Bienvenidos a Ciencia en Canoa, una iniciativa creada por
Vanessa Restrepo Schild.

viernes, 18 de abril de 2014

Neurology and microfluidic science kits take over for kids in the 21st century

Today kids are not happy enough to play around with the old chemistry kits from yesteryear, they want more, they want real science. Recently the people behind the ISEF science fair, The Society for Science & the Public, launched a competition for children with the aim of letting children make their own modern version of a science kit for kids in the 21st century. Of course in today’s world, children do have access to a great deal more modern technology than what was around in the 60s and 70s.

[Image Courtesy of George Korir]

The results of the competition are in and it was a handmade microfluidic kit that took first prize in the competition. This was made by a graduate student along with the help of his biochemistry professor. For those who don’t know, microfluidic tech is the stuff that is found in lab-on-a-chip devices which are used to analyse small amounts of liquid. These move around and mix chemicals through channels, which are of course very small, on platforms that are very small, such as the size of a computer chip. Scientists have been busy working on devising microfluidic devices that can mimic human organs. First they had to decide what chemical reactions to make in the kit for children.

Holes were then punched out of paper card and these holes corresponded to sequences and were then loaded with the correct chemicals. In order to make the reactions between the chemicals, kids had to then use the cards with a reader that worked with a hand crank. This then released the chemicals slowly, just one single drop for every hole that was punched in the card. Manu Prakash from the Stanford University, who was the professor who helped to make the system, made a statement saying that he could see kids in the future trading the reaction cards and could even become as popular as trading baseball cards were in the past.

In second place came a design of electrodes that when placed onto the body can sense electricity after it sent messages to the brain produced by the body whilst flexing muscles. To do this, electrodes were hooked up to amplifiers and then an electrical device such as a motor or light bulb. This allowed those using it to turn on something, for instance a propeller, simply by squeezing their hand or even just thinking about it.

[Image Courtesy of George Korir]

Chemistry sets were always on the Christmas list of some boys and girls during the 60s and 70s but today they are more than just attaching wires to a battery and small light bulb. The competition could have sparked off a whole new trend when it comes to science kits and they could become the in-thing for budding inventors and scientists for Christmas 2014 and beyond.

For a full list of all winners and their bios head over to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

April 15th, 2014 

jueves, 17 de abril de 2014

This Is Big: Scientists Just Found Earth's First Cousin

Meet Kepler-186f, the closest thing to our planet ever discovered—and maybe our best shot at locating life elsewhere in the universe. 

An artist's concept of Kepler-186f. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

Right now, 500 light years away from Earth, there's a planet that looks a lot like our own. It is bathed in dim orangeish light, which at high noon is only as bright as the golden hour before sunset back home. 

NASA scientists are calling the planet Kepler-186f, and it's unlike anything they've found. The big news: Kepler-186f is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered

It's the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star—the sweet spot between too-hot Mercury-like planets and too-cold Neptunes— and it is likely to give scientists their first real opportunity to seek life elsewhere in the universe. "It's no longer in the realm of science fiction," said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute. 

But if there is indeed life on Kepler-186f, it may not look like what we have here. Given the redder wavelengths of light on the planet, vegetation there would sprout in hues of yellow and orange instead of green. 

"It's perhaps more like Earth's cousin than Earth's twin," said Tom Barclay, a NASA researcher who spoke about the finding in conference call with reporters. 

For decades, scientists have looked for signs of life by scanning space for patterns that could be the imprints of distant technology or natural clues that demonstrate a living planet.

"They're looking for radio signals, some kind of beacon from the star," saidVictoria Meadows of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. "If you're talking about life that doesn't have technology on the surface, we look for biosignatures... like gases in the atmosphere that seem to have a constant flux from the surface. We'd look for things like oxygen from photosynthesis."

Kepler-186f is about 10 percent larger than Earth and it orbits a sun that is cooler, dimmer, and about half the size of our own. The effects of gravity would be "slightly" more apparent there, so "you would feel heavier," Meadows said. 

Our cousin avoids many of the problems that reduce the likelihood of life on other Earth-like planets. Some are too big, too cold, too gaseous, or have gravity problems that scorch oceans. So far, Kepler-186f appears almost to be a Goldilocks — not too big, not too far from its star, maybe just right. 

The planet has a shorter year than we do, orbiting its star once every 130 days. On Earth, of course, we take 365 days to make it around the sun. (Though that hasn't always been the case. Scientists believe that something like 380 million years ago, there were 410 days in an Earth year.)

Researchers aren't yet sure what Kepler-186f is made of, but given its size and other characteristics, they think it's a rocky combo like Earth. (It could be pure iron or frozen in Hoth-like ice, too, though.)

A mission to learn more is in the works. The first step will be attempting to characterize the planet's atmosphere, beginning with determining that it has one

We may not find life on Kepler-186f, but scientists are confident we could find signs on planets just like it. This is a staggering prospect because of just how many planets like Kepler-186f are out there—so many that scientists are hesitant to even offer ballpark figures. Much closer to us, there are a "huge" number of them, Barclay said. 

