The Future of Education is Global Sourcing

OP-Ed
by Tim Rohde
I just finished reading a blog post that compares educational achievement across the globe (read it here). As an American, it initially troubled me, since the main thrust of the discussion was the U.S.’s failure in math and science education, compared to other countries. One of the points the author focused on was [...]

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Wine Sales Grow on Social Networks
By Marisa D’Vari
What music would go best with this wine? As incredible as it sounds, the marketing folks at Wente Winery are drawing people to their winery by creating fun events exploring the connection between wine and popular music. These events are quickly turned into audio and video downloads available [...]

Big Bang… Bigger Science?

By Prof. Paul Padley
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rice University
In order to make great scientific discoveries, it is important to build great experiments. Outside Geneva, Switzerland, the most complex experiment ever built will soon start collecting data, and it is worth asking why scientists are convinced that something new will be found with it. Let’s look [...]

The Future of Repair

By Tim Rohde
The “disposable society” is taking a well-deserved beating from more and more people these days. The scourge of our environment, our pocketbooks and our souls may be headed, itself, for the dustbin of history. The forces pushing back against the disposable society come from some familiar and some surprising origins. The ecological imperative [...]

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One must care about a world one will not see.

Bertrand Russell

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Spinning into the Future

April 15, 2013 MAN & MACHINE No Comments
Spinning into the Future

By Prof. Paul Padley

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Rice University

Electronics works by taking advantage of one of the properties of fundamental particles: electric charge. Particles have many other properties as well, and there is a real possibility that those properties can be harnessed in order to develop new technologies. One such property is called “spin” and harnessing spin could play a key role in the future of electronics.

Nobody really understands the spin of fundamental particles, such as the electron. However, we can routinely measure it and use it. The electron, and other basic particles in nature, act as if they were spinning tops. We can do measurements in which we calculate their angular momentum — or how much they are spinning. We can put electrons in magnets and flip their spins.  Spin

So, why doesn’t anybody really understand that? There are a couple of reasons: To the best of our knowledge, the electron is an infinitely small-point particle. In our current theories, the electron has zero size and, to date, nobody has been able to measure its “size,” experimentally. How is it that something without any size can be spinning?  String-theory attempts to overcome this by postulating that particles are little bits of string in a multi-dimensional space – but, to date, there is no experimental evidence that string theory is correct. In any case, I am not sure that a 10-dimensional string is any easier to think about than an infinitely small, spinning particle.

It gets event stranger. First, I have to explain how to describe the direction of spin. If something is rotating, I can wrap the fingers of my right hand in the direction of the rotation.  If I then stick my thumb out from my hand, I say the direction of my thumb defines the spin.  So, if I am riding my bicycle forward, and I describe the rotation of my wheels in this way, my thumb points to the left.

What is strange about the spin of the electron is that when I describe it this way, my thumb will only point up or down.  It can’t point at an angle; it can’t be tilted.

Otto Stern

Otto Stern

Walter Gerlach

Walter Gerlach

[ … Why can’t the electron spin point at an angle? That is one of the mysteries of the universe. This weird spin of the electron was first measured in the 1920s (by Otto Stern and Walter Gerlach -- http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/spin.html ) and has been repeatedly confirmed by experiment, ever since.  It makes my head hurt, and my students heads, too -- this exact question was being asked of me by my students last week (I teach quantum mechanics to junior physics majors).

One of the most important things that makes science different from other ways of knowing is that we have to use what we learn from experiment, whether we understand it or not. So we can write down equations that describe how electron spin will behave.  We can use those equations to predict the electron's behavior so well that we can make electronic (or spintronic) devices, using this description. But we don’t actually know how it comes about or why it is there. So I know the electron will always be measured to be spinning up or down, and not tipped at an angle, but I can’t tell you why. Wish I could (it would get me a Nobel Prize)…. ]

I always measure that the electron is spinning either up or down, no matter how I measure it. In fact, spin is predicted by relativistic quantum mechanics (the combination of quantum mechanics with Einstein’s special theory of relativity). So, perhaps I misspeak when I say nobody understands it  – we can write down the math behind it but, unfortunately, our brains can not picture what it means.

That spin has this property, that it can only take definite directions, is what makes it interesting for electronics. We can use spin to record information and manipulate it to do calculations. There is a whole field of electronics research called “spintronics” that is pursuing this idea. The most likely first application is in memory chips — a technology referred to as “mram,” which is approaching commercialization.  For example, IBM and Toshiba have announced that they are close to producing such chips.

There is an important lesson for the future, here. The concept of spin grew out of work in the 1920s in quantum mechanics. Without the basic science that was conducted almost 100 years ago, the new technologies being developed today would not be possible. The physicists who discovered this amazing property of fundamental particles were not  trying to develop technologies, they were just trying to understand the smallest constituents of matter. Without speculative, basic scientific research, technological progress stops. However, it can be a long time until that basic research bears fruit.

Dr. Paul Padley is professor of physics at Rice University, and a lead physicist of experimental research for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN

The Future of Education is Global Sourcing

The Future of Education is Global Sourcing

OP-Ed
by Tim Rohde

I just finished reading a blog post that compares educational achievement across the globe (read it here). As an American, it initially troubled me, since the main thrust of the discussion was the U.S.’s failure in math and science education, compared to other countries. One of the points the author focused on was that textbooks in the U.S. tend to be extremely broad, but not particularly deep, in their coverage of a subject. Apparently this type of survey approach isn’t as effective as the methods used by better scoring countries (deeper dives into fewer subjects).

He then suggested a brilliant idea! Why not source textbooks from the most successful countries for a given discipline? There are, of course, plenty of problems with this approach. Textbooks exist in a wider pedagogical plan that spans years; they also are  the products of, and supporting text for, particular cultures. There are also great advantages to a broad diversity of global study that would need to be preserved. Still, the fundamental notion of globally sourcing our educational materials and methods has extreme fundamental merit.

There seem to be two approaches to drawing value from this idea. One is a top-down approach which is centered around one or more NGOs, UN committees, etc. The other, and more fun, is a bottom-up approach of looking at centers of excellence around the world and drawing their resources into an informal global collaboration. When all is said and done, each text book has to be translated one at a time, and each school or person needs to make individual choices regarding participation. This is classic crowd sourcing applied to a highly educated and effective crowd.

I wonder how you feel about this. Please comment.

Tim Rohde is Co-founder/Publisher & COO of the-future.com.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

April 16, 2013 CULTURE|shock, Featured 1 Comment
Heard It Through the Grapevine

Wine Sales Grow on Social Networks

By Marisa D’Vari

What music would go best with this wine? As incredible as it sounds, the marketing folks at Wente Winery are drawing people to their winery by creating fun events exploring the connection between wine and popular music. These events are quickly turned into audio and video downloads available on their website, sent out to their Facebook Friends and made available as Twitter tweets.

Social Media is the new name of the game in wine marketing, a multi-billion dollar business with competition between brands, especially in the affordable under $20 category, quite fierce. Though all groups are receptive to social media messages, the wineries are specifically targeting the 77 million strong Millennial generation (21 – 32) who, they hope, will take the place of the similar-sized Boomer generation. Unlike the Boomer generation, Millennials are very responsive to trying a wide variety of wines, and have proven to be quite discriminating. A study commissioned by the Wine Market Council suggests that in comparison to their elders, Millennials like to ask questions about wine, try exotic new regions and pride themselves on their familiarity with specific vineyards.

Research also has proven that wine bloggers are more influential to the Millennial age group than professional and respected critics such as Robert Parker, despite the reality that few bloggers have serious wine credentials. Still, it’s true that wine is a very subjective experience. Often, the reason for wine bloggers’ popularity is not necessarily their own viewpoints, but that their blogs provide the stimulus for a discussion about wine. At the moment, Wine Blogging Wednesdays is a monthly event in which bloggers all buy the same wine, then post their tasting notes. The activity is fun, educational and social. Many people never meet their “Internet friends” in person, yet feel connected with them. This connection is a crucial ingredient of why social media is working and why wineries need to reach as many people as possible through social media and make them feel they are part of the club.

Social Media in the form of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos, and blogging is already here, yet in the next few years will become more popular, more focused, and with much more two-way interaction. The next step would be some sort of invention based on the “scratch and sniff” insert of perfume in magazines, whereas consumers could smell a wine’s aroma through the Internet and, if the consumer finds the aroma agreeable, could click a button and buy it on the spot. While technology already allows users on very sophisticated websites to click on a vineyard and learn about its soil, aspect, microclimate, etc., this will be the standard, soon. Perhaps wineries could also construct winemaker holograms that could emerge from the computer screen and give an ‘in-person’ lecture about the wines on demand.

Yet, no matter how high tech and sci-fi wine marketing becomes in the future, one thing is for certain: appreciation and enjoyment of wine is all about what is in the glass.

