Friday, March 30, 2012

The Humanity Behind the Invention of the Computer

What would existence be like without a computer? It’s difficult to imagine but it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have them. Now a lot of us carry numerous computers, i.e. laptops, e-readers, and smartphones.

How did computers become such an important appliance in such a short amount of time? That's the question that science historian and writer George Dyson asks, and answers, in his new book, Turing's Cathedral, a kind of personal history of the computer.

Dyson, the son of scientist Freeman Dyson, has spent a lot of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The institute was home to some of the world’s most powerful scientific minds while the first digital computer was being developed.

If you read Turing's Cathedral it may surprise you at how much chance was involved in the creation of the machines that let to computers. The book not only highlights the creation of the computer but also the personalities involved at the Princeton Institute. They weren’t always on the same page but managed to create the first digital computer nevertheless.

When great minds work on a project there are sure to be rivalries and heated disagreements, the creation of the computer was no different. This book reveals that the individuals that worked on this project were geniuses, certainly not saints. Moreover there were some ethical issues that the creators of the computer faced while working on this project, since the work they were doing had a close relationship with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.

You might think that history books are dry reads and a history of computers must be brimming with technical lingo. Turing's Cathedral does not fit that image at all. Anyone who uses a computer will find this book interesting. Which is an awful lot of people these days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Connected Car: A Look at The Debate

More and more cars are appearing that allow people to be connected to the Internet from the front seat via Wi-Fi or 3G networks.  The Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, and Audi A6 are all instances of this. With these connections people will be able to stream videos, get up-to-the-minute traffic information, in addition to speak their text messages. These things all sound good, and we generally greet technological advancements with open arms but this make us ask the question: Is full connectivity in a moving vehicle a good thing?

Challenges of the Connected Car

Drivers get distracted and this can lead to accidents. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 80 % of all accidents involve driver inattention within 3 seconds of the collision. So, this being true, consider how distracted the driver would be if there is a funny YouTube video playing on an in-car screen.

Does Tech Distract Drivers?

Anything that takes a driver’s attention from the road could be a threat. Whether it’s texting, making calls, or merely having a friend in the car. Many states have made it criminal to text while driving for this reason. This is the primary reason why the news that cars are coming out with 3G connections doesn’t make everybody jump for joy.

Browsing the Web Inside Your Car

Soon motorists will be able to receive Facebook updates and browse the web on in-car navigation screens. We might even see the introduction of short-range communication allowing drivers that are sharing the road to connect to each other.

As we said before, we usually consider advancements in technology as a positive thing, however, the possible negative impacts that connected cars could have make us stop and think. While having all of these tech features in our cars improves enjoyment on the highway it’s vital that they don’t become a disruption to the driver.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How Nanotechnology Changes our Lives

You have probably heard of nanotechnology, but perhaps have almost no idea as to what it’s about and how it pertains to you. Nanotechnology makes life easier for all of us; it’s not simply the stuff of science fiction. Essentially, nanotechnology is the science of dealing with matter on an atomic scale.

The practical side of nanotechnology

To present you with an example of how nanotechnology can effect your daily life here is an article that Science Daily ran last month. The article states that scientists are developing a way to use nanotechnology to lessen the level of friction in car engines and machines. This technology will make machines operate more efficiently; prolonging their lives. According to the article, tiny polymer particles were created and dispersed in oils used in automobile engines. These were then tested in conditions akin to car engines and found to lessen friction substantially.

More efficient motors

The story reported that even when these particles were dispersed at a low concentration, they boasted more effective friction-reducing abilities than the friction reducing additives used by many industries today. The scientists learned that these particles, measuring just nanometers in size, were able to reduce friction by 55 percent more than additives currently can. Expect more discoveries like this down the road. The field of nanotechnology continues to grow. It's growing so quickly, in fact, that the United States recently released a national strategy for making sure that environmental, health, and safety research needs are recognized and addressed in the field.

The emerging world of nanotechnology

So, whenever you think of nanotechnology consider the engine in your car. In the not too distant future we may have nanotechnology to thank for more fuel-efficient cars, which obviously means saving you money.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is Google: Solve for X

We are all aware there are big problems in the world today; debt crises, illiteracy, global warming, are just a few. Google has developed a team to come up with radical ideas to find answers to the world’s biggest problems, and they call the project "Solve for X".

