Monday, September 23, 2013

Leather Without Killing Animals

By 2050, it will take 100 billion land animals to provide the world's population with meat, dairy, eggs and leather goods. Maintaining this herd will take a huge, potentially unsustainable toll on the planet. What if there were a different way? In this eye-opening talk, tissue engineering advocate Andras Forgacs argues that biofabricating meat and leather is a civilized way to move past killing animals for hamburgers and handbags.
Andras Forgacs produces animal products -- meat and leather -- without the animal. Full bio »

Sunday, September 22, 2013

3D Printed Dinner & Neckwear

Dinner Is Printed

THE hype over 3-D printing intensifies by the day. Will it save the world? Will it bring on the apocalypse, with millions manufacturing their own AK-47s? Or is it all an absurd hubbub about a machine that spits out chintzy plastic trinkets? I decided to investigate. My plan: I would immerse myself in the world of 3-D printing. I would live for a week using nothing but 3-D-printed objects — toothbrushes, furniture, bicycles, vitamin pills — in order to judge the technology’s potential and pitfalls.

I approached Hod Lipson, a Cornell engineering professor and one of the nation’s top 3-D printing experts, with my idea. He thought it sounded like a great project. It would cost me a mere $50,000 or so.
Unless I was going to 3-D print counterfeit Fabergé eggs for the black market, I’d need a Plan B.
Which is how I settled on the idea of creating a 3-D-printed meal. I’d make 3-D-printed plates, forks, place mats, napkin rings, candlesticks — and, of course, 3-D-printed food. Yes, cuisine can be 3-D printed, too. And, in fact, Mr. Lipson thinks food might be this technology’s killer app. (More on that later.)
I wanted to serve the meal to my wife as the ultimate high-tech romantic dinner date. A friend suggested that, to finish the evening off, we hire a Manhattan-based company that scans and makes 3-D replicas of your private parts. That’s where I drew the line.
As it turned out, the dinner was perhaps the most labor-intensive meal in history. But it did give me a taste of the future, in both its utopian and dystopian aspects.
In case you don’t subscribe to Wired, a 3-D printer is sort of like a hot-glue gun attached to a robotic arm. But instead of squeezing out glue, the tube extrudes plastic.
The shape is your choice. Using special software, you can design any object on your computer — say, a coffee mug with two handles — then load the file into the 3-D printer. You wait a couple of hours as the printer nozzle shuttles back and forth, oozing out melted plastic layer by layer until — voilà — your ambidextrous mug. Other types of printers work with metal, biological tissue, ceramics and food.
To its boosters, the 3-D printer is a revolution in the making. It will democratize manufacturing. Just as the Internet turned us all into couchbound Gutenbergs with the ability to publish to millions of readers with a single click, 3-D printers will turn us all into Henry Fords, Ralph Laurens and Daniel Bouluds. In the future, if you want a new pair of boots for that night’s party, just load in a nylon cartridge, choose a design, punch a button and slip them on.
OF course, the revolution isn’t here yet, at least not for home users. According to an industry consultant, Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, only about 68,000 consumer printers have been sold. Most home users are hobbyists, and the geek factor remains high. The biggest chunk of the fast-growing $2.2 billion 3-D printing economy is industrial.
Food printing is so far a minor phenomenon, confined mostly to science fairs, universities and a handful of chocolate devotees. And, I hoped, me. But before I became a chef of the future, I’d need to make the plates and utensils.
I bought a Cube 3-D printer, perhaps the sleekest of the home gadgets. It looks like a sewing machine mated with a MacBook. It’s not cheap: $1,299, plus $49 dollars for each cartridge of plastic. I downloaded design software to my laptop and diagramed a fork. I clicked a button, and 20 minutes later, my “fork” emerged from my printer. It was a lopsided hunk of neon-green plastic with four sharp points at the end. It resembled something a chimp might use to extract termites.
Tubes containing food pastes.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Tubes containing food pastes.
My next half-dozen tries weren’t much better. I printed a cup that leaked, an ice-cube tray that refused to release its cubes, and a spoon that unintentionally called to mind one of Salvador Dalí's melted clocks. My wife, Julie, called my new cutlery drawer “the island of misfit utensils.”
In my defense, 3-D printing is surprisingly hard — a fact its advocates don’t dwell upon. So much can go wrong: The nozzle clogs, the machine overheats, the print pad tilts. In fact, Web sites like the blog Epic3DPrintingFail are devoted to photos of projects gone hilariously awry — including one box that looks as if it were the brainchild of a drunk Frank Gehry.
