Category Archives: thoughts

silly technical thoughts wearable

Stupid wearable idea of the day - distance sensing headphone band

It happens all the time, people walk around with their heads down looking at their phones,oblivious to the world around them.  If you aren't looking at your phone you have to watch out for people headed straight for you and get out of there way.

What about this for an idea.  Mount a distance  sensor (ultrasonic,infra-red or similar) and camera to the top of the headphone band. Point it at approx 45 degrees so when the head is tilted down it will be pointing straight forwards.   When it detects a obstacle it can make the phone vibrate and swap the display to the camera image.

 

IMG_20140928_204439

 

Pretty sure this will be worth a few million of venture capital money in silicon valley but it is a stupid idea and you saw it here first

thoughts

The Web at 25. Will someone call it a cab?

The World Wide Web  is 25 years old.  In People terms it is someone who has been through those awkward teenage years, made it past  university with a great big loan, has a  9 -5 Monday to Friday job. But on the weekend goes out, gets very drunk, blows all its money in the casino, ends up in a nightclub, has a one night stand then wakes up the next morning with a banging headache, a gut full of regrets and cheap kebabs.

 

'The Prodigy Smack my Bitch up' -  The Web at 25? NSFW

Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web while at CERN as a means for researchers to share their work.   Berners-Lee didn't invent the web and the components it is made up of  from scratch but it builds on many years of research and development.  Shortly after the Second world war and the invention of the digital computer scientists began to think how to organise, collate and work with large amounts of data. In 1968 Douglas Engelbart gave what is now known as The mother of all Demos . In the 1980s The Department of Computing at University of Southampton developed Microcosm Hypermedia  . British Telecom had a patent and tried to claim that all web pages that used hyperlinks would have had to pay them a royalty. glad that one didn't get through, stupid B.T.

Fortunately for the world, CERN and Berners-Lee aren't like B.T  and silicon valley start-up blood suckers wanting to make a quick buck without any real idea of what they are doing.  The World Wide Web grew massively for many reasons not least because in 1993 CERN gave it away freely. But it also came at the right time.  The internet had become mature enough to support the communication of computers and  to join networks on a large scale. Around that time intel launched the pentium processors and microsoft  released Windows 95. These put powerful,relatively inexpensive computers easy to use computers on to many desks in offices, universities, schools and private homes.  The next logical step was make information easily accessible and navigable.

Its not all been plain sailing for the  Web  though.  The web is a powerful tool, corporations and governments want to take  control and twist it for their own nefarious purposes.  It can be used to spread child pornography, rascism and hate. Some people want to do nothing more with it than make money without a care for the consequences.

But it can also be a powerful force for good. Social media connects people together, friendships blossom,it can be used for education, campaigning and understanding.

Tim Berners-Lee and other  recognises that the Web has changed the world massively mostly for good but there is always the danger that it could go wrong in the next twenty five years so needs protecting and support. This is the purpose of the Web We Want Campaign. Back in May I was lucky to be invited to the kick off event at the Southbank Centre (Thanks Mar )  It was a great morning with Tim and Jude Kelly discussing the history of the web,its origins  and the problems that it faces in the next 25 years,followed by a brainstorm session of ideas for the festival.

The full festival launches September 1st it will be 8 months running through to May 2015 , including three dedicated weekends.

Take part in it, go to the events at the Southbank centre,  learn to code not just for the sake of it but to understand the Web and how it shapes and influences the world we live in.

Tim Berners-Lee Web Developer photo
Just a Web Developer, No big deal

 

 

 

 

technical thoughts

What's a MAC address and why does it matter?

If you are reading this you  may already know what a I.P address is. A quick recap if you don't .  When a computer connects to the internet or any  network that uses the TCP/IP protocol  it needs a method for uniquely identifying that device on the network. The most common I.P addresses in use today  are version 4 I.P addresses.  These are 32 bit numbers which for historical and administrative reasons are most commonly written as 4 groups of numbers between 0 - 255 separated by a '.'  for example 192.168.19.7 or  136.156.21.98    When a computer has a valid I.P address for that network it can communicate easily with other computers on that network and using the ability of TCP/IP to route communications between multiple networks it has the possibility to communicate with many more.

