Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Thinking 31 October 2014

Hello all – Friday Thinking is curated in the spirit of sharing – Many thanks to those who enjoy this. This Friday is a little short - I've been immersed in my seasonal mania of Great Pumpkin Homage.

These leaders-as-hosts are candid enough to admit that they don’t know what to do; they realize that it’s sheer foolishness to rely only on them for answers. But they also know they can trust in other people’s creativity and commitment to get the work done. They know that other people, no matter where they are in the organizational hierarchy, can be as motivated, diligent and creative as the leader, given the right invitation.
Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze - Leadership In The Age Of Complexity: From Hero To Host

Here is a great TED talk (13 min) about Big Data and our society.

What do we do with all this big data?
Does a set of data make you feel more comfortable? More successful? Then your interpretation of it is likely wrong. In a surprisingly moving talk, Susan Etlinger explains why, as we receive more and more data, we need to deepen our critical thinking skills. Because it's hard to move beyond counting things to really understanding them.

Let’s start with something really cool - This is another strand in the fabric of enhanced externalized memory - what will humans really have to learn.
Get photomath
Smart camera calculator
PhotoMath reads and solves mathematical expressions by using the camera of your mobile device in real time. It makes math easy and simple by educating users how to solve math problems.

Here’s a bold vision - from the EU Space Agency - the 6 min film ambition is worth the view as well.

Rosetta: the ambition to turn science fiction into science fact
Europe’s Comet Chaser
In November 1993, the International Rosetta Mission was approved as a Cornerstone Mission in ESA's Horizons 2000 Science Programme.
Since then, scientists and engineers from all over Europe and the United States have been combining their talents to build an orbiter and a lander for this unique expedition to unravel the secrets of a mysterious 'mini' ice world – a comet.

Initially scheduled for January 2003, the launch of Rosetta had been postponed due to a failure of an Ariane rocket in December 2002. The adventure began March 2004, when a European Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana.

During a circuitous ten-year trek across the Solar System, Rosetta will cross the asteroid belt and travel into deep space, more than five times Earth’s distance from the Sun. Its destination will be a periodic comet known as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The Rosetta orbiter will rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and remain in close proximity to the icy nucleus as it plunges towards the warmer inner reaches of the Sun’s domain. At the same time, a small lander will be released onto the surface of this mysterious cosmic iceberg.

More than a year will pass before the remarkable mission draws to a close in December 2015. By then, both the spacecraft and the comet will have circled the Sun and be on their way out of the inner Solar System.

Speaking of transforming our life - here’s something for the IoT Internet of Things - a 4 min video.
Ziba: A Bold Vision for the Future of Postage
Signet, created by the design firm Ziba, is a visionary concept for changing the way we send mail.  

Speaking of technology and modes of learning - here’s something in the thought stream of ‘technology changes your brain’ - or at least what you do shapes your brain.
Beware, Playing Lots of Chess Will Shrink Your Brain!
The newspapers love using neuroscience findings to make us feel bad about our less salubrious habits. Earlier this year they had a field day with a study that purported to show time spent watching online porn shrinks the brain. Even more recently, we were warned about multi-tasking with our digital devices: “Multi-tasking makes your brain smaller,” exclaimed the Daily Mail. Similar claims have been made for video gaming and junk food. The message is usually the same – you already knew porn/junk food/gaming etc was bad, well now scientists tell us it ACTUALLY SHRINKS YOUR BRAIN, as if this is the final definitive proof for the evilness of the deeds in question.

What none of these news reports tell you is that brain shrinkage can be a good thing. Indeed, it’s a mistake to think that bigger means better when it comes to brain power (this is “Myth 21″ in my new book Great Myths of the Brain). Elephants and whales have massive brains, but they’re not the cleverest animals on the planet; bees have tiny brains and are very smart. Moreover, localised brain shrinkage can be a sign of increased neural efficiency. Also it’s worth remembering how, through adolescence, our brains don’t just keep getting bigger and bigger; rather they undergo a massive pruning back of excess grey matter.

The idea that localised brain shrinkage isn’t necessarily bad is brought home wonderfully by a new brain scanning study of elite chess players. Jürgen Hänggi took structural MRI scans and diffusion tensor imaging scans of 20 male expert players (including three grandmasters and seven international masters) and compared them with 20 male inexpert players. This is only the second study ever to look at the structural brain differences characteristic of elite chess players, and the first ever to also include a measure of white matter tracts (provided by the diffusion tensor scans).

And here’s another app for all of us who want more open access to research.
Watch the Launch of the Open Access Button
Open Access Button Benefits Students, Researchers and General Public
The Open Access Button today launched a suite of new apps to help researchers, patients, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly research. People use research everyday to create scientific and medical advances, understand culture, and fuel the economy, but articles can cost $30 or more to read each, even though much of the research is funded by the public in the first place. The new apps are available both for mobile phones and web browsers and can be downloaded at

"I wish there had been a tool to help me access the research I need as university student", said David Carroll, co founder of the Open Access Button and a medical student at Queen's University Belfast. "I couldn't afford to pay for all the articles I needed and ultimately I couldn't continue my research. We built the Open Access Button so other students wouldn't experience the same problem". Joe McArthur, co founder of the Open Access Button and Assistant Director of the Right to Research Coalition, said "The Internet gives us the chance to make research available to everyone who needs it. We must seize this opportunity if we're going to continue to innovate".

