Category Archives: Making Things Better

The Green Home Guide From Popular Science

green-home-guide-coverIts Free

Did you know you can cut your water use by 10 gallons a day by switching toilets? That a new washer and dryer could save you almost $150 a year? These are just two of the dozens of tips, tricks, facts and projects packed into the free Green Home Guide, the second in our series of digital special issues called Genius Guides, designed to make you an expert on one of the core PopSci topics. You can click through our animated home to see the worst spots for wasting power, air and water. Or explore our interactive map to get energy cost and CO2 stats for each of the 50 states. We’ve also got stories of three ambitious homeowners who have taken energy savings to extremes, heating their house with a room full of sand or powering it with a waterfall.

Our goal is to use this experiment in digital publishing—with Zinio in our case—to both learn something about creating content for an emerging medium and give you far more information than we could in a print issue, in an easy-to-navigate and entertaining manner. As a magazine maker, I love that this format has all the depth and interactivity of a Web page, yet with the immersive quality of a print publication. And I think our design is pushing the envelope for what can be done on a digital page. I’d love to hear your feedback on the Green Home Guide—from the experience of opening it to the navigation inside to the content itself. Help us figure out where this is headed and how we can keep producing both the content and the medium you want to use.

http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2009-07/presenting-green-home-guide-popular-science

100 Geeky Places to Take Your Kids This Summer

map2There is plenty of summer vacation season left on the calendar, and boredom may already be settling in around the house. So what are some fun, geeky places to take your geeklets? Even better, what are some fun, geeky places that kids and adults will all enjoy?

I was sitting down making some plans for my geeklets this summer. The list of places we wanted to go kept getting longer, and eventually turned into a wishlist, which I then put up for the GeekDads to add to. But this list is by no means complete. Please feel free to add your favorite places in the comments, and we’ll try to add them to the map, too.

The list is alphabetical so you can search by name and see if your favorite places are included. If you want to browse geographically, there is an interactive map embedded at the end of the post.

  1. Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum – Chicago. Inspiring the next generation of explorers and celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 during the month of July.
  2. American Museum of Natural History – New York, NY. One of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world, comprised of 25 interconnected buildings that house 46 permanent exhibition halls.
  3. Ames Exploration Center – Moffett Field, California. Experience NASA technology and missions first hand.
  4. Arizona Science Center – Phoeniz. See Jenny Williams’ prior GeekDad post: To Boldly Go… to the Arizona Science Center.
  5. Atomium – Brussels. The Belgium response to the Eiffel Tower at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 is a tower in the shape of an iron crystal.
  6. Austin Children’s Museum – Texas. Even adults have fun at the Austin Children’s Museum.
  7. Belgian Comic Strip Museum – Brussels. It brings together everything related to the comic strip, from its prestigious beginnings to its most recent developments, on more han 4,000 square meters of museum floors.
  8. Bletchley Park – UK. A museum dedicated to the World War II code breakers.
  9. California Academy of Sciences – San Francisco. See Thomas Hawk’s GeekDad post: 10 Great Places to Take Your Kids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  10. Chabot Space and Science Center – Oakland, California. See Thomas Hawk’s GeekDad post: 10 Great Places to Take Your Kids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  11. Wisconsin Maritime Museum – Manitowoc, Wisconsin. See Ken Denmead’s GeekDad post: GeekDad Wayback Machine: Wisconsin Day Trip.
  12. Woods Hole Science Aquarium – Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Voted “best rainy day activity on the upper cape.”
  13. Your local library – There are always great adventures in those book stacks.

 

To see the Complete list – http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/07/100-geeky-places-to-bring-your-kids-this-summer/

India to Reintroduce Wild Cheetahs

cheetahGovernment officials in India recently revealed that plans are underway to reintroduce wild cheetahs to the country’s protected grasslands, where the animal has likely been extinct for over 60 years.

Cheetahs from Africa would be the likely imports, and millions of pounds are likely to be set aside for importing them and conserving them once they’ve arrived. A meeting of international experts will hash out the details of the budget this upcoming September in Rajasthan.

But with animal reserves currently in shoddy condition across India, is the reintroduction likely to be a success?

Asiatic cheetahs once roamed far and wide in India and the Middle East, though today only a few remain, mostly in the Kavir desert of Iran. Hunting and habitat loss have driven the subspecies to extinction everywhere else, and the last three known wild cheetahs in India were shot by the Maharajah of Surguja in 1947.

Unfortunately, the fall of the Shah in 1979 has stymied India’s hopes of importing a breeding pair from Iran. Since then, the Islamic Republic’s leaders have rejected all requests for an exchange, even for a sample of tissue to use in a cloning experiment. Thus, even with these latest plans at reintroduction, it’s the African rather than the Asiatic subspecies which may be roaming India’s grasslands moving into the future.