Before a computer or any other device that connects to the internet can be assigned an I.P address there has to be some communication with the network. This is to make sure the device is both allowed to connect to the network and that the owner of the device is correctly identified.  This Authentication and authorisation process requires the device to have a unique address, but if the I.P address is the unique address on the network does that not create a catch 22 situation?  This is where the MAC address comes in.

The MAC address has no connection to Apple Mac computers.  Its an Acronym for Media Access Control. Every network interface has a MAC address so if you have a computer that has both a wired and wireless network connection that is 2 MAC addresses one each. If you have bluetooth on your computer or phone that also has a MAC address.

Why does it matter what a MAC address is? today in parliament the M.Ps have been debating  the DRIP bill, this is the bill that will allow the state to continue to intercept and store our communications. There has been a lot of criticism of the bill both for its content and how it has been rushed through Parliament without the normal amount of debate and scrutiny.

When MPs debate and introduce legislation centred around the use of technology and how it impacts  the people of the U.K I would like to think that they have an appreciation and understanding  of that technology , so I was annoyed when it was reported that Helen Goodman Labour M.P for Bishop Auckland called for MAC addresses to be tied to individuals.  I am writing this before Hansard was publish so not sure of the exact quote but if that is what she said then it is simply idiotic.

A MAC address isn't like a passport or driving licence that requires checks and more checks to be made by the government before they are handed out. MAC addresses are created on machines in the Far East and randomly sent all around the world.  They move locations and between people all the time. To try and keep track of who is using a particular address at any one time is absolutely ridiculous.  Not only that but it is possible to  mask and  change MAC addresses both for legitimate reasons but also for illegitimate reasons to gain access to networks without revealing information about the connecting device.  So not only would any attempt at tying MAC addresses to individuals be massively difficult it would also be pointless for trying to catch terrorists and pedophiles

It really goes to show how little idea M.Ps have of technology and the digital world today.  Just as the government wants everybody to learn to code and understand technology I wish MPs of all parties would take their advice it might help a little.

 UPDATE:  Hansard for yesterday has been published.  The reference to trying to tie MAC Addresses to an individual can be found at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140715/debtext/140715-0003.htm#14071561000762 

4th Paragraph under the section 15 July 2014 : Column 748 

 

 

silly thoughts

Odd signs or my odd thoughts

Sometimes I like to walk around London just looking at things. Its an amazing place, there are people from all over the world. Some of the buildings are brand new,some hundreds of years old.  I like the slightly quirky things, the things that area little odd. These three signs I saw recently in different places are all examples of words that aren't quite right or could be interpreted in different ways.  Maybe they are odd or maybe its just me that looks at them and has odd thoughts.

Anyway here they are,make up your own mind.

 

IMG_20140629_145832
I don't understand how to use this door. It has to be kept shut when it is used
IMG_20140704_131841
I've never thought of a Plaice as stunning before
IMG_20140705_122938
Warning of minimum Card value and the Social media

 

 

IMG_20140705_121304
I'm an Adult I can play on the scaffolding

 

 

And in case you were wondering what a Plaice looks like here is a photo of one

 

a Plaice
Stunning?
technical thoughts

Don't be afraid of what you can see. Investigate what you can't

U.K Cinemas are banning Google glass over piracy fears  When I saw that article in the Guardian yesterday I was astounded.  It reminded me of the early 1980's slogan 'Home taping is killing music' , as it happens home taping didn't kill music but the record industry did their best to, with sky high CD prices and taking a long time to understand the implications of the internet,the MP3 and the iPod.

I can't think of anything worse than watching a film recorded on Glass, the 'pirate' would have to keep their head perfectly  still for an entire film, both the video and sound would be low quality. The Bone conduction microphone is designed to pick up the voice of the wearer not Cinema sounds. The camera is 5Mp and can record at 720P video.  I don't know what the sensor size is but it will be a lot smaller than a DSLR camera, given the physical size of the unit.

