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7 strange vehicles to get you from A to B

The Bird of Prey bike takes a form typically limited to one-off rides for speed record ...

The rise of the internet and byproducts like Kickstarter has facilitated a spread of ideas like never before, some fun, some world-changing and a whole lot that can only be described as weird. The realm of transport is a particularly good place to see oddball creations in action, and while the seven presented here might not be the most effective in getting you where you need to go, they would certainly turn some heads along the way.

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Category: Urban Transport


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general design discussion • Re: Machines v. Humans

Well…A handmade boat will have more human spirit, but you will also need more spirit not crashing it into the rocks when storm hits.
You can also turn your attention to a superhuman god-like perfection, but that doesn’t mean you won’t drown.
Therefore you need experts that can integrate form, function and human interaction – the industrial designer.

consumer products • Re: Hearing aids – inconspicuous or fashion accessory?

Yes, I am very much for a hearing aid designed as fashion/jewelry item.
The difficulty is testing the market because you are much more likely to get false positives since there is a large gap between product affinity and buying behavior.
Customers may individually respond positively to a product but a lot more factors determine whether they will actually adopt the product.
In the fashion world, shopping simulations need to be set up to accurately test responses without bias.

I have followed several projects including one of our students’:

The most important thing is that with stigmatizing medical products, people don’t want to show it as having a medical function.
So, you need to design it like something anonymous or a different product (ear jewelry or earphones for example)
Then there is the workflow towards manufacturing but that aspect has opened up since over 90% of hearing aid devices worldwide are now 3D printed.
Let us hear from you throughout the project!


Chris Hughes Got Lucky With Facebook, Now He Wants Everyone To Have A Shot

When Facebook had its IPO in 2012 and raised $104 billion, Chris Hughes walked away with $500 million. As Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, and Facebook’s second ever member, he managed to turn a few years work into a vast fortune. He didn’t even have to code. Hughes’s role in the early years was as Zuck’s “empath”–the one person in the geek team who could communicate and relate to the outside world.

[Photo: courtesy Chris Hughes]

Hughes, who left Facebook in 2007, recounts this in Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn, his new book arguing for a basic income. His point isn’t to downplay his achievements. He says he worked hard to mold the early brand. He didn’t come from wealth: his beginnings in North Carolina were modest. He got financial aid to go to prep school (Andover) and then Harvard. He earned his opportunities. But Hughes does think $500 million is a ridiculous reward for what he did. When, years later, he was feted at college commencements (and in Fast Company), he didn’t recognize the hero presented. His success wasn’t old-fashioned American Dream-type success–not the hard-won sort of his parents and grandparents.

Winning The Lottery

“I knew what it felt like to achieve great things after working hard for them, and Facebook was indeed an incredible success story. But it was a starkly different kind of success than any of my ancestors had lived. . . . What we’d experienced at Facebook felt more like winning the lottery,” Hughes writes.

Of course, Facebook is an extreme case of extreme wealth. But Hughes links his experience to the modern economy at large. He argues that the same forces that allowed Facebook to control 80% of the world’s social media traffic are not dissimilar with those that allow 160,000 American families to control as much wealth as the bottom 90% of the income scale. Technology, globalization and the pre-eminence of financial capital propelled Facebook to what it became. And they also propelled inequality, instability, and wage stagnation among a large number of people in the lower and middle classes. We’ve created an economy that creates the most winningest of winners–people like Hughes and Zuckerberg—while it does little for millions of others.

“The problem is not that our new economy has fueled the rise of Facebook and mega-winners. It’s that the growth of the ultra-wealthy has come at the expense of everyday Americans,” Hughes writes. “Rapid technological advances, globalization, and financialization are pulling the rug out from under the middle class and lower-income Americans.”

[Image: courtesy Chris Hughes]

Time For A Basic Income

Basic income is a stipend governments can pay to people to cover their fundamental needs. And it has a lot of fans these days, notably in Silicon Valley. Zuckerberg has said it’s worth studying. Elon Musk, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and guru Tim O’Reilly have also spoken favorably of it. Normally, their support is framed as a response to the technology the Valley is itself creating. They argue that we’ll need to find some future way of embellishing people’s incomes if automation makes work either scarce or non-existent.

