September 30, 2009

Jeff Pulver - 140 Words about 140 Characters

Instant messaging and tweeting limits people to 140 characters or less. Like a haiku, limitations require cleverness and have a beauty of their own.  Jeff Pulver wrote 140 words about the 140 character limitation which he performed at Gadgetoff 2009 -

Jack, Ev, Biz.
Start Obvious
Prototype twitter
What are you doing?
Fail Whale
Social Media
Business Model?
Don’t Spam.
Be Responsible.
Have Conversations.
Capture and share life’s moments.
Discover people.
Make friends.
Attend tweetups.
SXSW 2007
Share links.
Discovery: Sites, People and News
Real-time Search emerges.
Fred Wilson invested.
me too.
Advertising Brands. Policies?
Business Model?
Politics. The Presidency.
The Media. Connect to TV Anchors. Newspaper Writers. Authors.
Celebrities now tweet.
Music industry too.
News breaks.
Susan Boyle
Plane in Hudson
NOW Media
Ashton Kutcher. Larry King.
Race to a Million.
Real-Time Internet Emerges
Systemic Change with worldwide adoption
Iran Elections.
Public Diplomacy? Yes!
Public Safety? Police tweet.
Michael Jackson dies. We mourn.
Sarah Brown
Business Model? now evolving.
Valuation? Now a Billion?
What’s next?

August 25, 2009

A Flash of Lightning

There are some wonderful things you could do if you had  millions or electron volts lying around and Bert Hickman at Stoneridge Engineering has done some.

I just bought this beautiful piece of scientific art from "Teslamania", his website.  It is called a "Lichtenberg Figure" and was made by charging up a piece of lucite with a high-power electron beam and discharging it suddenly by whacking a grounding nail into the side.  The effect is dendritic, fractal and simply beautiful.

I also have a quarter that they shrunk to the size of a dime in a violent explosion done with an energized coil.  The coil explodes at the same time the coin shrinks.

Bert's work is truly a flash of lightning.

June 14, 2009

Pop Goes the Glove

I bought a neat strobe trigger from a company called Quaketronics while I was at the wonderful Maker Faire in San Mateo, California a few weeks ago.  Zach and I finally got a chance to emulate our hero, Doc Edgerton, by stabbing at inflated rubber glove.  Not bad for our first attempt.

February 18, 2009

A.Q. Khan and the Oath Not Taken

Fans of A.Q. Khan He is old, angry, and suffers from thrombosis and prostate cancer. Yet this sick old man, who trained as a metallurgical engineer, is often described as the most dangerous person on Earth.  Father of the "Islamic Bomb," Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is a wildly popular figure at home in Pakistan.  No less than fifteen academic institutions have been named in his honor there. Several days ago, throngs of adoring fans erupted in joy as Pakistan's High Court declared Khan "a free man" ending his five-year house arrest.

Dr. A.Q. KhanFor more than fifteen years, Khan and his international team of scientists and engineers eluded (and at times colluded with) various intelligence agencies in a successful effort to create and detonate Pakistan's atomic bomb.  Estimates are that Pakistan now has dozens of nuclear weapons and Khan is portrayed as the savior of his nation against the threat of nuclear blackmail from neighboring India.

Captured Libyan Centrifuges Supplied by Khan's NetworkYet, for most of the world, Dr. Khan is regarded as a reckless and egotistical scientist who widely disseminated nuclear secrets and sold highly restricted equipment. His simple motive: greed.  Five years ago, under pressure from Pakistan's former President General Pervez Musharraf, Khan confessed he ran an illicit worldwide nuclear export network. This massive operation trafficked and traded nuclear materials, gas centrifuges, and critical bomb-making blueprints to countries that included North Korea, Libya, and Iran.

After the public confession, Musharraf immediately pardoned this "national hero," prohibited him from being questioned, and isolated him under unofficial house-arrest. This frustrated international investigators who sought to unravel how much of the nuclear genie Khan set loose around the world and why several of his key associates had met with Al Qaeda leaders.

Have the Pakistani courts freed the most dangerous man on Earth? At the moment, Dr. Khan is still held closely under guard.  His network of agents and collaborators appear to be more carefully monitored now. Might they resume trading in global Armageddon? Possibly.  But Dr. Khan remains dangerous. His release and "rehabilitation" trumpets a tragic message to the world that gross scientific misconduct has no adverse consequences.  He is lionized at home when logic and justice demand retribution for his reckless proliferation. His irresponsibility endangers all mankind and he remains unrepentant.

When asked just days ago what the international community would think of his release, Khan was unapologetic: "Are they happy with our God? Are they happy with our prophet? Are they happy with our leader? Never," he said. "I don't care about rest of the world. I care about my country."

Well, I care about the rest of the world. Most scientists and engineers care about it too.  The problem is that the relationship between scientists and the world has completely changed.  When the 20th century began, scientists and engineers could cause society a modest amount of mischief and harm.  Today, the work of a few determined rogue scientists could destroy a significant portion of our world.  The release of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons or the dissemination of radioactive "dirty dust" are probabilities civilization must now actively prepare for.