Fine Wine Writer Marisa D’Vari, AIWS, CSW is publisher of the online magazine http://www.awinestory.com, Wine & Spirits Editor for Taste Magazine Cincinnati, NY Wine Pairing Examiner for the national online newspaper NY Examiner for Smart Wine Plus (formerly Wine Investor’s Buyer’s Guide) in addition to syndicating her weekly column to a variety of newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and blogs.

Big Bang… Bigger Science?

Big Bang… Bigger Science?

By Prof. Paul Padley
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rice University

In order to make great scientific discoveries, it is important to build great experiments. Outside Geneva, Switzerland, the most complex experiment ever built will soon start collecting data, and it is worth asking why scientists are convinced that something new will be found with it. Let’s look at the history of Big Bang science and see what lessons we can draw from that.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble published his paper A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity among Extra Galactic Nebulae.

http://www.pnas.org/content/15/3/168.full.pdf+html

This is the paper which established that the universe is expanding, in a way consistent with there being a “big bang.”  What is interesting to note is that Hubble was working at one of the greatest observatories of its day, Mt. Wilson. He was using the 100-inch telescope, which was a phenomenal instrument for its day and by having access to it, was able to collect the data that established what we now call the “Hubble Constant.”

Read about the history of Mt. Wilson at:

http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/history.html)

This was a revolutionary observation that changed how we understand the universe.

Measuring the Hubble Constant is one of the fundamental cosmological measurements that can be made. Refining the precision of that constant is an important goal for science and was one of the motivating goals for building the Hubble Space Telescope.  The name was no coincidence, it was a name not just in honor of Edwin Hubble, but in honor of one of its primary scientific missions — measuring the Hubble Constant.

More than just measuring the Hubble Constant, it turns out this telescope has completely upset our view of the universe.  When I was a student, I was taught that there was a Big Bang and that the universe was expanding. Gravity was acting on the matter in the universe and the expansion was slowing down. An important question was whether the universe was open or closed, that is — would gravity cause the universe to collapse back in on itself, or not? Scientists were hoping to resolve that question with the Hubble Space Telescope.

What they found was completely unexpected: It appears that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down, in fact, it is speeding up. The expansion of the universe is accelerating!  This was a completely surprising result. I remember sitting in the auditorium at CERN when Saul Perlmutter of the Supernova Cosmology Project (http://supernova.lbl.gov/) presented this result (which was  simultaneously obtained by the High-z Supernova Search team (http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/supernova//HighZ.html). The auditorium was full of skeptical scientists ready to shoot down the claim.  However, one by one, all the hostile questions were answered and the result has stood the test of time.

The accelerating expansion of the universe is now one of the greatest mysteries in science.  What is clear is that the universe is not going to collapse down on itself — it is being blown apart. What is also clear is that it took a new facility such as the Hubble Space Telescope to make this amazing discovery possible.  The scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN are anticipating that they are going to make amazing unanticipated discoveries  it’s what happens when you build tremendous new facilities.

Learn more about cosmology and the related facilities at http://www.aip.org/history/cosmology/index.htm

Take a closer look at some of the Hubble Telescopes “Greatest Hits” by clicking an image below:

The Future of Repair

The Future of Repair

By Tim Rohde

The “disposable society” is taking a well-deserved beating from more and more people these days. The scourge of our environment, our pocketbooks and our souls may be headed, itself, for the dustbin of history. The forces pushing back against the disposable society come from some familiar and some surprising origins. The ecological imperative has finally hit the mainstream. The “maker” and diy (do-it-yourself) movements are fostering a new enthusiasm for individuals to work with their hands. And several sites on the Internet have made it easier to find qualified repair professionals. All of this is converging with what appears to be a long-term need for average Americans to tighten their belts. While there are plenty of companies that have yet to catch on, repair is back and it’s here to stay.

Of all the long-term trends favoring repair over disposal, none is more compelling than the fate of the planet. Every year in the U.S., alone, over 200 million tons of trash go into landfills. Over 63 million computers are disposed of. Over 148 million functioning (or repairable) cell phones are dumped. Cameron Church of Conergy Deutschland GmbH once told me, “Remember, REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE are listed in order.” Repairing things indirectly reduces the need for new items and directly supports reuse. While the U.S. is doing an increasingly good job of recycling, the opportunities for keeping repairable items in service is only now being explored in earnest by the mainstream.

