Tuesday, November 19, 2013

States Redrawn As 48 Watersheds

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 3:11 PM

click image The lower 48 states as they are and as they would be if states were defined by their watersheds. - COMMUNITY BUILDERS BLOG
  • Community Builders blog
  • The lower 48 states as they are and as they would be if states were defined by their watersheds.

Water is a source of contention across the U.S. In Texas, a long drought has some drilling wells to save their green lawns—a source of concern to lawmakers and environmentalists. Elsewhere, water rights are a source of disputes with the agricultural sectors of state economies hanging in the balance. So what would this country look like if states were defined by their watersheds?

Cartographer John Lavey of the Sonoran Institute in Bozeman, Mont., has created a map that does just that. State borders are redefined not by mountain ranges or the courses of rivers but by watersheds.

The result is a little less orderly than the present setup—boxy states like Wyoming and Colorado are much less so and Oklahoma practically doubles in size. Idaho subsumes Missoula, Mont., and Spokane, Wash., but otherwise keeps its shape.

According to The Washington Post, there are some good reasons why drawing boundaries by watersheds is more intuitive than a glance at the map implies. Lavey's state lines would clarify water rights, assuage numerous state vs. state lawsuits and give states a fresh start when it comes to balancing their water use.

Lavey isn't the first person to do this—he's following the lead of John Wesley Powell, who explored the Colorado River in 1869 and 1872. Seeing that water is a finite resource in the western U.S., he suggested that states be redefined by the huge basins that divide water drainage systems rather than by other geographical features.

If dividing America into mini-nations helps explain America's propensity toward violence, breaking America into watersheds might help explain an emerging interstate conflict over water. 
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Hey Kid, Want to be a Cyborg? Google's Project Glass Seeks Explorers

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Google Glass will make you into a desert commando.
  • Google's Project Glass will make you into a desert commando.

Google recently released a product demo video for its much-hyped Project Glass, meaning that our cyborg future is nigh. The video purports to capture the experience, mostly through melodramatic emotional appeals.

Some of the cool features it shows include the ability to hold live hangouts with Google Plus while piloting a stunt plane, making home trapeze videos from the perspective of your forehead, and letting your child video chat with a giant snake. Also, it tells you what temperature it is outside.

In addition, you can talk to your glasses with voice commands, because that isn't weird for people standing around you.

If you want a pair of these fancy glasses, Google is actually searching for people to beta-test them. All you have to do is tweet using the hashtag #ifihadglass, to explain what you'd use them for. Those who give the best answers by Wednesday, Feb. 27—presumably things about wiring them to your laser arm and conquering the south side of Cleveland—will be selected to get a pair, though they will still have to buy them for the low, low introductory price of $1,500.

Check out the video below.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Boisean Builds Tiny House For $11,000

Posted By on Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Macy Miller in her tiny house. - INHABITAT.COM
  • Macy Miller in her tiny house.

Small is the new big. Small phones, lighter cars, less clutter, government, national debt—it's all the rage, which is why after her divorce, Idaho architect Macy Miller decided to downsize into a smaller home.

And we're not talking about moving from a house with a big back yard to a smaller house with a smaller back yard: Miller went from a 2,500-square-foot four-bedroom, three-bath house to building a 200-square-foot home for her and her Great Dane. All it cost her was 18 months of work, $11,000 and a broken back.

"I had a minor injury—or some might call it a major injury. Yeah, I did break my back. I'm a klutz and I fell off the roof, and it was because I was being incredibly stupid," Miller told National Public Radio

Other than sustaining a potentially crippling injury, the most difficult parts of the project were wiring the tiny home's electrical system, which she had a licensed electrician double check before she flipped on the lights; installing a compost toilet and getting her tiny shower up and running. 

The payoff: "The space is laid out in a way that I have a living room, I have a bedroom, I have a kitchen, I have a bathroom. They all function; none of them feels cramped," she said.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ignite Boise 9 Speakers Announced

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 3:25 PM


Ignite Boise, the popular idea-sharing event, will return Thursday, Oct. 18. The series beckons presenters to take the Egyptian Theatre stage for dissertations on topics far-fetched, asinine, awe-inspiring and everything in between.

Now in its ninth iteration, Ignite Boise selected 15 speakers, which are each given five minutes and 20 slides to dish on their topic. In the past, the venue has been packed to the gills for the FREE event, and the audience reacts on social media via their smart phones. Ignite Boise 9 includes a host of wild topics.

Case in point: Jesse Baker intends to talk about the evolutionary phenomenon that led to the surprising proportions of the human penis. According to Baker's pitch, "This is a talk about natural selection, the human penis and the maturity of the audience."

Other topics include an investigation into the signs held by homeless people on street corners, the link between politics and American Idol, and the real story behind the hammer-swinging John Henry.

Speakers include Boise Weekly's Josh Gross, Seth Ashley, Stephanie Walker, Michael Matson, Dawn Burke and more. For a full list of speakers, including descriptions of their topics, check out the Ignite Boise website.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Video Game Controllers Use Brainwaves Instead of Joysticks

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Recently, BW told you about new advances in medical technology that allow the disabled to control robotic limbs with their thoughts.

An article in today's Wall Street Journal discusses similar technology that is being used to control virtual environments for video games.

From the article:

The gadgets translate brain waves into digital information and beam it wirelessly to computers or other devices.

So far, the headsets are confined to mostly digital interfaces—videogames and movies whose plots can be altered with the mind—although in some cases real-world objects have been used, like a pair of catlike ears that move depending on a person's mood.

The technology is still in very early phases, meaning its potential uses are barely being explored. A variety of games are available at prices as low as $5, but the technology could theoretically be used for actually maneuvering, or even living in a complex virtual environment ala the sci-fi dreams of geeks everywhere.