Hughes isn’t really in that camp. He’s less concerned with 2030 or 2050 and more concerned with now. He says a lot of economists think the “end of work” thesis is ahistorical hokum anyway. And, even if they are wrong this time, he says basic income makes sense in our current circumstances. The working poor are already finding it hard to live on what they earn at Walmart and McDonald’s. And the middle class is doing worse than income levels might suggest (the median income is about $59,000 a year). Though food and many consumer goods (big screen TVs!) are cheaper than ever, the big stuff like college, healthcare and housing, keep costing more. The stuff that families need to be more financially stable and socially mobile are the most out of reach. Between 1995 and 2015, the cost of living, including these key items, rose by 30%, according to an analysis by NPR Marketplace.

Hughes proposes giving everyone earning less than $50,000 a year an extra $500 a month, provided they are working in some way. That includes not only people with jobs in the classic sense, but also freelancers and contractors on less stable incomes. It also includes people bringing up kids or looking after “dependents,” who are often excluded from poverty-reduction discussions, but who arguably do as much work as anyone. A family of four on $38,000 a year would, therefore, see their income bumped up to $50,000. About 90 million Americans in total would benefit.

“The guaranteed income would create a floor below which people could not fall, a reliable foundation for people to build on,” Hughes writes. “It wouldn’t be enough money on its own for anyone to live on. It would be supplement income from other sources like formal labor, a job in the gig economy, informal work, or other government benefits.”

Hughes’s version of guaranteed income (his preferred phrase) isn’t as ambitious as some other proposals. Some purists would like a benefit paid to everyone, even the rich, as this might be an easier sell politically (nobody can complain about preferential treatment) and easier to administer (no need to check out what people are earning). Hughes prefers to set the threshold at $50,000 because, well, poorer people need it more. The money would come from an additional tax on people earning more than $250,000 a year. He’s not in favor of collapsing other social assistance programs to pay for a unified basic income scheme, as some advocates, particularly on the right, have suggested.

We already have a workable way of paying for a basic income, Hughes says: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The program, which sends $70 billion in tax refund checks to 26 million families and individuals a year, is a proven success story. It lifts more people out of poverty than food stamps, unemployment insurance, and housing vouchers combined and it helps people into employment. It also has supporters on the left and the right. Hughes suggests simply expanding the EITC to include more people and making the program more visible and dependable. Currently, EITC amounts depend on earnings and annual checks arrive unpredictably. Hughes would make the EITC payments monthly, by direct deposits, for the guaranteed amount.

Hughes says there needs to be more “movement building” before basic income becomes a reality. He’s trying to achieve that through his Economic Security Project nonprofit, which brings together academics, activists and technologists, and funds research, including a basic income trial in Stockton, California.  Democrats may get behind basic income in the 2020 election cycle if they’re looking for bold, non-traditional economic ideas, he says.

Hughes is certain, though, that we can’t wait too long. Maybe there will be plenty of jobs in the future, maybe there won’t be any jobs. But, in a sense, the future is already here: the jobs that are available tend to be less secure, pay less well, and come with fewer benefits, than in the past. We already need new ways of supporting people other than simply saying “get a job.”

“People find it hard to find financial stability even in the jobs they already have,” Hughes tells Fast Company. “We have near-record unemployment and record high stock prices, and yet median wages have barely budged [in recent years] and jobs are unreliable. We keep talking about 2050 and self-driving cars. But if we’re talking about starting today, we need something that’s affordable and doable and that has a real power to help people who need it the most.”

Team Jamaica’s Coach Took Their Bobsled When She Quit, So Red Stripe Bought Another One

When the men’s bobsled team from Jamaica failed to qualify for the Winter Olympics, the country found renewed hope in its first-ever women’s team making it to Pyeongchang. However, those hopes were briefly dashed when team coach Sandra Kiriasis suddenly quit, claiming that her job role changed from driving coach to track analyst, which, in turn, wouldn’t give her access to the athletes.

