however much you want” had high response rate but low average price, “half goes to charity” barely changed from the control (fixed price) response rate, but “half goes to charity and you can pay what you like” earned more money than either strategy.
  3. Behavioural Economics a Political Placebo? (NY Times) — As policymakers use it to devise programs, it’s becoming clear that behavioral economics is being asked to solve problems it wasn’t meant to address. Indeed, it seems in some cases that behavioral economics is being used as a political expedient, allowing policymakers to avoid painful but more effective solutions rooted in traditional economics. (via Mind Hacks)
  4. Protege — open source ontology editor and knowledge-base framework.
Comments: 2