Google Balloon Internet Access: The Thrill of a Big Idea


I nearly missed this. You know how it is. In today’s stimulus-saturated world, I set limits for my daily news scans and then unplug each weekend for 24 hours. So as I approached the unplug deadline after an early morning hour of visual overload (and depressing news), another video didn’t really appeal. But it was from a trusted source in my Google+ circles (thank you, ) so with my left hand on the ‘power down’ button, my right hand clicked play. Wow!

A Big Idea

“The idea does sound crazy, even for Google—so much so that the company has dubbed it Project Loon. But if all works according to the company’s grand vision, hundreds, even thousands, of high-pressure balloons circling the earth could provide Internet to a significant chunk of the world’s 5 billion unconnected souls, enriching their lives with vital news, precious educational materials, lifesaving health information, and images of grumpy cats.”

In an exclusive, Wired magazine goes on to add fascinating details, animations and clips as it tells the story of the initial tests in New Zealand. Just as I was beginning to focus too much on the prevalence of grumpy cats, a breathtaking reminder arrives of the global promise of Internet access.

Next Up: Digital Literacy?

While Google, and hopefully others, work on bringing balloon Internet access to remote areas, digital literacy is looming as a pressing, parallel need. From a local story on Middle-schoolers share technology with seniors, to the national news on the state of broadband access in the U.S., come recent reminders of how many people have been left out.

In case you missed it, the Google Project Loon announcement video on YouTube is embedded below.

Instant Electronic Whiteboards: Evernote and IdeaPaint

This is an instant favorite for me. The concept of an inexpensive, instant electronic whiteboard is a sure winner for the types of meetings I’m often in. Even if we’ve got a group collaborating to take notes in real time using Google Docs, there are usually several of us who prefer to sketch mind maps or doodle notes. Typed notes just don’t cut it for me. But the problem with whiteboards has always been that the fancy electronic versions cost a fortune and require a technical support team. Painting I can handle though, and Evernote is already a favorite tool, so my order has been placed. I’ll report back after putting this new combination through its paces.

The Human Brain: Neuroscience Meet Conceptual Art


True, the nine images selected here by Carl Schoonover are stunning, but what intrigues me more is the obvious passion for his work that is communicated in his written descriptions and stories for the images.

Elegance often begets meaning and understanding. In a fit of candor, Nobel laureate Richard Axel once pronounced that “science without enchantment is nothing!” In my new book Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Abrams), I examine this special relationship, and share the images and stories I have come to love–many of which were, until now, only available to people in the field.

If only by name, ‘neuroscience’ can be off-putting. An invitation to a guided tour, of words and images depicting humanity’s emerging understanding of a key part of what makes us each who we are, is very appealing. I’m not really an example of a hard sell for books on human behavior or the brain, but nonetheless, Schoonover’s new book has been added to the top of my ‘next-trip’ list for the bookstore or library.

Designing Regenerative Food Systems: Worldchanging


This post on urban food systems using permaculture is part of Worldchanging’s series on the Living Future 2010 conference. Permaculture is one of those ideas that fascinates me. It simply resonates with my practical self that lightly managing the relationship between symbiotic living organisms to create food is a smart and sustainable concept. Why is it we don’t hear more about this?