But it’s not just team spirit Kiriasis was walking away with–she also laid claim to the women’s bobsled. Upon hearing that the Jamaican team was without their main piece of equipment, other country’s offered to help but a donor closer to home swooped in.

Jamaican beer company Red Stripe tweeted their support, saying the team could put a bobsled on their tab–and it turns out they did. According to Adweek, Red Stripe confirmed they wired the money and the bobsled has been purchased.

Talk about goodwill branding.

general design discussion • Re: Machines v. Humans

jon_winebrenner wrote:
Mr-914 wrote:In a recent Autocar, Chris Bangle is quoted:

Today’s pop is so well produced that it becomes an inhuman wall of blandness. That god we have rap and hip-hop defending humans doing music.?

I’ll tackle this one as I know you and I are on polar sides of this spectrum….music has fallen into the hands of those seeking large dollars because there is no longer room for musicians to make a living wage unless you are filling larger venues and selling gobs of t-shirts. The digital trade of music has destroyed music at the same time.

You once said music should be free for everyone to enjoy, which means that music must be created by people – for free – and then freely distributed. It caters to the mentality of the Lowest Common Denominator which does nothing but bland everything down.

So, it is my opinion, that music created with drum machines and pitch correction is easier. You don’t need to develop talent, you just need to produce it well and crank out a lot of it. So, with little to no margin to make money people will go the route of easy to make the buck.

although i think it is maybe somewhat debatable, most can concede that (music) creation is easier given the capability & ubiquitousness of affordable tools…but i think you are romanticizing pop music of yesteryear a bit, popular music has always been comparatively well produced and the purview of profit seekers. i feel like it has been the case that most musicians have always had a tough go making a living wage from the music exclusively…

now it is a fact that digitization of music has only made it that much more competitive and probably makes the few big music companies still here even more interested in investing in music that has broad appeal as their business model of using the big acts to subsidize, develop, & find other artists doesn’t work nearly as well now. the flipside is not only is there arguably way more diverse, niche music being made now (absent a quality judgement) but as a result people have broader/more interests across musical genres and seem more willing listen to different music; albeit maybe not as deep…i think because hip-hop, even more than popular music, has been so openly entrepreneurial, that has perhaps helped it thus far reconstitute itself into different incarnations in ways that other genres have not?

isn’t the process of cranking out a lot of music is the process of developing talent? granted the incubation period (if at all given how easy it is to publish) is maybe much shorter…

yo wrote:
I think there is a bit of a “safe” mentality when it comes to purchasing decisions. IE,” I’m in Best Buy, and all of the other choices are black plastic rectangles, so that must be the right thing to get. This mahogany and white speaker must be the wrong thing to get…”. Most people want product like that to blend in. When they are in a retail environment and all of the other products are black plastic bricks, that seems to blend in. When they come home maybe they realize their room is not made of black plastic bricks and that thing actually stands out now!…. a couple of years after the heritage launch I was able to bring the walnut finishes and white back for independent retailers, so they would have something different from Best Buy and Amazon, and they crushed with it. It was the right distribution channel with a true sales team and a nicer retail environment to help the user make sense of the product.

that last bit matters, there are plenty of sensible, if maybe not always fully informed, reasons why people would not choose a product that naturally patinas or incorporates some more ‘natural’ materials in a retail spot like best buy, having a product exist the in a certain context & with a knowledgeable staff, catered to a certain audience is super advantageous…

it’s almost like older classic vehicles vs. new vehicles, in the abstract maybe most people would love to own a classic vehicle and very much appreciate it’s character, but the reality is that the maintenance & upkeep might not be something they’d want to deal with, pay the premium for, or even really be able to use regularly…

Emotionally Intelligent Ways To Express These 5 Feelings At Work

You’ve heard by now that you need to be “transparent” and “authentic” and to “bring your whole self” to work. More often than not, these phrases are shorthand for expressing your feelings. But while it’s true that you need an emotionally intelligent approach both to build a great work culture and to advance your own career, there’s more to it than just wearing your feelings on your sleeve.

