Archive for July, 2016

If you live near a beach or will soon be visiting a tropical paradise on vacation I may have just stumbled across something that will change your life forever: a new full face snorkeling mask that totally reinvents what it means to go snorkeling.  Plus as an added bonus you’ll get to say that you’re a ninja.

Known as the H20 Ninja Mask, this revolutionary invention takes everything that you hated about snorkeling (the awkward gag inducing breathing tube, the fogged field of view, the water constantly seeping into the top of the tube, etc.) and gets rid of it.  All of it.  Instead, thanks to the full face design you’ll be able to breathe normally in a fog free environment that provides full access to your peripheral vision.  Better yet, for an extra $20 you can even get a GoPro enabled version that will enable you to perfectly capture your up close and personal encounter with Ariel, Nemo, and all their friends.

As Business Insider puts it, “You may be thinking about doing some snorkeling. It’s a fun way to see the submerged sights with friends and family. On the other hand, you may be thinking that snorkeling is never as fun as you imagine it will be. This can largely be blamed on the equipment you’re using, an ill-fitting pair of goggles stuck on your face and an uncomfortable snorkel in your mouth.  Coming to the rescue is the H2O Ninja Mask. Its full-face design allows you to breathe naturally through your nose and mouth without an annoying mouthpiece.”

That commentary is spot on.   A few years ago I went snorkeling in Hawaii and it really wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.  In fact, I hated the equipment so much that I eventually completely abandoned the mouth piece and just used the goggle portion.  This was problematic though because it meant that I could only stayed submerged for about thirty seconds at a time.

On the other hand, if I had a Ninja Mask with me at the time I could have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the ocean.  I could have even dived down up to ten feet for an even more immersive experience. Would I have instantly become best friends with a couple of sea turtles ala Captain Jack Sparrow?  Probably not.  But it sure would have been nice to try and find out.  Thanks to the H2O Ninja Mask I may one day get that chance.

Is the H20 Ninja Mask the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The other night while watching the Democratic National Convention I realized something: I really like political conventions.  Actually, allow me to rephrase.  I came to the realization that I really like hearing people give passionate speeches about issues that affect our livelihood.  The politics I can usually live without.  But this time, because of the challenging times that we are facing and the crossroads that we have reached, the speeches really struck a chord with me.

First there was Barack Obama completely eviscerating Donald Trump on Wednesday night stating that the American people don’t look to get ruled and that it’s all about what we can do together not what one person can do for us.  It was reminiscent of the famous JFK line, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.  Then there was Hillary Clinton making history on Thursday night when she accepted the nomination to run for President and delivered epic lines in the process.  Lines like, “when there is no ceiling, the sky’s the limit!”, “if fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!”, and my personal favorite, “love TRUMPS hate.”  Pun definitely intended And of course who can forget Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim American Solider, asking Donald Trump if he ever read the constitution and exclaiming that he has sacrificed nothing.  The raw emotion.  The passion.  The historical significance of it all.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Actually it might.  Just imagine if there was a convention that wasn’t political at all.  If all of the passionate speeches were being delivered by people that we’ve actually heard of before.  If all of the topics were things that affected our daily lives.  How would that be possible?  It’s simple really.  We’d just have to host the first ever national science and technology convention.  Instead of politicians delivering speeches it would be tech luminaries such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.  Political affiliations wouldn’t matter.  Like Musk you wouldn’t even need to be an American.  Anyone and everyone who is a major player in the tech scene would be invited.  Marissa Mayer would be there to talk about work life balance.  Travis Kalanick from Uber and Brian Chesky from AirBnB would be there to talk about their head on clashes with regulators over their disruptive business models.  And Sherly Sandberg would be there to remind us to all Lean In together.  Topics would range from what to do about climate change to issues of diversity and equal pay.