This mainstream is divided into two camps: those who are more likely to hire a repair professional and those who are more likely to do it themselves. The world of professional repair has been enjoying significant expansion and enrichment due to new Web resources that promote and critique various services. Resources like Angie’s List, Service Magic and Yelp have brought much needed light to the world of repair services. These sites provide the ability for consumers to publish feedback about their service experiences. While this may seem harsh at first, it rewards quality and excellence by weeding out service people who undermine the public’s trust, thus clearing the field for better service providers. This increases the likelihood that a consumer will get something effectively fixed and ready to continue providing value.

This type of improvement is a predictable outcome of the information efficiencies we’ve come to expect from the Internet. We can file this under business-growth-through-efficiency, but there is another kind of emergent growth happening that is both more surprising and more inspiring:  the do-it-yourselfer is back and has been transformed into part cultural icon, part helpful info source, part performer….

The leaders in mainstreaming do-it-yourself repair are found in the diy (do it yourself) movement. One of their favorite haunts is the FIX section of diy.com.  diy.com averages more that 150,000 unique visitors per month and is only one of many sites in the diy universe. Combine this with the 105,000 YouTube videos about repair and the 3,600,000 pages returned in a Google search of the term “diy repair” and you’ve got a whole lot of action around individuals repairing things. These resources run the gamut from highly informative and very ernest help to hilarious, don’t-try-this-at-home events. The common thread among these performances and articles is that something interesting comes from something broken or unused.

An even greater commitment to reuse (often through repurposing material) is found in the “maker movement.” Celeste Headlee’s succinct description of the maker movement says it best: “On a basic level, the movement is about reusing and repairing objects, rather than discarding them to buy more. On a deeper level, it’s also a philosophical idea about what ownership really is.” She goes on to paint the picture of this philosophy of ownership, namely – IF YOU CAN’T REPAIR SOMETHING, YOU DON’T REALLY OWN IT. The maker movement has a bill of rights which has caught the eye of several large industry players. It has a vibrant, interesting niche press lead by Make Magazine. It has Maker Faires that have now spread to every populated continent. They are celebrations of human ingenuity that honor some of the wildest artistic and engineering achievements executed with materials and objects that were discarded by the disposal-happy culture at large. These events are part science fair, part geekfest, part Burning Man… Note to world: this is not a fad.

Regardless of how much staying power and sustainability is built into the diy and maker movements, their impact on the future would likely be small, if not for the current economic decline. The ranks of committed diyers and makers has certainly swelled but, more importantly, the ranks of those who otherwise wouldn’t repair things has grown with the economic downturn. These new do-it-yourselfers search the Internet for answers and run into more than the Home Depot website. They find this new, vibrant culture that celebrates fixing things and making things. That convergence alone has the potential to reinvigorate the latent strains of self reliance and creativity that so strongly characterize the American past and deliver a new class of hands-on creators to the future.

Tim Rohde is Co-founder/Publisher & COO of the-future.com.

The Future of Fashion – Part 1

April 15, 2013 CULTURE|shock No Comments
The Future of Fashion – Part 1

The Consumption Crisis

By Deborah J. C. Brosdahl

Sustainability requires a long-term outlook that encourages responsible consumption. Fashion, it seems, is fundamentally at odds with this goal. Perhaps apparel can be made sustainably, but fashion? Fashion is more than a product; fashion is a mode of thought. It affects everything from design to purchasing to obsolescence, and is usually distinguished by a fast-paced and ever-replenishing chain of supply and demand. The inevitable consequence of quick and constant change is ravenous resource consumption and a vast accumulation of waste. Better production methods can slow resource use and recycling can reduce waste, but buying (and therefore making) fewer products will address both problems.

Stemming consumption in America will be hard. The United States represents only five percent of the world’s population, while its consumers use up approximately 25 percent of the world’s natural resources. Our motivations for buying (sometimes more than we can afford or need) are complex and deeply rooted in our culture. Whether it’s ordering a supersized McDonald’s fries or purchasing yet another pair of Manolo Blahniks to add to the 100 pairs of shoes already in a closet bursting at the seams, clearly, sheer quantity is seductive. In addition, a basic human need is looking as though you belong to a place, a culture, a moment in time. It seems that Americans not only need to belong, we need to be better. We demonstrate our superiority through conspicuous consumption, and fashion lets us wear our aspirations on our sleeves.

