Runcible circular smartphone recalls the pocket watch

Mohohm is positioning the palm-sized device as the 'world's first anti-smartphone'

We’ve become accustomed to cell phones as noisy, rectangular devices filled with applications that are designed to assist us – but often distract us – in our daily lives. California-based startup Mohohm is looking to buck the trend with Runcible, a round device that doesn’t use apps and doesn’t beep or vibrate to alert users. .. Continue Reading Runcible circular smartphone recalls the pocket watch

Section: Mobile Technology

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First Look: Google's New Digs By Thomas Heatherwick And Bjarke Ingels

Earlier this week, The New York Times broke the news that Internet giant Google is planning new starchitect-designed headquarters by Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heat

Earlier this week, The New York Times broke the news that Internet giant Google is planning new starchitect-designed headquarters by Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heatherwick. Not to be outdone by Apple’s Norman Foster-designed spaceship or Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed offices, the new Mountain View Googleplex will be a series of canopy-inspired buildings that break out of Silicon Valley’s boring office park mold. The greenhouse-style transparent buildings are surrounded by running tracks, peaceful meadows, and a flowing creek.

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Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine

This is a liveblog of a talk by Ramzi Jaber entitled Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine at MIT on February 27, 2015. It was blogged by Erhardt Graeff and Dalia Othman.



Ramzi Jaber is the co-founder and co-director of Visualizing Palestine, an initiative to amplify civil society actors working in Palestine through powerful and shareable design work. It is the first project of a larger effort called Visualizing Impact, an interdisciplinary nonprofit.

Ramzi begins by showing a data visualization of politician’s salaries across the Arab world and Africa. It was inspired by Lebanese politicians salary, where politicians still earn their salary after their deaths. In the case of Norway and Hungary the politician earns more than the citizen, but still stares the citizen in the face. Lebanon and Jordan at about 15 times and Palestine at 24 times and Kenya at 97 times are far from the average citizen. 

Visualizing Impact is about “visual stories for social justice.” Ramzi mentions the issue of administrative detention—an archaic law, a vestige of British colonialism—that is still being used and exploited to put thousands in jail. It has been used by Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. One detainee, Khader Adnan, had enough and started a hunger strike. A campaign started on Twitter to support Adnan with the hashtag #dying2live. It wasn’t until day 50 that the first media outlet (Al Jazeera) reported on Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, then other outlets followed around the world. Eventually at day 66 Khader Adnan ended his hunger strike and was soon released. 


To aid the effort, the Visualizing Palestine team looked through 21 medical reports to visualize what happens to the body when you go on hunger strike. Journalists, activists, and authors used the visuals and shared them on social media.

VP has created a series of visualizations since then. Looking at topics like:

  • A Policy of Displacement, using data from organizations like the House Demolition Committee
  • West Bank Water, he talks about the amount of rainfall in Ramallah as opposed to London.
  • Across the Wall represents Israel’s settlement bus routes, by scraping data from multiple sites and visualising that by using GIS
  • Checkpoint Births presents maps about the checkpoints and the restrictions to movement and the number of women that have given birth at checkpoints
  • Typologies of Segregation is a map about the roads that are restricted for Palestinians with data from B’tselem.
  • Uprooted visualizes the deforestation of olive trees by Israel that would otherwise be the agricultural and economic heritage of Palestinians.
  • Where Law Stands on the Wall looks at the legality of the wall being built on Palestinian land

At some point a lot of people were asking VP why they were visualizing issues strictly about Palestine. So Ramzi and the team decided to create infographics about how to make infographics to spread their model of data storytelling to make change. They are also partnering with Egyptian news company Mada Masr to create visuals on Egyptian issues.

One visual was created about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many refugees can’t work, banned by labor law in Palestine. Another visual provides information about refugees in Syria, Ramzi “The situation in Syria is really bad that some of the refugees had to go to Gaza”

The Visualizing Impact visuals have been displayed in art galleries as well as advertisements. Ramzi shows one on display in the DC Metro. The infographics have been translated into 10+ languages all by volunteers; Ramzi compliments the Koreans on being particularly generous and fast in their translations.