Significant threats no longer require massive state-sponsorship.   With rapid advances in biotechnology and with greater dissemination of weapons research and technology, the ability for unethical scientists to manufacture weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has increased exponentially in the past few years and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Intelligence communities, of course, struggle to identify threats as these scientific capabilities continue to grow. But these agencies have limited scientific resources (especially lacking personnel with sufficient training and specialized knowledge of emerging threats.) They have largely focused their efforts on prominent "rogue" governments and terror organizations. So far, they have had mixed results identifying such threats: (i.e.,: failing to assess the status of  chemical and biological weapons in Iraq; failing to discover nuclear weapons research in Syria; failing  for years to comprehend the former Soviet Union's  enormous biological weapons capabilities, etc.)

Equally troubling is how these intelligence agencies have, in large part, been unsuccessful in early detection of "independent" threats: (i.e., timely tracking of Khan's nuclear network; failing to anticipate the release of nerve gas on Tokyo subways; the lengthy and fumbled investigation into the anthrax attack that shut-down Senate office buildings.)

As destructive technology becomes simpler to develop and deploy, scientists must join the frontlines in the battle to protect the public from those whose intention is to abuse science and cause great harm.

Medical doctors take a Hippocratic Oath: First, Do No Harm. Physicians (and even their patients) understand that those who intentionally cause harm practicing medicine must be sanctioned and punished.   Engineering and scientific societies also have established varying codes of ethical standards. In sharp contrast to medical standards, engineers and scientists are first introduced to ethical codes of conduct (if at all) only after reaching post-graduate study. This is too little and way too late.

It is astonishing that clear codes of ethics are not widely subscribed to by scientists.  Even where there are ethical codes, no enforcement mechanisms exist to make these meaningful. While scientists with terrorist aspirations are unlikely to be deterred by codes of conduct (no matter how well-defined), having standards widely inculcated in the broad scientific community is likely to deter those on the periphery of such work. Such standards will encourage scientists and engineers with suspicions about unsavory behavior to help uncover potential threats.

Would a code of ethics deter A.Q. Khan? Of course not. But imagine a world in which scientists know they have ethical strictures to abide by.  Imagine that even the children of scientists and their neighbors know that great responsibility comes with the territory. It would have been far more difficult for A.Q. Khan's network to have flourished for more than fifteen years, largely avoiding significant scrutiny, if all of his associates, suppliers, and collaborators existed in an ethos where scientific responsibility was clearly understood... and where breaking ethical codes had consequences.

In 1999,  Sir Joseph Rotblat, physicist and  Nobel laureate, realized that the advances in science required the adoption of codes of responsibility.   He wrote, "Through its technological applications, science has become a dominant element in our lives. It has enormously improved the quality of life. It has also created great perils, threatening the very existence of the human species. Scientists can no longer claim that their work has nothing to do with the welfare of the individual or with state policies."

Rotblat suggested that scientists adopt an oath something like this: "I promise to work for a better world, where science and technology are used in socially responsible ways. I will not use my education for any purpose intended to harm human beings or the environment. Throughout my career, I will consider the ethical implications of my work before I take action. While the demands placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to peace." Hourglass Initiative

 I decided, after years of producing war coverage and reporting on technology and proliferation issues, that I would help scientists  become more involved  in preventing the spread of WMD s.  Tracing the arc of Dr. Khan's sociopathic nuclear enterprise should make it clear to all scientists and engineers that ethical standards are required on the job.  These codes of ethics must be spelled out and must be made enforceable. Scientists should have a means of anonymously reporting suspicious and unethical behavior especially regarding the development of WMDs.  Journalists, scientists, and investigators should work together to assess such threats. (See The Hourglass Initiative. )

In December 2008, an astonishing study, "World at Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism," chaired by Bob Graham and Jim Talent was released.   It detailed "where the risks to the United States are increasing: the crossroads of terrorism and proliferation in the poorly governed parts of Pakistan" and potential methods of preventing biological and nuclear terrorism.  Regarding the increasing threat, they quoted Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig who said, "Only a thin wall of terrorist ignorance and inexperience now protects us."

That thin wall gets thinner by the day as scientists without ethics, like Dr. A.Q. Khan and his henchmen, push the boundaries of technology with disregard of their ethical responsibility and the consequences for all of us.  The world indeed is at risk and scientists can be the cause or the cure.

February 3, 2009

The End is Near: What's Your Personal Apocalypse?

