NOAA’s video of green patterns earth shows how visualization helps show what data may indicate. The assertion that the visualization and data analysis helps understand weather, fire seasons, fertile areas, droughts, and more are tantalizing. If true at some level, this surveillance seems cool.
3D printing and its related technology is general purpose technology that can train kids for the future. I saw an example of that yesterday when I was able to visit La Jolla Country Day School where sixth to eighth grade kids on spring break were learning basic 3D Modeling and Design. Last week they worked on How to Make Musical Electronics. In the 3D modeling program, Ann Worth, an MIT School of Architecture graduate, guided the youngsters as they manipulated files of their heads so that at the end of the program they could print them. I also watched a video of two girls who had been shown how to make an amplifier and oscillator for their iPhones. Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney, UCSD was their instructor. The kids talked about trial and error, vectors and faces, and circuit boards with energy and joy. How often does that happen? If Katie Rast and her co-visionaries at FabLab San Diego have their way, much more often.
Despite some nerds are cool ideas, we still hear that kids are turned off by math and science and that there is a lack of good Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education. New programs may change all that. By taking an old idea like shop and updating it, a FabLab (short for Fabrication Lab) offers the chance to make learning about programing, engineering, geometry, and the jot of creation. Kids are willing to engage with formulas; start, fail, and restart projects; and work rather hard at their projects, because there is fun and an outcome for them. The spring break program I visited is called Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math, or STEAM. The University of California, San Diego and FabLab SD worked together to offer the classes (which to me is a tech transfer moment that is quite important).
In the 3D modeling program, the kids started with a series of photos, which were uploaded to 123D (a suite of 3D modeling apps by Autodesk). That service knits the images together into a file that the kids then download. In many cases there are holes in the images. As they made models of their heads, they laughed at the holes in their heads. They then used a program called Blender to learn about filling the gaps. That meant some kids were telling me about vectors, others about textures, and all showed off as they pulled, stretched, and edited files to create the proper rendering of their heads. After that, they grabbed files for the bodies. A range of animal bodies will be virtually sliced up to make the new creature upon which the heads will attach. When asked what they might do next, these folks talked about how metals, glass, and other materials would be awesome so they could make really functional items. Some talked about being able to have a home printer that could make solar cells to power other printers. When told that these ideas were already being pursued, eyes popped out of their heads, and then grins covered their faces at thoughts of what’s next (and I think a little pride at predicting where the technology could go).
The skills learned in these programs will persist even as the machines and software are superseded. Who knows? If I had access to this sort of tech training combined with math and science education, I might have stuck with that path. Even if I didn’t, I’d have a greater ability to play with and understand the technology that surrounds us. In short, congratulations to La Jolla Country Day School, UCSD, FabLab SD, Ann Worth, Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney, and Katie Rast for pursuing ways to make STEM fun and for kids. The ideas here remind me of Julie Cohen’s work about play and its importance in her book, Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice. As Rast said on a panel at SxSW, computer labs were often seen as saviors for education especially in low income areas, but they often gathered dust. The key is to have maker spaces that work for the group’s context. A lab need not have the latest technology. If the technology is connected to people in meaningful ways, then the magic can happen. I agree. The magic of playing with technology, understanding what you can do with it, and seeing new possibilities will fire the desire to learn and create. As Neil Gershenfeld (a leader in the Maker and Fab movement) put it, this is a liberal, as in liberating, art. But don’t take my word for it. As one kid told me at lunch, adults’ brains are not as good at learning as kids’ brains, and kids like showing what they can do. Now that is education.
I’m re-reading Gravity’s Rainbow (Pynchon now on Kindle by the way). Finished V. Finished Crying of Lot 49. Tried to pick up Vineland which I loved. Wanted the difficult, mad, beautiful language. Back to Gravity’s Angel. For fans I post a song I knew before I read the book. It is Laurie Anderson’s Gravity’s Angel. Honestly, she’s not for everyone. Maybe not for most. But if you dig experimental music and complex lyrics give it a shot. The album Mister Heartbreak from which the track comes is fun too. Again fun for some. It has William Burroughs on Sharkey’s Night. I quoted it at my Cal graduation. That is below too. Shorter.
Where’s the law? Not sure. As Burroughs intones, “And sharkey says: hey, kemosabe! long time no see. he says: hey sport. you connect the dots. you pick up the pieces.” OK for a bit more, as I have said here before, life beyond the law matters. And it turns out that knowing life beyond the law might make you a better lawyer. That, by the way, is why empathy for a judge is important and a good thing. If you can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, at least read more, listen to more, watch more. Great writing, great communication opens the door to the world beyond yours and mine. At least those are the dots I connect. The pieces I pick up.
In the words of Portlandia, innovation is over. Or as another era of hipsters might say, innovation is dead anyway (Swingers). Take a look at the posturing of European Publishers Council and Google over the recent German bill to force search to pay for material longer than a snippet.
“As a result of today’s vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped,” Google said in a statement. “However, the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation because it threatens innovation, particularly for start-ups. It’s also not necessary because publishers and Internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries.”
Translation: Insert resistance is futile jokes as needed, but you will work with us and win! We all will win, because we innovate and belong to the Church of Innovation (located somewhere south of San Francisco and north of San Jose).
“With the right legal conditions and the technical tools provided by the Linked Content Coalition, it will be easy to access and use content legally,” the European Publishers Council said in a statement (PDF) on Friday. “This will mean that publishers will have the incentive to continue to populate the internet with high-quality, authoritative, diverse content and to support new, innovative business models for online content.”
Translation: We have no idea what is next. But please give us more time, protection, and money. We promise we will come up with something new.
Confession: Have I invoked innovation. Of course. It is seductive. It is too seductive. Pam Samuelson is a fan of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, as is Neil Richards, and as am I. I must confess that I have sinned. I slipped away from Orwell’s mandate and went with the easy, meaningless word. I hate when that happens. I will try and stop.
Of course, what other word or words would say more is the next struggle. The German law says only a snippet is allowed. Right. What’s a snippet? Someone says innovate. I say, “Right. What’s innovate?” I hope to find out. If I am lucky, I may be like Bill Cosby’s Noah and come up with an answer no one else thought of. Hmm is that innovat… Khannn!!!!
Enjoy the clip
Question: Why 42 minutes 59 seconds? Not 43 minutes. Not 42 minutes, 58 seconds. 42 minutes 59 seconds. Solution: Step One. New receiver. Step Two. Unpack old B&W speakers. Step Three. Strip casing, twist copper. Step Four. Connect all. Step Five. Insert album designed for stereo. Step Six. Hit Play. Step Seven. Bliss.
Answer: Dark Side of the Moon. Forty years old as of March 1, 2013.
I unpacked my speakers and set them up a few weeks back. Headphones are nice. They are portable. They are personal. They may even allow sound to envelop you. But not like speakers. Dark Side of the Moon was the first CD I bought. It is a great way to appreciate music engineered for stereo. I put the disc in years ago. Hit play. The next 42:59 was great. The same was true a few Sundays ago. I had a cup of tea (loose leaf, my mix of lapsong, Assam, and Kenyan). I hit play. 42 minutes and 59 minutes slipped away. That was a good, damn good day.
I recommend getting to a stereo and trying it.
(Even on your computer, check out Money, below, for the stereo fun.)