Wednesday, June 03, 2009

6 ideas that are innovating the West

One of the great things about having our western states office in Boise is that we are exposed to new ideas and viewpoints. As the world and our country are facing economic, energy, and environmental challenges, we need innovators now more than ever.

Here's a sampling of 6 ideas that are emerging from the West and shaking things up:
  1. Sci-fi Solar The curved 10-foot mirror focuses sunlight onto a steel plate about five feet away, and the steel glows bright and white - shedding sparks as if targeted by a cutting torch. Within seconds, the amplified sunlight burns a hold clean through the quarter-inch steel.
  2. A New Method for Brainstorming Nathan Myhrvold calls it an "invention session." For his groups, he seeks unusual people from around the world - bioengineers, nanotechnologists, chemists, even a few artists - who "have really deep knowledge and an open mind." An average session features 5-10 people in a big room furnished with a massive secondhand table and comfortable purple and green chairs. The small size and informal atmosphere encourage friendly interaction.
  3. Breaking Down Walls, With Art Inspired by a project in New York, Adam Price and his wife Dessi, invited 143 artists - ranging from teenaged graffiti artists to classical painters in their 70s - to transform an abandoned, 42-room building in one of Salt Lake City's oldest neighborhoods. After a 2-weekend public showing of the art, the building was demolished to make way for green-built apartments that included space for public art.
  4. A Home for the Homeless ... on the Street Surprised by how many homeless people were not sleeping in shelters, Hollywood movie producer Peter Samuelson launched three successful charities and raised money to create a contraption he calls the EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof). Designed by Eric Lindeman and Jason Zasa, the EDAR is shaped like a shopping cart. Made of wire and piping and wrapped with military-grade canvas, it can be filled with baggage and pushed around for day use. Then the wheels can be locked and collapsed into an EDAR in about a minute, transforming it into a raised tent to sleep in.
  5. Inventing Equality for Blind People George Kersher has a sweeping vision, even though he's blind: He wants to make all printed information "accessible." Everything in print should be readily available in audio, he believes, so that the millions with impaired eyesight can "read" by using their ears. He has invented technologies and computer programs and encouraged advancements in policies that involve dozens of countries.
  6. Rural Empowerment Land owners around Wheatland, Wyoming, are pooling their land and evaluating its wind resources, then putting together a marketing package to present a unified voice in bargaining with companies for a fair price. Because all the members experience construction and visual impacts, everyone gets a share in the proceeds, even those who don't end up with turbines on their land. It's a model that could avert some of the animosity around wind farms. And proponents think it can revitalize rural communities and keep farmers and ranchers on their land despite rising costs.
Click here to read the entire article in the Boise Weekly.

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