It's always good fun predicting how our world will end. So many of us engage in this sport, I'm hoping we can somehow harness the considerable intellectual energy that goes into this question. For example, recently my friend Brian Deagon forwarded an article from USA Today: Recession Prompts Bird Flu Concerns",  and summed up his apocalyptic vision this way:
1. Global depression - leading to...
2. Bird flu pandemic - followed by...
3. Global warming - resulting in...
4. Anarchy

I like the fresh, unorthodox way Brian organized his world-ending themes... but "Anarchy" suggests enough people will still be around to be anarchistic.  Brian's doomsday scenario seems more optimistic than most.  An April 2006 "Doomsday Poll" by TNS Market Research revealed nearly all Americans believed that some doomsday scenario could realistically destroy us.  More than three-quarters of Americans polled believe such a scenario is likely to be man-made.
The one uncertainty about our certain demise is the way it will come.  Robert Frost pondered just two theories in "Fire and Ice":
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Indeed, our world is filled with world-ending possibilities: comets crashing; pandemics spreading; super-volcanoes erupting; global warming; glaciers melting; poles reorienting; solar-rays a'blasting...  I'm afraid I've left a hundred other possible apocalyptic visions out. (Feel free to submit your personal apocalyptic  vision below!)

It would be difficult to attend conferences like TED, the World Economic Forum, The Clinton Global Initiative, etc., without there being at least a few mesmerizing and  terrifying lectures about exactly how our little lives will disappear and soon.  After many years of attending such conferences, the brilliant philosopher, Dr. Yossi Vardi, suggested cutting out the middleman.  Why not hold our own conference: "The End: What's Your Apocalypse?" Our proposed forum of despair would give prophet-pundits an enthusiastic forum to argue for our most likely exit scenario.  Yossi's idea is we would declare a "winner" based on whose catastrophic vision is biggest. 
With potential disasters waiting over this earth with dark-wings, I'm trying to calibrate how terrified I should be of global-warming. Scientists, by in large, are a cautious bunch: timid on making clear predictions. Yet, politics aside, scientists who study greenhouse gases no longer equivocate: they are overwhelmingly certain we face this problem.  What argument remains is between ideologues; not with scientists.

Yet, much as I fear one day the Wall Street subway station might be underwater, I am terrified of a more immediate threat. For simplicity sake, let's call my apocalypse "Global Kaboom."

For decades, many have been waiting for communication from distant stars for what mathematically should be obvious: statistical probabilities suggest other forms of life must be out there. But all we seem to hear back from the Great Beyond is noise from the Big Bang. With the "billions and billions" of stars and their attendant planets, surely some form of photosynthesis and/or chemosynthesis would occur out there.  Where these and other factors that nurture life could exist, isn't it probable, even likely, that some sentient beings would emerge from their version of nutritious ooze?

Some of these creatures... probably unlike anything we would recognize as life-forms... might well have progressed to achieve what could be identified as intelligence. They, like we, might start finding things out about the universe they inhabit. They possibly would discover and contemplate particles that constitute matter and energy... understand methods in which energy travels... identify waves of radiating energy... and perhaps would come to a point in their history, as we have come in ours, where they chance upon ways to manipulate these waves and particles... modulate them... and create methods of sending patterns extraordinary distances.

Then, they, like we, somewhere in the billions upon billions... might realize that such modulation could be used for communication... between themselves and other life-forms that conceivably may exist light-years away.

Reasonable, even likely, to assume we should have heard something yet.  So far: no answer.  Perhaps we are not capable of receiving their message? Are we like dogs--- patiently hearing the master explain simple mathematics--yet, cursed with limited capabilities, sitting there instead wagging tails of incomprehension?

I don't think so. I have another theory... related in a way to a more dramatic form of "global warming." The reason we have been knocking and haven't heard anything answer is not that something wasn't home out there.

Instead, whatever "intelligence" emerged out of the galactic ooze --- the chemo- or photosynthetic bath that brings forth life... even intelligent life... brought our fellow travelers in the universe the same fundamental discoveries. Once they get to understand particles and the basic building-blocks of the material universe, they discover, as we recently did, that you can move atoms around... releasing them from their bonds... as they are naturally released every moment in the stars around us... as they were released beginning in those first milliseconds of whatever keeps this great big universe expanding so rapidly.

And, like us, these smart guys check it out... they see if they can release energy when they want to. In the same blink of an eye as it took us to discover radio waves can be sent through the air, we (and they) also discover a corollary phenomenon: perfectly good atoms ripped apart release lots of energy.
After that hard step comes the easy one: perhaps it comes with anger, bellicosity, or just a silly mistake. After a few moments of sending radio-wave notes to faraway places, they blow themselves up.

It might look something like this...

As we on earth wonder why no one returns our calls, it is probably because those who once could have, can't.  The way we are going on Earth, I think it's fair to expect we are going to be off-line sooner than later. While it is interesting and horrible to watch Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands sink because of global warming, I fear long before flag-poles are fully submerged, a select few of our species will unleash a bunch of those home-made nuclear global-warmers... just like some must have done over and over again in places far, far away.

It is comforting to note that while there won't be much up topside worth living for, with clouded skies blocking out the photosynthesis we've come to expect, along the tectonic plates of this Earth, underwater creatures that look nothing like us will most certainly thrive. They'll still live off the synthesis of hydrogen sulfide and water and life (as we hardly know it) will merrily continue. Until whatever emerges next discovers again how you can send signals long distances or how you can rip atoms apart.