Today we know that Earth is special. What we don't know is how long we'll be able to say that

ORIGINAL: The Atlantic
APR 17 2014

Five Tech Trends That Can Drive Company Success

The ability to innovate is a driver of productivity, competitiveness and prosperity. Innovation requires entrepreneurs to rethink and adopt new approaches to their businesses, and embracing new technologies and manufacturing opportunities can distinguish you from your competitors.

But what are some powerful tech trends that can drive company success? What should you pay attention to?

Here are five trends that, if you haven’t embraced them yet, have the potential to transform your business.

1- Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature
Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures and systems that are modeled after biological organisms and processes.

It’s not really technology or biology; it’s the technology of biology. It’s making a fiber like a spider, or lassoing the sun’s energy like a leaf,Janine Benyus co-founder of the international organization Biomimicry 3.8, writes.

Companies are increasingly looking at ways to incorporate biologically inspired design into their products, and organizations like Biomimicry 3.8 are helping them redesign carpets, furniture, airplanes and even entire manufacturing processes.

In Northeast Ohio, Great Lakes Biomimicry, a founding affiliate partner of Biomimicry 3.8, is working with schools, companies and economic development organizations to engage students, entrepreneurs and funders to advance the field.

The University of Akron has committed $4.25 million to biomimicry research and innovation, and companies like Parker Hannifin and Sherwin-Williams are getting involved. They realize biomimicry has many applications, particularly when it comes to creating sustainable technologies.

Biomimicry represents the possibility of a revolutionary change in our economy, transforming many of the ways we think about designing, producing, transporting and distributing goods and services,Tom Tyrrell, founder and CEO of Great Lakes Biomimicry, says. “This field is just emerging. Nazarene University’s Fermanian Institute estimates, by 2025, biomimicry could represent $300 billion of the annual U.S. GDP, account for 1.6 million U.S. jobs and represent $1 trillion of global GDP.

2- Additive Manufacturing: Innovation From A Printer
Additive manufacturing is becoming a viable manufacturing alternative, particularly for makers of highly customized products. The technology can significantly reduce the time and cost it takes to design and produce prototypes. Thus, additive manufacturing is particularly well suited for R&D.

But additive manufacturing has evolved to a point where it now also makes sense for volume production. Combining the technology with printed electronics, for example, could create the next generation of embedded electronics.

Printed electronics can be directly applied to 3D surfaces to advance integration, size and weight reduction, durability and performance. This provides new opportunities for electronic device manufacturers, who want to pack more functionality into less space.

Youngstown, Ohio, is the center of additive manufacturing at the moment. The region is home to America Makes, also known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Its goal is to elevate additive manufacturing into mainstream manufacturing.

3- The Internet of Things: A Web Of Innovation
There’s lots of talk about “the Internet of Things.” But what exactly does it mean?

It’s the marriage of minds and machines,Marco Annunziata, chief economist at General Electric, said in a TED talk on the topic. “This is a transformation as powerful as the industrial revolution.”

Simply, the Internet of Things refers to a network of physical objects with embedded technology that is connected (either wired or wirelessly) for communication, remote control, data transfer or some other function. Sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and microelectronics are critical components of the Internet of Things.

Connecting products, machines or entire factories to the Internet can increase efficiency and reduce the loss of information. This potentially has far-reaching implications and impact across many industries. Already, coffee shops, airports and major corporations like Rockwell Automation have embraced the Internet of Things. Cisco Systems CSCO +0.44% CEO John Chambers calls it the “fourth wave of the Internet.”

We believe we’re at an inflection point, driven by the convergence of integrated control and information technologies, and accelerated by the arrival of the Internet of Things,” Rockwell Chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said. “We call this vision ‘The Connected Enterprise.’ It involves industrial operations that are more productive, more agile and more sustainable.

4- Software: Transforming Traditional Industries
Today’s manufacturing is really one of the most sophisticated industries in the world,” Siemens USA CEO Eric Spiegel said recently. “That’s mainly because software has really transformed the whole manufacturing process.

Spiegel made his remarks at the “Building the Future: Manufacturing’s Software Revolution” event in Norwood, Ohio, where Siemens announced a $66.8 million in-kind software grant to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. It gave additional grants to Mott Community College ($55.8 million) and Youngstown State University ($440 million) to train students how to use its product lifecycle management software in careers like robotics design and computer-aided engineering.

But software is not only impacting the manufacturing industry. Tech and non-tech businesses large and small are in need of software solutions to respond to customer demands and process large amounts of data. It’s no surprise the demand for software engineers is higher than ever and many businesses can’t find enough people to fill open positions, according to Today’s Engineer.

5- Big Data: Understanding Your Customers
The ability to collect, process and interpret large and complex data sets, known as Big Data, is at the core of many business operations. It allows you to more effectively communicate with consumers, perform risk-analyses and create new revenue streams, among other things.

The ability to evaluate and apply data has always been an integral part of an organization’s success. But the unprecedented amount of information available today demands far more sophisticated approaches to analysis and execution,” said former Microsoft MSFT COO Bob Herbold, who recently donated $2.6 million to launch a data science program at Case Western Reserve University.

