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.

Google doodle marks buckyball anniversary


This interactive doodle is just a bit of mental fun from Google, yet when the Guardian (U.K.) adds a solid back story, it becomes much more. It’s hard not to think of the millions of people, who like me, may otherwise never have heard of the ‘buckyball’ or as it is formally known, the buckminsterfullerene, a ‘specially shaped molecule composed entirely of carbon.’

Granted, my life and that of many others would have proceeded quite well without this factoid, yet it strikes me there’s more at play here than doodling. Arguably, the world is suffering in many ways because too many people understand too little about science, math and technology. In many instances, these applied fields are contributing to our problems, and yet they may offer our only solutions as well. Public conversations about both the problems we face, and the opportunities for solutions, are often made more difficult by this lack of a shared basic understanding of the principles involved.

So as a technology company with access to millions of us worldwide, Google’s choice to use its platform as an elegant canvas for advancing our molecular knowledge strikes me as corporate power well used. Kudos, Google.