The Open Access Button helps users find free, alternative, but often hard to find, copies of research they otherwise couldn't afford. When a user searches for a research article, the Button app first checks for a free copy, and if one isn't available, it automatically employs a number of novel strategies to make one available including contacting the author. Users also have the option to share why they are seeking a particular article, which creates an interactive map of people who need research around the world.

Speaking of online accessibility - here’s  a wonderful infographic that offers the ideal lengths (in characters and/or words) for the menagery of online venues.
The Internet Is a Zoo: The Ideal Length of Everything Online
Have you ever woken up in cold sweat in the middle of the night wondering exactly how many characters long a tweet should be to get the most engagement, or how many words long a blog post should be so that it actually gets read?

Ok, that may just be me, but knowing exactly how many characters a Facebook post should be or what the ideal subject line length is should be endlessly fascinating (and useful) information to most people who are active on social media.

So, to make all this data digestible and easy to understand, we partnered with our awesome friends over at Buffer to produce an infographic that shows the optimal length of pretty much everything on the internet.

This is just as applicable in Canada. The graphic is a must see.
$90 Time Warner Cable bill becomes $190 after two years
Extra fees and expiration of promotional rate double telecom analyst's bill
Cable bills have a way of starting out expensive and then getting even more expensive as time goes on. This is especially true when cable companies offer promotional rates that last a year or two without telling customers what they'll actually have to pay once the discounted rate expires.

No cable customer is immune from this phenomenon—even outspoken telecom analysts like Bruce Kushnick are in for bill shock. Kushnick, a frequent critic of Internet service providers, signed up for a Time Warner Cable "Triple Pay" package in 2012 and is now paying more than double the advertised rate.

"When I signed up, less than two years ago, it was advertised at $89.99 and today, less than two years later, the actual price is 110 percent more—now $190.77," Kushnick wrote today in the Huffington Post.

For new customers signing up now, TWC's Triple Play TV, Internet, and Phone package has an advertised rate of $109.99 per month for the first 12 months. Another $20 per month is added in the second year, but it's hard to predict just how much it would cost two years from now. "After 24 months, regular rates in effect at that time apply," the fine print says.

Here is something about security for some digital accounts.
A Physical Key to Your Google Account
Google says using a small USB stick to vouch for your identity is more secure than either a password or conventional two-factor authentication.
Opting in to Google’s latest security upgrade requires a spot on your keychain for a device known as a security key.
The small USB stick provides added protection for a Google account. Once a key is associated with your account, you’ll be prompted to insert the device into a computer each time you enter a password to log in—or, if you prefer, once a month on computers you use frequently. Touching a button on the security key triggers a cryptographic exchange with Google’s login systems that verifies the key’s identity. Security keys can be bought from several security hardware companies partnered with Google, for a little less than $20.

The new approach is primarily aimed at the security-conscious. But the technology involved lays the groundwork for physical devices that displace passwords altogether, says Mayank Upadhyay, a security engineer at Google. Google has been working on ways to replace passwords for some time, because stolen or guessed passwords are often used to take over accounts.

Speaking of Google This is a training class that Google has been using internally, and it's recently been published as an externally-available video as well. Although it an hour long, it's well worth the time to watch.
Unconscious Bias @ Work | Google Ventures
Unconscious biases are created and reinforced by our environments and experiences. Our mind is constantly processing information, oftentimes without our conscious awareness. When we are moving fast or lack all the data, our unconscious biases fill in the gaps, influencing everything from product decisions to our interactions with coworkers. There is a growing body of research – led by scientists at Google – surrounding unconscious bias and how we can prevent it from negatively impacting our decision making.

And one more thing by Google. 2 min video
Meet your new Inbox
Welcome to the inbox that works for you. Learn about the key features of Inbox by Gmail to help you get started.

Here’s progress on the domestication of DAN, just in case people haven’t read the Globe and Mail.
Successful retina transplant sparks hope
Transplant doctors are stepping gingerly into a new world, one month after a Japanese woman received the first-ever tissue transplant using stem cells that came from her own skin, not an embryo.

On Sept. 12, doctors in a Kobe hospital replaced the retina of a 70-year-old woman suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. The otherwise routine surgery was radical because scientists had grown the replacement retina in a petri dish, using skin scraped from the patient’s arm.

If found safe and effective, this new treatment for AMD could be widely available in 2020, according to the Riken Center.
The world’s stem-cell community is keen to see the next phase of this research.

For Fun
Here’s something for racing car fans and for demonstrating state of the art animation.
Formula One V6 turbo: 2014 Rules Explained
Transforming Formula One: 2014 Rules Explained: CGI Clip
A new clip from Red Bull sees Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel explain the 2014 Formula One regulations -- which are arguably the most complex the sport has ever seen.

At the start, thousands of car parts simultaneously assemble around Dan to form the RB10.

As Dan races to catch up Seb in his RB9, the World Champion's car becomes transparent while travelling at full speed. The film then presents a visual sequence that shows the 2014 regulation changes taking shape and coming to life, as Seb's car transforms into an RB10.

As well as providing information on the new technical changes for 2014, the clip also presents a unique view of the technology at work inside this year's Formula One cars.

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