DJ Focus couldn't wait to get back to Sierra Leone. AKA Kelvin Doe, this young man makes beautiful, functional and very useful electronic devices out of trash found in his native Sierra Leone. It's not clear whether he or M.I.T. was more impressed after his visit there.
The internet is full of answers, and some of them might even be true. For almost 20 years, the the Newton BBS has been a source of answers to science questions that may be accessed directly via the Web
as well as through telnet (no public telnet access any more, sorry). The Newton BBS "Ask A Scientist" archive has answers from 15 science fields, from astronomy to zoology, for a total of more than 20,000 questions answered. This was covered previously, and the site is aimed at teachers and students from grades K-12, so io9's Ask a Physicist questions (with answers from Dr. Dave Goldberg) might be more engaging. See also: MIT's Ask An Engineer.
Amy Smith and MIT's D-lab apply engineering principles to real-world problems that affect the world's poorest residents. She organizes an annual conference. Hear her talk at TED. Previously
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. (NY Times, reg. req.) Amy Smith teaches MIT students about the politics of delivering technology to poor nations and the nitty-gritty of mechanical engineering and helped start the IDEAS competition; she herself designed (among other things) a screenless hammer mill suited to third-world conditions and using "materials available to a blacksmith in Senegal."
Smith's entire life is like one of her inventions, portable and off the grid. At 41, she has no kids, no car, no retirement plan and no desire for a Ph.D. Her official title: instructor. ''I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. Why would I spend six years to get a Ph.D. to be in the position I'm in now, but with a title after my name? M.I.T. loves that I'm doing this work. The support is there. So I don't worry.''...A rare optimistic story for these downbeat times.
Likewise, the inventors who most inspire her will never strike it rich. ''There are geniuses in Africa, but they're not getting the press,'' she says. She gushes about Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian teacher who came up with the pot-within-a-pot system. With nothing more than a big terra-cotta bowl, a little pot, some sand and water, Abba created a refrigerator -- the rig uses evaporation rather than electricity to keep vegetables cool. Innovations that target the poorest of the poor don't have to be complicated to make a big difference. The best solution is sometimes the most obvious.
Seven hot technologies that we'll soon see on the market, according to MIT's Tech Review magazine. The spam blocker sounds like it might work. But the babelfish?