Well, that's my  personal apocalypse. What's yours?

(Special thanks to Pakistani scientist Dr. A.Q. Khan and his colleagues in Iran, North Korea, and Syria for making my personal apocalypse nightmare possible  probable.)

September 24, 2008

The Wii Experience

By now everyone has been impressed by the Wii but until now I've felt the the advertising was a bit ho-hum. Check out this YouTube video and then if, like me, you focused too much on the video watch what is going on with the web page.

Thanks Erich S. for sending this along.

June 10, 2008

Father’s Day Gifts: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Identigene DNA Paternity Test KitOkay, as all of you know, Father’s Day is fast approaching. The trumpets shall sound! The dead shall be raised! Sure, Father’s Day may have started out as another bogus Hallmark-kind of holiday, but in my house, “we” (well, “I”) treat this as a National Day of Celebration (requiring all stock markets be closed and that alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules be suspended.) 


To that end, knowing where her bread is buttered, my so-called “daughter” sat down and went through the Think Geek catalogue. She informed me that I already had everything they sell and she’s plum out of Father’s Day gift ideas. My despair turned to delight when I received the following press release, excerpted below:


The Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit continues to gain momentum in the marketplace. Starting today, the over-the-counter DNA paternity test kit is available in 5,500 CVS/pharmacy locations across the country.


With the addition of CVS/pharmacy, the DNA paternity test kit is now available in more than 10,300 stores in 45 states. It will not be offered in New York because a state law requires a doctor's prescription or a court order to initiate a DNA test. The test kit is also being offered online through


In fewer than eight months since test marketing, Identigene has made convenient, affordable DNA paternity testing available to almost everyone at their local drug store alongside pregnancy tests in the family planning aisle. More than 40,000 people have already taken advantage of this opportunity to get definitive answers to their paternity questions.


This would also be a unique story angle during this week before Father's Day.


The Identigene DNA Paternity Test press room is available online at The site provides past releases, high resolution images, b-roll footage and a store locator.


Yes, indeed! If there’s only one present a fellow should get for Father’s Day, this paternity test kit must be it. It adds a whole new perspective to “Nurture” vs. “Nature” vs. “Looks Nothing Like Ya.”   The DNA Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit on drugstore shelves in time for Father's Day! Paternity Test collection kit costs $29.99 but the laboratory processing fee is $119.00. Still, for less than $150, think of the liberation so many alleged-Dad’s will feel… especially when gazing upon those teenage lump-o’-acnes who slouch on your couch but who could not possibly have sprung from your loins.


So, for this Father’s Day, I’ll probably be getting two kits as gifts: one from myself and another from some misbegotten children I’ve long been contending with ever since our mail delivery service dramatically improved.


Groucho Marx said it best (when he sang Harry Ruby’s song):


Today, Father, is Father's Day

And we're giving you a tie

It's not much we know

It is just our way of showing you

We think you're a regular guy

You say that it was nice of us to bother

But it really was a pleasure to fuss

For according to our mother

You're our father

And that's good enough for us

Yes, that's good enough for us


Send a Personalized  Gizmoz Father's Day Greeting!Burying the lead, as I am prone to do, one of the best ways one can celebrate a parent is to send them a custom-made “Gizmoz” Movie Creation.  From a single head-shot, you can make a 3D animation that is absolutely eye-popping. The site is still in “beta” but you have to check out the Gizmoz technology. Send yourself (or your reputed Father) an hysterical customized video-greeting at the best-of-all possible costs: free.  The Gizmoz design team is headed by the incomparable artist and polymath Eyal Gever who is Israel’s answer to Michelangelo. Check out GIZMOZ!

March 13, 2008

Don't Point - It's Rude!

Actually, in this case, it's downright dangerous.

Red lasers are fun. Green lasers are more fun - they appear much brighter because our eyes are more sensitive to green. Most green laser pointers are below 5 milliwatts (mw) in power. My new pointer is a whopping 200mw - capable of burning plastic, paper, rubber - almost anything that is dark. It can pop balloons and light matches.  While popping a balloon can be done with a pin and lighting matches is, um, what matches already do this is really about having fun and learning.

And what could be more fun that burning things all by yourself? Burning things with Marvin Minsky, of course! You never realize how many things are flamable until you go over to someone elses house with a laser in hand.

The laser pointers cost roughly $120 at DealExtreme (which also has some other wonderful toys).  I would also buy a pair of Bono-looking shades for about $60 bucks from Wicked Lasers.  Just remember, any laser capable of burning things is definitely not a safe thing to have so - don't point, it's rude!

December 6, 2007

Dazzler: Blinded Me With Science (Nauseated Me Too!)