Big data increases the efficiency of shipping companies and retailers, for example, and makes manufacturers more efficient and responsive to clients’ needs.

The potential that exists today to enhance operations and outcomes is nearly limitless,” Herbold said. “Those who understand how data works and what it can yield will carry enormous advantage in the new economy.”

How have you embraced any of these trends? What are some other innovations that have taken your business to the next level?

Share your insights by commenting below or send me a tweet at @NorTech!

Rebecca O. BagleyContributor

Jane Goodall Talks To John Seigenthaler

She's best known for her pioneering work with chimpanzees, but Goodall is also a keen conservationist

John Seigenthaler: Your latest project is a book about plants. Can you draw the line for us between plants and chimpanzees?
Jane Goodall: Without plants, none of us would be here, chimpanzees, people or anything else, because everything either lives on plant food or lives on creatures that live on plant food.

One of the things you also discuss in this book is the challenges facing forests around the world. What do you think are the biggest challenges?
Human greed and human need. I mean, on the one hand, you've got desperately poor people, and they've got to try and feed their family. They don't have money to buy food, so they're cutting down trees to grow crops or to make charcoal so that they can get a bit of money and buy a bit of food. Then on the other hand, you've got the big timber companies coming in, some of them still clear-cutting and paying lots of money for a forest concession to the government. Then the people living in the forest suffer, as well as everything else.

In fact, in your book — I just want to read a couple of lines that you write — you say, "The truth is that when corporate greed and public demand for a better and better lifestyle are pitted against the health of the environment and the health of people, for that matter, it is the bottom line that wins …" You sound like an environmental activist, an angry environmental activist here.
Well, I do get angry when I think of the unsustainable lifestyle of so many about this materialistic, Western-based culture. How many of us have so much more than we need? I mean, we need money to live, and what goes wrong is when we live for money. That's happening more and more often. And as a result, I think, it's a very empty kind of society, and people, when you live and money is your goal and your god, then I think people lose a lot of sensitivity and human values and love and compassion.

You have great hope for nature, and hope is a theme through much of your writing. I was touched by the stories at the end of the book that talk about a couple of trees — Survivor, in particular. Could you tell that story?
Yes, Survivor is very dear to me because I was in New York at 9/11, and they found the one piece of tree that was still alive out of all the trees that were around those Twin Towers. It looked like a dead stump, blackened with fire and everything. But some people took it and nurtured it. This tree now is back at Ground Zero, and it's a beautiful pear. I've seen it in blossom. But that tree somehow epitomizes the resilience of nature and the passion of people because so many people said, "Oh, throw it away. You'll never get this tree to grow." But they didn't give up.
I do get angry when I think of the unsustainable lifestyle of so many about this materialistic, Western-based culture. How many of us have so much more than we need?

It was also damaged by a storm, wasn't it?
Yes, it had just begun to recover, and I think it was Hurricane Sandy that tore it down, and they rushed out and desperately propped it up. It's had a very dramatic life.

You speak of another tree, a cherry tree at Fukushima, another example of a tree surviving. But, you know, in that example, I really wonder about our world and where we're headed and whether or not there is hope when you see a disaster like that. Fukushima?
Fukushima. Yes. As I said, it's a hope based on the fact that we can do it, but in order to change the world and make it start moving in a better direction — instead of heading downhill, just start leveling it off, and then eventually coming up. We have to change attitudes. That's the thing. When people lose hope, as many people do — because many biologists point out that there isn't any hope — if everybody loses hope, what happens? You fall into apathy. There's no point doing anything. It doesn't matter. But how can we be bringing our children into a world and telling them there's no hope? That's cruel.

There's a saying about inheriting the earth from our parents. But you say in some ways, we've stolen …
We have. We have stolen their future. I began the youth program because I met so many young people who had lost hope, who said, "Well, you compromised our future, and there's nothing we can do about it." We have, but there is something we can do about it. At least I shall die fighting for that.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned about chimpanzees over the years?
How like us they are or how like them we are. I think the most shocking but very fascinating thing is when I realized that, like us, they have a dark side. That made them sadly seem more like us than I had thought before. But they are capable of violence, brutality and a kind of primitive war.

Can you take me back to the beginning? You were a secretary for anthropologist Louis Leakey. That's where you got your start, right?
That's where I got my start.

How did that happen?
When I was a tiny little girl, I wanted to go and study animals in Africa because I fell in love with Tarzan. And silly man married the wrong Jane, didn't he? But anyway, I was very jealous of her. But I decided I wanted to go to Africa and live with animals and write books about them. Everybody laughed except my amazing mother, who just said, "Well, if you really want something, you'll just have to work hard and take advantage of opportunity, and you'll get there in the end." I got invited by school friends, saved up my money working as a waitress, got out to Africa, heard about Louis Leakey, went to see him at the museum. I wasn't asking for a job. But he took me around. He asked me hundreds of questions, and because I had gone on learning about Africa and animals and spent hours in the Natural History Museum in London, I could answer many of his questions, and he just offered me a job as his secretary.

