Weather Channel Now Also Forecasts What You'll Buy


Katie Rosman int the Wall Street Journal: “The Weather Channel knows the chance for rain in St. Louis on Friday, what the heat index could reach in Santa Fe on Saturday and how humid Baltimore may get on Sunday.
It also knows when you’re most likely to buy bug spray.
The enterprise is transforming from a cable network viewers flip to during hurricane season into an operation that forecasts consumer behavior by analyzing when, where and how often people check the weather. Last fall the Weather Channel Cos. renamed itself the Weather Co. to reflect the growth of its digital-data business.

The Atlanta-based company has amassed more than 75 years’ worth of information: temperatures, dew points, cloud-cover percentages and much more, across North America and elsewhere.
The company supplies information for many major smartphone weather apps and has invested in data-crunching algorithms. It uses this analysis to appeal to advertisers who want to fine-tune their pitches to consumers….
Weather Co. researchers are now diving into weather-sentiment analysis—how local weather makes people feel, and then act—in different regions of the country. To cull this data, Mr. Walsh’s weather-analytics team directly polls visitors to the Weather.com website, asking them about their moods and purchases on specifics days.
In a series of polls conducted between June 3 and Nov. 4 last year, residents of the Northeast region responded to the question, “Yesterday, what was your mood for most of the day?”

Big Data and Disease Prevention: From Quantified Self to Quantified Communities


New Paper by Meredith A. Barrett, Olivier Humblet, Robert A. Hiatt, and Nancy E. Adler: “Big data is often discussed in the context of improving medical care, but it also has a less appreciated but equally important role to play in preventing disease. Big data can facilitate action on the modifiable risk factors that contribute to a large fraction of the chronic disease burden, such as physical activity, diet, tobacco use, and exposure to pollution. It can do so by facilitating the discovery of risk factors for disease at population, subpopulation, and individual levels, and by improving the effectiveness of interventions to help people achieve healthier behaviors in healthier environments. In this article, we describe new sources of big data in population health, explore their applications, and present two case studies illustrating how big data can be leveraged for prevention. We also discuss the many implementation obstacles that must be overcome before this vision can become a reality.”

A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project


Paper by Maxat Kassen in Government Information Quarterly: “This article presents a case study of the open data project in the Chicago area. The main purpose of the research is to explore empowering potential of an open data phenomenon at the local level as a platform useful for promotion of civic engagement projects and provide a framework for future research and hypothesis testing. Today the main challenge in realization of any e-government projects is a traditional top–down administrative mechanism of their realization itself practically without any input from members of the civil society. In this respect, the author of the article argues that the open data concept realized at the local level may provide a real platform for promotion of proactive civic engagement. By harnessing collective wisdom of the local communities, their knowledge and visions of the local challenges, governments could react and meet citizens’ needs in a more productive and cost-efficient manner. Open data-driven projects that focused on visualization of environmental issues, mapping of utility management, evaluating of political lobbying, social benefits, closing digital divide, etc. are only some examples of such perspectives. These projects are perhaps harbingers of a new political reality where interactions among citizens at the local level will play an more important role than communication between civil society and government due to the empowering potential of the open data concept.”

Public Policies, Made to Fit People


Richard Thaler in the New York Times: “I HAVE written here before about the potential gains to government from involving social and behavioral scientists in designing public policies. My enthusiasm comes in part from my experiences as an academic adviser to the Behavioral Insights Team created in Britain by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Thus I was pleased to hear reports that the White House is building a similar initiative here in the United States. Maya Shankar, a cognitive scientist and senior policy adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is coordinating this cross-agency group, called the Social and Behavioral Science Team; it is part of a larger effort to use evidence and innovation to promote government performance and efficiency. I am among a number of academics who have shared ideas with the administration about how research findings in social and behavioral science can improve policy.

It makes sense for social scientists to become more involved in policy, because many of society’s most challenging problems are, in essence, behavioral. Using social scientists’ findings to create plausible interventions, then testing their efficacy with randomized controlled trials, can improve — and sometimes save — people’s lives, all while reducing the need for more government spending to fix problems later.

Here are three examples of social science issues that have attracted the team’s attention…
THE 30-MILLION-WORD GAP One of society’s thorniest problems is that children from poor families start school lagging badly behind their more affluent classmates in readiness. By the age of 3, children from affluent families have vocabularies that are roughly double those of children from poor families, according to research published in 1995….
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE The team will primarily lend support and expertise to federal agency initiatives. One example concerns the effort to reduce domestic violence, a problem for which there is no quick fix….
HEALTH COMPLIANCE One reason for high health care costs is that patients fail to follow their treatment regimen….”

How X Prize Contestants Will Hunt Down The Health Sensors Of The Future


Ariel Schwartz in Co.Exist: “The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize asks entrants to perform an incredibly difficult feat: accurately diagnose 15 diseases in 30 patients in three days using only a mobile platform. To do that, competing teams need to have access to sophisticated sensors and related software.
Some of those sensors may be found among the finalists of the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, a set of two consecutive competitions that challenges teams to advance sensing technology for gathering data about human health and the environment. The finalists for the first challenge, announced in early August, are diverse, though they do share one common trait: They’re all lab-on-a-chip technologies. “They’re small enough to be body wearable and programmable, but they use different methods,” says Mark Winter, senior director of the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE.”

Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization


Book review by José Luis Cordeiro:  Eric Drexler, popularly known as “the founding father of nanotechnology,” introduced the concept in his seminal 1981 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This paper established fundamental principles of molecular engineering and outlined development paths to advanced nanotechnologies.
He popularized the idea of nanotechnology in his 1986 book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, where he introduced a broad audience to a fundamental technology objective: using machines that work at the molecular scale to structure matter from the bottom up.
He went on to continue his PhD thesis at MIT, under the guidance of AI-pioneer Marvin Minsky, and published it in a modified form as a book in 1992 as Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation.