Okay, so maybe it would be a little bit political after all.  Maybe even a lot.  Perhaps then it makes more sense to actually double down on the idea of a political convention.  Just one that’s rooted in technology.  We could call it a spinoff convention.  A sort of political TED X to parallel the stature of the primary TED event or in this case to mirror the primary political convention.  I’d call this event the TNC, the Technological National Convention.

The more I think about it the more I think that this idea has merit.  Political conventions aren’t just about the speeches.  There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.  A lot of networking.  A lot of lobbying.  Imagine a technology version of this with all of the major movers and shakers in Silicon Valley in one place.  There could be hackathons and maker spaces intertwined with demos for new products and a massive job fair.  Anything and everything having to do with innovation could be fair game.

Considering how vitally important science and technology are to our future shouldn’t we put our innovation on full display?  Shouldn’t we put our tech superstars and thought leaders on a pedestal during prime time?  The two greatest advertisements for a life in public service are the HBO show Veep and the Democratic National Convention.  But what advertising do we do for a life in tech?

Isn’t it about time that we changed that?  Isn’t it about time that the forces shaping our lives behind the scenes joined the conversation in the mainstream?  Isn’t it about time that we gave science and technology their proper due?  I think it is.  And I think another convention would do just that.

My name is Craig Shames and I approve of this blog.

Commencement speeches shouldn’t be the only forum for tech luminaries like Elon Musk.

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Parents of newborns rejoice! There’s a new toy doll on the market that is about to change your life forever.  Known as the Lulla Doll, the toy mimics a mother’s heartbeat and breathing helping your baby to fall asleep quickly and sleep for longer stretches of time.

The doll works so well in fact that it’s popularity is off the charts as new mothers everywhere understandably scramble to get their hands on one.  If you’re lucky enough to already own one you might want to consider selling it on eBay.  The proceeds are likely to put your kid through college as they are currently selling for more than seven times the $50 retail price!

Created by Icelandic mom Eyrún Eggertsdóttir the dolls were originally designed to help premature babies stabilize their own breathing and heartbeat by aligning themselves with the rhythm generated by the doll.  It just so happens that an added benefit was getting to use them as a sleep aid.  And oh, what a benefit it is.  It works so well, in fact, that it’s not just being used by babies and toddlers but also by older children, the elderly, Alzheimer patients, and even adult men who snore!

But that’s not all!  According to Babble, “Not only is the doll super soft (perfect for little ones to snuggle up to), but when rubbed against the skin or clothing of Mom or Dad, it can also absorb their scent, which adds an extra layer of comfort for babies at nighttime.”

Suffice it to say sleep for parents of young children is a precious commodity.  There could be nights where you only get a few hours or even just a few minutes of continuous uninterrupted sleep.  Knowing this is a key factor in why I’m on record as saying that I don’t want to have kids.  I value sleep way too much for that kind of sacrifice.

But with the Lulla Doll in the fold maybe I can re-think my stance.  Perhaps it’ll be possible to actually get a good night’s sleep in a household with a baby or toddler with the doll around to essentially act as a third parent.  It’s with that in mind that it’s easy to pronounce the Lulla Doll as one of the Greatest Ideas Ever.


Is the Lulla Doll the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The number of scientific discoveries that have happened by accident is staggering.  We’re talking about everything from Viagra, anesthesia and Vaseline to microwaves, pacemakers and x-rays.  Even post-it notes and potato chips can trace their origins back to a laboratory mishap.

Now we can add one more life changing invention to that list: nanorods capable of harvesting water from the air.  Considering how drastically the climate is changing and how likely it is that we’ll live in a future full of super droughts and water wars having an invention capable of drawing water from the air above a desert is a real game changer.  The importance of this accidental breakthrough can not be understated.

As Gizmag explains:

“The researchers note that ordinarily materials will absorb more water as the humidity in the air around them increases. But between 50 and 80 percent relative humidity, these nanorods will actually do the opposite and expel water, a behavior they say is not shared by any other material. Below that range, they behave as normal, so the process is reversible by lowering the humidity again.