At our most recent Gadgetoff, Jay Cohen, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Jay Cohen of DHS S&T demonstrates the Dazzler at GadgetoffTechnology Directorate promised to make me sick. Admiral Jay Cohen was formerly skipper of the nuclear submarine USS Hyman Rickover and recently headed the Office of Naval Research so, despite his avuncular style, is a man to be taken very seriously. Cohen brought along one of the new non-lethal devices DHS is developing: the Dazzler, a handheld LED incapacitator. Despite my entreaties to “Daze Me, Bro”, the good Under Secretary wouldn’t go so far as to make me puke but he did show us this light-saber strobe designed to nauseate.
The idea of using a flashlight-shaped object to incapacitate a suspect is hardly new to law enforcement. For decades, streetwise officers carried the brawny black Maglite (preferably the four D-celled aircraft aluminum version) to potentially bash subjects in the head.  (It also doubles as a handy flashlight!)   Perhaps there could be a more effective and humane way to detain a suspect than a nice knock in the noggin? That’s the idea behind the Dazzler.  Designed by Intelligent Optical Systems in Torrance, CA, the Dazzler takes down subjects with a pulsating array of ultra-bright multicolored light emitting diodes. This flashlight-shaped device will not only temporarily blind and disorient a subject: it also makes ‘em sick for a while. Precisely why it temporarily scrambles brain functioning is not well understood but plenty of test subjects have become true believers.
Dazzler Prototype Demonstrated at Gadgetoff 2007There’s more here than flashing lights. A rangefinder determines the distance to the subject to optimize the color and pulses needed to disable. Now, scientists developing this non-lethal weapon are working to make it the Dazzler smaller and more portable than the prototype Undersecretary Cohen demonstrated.  After decades in the Navy, Cohen joked he wanted us to experience his many years of sea sickness in just a few seconds. Always a gentleman (notwithstanding his new status as a government bureaucrat) he flashed it instead at the ceiling, away from the audience, so we could see the Dazzler without puking from it. (See video of the Gadgetoff demonstration here.)
Despite my bravado in wishing to be subjected to the Dazzler’s nauseating charms, I must confess that having recently been “Tased” has somewhat diminished by zeal for remaining a human guinea-pig. Dared to “try” the experience by our good friend Colin Angle at CES 2007, I let the Taser folks wire me up, and with brother Mickey happily videotaping, was instantly knocked down and immobilized. Three seconds of Taser-zapping was How The Dazzler Worksall I could take as every synapse and nerve-ending seemed individually targeted and overwhelmed.  I remember rolling around in agony but Mickey says I was stiff as a board and could only curse uncontrollably on the floor.   (You’ll be able to click here to see video of me whimpering during tasering when we post it soon.)
Thank you, Jay Cohen, for sharing the Dazzler without reducing any of us to a heap of nauseate on the floor. But, dear Admiral, may I recommend a good test subject? Colin Angle tells me he really needs to be dazed.

November 20, 2007

Snap at the Speed of Light

With his recent camera innovations,Steve Silverman is poised to inherit Doc Edgerton's mantle. Steve, at his company Advanced Scientific Concepts, has created a camera that is capable of taking pictures at the speed of light.

By using a single lens and a sophisticated array of photon detectors, signal processors and computers he is able to freeze a 6 nanosecond pulse of laser light (roughly 6 feet long) and do this feat 30 times a second. Steve takes individual photos or a complete sequence over a very short period of time to create a movie. The movie can be processed to create a 3 dimensional model of the scene - each picture is illuminated at a subsequently different time, and hence, a farther distance.

What can you do with such a camera? The camera, since it operates at the speed of light, provides blur and distortion free readings of distance from many sources simultaneously. So the first applications that comes to mind is for collision and obstacle avoidance for both manned and autonomous vehicles.

Another set of uses that Steve touches on is surveillance and battlefield or conflict area intelligence. He shows a series of images taken through a window with venetian blinds drawn. The light illuminates the window and the blinds first, then a person sitting in a chair behind the window and finally, the back wall.

Check out Advanced Scientific Concepts to see more of their work. You can view Steve talking about the system at Gadgetoff 2007.


November 6, 2007

Gathering Pennies From Heaven

Counting CrowsOne of the most inspired and dynamic presentations at Gadgetoff 2007 featured Josh Klein’s “Crow Vending Machine.”  Klein, a graduate student at NYU and long-time creative hacker,  is training crows to gather loose change  in exchange for peanuts. Crows, part of the family of Corvids (which include ravens, jays, and other highly-adaptable passerine birds) are largely reviled as flying rodents. But Klein envisions a new symbiotic relationship between these intelligent birds and the humans that encroach on their habitat.
Klein has designed a method of training crows to pick up found coins and exchange them in a box-like device for a peanut reward. The splendor of the concept unifies two facts: crows like shiny objects and more than $215 million dollars in coins are lost each year in the U.S. Why not turn a long-standing rivalry between man and crow into something that profits both species? Klein’s Crow Vending Machine device uses a four-step behavior modification training technique to get crows to ultimately find and deliver coins for a reward of peanuts.
It is entertaining to imagine a scene from Hitchcock in which swarms of ravens descend en masse aggressively wrestling coins from the hands of panic-stricken city-dwellers. But Klein has a more exquisite vision of inter-species cooperation: before coin-collecting, he envisioned having crows gather trash instead. Klein’s research and thought-process in creating the Crow Vending machine is wonderful. For more information, read his thesis and view his Gadgetoff presentation.

