Monday, August 28, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Excerpt from "The Great Influenza"

Some of you may have read John M. Barry's, "The Great Influenza" by now. I'm still in the early stages and was struck by a section that describes science and I couldn't help but think of IFTF. I particulaly like the highlighted sentences:

The greatest challenge of science, its art, lies in asking an important question and framing it in a way that allows it to be broken into manageable pieces, into experiments that can be conducted that ultimately lead to answers. To do this requires a certain kind of genius, one that probes vertically and sees horizontally.

Horizontal vision allows someone to assimilate and weave together seemingly unconnected bits of information. It allows an investigator to see what others do not see, and to make leaps of connectivity and creativity. Probing vertically, going deeper and deeper into something, creates new information. Sometimes what one finds will shine brilliantly enough to illuminate the whole world.

At least one question connects the vertical and the horizontal. That question is "So what?" like a word on a Scrabble board, this question can connect with and prompt movement in many directions. It can eliminate a piece of information as unimportant or, at least to the investigator asking the question, irrelevant. It can push an investigator to probe more deeply to understand a piece of information. It can also force an investigator to step back an see how to fit a finding into a broader context. To see question in these ways requires a wonder, a deep wonder focused by discipline, like a lens focusing the sun's rays on a spot of paper until it bursts into flame. It requires a kind of conjury.

Einstein reportedly once said that his own major scientific talent was his ability to look at an enormous number of experiments and journal articles, select the very few that were both correct and important, ignore the rest, and build a theory on the right ones. In that assessment of his own abilities, Einstein was very likely overly modest. But part of his genius was an instinct for what mattered and the ability to pursue it vertically and connect it horizontally.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Joey" is in the Semi's

"Joey" as Nick likes to refer to Joanne made it out of the Valleywag Web 2.0oh Hottie Contest's first round with a pretty convicing win. Go Joanne! Now to the semis, where she takes on Rachel Rhodes. As of now, she is up 261 - 255. Please vote for her!

[Update: She won. Now to the finals.]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Valleywag's Hottie contest

Valleywag's Nick is at it again with his latest Silicon Valley Hotties contest and one of the matches pits STIRR's Joanne Wan vs. Tara Hunt. As of now, it is 322 to 317 in favor of Joanne. Please vote for her!

[Update...she pulled ahead for a bit, but then the masses came back and took Tara back ahead. Methinks that this little real-time visualization alerted the Tara voters to press the e-flesh to rock the vote.]

[Update 2...she made it to Round II!!!]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Penn State is #3 in the country...and no, not in football

I saw this over on Ben's blog (Thanks Ben!) The Washington Monthly got tired of (basically) seeing the same college rankings report come out year after year from US News & World Report and decided to come up with its own way of ranking US colleges and universities. Instead of ranking the *best* universities, they chose to rank them based on this question: What are reasonable indicators of how much a school is benefiting the country?

They came up with three:
  • How well it performs as an engine of social mobility (ideally helping the poor to get rich rather than the very rich to get very, very rich)
  • How well it does in fostering scientific and humanistic research
  • How well it promotes an ethic of service to country
Here's a excerpt:

By devising a set of criteria different from those of other college guides, we arrived at sharply different results. Top schools sank, and medium schools rose. For instance, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 48th on the U.S News list, takes third place on our list, while Princeton, first on the U.S. News list, takes 43rd on ours. In short, Pennsylvania State, measured on our terms--by the yardstick of fostering research, national service and social mobility--does a lot more for the country than Princeton.

Don't get us wrong. We're not saying Princeton isn't a superb school. It employs many of the nation's finest minds, and its philosophy department is widely considered the best in the country. Its eating clubs, or whatever they're called, are surely unmatched. Princeton may be a great destination for your tuition dollars, all 31,450 of them, not including room or board. But what if it's a lousy destination for your tax dollars? Each year, Princeton receives millions of dollars in federal research grants. Does it deserve them? What has Princeton done for us lately? This is the only guide that tries to tell you. That, and a bit more.

Here's the official landing page and THE RANKINGS!!! How did your school do?

I'm curious is THON was a determinent in the rankings? [Update: looks like that is not the case.]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Milosh the Great!

Working at a place called the Institute for the Future comes with its pitfalls. One is that from time to time we must deal with *interested* parties who want to talk to us about their predictions.

Today, Milosh called in again, and he was transferred to me. I quickly decided to take notes:
  • talking to milosh right now
  • this is milosh who predicts things
  • like hillary clinton will be the next president
  • he's a bus driver for the city of new york
  • before that a tour bus driver
  • he spends time fixing his house
  • and lots of things around the neighborhood
  • when he comes up with an about the future
  • he came up with hillary clinton being president
  • he's gonna meet them [the clintons]
  • it's exactly the way it will happen
  • his boss doesn't believe him
  • he doesn't know the name...he knows it is clinton
  • he has some minor preditions
  • that he presents to family & friends
  • accidents or something similar
  • give me homework
  • i have no control over it
  • but i can give you an answer
  • i can give you name
  • i can give you something...for example...what is your interest
  • where is the stock market going to be
  • everything around me, that is what i see
  • i tell you and we see if true in three years
  • which companies you work with want to know what i know?
  • thank you for your time
We've been talking to Milosh for years now. He's good-humored and friendly, but I don't think we'll be hiring him anytime soon.

Monday, August 07, 2006

STIRR 1.5 is on Wednesday

Wednesday, August 9th, STIRR Mixer

STIRR Mixers are blend of tech-social mixer and launchpad for new startups in an innovative format (the 60 second spot). This is not a sit-down event.

The Original '60 Second Spot'

The companies start presenting at 7:15pm. The pitches are a compact 60 seconds or less. The speakers and their teams are available to speak with one-on-one before and after the presentations.


Have your company present at STIRR


When: Wednesday August 9th. Gathering begins at 6:00pm, presentations at 7:15pm.
Where: Blue Chalk, 630 Ramona St, Palo Alto [map]. Cash bar.
NOTE: No walk-ins accepted, you must RSVP to attend. Pre-printed nametags will be ready at the door.