‘Our unusual material behaves a bit like a sponge; it wrings itself out halfway before it’s fully saturated with water,’ says David Lao, PNNL research associate and creator of the material.

These nanorods were created by mistake while trying to fabricate magnetic nanowires, and the researchers decided to give the accidents a closer look. On examining them with a vapor analysis instrument, Satish Nune, one of the authors of the research paper, noticed that the structures were actually losing weight as the humidity increased.

Assuming the equipment was malfunctioning, the scientists switched to a microscope, and were able to observe water appearing from between the branches of the nanorods, and then evaporating at a higher humidity.”

Aside from helping us to create a new source of drinkable water this discovery could have another added benefit as well: the ability to create fabrics that could capture sweat and convert it into a vapor that would expelled outside of the garment.  This is an invention that I’ve been fantasizing about for years ever since I spent five years running through the streets of New York City in the summer time trying to catch the 5:23 Long Beach Branch LIRR train to Long Island.  I was originally envisioning a way to dry the clothing like in Back To the Future Part II.  But a special fabric that does the heavy lifting for you automatically would be much better.

Obviously it’s going to be a while before these nanorods can be commercialized but the research so far is very promising.  It also makes you wonder: what other world changing discoveries are still sitting out there just waiting for us to stumble upon them?

Are water harvesting nanorods the Greatest Idea Ever?

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You may have thought it was silly at the time.  You may not have even participated.  But that so-called silly act of filming yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head has actually paid dividends as money raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has directly lead to the discovery of a gene that causes ALS, providing hope that a cure is just around the corner.

As CNN International puts it, “The massive, socially-driven fund raising push saw 17 million people posting videos online and a slew of celebrities from Bill Gates to Steph Curry getting soaked to raise awareness for ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The disease causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to gradually deteriorate. Within two to five years of diagnosis, patients lose their ability to breathe, leading to their death.  In just eight weeks, $115 million was donated to the ALS Association, 67% of which was dedicated to advancing research for treatments and a cure, the non-profit reports.  One million dollars went towards Project MinE, a University of Massachusetts Medical School Project that was able to identify a gene that is responsible for the degenerative disease.  The gene, identified as NEK1, provides another potential target for therapy development, and brings scientists one step closer to treating the neurological disorder.”

The success of this campaign, easily the breakthrough hit of 2014, points to the potential of social media as a fundraising tool.  In our ever-increasingly inter-connected society, where information – good and bad – travels at breakneck speed, it’s worth noting that the same medium that can topple governments can also cure diseases.  Instead of trying to distance ourselves by building walls, by pulling out of alliances, by engaging in fear mongering, we should instead do just the opposite and use the tools at our disposal to come even closer together.  Because when we work together, even in a silly way, great things can happen.

Now that this campaign is a proven success I wonder if this will encourage other scientific research endeavors that are in desperate need of funding to consider similar socially driven campaigns.  Doing an Ice Bucket Challenge again wouldn’t be very creative.  But perhaps there’s an opportunity out there to do something else.  Something that would be challenging yet fun at the same time.  Something with the potential to go viral.  Perhaps a challenge where you have to try to eat something gross in a short amount of time.  I’m not quite sure.  But perhaps someone out there is.  Citizens of the world unite!  It’s time to brainstorm!

Is the Ice Bucket Challenge the Greatest Idea Ever?

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In the near future suffering a heart attack may not be the death sentence that it once was.  That’s because an injection of stem cells into the heart during bypass surgery could have tremendous healing effects such as reducing the size and quantity of scar tissue that forms during an attack thereby fixing what was previously thought to be irreversible damage.

If you’ve ever suffered a heart attack or known someone who has you’ll understand just how significant this news is.  This is a breakthrough that could save millions of lives and help improve the quality of life for millions more who initially survive their heart attack.