When was your first attempt to observe the chimpanzees?
It was 1960 he finally got the money for me to go, and the biggest problem to start with was that they all ran away. You know, they're very conservative. Never seen a white ape before. So they ran away. But eventually one of them, whom I named David Greybeard, with his nice, white beard, began to lose his fear, and that really opened a door for me.

How did you gain their trust?
Patience, wearing the same colored clothes all the time, pretending I wasn't interested in them.

How did your family see the work that you did? What did they have to say about it when you first started going into the jungle and hanging out with chimps?
My mother came. I wasn't allowed to be alone by the British authorities. It was Tanganyika then. And they said, "No, no, no," and they said, "Oh, but she must come with a companion." So my amazing mother volunteered for four months. I mean, how many mothers would? You know, we had this old, secondhand army tent, no sewn-in ground sheet — so, piece of canvas on the ground, roll up the sides to let in the air, and you let in the spiders and the snakes and the scorpions as well, which I didn't mind, but poor Mum.

You just turned 80 years old.
People are making a big deal of it, but, you know, well ...

Well, in some ways, you're a timeless figure in the study of nature and chimpanzees. Tell me what your life is like now at 80.
Well, it's ridiculous, really, because it's literally going from one continent to another. It's airplanes and hotels and interviews and lectures.

You said you're on the road some 300 days a year.
Yes. It's absurd, isn't it?

And you like it?
I hate the travel.

You do?
I hate it. Who could like going through airports today? I mean, it's really horrible. Then of course it's a carbon footprint, all this flying, but nobody's given me a magic carpet yet. And we do have, I would say, millions of young people planting trees now, so I hope it makes up.
Who could like going through airports today? I mean, it’s really horrible. Then of course it’s a carbon footprint, all this flying, but nobody’s given me a magic carpet yet.

Well, you've started this organization called Roots & Shoots. Tell us about it.
It began with 12 high school students, and it was about, actually, empowering young people to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. So once they understand the problems, they get to choose. We don't tell them what to do. But between them, they must choose a project to help people, a project to help animals, a project to help the environment. And woven in it is, "Let's learn to live in peace and harmony between religions and cultures." We have so far to go between us and the natural world.

You've spent your life protecting animals, but recently you've been involved in trying to help save elephants. Can you talk a little bit about that effort?
The poaching of elephants and rhinos and some other animals, too, have increased so dramatically. And it's become such a money earner. So you get criminal cartels coming in, and the money from slaughtering elephants and selling the ivory is actually supporting some of these terrorist groups. And of course it's the demand in Asia. And so we're using our Roots & Shoots groups in China — I would say we're using them because they want to do it. The slogan is, "If the buying stops, the killing stops." And a lot of the Chinese honestly believe that elephants shed their tusks, like deer. So they don't understand the horrible slaughter and suffering of individual animals, whether it's elephants, rhino, tigers, apes being shot for bush meat. You know, the slaughter is going on, and it's going on very fast. But once people understand and get a feeling for these animals, then they're more prepared to go out and do something about it.

You've also fought to protect animals from experimentation for medicine. Where does that stand today?
I first began talking to NIH [the National Institutes of Health] in 1986, and just last year the new director, Francis Collins, had — well, actually three years ago he had a committee put together to investigate what tests were being done on the over 300 NIH chimpanzees, and found none of them, nothing, was beneficial to humans. So he said, "Fine, they can go into sanctuary, into retirement." We have to raise the money now to get them all — but a lot of them are already in Chimp Haven Sanctuary. More and more chimps are coming out of medical research. There's very few left.

What do you think of zoos?
Zoos and zoos and zoos. Some zoos shouldn't be. The change in zoos over my life has been just incredible. Yes, there's an idea that wild animals and freedom — it's the best thing, but in so many cases they're under threat, their habitats being destroyed. There's hunters out there. Then you look at a group in a really good zoo, which has the right kind of environment. Then you think, "Well, let me be a chimp. Where would I rather be?" In the really well-protected places, obviously you want wild animals.

How has technology changed the study of animals and plants over your life?
It's completely changed. I started with a notebook and a pencil and a pair of secondhand binoculars, which was all we could afford. Now, we have a GIS, GPS satellite imagery mapping, and we have ways of measuring stress levels by collecting fecal samples. We hope to do a lot of conservation with working with Google Earth, Esri, DigitalGlobe, and getting software that enable us to, you know, get much more accurate pictures of where the trees are. But the most key thing is that we've actually trained the local people to use these Android tablets. So they're restoring the forest now, letting it regenerate. It's because in early '91, I flew over the whole area around Gombe, and I was so shocked because I knew there was deforestation — I hadn't realized it was total. It was pretty clear that we can't even try and save the chimps if the people are just struggling to survive because they're going to come into this last, lush, tiny island forest. We began improving their lives. As a result, they're now our partners in protecting the chimp habitat, but also restoring the habitat around their own villages. All those bales are now sprinkled with green, and the chimps have three times more forest than they had 10 years ago.

I think some people might be surprised to learn that the chimpanzee is not your favorite animal. Is that right?
Well, I just love dogs. I mean, I just love dogs. You know, when I got to Cambridge and was told I shouldn't have given the chimps names, they should have been numbered, and, you know, I couldn't talk about them having a personality, mind or emotion, I knew from the childhood teacher, my dog Rusty, that that couldn't be true. Animals — of course they have personality. Of course they can feel happy and sad and afraid, just like us.

