Beyond the mind’s eye – blind photography and other photonic sensing

This topic has been in the news lately.  It seems that there is new research that reveals a primal sense of awareness and vision underlying our ability to recognize visual images.  I first came across this in a piece done on NPR and in the NY Times on a blind mans ability to navigate an obstacle course.  This patient was left blind by two successive strokes and received damage to the information processing part of his brain, but did not sustain damage to his eyes or optic nerve.  In spite of the inability to process visual stimulation, he was able to successfully navigate an obstacle course which was laid before him.

I then saw this piece on CNN about a photograph exibit by blind photographers at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Israel.  What a unique concept.  Kfir Sivan and Iris Darel-Shinar have run a photography workshop for blind photographers.  The pictures are very stunning and haunting at times.  I would love to go see the exhibit.

I was also looking at an article written by the MIT News Office on Elizabeth Goldring,  an artist, poet, and Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.  Over the last 20 years, Goldring has developed what she refers to as a “seeing machine”.  The first prototype cost over $100,000, but this most recent incarnation has a possible price tag of around $500 and the possibility of opening access to visually impared people.

The advances in understanding visual perception and processing offer hope for people who have lost their ability to connect to their surroundings.  This understanding, along with the growing recognition of the artistic contributions provided by these individuals, will make the neuro-visual research an exciting field to follow.

Joost Bonsen – Maximizing Progress

I ran into Joost on Thursday of last week at Bosworth’s Cafe in Lobby 7 at MIT.  As usual, ended talking about one of our favorite subjects, emerging technologies and the developing countries.  Joost is a good friend with whom I have shared many beers at the Muddy Charles pub.  He is one of those people that makes MIT such a great place to be.  Joost is interested in everything dealing with global startups, social enterprises, sustainability, innovation, and technology.  He runs the blog Maximizing Progress, in which he shares stories about people, ideas, technology, and just plain cool stuff that happens around MIT and the world.

I love spending time with Joost as we usually end up kicking back some tasty brews, discussing and sometimes pushing to the limit ideas dealing with the plight of humanity and how science, technology, and engineering can provide answers to some of the issues facing the developing world.  Just a little of what he does around MIT and Cambridge: HighTech Fever on Cambridge Community TV; teaches various seminars and classes at MIT; The Muddy Charles Pub; Techlink; MIT Enterprise Forum; HowToons.  If you see him around campus, definitely stop him and introduce yourself.

Discovery Channel’s Global Education Partnership

I came accross the Discovery Channel‘s Global Education Partnership.  This is a very interesting project sponsored in part by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Chevron‘s Economic and Community Development program, along with many other companies and individuals.  In their own words:

In collaboration with local educators in underserved countries, Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership harnesses the educational power of television by creating Learning Centers – versatile community resources where students, teachers and entire communities can access and share information.

The Global Education Partnership provides equipment, training, and program development to communities in underserved countries.  Unlike many other programs, this one is structures to provide both short therm and long term resources and support to all the community where the education centers are established. It is good to see that television is being used to do good and to bring educate.

Nanocarbon tubes and other techno-art mediums

If you haven’t seen this, you should go to the NanObama web site and take a look at this new art medium that uses nanocarbon tube structures as the basis for creating images and electronic figures.  While you are there, make sure you go and take a look at the gallery of other nanoimages at NanoBliss. This is a pretty cool and innovative use of the the technique of photolithography and catalyst patterning.

In the last several years there has been an Academic interest in developing the creative side of scientists.  Several Institutions have begun dedicated programs for the nurturing and development of the scientist / artist.  There are now several programs dedicated to the advancement and education of scientists as artists. Harvard Medical School BioArt Progam and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute BioArt Program have dedicated BioArt programs.  The Canadian Association of Physicists has a yearly Art of Physics competition.  Brown University has a nice listing of Art and Technology programs from Universities from around the world.  It will be interesting to see how scientists start to use newly developed laboratory protocols and images from their results to generate a whole new art media.

The beginning of a New Day

Barack Obama PictureI have been watching the procession of Presidential Elect Barack Obama’s train snaking its way from Philadelphia to Washington.  They have just been introduced in Baltimore and are walking onto stage.  As I watch and listen to the speech, to the references to the history of this Country, the sacrifices which were made to get to this point, I am filled with renewed fervor and hope for the future.  These last eight years have been a hard and dark period in our history.  The attack on the Ideals and the Visions on what our Country has been founded on, both from without and from within, has brought me to the brink of despair.

My hope for this Country is rekindled.  I have been paying close attention to what has been said this week about the return of respect for facts and science, of the making descisions based on reality and not for those who can benefit us financially, of holding our leaders accountable for their actions.  I am not naive; I know of the shortcomings of men and of the pitfalls of power.  I have hope though, that maybe, just maybe, America, as a country, can again inch forward in its pursuit of providing those unalienable rights and liberties for all the members of our Country.

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

TED Logo

I remember the first time I visited the a TED conference (it stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design) website.  Jarrett, a good friend who I blogged about, introduced me to a video from Aubrey de Grey called Why we age and how we can avoid it.   de Grey  has very interesting ideas regarding the disease called aging and what modern science and engineering can accomplish to minimize and prevent the causes and effects of aging and dying.  I instantly became hooked on TED!a

Since then I have become a regular visitor to the TED site, logging on and listening to talks ranging from evolution and god, to design and emerging technologies.  This is one of the few places that I can go and get inspired by the stories and the vision of incredible thinkers and doers.  TED expanded my view of the relationship between ideas, design, innovation, and the development of technology to benefit every part of humanity.

Jarrett Goetz – Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

I met Jarrett during my stint as Vice President of the MIT Graduate Student Council in the 2004-2005 school year.  He was in the MIT Sloan Fellows program and Harvard, John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) program and I was in the MIT Chemistry PhD program.  We hit it off extraordinarily well and have remained close friends ever since.

Jarrett is an incredible friend and a great business mentor.  He is very passionate about everything involving innovation, entrepreneurship, and startups (see his LinkedIn profile).  Jarrett is very active in the Boston community  providing his leadership and professional skills to many philanthropic and non-profit enterprises at home and around the world.

Catching up

It seems that I am just now catching up to the blogosphere.  I have been meaning to do a blog for a while, but between finishing my PhD and life, there was little time for such an endeavor.  I figured that starting a blog would be a great New Years resolution; one I could actually keep.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be adding information about places, people, and things that I have encountered since I moved to Boston.  Some of these are old news, but they have made an impression on me and are still part of my daily life.  I hope that you will take an electronic trip, visit some of these landscapes, and get a glimpse of the places I have been to and meet the people I have had the good fortune to cross paths with.

Variability in food caloric value

New Years Day I am having dinner with a good Jarrett at a chain restaurant eating one of their health conscious salads.  We were commenting on how the volume of the salad changed every time we went there to eat.  That led to the discussion of how many calories were actually in the salad vs. how many the restaurant advertised in the menu.  One thing led to another, bets were made, and now I am looking for access to a calorimeter which will allow us to measure the caloric content of said salad.  Now being in Boston and at MIT, you would think that it would not be hard to find such a machine.  It is now the 10th of January, and I am still looking for the calorimeter.  BTW, if you happen to have one just tucked away in the corner of your basement or your laboratory, drop me a line.

Happy New Year

Why blog?  Why me?  With so much to see out there and all the other places to go and see, why would you want to spend your time here?

This blog is as much for me as it is for you.  I love to talk about science and life, particularly when they invovle sharing these ideas around food and drinks; and now I am placing the best of these online to share with you.  I hope you enjoy these musings and come back from time to time to see what is new and exciting.