The Guardian goes into further detail about this incredible breakthrough:

“The small-scale study, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research, followed 11 patients who during bypass surgery had stem cells injected into their hearts near the site of tissue scars caused by heart attacks.

One of the trial’s most dramatic results was a 40% reduction in the size of scarred tissue. Such scarring occurs during a cardiac event such as a heart attack, and can increase the chances of further heart failure. The scarring was previously thought to be permanent and irreversible.

At the time of treatment, the patients were suffering heart failure and had a very high (70%) annual mortality rate. But 36 months after receiving the stem cell treatment all are still alive, and none have suffered a further cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke, or had any readmissions for cardiac-related reasons.”

Obviously this is a very small sample size.  11 patients is a minuscule number.  So small in fact that I’m actually surprised that this research was even published.  But I have a suspicion as to why it was and it’s because the results are so mind blowing that it’s hard not to get excited about it.  If it was even just three patients you’d probably still be shouting about it from the highest mountaintop.  So while further research still needs to get undertaken it’s worth celebrating the early results for they point to the potential that stem cells have as medical miracle workers.

Is using stem cells to repair heart tissue the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I like to collect things.  When I was a kid it was comic books and baseball cards.  Nowadays, it’s antiques.  Despite my hoarder tendencies I never got into collecting stamps.  Never saw the appeal really.  You can’t play with them.  They can get lost very easily.  And if you need to mail a letter it’s too tempting to use one of them.  However, my tune is about to change for a stamp is about to make history.  Well, sort of.

As Gizmodo explains:

“Researchers working in the Netherlands have developed an atomic-scale rewritable data-storage device capable of packing 500 terabits onto a single square inch. Incredibly, that’s enough to store every book written by humans on a surface the size of a postage stamp. Holy shit.”

Holy shit is right.  Just think about that.  Every book ever written on the surface of one postage stamp.  The entire contents of the Library of Congress in a 0.1-mm wide cube.  Storage density that’s 500 times larger than today’s current state-of-the-art hard drives.  How is this even possible?!

Gizmodo explains again:

“To make it work, Otte and team placed chlorine atoms on a copper surface, resulting in a perfect square grid. Importantly, a hole appears on this grid whenever an atom is missing. As we all know, this type of on/off type configuration lends itself well to binary switching—the foundation of digital data storage. Using the sharp needle of a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to probe the atoms one by one, and even drag individual atoms towards a hole.”

Um, wow.

All in all, I’m not sure why anyone would ever need to have all of that information in that little of a space (how would you even retrieve it?), but that’s not going to stop me from wanting it!  Just imagine how awesome it’s going to be ten years from now when you can own a special edition locket that contains all of human history inside of it!  I don’t even care how much it’ll cost.  Just take all of my money now.  Just take it all!

Is an Atomic Hard Drive the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Russia isn’t all bad.  In between hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and running a state sponsored Olympic doping program they have managed to come up with one of the Greatest Ideas Ever: a photo app that will enable citizens of Moscow to take selfies with various historical figures positioned throughout the city as a means of encouraging people to walk more and learn about their history and culture.

According to the BBC, “Users will be hunting for 3-D virtual doubles of Peter the Great, Alexander Pushkin and even Napoleon among others.  Each personality will be placed somewhere in Moscow and geomarked…”

Between this concept and Pokemon Go it’s clear that we’re heading towards an augmented reality infused future where mobile phones and virtual reality devices enable us to intertwine fantasy with reality.  So to capitalize on this trend I’d like to suggest that we follow in the Russians’ footsteps and come up with an Americanized version of a historical scavenger hunt.

Here’s what I’m thinking.  As a new found avid hiker I’ve decided that I want to make it my life goal to hike as many trails as humanly possible.  The only problem with this is that life often gets in the way, my motivation wanes, and I revert back to what I know, the locally accessible, relatively easy trails in my general vicinity.  What I need then is some permanent motivation, the kind that only gamification can provide.  So instead of placing historical figures in Moscow lets put them on hiking trails, on mountain tops, and in national parks.  The more hiking you do, the more places you visit, the more states you travel to, the more selfies you’ll be able to take.