That’s only part of the debate which has surrounded these plans. Reintroducing an animal as delicate as the cheetah is no easy task; the animals have notoriously poor immune systems, high rates of cub mortality and demanding territorial habits. And India has a slipshod record with the conservation of currently existing big cats within their borders.

Most notably: conservation of the tiger. Of the 37 reserves currently set up to conserve the tiger, 16 are in dire straits– where they stand to lose all of their tigers if drastic actions are not pursued, and soon– and only 12 are considered in good shape. All in all, in the last 100 years India’s tiger population has shrunk from 40,000 to a mere 1,400.

The primary reason for the dismal record is that forest guards– who, among other things, protect the animals from poaching– are underpaid and undertrained. What reason is there to believe that cheetah conservation will fare any better?

The answer is likely to come in September when experts lobby for sufficient funds for the effort. The real measure of India’s willingness and fortitude to reestablish and protect a native population of cheetahs might be the price tag they put on it.

http://ecoworldly.com/2009/07/14/india-to-reintroduce-wild-cheetahs/

10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media

summerofsocialgoodnewThis post is a collaboration between Mashable’s Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell‘s “10 Ways” series. The post is being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs. This content was originally written by Mashable’s Josh Catone.

Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That’s one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you.

If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you’d like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

  1. Write a Blog Post
  2. Share Stories with Friends
  3. Follow Charities on Social Networks
  4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs
  5. Find Volunteer Opportunities
  6. Embed a Widget on Your Site
  7. Organize a Tweetup
  8. Express Yourself Using Video
  9. Sign or Start a Petition
  10. Organize an Online Event

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/07/10_ways_to_support_charity_through_social_media.php

Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war

OPTIMISTS called the first world war “the war to end all wars”. Philosopher George Santayana demurred. In its aftermath he declared: “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. History has proved him right, of course. What’s more, today virtually nobody believes that humankind will ever transcend the violence and bloodshed of warfare. I know this because for years I have conducted numerous surveys asking people if they think war is inevitable. Whether male or female, liberal or conservative, old or young, most people believe it is. For example, when I asked students at my university “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?” more than 90 per cent answered “No”. Many justified their assertion by adding that war is “part of human nature” or “in our genes”. But is it really?

Such views certainly seem to chime with recent research on the roots of warfare. Just a few decades ago, many scholars believed that prior to civilisation, humans were “noble savages” living in harmony with each other and with nature. Not any more. Ethnographic studies, together with some archaeological evidence, suggest that tribal societies engaged in lethal group conflict, at least occasionally, long before the emergence of states with professional armies (see our timeline of weapons technology). Meanwhile, the discovery that male chimpanzees from one troop sometimes beat to death those from another has encouraged popular perceptions that warfare is part of our biological heritage.

These findings about violence among our ancestors and primate cousins (see “When apes attack”) have perpetuated what anthropologist Robert Sussman from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, calls the “5 o’clock news” view of human nature. Just as evening news shows follow the dictum “if it bleeds, it leads”, so many accounts of human behaviour emphasise conflict. However, Sussman believes the popular focus on violence and warfare is disproportionate. “Statistically, it is more common for humans to be cooperative and to attempt to get along than it is for them to be uncooperative and aggressive towards one another,” he says. And he is not alone in this view. A growing number of experts are now arguing that the urge to wage war is not innate, and that humanity is already moving in a direction that could make war a thing of the past.

Among the revisionists are anthropologists Carolyn and Melvin Ember from Yale University, who argue that biology alone cannot explain documented patterns of warfare. They oversee the Human Relations Area Files, a database of information on some 360 cultures, past and present. More than nine-tenths of these societies have engaged in warfare, but some fight constantly, others rarely, and a few have never been observed fighting. “There is variation in the frequency of warfare when you look around the world at any given time,” says Melvin Ember. “That suggests to me that we are not dealing with genes or a biological propensity.”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327151.500-winning-the-ultimate-battle-how-humans-could-end-war.html

Beautiful Objects from Brazilian Native Communities through Imaginario Pernambucano

imaginario-pernambucano-products-2Imaginario Pernambucano is one more project in which the skills of artisan people from native communities are empowered with the help of design. An extended practice in South America, we’ve seen this done on initiatives like Oficina Nomade and Caranday Quinua.

This one is promoted by the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil, and its results are exquisite objects that mix ancient techniques with sleeker shapes.

Take a peek in the extended!

Imaginario Pernambucano was born in 1999 with the goal of strengthening native communities’ identities by helping them organize and reach a sustainable business and lifestyle.

A lot more pictures at – http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/07/beautiful-objects-from-brazilian-native-communities-through-imaginario-pernambucano.php

WebSites that help you lodge complaints

Whether you want to target politicians, your employers, or companies that have done you wrong, there are a variety of sites across the Web that will help you voice your complaints. But beware that not all of them will actually solve those problems.

