Sunday, October 7, 2012

Boston is Among the Top Ten “Best Cities”

Boston was named one of the top ten cities in Business Week’s ranking of 100 largest cities in America. The survey analyzed attributes such as leisure, educational facilities, economic factors, crime and air quality.

Boston isn’t always one of the nation’s safest towns. But few cities can match Beantown’s blend of history, night life, and education. With 22 universities, Boston can seem very much a college town, owning a grimy charm.”

Reference: Konrad, Alex, America's Best Cities, Business Week, October 2, 2012

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

MIT's Fiber Cloud

MIT’s Mobile Experience Lab has produced a cutting edge interactive sculpture known as the “Fiber Cloud”. “The Fiber Cloud is an organically shaped fiberglass structure that stands over two meters high and responds to human interaction through more than 15,000 optical fibers, each of which represents a pixel that can be touched, modified or moved in a physical way.”

The cloud is located in the new reception area of the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy.

Established in 2004 the Mobile Experience Lab focuses on radically reinventing connections between people, information and physical places using cutting-edge information technology.”

Reference: Introducing the Fiber Cloud, MIT SAP
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

MIT and Harvard’s EdX Online Education Platform

EdX is a joint creation of MIT and Harvard University. “The partnership strives to bring online learning to people across the globe and offers online classes for free.” EdX courses use quizzes, videos, feedback and other methods to engage students in online learning. EdX is a non-commercial, nonprofit platform which received $ 60 million in funding from Harvard and MIT. It offers not-for-credit courses to a worldwide audience. It also received $1 million dollars in support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in May.

UC Berkeley is the first public university to join the EdX platform. “The addition of UC Berkeley will give the “edX” online effort its first expansion into a prestigious public university and a foothold on the West Coast away from its Cambridge, Mass. Base.”

Reference: Access Granted: EdX Offers Courses from MIT, Harvard, Metro NY, July 30, 2012 and UC Berkeley joins online education platform of Harvard and MIT, LA Times Blogs, July 24, 2012
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Converting Parking Spaces into Tiny Public Parks

Boston is developing a pilot program to convert parking spaces into small parks – parklets – complete with patios, benches and planters. The city will pay roughly $ 12,000 for the first parklet, and ask area businesses, nonprofits and associations to sponsor maintenance of plantings and furniture.

San Francisco has 30 parklets already. A typical parklet occupies one to three parking spaces. Rebar, an art and design firm initiated the idea in 2005, which has spawned an international event called the park(ing) day on the third Friday in September.

It’s predicated on the idea that a metered parking space is an offer for a short-term lease on some pretty valuable urban real estate, and you could actually rent that space to provide a variety of services or fulfill a variety of unmet needs,’’ according to Rebar.

Reference: Moskowitz, Eric, Boston looks to transform parking spots into small parks, Globe Newspaper Company, June 15, 2012
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South Boston Convention Center is Not Big Enough

The Executive Director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority discusses a need to double the size of the South Boston Convention Center. “He says the city is turning away 14 major events a year because of a lack of space and not enough hotel rooms.”

Reference:  TWIB: South Boston Convention Center,, June 17, 2012
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Park and Charge Station for Electric Cars:

A developer is proposing to transform an old gas station in the Bulfinch Triangle area of downtown Boston into a Park and Charge facility for Electric and Hybrid vehicles. This is a busy part of Boston, where 35,000 cars and pedestrians pass each day. Two electric-vehicle charging stations opened recently in Boston, and this would be the third one to open.

The new facility will open on August 1, and will be equipped with smart parking technology from Streetline, a California based company. The company will use patent pending sensor technology that will use low-power wireless sensors at each parking space to detect the presence of a vehicle and send it to Streetline’s web and mobile applications. “Users can tap into the Parker app to keep track of how much time is left for charging and to find their vehicle.”

Reference: Resende, Patricia, Boston to get eco-friendly park and charge facility, Mass High Tech, April 18, 2012
Photo Credit:  A charging station for electric vehicles by Runesand, released to creative commons.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Health Effects of Wind Turbines

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has an ambitious goal of producing 2,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2020, which would be enough to power 800,000 homes. But apparently it is facing some headwinds. The state is forming a panel of independent scientists and doctors to study the health effects of wind turbines on nearby residents. The panel may recommend acceptable sound levels, require manufacturer’s to provide expected sound levels under different conditions and shift some permitting authorities from the local enforcement to state agencies.

The primary concern is the impact of wind turbines on nearby resident’s health and well being. Some residents have reported an increase of sound level by as much as 10 decibels within 1,500 feet of the turbines. The critics argue that the churning of turbines and resulting infra-sound vibrations can produce dizziness, nausea, depression and anxiety. The infra-sound vibration is a low frequency sound wave which is below the normal range of human hearing.

Here is a PBS video on Effects of Wind Turbines on People:

Reference: Abel, David, Wind turbine noise is targeted, The Boston Globe, May 21, 2012
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