It’s also mind-numbingly slow. A teacup takes about four hours to print, accompanied by nonstop whirring. When I tried to design and print a replacement die for my son’s Monopoly game, it was a daylong project. My son helpfully pointed out that Amazon has one-click ordering.
That said, I did improve with practice. I was particularly proud of my wineglass, with its tapered cone. I became obsessed with the design software, spending hours squashing spheres and hollowing out cylinders. I downloaded some of the hundreds of free, publicly shared designs (though my wife nixed the Tetris-themed earrings).
I found myself almost giddy after every successful print: Yes, I created this napkin ring! I can make anything. I am a god and bright blue plastic is my universe!
The power can lead to narcissism. You think Americans in the Facebook era take excessive photos of ourselves? Get ready for selfie statues. At a 3-D printer store in NoHo run by Makerbot, you can get 3-D scans of your head (four cameras simultaneously snap photos of you from different angles). I got one of my 7-year-old son and printed a fist-size orange plastic bust of him. At home, we converted his head into a salt shaker for the dinner by poking a hole in the top of his plastic skull and adding some Morton’s.
If my table setting was going to look at all respectable, I’d need to call in the pros. I asked Mr. Lipson if I could hire him and his team to help.
What a difference a Ph.D. makes. They sent back blueprints for the cutlery — a fork and spoon made of lacy, spiraling steel. I told the engineers that my wife likes Italy, so they sent Italian-themed designs. A wineglass inspired by a Roman column, with Corinthian flourishes. A candleholder influenced by Venetian gondola poles, adorned with Julie’s favorite flower, the peony.
I showed the images to my wife. She paused. “You might have gone a little over the top with the Italian theme,” she said. “I think we have different agendas here. You want personalized designs that could only happen with 3-D printing. I want stuff we will actually use more than once.” Mr. Lipson printed most of my dinnerware at a New York-based company called Shapeways, which has fancy, cutting-edge 3-D printers that work with metal and ceramics. Again, it’s not cheap. The cost for my fork, for instance? $50.
I couldn’t afford a 3-D-printed dinner tuxedo, but Mr. Lipson offered to design a tie. “It’ll be a bit like chain mail,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to blow my nose on it. But it will work.” A few weeks later, the tie arrived: a long swath made entirely of white interlocking rings of nylon. I had trouble adjusting the tie, so I wore it loose and low, like a young banker after a few too many vodka tonics.
At last, meal day arrived. The Cube can print only plastic, not food, so I had called in my tech team.
At noon, Jeffrey I. Lipton — a 25-year-old Cornell Ph.D. candidate in engineering — arrived and unloaded boxes of equipment. Out came an air compressor, plastic tubes and bottles of xanthan gum, a food thickener. Our kitchen table was overtaken by a large 3-D printer that had been used for various other experiments — like printing artificial buttocks muscle for medical training.
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Lipton said. “It’s been cleaned.”
Mr. Lipson believes that the 3-D printer could be the most powerful kitchen tool ever created. You will have unlimited control over your meal’s shape, consistency, flavor and color. Just think of what it means for parents, he said: “What boy wouldn’t want to eat a Lamborghini, even if it’s made of broccoli?”
The most ardent supporters of 3-D-printed food have big ideas. NASA gave $125,000 to a Texas company to study 3-D-printed cuisine for astronauts. The benefit is, they could design a wide assortment of meals from shelf-stable ingredients.
There’s talk of embedding medicines in meals. In his book “Fabricated,” Mr. Lipson dreams of digitally driven dinners, where the printer uses your body’s up-to-the-minute data to create the perfect lasagna for your nutritional needs, with, say, extra protein or vitamin A.
Junk-food makers hope 3-D printing will allow them to patent a new way to combine salt, sugar and fat. Animal-rights activists hope printers will squeeze out pork chops made from the lab-grown stem cells of pigs. And idealists believe that the technology will help solve world hunger. The hope? We can more efficiently ship powdered food to developing countries, where it can be printed into a variety of meals. A group of Dutch researchers is working on inexpensive bases made from algae and insect protein.
When Mr. Lipson’s engineers were experimenting with printing food in 2009, they created artificial snacks made from gelatin and flavoring. The resulting food cubes — infused with banana and vanilla — were sampled by undergraduate volunteers. They were not a hit. “It was met with universal condemnation,” says Mr. Lipton. “It was very ‘Soylent Green.’ ”
