Video about quest to get Dalai Lama to carry Olympic torch

Here at TED, I met a man named Steve Varon. He's a warm and gregarious man who runs a successful children's underwear company on the East Coast. For the last year or so, he's been working very hard to make his dream possible: to see the Dalai Lama carry the torch in the Chinese Olympics. He made a short video about it, which he submitted to Pangea Day, but you can see it now on YouTube. I wish him luck in his quest.

TED Prize event streaming live now

The TED Prize event is streaming live now. I watched it last year and it was very moving. I imagine it will be again this year.
Picture 9-23 About the 2008 TEDPrize

The TED Prize was created as a way of taking the inspiration, ideas and resources generated at TED and using them to make a difference. Winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, and more importantly, a wish. A wish to change the world.

During today's session, webcast live from Monterey, California, the 2008 TEDPrize winners will unveil their wishes for the first time. Prize winners Neil Turok, Dave Eggars and Karen Armstong will be joined by singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela.


TED 2008: Irwin Redlener on surviving a suitcase nuke

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: Irwin Redlener, MD.

Picture 6-50

Irwin Redlener, MD is president of the Children's Health Fund spoke about how much loose nuclear material there is in the world, and how easy it is to make a suitcase nuke. Nuclear terrorism is probable, but survivable, he says. I missed most of his talk while typing up the last one (I'm sure Ethan Zuckerman will have a nice report on the talk). Here's a slide Redlener prepared on how to survive a nuclear attack.

CERN photos in Nat'l. Geo: The God Particle

Photographer Dave Bullock, whose work I've blogged here many times before, says,

When I opened up this month's National Geographic I was filled with amazement and a bit of envy. World class technical photographer, Peter Ginter, shot these really outstanding shots of CERN. His technique is unmatched.

City of Lyon being cloned in Dubai

Dubai is cloning the city of Lyon, France on a 700-acre plot, replicating its cultural institutions in a grand and surreal gesture of I'm-not-sure-what. Alas, the newtown is called "Lyons-Dubai City" and not "Baudrillardville."

Lyons and Dubai had already signed a "pact of cooperation and friendship" but al-Gandhi's idea adds a new twist to twinning: the new Lyons will cover an area of about 700 acres, roughly the size of the Latin Quarter of Paris, and will contain squares, restaurants, cafes and museums.

Al-Gandhi could have picked a worse place. Famed as the home of gastronomy and the birthplace of cinema, Lyons sits between two of France's best-known wine-growing regions. Even so, Dubai is unlikely to want to copy the decrepit tower blocks that ring the real city, symbols of the urban violence that periodically plagues France. Nor is the country's recent smoking ban in public places expected to be exported.

The desert city will include a Paul Bocuse Institute, like the one in Lyons named after the hallowed chef, in which students will study hotel management and gastronomy.

Link (Thanks, Grey!)

(Image: Old Lyon, a Creative Commons Attribution licensed photo from Will Palmer's Flickr stream)

UFO in texas pursued by military jets, say witnesses

Four people, including a pilot, saw an unusual UFO in Selden, Texas last Wednesday.
“The ship wasn't really visible and was totally silent, but the lights spanned about a mile long and a half mile wide,” [pilot Steve] Allen said. “The lights went from corner to corner. It was directly above Highway 67 traveling towards Stephenville at a high rate of speed - about 3,000 miles per hour is what I would estimate.”

Allen said the lights were not those of a normal aircraft. He said they were more like strobe lights, and while they were all watching, the lights reconfigured themselves from a single horizontal line into two sets of vertical lights.

They also said they saw two military jets ("possibly F16s") chasing after the ship. Link

Nanohazard symbol design competition

Have a peruse at the 54 pages (and counting) worth of entries in this "Design a Nanohazard Logo" competition. Then, add your own! Link (via Beyond the Beyond)

Free muni WiFi forces local monopoly to improve

Competition from a free municipal WiFi network in Lawrence, KS (a one-ISP town) has forced the local monopoly into providing a competing free service:
Lawrence has been touted nationally as the "land that anti-trust forgot". It is one of the few cities in America where one company owns the cable provider, cable news channel, daily newspaper, online news journal, weekly independent and most popular website. What keeps this media machine running smoothly? Broadband Internet revenue. According to Ralph Gage, former Chief Operating Officer of The World Company, 53 percent of the World Company’s annual revenue was generated by broadband Internet access.

"What better place to start a municipal WiFi project," jokes Joshua Montgomery, founder of the Lawrence Freenet Project and CEO of the organization’s for-profit service provider, "I mean what could possibly go wrong?" The Lawrence Freenet municipal WiFi project was launched in April of 2005 by a small group of local geeks. "Mostly we just wanted to see what we could do with Wi-Fi," says Montgomery, "we started off with a $50 WiFi access point and a DSL connection. Now the organization has one of the largest mesh networks in the nation and serves over 1,100 members with broadband Internet access – all without a single dime of tax payer money."