Glass has just gone on sale in the u.k at £1000.  That would pay for a pretty decent and discrete camera with lens and microphone.  If I was intending to video films at the cinema that is where I would spend my money.  If the cinema industry is so scared of Glass filmed copies competing with its IMAX 3D Surround cinemas they really need to have a look at what they are doing.

Maybe Cinemas need to  look at removing admission prices,get more people through the doors and make more money from food and drink sales and from advertising.  Or maybe the reaction to Glass is just a fear of the unknown,  its a new technology, that they don't understand and don't know how to deal with. I would be interested to find out if as a test anyone  has  tried recording a film on Glass, seeing how hard it is and what the result actually looks like, i'm guessing not.

Something happened this week that  with the Google Glass ban and the controversy over the Facebook Scientific paper  really made me think about the use of technology.

I was at an event looking at new technology and its applications.  It was pretty interesting but nothing unusual. I went to the event,picked up my pin on badge. Talked to some vendors selling nice tech. but nothing out of this world, had a cup of coffee and then listened to some presentations.  At this point I was shaken.

One of the presenters was talking about tracking technology for events just like the one I was at. I'm used to companies scanning a bar code or Q.R code on your badge to add you to a mailing list.  When that happens its ok I consent to it.  But the presenter showed that they were tracking which stands people had visited and there wasn't any visible tag on my badge and i hadn't had it scanned it, or touched it to any reader in any way.

Immediately I took my badge off and held it to the light.  And clearly there is  form of RFID tag visible.

Badge

The badge was just a thin paper badge,  it probably costs several  pence to make.   I was quite shocked at being able to be tracked like that but in that case it didn't bother me too much.  But the possibilities of where it could be used are more worrying.  Its well known that store loyalty cards are used to track your purchases and can even predict when a woman is pregnant  Having this technology in cards will mean that a Store can not just tell what you buy  but want you don't buy, what route you take around there store, where you walk slowly or fast or if you change direction and go back for something you forgot. It will be able to tell which entrance and exit you use, did you eat in the cafe or use the cash machine.

The Google Glass ban in cinemas is silly because anyone obviously wearing Glass isn't the one up to  no good.  While people have been rightly concerned over the Facebook study, it is research that Facebook are comfortable sharing with their competitors and the wider world. It was two years ago and for one week only.  If you are worried about that study have a think what they have been doing for the last two years,  not sitting back and twiddling their thumbs.   Amazon,Twitter,Google and Apple  must be glad that Facebook went public with the study, it takes the heat off of them and no doubt will be a reminder to keep all of their work private now.

I love technology, I work with it every day and I know it can be used for some really,fun,interesting and worthwhile applications.  But I do worry that it needs to be kept in check and monitored otherwise in the wrong hands it can be harmful.  For that to happen there has to be an understanding of what it can do and how it can be used. What it should be used for and what it shouldn't.   Learning to program with devices like the raspberry pi and the Arduino is a great start but also thinking about what all the technology around us is doing and why it is there. I would encourage everyone who is ever given a simple paper badge to hold it up to the light and see what might be hiding inside it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

developer museums Projects technical thoughts

An App called Farting Statues, I made it, here's why

Farting Statues, yes really an app called Farting Statues.  If you don't believe me go and have a look on the  Google Play Store  If you have a Android device install it and have a play with it.   Ok it's a real app that I made, explaining why I made it might take a bit longer but here goes.

 

Farting Statues main screen
Farting Statues main screen

At the end of last year i took a Coursera course called  Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps an introduction to computer science and writing Android apps. I'm not a really a beginner but it was a nice course to do. I picked up  some useful tips and tricks when using the Eclipse IDE and it was good to have a lot of the things that I have taught myself verified as the right way to go.

One of the early assignments was to produce a simple app that displayed a photograph of an early computer along with explanatory text. The assignment didn't require any coding as such, just to produce a portrait and landscape layout and have it swap between the two when the phone was rotated.