Clearly, at 80 years old, you have no intention of slowing down.
Well, I suppose my body will slow me down at some point, but, you know, I'm lucky, and I got my father's genes. In fact, all my family lived long. So as long as I can, I shall go on doing this.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

ORIGINAL: Al Jazeera
April 17, 2014

martes, 15 de abril de 2014

Google’s Microcamera Contact Lens Is Coming to an Eyeball Near You

Forget those glasses. The tech giant has filed a patent application for a lens with a built-in micro-camera which could be controlled by blinking and would process data to help blind people "see" and link to smartphones

After Google Glass, the next “moon shot” Google product might very well be a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera.

The tech giant has filed a patent application on a smart lens with sensors that could detect light, pattern of colors, objects and faces.

Those wearing the contacts would command the device through a sophisticated system of unique blinking patterns, as explained by the blog Patent Bold.

Google’s latest breakthrough could help blind people see certain moving objects around them, according to Patent Bolt.

For example, a blind person wearing Google’s contact lens with a built-in camera may be walking on a sidewalk and approaching an intersection. The analysis component of the contact lens can process the raw image data of the camera to determine … that there is a car approaching the intersection.”

The lens would also have wireless capabilities to be hooked up to smartphones.

In January, Google revealed a prototypes of contact lenses that will make it easier for diabetes patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and stay healthy.

April 15, 2014

Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?

Based primarily on the 2012 NIH Workforce report this infographic represents current workforce sizes and annual fluxes before and after a PhD in the biomedical sciences in the US. The picture is not as dire as that painted for the UK by this 2010 Royal Society report, but many of these figures are based on estimates and self-reporting. We'll have to wait for the NAS Postdoc Report for better data.

In the meantime, that report's chair, Greg Petsko, has divulged some interesting tidbits in his iBiology talk: the data on postdocs are so poor, many institutions can't estimate the number of postdocs they have within an order of magnitude. Hopefully, clear data on these job markets will empower trainees to make better-informed career decisions.

3 - Sauermann & Roach 2012 PLOS ONE; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036307
Unless otherwise noted, NIH Biomedical Workforce Working Group (2012)

(click into iamge expand it)
Jessica Polka is interested in the spatial organization of the bacterial cell. Having studied a plasmid-segregating actin homolog during her PhD with Dyche Mullins at UCSF, she is currently a working on a natural and engineered bacterial compartments during a postdoc in Pam Silver's lab at the Harvard Medical School.

11 April 2014 00:00

lunes, 14 de abril de 2014

La receta de Estonia para convertirse en una potencia tecnológica

La programación se enseñará desde la edad de siete años en Estonia.
En algunos países, la programación informática es vista como el reino de los nerds o fanáticos de la computación. Pero en Estonia se ve con ojos muy distintos.

En este pequeño territorio, parte de lo que fuera una vez la Unión Soviética, programar es algo divertido, algo de moda, una asignatura que se enseña a los niños desde la infancia.

A los siete años las escuelas de Estonia ya enseñan a sus alumnos a programar computadoras y el país es considerado uno de los países más dependientes de internet en el mundo.
Una revolución digital
La i-revolución de Estonia empezó en los años 90, no mucho después de la independencia del país. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, entonces el embajador del país en Estados Unidos y hoy presidente de Estonia, se adjudica parte del mérito.

Hay una historia que Hendrik no se cansa de repetir sobre su estadía en Estados Unidos. Cuenta que leyó un libro en el que se hablaba de cómo el auge de las computadoras supondría la muerte del trabajo.

El libro hablaba de una planta de producción de acero en Kentucky donde miles de trabajadores fueron despedidos debido a la automatización. Los nuevos dueños podían producir la misma cantidad de acero con sólo 100 empleados.

"Esto puede que sea malo si eres estadounidense", dice Ilves, "pero desde el punto de vista de un estonio, donde existe una angustia existencial por el pequeño tamaño del país (sólo teníamos entonces 1,4 millones de habitantes), me dije que era exactamente lo que necesitábamos".

"Necesitamos informatizar, de todos los modos posibles, para incrementar nuestro tamaño funcional".

Colegios en línea

El presidente Toomas Hendrik Ilves es un promotor de la revolución tecnológica en Estonia.

Así fue como Estonia pasó a convertirse en I-Estonia, bromea Ilves. Y con la ayuda de las inversiones del gobierno para respaldar la tecnología, canalizada a través de la Tiger Leap Foundation, todas las escuelas estonias tenían presencia en internet a finales de los 90.

A través de esta fundación se enseña programación a los alumnos de secundaria, pero los últimos proyectos introducen esta materia a niños de más temprana edad; a la edad de siete. Hasta el momento, ya se ha entrenado a 60 profesores para enseñar durante los próximos cuatro años.

"En septiembre, cuando empiece el nuevo año escolar, espero que cada escuela crea importante integrar la programación en sus clases", afirma Ave Lauringson, de Tiger Leap, quien está a cargo del proyecto.