November 1, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

AH-64 Apache by HobbytronDuring the summer I learned to fly a number of cool radio controlled vehicles - from tiny helicopters to little indoor planes to the oh-so-fun Wowwee Dragonfly which flaps its wings; but the one I spend the most time with has to be the AH-64 Apache helicopter from Hobbytron.

I've flown RC helicopters in the past- everything from 2 channel (easy to take off and land yet difficult to direct) to 4 channel choppers with multiple gyros (versatile yet hard to control).  None of these experiences prepared me for the AH-64 - this heli is amazing, it can hover, it moves easily to where you point it and, best of all, it hasn't broken yet!

The AH-64 costs about $120 which is a quarter of the cost of my other 4 channel heli that I got from Japan a few years ago; it performs better, costs less and is substantially more fun.  Even though the Apache is the easiest 4 channel heli I've ever touched, 4 channels are not for everyone - balancing pitch, bank, yaw and power takes time and patience.  I recommend this bird to anyone who has tried the little 2 channel toys and yearns for something more.

A Flash from the GigaPan

Our friend and world-class photographer Peter Menzel introduced everyone at Gadgetoff to "Hungry Planet", his book about what people around the world eat.  He also went and surreptitiously took a super-hi-res image of the covered outdoor area of our event using a robotic mount attached to small digital camera. The result is this fascinating GigaPan of Gadgetoff.Peter Menzel's photo of the Gigapan camera rig at Gadgetoff 2007

GigaPan, developed by NASA and Carnegie Mellon, is the mother of all panoramas. It uses many low or medium resolution photos to create one incredibly high resolution photo. This process is obviously useful on other planets and moons to create stunning pictures but it is also quite handy here on Earth.

The process doesn't work too well for motion since the photos are taken sequentially but it does produce some wonderfully artistic effects when someone's head floats in the ether sans their body.

October 30, 2007

EG 2007 - A Preview of Heaven

EG 2007 (Entertainment Gathering) is roughly a month away and if it is anything like last year, it will be an event that shouldn't be missed. EG was created and launched by Richard Saul Wurman (founder of TED and producer of more than 80 books) and is now directed by our good friend, Michael Hawley.

EG brings together interesting people from the entertainment business along with philosophers, artists, humourists and, many of the people and ideals that we, at Gadgetoff, also court - inventors, technologists and visionaries.

Last year we were delighted to participate in EG and we appreciate what Michael says - "Knowing that your most valuable idea is the one you haven't had yet.  You will probably uncover more than one at EG.  This conference is routinely life-changing."

There is still time to register and we hope to see you there this year.

October 28, 2007

Gadgetbag 2007: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess!

A favorite tradition of the Gadgetoff is giving away great technology. Since all our friends participate, everybody carries off literally tons of loot. This year, we upped the ante with the laudatory goal of giving our friends high-tech hernias. Instead of passing out gift-wrapped cinderblocks (which was tempting) we decided to create the ultimate Gadgetbag.
The Gadgetbag actually consisted of two overstuffed bags plus a Gadgetoff  t-shirt and -- to carry with your fourth hand -- a large box with a radio-controlled Dragonfly. Here is a partial list of what was in this year’s Gadgetbag:

A Liter of LEGO, in a handy plastic martini-shaker, and information about the $5,000 annual LEGO Creativity Award competition, from LEGO Creation Nation , for those inspired by Nathan Sawaya’s life-size sculpture of Stephen Colbert at Gadgetof

Sandisk’s Cruzer Contour : 8 GB Premium USB 2.0 Flash Drive, in a stylish sliding protective case.

Griffin’s Elevator: a handsome space –saving laptop stand that raises your laptop to a more comfortable viewing level 

Griffin’s iTrip Auto: Charge and play your iPod through your car stereo in one elegant power and play cable connector. I love the backlit display screen so I can see what the heck’s going on adjusting channels while driving at night.  Special thanks to Paul Griffin who not only runs a great company but is an astonishingly decent guy.

MagicJack: A USB system that lets you “never pay a monthly phone bill again.” Plug your phone into the MagicJack which is connected to your computer and begin making and receiving local, domestic, and international calls. You get a free phone number to receive calls from anywhere in the world plus   (Comes with a free one-year subscription, but there’s a $19.95 fee each year afterwards.) 

Spore T-Shirt: “Composed of Matter , Anti-Matter, and It Doesn’t Matter” from Maxis. Love having the exclusive t-shirt… but after Will Wright’s amazing new demo, we NEED the game!

Make Magazine:  Tim O’Reilly’s amazing play-space for the rest of us… folks who like to make stuff, poke an eye out, with smart ideas from this do-it-yourself technology compendium. Special thanks to Gadgetoff pals Phil Torrone, Limor Fried, Saul Griffith and the rest of the Makezine and Makerfaire folks who share our love to Make Trouble.