The assignment did get me thinking, it had a very stong museum feel to it , very similar to the sorts of apps that museums produce, but theirs are so much more polished and professional, but here is me writing a very small and simple museum type  app. Would it be possible to use app writing as a way for visitors to engage with content.  Instantly I fell in the love of the idea of guerrilla museum apps. Visitors writing apps using the content available on museum websites . Distributing them on app stores for other people to use when visiting museums.

There is a big push at the moment for people to learn to code, to use computers to not just to consume content but to create it as well.  I decided to write a museum app to explore this idea and look at the the potential pitfalls of doing this both from a app writer ,visitor point of view and what benefits and problems it would cause a museum.

First thing pick a museum and collection. The Science Museum might seem an obvious choice as I have easy access to the collection and information. I also really like my job and The Science museum had just launched an official iPad app. Creating a guerrilla version of that app seemed a really bad idea if I wanted to keep my job.  I wanted to be a little subversive but I'm not stupid.

Around Christmas Time  Team Cooper launched a game little browser game  called Farter Christmas. It was silly, childish and great fun.  That gave me the idea, combine the childishness of a fart app with the high culture of the statues in the Victoria and Albert museum.

The concept was simple and didn't change. Pick around five or six statues, find out a few  facts for each one and reveal a random fact combined with a fart noise.

The first version of the app was really easy to write and operationally didn't change through the development. It had just one small problem. The app crashed a lot.  It took quite a lot of digging around the developer docs and Stack Exchange pages to find out how to cure the problem. hitting a problem like this instantly takes the app creation process from something that an absolute beginner could do to something that requires either great determination and time spent learning other app development skills and knowledge, or assistance from somebody more experienced.

Once I had solved that problem there wasn't really any other technical problems.

Finding Content 

The next part was to find the  statues and facts about each one. The finished app only has two statues from the V & A.  They are the Dacre beasts - Dolphin and the Bather by Albert Toft. The biggest problem with selecting statues was finding the Content.  I  really loved the Dacre beasts so was glad to find information  about them, but very little on the V & A website.  There was only really Rodin's The Thinker that had a lot of easily available information because it is such a famous piece.

 

The Dacre Beasts, The Dolphin
The Dacre Beasts, The Dolphin

So not only did I have to widen it out to to statues not only in the V & A I had to widen it out to statues outside of museums all together. That is why the Moai Statues of Easter island are included.

Morals and Ethics

Its a silly app with farting statues, it might not seem that Morals and Ethics would be a concern.  While walking around the V & A I realised that a lot of statues are of a religious nature. They have representations of Buddha, other Indian Gods and the Madonna and Child.  Using any of those in the app could potentially be offensive to people of any of those religions. I wanted to create a fun app not one that could cause serious offence, again i wanted to be a little subversive but i'm not stupid.

Copyright and Licensing

The two V & A statues that I used the Dacre Beasts Dolphin and the Bather are both photographs that i took myself, why? I couldn't find any appropriately licensed images to use.  All of the other photographs are from Wikimedia and either Creative Commons Licensed or released into the public domain. That was the reason for the prominent credits button on the front screen, I wanted to make sure that the licensing of the images  was clear and up front.

It was only near the end of the development process I realised the image I was intending to use for the Bather wasn't licensed for use, so had to take my own photograph.

One of the statues that I did consider using has a image available from Tate images. The cost of using it was prohibitive so wasn't chosen, looking at  the categories of products and media available they were all aimed at physical products, mousemats,mugs posters etc. nothing suitable for use in a digital product. It makes me wonder how museums will handle people wanting to use images in apps

Advertising and Distribution

The app has adverts in it. The are displayed on the individual statues but not on the front screen. This was something I hadn't done before so wanted to do it from a technical point of view to see how easy it is and to consider what happens when an app developer uses a museum content to make money.  I'm not sure how much the app will make. I'm not expecting to get rich from it.  Just as the museums has no control over people developing apps with its images I have realised I have no control over the content of the adverts. On the Play store the App is marked as suitable for all ages but looking at a few ads that have come through on my phone already, one is to download a 'virtual girlfriend' not the faintest idea what that is and don't plan on finding out, but not convinced it is suitable for 'all ages' or wouldn't end up creating a massive security hole on my phone.

