Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and technologist who gets her inspiration from math, science and nature. Watch a full profile of Diana Eng this Sunday at 2:30p ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Diana Eng’s mission is to bring innovation to the fashion world, and she’s doing it with some very unlikely tools.
Best known for her role on the second season of "Project Runway," Eng creates fashion and accessories that combine cutting-edge technology with design concepts from nature and science.
“I like to look at technology, math and science and how to integrate it into fashion designs,”says the New York-based designer. Eng has knitted scarves using the formula from the Fibonacci code as well as thermochromic scarves which change color with the temperature. She also uses laser cutters to design lace patterns and distressed T-shirts.
The composition of flower cells has inspired her designs and help them keep structural integrity.
“I like to make fashion and accessories that tell a story,” says Eng. “The story usually comes to me while I’m designing. And it can take me two or three years to design something, because I’m carefully gathering little bits and pieces of the story together, to create my design.”
Eng is also one of the founding members of a Brooklyn-based hack space called NYC Resistor. In an unassuming warehouse, she and 30 other members with a variety of backgrounds meet to learn, make things and share ideas.
“They have a whole bunch of electronics there so I feel like whatever I’m doing, whatever technical development (I want) inside of things, I’ll go to NYC Resistor,” she says.
Eng says she wants people to enjoy not only her fashions but the thinking behind the product.
“I’m really interested in making people think differently about things,” she says. “I feel like it’s really teaching people to look at materials that already exist and think about how it can change how we live our lives and how we can create.”
Editor's Note: The Next List will air a full 30min profile of synthetic biologist Jay Keasling this Sunday, Feb. 10th, at 2:30PM ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
It's a great time to be working in biotechnology. We are developing powerful new approaches to find cures to diseases, curb climate change and reduce reliance on foreign oil.
Synthetic biology promises to change the world by making biology easier to engineer and enabling solutions to some of the world’s most difficult problems.
At the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), I work with a motivated team of people that is at the forefront of the emerging field of advanced biofuels production. Our mission is to develop scientific breakthroughs to help solve the energy crisis.
Inside our Emeryville laboratories, JBEI researchers use the latest techniques in plant science, molecular biology and chemical engineering to produce affordable, sustainable, carbon-neutral fuels identical to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Traditionally, most of the chemicals we use are produced using chemical synthesis, which is the combination of simple chemicals to form more complex ones. For complicated chemicals like drugs, it might take many chemical steps to produce the final molecule. Some chemicals are too difficult or impractical to produce using chemical synthesis. Due to the difficulty in producing these chemicals, many drugs and other products that could make our lives better are not available.
Since 1992, I’ve been redesigning microbes (like yeast) to be miniature chemical reactors that transform sugars into fuels.
Enzymes can do in one step what might take many steps using synthetic organic chemistry. To engineer a microbe to be a chemical factory, we graft genes from plants and other naturally occurring life forms into the microbe. Once inside the cells, the genes produce enzymes that do the chemistry to transform sugars into chemicals.
One of our first products was a yeast that we engineered to produce the life-saving anti-malarial drug artemisinin. Later this year, anti-malarial drugs bearing the microbially produced artemisinin will begin saving the lives of malaria sufferers throughout the world.
At JBEI, we are focused on making biofuels out of sugars. We have engineered microbes to transform sugars into energy-rich fuels that can directly replace petroleum-derived gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Because we produce biofuels that have identical properties to petroleum-based fuels, there is no need to replace our cars, trucks or planes to use the fuels.
We are also exploring ways to extract sugar from cellulosic biomass, such as paper waste, trees that have fallen down in the forest, the residue of crops such as corn husks and stalks - everything but the kernel of corn - and non-food plants such as switchgrass.
Because plants grow by fixing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, burning a fuel made from cellulosic biomass does not add extra carbon to the atmosphere, unlike the burning of fossil fuels, which produces carbon emissions. In fact, our diesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent over petroleum-derived diesel. And because we produce the fuels from non-edible cellulosic biomass, production of the fuels does not directly compete with food.
There are many advantages to advanced biofuels. That’s why we're focused on converting biomass to biofuels. I’m passionate about advancing basic science for public benefit. That’s my motivation.
Editor's Note: The Next List will air a full 30min profile of synthetic biologist Jay Keasling this Sunday, Feb. 10th, at 2:30PM ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Quotable Jay Keasling: “The carpets, the paint on the walls, the ceiling tiles, we have the potential to produce all of these products from sugar.”
