Venessa Posavec's Blog Posts

What's Wrong With Education Today

March 28 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Education   Year: General   Rating: 1

A short satirical song by Tom Chapin. Are we losing sight of what the driving forces of education should be?

Online Apps On the Rise

March 28 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5

As the spirit of Web 2.0 takes hold, there’s a growing trend of companies taking their desktop applications to the web. Just this week, Adobe made the move with the announcement of Adobe Photoshop Express, a free, online photo editing service. There have even been rumors circulating lately that Microsoft may finally offer a web-based version of its Office suite. It seems like a smart move, both for the company and the consumer.

Web-based apps are a cost effective alternative to software that needs to be downloaded, and they’re easily accessible from any computer. A big advantage for an office or productivity product, like Google Docs or Zoho, is the ability to collaborate on a document/project with others in real time, both editing simultaneously. Free versions aren’t as robust as what you get for a few bucks a month, but it provides a good test drive before you commit to a broader range of services, and gives the company exposure they might not otherwise get.

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Video-Sharing Gaining Popularity Among Educators

March 28 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Education   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

Academic institutions are usually slow to make changes, especially when it comes to integrating new methods of teaching. We keep talking about how the web will shape education, but school administrations don’t make it easy to take advantage of all the new tools out there. For instance, most schools block access to YouTube, leaving teachers no choice but to roll in the VCR cart every time they want to incorporate a video into a classroom presentation.

Luckily, there are a few sites out there that provide the platform for educators to upload and share media. Most notable is TeacherTube, an obvious YouTube copycat that’s been around for just over a year now. They boast over 15,000 user-generated videos to supplement K-12 education, many of them tutorials for projects or instructional videos. Teachers can upload material and collaborate with other educators around the world, and most schools have allowed access to the site.

It’s been a great way for teachers to generate new and interesting lesson plans, and it allows students to review a concept several times to make sure they understand it. It would also be a great platform for students to share information with each other from different schools or countries, and work on projects together. But, despite its popularity and benefits to both teachers and students, some schools are still wary of allowing video-sharing sites to be used at school.

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Turning Smartphones into Wi-Fi Hotspots

March 27 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Communication   Year: 2008   Rating: 7

National Wi-Fi is a hot topic lately. We’ve recently reported on Google’s plan to make it happen and Intel’s new wi-fi platform. Now, a new product has launched that may satisfy our need for around the clock connectivity.

TapRoot Systems announced it’s WalkingHotSpot software yesterday, which offers a new way to get connected using your handheld device. If you own a Wi-Fi and mobile broadband-enabled cellphone, the software turns it into a Wi-Fi router, effectively transforming your phone into a hotspot.

There are a few kinks to be worked out before this can be widely adopted. The service will be sold to carriers, not directly to consumers, so we’ll have to wait and see who picks it up. Also, only phones based on AT&T Wireless’ service would allow internet access and phone calls to be made simultaneously. To narrow it further, only phones using Symbian S60 or Windows Mobile operating systems are currently supported.

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Genetic Discrimination: Who Will Protect Us?

March 27 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

Yesterday we outlined the falling costs of full human genome sequencing, and how it may well hit a magic price point within the next year or two. Now, we’re looking at the implications of mandatory genetic testing by doctors and employers, and what that might mean for insurance and employment.

As clinically available genetic tests become increasingly affordable that brings us to the cusp of the era of personal genomics. It won’t be long before your entire genome can be sequenced for under $1,000, and that service may even get integrated into health care plans. But what happens if the test isn’t optional anymore? There are growing public fears that doctors and employers could enforce testing, and use it as a source of discrimination.

Could poor genetic makeup become grounds for limiting or denying access to insurance or a job? Could we end up living in a Gattaca -like future?

A policy document pushing for federal legislation to protect the public against genetic discrimination was just recently released by the American College of Physicians (ACP). The monograph included six policy positions, which covered the need for uniform state and federal protection, and specific prohibition against genetic testing usage for insurance or employment decisions.

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Personal Genomics In Our Future

March 26 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2011   Rating: 10

As genome sequencing costs continue to fall, the personal genomics industry may soon blossom. It could be as soon as next year. I’m hopeful for that, at least, after reading a post on Brian Wang’s blog, Next Big Future. He gave a nice succinct overview of what’s going on in the field, and how quickly it may become affordable for many people.

In order to really be viable as a supplemental health service, the magic price point for a full genome sequencing is said to be $1,000. Here’s a quick breakdown of how drastically the time and money needed to produce that data has been minimized already, thanks to the accelerating rate of computing power and technological progress:


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2008 Marks the Beginning of Flexible Displays

March 26 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Entertainment   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

The market for flexible Active Matrix (AM) displays will finally be open for business this year, according to an iSuppli report. We’ve seen paper-thin prototypes for a while now, but the quality and diversity of products is good enough to get the public’s attention. In fact, the worldwide market revenue is estimated to reach $2.8 billion by 2013, up from $80 million in 2007.

Gamers are already drooling over the new curved monitors that were showcased by Alienware at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in January. The first of its kind, the screen is the equivalent of two 24-inch monitors, and promises a richer, more immersive visual experience. Check out the video, then get in line – we should be seeing these on store shelves later this year.

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Anissimov: Safeguarding Humanity Against Extinction Risk

March 26 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 10

It would be great to think that the future will be better than the present, and all emerging technologies will be created to do the most good. But, the future holds no guarantees, and we’d be irresponsible and falsely idealistic to cheerlead every new development without looking at its acccompanying risks.

To help us at that task, we spoke with Michael Anissimov, a futurist blogger over at Accelerating Future, and Fundraising Director, North America of the Lifeboat Foundation. He writes extensively on existential risk (or extinction risk), which he defines as “a risk so severe it threatens to wipe out the human race or permanently curtail our potential.” The biggest potential threats come from nanotechnology, biotechnology, and AI/robotics.

Anissimov explained the mission of the Lifeboat Foundation, and gave us his views about how new technologies might impact us in the upcoming years if we don’t plan ahead. Though he’s generally optimistic, he forced us to put down our Future pom-poms for a minute, and really consider the risks that accompany powerful technology.

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China To Take on Mother Nature at 2008 Olympics

March 25 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 7

Apparently China has a lot to prove at this year’s Olympics, not just to the world, but to Mother Nature herself. After all, what other city but Beijing can boast a governmental department called the Weather Modification Office? To ensure the event goes off without a hitch, China’s pulling out the technological stops to keep the spectators and skies rain-free.

First, they’ll track the weather using a combination of satellites, radar, and an IBM supercomputer purchased from Big Blue. Then, armed with 7,113 anti-aircraft guns and 4,991 rocket launchers, they’ll shoot the bejesus out of any incoming rain cloud. Weapons are loaded with a variety of fun chemicals like silver iodide, dry ice, and liquid nitrogen, which will work by flushing clouds of rain before they pass over the stadium.

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Super-Insulated Glass To Supply Heat

March 25 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2009   Rating: 8

Guardian Industries, an architectural and automotive glass manufacturer, recently unveiled a new prototype glass product that could provide some big energy gains when integrated into the homebuilding process. The windows of your house may soon actually supply energy via passive solar gains instead of leak it.

The vacuum-insulated glass (VIG) panel consists of two glass panes, one of which is covered in low-e coating. When vacuum sealed together, the panel effectively eliminates both convection and conduction of heat. The most impressive aspect of the product is its potential level of insulation (or R-value). The higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Most low-e glass comes in between R-2 and R-4, but this revolutionary glass promises a whopping R-12 to R-15 rating – the equivalent insulation of your home’s exterior walls.

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