Another effort VP is working on in partnership is “The Palestinian Guide to Keeping Yourself Occupied.” Here Ramzi began quoting statistics around Palestinian governance and citizenry. 80% of the PA’s revenue is directly controlled by others such as Israel. Their security budget is about 36% which is higher than most countries and high for an interim government. 67% of West Bank Palestinians feel they are living in an undemocratic system. The PLO represents Palestinians with 37% of them residing in Palestine and the remainder 63% are either refugees or live in the diaspora.

Ramzi says part of VP’s current plan focuses on the ID system in the OPT. In South Africa, they had a number of different ethnicities in SA. There was a pencil test in South Africa where people placed pencils in their hair, if the pencil slipped then the person was considered white, if it did not then they were considered non-white. In 1950, SA introduced the ID system, and each ID number represented your ethnic race. There is similar situation in Israel, with specific numbers for different IDs. VP visualized where in Israel/Palestine the different IDs give you access: Blue (Israeli) or Green (Palestinian Authority). A green card ID holder is not permitted to enter Israel, drive the same car, etc.

Ramzi mentioned another project he’s now pursuing to look at online censorship. He’s inspired by the Anti-SOPA movement in the United States and the blackout day on the internet, which was an effective tactic in inspiring policy change and may represent where VP could go in the future in their campaigns.

VP is not without critics. Groups like CAMERA have challenged them on their factual basis and sources.

Question & Answer

Can you tell us a bit about you?
Ramzi was born in Jerusalem and had studied engineering in UAE. He wanted to return to Palestine and thought of starting TEDx there.

How big is the team and how are you funded?
The team is currently at nine people. Our funding depends on contracts with organizations such as UN, OXFAM, and ILO amongst others. VI also receive grants from a number of foundations.

How much exposure does your work get within Palestine?
Not as much as I’d like to, and that’s mainly because the infographics were set up to influence foreign policy and for the Palestinian Diaspora. We started in Ramallah and we had one team member who was crossing the borders to start working with us, but he was stopped at the borders and denied entry by Israel, so we were forced to move our offices abroad. We have an office in Lebanon and soon in Toronto.

Have there been active efforts to shut you down?
No, we have not.There was one instance where we created a video in reaction to a short posted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Our video went viral and Danny Ayalon actually published a video in response.

Do you have coverage in Israel?
Well, Israeli media keeps Israelis in the dark about Palestine.

What metrics do you used to measure your impact?
There are two kinds of measurements, qualitative and quantitative. We hear anecdotal evidence all the time, but it’s hard to always measure the number of downloads since our visuals are CC, but we also look at number of shares on social media.

How do you ensure the integrity of your data?
All our sources are from organizations and you can click on the data on the site next to each visual.

There is a difference between infographics and data visualizations and are you considering doing some data visualizations?
Yes, we’re working on that.

What about other countries?
Yes, we have focused on Lebanon and Syria. We are now creating Visualizing Egypt. But we have to partner with local organization to work in it.

Are there ways for us to donate?
Yes, go to the VP site.


Are coral reefs headed for another big collapse?

coral in Panamá

La Niña-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean are closely linked to an abrupt stoppage of coral growth that lasted thousands of years. Will today’s climate push reefs to another collapse?

For a new study, researchers traveled to Panamá to collect a reef core, and then used the corals within the core to reconstruct what the environment was like as far back as 6,750 years ago.

The findings show that cooler sea temperatures, greater precipitation, and stronger upwelling were evident about 4,100 years ago when reef accretion in the region suddenly stopped.

Coral collapse triggers

“Investigating the long-term history of reefs and their geochemistry is something that is difficult to do in many places, so this was a unique opportunity to look at the relationship between reef growth and environment,” says Kim Cobb, associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology.

“This study shows that there appears to have been environmental triggers for this well-documented reef collapse in Panama.”