Instead, the lab now squishes whole foods down into a paste that can be used as the printer’s ink. The menu for my dinner took weeks to figure out, balancing my wife’s tastes and the lab’s scientific constraints. “It needs to be something processed,” said Mr. Lipson. “Like quiche or meatloaf. It can’t be a salad or steak.”
Our final picks? Pizza, an eggplant dish, corn pasta and panna cotta.
Our pizza will be in the shape of Italy, a topographically correct replica of the country, complete with the Apennine Mountain range in the middle.
Mr. Lipton punched some codes into his laptop (e.g., 20 psi for air pressure), and the pizza dough began squirting out of a long tube.
The tomato sauce — which was thickened with xanthan gum to achieve the right viscosity — proved more challenging. “These oregano flakes are killing me,” Mr. Lipton said with a sigh, fiddling with the dial on the air compressor. The flakes were clogging up the tube’s nozzle, leading to what one onlooker called a Vesuvian eruption of red sauce in Northern Italy.
After extruding the cheese, the pizza was ready for heating. Future 3-D printers will most likely use lasers to zap the food. Mr. Lipton used a more traditional method: our oven.
Twenty minutes later, we had a pizza shaped like Italy, or at least Italy and its surrounding coastal waters (the dough rose with the heat, expanding the borders).
My wife and I put our slices on our 3-D-printed plates, cut a piece with our 3-D-printed forks. We clinked our 3-D-printed wineglasses and listened to some Sinatra playing (very faintly) on a plastic and rubber 3-D-printed speaker.
WE each took a bite. We raised our eyebrows. It tasted like the 22nd century. Actually, it tasted like a slightly chewier version of non-3-D-printed pizza. I wasn’t magically transported to the holo-deck of the Starship Enterprise, but it was good eating. In my wife’s opinion, almost as good as Patsy’s, which is high praise.
“We actually found that creating totally new taste sensations alarms people,” Mr. Lipson told me. “Humans are quite phobic that way. So we try to stick to tastes people are somewhat used to.”
Continuing with the carb-heavy theme, we next printed out corn-based noodles in the shape of our initials. They emerged from the nozzle in little squiggles, looking like a plateful of tiny beige Slinkies. They tasted like a more delicate version of angel-hair pasta.
Our side dish was a 3-D Frankenfood: a paste made of squash and eggplant and printed in the shape of a gear (a design that seemed appropriately mechanical). The idea was to show the potential for 3-D printing to combine any vegetables — or meats or fruits or nuts — into a single object. We would create a new hybrid: the eggsquash, or the squant. Unfortunately, our eggsquash’s texture was too gummy to enjoy, so my wife and I left half on the plate.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
The tie, the dishes and the cutlery were all created with a 3-D printer.
The dessert was panna cotta. The plan was to have a secret 3-D-printed message hidden inside. If cut in half, the dessert was supposed to reveal the letters “NYC” in blue cream. (The lab had done a similar trick with a “C” buried inside a cookie.)
Mr. Lipton dyed some of the panna cotta blue, but it never made it out of the tube. “This isn’t going to work,” Mr. Lipton said, after searching his gear. To inject the secret letters, we needed a second compressor hose, which Mr. Lipton had left at the Cornell lab. Instead, we had (once again) food in the shape of our initials. It was creamy and light, though the monogrammed letters made us feel uncomfortably Trump-like.
Thanks to the technical snafus, the meal finished late — or at least late by parents-of-young-kids standards. Mr. Lipton packed up his gear around 11 p.m.
After spending weeks with 3-D printing, I have no doubt it will change the world in ways we can hardly imagine. Much of the change will be behind the scenes, unobserved by consumers. Engineers foresee a lightweight largely 3-D-printed airplane that could cut fuel costs significantly. That savings will (fingers crossed) be passed along to travelers. As Mr. Lipton says, we are in for a “silent revolution.”
But will there also be a revolution in our homes and kitchens? Will 3-D printers transform our lives like the PC and Mac did? That remains to be seen.
It will be a battle between two forces: one, our love for ego-gratifying stuff tailored to our every whim. And two, our built-in laziness. Will we make the effort to print out a hexagonal ostrich burger with cucumber swirls (and then clean the printer) when we can just get a Quarter Pounder at the drive-through on the way home? I’m a techno-optimist, so I hope so.
In the meantime, I’d judge this the strangest and most memorable meal of my life, and that includes a dinner party that featured vegan cow entrails.
A.J> Jacobs is an editor at large at Esquire magazine and the author of “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection.”