En un nuevo edificio pintado en amarillo en la localidad de Lagedi, fuera de la capital de Estonia, Tallínn, ya se puede ver cómo esto va tomando forma.

Una clase de niños de diez años diseñan sus propios juegos de computadora bajo la supervisión del profesor de tecnologías de la información y comunicación Hannes Raimets, un callado joven de 24 años.

"Creo que enseñarles a programar conlleva un montón de beneficios. Les ayuda a desarrollar su creatividad y pensamiento lógico", asegura, "también es divertido construir tu propio programa. Creo que es su asignatura favorita en la escuela", asegura.

Lo que es evidente también es que la programación informática, al menos a un nivel básico, no es tan difícil.

Programar, como aprender idiomas

Estonia lleva varios años promoviendo la enseñanza de programación en las escuelas.

Ilves señala lo mismo. Hijo de estonios nacido en Estocolmo, estudió en una escuela estadounidense. Aprendió programación a los 13 años, como parte de una clase experimental de matemáticas y dice que esto le ayudó a financiar su entrada a la universidad.

"No creo que programar computadoras sea un secreto tan profundo y oscuro. Creo que es estrictamente lógica", afirma.

"Aquí en Estonia, empezamos la enseñanza de idiomas extranjeros en Grado Uno o Grado Dos. Si estás aprendiendo las reglas de la gramática a los siete u ocho ¿Cómo difiere de las reglas de la programación? De hecho, programar es mucho más lógico que aprender cualquier idioma".

El presidente argumenta que las reformas educativas tardan entre 15 y 25 años en tener efecto. La prueba, dice, es la cantidad de empresas de tecnología estonias que están atrayendo la atención de los inversores.

Una de ellas es Frostnova, cuyo jefe ejecutivo, Mikk Melder, de 25 años, ha diseñado un videojuego para niños de primaria llamado Ennemuistne, centrado en el folklore y los mitos locales.

La herencia de Skype

Aunque de los inventos tecnológicos estonios, el más popular mundialmente es el servicio de telefonía a través de internet Skype.

Microsoft compró Skype en 2011 por US$8.500 millones, pero todavía emplea a 450 trabadores en su sede local, a las afueras de Tallinn.

Tiit Paananen de Skype, dice que son unos apasionados de la educación y que la empresa trabaja de cerca con las universidades estonias y las escuelas de secundaria.

"Tu capacidad no sólo para usar, sino para crear componentes tecnológicos, te dará competitividad", afirma Paananen, que dice estar feliz de que se empiece a enseñar programación a edades más tempranas.

"Skype ha generado una oleada de innovaciones tecnológicas en Estonia, y estos puestos especializados y bien pagados, necesitarán a estos brillantes cerebros en un futuro".

Siga la sección de tecnología de BBC Mundo a través clic @un_mundo_feliz

Tim Mansel BBC, Estonia
15 de mayo de 2013

The Global Search for Education: Education and Jobs

"The Future of Employment study makes clear that what matters most today is what you can do with what you know, rather than how much you know."
- Dr. Tony Wagner

What does today's technology mean for tomorrow's jobs and how can we better structure our education system to ensure that the future working population can prosper in the labor market?
A large range of 20th century jobs are endangered by the machine age. A recent Oxford Martin School study by Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey (Oxford Martin School) and Dr. Michael A. Osborne (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford) found that 47% of current US jobs are at risk of automation within the next twenty years. Further, despite recent job growth in the service industry sector, occupations within this industry are highly susceptible. Frey and Osborne assessed the degree to which 702 specific jobs are vulnerable to computerization, distinguishing these occupations into categories of high, medium and low risk.
Job Automation May Threaten Half of U.S. Workforce (Bloomberg)
Mobile robots and ‘smart’ computers — that learn on the job — make it likely that occupations employing about half of today's U.S. workers could be possible to automate in the next decade or two, according to an Oxford University study that estimated the probability of computerization of more than 700 occupations. Published March 12, 2014

Sources: University of Oxford, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne

One of the main ways governments have helped people during previous waves of technological progress is through education system reform. What should government be doing now to make the changes that are necessary?

To discuss these issues further, I am joined today in The Global Search for Education by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne, authors of The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization, and Dr. Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at Harvard University's Innovation Lab. Tony will be leading a presentation on Education for Innovation at last week's OPPI Festival in Helsinki, Finland.

"I can only recommend that young people continue to gain the kind of cognitive and creative skills that give them a competitive edge over machines." Dr. Michael A. Osborne

Gentlemen, could you please summarize what you believe were your most important findings in your study?

Michael: We found that a substantial fraction (47%) of current US employment is at risk of automation within the next twenty years. While some of these occupations are in categories previously thought unthreatened by automation, such as logistics and services, we expect automation to continue to predominately threaten low-skilled workers. In fact, we found a strong negative relationship between the average degree of education within an occupation and its susceptibility to computerization. In a similar way, this was true for the average wage: the better-paid jobs, featuring largely better-educated workers, are unlikely to be automated in the near future. Quantitatively, we found that if only a quarter of people within an occupation have a bachelor's degree or better, the occupation would likely have a fifty-fifty chance of being automatable within the foreseeable future. If half of workers within an occupation have at least a bachelor's degree, its probability of automation is close to zero. It seems clear that education is a crucial issue in considering future jobs.