Climate change is the leading cause of coral-reef degradation. The global coral reef landscape is now characterized by declining coral cover, reduced growth, and calcification, and slowdowns in reef accretion.

The new data will help scientists understand how changes in the environment trigger long-term changes in coral reef growth and ecosystem function—a critical challenge to coral-reef conservation.

Cool and wet

“Temperature was a key cause of reef collapse and modern temperatures are now within several degrees of the maximum these reefs experienced over their 6,750 year history,” says lead author Lauren Toth, who was a graduate student at Florida Institute of Technology during the study.

“It’s possible that anthropogenic climate change may once again be pushing these reefs towards another regional collapse.”

For the study, published in Nature Climate Change, researchers analyzed a 6,750-year-old coral core from Pacific Panamá. They then reconstructed the coral’s past functions, such as growth and accretion (accumulation of layers of coral), and compared that to surrounding environmental conditions before, during, and after the 2,500-year hiatus in vertical accretion.

“We saw evidence for a different climate regime during that time period,” Cobb says. “The geochemical signals were consistent with a period that is very cool and very wet, with very strong upwelling, which is more like a modern day La Niña event in this part of the Pacific.”

Sensitive to change

In Pacific Panamá, La Niña-like periods are characterized by a cold, wet climate with strong seasonal upwelling. Due to limited data at the site, researchers can’t quantify the intensity of La Niña events during this time, but document that conditions similar to La Niña were present.

“These conditions would have been for quite an extended time, which suggests that the reef was quite sensitive to prolonged change in environmental conditions,” Cobb says. “So sensitive, in fact, that it stopped accreting over that period.”

Future climate change, similar to the changes during the hiatus in coral growth, could cause coral reefs to behave similarly, the study suggests, leading to another shutdown in reef development in the tropical eastern Pacific.

“We are in the midst of a major environmental change that will continue to stress corals over the coming decades, so the lesson from this study is that there are these systems such as coral reefs that are sensitive to environmental change and can go through this kind of wholesale collapse in response to these environmental changes,” Cobb says.

Future work will involve expanding the study to include additional locations throughout the tropical Pacific.

“A broad-scale perspective on long-term reef growth and environmental variability would allow us to better characterize the environmental thresholds leading to reef collapse and the conditions that facilitate survival,” Toth says.

“A better understanding of the controls on reef development in the past will allow us to make better predictions about which reefs may be most vulnerable to climate change in the future.”

The Geological Society of America, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Science Network supported the study.

Source: Georgia Tech

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Mercedes reveals ravenous-looking AMG GT3

The new GT3 racer from Mercedes-AMG

Mercedes-AMG has unveiled its new GT3 racer. It is an altogether more hedonistic and angry-looking version of its GT sibling, which looks positively sedentary in comparison. The GT3 will race in the FIA GT3 Championship…
Continue Reading Mercedes reveals ravenous-looking AMG GT3

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software and technology • Looking for Biomorphic Modeling Software

Hello board,

Does anyone here know about the kind of software that is used by designers like Daniel Widrig or Neri Oxman for example? (

I’m looking to use and get familiar with a parametric software that can allow me to design or model shapes that have a biomorphic look to them, from very biologic (N. Oxman) to semi-biologic (D. Widrig/Zaha Hadid)). I’ve looked online, but cannot seem to find anything relevant. Maybe parametric software is not the right name, I’m not sure, but I would really appreciate it if someone could point me to a softwware that allows to model such shapes.

If they use conventional software like Rhino or Alias or Maya, are there tutorials onto how to model these shapes and forms?

I’m not sure where to begin. Hope someone can help me out. Thanks in advance.



Are patent trolls good for innovation?

troll doll on desk casts shadow

Patent trolls are much maligned, but they may have surprising benefits for investors and the innovation economy.

Stephen Haber, a political science professor at Stanford University, suggests that concerns about too much litigation involving patents are misguided.