May The Force be With You

Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits

Sometimes you want to wear something that's geeky, but a bit more subtle than a fan t-shirt. These Star Wars neckties let you show off your Imperial (or Rebel) allegiance while still remaining stylish.
Currently, these silk ties are available only through Kotobukiya in Japan for ¥ 5,040 (around $50.72 USD). No word on whether we'll be seeing them in North American shops, or when we'll be seeing a TIE Fighter necktie.
Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits1
Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits
Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits2
Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits
Hip Star Wars neckties add Force and flair to your suits

Friday, September 20, 2013

Start Happy, Stay Productive

Put on a Happy Face. Seriously.

If employees start the day in a good mood, it can have a huge impact on the company's performance

It's one of those days. You argue with your spouse before heading out the door. A rude driver swerves in front of your car and you spill coffee on your lap. You arrive at work in a bad mood.
Will those negative feelings affect your productivity and performance for the rest of the day?
For many people the answer is yes, which is why taking steps to help employees start the day off on the right foot is something more organizations might want to consider.
Recent research I have done with Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, examined the link between employee mood and performance on the job. We asked U.S.-based telephone customer-service representatives for a Fortune 500 company to record their moods at the start of and at various times during the day for a three-week period. After accounting for each employee's underlying temperament and the mood of the customers they were helping, we found evidence of virtuous and vicious cycles, depending on how the reps were feeling at the start of their shift.
Can smiling really boost your mood? WSJ's Christina Tsuei takes a look at the science behind smiling, in this latest installment of "Is It True?"
More specifically, the reps who were happy at the start of the day generally stayed that way as the day progressed. They tended to feel more positively after talking with customers, which resulted in their providing better service on subsequent calls.
Those who came to work miserable, on the other hand, tended to feel worse after interacting with customers, which in turn led to a more than 10% decline in their productivity as they had to take more small breaks between calls to get through the day.
What can companies take from this research? Our findings suggest that to enhance performance, it is critical to both acknowledge and reset the negative moods that employees bring with them to work. At the same time, reinforcing good moods—say, by offering cookies in the break room—may lead to an improvement in the quality of work produced. A manager might choose to focus more on minimizing negative moods or more on reinforcing positive ones, depending on which performance goal—productivity or quality—is more important.
Misery Loves Company
Many organizations wrongly assume that employees dealing with things like stressful commutes or worrisome family problems can simply check their emotions at the door. Most can't. But there are steps that both employees and employers can take to reset the bad moods that compromise job performance.
One important way employees can reset a negative mood on their own is by creating a so-called intentional transition. That might mean stopping for a coffee, listening to a favorite piece of music or taking a more scenic route to the office. As our findings show, it's more than just a feel-good strategy—it can set the stage for making a better impression at work.
Leaders and managers, meanwhile, can do their part by creating positive transitions for their teams at the start of the workday. They might, for example, hold a quick motivational gathering with staff members each morning, or send an e-mail to each employee with a positive thought, goal or feedback.

Alison Seiffer
Managers also can give their employees time and space to reduce stress by letting them socialize and check in with colleagues before getting down to work. To that end, some management consultants suggest building in five or 10 minutes of open time at the start of meetings, so employees can share anything that may be distracting them from focusing on the agenda at hand. Some managers even bring toys such as squeeze balls and Slinkies to meetings, and encourage people to play with them to release stress.
One counterintuitive finding that came out of our study was that while bad moods at the start of the day generally persisted or got worse as the day went on, interacting with customers who had worse-than-average moods actually made employees feel less bad, an effect we called "misery loves company." Dealing with people who are worse off than themselves may allow employees to put things in perspective. Alternatively, dealing with miserable customers may give employees license to match the customer's tone in a way that allows them to vent their own frustrations.
Both of these strategies—putting one's problems in perspective and venting in an acceptable way—may help employees get into a better mood on their own, suggesting that strong intervention on the part of a manager isn't always required.
Flexibility Pays Dividends
Still, bosses who pay attention to the moods of their employees and show flexibility in how they respond are likely to reap rewards.
The manager who shows immediate frustration with an employee who arrives a few minutes late, for example, likely will exacerbate the person's bad mood, sending the employee into a negative tailspin that results in lowered productivity and compromised job performance all day. Moreover, the employee is less likely to hear, process and benefit from the manager's feedback at that time. Waiting for a more appropriate time to discuss the issue will help, both in terms of the manager's own emotional reaction, as well as the employee's ability to hear and discuss the feedback.
So think about creating an office culture that encourages a positive start to the day. It likely will pay dividends in both the short and long term.


Rick Owens SS14 Paris


MIA-Made in USA.  Matthew Burnett  an interned that I managed during my time at Fossil left the company excited to start his own product line in his hometown of Detroit. He got his first major order but was completely unaware of the complexities of overseas production.  Most of his shipment arrived to the states  late or defective completely destroying his business. His failure inspired him to join up with other like-minded individuals to launch a website giving designers easy access US manufactures.

Randa Luggage Logo
T: 1 + 973.873.9618

Monday, September 16, 2013

I designed this... WE designed this!

Imagining what is next for Poetry
A year ago my wife Anneli and I, set out with a goal to give poetry mobility and make it fun to write with friends.  We aim to help engage young communities to spend time with creative writing, and what better way than with a mobile app.  Tap our app and create your own Poetry Slam with friends.  Share poems to your public book for others to rate.  Each day we feature the Poem with the highest points.  Press play and receive 3 random words that you can choose to write solo or a create a multi-player Poetry Slam.  With social media it is easier than ever to get the recognition you deserve as a poet.  Share your poems with the world via Facebook, Twitter or more intimately through SMS.