Can you speak a little about the range of 20th century jobs that are endangered by the machine age?  

Michael: We firstly expect that existing trends of automation in production will continue: robots, with ever improving sensors and manipulators, will continue to replace factory workers. We further predict that  
many sales jobs are vulnerable: online shopping and self-checkouts will only continue to become more popular at the expense of human salespeople and cashiers. In fact,  
telemarketers were rated as one of the most computerizable occupations; to the dismay, no doubt, of anyone who is sick of speaking to robots on the phone. Perhaps more surprisingly,
we expect transportation and clerical jobs to be at risk from new technologies. Autonomous vehicles threaten many logistics occupations, such as drivers of forklifts or mine vehicles, while
big data analytics place occupations reliant on storing or accessing information at risk, such as tax preparers.
As evidence for the latter: we're already seeing paralegal jobs replaced by algorithms, so this is not an unreasonable prediction.
We finally suspect that many jobs in the service sector will be increasingly at risk, with the growth of service robotics and sophisticated algorithms.
As examples, court reporters may have their jobs threatened by transcription software, and
electronics repair jobs are already being affected by the declining costs of increasingly complex electronic items. This is particularly alarming given the recently high fraction of workers undertaking service work.
Nonetheless, many other service sector jobs are likely to remain unautomatable; as an example, human housekeepers are still much better at their jobs than robots.

Carl: To expand a bit on that, what we are saying is that service occupations that do not require much creative and social intelligence are likely to be automated. Some personal service jobs, however, do require especially some social intelligence. These, we think, will not be automated.

"In the short run, the government could support employment by stimulating the demand for personal services. In the long run, I do not believe there is much of a substitute for training workers to work with computers." - Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey

Please discuss some of the characteristics of occupations not at risk of computerization. 

Michael: These jobs involve tasks at which machines are relatively poor: tasks involving creativity or social intelligence. As examples, I think
  • recreational therapists, 
  • mental health counselors and 
  • primary school teachers are relatively safe for the foreseeable future. 
  • Many people may also be surprised to learn that occupations requiring work in very cluttered environments are also relatively safe. For example, the perceptual capacity of a human housekeeper, able to distinguish unwanted dirt from a pot plant, is unlikely to be matched by a robot cleaner for many decades.
Tony, why does this evolutionary phase require more revolutionary changes in education versus the gradual changes we have seen in previous generations?

The Future of Employment study makes clear that what matters most today is what you can do with what you know, rather than how much you know. Many recent college graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed because they lack the skills needed in an increasingly innovation-driven economy. With academic content knowledge having become a commodity that's available on every internet-connected device, the ability to 
  • initiate, 
  • discern, 
  • persevere, 
  • collaborate, and 
  • to solve problems creatively 
are the qualities most in demand today and will be increasingly important in the future. The problem is that our education system was designed, primarily, to teach the three R's and to transmit content knowledge. We need to create schools that coach students for skill and will, in addition to teaching content. If we don't make this transition quickly, a growing number of our youth will be unemployable at the same time that employers complain that they cannot find new hires that have the skills they need.

"We need to create schools that coach students for skill and will, in addition to teaching content. If we don't make this transition quickly, a growing number of our youth will be unemployable at the same time that employers complain that they cannot find new hires who have the skills they need." - Dr. Tony Wagner

What recommendations would you make to governments about retraining workers who are now or will be unemployed as a result of this evolution? 

Tony: I wish I had an intelligent answer to this important question, but I'm a "recovering" high school English teacher, not an economist. My hunch is that it will take a generation to better prepare young people for the new economy. Meanwhile, perhaps we'll need to put people to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure, helping out in preschools and assisted living homes, and so on. There is a lot to be done to make our country a better and more humane place to live. The question is: are we willing to pay people to do this work?

Carl: In the short run, the government could support employment by stimulating the demand for personal services. In the long run, I do not believe there is much of a substitute for training workers to work with computers.

If you were speaking to a group of high school students today, what fields and disciplines would you encourage them to explore to ensure success in the job market?

 Tony: First, I would encourage them to pursue their real interests. Curiosity and intrinsic interest trump mere academic achievement today. Secondly, I'd suggest they consider designing an interdisciplinary major in college around a problem of interest to them. Innovation increasingly happens at the intersections of academic disciplines, not within them.

Michael: One thing that came out very clearly from our analysis was the continuing importance of education. In particular, we found a strong negative trend between an occupation's average level of education and its probability of computerization. As such, I can only recommend that young people continue to gain the kind of cognitive and creative skills that give them a competitive edge over machines. In particular, and I may be biased, but occupations revolving around creative uses of data are likely to be resistant to automation for some time. Further, people skills: the ability to negotiate, or persuade, are likely to become increasingly important for human work, due to their resistance to automation. Finally, manual work in unstructured environments is probably a fairly safe bet: gardeners are unlikely to have to worry about their jobs for a good long while.