Think Geek’s Annoy-a-tron: What to give someone who has everything but deserves nothing? The Annoy-a-tron is just the thing. This tiny erratic beeping, buzzing, noisy menace is a convenient gag to drive your nemesis bonkers. Three mind-numbing sound patterns and a magnet for easy hiding help make the Annoy-a-tron the perfect human “equalizer.”  We won’t reveal who donated them because he (or she) doesn’t want them back!

Steaz Energy Organic Fuel Drink: Lightly carbonated but heavily, ludicrously (80 mg worth!) caffeinated. We gave out cans of this stuff because we like watching our friends run around like hamsters in a wheel.

Lenovo Laptop Bag (plus 2 GB USB Laptop Memory Key): Celebrating the Thinkpad’s 15-th anniversary, our friends at Lenovo kindly provided the tough Messenger Max bag to protect your notebook in style.   Green and black with all kinds of pockets, straps, and places for peripherals. Love the bag… and love the added micro-mini 2-GB USB Memory Key Lenovo included just to show off.

Free Blimp Ride:  Gadgetoff attendees get to ride free on Dan Nachbar’s Airship Alberto, the first Personal Blimp, a truly unique airship design.   Hot air (not helium) is used for lift and the unique tail design offers unprecedented maneuverability. Dan Nachbar’s radical design has pumped-up the blimp world: a breed of economical airships that can turn on a dime and be deployed in many new ways.

Speed of Light Imaging:  Advanced Scientific Concepts demoed an astonishing Portable 3D Video camera that takes pictures at the speed of light. They included a marvelous lenticular postcard showing a single 6 nanosecond pulse of light travelling across an airplane in-flight. A true 3D image is derived from the light captured in real-time, showing the airplane from several different perspectives from a single snapshot. (I liked the looking-through-venetian-blinds demo but they would let us have that… )

Robert Sabuda/ Matthew Reinhart Pop-Up Books: Everyone received a copy of one of the amazing 3-D pop-up books designed and created by the astonishing team Sabuda and Reinhart. Their books are a visual tour-de-force and the discussion on how they create them is captivating (so watch it on-line). GadgetBags contained one of four different books: Mega Beasts;  Maurice Sendak’s first pop-up book Mommy?Twelve Days of Christmas; and America the Beautiful. Everyone should get  all four!

Flytech’s Dragonfly: When Wow Wee toys gave us a sneak peek of the first remote controlled flying insect, the Dragonfly, we wanted one for everybody at Gadgetoff. This ultra-light dual wing design seems a tad flimsy at first, but flight after flight, the Dragonfly is a mighty craft. Even for the spatially challenged (moi), the flying bug is easy to control. We provided them in two different frequencies so friends can fly together.

iRobot Pen:  When our pals at iRobot offered us the newly redesigned floor cleaning Roomba or the floor washing Scooba, we figured everyone at Gadgetoff surely must have purchased at least one of these amazing machines already, so we insisted they give us a pen instead. It’s a cool “acrobat” pen that shoots out like rocket when the button is pushed… but it doesn’t even clean the gutters or watch my children remotely. Oh, iRobot just made robots for that as well. And to clean the pool… to Taser gunmen… to carry water to soldiers in the field… and to disarm thousands of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) better than anybody else. But, ever shrewd, we went for the pen!

DARPA Playing Cards: Perhaps it is a sad statement of our nation’s values that in the 50 years since DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) was founded it has done more to revolutionize America’s technological leadership position than any other public or private initiative. But DARPA’s contribution has been extraordinary and many of the best innovations are detailed in this low-tech deck of playing cards.

Kaltura Wooden Puzzle: Shay David demonstrated his cool new video collaboration technology that allows collaborative video projects they call “Kalturas.” Since they couldn’t give everyone video-cameras, they gave them some painted wood blocks with elastic inside…

Piezo Popper Kit:   Easily one of the most popular display tables at Gadgetoff was the fun science projects, kits, and materials stacked a mile-high from Educational Innovations.  They provided a simple-to-assemble kit that includes a Piezo electric igniter and a simple empty plastic film canister. Simple assembly, a drop or two of alcohol, and the press of a button sends the film canister flying hundreds of feet. Oh, and the nice “BANG!” wakes up the folks at the other end of the room.

101 Outer Space Projects for the Evil Genius: Dave Prochnow : Our friend Dave is a not-so-evil but rather inspired educator and inventor. A magical book of do-it-yourself gentle mayhem you can create with a soldering iron. Thanks to McGraw- Hill, who we also must thank for the outrageously strong book bags that held much of the loot. 

The latest issues of magazines from our friends at WIRED, and SEED, plus catalogs from the amazing folks from Think Geek (who provided t-shirts and tons of other support for Gadgetoff) and Educational Innovations  (who gave us the piezo poppers and brought their wonderful science educational material to the event.) 

Milgo-Lalvani: A collectors set of “Systems” postcards of their “Morphics Projects” by our pals who created the amazing sculptural centerpiece at Gadgetoff. Milgo-Lalvani designed unique and stunning expandable and morphable surfaces made from single sheets of metal.