Apparel long since ceased to simply protect us from the elements, and as soon as it did, it took on connotations of fashion. Probably since the last Ice Age, anything worn has communicated the wearer’s sense of self and position in society. This is true whether the clothes in question are full-on Goth, a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress and kitten heels, or a blue suit, white shirt and red tie. Specifically “fashionable” clothes (i.e., clothing promoted by the fashion industry) can enhance the consumer’s status by communicating a person’s ability to purchase products without regard to price (higher prices for new products are not necessarily related to higher quality), and a person’s knowledge of what is “in.” For many fashion leaders, fashion is addictive because it advertises how “with it” someone is with the newest and most cutting-edge ensembles.

Shopping MallAmericans buy and buy and buy clothes. As a comparison between American and European spending habits demonstrates, our appetite for fashion is not simply an inevitable consequence of affluence and available choice. Let’s look at Americans first. The most recent Bureau of Labor figures on consumer spending habits show that the average American family of three has approximately $44,400 (after taxes) to spend on everything it needs to sustain living. Of this, it spends approximately 11 percent on apparel and apparel services (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.). This works out to approximately $4,884 or $1,628 per person in a family per year—an increase over apparel spending for the several previous years. Now, let’s look at the Europeans. On average, Europeans (of the 12 EU countries tallied) spend only seven percent of their disposable income on apparel and apparel services (according to www.eustatistics.gov.uk). Not only do Europeans spend less of their income on clothing, they: 1) don’t focus on price as the first feature they look for when buying, 2) are willing to pay more for their clothing because they fully expect their clothes to be worn longer than do Americans, and 3) demand high-quality products. Could Americans become more like Europeans in our apparel-buying habits?  Should we?

Given the statistics related to ravenous apparel consumption and its attendant waste, I’m going to answer the second question with a “yes.” For the sake of the environment (as well as their individual credit ratings!), Americans should buy fewer clothes. (They should buy less stuff, period, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) The answer to the first question is more elusive. I believe we can become more like Europeans in our buying habits, but realizing that possibility is complicated.

In the old adage “quality vs. quantity,” quality is contrasted with quantity as if it’s only possible to have one of these characteristics. Yet quality-loving Europeans do indeed buy less per year, and they still end up with closets full of clothing.  This is possible because their higher quality-based purchases last longer than clothing designed solely with low price in mind.

However, the word “quality” invites interpretation. Indeed, noted quality assurance author, educator and researcher, Dr. Sara Kadolph of Iowa State University has concluded that when a person describes a product as “quality,” she could be ascribing to it any number of positive attributes, among them: performance, features, reliability, conformance between design and function, durability, serviceability, aesthetics and other perceived quality issues, such as those related to brand name. Given the abundance of types of quality, do Americans value the right kind of quality, the kind of quality that would persuade them to be happy with less?

Before we can evaluate that question, we should first be explicit about what the right kind of quality would be. With an eye to reducing resource use and landfill, I propose that reliability (both in wear and care) and durability are necessary for a piece of apparel to escape being replaced after a season. In other words, the knit pullover can’t sag and pill, the white shirt can’t turn dingy grey and the coat placket can’t have buttons hanging by a mere thread. Of course, sustainable fashion (not just apparel) is our challenge; I would be cheating if I didn’t acknowledge that the piece has to stay genuinely fashionable, or at least attractive and wearable, for several seasons. I don’t see this as an impossibility. While fashions come and go, surely we all have a few items that we have kept for years. The goal would be to keep most of our items for many years and only acquire very few new pieces a year.

So, do Americans appreciate this kind of quality? There’s some evidence that they do. Relatively recently, my research revealed that even teenagers respect quality. After conducting several studies related to apparel shopping behavior in 12- to 18-year-olds, it came to light that the kids interviewed were aware that quality is supposed to be an important consideration when shopping for clothing. When pressed for an answer about what quality meant to them, the children said that the clothes they bought should be long-lasting. They were probably repeating what they’d heard from their parents.

While it’s nice to know that a reverence for quality is still being passed down from generation to generation in America, actions speak louder than words. Widespread American devotion to stores like Old Navy and H&M suggests that our working definition of quality has more to do with achieving the highest quantity to dollar ratio. According to this understanding, the consumer “wins” by being able to acquire a lot with practically no money, leaving her with a lot of money left over, which represents a lot of new opportunities to buy more. Obviously, this kind of quality holds no promise for curing shopaholism and overconsumption, and results in a cycle of demanding more and more for less and less.  This buying philosophy is not good for society, consumers or the apparel industry.

girl_mailThe European meaning of quality conjures an image of the artisan hunched over his bench, painstakingly stitching away. Europeans tend to assess quality by how an object measures up to the ideal (defined in part by traditions of craftsmanship). The European consumer “wins” by buying the most “perfect” object. Having achieved her aim, she takes pride in the object for its own sake, an attitude which reduces the chance that she will want to replace it quickly. Quality à la Europe seems like a concept that can quell consumption.