Tackling the biggest global issues

You may question, how can a group of people at “Solve for X” find remedies for problems that have baffled world leaders for years? The brain trust at “Solve for X” is composed of forty-six scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators from all around the world. And these individuals are excited. Google describes it as: "This combination of things—a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it and the breakthrough technology to make it happen—is the essence of a moonshot."

Tackling water scarcity

The recently ran an intriguing feature story on the "Solve for X" project. Mashable cited the account of a participant in a "Solve for X" retreat who asserted that the minds gathered with him were working on the huge issue of global water scarcity. What sort of solutions are "Solve for X" members devising to manage this concern? One involved forward osmosis with recycled ammonium salts. If you have no idea what that means, don't fret—the people at "Solve for X" do.

The need for technology brain trusts

Whether or not "Solve for X" creates real remedies for the world’s problems, the idea certainly has value. Technologies are typically developed with a single objective in mind, usually for entertainment. That said, it’s likely there are many ways we're able to use current technologies that we haven’t considered. Ideally, "Solve for X" will help us tap into that potential.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Benefits of Encouraging Creativity in the Workplace

Do your employees communicate their ideas to you? Do they ever have options about their own jobs, or ways they think the business could be more efficient?

If not, then you might be operating a workplace in which employee creativity is being squelched. Today a lack of creativity in your company can condemn your firm to second-tier status. It might even steer your company out of business.

Two heads are better then one right? Well what about a whole organization? Cultivating creativity means you have many individuals thinking of new ways to market your products and services, boost workflow effectiveness, and enhance general productivity. This can eventually mean saving the company money.

The best way to nurture creativity is to actually encourage your employees to come up with new ideas and then to listen closely to these ideas when employees bring them to you. Send out an email blast asking employees for ideas to enhance your company's products or services. Post a notice on the bulletin board requesting suggestions on how to improve the company blog or increase its customer-approval ratings. And then, when employees answer these calls, meet with them—even if it is during a quick phone call—to explore their recommendations. You don't have to implement all employee ideas, certainly, but to show respect, you should listen to them all.

If you ignore employee suggestions or disregard them without listening to them, you'll only encourage your employees to do their jobs as quickly as possible. Rather then thinking about ways to enhance the company's performance, these workers will worry only about doing their work and getting paid.

Another great way to inspire creativity is to reward strong ideas. This could be financial or simply pointing out their creativity to the rest of the company.

Many people want a job that allows them to be creative. It stimulates their minds and prevents boring redundancy. Many employees also have ideas on how to improve their place of business; they just haven’t voiced them to you. So encourage them to let you know what they think. It doesn’t mean that the way you have been doing things is bad; it just means that they may have ideas that you many not have thought of. Regardless, you and your business will reap the benefits of their creativity and your employees will be happier for it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why You Should Care About Pinterest

Are you burned out on social media? Then you won't be pleased to hear that a new social media site is gaining traction. However, you might be interested to know that this new site, Pinterest, doesn't concentrate on the minutiae of day-to-day living as sites such as Twitter and Facebook seem to. Instead, Pinterest encourages users to discuss their interests with others. And in this way, at least, Pinterest does more to encourage creativity among its users than sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

The site's name offers a clue as to what it's all about: Pinterest is a combination of "pin," as in pinboards, and "interest," as in what you're all about. Once you join Pinterest, you make your own "pinboards" or categories. You then attach photos and pictures that fit within those categories, as if you were pinning these images to a bulletin board.

Creating Pinterest Categories

For example, you might make the category convertibles. Then you can paste any images you can find online of the new Volkswagen Beetle convertible, along with a link to the page where you found them. It's also possible to attach any photos of convertibles that you took yourself as well as add notes to these images. Then you're able to share these pinboards with other Pinterest users.

The Social Part of Pinterest

Just like Facebook and Twitter, you can elect to follow coworkers and friends. You do not have to follow all of a friend’s collections; for instance, you can choose to follow only their collection of art, while choosing not to follow the restaurants they like in their area.

Joining Pinterest

The one challenge with Pinterest is that you have to get invited to get an account. You can go to and ask for an invite but it might be a while until you receive one. The more surefire way to get an invitation is to have a friend invite you that already has an account.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One Easy Way to Improve Your Career

Putting your best foot forward in life makes a difference, especially in the workplace. Hooking a career is much more difficult now then ever, so it is more important than ever to dress for success.

That's right. What you wear to work and to job interviews still matters. Yes, more people are telecommuting. More people are arriving to work in jeans and t-shirts. However, that does not mean you should dress casually for an interview.

This simple rule can help where job interviews are concerned: Far better to be overdressed then under-dressed. Even when the company you happen to be interviewing for says, “No need to dress up, we're very casual here,” it is best to still wear proper business attire to your interview. Your clothing is capable of showing how serious you are about your work, and employers want somebody that really wants to grow with a company and takes their position seriously. Should you dress for an interview in t-shirt and jeans, you have made a poor first impression, even if you blow the competition out of the water with your qualifications.

Then there's the workplace itself. If you happen to work in a casual environment, one in which formal business attire is not needed, it is possible to still dress for success. This will likely seem obvious, but always wear clean clothes. Resist the impulse to throw on last night’s jeans. Try to always take into consideration the clothes you're wearing, something that looks good, or is business casual clothes. Looking sharp sets you apart as a professional.

Of course, you still have to be a good worker. You can be the best-dressed person on the planet, but it won't help you if you don't do your job well. All things being equal, the better-dressed employee will certainly make the better impression.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

7 People to Follow to Make Your Twitter More Interesting

So now you are on Twitter, and you follow your friends and family, but you are tired of hearing about the newest restaurant your sister went to. You want to hear more interesting and worldly information.

Almost all of us have a Twitter account these days including legislators, celebrities, sports stars, scientists, and entrepreneurs as well as your next-door neighbor. To get funny, interesting, and insightful tweets you can follow any of these people.

Here are 7 interesting people that will get you started if you're not sure whom to follow:

  1. Conan O'Brien: This talk-show host's tweets are always entertaining, follow him @ConanOBrien. An example of the sort of wit you will see on his Twitter is: “I wonder if my car's blind spot compensates with a heightened sense of touch and smell.”
  2. Marissa Mayer: You may not be familiar with Marissa Mayer, but she is the first female engineer at Google. So if you would like to get a glimpse into the life and thoughts of a technology expert, follow @Marissamayer.
  3. Mike Massimino: Head in the clouds? Then follow @Astro_Mike, the Twitter home to NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. This astronaut can provide you with the inside scoop on life at NASA as well as a glimpse into what it's like to go into space. (He also made a recent cameo on the Tv show The Big Bang Theory. And, yes, he tweeted about it.)
  4. Rainn Wilson: You might know Rainn better as Dwight Schrute from The Office. If you find his character quirky and entertaining, you might also enjoy his tweets. Follow @Rainnwilson. Here is a recent Tweet from him: "If I had a bird, I would call it James VanDerBeak."
  5. Ryan Penagos: If you appreciate comics, you have to know Ryan Penagos. He's the editorial director of Marvel Comics. He's also a busy Tweeter at @Agent_M. Penagos and recently Tweeted about a new Spider-Man video game and gave his thoughts on his favorite comics. He likes the work of writer Brian Michael Bendis.
  6. Barack Obama: You can get a peek at the everyday life of the Commander in Chief @BarackObama.
  7. Bill Gates: Bill Gates has made an undeniable impact on the tech world. Learn what’s going on in his life and about the charitable causes he and his wife support @BillGates.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Will Windows Phone make Microsoft Cool

Microsoft is everywhere; their products are used the world over. And, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chief, is among the most widely known names in the field of technology. With that being said, Microsoft is missing one thing, it has never had a “cool” image. But the release of Windows Phone, Microsoft's new smartphone software, may alter our opinion.

Microsoft has long fought an industry reputation as a sort of stodgy dullard. There's a decent list of failed Microsoft products. Remember the Zune music player? Perhaps not. How about the Kin phone? That flop has long faded from the minds of most consumers.

Windows Phone software may change this, as it is a hit among the technology press and consumers alike. People are saying that in general Windows Phone is one of the best performing operating systems available on the market.

The praise that Windows Phone gets is predominantly dues to its eye-catching look and the animated home screen tiles, when compared to the more static home screen of the iPhone. This OS has people fired up as well because it gives users easy access to their social networks. The social media icons on the home screen come to life when a friend posts an update or image, this means you don’t need to click the Facebook icon to get a peek at your activity.

Even with all of these features and praise Windows Phone hasn't been the biggest seller. This is perhaps due to the phones that come equipped with the OS. Many people believe these phones are bland and wireless services providers are still pushing the iPhone and Android in a big way.

While sales may be lower then ideal for Windows Phone the change it is making to Microsoft’s reputation could have a very positive impact. Where the consumer is concerned, a little cool never hurt a company.