Poetry, it serves our innate need to explain ourselves and the world we live in.  The words we string together into poems articulate and frame experiences.  Poetry is a resource that leads you to unlock your imagination, plus it will help to improve your cognitive function.  Give the gift of poetry Today! - It lasts a Lifetime.

Invite your friends from Facebook and start tweeting Poetry!

The last video game I designed was in the year 2000 as a CAM (Computer Animation / Multimedia) student studying at the Art Institute of Dallas.  It's main function was to teach kids about planets as they traveled in spaceship through the solar system.  Long lapses of time have a tendency to build an itch.  For me it was this itch, and the longing desire to contribute in Anneli's poetry blog (Estonian language only).  I would watch her spend countless hours manually taking emails and cutting and pasting poems to her poetry blog.  I always said their must be an easier way, and I always said you should make both your cooking and poetry blogs in english.  So many of us would follow your cooking and read your poetry.   These feelings eventually played in my mind as a soundtrack, as I played games like Farmville and Draw Something.  We can build an App!  and we did.
Here is a look at my public book

David, thanks for giving me this voice, Imaging what is next!

Rhymes with Friends Download on iTunes

Join our Poetic Social Network today!

Poetically yours,
Brian Tedesco
AKA my Alias @Rhymes3D

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When Complexity Is Free

When Complexity Is Free

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. — IT’S easy to be depressed about America these days. We’ve got messes aplenty abroad and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is totally paralyzed. Indeed, the G.O.P.-led House has become a small-minded, parochial place, where collaboration is considered treason, where science is considered a matter of opinion, where immigration is considered a threat, where every solution is a suboptimal compromise enacted at midnight and where every day we see proof of the theory that America is a country that was “designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.”
  Fortunately, there is another, still “exceptional,” American reality out there. (I am talking to you, Putin.) 
  It’s best found at the research centers of any global American company. These centers are places where scientists and engineers from dozens of nationalities are using collaboration and crowd-sourcing to push out the boundaries of medical, manufacturing and material sciences, where possibilities seem infinite, where optimal is the norm and where every day begins by people asking: “What world are we living in, and how do we thrive in that world?” As opposed to: “Here is my crazy ideology, and the world will have to bend to it because I’ve got a donor in Vegas who will fund it and a gerrymandered district back home that will endorse it.”
  Just to get a jolt of that optimism, and a chance to focus on what we should be talking about, I asked General Electric for a tour of its huge research lab here in Niskayuna, north of Albany. I wanted to see what new technologies, and therefore business models — and therefore jobs — it might be spawning that public policy, and education policy, might enhance. I have no idea whether or how G.E. will profit from any of these breakthroughs, but I saw the outlines there of three radically new business trends that the United States should want to dominate.
  The first derives from a phrase tossed off in passing by Luana Iorio, who oversees G.E.’s research on three-dimensional printing: “Complexity is free,” she told me. That is actually a very big statement.
  In the old days, explained Iorio, when G.E. wanted to build a jet engine part, a designer would have to design the product, then G.E. would have to build the machine tools to make a prototype of that part, which could take up to a year, and then it would manufacture the part and test it, with each test iteration taking a few months. The whole process, said Iorio, often took “two years from when you first had the idea for some of our complex components.”
  Today, said Iorio, engineers using three-dimensional, computer-aided design software now design the part on a computer screen. Then they transmit it to a 3-D printer, which is filled with a fine metal powder and a laser device that literally builds or “prints,” the piece out of the metal powder before your eyes, to the exact specifications. Then, you immediately test it — four, five, six times in a day — and when it is just right you have your new part. To be sure, some complex parts require more time, but this is the future. That’s what she means by complexity is free.
  “The feedback loop is so short now,” explained Iorio, that “in a couple days you can have a concept, the design of the part, you get it made, you get it back and test whether it is valid” and “within a week you have it produced. ... It is getting us both better performance and speed.” 
  In the past, performance worked against speed: the more tests you did to get that optimal performance, the longer it took. When complexity is free, the design-to-test-to-refine-to-manufacture process for some components is being reduced from two years to a week. 
  There is a parallel revolution in innovation. When G.E. is looking to invent a new product, it first assembles its own best engineers from India, China, Israel and the U.S. But now it is also supplementing them by running “contests” to stimulate the best minds anywhere to participate in G.E.’s innovations. 
  Example: There are parts of an aircraft engine — hangers, brackets, etc. — that are not key to the engine, but they keep it attached and add weight, which means higher fuel costs. So G.E. recently took one bracket — described the conditions under which it worked and the particular function it performed — and posted it online under the “The G.E. Engine Bracket Challenge.” The company offered a reward to anyone in the world who could design that component with less weight, using 3-D printing.
  “We advertised it in June,” said Iorio. Within weeks, “we got 697 entries from all over the world” from “companies, individuals, graduate students and designers.” G.E.’s engineers culled out the top 10, and they are now being tested to determine which is the lightest that conforms to G.E.’s specs and can be built on its printers. I saw one prototype that was 80 percent lighter than the older version. The winning prize pool is $20,000, spread out across 8 finalists, with awards ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 each. A majority of entries came from people outside the aviation industry. 
  Lastly, we are on the cusp of what G.E. calls “the Industrial Internet” or the “Internet of Things” — meaning that every major part of a G.E. jet engine, locomotive or turbine is now equipped with online sensors that constantly measure and broadcast every aspect of performance. Computers capture all this big data and use it to improve everything from the flight path to energy efficiency.
  “We used to do monitoring and diagnostics,” said Mark Little, the director of G.E. global research: “We had sensors on a gas turbine. If something happened in your system, we could say: ‘You have an overtemperature on the backend, and here is how to fix it.’ And now we are using all this data to do prognostics. We are reading the signals and telling you something that will happen. You can proactively respond to it, and it affects reliability and productivity.” With all this data, G.E. is developing new service businesses that offer not just to manage an airline’s or railroad’s engines, but how fast all its planes or trains go, how flight and train schedules are coordinated and even how its equipment is parked to get optimal performance and energy efficiency.
  With this diffusion of sensors, says Beth Comstock, G.E.’s chief marketing officer, a company can assemble data so much more accurately to “observe performance, predict performance and change performance” so there is “no unplanned downtime.” It can make an airline or railroad or power plant so much more “sustainable,” in both senses of that word.
  Watch this space, even if Washington doesn’t: When everything and everyone becomes connected, and complexity is free and innovation is both dirt-cheap and can come from anywhere, the world of work changes.  ■