C. M. Rubin, Dr. Tony Wagner, Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, Dr. Michael A. Osborne
Photos are courtesy of the Oxford Martin School and Tony Wagner.

For more information on the Oxford Martin School Study:

For more information on Education for Innovation at the OPPI Festival:

In The Global Search for Education, join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. Madhav Chavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. Eija Kauppinen (Finland), State Secretary Tapio Kosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Professor Ben Levin (Canada), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (Lycee Francais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.

The Global Search for Education Community Page

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, "The Global Search for Education" and "How Will We Read?" She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, and is the publisher of CMRubinWorld.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

TAGS: Education Technology Future of Employment Carl Benedikt Frey Michael A. Osborne Automation of Production Tony Wagner The Global Search for Education Computerizable Occupations Job Automation Oxford Martin School 20th Century Job Market C. M. Rubin Education for Innovation OPPI Festival Education Reform Occupation Computerization

domingo, 13 de abril de 2014

The Moral: Aesop Knew Something About Crows

ScienceTake: Those Clever Crows

Scientists are trying to understand the limits to the well-established intelligence of crows.

Crows and their relatives, like jays and rooks, are definitely in the gifted class when it comes to the kinds of cognitive puzzles that scientists cook up.

They recognize human faces. They make tools to suit a given problem.

Sometimes they seem, as humans like to say, almost human. But the last common ancestor of humans and crows lived perhaps 300 million years ago, and was almost certainly no intellectual giant.

So the higher levels of crow and primate intelligence evolved on separate tracks, but somehow reached some of the same destinations. And scientists are now asking what crows can’t do, as one way to understand how they learn and how their intelligence works.

One very useful tool for this research comes from an ancient Greek (or perhaps Ethiopian), the fabulist known as Aesop. One of his stories is about a thirsty crow that drops pebbles into a pitcher to raise the level of water high enough that it can get a drink.

Researchers have modified this task by adding a floating morsel of food to a tube with water and seeing which creatures solve the problem of using stones to raise the water enough to get the food. It can be used for a variety of species because it’s new to all of them. “No animal has a natural predisposition to drop stones to change water levels,” said Sarah Jelbert, a Ph.D. student at Auckland University in New Zealand, who works with crows.Photo
New Caledonian crows can use tools to solve problems, such as getting at hard to reach food.CreditMick Sibley

New Caledonian crows, rooks, Eurasian jays, and humans (past age 5) can do it, said Ms. Jelbert, who noted that great apes can do a slightly different version.

But in the latest experiment to test the crows, Ms. Jelbert, working with Alex Taylor and Russell Gray of Auckland and Lucy Cheke and Nicola Clayton of the University of Cambridge in England, found some clear limitations to what the crows can learn. And those limitations provide some hints to how they think.

The birds, Ms. Jelbert and her colleagues reported in PLOS One last month, were wild New Caledonian crows trapped for the experiment and then released.

The crows were first trained to pick up stones. This is not something they do in the wild. They then dropped the stones into a dry tube to gain a reward. Then they took the Aesop’s test, in several different situations.

The birds learned not to drop the stones in a tube of sand with a treat. And they correctly chose sinking objects rather than floating ones, and solid rather than hollow objects to drop in the water.

But if part of the tube apparatus was hidden, the birds could not learn. They also didn’t seem to be able to learn that the water would rise more quickly with fewer stones in a narrow tube.

This suggests two things, said Ms. Jelbert. They weren’t just learning abstract rules, because otherwise they would have been able to learn where to drop the stones to make the water rise even if they couldn’t see what was going on.

And second, the need to see the results of the behavior suggested they did seem to have “a level of causal understanding.” These are just hints, though, in terms of understanding how crows learn and think, said Ms. Jelbert, “we’re still very much at the beginning.”

April 10, 2014

Scientists Discover Evidence of a New Type of Matter: the Tetraquark

In this Sept. 10, 2008 file photo, European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists control computer screens showing traces on Atlas experiment of the first protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) during its switch on operation in CERN's control room, near Geneva, Switzerland.

The recent identification of a long-theorized particle provides strong evidence of a new form of matter.

Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle collider in the world, verified the existence of a particle called Z(4430) last week, according to New Scientist. Previously, physicists had reasoned that the particle could exist but had yet to observe it.

Discovery of any new particle is an important step for scientists, but Z(4430) is viewed with particular importance — it is evidence of a new type of matter called a tetraquark.

Quarks are among the most basic building blocks of matter. Combinations of different types of quarks produce protons and neutrons. Although quarks typically bind together in groups of two or three, scientists had theorized that four quarks could be combined to form a different type of matter: the tetraquark.

The discovery has particular importance for our understanding of neutron stars, according to space-news site Universe Today, which wrote:

"With the existence of tetraquarks, it is possible for neutrons within the core to interact strongly enough to create tetraquarks. This could even lead to the production of pentaquarks and hexaquarks, or even that quarks could interact individually without being bound into color neutral particles. This would produce a hypothetical object known as a quark star."

ORIGINAL: Mashable
April 14th, 2014