Who is he: Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, is engineering microbes – single cell organisms like yeast and E. coli – to produce biofuels, medicines, even cosmetic compounds from simple ingredients like sugar cane and grass.
In addition to teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley, Jay is CEO of the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, California.
Why you might know him: Keasling’s biggest breakthrough came in 2003 when he and his students reprogrammed yeast to produce a synthetic version of an expensive anti-malarial drug known as artemisinin. Armed with a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve since perfected this inexpensive and effective replacement drug, providing a royalty-free license for mass production to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventi. Sanofi will bring it to market in 2013, producing 100 million treatments annually. Malaria kills roughly 1 million people a year, many of them children.
Why he matters: Today Keasling is focusing his efforts on creating a new generation of biofuels. Overseeing a team of 200 researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, his goal is to “engineer microbes to produce fuels that behave exactly the same as petroleum-based fuels.” Ultimately, he believes all petroleum-based products – everything from hard plastics and paints to soda bottles – can be produced from these sugar-fed microbes.
Keasling’s philosophy: “Energy is our biggest industry on the planet. But unless we stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, sea levels are going to continue to rise and it's going to create huge problems."
Something you might not know about him: Keasling's a small town boy made good. He grew up on a fifth generation pig farm in Harvard, Nebraska (pop. 1000) where hard work and family were his focus. He jokes he spent the first 18 years of his life shoveling manure. Today, he may spend his day in a lab coat, but as a single father of two adopted boys, ages nine and 15, family continues to keep him grounded.
Why biofuels matter: Keasling doesn’t think we’ll ever see a day when biofuels cost less than petroleum-based fuels, but they will be cleaner. “We won’t be extracting oil from a foreign country, then hauling it to the U.S., and putting that excess carbon into the atmosphere,” he said. Instead, by producing high performance fuels from sugars, he says we can limit the carbons released into the atmosphere and, as a result, help slow global warming.
Do you ever feel like the place you live is just a dot on a map? Well, if you live in the U.S. or Canada, Brandon Martin-Anderson just made you a dot on a map.
The MIT graduate student has built an interactive online map that displays one dot for every resident of the United States and Canada, as counted by the most recent censuses. That's 341,817,095 dots. Hover over your town or city, and black smudges on the map gradually dissolve into dot clusters and then individual dots as you zoom in.
"The reason why it (the map) keeps getting shared around is that it intersects with everyone's personal narrative," says Martin-Anderson, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. "People want to be a piece of something larger." FULL POST
By Greg Gage, Special to CNN
Our understanding of the brain is rapidly expanding. New tools and technologies coming online allow scientists to probe deeper into the microarchitecture of the circuits of our mind. It is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist, as over the past decade our knowledge has been rapidly growing.
But these discoveries and insights have all been limited to a small, select group of individuals that have dedicated their lives to study neuroscience in graduate school and become postdocs, researchers, and professors. While most everyone is fascinated by the brain, very few get the chance to peer into the world of neurons. Because, until now, there wasn’t a way for amateurs to get involved.
Throughout history, many great contributions to science and mathematics have been made by amateurs. For example, Thomas Bopp, a factory manager and an amateur astronomer co-discovered the great Comet Hale–Bopp of 1997. Amateur mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan made so many important discoveries that India has proposed that his birthday be declared the National Mathematics Day. The reason many amateurs can contribute to these fields in particular, is that the instrumentation is very affordable.
Written By Heather M. Higgins, CNN
Video Edited By Nina Raja, CNN
A video of rainbow-pigmented cells opening and closing to the deep bass beats of an iconic 1990s rap hit has 2.1 million views on YouTube - all because a Michigan-based neuroscientist is using it to teach a new generation of young people about the brain.
“If you have an idea that involves the nervous system and electricity you can do that with very, very cheap parts – that’s the insight,” said Alex Wiltschko, a PhD student at Harvard University. “So you can clip a wire onto a squid and pump in Cypress Hill into this squid’s membrane and see its colors react, see the chromatophores open and close to the music.”
The science behind this phenomenon is explained by Greg Gage, the co-founder of Backyard Brains, the company he created to democratize neuroscience education.
“The reason why it’s dancing to the music is that at that frequency, the low frequencies have long wave forms. Those long wave forms allow current to pass by, which causes an action potential, which causes the muscles inside the chromatophores to open for that brief moment of time,” Gage said.