A patent troll is a person or company that buys patents—without any intent to produce a product—and then enforces those patents against accused infringers in order to collect licensing fees. Some say the resulting litigation has driven up costs to innovators and consumers.

To the contrary, Haber says, his working paper, written with political science graduate student Seth Werfel, shows that trolls—also known as patent assertion entities, or PAEs—play a useful intermediary role between individual inventors and large manufacturers.

Their study focused on why inventors choose to sell their patents to PAEs rather than license their technologies directly to manufacturers. The asymmetry in financial resources between the inventor (small) and the manufacturer (large) is a key motive for doing so.

“A primary reason why individual patent holders sell to patent assertion entities is that they offer insurance and liquidity,” writes Haber.

In an interview, Haber says, “If there’s something like patent trolls that exist that are supposedly bad, but you observe a lot of them, you have to ask yourself, what role do they play in making a market work?”

The cost of litigation

Haber and Werfel’s study was based on a survey experiment of Bay Area inventors and entrepreneurs. To test the hypothesis that financial constraints affected the decision of individuals to sell to PAEs, the researchers randomly varied the cost structure of litigation, with some subjects being told they had to choose between hiring a lawyer at an hourly rate or on a contingent fee basis.

For inventors, contingent fee litigation eliminates upfront costs as well as potential financial losses, Haber says. As a result, it may be seen as insurance for an inventor selling his patent to a PAE.

The researchers also surveyed the risk preferences and loss aversion of the participants. The assumption was that those more prone to avoiding financial losses—inventors more so than entrepreneurs—would be more likely to sell to a PAE.

The findings showed that those hiring contingency fee lawyers were 40 percent less likely to sell to a patent troll, while the effect for entrepreneurs was statistically insignificant.

‘Inherent risk’

The results show that inventor demand for patent trolls is associated with perceived financial constraints, according to Haber, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he directs Hoover’s working group on intellectual property.

Haber explains that the imbalance in financial resources between individual patent holders (inventors) and large manufacturers prevents those inventors from credibly threatening to litigate against infringement.

“First, individuals may not be able to cover the upfront costs associated with litigation. Second, unsuccessful litigation can result in legal fees so large as to bankrupt the individual. Therefore, PAEs offer a way for individual inventors to guarantee profits from their patents without having to engage in costly litigation,” Haber says.

Without patent trolls, Haber says, inventors would be more limited in the innovation ecosystem.

As he says, “It not like someone puts a gun to someone’s head and says, ‘Sell me your patent.’”

After all, investors face an inherent risk as soon as they file their patent—which describes the product—and certainly when they show it to a manufacturer. “Somebody else could copy it,” he notes.

The price tag matters

Haber suggests that America’s patent system is the best in the world, and that policymakers should not rely on claims that patent trolls and lawsuits discourage innovation and commercialized technology.

“They should demand robust evidence that the current system is slowing down innovation. That evidence does not exist,” he writes in a prior article.

Haber explains that large corporations produce many patent-intensive products—like smartphones.

For example, a smartphone contains thousands of patented components—but the manufacturer may not own many of them. And so, it must negotiate for the right to use them. The less a manufacturer pays to use technology patented elsewhere, the higher the profit it can make. And the manufacturer will greatly benefit, of course, if it pays nothing at all, he adds.

While the number of patent lawsuits has increased by about 60 percent since 2000, as Haber acknowledges, the increase reflects a dynamic economy. In fact, today’s courts are in a process of clarifying intellectual property and contract rights during a period of “disruptive technology,” he says.

Finally, he says, robust innovation has brought a dramatic decline in prices for patent-intensive products—and that is the metric that American consumers care about, not the number of lawsuits between manufacturers.

For instance, since 1992, the quality-adjusted price of telephone equipment has fallen by 6.7 percent, televisions by 14.4 percent, and portable computers by 26.7 percent a year, according to Haber.

He says the role of patent trolls is more complex than many imagine. “It is often simplistically portrayed, and often from the point of view of a large manufacturer.”

Source: Stanford University

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