Radioactive Marble:  Let  “Pablos the Hacker” describe the “gift” he donated:  These marbles contain trace amounts of uranium dioxide.  Just enough radiation to get a reading off a Geiger counter like the cool yellow one I brought to Gadgetoff.  These marbles will glow green like alien eyeballs under a black light.  The radiation levels are considered "safe" - you know, like everything else at Gadgetoff.”

PoolsideMelcher Media provided the latest in their series of absolutely waterproof books. Take this book  poolside, into the bathtub,  or even scuba-diving (if you just can’t put this page-turner down.) Poolside features short stories by Ernest Hemingway, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates, and many others. Charlie Melcher has re-invented the entire nature of what a book can be and this is a fine example.  The patented Durabook technology contains no wood pulp or cotton fiber; comprised instead of a synthetic paper constructed of plastic resins and inorganic fillers. It is also stain and tear resistant.

Tesla pin: We tried to get our hands on the hottest 100% electric car, the Tesla roadster (accelerating zero to 60 in under 4 seconds), with a staggering 245 miles per charge. We did get Martin Eberhard , co-founder and President of Technology of Tesla Motors, to give a tremendous presentation, and they were kind enough to give us pins which I suppose can be traded in for a Roadster one day. Sadly, reservations for all the 2008 vehicles are already filled, so get on the waiting list for next year!

Gadgetoff T-Shirt:  Last, but not least, we hope you got the world’s most exclusive t-shirt (courtesy of ThinkGeek.)  Our breathtaking logo on black heavyweight cotton… with our motto “Bringing the Smart and Useless Together” on the back. 

HOWTOONS! The Book. Now Available!

Saul Griffith (a Gadgetoff alum) and his un-indicted co-conspirators Nick Gragotta and Joost Bonsen have just published the ultimate "science-meets-adventure-and-mischief comic book" called "HOWTOONS! The Possibilities are Endless."

You have probably seen their work in MAKE Magazine which ranges from building your own zoetrope to kids getting out of hairy situations using MacGyver-like applications of real scientific principles.

Perhaps it is because of comic books that are really fun and packed with learnin' that Saul just won a MacArthur "Genius" award.  I wish I had spent more of my youth reading  comic books instead of wasting my time just building things...

October 26, 2007

Governor Proclaims September 28th "Gadget and Innovation Day"

New Jersey understands the value of Gadgetoff - Governor Jon Corzine signed a proclamation that declared the date of our infamous event as "Gadget and Innovation Day".  Here are some exerpts from his proclamation -

"WHEREAS, the 7th Annual Gadgetoff event, known as 'Gadget and Innovation Day,' was held on September 28, 2007 at Liberty State park and Liberty Science Center..."

"WHEREAS, the goal of the event is to celebrate scientific education and recognize technological breakthroughs that inspire future growth..."

"Now, THEREFORE, I, JON S. CORZINE, Governor of the State of New Jersey, do hereby proclaim SEPTEMBER 28, 2007 AS GADGET AND INNOVATION DAY"

May 30, 2007

Gadgetoff 2006 Presentations & New Site

When we started our planning process for this year's Gadgetoff we found all kinds of photos and videos from previous years that demanded our attention. These, of course, required a total redesign of our website. Please view our Presentations and our new Past Gadgetoffs sections.

This year's event is shaping up and is scheduled for September 28th. As always, Gadgetoff is an invitation-only event. If we haven't contacted you and you feel "worthy" then please contact us.

April 17, 2007

Fly, Crash, Fly Again, Crash Again

I have always loved playing with radio control toys. Living in New York City has made it difficult to learn how to fly a plane - until now.  The Air Hogs Aero Ace is an inexpensive electric plane that is easy to fly indoors. The plane has a resilient foam body and propellers that are mounted behind the wing, this allows the plane to crash over and over again (in my case add a few more "overs") without any damage at all.

 By simply adjusting the speed of each of the two propellers it is easy to control the lift and direction of the plane. Charging is quickly accomplished by connecting the plane to the controller for a few minutes and then back into the air you go.

 Most people won't have a living room big enough to fly in but the plane will work outdoors (low wind) and in gyms and other large spaces. This is truly a wonderful little toy and for roughly $40 it can't be beat.

You should also check out the Havoc helicopter. It is easy to fly and handles crashes well but the controls are rather limited and steering requires a bit of luck. The heli costs about $30.

Look ma I'm flying!

Its a Bird, Its a Plane, No - Its a Robot!

Virtually invisible and flying a mere 75 feet overhead is the new "Phantom Sentinel" from VeraTech Aero.

The Phantom uses a unique "Y" shape which features 2 propellers and 3 asymmetric blades to soar overhead and transmit real-time panoramas to a viewer wearing VR glasses.

VeraTech Aero is primarily targeting the Phantom for military and law enforcement but we can't imagine that something this cool won't find other uses like - photographing Gadgetoff from the air!

© 2001-2007 Gadgetoff, Inc.