Editor's Note: Greg Gage is a globe-trekking neuroscientist, engineer, teacher and entrepreneur. He's the co-founder of Backyard Brains, a Michigan-based company that wants to revolutionize how science is taught by putting neuroscience in the hands of young people. Watch Greg Gage's full 30-minute profile this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. on CNN’s “The Next List.”
Why he matters: Gage has come up with an innovative way to inspire future generations in neuroscience. As the co-creator of Backyard Brains, Gage created the “SpikerBox,”a small DIY kit that helps young people understand the electrical impulses that control the nervous system. He brings cool hands-on experiments to schools so students can see and hear brain signals, or “spikes” from the living neurons of insects like cockroaches.
Gage is passionate about coming up with ways to change neuroscience education, because, he says “when it comes to the brain, we’re in the dark ages. One out five of us will be diagnosed with a brain disorder that still has no cures. By getting more people involved ... we can inspire those interested to become neuroscientists, and perhaps cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Why he cares: The inspiration for Gage's work as an educator came from a realization that the advanced equipment he used as a PhD student could be made at home for a fraction of the price, in less than a day.
"Our equipment that we were using cost $40,000," he said. "We set off on a self-imposed engineering challenge to see if we could replicate our expensive lab equipment with something affordable by consumers.”
Gage ended up with the $100 "SpikerBox. It can be used with a smartphone, iPad or computer to monitor brain activity in real time. After a few minutes, amateurs can begin to understand the basic principles of how neurons encode information, and how remarkable the brain can be.
Editor's Note: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, environmentalist, co-Founder of Square and Third Degree Glass Factory and general partner of Cultivation Capital. He is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.
By Jim McKelvey, Special to CNN
Most glassblowers agree that one man, Lino Tagliapietra, is the best.
Who’s the most skilled programmer? Who’s the most talented singer? Who’s the smartest attorney? Who knows? But in glass, we all agree that this 80-year-old Italian dude is the best in the world. Imagine what you can learn from someone who is undisputedly the best in the world.
I got to study with the “Maestro” at a time when he took only 10 students a year.
During the week I spent with Lino, every student got to ask him one question. It could be anything. Lino always knew the answer.
Your one question was a big deal. Students either asked ultra-complex technical questions or requested that Lino make the glass behave in ways nobody thought possible.
My question was elementary. I asked the world’s best glassblower how to properly center a foot on a bowl.
Editor's note: Nathan Myhrvold is CEO of Intellectual Ventures, author of "Modernist Cuisine" and "Modernist Cuisine at Home."
By Nina Raja, CNN
CNN: For people who don't know anything about it, how would you define modern cuisine?
MYHRVOLD: Modern cuisine is the movement of chefs that are trying to create new kinds of food, new food experiences. And they don't care if they have to break some of the traditional rules of cooking to do so.
CNN: There are so many cookbooks out there, what's different about your larger, 6-volume "Modernist Cuisine" book and your new 456-page publication "Modernist Cuisine at Home"?
MYHRVOLD: Well, you know, we set out to make a book that would explain how cooking worked and all of the techniques that modern chefs use, sort of the cutting edge of what the cooking world is.
Now a lot of home folks bought the book and use it and cook from it, but it's a little daunting to buy a six volume, 50-pound, 456-page book. And, of course, a number of the recipes are recipes that are just hard to do, that in fact, almost every chef in New York would find hard to do, much less somebody at home.
So we thought there was room to create a smaller book, a little bit less imposing, a little bit cheaper, where all of the recipes were designed to be done in a home kitchen by home cooks.
CNN: Can you briefly tell us how you got from working at Microsoft to working with food?
Who: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, community activist, environmentalist, and citizen of the world. Co-Founder of Square, Co-Founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, Co-Founder of Mira Publishing, Director of Emerald Automotive, General Partner of Cultivation Capital, he is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.
Why you might know him: McKelvey is most well known as the Co-Founder of Square, the mobile-payment system. In fact, it was his belief that small entrepreneurs endured abuse in the credit world that led Square to focus on payments.
Why he matters: He’s tackling some really tough problems with imagination, passion and grit. Most notably, McKelvey is working on creating a new economic model to help keep the struggling publishing industry alive. Why? Because “that’s meaningful work - people who write, they need every bit of resource they can get.” If that’s not enough, he’s launching an initiative to try to help reduce violence and provide a path to jobs for highly motivated but poorly educated kids in crime-ridden sections of St. Louis.
McKelvey’s philosophy: That any problem can be solved with enough resolve and the right people. Even if a problem was too big yesterday, everything is changing all the time and new tools are available every day to take on even the most complex problems.