But it could also be used for all manner of long-running dystopian nightmares. The article says that several prisons in the UK are using the technology for behavior modification of violent prisoners, and it also delves into the therapeutic potential of the devices.

Goodbye Konami code. It was nice knowing you.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Woman Controls Robot Arm with Her Mind, Seals Our Fate as Cyborgs

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Every so often, we have a few too many beers and start ranting about robots, cyberspace and the approaching end of reality as we know it.


Because of technology like the robot arm being demonstrated in the video below from the journal Nature.

Via a sophisticated interface, a paralyzed woman is able to control the arm using only her mind. While this is fantastic for paralyzed people, it is also the sort of technology that can be easily paired with something like Google Glasses—which would allow anyone to control a robot avatar body using only their mind. And, if there's no barrier to it, they could completely divorce their existential self from their physical self to live in cyberspace, or as a robot living on an astroid or anything else we have yet to dream up. The tech isn't there yet, but it will be before you know it.

But all fear of the imminent demise of our species and way of life aside, it is pretty inspiring to see someone so handicapped be able to lift a cup and take a drink on their own. So maybe our cyborg future won't be all bad.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Tale of Two Flying Cars

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 2:03 PM

What's that, you say? The future isn't coming fast enough for you? Well then, enjoy these videos of test drives for two new flying cars that are being developed.

One of them, the Terrafugia, is set to be unveiled at the New York Auto Show this week. The Associated Press reports that the company already has 100 pre-orders for the $279,000 vehicle.

The other, the Pal-V, is alleged by the video to be commercially available by 2014.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Japanese Engineers Claim to Be Working on a Space Elevator

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:26 PM

Sci-fi nerds, prepare to hide your boners. The Daily Mail in the UK has reported that a team of Japanese engineers is beginning plans for a muthafukin' space elevator. That's right, A SPACE ELEVATOR!

From the article:

If created, up to 30 passengers at a time would spend a week traveling a quarter of the way to the moon at speeds of 120 mph.

At the end, they would reach a space station, where they could get an astronaut’s view of the Earth with little or no training beforehand.

The plans, which are still all kinds of preliminary, call for construction of the elevator to be 22,000 miles high to be completed within 40 years at an estimated cost of £6 billion. It would consist of a ground-based station tethered to a geo-synchronously orbiting space station. The article says that the engineers would prefer to start in space and build down, rather than from the ground up.

However, any sci-fi nerds who are really on point should remember the climax of Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which the space elevator constructed on Mars is brought down during a civil war. At 22,000 miles, the elevator cable would be nearly long enough to circle the earth at the equator. The potential for things to go disastrously wrong should frighten the bejeezus out of everyone.

Also, according to an article on io9 on the announcement, the materials the company plans to use are wildly dubious.

But still, a space elevator!

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robots are Coming for our Pianists

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Anyone who pays attention knows the robotic apocalypse is coming. At the rate that they're taking over jobs, learning skills and dominating bar games, it's only a matter of time until we're kneeling at the tip of their servo-lash.

But the robot playing piano in the video below actually has to go out and flaunt it—not only by shirking industrial duties to take jobs from already starving artists (that started a while ago with this band), but with its song choice: The Final Countdown. What's it a countdown to? R-day, obviously.

The piano-playing robot in question comes from the Robot Jazz line from an Italian marine-wiring company, Teotronica, and they're available to be rented for your next party.

From the website (apologies for the poor translation):

Chartering ROBOT for fairs, preparations display windows, animation, festivities … for every event outside from the usual outlines!


All the robots of house TEOTRONICA besides to play or more instruments are in a position to singing, speaking and to interact with the public

These robots do not have no difficulty in executing also the impegnativi pieces and than any musical (blues, jazz, rock, classic kind, etc) the force and the concept base of their CPU is the interpretation of protocol MIDI.

If that pitch doesn't make it crystal clear, then what else could? Instead of Cheap Trick at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, we'll soon all be "rocking" out to this. Yikes.

Run to the hills, before we all have to hear robots play "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ignite Boise Announces Speakers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 3:06 PM


From the Zen of Innovation to the pros and cons of the Hawaiian shirt, it looks like IB7 will deliver its audience another fine night of mini-presos on topics that are sometimes wacky, sometimes poignant, sometimes nerdy and almost always totally entertaining.

The inventor of the Furby, Caleb Chung—who also invented a toy called Pleo and lives in the Treasure Valley—is top on the list of upcoming presenters for the Thursday, Oct. 27, event. According to his pitch, "if you blend art and science, you get innovation," and he's proposing to start innovating "right here and now."

Nik Bjurstrom's "Beards: A Time of Need" smacks of IB6 presenter Randy Simon's "Razor Burned," which probed just how necessary shaving is. Bjurstrom promises to turn his attention specifically to cultural perceptions of facial fur and ask what can be done to "revive the once majestic beard."

"The Subtle Art of Winging It" could be pure genius or pure pain, depending on the skills of presenter Daniel Johnston. He will create only the first four slides of his presentation to explain that the remaining 16 slides were created by friends. He'll have no idea what's on the slides. Let's hope one of them isn't his wife/girlfriend/boyfriend banging his best friend/sister/dog/breakfast.

Writer Aaron Patterson will opine on the e-book, Kurtis D. Leatham delivers a birds-and-bees speech for his two teenage daughters, and Justin Boggs will examine the karma surrounding the burrito. But that's not all. For a full list of speakers, visit to see what you're in for.

Thursday, Oct. 27. Doors open at 6 p.m. for ticket holders (tickets are sold out). At 6:30 p.m., the masses will be allowed to enter to scramble for seats. Admission is free.

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