Are museums set up to make money from apps that other people develop. I have not made any connection in my app between myself and the V & A or other museums.  If people were to write apps using museum content and distribute it would it be clear that it isn't an official app produced by the institution. What if there are mistakes or offensive content? what would happen then. How much trouble would it cause for the museum or gallery?

Conclusion

So do I still think that that writing guerrilla apps is a way for people to remix and engage with museum content while learning to code?  The barebones of this app were written in a single weekend but it took a lot longer to research the content for it. I am lucky to work next door to the V & A so popping across the road to take photographs wasn't a problem but if you aren't near a large national museum or the museum that you want to take photographs of doesn't allow them could cause problems.

It won't be straightforward and I can see  apps like these developing in two ways.  People who can already code will develop apps along similar themes to Farting statues. Hopefully not loads of clones of the this the world doesn't really need any more farting statues apps. But being creative and having fun. I have been careful to make sure the images were properly licensed. The majority of the content comes from wikipedia rather than museum websites, so is the information correct?   its as good as i can make it but i'm not a expert on any of the statues or the artists. I would rather have the information come from the  definitive source of the museum website but wasn't able to.

The other possibility is for museums to run coding workshops with visitors, start with part written apps or web pages and embed museum content into them.  Web pages can easily be converted into mobile apps.  This would give people an app they can take away with them and would hopefully be a springboard into finding out more about coding and app development.

Either way it needs museums to push out more content and information, the internet isn't limited to the space on a label.  Its a lot easier to find information on wikipedia than it is on a museum website.

In the same way that museums worried that putting content online  would reduce physical visitors to their institutions I have no doubt there will be similar worries to putting content online in a way for people to re-mix and develop. While developing this app I found myself  becoming more interested in the information than just reading it, having to find useful facts and  break down  the content down in to small chunks made me draft and read and re-draft the text several times.  This is something Museum exhibit developers have to do so why not break down the barriers and  give visitors this chance to get down to the nitty gritty with the content. After  all as its digital it can easily be changed, thats the beauty of it.

If museums want to stay relevant as hopefully their  visitors become not just consumers of digital content but creators as well a shift will be needed to make more content available online and encourage its use rather than creating barriers.  Guerilla apps and Farting Statues may not have all the answers but I think it could be a start

 

 

 

 

 

thoughts

Longitude Prize the old and the new. (Part 2)

So here it is the second pard of my Longitude blog. I am having a think about the 2014 Longitude prize and comparing it with the original one from 1714.  The first part  was an introduction and looked at the Food,Flight and Antibiotics categories of the prize.  In this second part I will be having a look at the Paralysis,water and Dementia categories and making a choice of which one to vote for.

Paralysis

When I think of Paralysis I think of Christopher Reeve. I had grown up seeing him fly around the world, saving children from falling into Niagara Falls and battling Super villains. But it was after he was paralysed in  a horse riding accident that to me  he became a real superman.  Reeve Campaigned for research into cures for Spinal Chord injuries,raising both money and awareness.

Should Paralysis get my vote for the Longitude prize?  Of all the prize challenges this one does seem to be using the money for research into the widest spread of Science and technology.  It will include research into wearable technology that I am interested in, so it is certainly a strong contender. Thinking about it in comparison with the original Longitude prize though and the case for Paralysis is weaker.  The original prize was wasn't about improving the quality of life for people.  It was for saving lives and enabling trade and commerce.

It might seem really harsh and cruel to dismiss Paralysis because it is about caring for people rather than making money, I can't deny that. On the surface it might seem that Paralysis should lose out for that reason, but because of the different technologies that would be developed there is a strong chance of commercial spin offs and uses in other areas that keeps it in the game.

Paralysis has the same problem as Antibiotics, its just not radical enough.  The aim isn't to cure paralysis but to make life better for those people affected by it.  Would it not be better to aim to find cures for one more causes of Paralysis and if  along the way methods were found for making peoples life better then that would be a extra.  Would it work like that, would that happen? not sure.  I could keep going backwards and forwards,weighing up all the pros and cons of supporting Paralysis without getting anywhere. For now I'm going to move on and have a  further think.