Friday, September 13, 2013

Pleat or not to Pleat?

Pleated Trousers – A Resurging Trend?
To pleat or not to pleat? That is the sartorial question.
Despite the everyday male’s natural aversion to pleated trousers and the continued preference of straight, slim-cut, flat-fronted styles by the industry as a whole, it seems that pleats are back with a vengeance. For both SS13 and AW13 – and extending as far as SS14 – the pleat has made its presence felt on the runways whilst subtly stamping its mark on current high street collections.
However, with the world of menswear now fully accustomed to skinny and slim-fit trousers, where cut and silhouette is key – is men’s fashion ready for the return of the pleat?

The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth

I know... It's ironic considering the posting source... DJK

The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth

Draft is a series about the art and craft of writing.
As a writer and teacher, I try to learn something about the craft every day. A gold coin of inspiration may come in my reading, in a conversation with another writer or even in the process of revising this essay.
I learned an important lesson, somewhat unwittingly, on July 19, 1975, while watching an interview with two of my favorite writers, William F. Buckley Jr. and Tom Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe was making fun of an art critic who had begun an essay with the sentence “Art and ideas are one.”
“Now, I must give him credit for this,” said Mr. Wolfe. “If you ever have a preposterous statement to make … say it in five words or less, because we’re always used to five-word sentences as being the gospel truth.”
The five-word sentence as the gospel truth.
Granted, Mr. Wolfe was being a little cynical, but the truth of what he was saying still applies. Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence.
In a 2006 article in The St. Petersburg Times, the writer Thomas French showed off this move, describing the memorable life and influential tenure in a Tampa zoo of a chimpanzee named Herman.
“Altogether,” wrote Mr. French, “he lived at Lowry Park Zoo for 35 years. He lasted there longer than any other creature and longer than any of the humans. Each of the 1,800 animals at the zoo is assigned a number. His was 00001.”
In an interview, Mr. French explained that the most telling detail in Herman’s story was that number: 00001. Herman was Elvis, No. 1, the primal primate, Adam in this garden of captives.
Finding that number — with all those zeros — is good reporting; how Mr. French decided to use it is more revealing. He could have listed it in a catalog of details. Instead, to deliver it full force, he placed the magic number at the end of a paragraph at the end of a section in the story’s shortest sentence. “His was 00001.”
Using short sentences to their full effect is a centuries-old strategy, found in opinion writing, fiction and nonfiction, poetry and plays. It works in a formal speech or in a handwritten letter. Shakespeare had a messenger deliver the news to Macbeth in six words: “The Queen, my lord, is dead,” a message that could fit easily inside a 140-character tweet.
A familiar and effective place for the short sentence is at the end of a long paragraph. Here is the critic Greil Marcus riffing on the poetry of the beat poet Allen Ginsberg:
SIN! SIN! SIN! Ginsberg shouted again and again, in scores of other words — single words, elaborate travelogues, sexual fantasies, the American pastoral as it passed by under his eye on the highway, unable to outrun the American berserk in Vietnam. He was there, “lone man from the void, riding a bus/hypnotized by red tail lights on the straight/space road ahead,” to judge the country. And he was there to save it.
Let’s measure the economy of that final sentence, an efficiency that brings with it the ring of truth: Seven words, all of one syllable. Twenty-one letters. That’s three letters per word.
There are times when these truth-bearing (truth-baring!) sentences come in a cluster, heightening the drama. The sentences also can appear as a stand-alone paragraph, swimming in white space. George Orwell plays with these techniques in “Animal Farm”:
It was a pig walking on his hind legs.
Yes, it was Squealer … And finally there was a tremendous baying of dogs and a shrill crowing from the black cockerel, and out came Napoleon himself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to side, and with his dogs gambolling round him.
