When I was a kid, I thought a lot about what made me different from the other kids. I don’t think I was smarter than them and I certainly wasn’t more talented. And I definitely can’t claim I was a harder worker — I’ve never worked particularly hard, I’ve always just tried doing things I find fun. Instead, what I concluded was that I was more curious — but not because I had been born that way. If you watch little kids, they are intensely curious, always exploring and trying to figure out how things work. The problem is that school drives all that curiosity out. Instead of letting you explore things for yourself, it tells you that you have to read these particular books and answer these particular questions. And if you try to do something else instead, you’ll get in trouble. Very few people’s curiosity can survive that. But, due to some accident, mine did. I kept being curious and just followed my curiosity.

Open-access champion and RSS co-creator Aaron Swartz, who took his own life last week at the age of 26, echoes Neil deGrasse Tyson, Isaac Asimov, and Sir Ken Robinson. A heartbreaking loss in innumerable ways.

Some thoughts on Aaron’s legacy in digital culture from Stanford’s Jennifer Granick.

( Daring Fireball)


A moss-covered table that harnesses electricity from photosynthesis to power small electronics (called “photovoltaics”) and a fiber-optic chandelier that shines through petri dishes of customizable bacterial cultures from this awesome New York Times article on science and design in the home. Don’t miss the slideshow.

Say WHAT?!

Five hundred years ago, technologies were not doubling in power and halving in price every eighteen months. Waterwheels were not becoming cheaper every year. A hammer was not easier to use from one decade to the next. Iron was not increasing in strength. The yield of corn seed varied by the season’s climate, instead of improving each year. Every 12 months, you could not upgrade your oxen’s yoke to anything much better than what you already had.

Kevin Kelly (via inthenoosphere)

For more, watch as Kelly explores the nature of technology through technology’s eyes.

The five most disruptive technologies from CES

1. Wireless Power

2. The Intelligent Home

3. The Interface of You

4. You’re the doctor

5. Technology that knows you better than you know yourself. 

(via disrupt-it)


I love the creative use of technology to deliver a completely new experience. It almost feels more like a real-life video game than a book. 

The Silent History book/app releases daily episodes of about 1,500 words as well as GPS locked field notes that can only be read at a specific location.

“The Silent History app is available in the App Store for $1.99 and includes Volume One, the first twenty chapters of the story.

For readers who are hungry for more and want to explore the novel’s world in more depth, there are hundreds of GPS locked ‘Field Reports’ that can only be read when the reader takes their device to the specified place. These location-based stories can be accessed across the U.S. and around the world, including one in Antarctica.”

(via Digital Book Only Unlocks Content When Readers Are In A Specific Location - PSFK)

Typing on a standard qwerty keyboard can be boring. Typing on a ripe mango, however — now that’s infinitely more interesting. MaKey MaKey is a kit that can make such surrealist dreams come true by turning conductive objects into computer keys and buttons.

MaKey MaKey: Who wants to use bananas as a computer keyboard? (Wired UK)

Jay Silver (PopTech 2012) is an inventor who created Makey Makey, a kit that allows users to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the Internet, like creating a piano out of bananas or mangos. Watch his PopTech talk.

Glowing umbrellas and art without authorship

The modern performance company Pilobolus and MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory teamed up at PopTech 2012 along with several hundred volunteers for a collaborative art excercise. Guided by a camera fixed on a towering crane, the volunteers moved around holding umbrellas fixed with LED lights to spontaneously create dramatic colorful formations in a darkened outdoor amphitheater. 

Humans talk funny. We invent words. We smash words together, tear them apart, abbreviate them one way, then another. Which is great and fun, if you’re a human. Not so great if you are a machine or the kind of human who programs machines to understand language.

And so, when IBM’s famous artificial intelligence, Watson, he/she/it of Jeopardy-winning fame, was in development, its head researcher had a great idea. Humans created this repository of slang, The Urban Dictionary. […] So, he and his team, fed the whole thing into their AI.

But one problem. Informal language has a tendency to be dirty, nasty language. Its insults and cuss words, new names for gross old things, old names for gross new things, etc. And so, we learn from Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram, they had to delete all that human messiness from Watson’s memory.

Codecademy adds API training with YouTube, NPR, Bit.ly, and 6 other services to help new devs build actual products


One of the difficult things when learning to code is to have actual content and data to work with.

Codeacademy, the free online platform with programming lessons, is solving part of that problem by partnering with others to bring data sets to the table via API’s.

Via VentureBeat:

The new lessons on Codecademy will help users build web apps that, for instance mash up news from NPR with YouTube videos on the same topic. Or, build a product highlighting hot social content being shared with Bit.ly, and charging for it with Stripe. New developers could even start interacting with mobile phones and sending text messages via Twilio’s API, [Codeacademy cofounder Zach] Sims said.

“This is part of our continual belief that the best way to learn is by creating,” Sims said in an email.

And that’s precisely the core goal: helping new programmers get started with building online apps, even if they have almost no programming knowledge. Other launch partners who will also being including lessons on their APIs include Parse, Soundcloud, Sunlight Labs, Placekitten, and Sendgrid.

This is a big part of what the Codecademy turn-users-into-makers movement is focusing on in 2013: helping people create stuff.

And via the Codeacademy announcement:

What can you do with these APIs? Build awesome websites with video with YouTube’s. Shorten links on the fly and grab stats with Bitly’s. Mash up the news with NPR’s. That’s just the beginning - we’ll be adding more APIs soon!

API partners include Youtube, NPR, Bitly, SoundCloud and Parse among others.

If you want to get started with free lessons to learn how to use API’s, jump in here.