Drexler’s new book, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, tells the story of nanotechnology from its small beginnings, then moves quickly towards a big future, explaining what it is and what it is not, and enlightening about what we can do with it for the benefit of humanity.
In his pioneering 1986 book, Engines of Creation, he defined nanotechnology as a potential technology with these features: “manufacturing using machinery based on nanoscale devices, and products built with atomic precision.”
In his 2013 sequel, Radical Abundance, Drexler expands on his prior thinking, corrects many of the misconceptions about nanotechnology, and dismisses fears of dystopian futures replete with malevolent nanobots and gray goo…
His new book clearly identifies nanotechnology with atomically precise manufacturing (APM)…Drexler makes many comparisons between the information revolution and what he now calls the “APM revolution.” What the first did with bits, the second will do with atoms: “Image files today will be joined by product files tomorrow. Today one can produce an image of the Mona Lisa without being able to draw a good circle; tomorrow one will be able to produce a display screen without knowing how to manufacture a wire.”
Civilization, he says, is advancing from a world of scarcity toward a world of abundance — indeed, radical abundance.”

The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT)


“The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) is an initiative to construct a catalog of human societal-scale behavior and beliefs across all countries of the world over the last two centuries down to the city level globally, to make all of this data freely available for open research, and to provide daily updates to create the first “realtime social sciences earth observatory.” Nearly a quarter-billion georeferenced events capture global behavior in more than 300 categories covering 1979 to present with daily updates.GDELT is designed to help support new theories and descriptive understandings of the behaviors and driving forces of global-scale social systems from the micro-level of the individual through the macro-level of the entire planet by offering realtime synthesis of global societal-scale behavior into a rich quantitative database allowing realtime monitoring and analytical exploration of those trends.
GDELT’s goal is to help uncover previously-obscured spatial, temporal, and perceptual evolutionary trends through new forms of analysis of the vast textual repositories that capture global societal activity, from news and social media archives to knowledge repositories.”

Making/Design Policies Together


Paper by Stefano Maffei, Marzia Mortati, and Beatrice Villari for the 10th European Academy of Design Conference – Crafting the Future: “In this paper we present the idea of connecting co-design approaches and techniques to the process of policy formation. The objective is to explore the possibilities to co-design policies (making policies together), through a better understanding of the policy formation cycle and analysing the new roles, competencies, skills, and tools that could support such process. Acknowledging the recent interests of the European Commission, the paper focuses on the European policy formation cycle, comparing the current practices to an on-going initiative which is investigated as a case-study of collaborative policy making (an example of policy co-design). Both the case-study analysis and the literature research are integrated with governmental documents, reports, and initiatives that support the relevance and interest on this topic.
The analysis highlights a context where the idea of collaborative policy making is just now emerging. Three main reflections are proposed throughout the paper to further the contribution of design research to policy making: (a) the issues to be considered for citizens’ participation in policy formation through design, (b) the inclusion of co-design approaches for policymaking, (c) the possibility to include participative processes in the emerging field of design policies.”

Is making stories touchable the next big thing for journalism?


at Gigaom: “The best way to explain fracking is to let people do it, believes former LA Times reporter David Sarno, which is why he started to build interactive storytelling experiences based on game design tools….
It seems like a simple enough concept: We experience storytelling through our senses. So the more senses you add to an experience, the more immersive it can be — a concept that’s the root of Lighthaus, a new start-up founded by former journalist David Sarno.
Sarno spent eight years reporting on technology for the Los Angeles Times, but thanks to a Stanford fellowship, is now focusing on a new venture that applies game design principles to create touchable interactive graphics — graphics which can help bring important stories to life.

As demoed above, Sarno and a team of artists and designers have built an interactive experience illustrating the realities of fracking — a “touchable story” created, Sarno says, “in less than a month for a few thousand dollars.” The goal, Sarno told me in a Skype interview, is to get faster and cheaper.
While relatively new, Lighthaus already has a few clients: One is the Stanford Medicine magazine — Sarno is designing a guide to the condition placenta accreta as part of an issue focusing on childbirth.”

Inside Noisebridge: San Francisco’s eclectic anarchist hackerspace


at Gigaom: “Since its formation in 2007, Noisebridge has grown from a few people meeting in coffee shops to an overflowing space on Mission Street where members can pursue projects that even the maddest scientist would approve of…. When Noisebridge opened the doors of its first hackerspace location in San Francisco’s Mission district in 2008, it had nothing but a large table and few chairs found on the street.
Today, it looks like a mad scientist has been methodically hoarding tools, inventions, art, supplies and a little bit of everything else for five years. The 350 people who come through Noisebridge each week have a habit of leaving a mark, whether by donating a tool or building something that other visitors add to bit by bit. Anyone can be a paid member or a free user of the space, and over the years they have built it into a place where you can code, sew, hack hardware, cook, build robots, woodwork, learn, teach and more.
The members really are mad scientists. Anything left out in the communal spaces is fair game to “hack into a giant robot,” according to co-founder Mitch Altman. Members once took a broken down wheelchair and turned it into a brainwave-controlled robot named M.C. Hawking. Another person made pants with a built-in keyboard. The Spacebridge group has sent high altitude balloons to near space, where they captured gorgeous videos of the Earth. And once a month, the Vegan Hackers teach their pupils how to make classic fare like sushi and dumplings out of vegan ingredients….”