Crohn’s and Hospital Adventures

This is a pretty personal post that I’m writing more as a PSA than anything else. If you follow any of the Facebook or Twitter feeds, two weeks ago I was stuck in the hospital. I have Crohn’s disease, and I had a flare up. What’s Crohn’s? That’s the first thing I thought when I was diagnosed almost four years ago. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine. If you think of your intestines like pipes, Crohn’s inflames a part of the small intestine, narrowing the opening and making it harder for food to pass through. Eventually it gets so inflamed that the passage is totally blocked, leaving only one place for the food to go – up. Before I was diagnosed I was getting extreme stabbing pains in my stomach. It felt like the Alien trying to bust out of my chest with a samurai sword. I went to some doctors, but since I was in college they just assumed I was eating poorly and it was a result of that. And this is why I share my experience, because I still feel like there’s some taboo on people talking about medical conditions, when instead if we shared the knowledge and experience we can gain more from it. Had I known what Crohn’s disease was, I could have gotten treatment the first time I started vomiting and getting pain, and not letting it sit to the point that I was stuck in the hospital for a week. I was actually relieved to be in the hospital and getting properly diagnosed, because it meant the pain would...

Twitter’s 4.005th Birthday and a Cool Video

Twitter celebrated its 4th birthday this past Sunday (March 21). Look at the first Tweet here. Summer of 2008 I was able to interview Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter. I’m sure today he wouldn’t have time to sit down with some college kids in the Twitter HQ, so I was lucky I got him when I did (the interview was actually pushed back because he had to go on Fox to talk about Obama announcing Biden as his running mate on Twitter). I think what he says is really interesting, not just about Twitter but how we communicate as a society. Check it out and please share and rate it if you like...

Going to the Moon or Grounded on Earth?

Check out this video on saving NASA’s Constellation program and Ares rocket (the program that was going to replace the Space Shuttle and take us back to the moon, and then Mars). In his proposed budget Obama wants to raise NASA funding by about 2%, but cut the Constellation program (and basically manned space flight), leaving that area open for private companies to take over. This has been a pretty low note compared to Obama’s announcement to push for science and engineering education. Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg thinks it’s the right thing to do, arguing that “the only technology for which the manned space flight program is well suited is the technology of keeping people alive in space. And the only demand for that technology is in the manned space flight program itself.” And I’m sure robots everywhere are cheering when he says for the cost of one manned mission to Mars you could send 100 robots. Of course if we ever want to have a future that doesn’t permanently restrict humans to remaining on Earth (which I hope is not the case) then we’ll need all that technology and knowledge that comes out of manned space travel. I think a far more intangible benefit of manned space travel is marketing. Marketing for interest in science. Marketing for exploration. Marketing to future generations and inspiring people to explore science and technology and continue the journey into the final frontier. There’s an inspiring article written by Calvin Turzillo (the guy who made the video above) marking the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon. You should definitely...

How BattleBots could help Haiti (And How You Can Too)

In talking to people about my project, and in talking to Nola, the director of BattleBotsIQ, a fair number of responses we get when we describe kids building BattleBots is something along the lines of “it’s violent.” Now I could go off on a whole other post comparing BattleBots injuries to football, boxing, or even cheerleading (all sanctioned sports), but that’s not the point of this post. When 9/11 happened, Nola described how some kids said, “My BattleBot is tough enough to go into the collapsed buildings and could’ve helped rescue people.” Today that’s the exact case with Haiti – so many collapsed buildings could use rugged robots to go in, find survivors, and help free people. Will, one of Fluffy’s creators, summed BattleBots up pretty well compared to other robot competitions. He says it’s the only competition that fully tests your robot. If everything isn’t perfectly built 100%, your opponent, physics, or the BattleBox will destroy you. Who’s going to be building the future rugged robots that are going to help out in future disasters? The students who are building BattleBots today. I also wanted to touch on how amazed I am at the wonderful use of technology in providing aid. Of course there’s Twitter and the Red Cross text messaging viral campaign, which alone has raised over $10 million. I also just saw a post released by the White House that they’ve created a Person Finder app, where you can either look for someone or list information about someone. It’s embeddable, which you’ll find below. [Well apparently it’s embeddable anywhere except WordPress blogs…] Finally, I just wanted to shed some light...

Rethinking Computer Interactions

One thing that Nola, the head of the BattleBots high school program, tells all the kids is engineering is about solving problems. Here’s one that may not necessarily be a problem, mostly because we’ve all become so used to it, but it can definitely use improvement, and that’s how we interact with computers. The mouse has been the dominant tool for decades, but as the video below shows, it limits the many possibilities of our hands to only two coordinates. You don’t see Data clicking around with a mouse in Star Trek, right? It also explains that while touch screen works great with smart phones, it won’t translate into desktop computers. 10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo. This reminds me a lot of Minority Report. I still think keyboard shortcuts are the fastest and easiest way to get things done, but of course that has its limits. The person who takes our interactions with computers to the next level might just be building a robot right...