The only thing that I can’t decide on is what images to use.  Historical figures makes sense for the Discover Moscow app and using American historical figures would make perfect sense in some U.S. parks such as Mount Rushmore but I’m not sure that it would work everywhere.  For example, who would you put in the Grand Canyon?  Then again for the places that it could work it really works.  Just imagine being on a hike in Portland and taking a picture with Lewis and Clarke.  Or being out on a trail in the Mid West and running into Annie Oakley.  The possibilities are truly endless as explorers, politicians, inventors, scientists, celebrities, etc. would all be fair game.

So what do you say?  Let’s make a Discover America app and give the Russians and Pokemon a run for their money!


Is Discover America the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It’s Wednesday night.  You’re up late preparing for a big presentation that you have to give on Friday.  A presentation that could very well determine the fate of your career.  As you’re burning the midnight oil you quickly come to a realization that could throw a giant wrench into your plans: the realization that your lucky suit is still at the dry cleaners after you spilled hot sauce last Friday.  You won’t have time to get it after work tomorrow because you have to attend your son’s youth soccer game and heckle the ref, your favorite pastime.  What will you do?  Ask your cubicle mate, the one who smells like rotten tuna fish, to pick up your laundry?  You can’t run the risk of your lucky suit contracting whatever STD he has so that’s out.  You could call in a favor from your unsavory neighbor but then you’d be in an even tighter spot than you are now having to owe a favor to a shady character who specializes in nefarious activities.  Bribe your Uber driver?  Sadly, that’s probably your best bet.

Or what you could do is hire an on demand personal assistant from Hello Alfred, your own not so personal butler who will do all your chores for you for a nominal fee.  For just $32 a week you can get someone to come to your home and restock your refrigerator, pick up your mail, tidy up and get your dry cleaning among other things.  If you feel like splurging for $58 you can get two visits a week.

This service, the latest in a long line of sharing economy concepts, started out in New York and Boston and has since expanded to the West Coast with locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  How successful the service is in those cities will likely determine whether further expansion is possible.

Hopefully it is because who wouldn’t want to have a butler at their disposal, just a few smartphone clicks away?!  Surely this concept will appeal to lazy millennials and anyone too busy to handle all of their chores and too cheap to hire a real housekeeper.  Which is probably most people.  Suffice it to say we might all soon be saying “The Butler did it” and having it be a good thing.

Is Hello Alfred the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Never get married. Never have kids. Those are the two keys to life long happiness.  But not everyone sees it that way.  Some people actually want to have kids.  Apparently those people have never flown coach before.

Unfortunately, not all of those people can have kids once menopause kicks in though.  Which for some women can happen relatively early in life.  However, there is now hope for those women for scientists have found a way to reverse menopause!

According to I Fucking Love Science:

“When women hit their 50s, most will start to experience menopause, when their ovaries stop producing fertile eggs. For some women, however, this process begins much earlier, occasionally before they even hit their forties, stopping them from ever having children. But now a team of researchers are claiming that they have managed to reverse menopause, New Scientist reports, stimulating the ovaries to release fertile eggs.

If confirmed, this astonishing achievement could revolutionize fertility treatment in women. By injecting the ovaries with what is known as Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which is widely used to speed up the repair of damaged bones and tissue (though these claims are in question), the researchers somehow managed to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. They claim that they were able to retrieve fertile eggs from one patient who last had a period five years previously, and have since fertilized them with sperm from her husband.”

If this process holds up to scrutiny it could be revolutionary as it would allow women of any age to have children.  Why anyone would want to do this remains a mystery to scientists.

Is menopause getting reversed the Greatest Idea Ever?

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