Link (Thanks, Offlogic!)

Meraki free mesh WiFi network spreading across San Francisco

Evan sez, "Meraki makes it brain dead simple to share wi-fi and pushes it out to massive scale at super low costs. The result is free wi-fi across areas much bigger than previously feasible by individuals, and at much lower cost and subject to much lower red tape than previous municipal wi-fi projects."

Free the Net is a community-built network. Meraki provides the technology, but we rely on people to help build and grow. There are a number of ways you can help:

* If you can see the Free the Net signal, sign up for a free repeater to boost your signal.
* Volunteer to host an outdoor repeater on your roof or balcony. The outdoor units help spread the signal throughout your neighborhood and are critical to the growth of the network.
* Spread the word! Tell your friends and neighbors to sign up at
* Check out the network map and keep yourself up-to-date on our progress.

Link to project, Link to map

EDGE Question 2008: What have you changed your mind about?

I've been traveling in Central America for the past few weeks, so I'm late on blogging a number of things -- including this. Each year,'s John Brockman asks a new question, and a bunch of tech/sci/internet folks reply. This year's question: What have you changed your mind about?
Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?

I was one of the 165 participants, and wrote about what I learned from Boing Boing's community experiments, under the guidance of our community manager Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Link to "Online Communities Rot Without Daily Tending By Human Hands."

Here's a partial link-list of my favorite contributions from others:

Tor Nørretranders, W. Daniel Hillis, Ray Kurzweil, David Gelernter, Kai Krause, Clay Shirky, J. Craig Venter, Simon Baron-Cohen, Jaron Lanier, Martin Rees, Esther Dyson, Brian Eno, Yossi Vardi, Tim O'Reilly, Chris Anderson, Rupert Sheldrake, Daniel C. Dennett, Aubrey de Grey, Nicholas Carr, Linda Stone, George Dyson,Steven Pinker, Alan Alda, Stewart Brand, Sherry Turkle, Rudy Rucker, Freeman Dyson, Douglas Rushkoff .

Sky belt-trains of tomorrow, 1932

The Endless Belt Trains for Futuristic Cities described in the November, 1932 ish of Modern Mechanix is one of my all-time favorite tomorrows of yesterday -- a world run on rails, rising high above the city, slicing through it with arrow-straight, improbable lines:

Passengers board the first local train at any point, and it stops every 50 seconds for a period of 10 seconds. When the doors close, a gong sounds and the local platform starts moving. Now there is another signal and gates open for a second platform, or express, on which the passenger takes the major part of his trip. After ten seconds the gates close and the local slows down for another stop, while the express picks up to a 22 m.p.h. speed.

Noise of the system is at a minimum, and passengers are delivered at no more than 300 feet from their streets. All stations are controlled from one central point, all elements being so timed that there can be no hitches.


Physics of Information: great panel discussion

Last week on CBC Radio's national science program, Quirks and Quarks, they broadcast a recording of a fascinating panel discussion on "The Physics of Information: What the Universe Doesn't Want You to Know," held at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. In this wide-ranging discussion a panel of distinguished and likable physicists run down such subjects as the universe as a computer, quantum teleportation, the fundamentals of information science, The panelists were in a state of near-hilarity through much of the the event, and that only made the subject better. Included on the panel were: Dr. Leonard Susskind (Stanford), Dr. Seth Lloyd (MIT), Dr. Christopher Fuchs (UNM), Sir Anthony Leggett (Urbana-Champaign), and the moderator, Bob McDonald, host of Quirks and Quarks.
The Physics of Information was the topic of a recent public forum, sponsored by Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, and moderated by Bob McDonald. And Quirks was there to record the event. Do ideas about information and reality inspire fruitful new approaches to the hardest problems of modern physics? What can we learn about the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the beginning of the universe and our understanding of black holes, by thinking about the very essence of information? Those are some of the questions our panel tackled.
Link, Link to MP3, Link to podcast feed

Skyscraper airport of tomorrow, 1939

This November, 1939 Popular Science article fantasizes about a futuristic "skyscraper airport" for the "city of tomorrow." Pretty good predictions, except they missed the whole no-shoes, no-liquid, no-dignity policy. Link

Mitsubishi's elevator-testing tower

Mitsubishi has erected a tall, skinny, hollow tower filled with elevator shafts for testing high-speed lifts:
The 173m-high (567ft) structure is called Solae and dominates the skyline of Inazawa City...

The 5bn-yen ($50m;£25m) project will allow Mitsubishi to test new drives, gears, cables and other lift systems.

Link (Thanks, Geoff!)

Video of rotating boat wheel

200801021106Scotland's Falkirk wheel is a $34.8 million engineering marvel. It's a rotating elevator for boats, and is fun to watch in action. Link