Anonymous Employee Those having trouble at the office should try out Anonymous Employee. The service allows you to create a user name and password without requiring an e-mail address. After that, you can input the name of your employer, the person you want to contact, and the issue you want to make them aware of. Anonymous Employee automatically sends the message to the recipient without identifying you.

Better Business Bureau The Better Business Bureau site is one of the best places to lodge complaints. Right from the home page, you can access the organization’s complaint tool, which allows you to take issue with your vehicle, your cell phone carrier, a product or service outside of those two categories, or a charity. After inputting information about yourself, you can describe your issue on the site. It’s then filed with the Better Business Bureau and investigated.

CongressMerge If you’re unhappy with what’s going on in your state, CongressMerge can help you out. The site provides you with a search field to find all of your elected representatives. Once you find the politician you want to contact, it gives you a listing of all their phone numbers, a map to their office, and even their fax number so you can be sure to get in touch with them. You can also check out your elected representatives’ voting records on the site. It’s a great way to find all the means of communication you need to have your voice heard in the political process.

Electronic Frontier Foundation The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a great place to have your displeasure heard. The site’s Action Center lists all the issues the organization has identified. You can sift through those issues, find those that matter most to you, and send an e-mail to the appropriate recipients expressing your displeasure with the rest of the EFF community. It’s a great way to stage an online protest.

Federal Trade Commission The Federal Trade Commission also lets you submit complaints. You can file complaints about suspect business practices, identity theft, or “episodes of violence.” According to the organization’s site, it will investigate any complaints that it deems is part of a pattern, but it won’t solve individual disputes.

Project Vote Smart Project Vote Smart is a great way to research the political process. You can search for politicians, see how they vote, and determine if you’re happy with the way they are representing you.

Ripoff Report Ripoff Report provides an outlet for consumers who have been negatively affected by companies to issue complaints. As of this writing, Ripoff Report has more than 460,000 reports filed on the site.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10278209-2.html?tag=mncol;title

One Factory, One Forest: Design, Ecology and Micro-Economic Development in Guyana

guyana_leadThis is just cool Micro-Economic Development in Guyana.

One Factory, One Forest: Design, Ecology and Micro-Economic Development in Guyana, by William Gordon

For the past year I have been developing furniture with a factory named Liana Cane in Georgetown, Guyana. As I write this, a chair I designed there a year ago is sitting in a container on a dock in New Jersey waiting to get through customs. I have been waiting a long time to see this chair and for this project to be completed. My excitement is combined with the anticipation of returning to Guyana in January to work on a new project in the rainforest, and is checked by the long road ahead to get the products I have already designed to market.

For a lot More Pictures and a lot more Details follow the link

http://www.core77.com/blog/featured_items/one_factory_one_forest_design_ecology_and_microeconomic_development_in_guyana_by_william_gordon__11875.asp

One way you can help Micro-Economic is through companies like Kiva

http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=home

Roadkill GPS Navigation System to Protect Animals

090311-roadkill-gps_bigA forest raven feeds on a Tasmanian devil killed on a road in Tasmania, Australia.

Satellites can now warn Australian drivers to slow down in roadkill-prone areas, in a bid to stem the deaths of some 300,000 wild animals on the island of Tasmania each year.

Researchers Alistair Hobday and Melinda Minstrell spent three years and covered 9,320 miles (15,000 kilometers) recording and mapping roadkill carcasses before uploading their data into a GPS (global positioning system) navigation program

“It’s a technology that has been used to collect data, understand a problem, and then deliver a potential solution,” said Hobday, an ecologist with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Just as motorists can program their in-car GPS navigation devices to automatically watch for rest areas or cafes, they can now be alerted when they approach “roadkill hot spots.” (See roadkilltas.com for hot spot maps.)

“We’re negotiating with car [rental] companies in Tasmania to have this technology installed in every rental car,” Hobday said.

“Tourists in particular are often horrified by the amount of roadkill here.”

Other deterrents, such as reflectors and whistles on cars, have not worked.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/03/090311-roadkill-GPS.html

Hearst Corp Coming Out with Magazine eReader

stack-of-magazinesAmazon has just put out the newest generation of Kindle reader, along with a slew of other companies who are sending e-readers out into the market place. But there aren’t many specifically geared towards magazines. The Hearst Corp. plans on changing that and will be putting out an e-reader this year that will help magazine lovers ditch those stacks of paper.

Hard not to believe that when it appears e-readers will be a big part of everyone’s future. It seems that soon all manner of printed materials, from newspapers to school books, will be available on an electronic reading device.

You’ll be able to download a magazine directly to the device, which will be sized about the same as a standard sheet of paper. The company plans to sell the devices to other publishers and take a portion of the profits made when users download magazines and newspapers.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/03/hearst-corp-coming-out-with-magazine-e-reader.php

Related:

Exciting e-Paper News: Full-Color, Interactive News Papers and Magazines on the Way

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/epaper-research-will-bring-full-color-interactive-digital-newspapers.php