He carried a whip in his trotter.
A long sequence of short sentences slows the reader down, each period acting as a stop sign. That slow pace can bring clarity, create suspense or magnify emotion, but can soon become tedious. It turns out that the short sentence gains power from its proximity to longer sentences, as Orwell demonstrates with that final image of the whip appearing after a sentence that stretches to 38 words.
Another British dystopian, Anthony Burgess, might have learned this trick from Orwell. In the last paragraph of “A Clockwork Orange,” his savage teenage narrator is about to be liberated from the re-programming designed to suppress his violent impulses. Listening to his beloved Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, he expresses his joy via an invented gang-slang of the future:
Oh, it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum. When it came to the Scherzo I could viddy myself very clear running and running on like very light and mysterious nogas, carving the whole litso of the creeching world with my cut-throat britva. And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing movement still to come. I was cured all right.
Notice the metrical echoes in that final sentence: five words. All of one syllable. None longer than five letters. And with this added benefit: It comes not just at the end of a passage or a chapter, but as the last chilling words of the novel.
What makes a short sentence short is determined by the sentences around it. In the land of 40-word sentences, the 20-word sentence bears a special power. The following passage ends the historical novel “Libra” by Don DeLillo and describes the burial of John F. Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. You will notice that all the sentences are relatively short, allowing the emotional tension to build. The woman in question is Oswald’s mother:
Marguerite felt a weakness in her legs. The wind made the canopy snap. She felt hollow in her body and heart. But even as they led her from the grave she heard the name Lee Harvey Oswald spoken by two boys standing fifty feet away, here to grab some clods of souvenir earth. Lee Harvey Oswald. Saying it like a secret they’d keep forever. She saw the first dusty car drive off, just silhouetted heads in windows. She walked with the policemen up to the second car, where the funeral director stood under a black umbrella, holding open the door. Lee Harvey Oswald. No matter what happened, how hard they schemed against her, this was the one thing they could not take away — the truth and lasting power of his name. It belonged to her now, and to history.
Consider the variety of lengths in this excerpt: 7, 6, 8, 32, 3, 8, 13, 23, 3, 28, 8. The two shortest verbless sentences of three words (Lee Harvey Oswald) appear immediately after two of the longer sentences. That change of pace, that abruptness, that slamming on of brakes, carries significant meaning as does that final truth bearing/baring sentence: “It belonged to her now, and to history.”
I thank Tom Wolfe for that 1975 lesson on the disproportional power of the short sentence. It stuck. I owe it to him to restore his original context, that writers can use it to give even preposterous statements the ring of truth. The bigot can use it to foment hate. The propagandist can slap it on a bumper sticker. But for the writer with good intent, the short sentence proves a reliable method for delivering the practical truth. With punch.

Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System

In a Breathtaking First, NASA’s Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System

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Since the launch of the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled over 11.7 billion miles from the launchpad pictured here. That is equivalent to traveling to the moon and back almost 25,000 times.
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PASADENA, Calif. — By today’s standards, the spacecraft’s technology is laughable: it carries an 8-track tape recorder and computers with one-240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone. When it left Earth 36 years ago, it was designed as a four-year mission to Saturn, and everything after that was gravy.
This image obtained in 2002 from NASA shows one of the twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977.

