Connect, they say, only connect

Good article by Emily Eakin in the New York Times about the panoply of network theory books gracing the shelves of bookshops everywhere:

“Mr. Watts, 31, is a network theorist. And these days that means fielding frequent calls from powerful admirers like Mr. Berkeley — Wall Street moguls and government officials eager to tap into a nascent academic science that few understand but that many think may hold the key to everything from predicting fashion trends to preventing terrorism, stock market meltdowns and the spread of HIV.”

Read the full article here (free registration required).

“That’s it, I’ve had enough! I’m going to PowerPoint you!”

I don’t quite believe this one, but it’s fun anyway…

“I know a woman who disciplines her children with PowerPoint briefing charts. Well, the stapled handouts themselves aren’t the actual punishment; it’s the whole presentation that goes along with them. When things really go awry in the household — when the garbage isn’t taken out, when bedrooms go uncleaned, when there’s horseplay at church — out come those briefing charts.”

Read the full article here.

Negroponte on diversity and innovation

An article in Technology Review by founder of MIT’s Medialab and author of Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte:

“One of the basics of a good system of innovation is diversity. In some ways, the stronger the culture (national, institutional, generational, or other), the less likely it is to harbor innovative thinking. Common and deep-seated beliefs, widespread norms, and behavior and performance standards are enemies of new ideas. Any society that prides itself on being harmonious and homogeneous is very unlikely to catalyze idiosyncratic thinking. Suppression of innovation need not be overt. It can be simply a matter of people’s walking around in tacit agreement and full comfort with the status quo.”

Read the full article here.

Satisfaction is all you need

An interesting discussion paper from the UK Government’s Strategy Unit:

“Most societies pursue a range of ends — such as freedom, justice, human development, order or equality. Some give these goals formal expression: liberté, egalité et fraternité in France; ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ in the USA: — Bhutan even has a stated goal of Gross National Happiness. This paper introduces research that sheds light on the determinants of one of these goals: life satisfaction.”

Read the paper here.

The first think tank?

I was lucky enough to be able to hear Jenny Uglow, author of the Lunar Men, speak yesterday evening. She’s effervescent about her subject, brimming over with facts and anecdotes about the eighteenth century friends who met in Birmingham once a month — on the full moon — to eat, drink and talk about the latest developments in science, technology and philosophy.

The story centres around the lives of Matthew Boulton (the Birmingham entrepreneur), James Watt (inventor of the first efficient steam engine), Erasmus Darwin (doctor and grandfather of Charles Darwin) and Josiah Wedgewood (of pottery fame) among others. What’s remarkable is how successful the group became and how important the influence of other members of the group was on their success. As Jenny Uglow put it yesterday evening: “Each had his own niche, so there was little direct competition. But each was fascinated by everything.”

Gaby Wood’s review of the book in the Observer tells you more and Malcolm Gladwell’s review in the New Yorker digs a little deeper.

Ten emerging technologies that will change the world

The current edition of MIT’s excellent Technology Review puts its finger in the wind to see which way technology is going to blow. However as they put it, “These are not the latest crop of gadgets and gizmos: they are completely new technologies that could soon transform computing, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and our energy infrastructure.” They also profile the people working in these emerging fields.

Check out their predictions here.

You have a mobile phone in your print queue

New Scientist reports this week on developments by a team at Berkeley working on using 3D printers to produce complete electronic devices.

“Instead of creating a casing and then laboriously filling it with electronic circuit boards, components and switches, the plan is to print a complete and fully assembled device. The trick is to print layer upon layer of conducting and semiconducting polymers in such a way that the circuitry the device requires is built up as part of the bodywork.”

When they’ve perfected the technique, the team are hoping to be able to print light bulbs, TV remote controls and maybe mobile phones. This new technology of printing a mixture of electronic and flexible materials simultaneously has been dubbed ‘flexonics’.

‘Gadget printer’ promises industrial revolution