Volume 24 – August 31, 2010
TR Humanitarian of the Year 2010
For the last 11 years, each year, Technology Review honors young innovators under 35. Among this year's honorees is David Kobia who is also chosen as the humanitarian of the year.
In 2007, to follow Kenya's post-election riots, David Kobia, a Kenyan expatriate started and moderated an online forum called Mashada to counter the media blackout that President Kibaki had imposed throughout the country. The mass communications on Mashada turned in an undesirable direction which forced Kobia to pull the plug on his project.
However shortly after, he started Ushahidi, a website created to coordinate the responses to crises around the globe. The website is still growing and being more developed by a dedicated group of individuals. It has been used in the crisis after Haitian quake, in South Africa to map incidents of xenophobic violence, and by many humanitarian groups.
Their website states: "our goal is to create a platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. The core platform will allow for plug-in and extensions so that it can be customized for different locales and needs."
To see the impact of Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, please visit:
To learn more about the organization, please refer to:
NASA's Sustainability Base is unlike any other government building ever created. Using NASA innovations originally engineered for space travel and exploration, the 50,000-square-foot, lunar-shaped Sustainability Base is simultaneously a working office space, a showcase for NASA technology and an evolving exemplar for the future of buildings.
NASA scientists use NASA innovations in two areas of the building -the intelligent control system and the water recovery system as well as products that had their start at NASA, e.g. the Energy Server from Bloom Energy and solar panels from SunPower.
There are several ways in which Sustainability Base will both reduce its energy consumption and also generate its own energy to meet its goal of zero-net energy. First, the building features floor-to-ceiling windows, narrow floors and no interior columns and because it's designed and positioned relative to the sun's arc, no artificial lighting will be necessary for all but about 40 days of the year.
To learn more and see pictures and videos please visit:
Planetary Protection Officer
Have you ever wondered what happens if a microbe from Earth is taken to an alien world by one of our space probes? Or if alien life exists, what if a living organism is introduced into our environment by means of the returning space crafts? To ensure that these scenarios don't come to life, NASA has a Planetary Protection Subcommittee, as well as Planetary Protection Officers.
Their purpose is to protect Earth and other planets from cross-contamination. The Hamlet-quoting officer states, "we don't know what we don't know". Therefore, considering the environment of the destination, as well as the conditions under which an organism can survive on Earth, they preserve clean spacecrafts to protect both the science of the missions as well as the environments.
You can watch a brief video of the Planetary Protection Officer at this link:
To learn more about the methods, the missions and much more, you can visit:
Strange Fuel Source
When it comes to renewable energy, Edinburgh scientists look into some strange places. First, they succeeded to make bio-fuel from whiskey byproducts; and now, they are working on urine-powered fuel cells. Yes, that is right. Two Chemistry post-doctorate fellows at Heriot-Watt University's School of Engineering and Physical Sciences in Edinburgh are hard at work to turn pee into electricity and clean water.
To use urine as a fuel source has many advantages, among them, abundance, non-toxicity, ease of transport, and therefore, low cost.
To learn more, please visit:
To see the team's site and follow the project, please visit:
My Dream of Stars
My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer: a book by Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam.
In her memoir, Anousheh recalls her long path to success and to achieving her dream. To learn more about the book, please visit: http://www.anoushehansari.com/book/
To find a book signing, please check the upcoming appearances section of this newsletter.
To obtain a copy please visit: