Archive for July 1st, 2011

Open source knowledge…what a novel concept

| July 1, 2011 | 3 Replies
Open source knowledge…what a novel concept

Thirty years ago, give or take, I read Lucifer’s Hammer (by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle) for the first time. Published in 1977, it has a few dated elements, but apart from those, it holds its own in my mind. The novel describes a near future after a comet hits the Earth. I enjoyed it, but one very small reference stcuk in my head.

One of the characters has a library (that he preserves from the anarchy) and the one book he takes as currency to the outpost central to the novel is “Volume Two of The Way Things Work.” Google “The Way Things Work” now, and you’ll likely find mostly hits on David Macaulay’s illustrated book. Nice…and informative, but not the one Niven and Pournelle were talking about.

I searched for years, pre-internet, before finding my copy. It’s an eighth edition of the one originally published in 1963 by Simon and Schuster; subtitled “An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Technology.” It’s a single volume, not two, and although also dated (vacuum tubes), it is still an enormous, condensed wealth of knowledge. I’m not an end-of-the-world type person, but I have several survival books of this nature (Back to Basics, The American Boys’ Handybook, etc.) for my children and descendants…just in case. Not in case of the end of the world, but in case they get stranded or what have you.

Driving around to look in on various construction projects today, I listened to a few TED videos and one, very short by TED 18 minute standards, conveyed in four minutes one of the more amazing ideas I’ve seen at TED, host of hundreds of amazing ideas.

Marcin Jakubowski, a Polish American with a PhD in fusion physics, founded Open Source Ecology, “home of the Global Village Construction Set, developing community-based solutions for re-inventing local production” after starting a farm. I’ll let him describe what he’s done:

I’m adding this to my various “Way Things Work” works. It’s free, brilliant, full of maker ideals, and can deliver affordable technology to the world. Maybe I’ll even be able to contribute.

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Infrastructure bond issues and regional infrastructure banks

| July 1, 2011 | Reply
Infrastructure bond issues and regional infrastructure banks

Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDoT) is laying off employees, closing facilities and selling some of its assets to make another over $500 million available for project funds for Missouri transportation by 2013. Additional federal funds for economic infrastructure are unlikely as part of any renewed efforts at economic stimulus. Some suggest that overseas corporate profits could fund an infrastructure bank.

Despite the current economic situation states can use their own efforts to provide additional infrastructure funding in addition to making their state departments of transportation more lean and efficient. Perhaps groups of states may even establish regional infrastructure banks for the states to fund educational and economic infrastructure projects.  To the degree other financial incentives may be necessary to retaining present businesses and assuring the location of new businesses in a state, bond issues for economic and infrastructure development could be put to a vote of the people.

Missouri had a vote for educational infrastructure under our late Governor Mel Carnahan when the governor supported a constitutional amendment to issue bonds for some $660 million for education. Missouri voters overwhelmingly supported the bond issue and our schools and state are better for it. California did this with a $10 billion investment in life sciences research. States may look at what was done in Missouri, California and elsewhere to see what worked and build upon it.

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