5/8/2013 11:54:38 AM
The April launch of the Digital Public Library of America brings the knowledge-sharing we love about local libraries to the internet.
This article originally appeared at Shareable.
Public libraries exist to ensure that people have free and open access to information. The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which launched in April, aims to provide that same access to information and materials, in the digital realm.
A project several years in the making, there are three facets to the DPLA: it’s an open portal that provides access to a variety of resources including documents, photographs, historic artifacts, film footage, art and other culturally significant materials; it's a tech platform for people to build upon (think apps that reveal geotagged materials); and it's an innovation and advocacy organization that works to make, and keep, content openly available to the public.
Launching with over two million materials from museums, libraries, schools, cultural centers and more, the DPLA is just getting started. The grand vision is to have the library be an ever-growing hub for librarians, students, teachers, artists, developers, historians and anyone else who is interested in seeing, learning about, using, repurposing, expanding and sharing materials.
John Palfrey, president of the Board of Directors of the DPLA sees the library as a symbol of the networked age. As he put it, “The most exciting idea is that we cannot begin to imagine the extraordinary things that librarians and their many partners can accomplish with this open platform and such extraordinarily rich materials...We will create new knowledge together and make accessible, free to all, information that people need in order to thrive in a democracy.”
6/17/2011 2:40:31 PM
What makes a bike stay upright? Many of us can repeat the conventional grade-school wisdom that the gyroscopic effect is the magical stabilizer of the spinning bike wheel—but scientists are finding that the physics of biking are much more complex than this, reports Science News. They are learning this in part by trying to knock over moving bikes.
A bicycle in motion, even riderless, can coast for long distances without falling. The bike-abusing researchers are learning that neither the gyroscopic effect nor another long-accepted explanation, the “trail effect,” entirely explains the bike’s stability. Writes Science News:
Bicycles, the team suggests, are more complicated than previously thought. While gyro and trail effects can contribute to stability, other factors such as the distribution of mass and the bike’s moment of inertia can play a role as well. Computer simulations that take all of these factors into account could lead to improved designs for folding bikes with small wheels or bikes that carry cargo, [scientist Andy] Ruina says.
So remember, bikers, whether you’re keeping it pure on a fixed-gear or geeking out on a slow-rolling “comfort” bike, many of the same physical forces apply. And as for the oft-maligned weird cousins of the bicycle world, recumbent bike riders? They are no less than the fearless test pilots of the future.
Source: Science News
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5/12/2011 1:14:25 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best science/technology coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into perspective.
Writing about science for a broad audience is a challenge—one that Discoverrises to each time it puts out a fact-packed issue. The magazine delves into scientific discoveries, personalities, and debates, turning biology, chemistry, physics and other disciplines into compelling stories that illuminate as they entertain.
Engineers are responsible for some of the most exciting innovations in modern science. IEEE Spectrum, the official magazine of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, translates the advances in computers and robotics into a language that geeks can love and anyone can understand.
We wish more reporters would go to Johns Hopkins Public Health for story ideas and analysis instead of relying on oversimplified press releases. The biannual publication brings a global perspective to everything from malaria and AIDS research to sleep disorders and innovations in eyewear.
Only one magazine would teach readers how to make a steam pump electrostatic generator and a letterpress-printing machine in the same issue.Make magazine takes science away from the scientists and puts technology in the hands of garage innovators and do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
In a world besieged by a seemingly endless list of baffling challenges, Miller-McCuneis a smart, clear-eyed tonic. The monthly’s editors seek out cutting-edge research to demystify the day’s most pressing issues and highlight institutions and innovators that provide reason for hope.
is inexhaustible. Every two weeks it surveys groundbreaking research in a variety of disciplines to deliver in-depth, inviting stories. Want to know a lot more about archaeology? A little something about superstring theory? This is your go-to guide.
does much more than review the day’s coolest gadgets and mind-blowing scientific innovations. MIT’s magazine gets into the cultural and political implications of those innovations to help experts and casual readers better understand how new technology will change the wider world.
See our complete list of 2011 nominees.
Image by woodleywonderworks, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/28/2010 2:09:58 PM
You don’t have to spend much time digging around in the Utne Reader’s library to learn that alchemy of one sort or another remains an enduring obsession of both science and society. The magazines and newspapers of our time are full of stories that are essentially about people trying to turn one thing (usually worthless) into something else (usually something of value). On one end of the spectrum you have the alchemy of celebrity as exemplified by Lady Gaga, and on the other there are the alchemists of the Green movement, who are trying to save the earth. You could, I suppose, disagree about where the most interesting alchemy is taking place, but you’d have to be living in a pretty shallow pool to think that anything Ms. Gaga is up to is of greater relevance than—just for instance—the work of Gerardine Botte. And as fascinating as I may find the antics of the former, I’m even prepared to argue that Botte’s got Gaga beat in the interesting department.
A professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University, Botte has, according to Conservation Magazine, somehow figured out how to turn urine into hydrogen fuel. It turns out that urine contains two compounds—ammonia and urea—that are necessary for the production of hydrogen.
I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have any idea how the hell this business might work (and, yes, I did read the article), but it sounds legitimate and potentially inspiring. And should you wish to write off Botte as a crackpot, understand that she’s apparently not alone in embracing urine’s energy potential; Conservation’s Sarah DeWeerdt reports that there’s also a company in the U.K. that is already at work on a fuel cell “powered directly by urine.”
Botte, though, might already be one step ahead of the Brits. She is the chief technology officer for a recently-launched company, E3 Technologies, that aims to commercialize what they call “pee power.” E3 hopes to have a “GreenBox” prototype on the market by the end of 2011.
Panel image by Stephen Edmonds, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/12/2010 11:27:11 AM
The workers of the world, despite their terrestrial solidarity, won’t unite to colonize other planets. Humanity’s expansion into space will be a strictly bourgeois-driven affair, argues Monthly Review’s Peter Dickens. The commodification of space, he writes, has already begun:
It has now been made an integral part of the way global capitalist society is organized and extended. Satellites, for example, are extremely important elements of contemporary communications systems. These have enabled an increasing number of people to become part of the labor market. Teleworking is the best known example.
Space tourism and electricity production will likely be the next big businesses conducted in space, but at what cost? Dickens takes issue with the grandiose rhetoric of the Space Renaissance Initiative, an advocacy group that promotes the growth of society past the Earth’s atmosphere, which argues that the Earth is on the brink of social, environmental, and population crises and the best way to avoid a global collapse is to stretch our collective legs. Dickens argues the Space Renaissance Initiative’s proposed solution is capitalist exploitation dressed up in a space suit. “The ‘solution,’” Dickens writes,
seems to be simultaneously exacerbating social problems while jetting away from them. Consumer-led industrial capitalism necessarily creates huge social divisions and increasing degradation of the environment. Why should a galactic capitalism do otherwise?
Space may not even be the final frontier for capitalism. Dickens turns to a nuanced Marxist critique of the commodification of space, which draws on the scholarly work of Polish philosopher and economist Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburg maintained that capitalist societies require an “outside,” a sort of unconquered, underdeveloped periphery at which to aim growth and consumption. It serves a dual purpose: First, the outside is a potential source of new resources and second, the fervor to develop the outside fuels the economy on the “inside.” If space is the new outside, then it will ultimately be conquered, developed, and commodified—in which case, the solar capitalist economy will require a new outside.
What lies beyond the cosmos? And where can we go when we’ve stripped the universe of its resources? Any science-fiction fan could answer that. When the galaxies are barren, we’ll set our sights on the untapped riches of alternate universes and time-travel to pilfer past and future energy sources. There is always an outside.
NASA Goddard Photo and Video
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10/26/2010 1:52:17 PM
What’s the old adage? Buy low, sell when Twitter users are in bad moods? Is that it? If not, maybe it should be, because according to a story in Wired, "[t]he emotional roller coaster captured on Twitter can predict the ups and downs of the stock market, a new study finds. Measuring how calm the Twitterverse is on a given day can foretell the direction of changes to the Dow Jones Industrial Average three days later with an accuracy of 86.7 percent.
The findings were somewhat stumbled upon, according to Johan Bollen, the social scientist behind the study. Attempting to find the mood of the public through Tweets, Bollen and Huina Mao, a grad student, used a questionnaire aimed to attach feelings to adjectives. After searching millions of Tweets for those adjectives—and other words used in conjunction with them—Bollen and Mao figured they could see the general mood of the population—at least those on Twitter.
Using this information along with an algorithm trained to predict the fluctuations of the stock market, the algorithm’s accuracy increased to 86.7 percent from 73.3 percent. That is, when the information of the general mood on Twitter was taken into account, this algorithm was able to predict much more accurately which way—up or down—the stock market would go.
Bollen admits that more research is needed to understand why this happens, but until then, why not add Twitter to your list of resources for figuring out who’s best to play with your money?
Image by mil8, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/1/2010 11:46:32 AM
Is a machine alive if it lives on compressed air? No, but a breathing motorcycle could significantly reduce emissions in developing nations like India. The concept is simple: A tank introduces compressed air into a turbine, where the air expands and thus turns the engine. As LiveScience reports, the engine "could be available to consumers within a year, said Bharat Raj Singh, a researcher at the SMS Institute of Technology in Lucknow, India and one of the developers of the engine. A prototype, modeled in a paper published in May in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, is capable of running a motorcycle at speeds of up to 50 mph (80 kph) for 30 minutes."
In a country like India, where many people use small motorbikes, it could be the kind of environmental boon you are always reading about on the internet. (Wait…)
Image by f650biker, licensed under Creative Commons.
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