EMERGING Technologists showcased at MITEdit
September 28, 2005, Cambridge
MIT this week plays host to the Technology Review's Emerging Technologies Conference (ETC)1. ETC is supported and organized by the Technology Review magazine, and features celebrated innovators and engineers from around the country.
The conference, like the publication, prides itself on fostering innovation. The tables outside the main audience hall include information about many other programs at MIT to support innovation -- the Lemelson Prize, and prizes for inventions by high school students across the country. This afternoon, they presented the winners of their annual young tech innovators award, this year issued to the 35 best innovators under the age of 35.
This year's Innovator of the Year is Kevin Eggan, noted for his August publication in Science showing that cheek cells could be reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells. This could potentially end debates over whether it is moral to harvest stem cells from rarer sources.
The Humanitarian of the Year, who "could just as well have been given the Innovator of the Year," is Saul Griffith, founder of Squid Labs, which pioneered a system to make customized glasses 'for $5 in 5 minutes' -- covering the complete range of prescription lenses. You can get a machine roughly the size of a desktop inkjet, which you can send instructions like you would to a printer, costs only a few hundred dollars, and can produce glasses in under 10 minutes.
1 Not to be confused with the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech)
$Negroponte : $100 Laptop to be demonstrated this NovemberEdit
The MIT Emerging Technologies Conference started its first day with a keynote by the Media Lab's Nicholas Negroponte, who presented the accelerating development of their $100 laptop initiative. This initiative aims to mass produce robust laptops at a cost of $100 apiece for use throughout the third world.
In November, at the second World Summit on the Information Society gathering in Tunis, the Media Lab will showcase working prototypes of the laptop. five to fifteen million "beta" units are expected to be produced within a year, and deployed in five countries. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has suggested distributing the laptop to half a million students across his state. They hope to produce 150 million units by the second year, at even lower costs. Negroponte noted that "$100 is still too expensive.”
The laptops will not come without software or content. Negroponte highlighted Wikipedia as an ideal content source for the initiative, calling it "by far the best encyclopedia on the planet." He later referred to the $100 laptop initiative as "the Wikipedia equivalent" of laptop design.
The Media Lab has previously provided laptops to groups of children in Senegal and Costa Rica. At the World Economic Forum earlier this year, Negroponte announced he was founding the One Laptop Per Child non-profit to push development of the notebook. Since then, the project has developed quickly, forming partnerships with organizations including Google, News Corp, Red Hat, and Advanced Micro Devices
Nuclear power industry claims spark controversy at MIT conferenceEdit
September 28, 2005, Cambridge
Five panelists convened today at MIT's Emerging Technologies conference to address the future of nuclear power research and development, and its impacts on the environment and the energy economy.
The panel, moderated by the Technology Review's Dave Talbot, included Dan Keuter, VP of Nuclear Business Development for Entergy Nuclear; Ed Wallace, a senior manager at PBMR; Tom Cochran, Nuclear Program Director at the w:Natural Resources Defense Council; Stewart Brand, President of The Long Now Foundation; and Allison MacFarlane, a geologist from MIT.
Is nuclear power a growth industry?Edit
After short presentations, panelists took questions from the audience for forty minutes. Near the end of the session, a European asked why France's Areva was considered an 'economic powerhouse' and a hot potential investment once it goes public, while it is often an investment to shy away from in the US. The responses about the economic viability of nuclear development led to some real fireworks on stage.
MacFarlane noted that France had already put a lot of investment into nuclear power; and that nuclear energy is more economical for them as they have fewer natural resources. She suggested the 'resurgence' in nuclear power development and claims of its economic viability were exaggerated; "In Europe in general, you're building one reactor," she said, "that's not a resurgence."
Dan Keuter chimed in to add that Entergy has been the most profitable utility the last 2/3 yrs in a row, and to protest that it was profitable to build reactors in the US as well - sparking a stage-wide protest.
"The rate-payers, not you, paid to build those reactors," MacFarlane shot back. Cochran added, with some emotion, that Entergy (for instance) had been unwilling to commit to building a plant with their money, when asking for federal subsidies (for site permits and construction licenses).
There was uneasy agreement among the panelists - including both environmentalists and energy-company managers - that nuclear power should be pursued to some degree, and that technical challenges can be overcome. Panelists also seemed to agree that the path for development is clearer in the rest of the world than it is in the US. However, there was a strong undercurrent of disagreement about how much this could minimize global warming, and how serious the problem of problem waste management is.