Showing emotional savvy isn’t only about candor, though that’s certainly part of it. Properly channeling your emotions in the workplace is a powerful leadership skill. With that in mind, here’s how to calibrate and convey five of the most common emotions you’re likely to experience at work.

Related: Why Emotionally Intelligent People are More Successful

1. Vulnerability

In his 2012 book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni argues that good leaders show their vulnerability by using expressions like “I screwed up,” “I need help,” and “Your idea is better than mine.” He’s right that humility and vulnerability matter. But there’s a fine line between sharing your insecurities and undercutting yourself as a leader.

For example, if you tell your coworker you’re accepted a speaking gig because you want to work on your speaking skills–public speaking has never come easily to you–that’s sharing a vulnerability in a way that supports, rather than undermines, your leadership; your colleague will probably admire your courage and feel touched by your honesty. But if you get up in public to give a speech and tell the audience you’re not comfortable with public speaking, that undercuts your ability and lowers their expectations.

Related: This Is The Emotionally Intelligent Way To Handle Stage Fright

2. Empathy

Showing empathy brings you closer to everyone you come into contact with, but it’s possible to go overboard. There are times when conveying empathy in certain ways can actually weaken your ability to lead.

Suppose a team member is having a crisis in his personal life and has been seen in the bar around the corner drinking heavily after work with his staff. The best form of empathy is to help your team member work through the problem without enabling his behavior. Speak with him privately and offer to connect him with any counseling and support offered by your company’s HR department. Make yourself available for one-on-one conversation. But if the destructive habits persist, you may need to discipline or fire the individual.

It’s one thing to empathize with difficulties your team members may be having, but it’s another to let that compromise your leadership or tacitly encourage a toxic work culture. It takes emotional intelligence to try and understand someone’s point of view without adopting it yourself.

Related: 5 Ways The Most Effective Leaders Manage Their Emotions

3. Joy

Many companies try to create happy work environments through free food, games, and fun rituals means to blow off steam. But some of those experiences can create a giddy kind of joy, which can sometimes lead to an atmosphere dominated by extroverts who aren’t focusing enough on their work. Too much loud, exuberant activity can distract and alienate people who are trying to get things done.

A better way to cultivate and express joy at work is simply to share your excitement about the work you’re doing with your team. Emphasize the fun of collaborating. This joy is contagious, and because it instills a sense of purpose, dedication, and fulfillment in others, it won’t tilt into a constant party atmosphere.

Related: These Emotionally Intelligent Habits Can Make You A Better Listener

4. Anger

Anger emerges from frustration, anxiety, and conflict, but yelling and screaming is never the right response. The first step toward channelling your anger in an emotionally intelligent way is simply to step back and ask yourself whether the situation warrants such negative feelings. If on closer consideration it doesn’t, then try to let it go.

This usually means removing yourself temporarily from the source of your frustration so you can get a little clarity. After you’ve done that, find words that let you express your concerns to whoever’s responsible in an assertive but not aggressive way. Avoid accusatory language, and focus on the solution rather than the problem. It’s actually okay to get angry at work every now and then, but venting never helps.

5. Fear

Fear is another inevitable emotion you’ll encounter at work–usually due to awkward interpersonal situations. Maybe you’re afraid to ask your boss for a promotion or to press for a client to finally tell you if you’ve got a deal. So you hem and haw, get tongue-tied, or decide not to broach the uncomfortable subject at all.

The better approach is to acknowledge your anxiety and recognize that you’re going to feel uncomfortable, but that there are other things about the situation worth paying attention to as well: the desired outcome, for example, or facts on your side. When your fear stems from confronting a higher-up, remember that title and rank don’t define leadership. The more you speak up and show confidence in the face of authority, the more leadership you’ll be able to project despite your underlying nervousness.

