‘This of RepRap as a China on your desktop’ is what the Open Source Program Manager at Google Chris DiBona said about the project. The RepRap printer is able to produce certain objects from your home and it costs just around 500 Euros to put together. What’s more interesting, even if somewhat idealistic, is that the project team is trying to make RepRap into a printer that will be able to replicate itself and produce other RepRaps, which could turn the RepRap into some sort of an industrial viral. This could potentially revolutionise the industry chain of everything being shipped from China to everywhere else be it the developed world or Africa. For that to happen, the RepRap would have to actually have to produce enough useful objects at prices that don’t exceed what you can buy in a supermarket. And, well, until now the RepRap can’t actually self-replicate itself completely, but whether that’s actually essential is a whole other question. My friend Jonathan wrote a much longer post discussing the RepRap:
Back to reality. Today the RepRap team has succeeded in designing and building a cheap 3D printer which prints in plastic only and can produce about 50% of its own parts. This is a historic event, and should not be underestimated. However, producing a new machine still requires a lot of basic hardware such as metal rods and screws, and also more exotic components such as specific integrated circuits and stepper motors. In RepRap’s evolutionary analogy, these raw parts (as well as plastic filament feedstock) are the naturally produced “vitamins” that the RepRap consumes from its environment in order to reproduce. As time goes on, the team hopes to produce designs for upgraded RepRap machines that can manufacture more of their own parts, and not incidentally the parts for more complex objects too. For example, they hope to be able to deposit metal films with the next generation machine, which would allow the RepRap to produce electrical wiring and basic circuits.
Would love to know what you think!
[Via Jonathan Stray]
The UN has launched a tuition-free open university. Much like the iTunesU, University of the People supports the idea of a globally accessible free education. So far unaccredited, the institution offers just two programs, one in business and economics and one in computer science. It will be interesting to see how much development, recognition and popularity this project might gain.
For hundreds of millions of people around the world higher education is no more than a dream, Shai Reshef, the founder of the University of the People, told reporters. They are constrained by finances, the lack of institutions in their region, or they are not able to leave home to study at a university for personal reasons.
Mr. Reshef said that this University opened the gate to these people to continue their studies from home and at minimal cost by using open-source technology, open course materials, e-learning methods and peer-to-peer teaching.
Admission opened just over two weeks ago and without any promotion some 200 students from 52 countries have already registered, with a high school diploma and a sufficient level of English as entry requirements.
Students will be placed in classes of 20, after which they can log on to a weekly lecture, discuss its themes with their peers and take a test all online. There are voluntary professors, post-graduate students and students in other classes who can also offer advice and consultation.
The only charge to students is a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a processing fee for every test ranging from $10 to $100. For the University to sustain its operation, it needs 15,000 students and $6 million, of which Mr. Reshef has donated $1 million of his own money.
Wordnik is a neat alternative to the almost tranditional now online dicitionaries and thesaurus resource websites. The site is still in beta and displays words’ definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, antonyms as well as their etymology. My favorite features are the word stats that show you how often a word had been used throughout history as well as its almost live reflections in blog posts and tweets. Words are also presented in context of literary texts from various times, which allows you to see changes in style and use. For those who sign up, Wordnik also offers open-source editing, which will might bring it a little closer to sites like Urban Dictionary and Addictionary.
Us Now is a fantastic documentary created by Banyak Films. Exploring new forms of social organisation and the empowering of the individual, the video provides excellent insights into new possiblities of the digital sphere. Linux, Couchsurfing, Mumsnet, Meetup and Zopa are just some of case studies presented alongside an interesting debate of the future of political and social change.
Wikileaks is a developing platform for leaking and reading uncensored documents stemming from oppressive governments and internal corporate environments and at this point includes over 1.2 million documents. ‘Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we are of assistance to people of nations who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations,’ says the description of Wikileaks. According to the Times, Wikileaks ‘could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act’ by providing a safe haven for those who want to expose injustice, violence or corruption within their governments or corporations without the fear of being exposed or persecuted.
Wikileaks was started by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Since January 2007 Wikileaks has been banned by the Chinese government. What about authenticity, you may ask; just as one can make claims about the authenticity of common knowledge on Wikipedia, one can make ones about whether what is being released on Wikileaks is authentic information. Wikileaks however claims the following: ‘Wikileaks staff, who are investigative journalists, forensically all documents and label any suspicions of inauthenticity based on a forensic analysis of the document, means, motive and opportunity, cost of forgery and so on. We have become world leaders in this, have never, as far as anyone is aware, made a mistake’. Beyond the chances of making mistakes, Wikileaks provides an important channel of free information and a source of increasing government and corporate transparency.
This is too cool. I just found an online dictionary that contains all these words that can make you feel (1) ‘i’m oh-so-out-of-the-loop’ or (2) make you sigh ‘omg-i’m-so-glad-to-be-out-of-that-loop’ when you hear them walking down the street. The Urban Dictionary is an open source dictionary that is continuously updated with new entries that are then judged by the online community for their accuracy, coolness, and such. So far the only downside I find is a lack of a thesaurus and a normal language to slang dictionary, but that will probably come in time.