 

Dementia

When watching the longitude prize Launch program it was the section on the Dementia challenge that had the strongest emotional effect.  Seeing a woman having to be cared for by her mother, teaching her simple things again and again again.  I remember when I was young, my mum teaching me all the simple things in life, how to brush my teeth,how to get dressed, to cross the road safely,where the milk is kept.  I can't imagine how upsetting it would be for my mum to have to teach me those things again,day after day, time after time.

Will I have to care for my mum as she ages? probably in some way. No doubt it will be hard and i'm not looking forward to it. If she does suffer from Dementia, Alzheimers or similar it will be frustrating and difficult for both of us. Is Dementia a natural part of ageing that is becoming more common as people live longer or is there a cause that can be identified and cured .  The Wikipedia page on Dementia is long and shows there are multiple types and not a lot in the way of a cure.  Its understandable then that  the prize challenge isn't to find a cure or cause of  Dementia.

The Longitude challenge prize category for Dementia like that for Antibiotic resistance and Paralysis doesn't aim for a cure but a way to improve the lives of the Dementia sufferers  and their carers.  It is looking to develop assistive technologies "enabling them to live truly independent lives."

Dementia was one of the categories that caused the most comment in my Twitter stream. A lot of people highlighting that a lot more could be done by Government to support carers both financially and practically without the need to develop technology to help them.

I don't think I will vote for Dementia, for similar reasons to not voting for Antibiotics and Paralysis.  Not big and ambitious enough, not tackling the route cause.

Water

The Water challenge looks big  and complicated.   About 71% of the Earth Surface is covered in Water and 97% of that is salt water not able to be drunk. Climate change means that in parts of the world lakes and rivers are drying up but others are repeatedly being flooded. Yes water is complicated.

The Water challenge isn't to solve the problem of global warming, that would be too much to ask for this prize, or would it? should the prize be to solve the absolutely biggest problem this planet is facing right now?

The Water challenge is focussing on finding a method of desalination, removing the salt from sea water to make it drinkable and able to be used for farming.  It is a possibility then that if  the Water challenge was successful it could  go some way towards solving the Food challenge..

Water can be cause for conflict, its predicted that as water becomes more scarce , this will lead to more tension and  conflicts around the world.

There is a strong case for voting for the Water Challenge. It is definitely about making a scientific or technological breakthrough. It will save lives rather than improve the quality of life for people. There is both a humanitarian and economic argument for solving the challenge.

 

Conclusion

So that its then.  I've looked at the six longitude Challenges.  It was a lot harder to do than I first thought it would be.  Some of the challenges were quiet easy to reach a decision on,others not. Not all of them were easy to compare against the original prize challenge. I think that just shows the diversity of the challenges and actually how hard  it is to weigh up the pros and cons of each one.

The scope of some of the challenges doesn't seem ambitious enough and the size of the prize doesn't seem big enough. We live in a world where social networking websites are worth Billions of Dollars. Is £10 million really that much on the global scale of things, i'm not convinced.

It has also made me think if  letting the public vote on how £10 Million should be spent is the right thing to do.  I watched the T.V programme and spent a little time reading about each of the challenges, but as I said at the start I am not an expert in any of the areas and £10 million is a lot of money.  But every time there is a general election we vote for the party that we think can run the country the best, most people aren't experts in politics or social and economic policy or how to run a country in general but we an still vote , and that right isn't it?

So back to Longitude. The two challenges that have come out as strongest contender for my vote are Flight and Water. After writing the section on Flight I really thought that would be the one, but now I'm torn between the two.

Right thats it then, I've voted for Water.  I think the flight problem does need solving but of the two, for the size of prize on offer I think that Water feels like as breakthrough could be made. I hope there are updates on how the money is spent and what becomes of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

thoughts

Longitude Prize the old and the new. (Part 1)

A Few weeks ago there was a big announcement all over the T.V and internet. The 2014 Longitude prize had been launched. £10 million is going to be awarded for Research and development to solve one of six big  problems.  When it was announced and for the next few days my Twitter timeline was very interesting and there was a very clear split.