Emotional intelligence involves dealing with our emotions so that they serve–rather than undermine–your leadership. Don’t try to “manage” or suppress them, but if you can pause long enough to consider how to communicate your feelings, you and your coworkers will always be better off.

3 plans to avoid blackouts using 100% renewable energy

Researchers have proposed three different methods for providing consistent power in 139 countries using 100 percent renewable energy.

The inconsistencies of power produced by wind, water, and sunlight and the continuously fluctuating demand for energy often hinder renewable energy solutions. In a new paper, which appears in Renewable Energy, the researchers outline several solutions to making clean power reliable enough for all energy sectors—transportation; heating and cooling; industry; and agriculture, forestry, and fishing—in 20 world regions after all sectors have converted to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

The researchers previously developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050 with 80 percent of that transition completed by 2030. The present study examines ways to keep the grid stable with these roadmaps.

Multiple solutions

“Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” says lead author Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“This solution would go a long way toward eliminating global warming and the 4 million to 7 million air pollution–related deaths that occur worldwide each year, while also providing energy security.”

“…the greatest barrier to the large-scale implementation of clean renewable energy is people’s perception that it’s too hard to keep the lights on…”

The paper builds on a previous 2015 study by Jacobson and colleagues that examined the ability of the grid to stay stable in the 48 contiguous United States. That study only included one scenario for how to achieve the goals. Some criticized that paper for relying too heavily on adding turbines to existing hydroelectric dams—which the group suggested in order to increase peak electricity production without changing the number or size of the dams.

The previous paper was also criticized for relying too much on storing excess energy in water, ice, and underground rocks. The solutions in the current paper address these criticisms by suggesting several different solutions for stabilizing energy produced with 100 percent clean, renewable sources, including solutions with no added hydropower turbines and no storage in water, ice, or rocks.

“Our main result is that there are multiple solutions to the problem,” says Jacobson. “This is important because the greatest barrier to the large-scale implementation of clean renewable energy is people’s perception that it’s too hard to keep the lights on with random wind and solar output.”

Meeting demand

At the heart of this study is the need to match energy supplied by wind, water, and solar power and storage with what the researchers predict demand to be in 2050. To do this, they grouped 139 countries—for which they created energy roadmaps in a previous study—into 20 regions based on geographic proximity and some geopolitical concerns.

Unlike the previous 139-country study, which matched energy supply with annual-average demand, the present study matches supply and demand in 30-second increments for 5 years (2050-2054) to account for the variability in wind and solar power as well as the variability in demand over hours and seasons.

For the study, the researchers relied on two computational modeling programs. The first program predicted global weather patterns from 2050 to 2054. From this, they further predicted the amount of energy that could be produced from weather-related energy sources like onshore and offshore wind turbines, solar photovoltaics on rooftops, and in power plants, concentrated solar power plants, and solar thermal plants over time. These types of energy sources are variable and don’t necessarily produce energy when demand is highest.

The group then combined data from the first model with a second model that incorporated energy produced by more stable sources of electricity, like geothermal power plants, tidal and wave devices, and hydroelectric power plants, and of heat, like geothermal reservoirs. The second model also included ways of storing energy when there was excess, such as in electricity, heat, cold, and hydrogen storage. Further, the model included predictions of energy demand over time.

With the two models, the group was able to predict both how much energy could be produced through more variable sources of energy, and how well other sources could balance out the fluctuating energy to meet demands.

Keeping the lights on

Scenarios based on the modeling data avoided blackouts at low cost in all 20 world regions for all five years examined and under three different storage scenarios. One scenario includes heat pumps—which are used in place of combustion-based heaters and coolers—but no hot or cold energy storage; two add no hydropower turbines to existing hydropower dams; and one has no battery storage.

The fact that no blackouts occurred under three different scenarios suggests that many possible solutions to grid stability with 100 percent wind, water, and solar power are possible, a conclusion that contradicts previous claims that the grid cannot stay stable with such high penetrations of just renewables.

Overall, the researchers found that the cost per unit of energy—including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy—in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path. This is largely due to eliminating the health and climate costs of fossil fuels. Also, by reducing water vapor, the wind turbines included in the roadmaps would offset about 3 percent of global warming to date.

