Friday, October 08, 2004

Fame, Fortune and Good Works, several times removed

We interrupt our regularly scheduled coverage of intra-county warfare and meltdown to bring you the following post.

Amy Smith - "Inventor cobbling sophisticated, life-enhancing devices from inexpensive materials for people in areas with little access to technology and even fewer resources to obtain it" - upon whom the MacArthur Foundation bestowed one of its "genius grants" last week - is the sister-in-law of a friend of mine from school.

Wonderful article on her in NY Times Magazine last year, Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. And from Wired, Oct 11 2004, A MacGyver for the Third World.

We are all very proud, including those of us who never met her because she was in Botswana at the time.

Along related lines:

Eva Harris (via)
In her own soft-spoken way, Dr. Eva Harris, 38, has become the Robin Hood of biotechnology.

She takes new discoveries in molecular and biological technology, breaks them down into their simplest forms, figures out ways to replicate them at lower costs and then transfers the information to public health workers in the developing world.

New O'Reilly magazine/book, Make ("The First Magazine for Technology Projects"), planned for January launch (via)-
Our premier issue will show you how to get involved in Kite Aerial Photography
...we chose to focus on cool things you can do with technology, not just what to buy
..."Martha Stewart for geeks."

If you can't wait for their first issue, here's the S.F. Chronicle on Kite Aerial Photography

David Butcher's Pedal Powered Generator
I have powered 12V CHAIN SAWS directly (yes, while someone else cut wood with them) with this unit.
At one point a ball-bearing 3600 GPH pump was substituted for the generator, resulting in amazing water pumping capacity....

Wanted: Innovations to feed the hungry
"Prizes have been used to solve many seemingly-intractable problems, from an 18th-century prize for determining longitude at sea, to the 20th century prizes for long-distance flight given to Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. These prizes work well when governments or philanthropists anticipate that a breakthrough would be valuable, but are unlikely to be easily sold in the marketplace or obtained from university laboratories"

Last year's attempt to bring bicycle-powered wireless Internet to Laos didn't succeed in its stated goal, but has spawned other ventures. From this update on the rugged PC they developed -
The Jhai PC, meanwhile, appears to have exposed an odd little niche. There appears to be quite a few places on the earth which are tantalizingly close to Net connections and telephony, but have no electricity, no cellphone coverage, and no landlines. Think of it as the developing world's equivalent of the last-mile problem.

WorldChanging (site with links to many more such stories)

Excellent 4-part series in Washingon Post (Dec. 2003) on Kakenya Ntaiya's path from a Maasai village in Kenya to college in Virginia (here she is now)

From Paul Graham's new essay:
...I explained what a nerd was. What I came up with was: someone who doesn't expend any effort on marketing himself...

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