On one side the Scientists were shouting and cheering 'Yay Science - really good to see science funding brought to the public attention and £10m being awarded to one of  these problems ',  on the other side lots of  social and political thinkers were taking the opposing view - ' No,science can't solve these problems and its wrong to try'.

CIMG2193

My scruffy trainers,either side of the Prime Meridian at Greenwich,they could go either way. Much like my thoughts on Longitude 2014

 

That left me sat in the middle with a furrowed brow, and a confused  quizzical look on my face. So I did what I think is best in times like this, I bought a book.  The book is Longitude by Dava Sobel  .  Longitude tells the story of the original Longitude prize launched in 1714,  a prize fund of £20,000 to search for a method for ships at sea to be able to locate their longitude position accurately and reliably.  I can remember the Channel 4 dramatisation of the Longitude prize telling the story of the clockmaker John Harrison developing clocks that could keep time well while at sea enabling Longitude to be calculated and his rivalry with the Astronomer Royal Neville Maskelyne.

What I didn't know from the T.V drama that i learnt from the book was:

John Harrison didn't invent the method of determining Longitude by use of a clock on a ship but he was the first person to show it was possible.

The Lunar table method of determining Longitude was an alternative method. In theory it was possible to use astronomical measurements to find longitudinal position but in practise taking these measurement and the calculations were error prone and unreliable.  This  was actually used alongside  Marine Chronometers for a while until the Harrison method finally won out for being simpler, more reliable and not requiring clear view of the moon and night sky.

Harrison was never fully awarded the Longitude prize, but was awarded  smaller awards to fund development and a final payment to the total value of the prize only after intervention of King George III but was never deemed to have won the prize.

John Harrison was a maker in the truest sense of the word. Studying,learning and applying his craft and knowledge to solve problems.  He trained as a carpenter and his early clocks made use of wood and its properties. Using  lignum vitae  a wood  secretes an oil so are self  lubricating is an example of this thinking.

Harrison proved that using a Chronometer was a practical proposition but it was other clock and watchmakers that went on to manufacture them for use on board ships in larger numbers.

Right back to the 2014 Longitude prize.  There are six challenges Food,Water, Dementia ,Antibiotics, Flight and Paralysis  that can be voted for to be awarded the funding.  I am going to look at these comparing each one with the original Longitude prize and if I think that the £10m will be sufficient to solve any of the problems.  It  may be that a problem will need many millions more to solve it or it may be that a device along the lines of the Baylis wind up radio that was originally designed to spread AIDS education information throughout Africa could be the answer.

I don't know much about any of the problems that are being proposed and am not an expert in any of the science and technology to solve the problems, but that is not a requirement for anyone  to vote for any of them.  I will try and make a fair assessment  based on what I know and can easily find out or just like the original board of Longitude who were Astronomers and didn't want a mechanical solution to the problem I may just  be awkward and obstinate.

Food

The challenge is to find a way to healthily feed the 9.1 billion people that are estimated to be living on the planet by 2050.   One of the reasons that the original Longitude solution was needed was because on long voyages sailors suffered from Scurvy caused by  the deficiency from Vitamin C in their diet while onboard. Difficulty storing fruit and vegetables contributed to this and having the voyages extended because of navigational problems only compounded the problem.  Solving Longitude meant that voyages could be kept to a minimum distance, stops planned to take on supplies and allow sailors to eat and drink fresh healthy food.

So should the challenge in  the new Longitude prize be to find a way to feed the predicted 9.1 billion people on the planet?

There is already a lot of Scientific research going into food. Genetic modification is  often seen as a solution by scientists but has strong opposition.  Is that opposition justified or is it scaremongering?  Scientists will say that what they are doing is no different to what happens naturally but in a more controlled fashion.  Opponents claim that Scientists are playing god and have know way of knowing what the possible repercussions will be.