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But Voyager 1 has become — thrillingly — the Little Spacecraft That Could. On Thursday, scientists declared that it had become the first probe to exit the solar system, a breathtaking achievement that NASA could only fantasize about back when Voyager was launched in 1977, the same year “Star Wars” was released.
“I don’t know if it’s in the same league as landing on the moon, but it’s right up there — ‘Star Trek’ stuff, for sure,” said Donald A. Gurnett, a physics professor at the University of Iowa and the co-author of a paper published Thursday in the journal Science about Voyager’s feat. “I mean, consider the distance. It’s hard even for scientists to comprehend.”
Even among planetary scientists, who tend to dream large, the idea that something they built could travel beyond the Sun’s empire and keep grinding away is impressive. Plenty of telescopes gaze at the far parts of the Milky Way, but Voyager 1 can now touch and feel the cold, unexplored region in between the stars and send back detailed dispatches about conditions there. It takes 17 hours and 22 minutes for Voyager’s signals to reach NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory here.
“This is historic stuff, a bit like the first exploration of Earth, and we had to look at the data very, very carefully,” said Edward C. Stone, 77, NASA’s top Voyager expert, who has been working on the project since 1972. He said he was excited about what comes next. “It’s now the start of a whole new mission,” he said.
The lonely probe, which is 11.7 billion miles from Earth and hurtling away at 38,000 miles per hour, has long been on the cusp, treading a boundary between the bubble of hot, energetic particles around the solar system and the dark region beyond. There, in interstellar space, the plasma, or ionized gas, is noticeably denser.
Dr. Gurnett and his team have spent the past few months analyzing their data, trying to nail down whether what they were seeing was solar plasma or the plasma of interstellar space. Now they are certain it was the latter, and have even pinpointed a date for the crossing: Aug. 25, 2012.
At a news conference on Thursday, NASA scientists were a bit vague about what they hope to get from Voyager 1 from now on. The answer, to some extent, depends on what instruments continue to function as the power supply dwindles. Dr. Stone expects Voyager 1 to keep sending back data — with a 23-watt transmitter, about the equivalent of a refrigerator light bulb — until roughly 2025.
One hope is that Voyager 1’s position will allow scientists to more accurately study galactic cosmic rays, which are high-energy particles that originate outside the solar system. They would use the information to make judgments about what interstellar space is like at even greater distances from Earth.
In its heyday, Voyager 1 pumped out never-before-seen images of Jupiter and Saturn. But it stopped sending home pictures in 1990, to conserve energy and because there was no longer much to see. A companion spacecraft, Voyager 2, also launched in 1977, has stopped sending back images as well. Voyager 2 is moving in a different direction but is also expected to exit the solar system.
Eventually, NASA said, the Voyagers will pass other stars, coasting and drifting and being pulled by gravity. The next big encounter for Voyager 1, in around 40,000 years, is expected to be a dwarf star dispassionately known as AC+793888 in the constellation of Camelopardalis.
But already, Voyager 1 has achieved what Dr. Gurnett called “the holy grail of heliosphere research.”
Voyager 1 left the solar system the same month that Curiosity, NASA’s state-of-the-art rover, landed on Mars and started sending home gorgeous snapshots. Curiosity’s exploration team, some 400 strong, promptly dazzled the world by driving the $2.5 billion robot across a patch of Martian terrain, a feat that turned the Red Bull-chugging engineers and scientists of Building 264 of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus into rock stars. By comparison, the Voyager mission looked like a Betamax in the era of Bluetooth.
The 12-person Voyager staff was long ago moved from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus to cramped quarters down the street, next to a McDonald’s. In an interview last month at Voyager’s offices, Suzanne R. Dodd, the Voyager project manager, said that when she attended meetings in Building 264, she kept a low profile in deference to the Mars team.
“I try to stay out of the elevator and take the stairs,” Ms. Dodd said. “They’re doing important work there, and I’ll only slow them down.”
At 52, Ms. Dodd is a relative newcomer to Voyager, first working on the mission in 1984. Now she and her team seem poised to return to the spotlight.
As the solar system’s edge grew tantalizingly close, NASA asked the Voyager scientists to increase the amount of data collection. The problem: the 8-track data recorders from 1977 were not exactly bursting with extra space. Could Ms. Dodd even find anyone who specialized in that piece of technology and could coax it to record more?
“These younger engineers can write a lot of sloppy code, and it doesn’t matter, but here, with very limited capacity, you have to be extremely precise and have a real strategy,” she said.
She was able to find her man: Lawrence J. Zottarelli, 77, a retired NASA engineer. He came up with a solution. But would it work?
Mr. Zottarelli waited at Voyager mission control one afternoon last month to find out. The first of the newly programmed data dumps was set to come down. Ms. Dodd, Dr. Stone and Mr. Zottarelli watched two old Sun Microsystems computers like children watching for a chick to peck through an egg. “Nine, eight, seven,” Dr. Stone counted down.
“Everything’s fine,” said Mr. Zottarelli, flashing a thumbs up. “You’re on your own now.”
The relief was written all over Ms. Dodd’s face. “It’s not easy flying an old spacecraft,” she said.
Her eyes moved to Dr. Stone, who was peering at a computer through his trifocals.
“There are lots of old missions,” he responded with a sly smile. “But not many are doing exciting new things.”