Although the cost of producing a unit of energy is similar in the roadmap scenarios and the non-intervention scenario, the researchers found that the roadmaps roughly cut in half the amount of energy needed in the system. So, consumers would actually pay less.

Green energy is more popular if it’s the default

The vast amount of these energy savings come from avoiding the energy needed to mine, transport, and refine fossil fuels, converting from combustion to direct electricity, and using heat pumps instead of conventional heaters and air conditioners.

“One of the biggest challenges facing energy systems based entirely on clean, zero-emission wind, water, and solar power is to match supply and demand with near-perfect reliability at reasonable cost,” says Mark Delucchi, coauthor of the paper and a research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Our work shows that this can be accomplished, in almost all countries of the world, with established technologies.”

Planning ahead, working together

Jacobson and his colleagues says that a remaining challenge of implementing their roadmaps is that they require coordination across political boundaries.

“Ideally, you’d have cooperation in deciding where you’re going to put the wind farms, where you’re going to put the solar panels, where you’re going to put the battery storage,” says Jacobson. “The whole system is most efficient when it is planned ahead of time as opposed to done one piece at a time.”

Germany’s big push for renewables is paying off

In light of this geopolitical complication, they are also working on smaller roadmaps to help individual towns, many of which have already committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.

Additional coauthors of this paper are from Aalborg University in Denmark and UC Berkeley.

Source: Stanford University

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With a twist, rubbery material goes from flexible to stiff

Stress a muscle and it gets stronger. Mechanically stress a new rubbery material—say with a twist or a bend—and the it automatically stiffens by up to 300 percent, the engineers says.

In lab tests, mechanical stresses transformed a flexible strip of the material into a hard composite that can support 50 times its own weight.

…the new material could be used in medicine to support delicate tissues or in industry to protect valuable sensors.

This new composite material doesn’t need outside energy sources such as heat, light, or electricity to change its properties. And it could be used in a variety of ways, including applications in medicine and industry.

The researchers found a simple, low-cost way to produce particles of undercooled metal—that’s metal that remains liquid even below its melting temperature. Researchers created the tiny particles (they’re just 1 to 20 millionths of a meter across) by exposing droplets of melted metal to oxygen, creating an oxidation layer that coats the droplets and stops the liquid metal from turning solid. They also found ways to mix the liquid-metal particles with a rubbery elastomer material without breaking the particles.

When this hybrid material is subject to mechanical stresses—pushing, twisting, bending, squeezing—the liquid-metal particles break open. The liquid metal flows out of the oxide shell, fuses together, and solidifies.

“You can squeeze these particles just like a balloon,” says lead author Martin Thuo, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University. “When they pop, that’s what makes the metal flow and solidify.”

The result, lead author Michael Bartlett says, is a “metal mesh that forms inside the material.”

Octopus-inspired material morphs from flat to 3D

Thuo and Bartlett, also an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State, say the popping point can be tuned to make the liquid metal flow after varying amounts of mechanical stress. Tuning could involve changing the metal used, changing the particle sizes, or changing the soft material.

In this case, the liquid-metal particles contain Field’s metal, an alloy of bismuth, indium, and tin. But Thuo says other metals will work, too.

“The idea is that no matter what metal you can get to undercool, you’ll get the same behavior,” he says.

The engineers say the new material could be used in medicine to support delicate tissues or in industry to protect valuable sensors. There could also be uses in soft and bio-inspired robotics or reconfigurable and wearable electronics.

“A device with this material can flex up to a certain amount of load,” Bartlett says. “But if you continue stressing it, the elastomer will stiffen and stop or slow down these forces.”

Squishy motor lets soft robots crawl over rocks

The researchers describe the material in a paper in the journal Materials Horizons.

The Iowa State University Research Foundation is working to patent the material, which is available for licensing. Iowa State startup funds for Thuo and Bartlett supported development of the new material. Thuo’s faculty fellowship also helped support the project.

Source: Iowa State University

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