From the Great Famine in Irelandthe famine in Ethiopia in 1983   through to food banks in the u.k  in the 21st Century .  These show that there is a lot more to feeding people than simple planting seeds and watering them.  It is for these reasons that I don't think that the 2014 Longitude prize should go to food.

Flight

From the mythology of Icarus to the drawings and ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci  powered flight was a ambition of mankind for many years.   The Orville and Wilbur Wright  first realised this dream in 1903 at Kitty Hawk.  The Wright brothers are often called bicycle mechanics, however this belies the research,design, development,innovation and testing  that they carried out to achieve their flight.  Since 1903 the aviation industry has grown massively and changed immeasurably.  Frank Whittle designed the Jet Engine which gave a leap forward in heights and speeds that aircraft could travel at.  The sound barrier was broken first by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 in 1947 and by 1976 it was possible to cross the Atlantic in luxury at Supersonic speeds in Concorde.

Concorde was retired in 2003 and the development in commercial airliners has moved to larger  higher capacity aircraft.  The Airbus A380 is able to carry 519 passengers compared with the 120 of Concorde.

The size of the aviation industry has lead to the problem of carbon emissions and it is this that the flight challenge wants to solve.  There have already been tests using biofuels and smaller solar powered and electric aeroplanes.  Yes there is a argument that this challenge could be met by flying less but if  the solution to the original Longitude prize was to sail less, that wouldn't have been solving the problem that would have been hiding the head in the sand.

Flight has always been very closely linked with science, engineering and technology.  The difficulty could be the size of the prize.  A Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine as used on the Boing 787 Dream liner costs around Ten million pounds the same as the prize.  Is £10 million enough to come up with a solution worty of claiming the prize?  Flight is  a strong contender for my Longitude vote but its not a done deal.

 

Antibiotics

This one is a difficult one for me.  I know very little about antibiotics or the problems with them.  I know Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin after leaving a petri dish open and I know that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. What I don't really understand is why they are becoming resistant or what Scientists are currently doing to counter the problem

Reading the Challenge on the Longitude website.

"If Antibiotics wins the vote, the challenge for Longitude Prize 2014 will be set to create a cheap, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow doctors and nurses all over the world to better target their treatments, administering the right antibiotics at the right time"

That doesn't sound like a ground breaking innovation, it doesn't sound like a new way of innovative thinking to the problem.  I could be wrong but that sounds like doing the same as is currently done but better. I was expecting that the challenge would be to invent new drugs that  bacteria can't find a resistance to or to stop bacteria from being able to develop  that resistance.  I don't understand enough about how new drugs are developed, I don't understand the relationships between research scientists in universities and those working for drug companies.  I don't know enough about how much it costs and why to develop new drugs except that its a lot of money.  Its for these reasons I won't be voting to Antibiotics.

 

This post is getting quite long, so to give you chance to digest and think about what I have written and for me to get a sandwich I am going to split this into two parts where I will consider Dementia, Paralysis,Water and come to a conclusion.  see you in a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thoughts

You were there - A Poem to Big up the NHS

@Chellaquint just posted a link to write a poem to  Big up the NHS

I'm not a poet, not sure where it came from but these words came out of my fingers. Its called You were there

When I fell you were there,
When I puked you were there,
When I bled you were there.

When I was bumped and bruised and dislocated and concussed you were there.
When I was cracked and confused you were there.

You were there at the start,
I want you to be there all the way to the end.

silly thoughts wearable

Daft wearable idea of the day

It is a universally acknowledged fact that people on Yahoo answers ask some stupid questions.

Is someone talking about you when your ears go hot and red?

Of  course your ears don't have some sort of supernatural, psychic, spidey sense powers.   For some reason the saying about your ears going hot when someone talked about you popped into my head today, so I thought up the idea of hot earrings.

 

ear

 

Sorry for the crap drawing,  ears are really difficult.

Basically the idea is a bluetooth  earring with a heating coil so whenever you are mentioned on twitter,facebook etc your ears get hot  to notify you that you are being talked about.

Not put any thought into the practicalities of the heating coil, bluetooth electronics or power.  Just wanted to note down my idea before it got forgotten.