Although Americans give a lot of lip service (and mostly just lip service) to quality in their apparel, the mere fact that the adolescents did identify quality as a good thing suggests to me that quality is not so foreign to Americans that we cannot learn to appreciate it fully. Like taste, an eye for quality can be developed.

Ideally, industry professionals would educate consumers about quality. They are in a prime position to do so. Wouldn’t it be great if retail brands used their marketing materials to convince customers that improved quality (and increased price) is, in fact, a good thing, because in the long run they will pay less per wear with a longer-lasting item? Or what if industry leaders let consumers know that by paying more for something they’ll never want to throw away, they will not only have something they’ll love, but they will also be contributing to a cleaner planet?

Would such ground-breaking tactics cause companies to lose sales and, therefore, income? Not necessarily. A calculated price increase could offset lower sales volume. Better yet, if companies demonstrate how higher prices fund higher wages, more U.S. jobs and responsible environmental stewardship, that could create a devoted customer base. If the same amount of money currently spent on advertising low prices were spent instead on advertising the advantages of purchasing longer-lasting and higher-quality apparel, perhaps consumers would change their purchasing habits.

Reality check: very, very few brands even try to make these claims. Retailers rarely focus on the quality characteristics mentioned previously, especially features such as reliability and durability. As the monumental success of Wal-Mart demonstrates, cheap makes money! For at least several decades, purchases have increasingly been driven by lower prices. And inexpensive mass production makes money because consumers support it. Well, no wonder. In a marketplace characterized by indifferent quality and buy-one-get-one-free retail gimmicks, who can blame Americans for basing their purchasing decisions on the lowest price? The unfortunate upshot of this is that Americans have been desensitized to quality. (Possibly most of us couldn’t even recognize its hallmarks if we tried). Ironically, the race for low prices has also resulted in companies’ losing profitability and being forced to move overseas, where they can produce more cheaply and thus give consumers the price they demand—for now. It seems inevitable that, unless we completely ignore worker equity, the price of goods must bottom out. When it does, companies will look for a way to differentiate themselves and justify raising their prices. A return to quality is one way they might do that.

I hope consumers will call for industry change before that. As Thomas Friedman pointed out in his bestseller, The World is Flat, every buying decision a consumer makes is a vote indicating their support or lack of support for how companies conduct business. Consumer power was decisively proven in the apparel industry during the great “midi” disaster of the 1970s. After several seasons of selling miniskirts, the fashion industry deemed it time for the “mini” to cycle into obsolescence and attempted to introduce a new, longer style called the “midiskirt.” In a proud statement of rebellion, women refused to give up their short skirts to embrace the new style. Firms in the fashion industry were left with millions of unsold midis, as well as the realization that consumer demand was the true industry driver.

But who else can get consumers excited about quality? The answer is simple: Teachers. Being a professor myself, I strongly believe in the power of curriculum to catalyze societal change. Teachers can impart skills and concepts that will help students identify quality in apparel, and understand the effect of their buying habits on their own lifestyle as well as on the environment and on other human beings. In part, I blame a lack of educational resources for the ongoing surge in overconsumption, and the average person’s general ignorance about how products are made. In recent years, the programs that have traditionally exposed kids to important issues related to clothing purchasing have been wiped out by slashed budgets for public education and the Department of Agriculture.

Home economics programs (now known under various pseudonyms such as Human Environmental Sciences, etc.) and 4-H programs had their heyday in the 1950s, through the 1970s. Started in the 1800s as a way for young women to be self-sufficient (by sewing their own clothes, for instance), home economics evolved in the latter 1900s as a program to shape young men and women into resourceful and knowledgeable consumers. Similarly, one goal of today’s 4-H programs is to teach kids not only how to make clothing, but also how to manage an apparel budget and to determine if apparel is well made. It is within the scope of such programs to include information on how clothing is manufactured, and to emphasize the consumer’s responsibility to seek out companies that pay their employees living wages and use organic fibers or nontoxic dyes.  As home economics and 4-H programs have declined in number and importance, issues such as sustainability have become more problematic and widespread. I don’t think that this is a coincidence.girl_hope

Can apparel and fashion be sustainable? The answer is yes, but only if Americans change their way of thinking.  To do this, apparel industry leaders, home economics teachers and 4-H leaders (to name just a few) can join forces and help convince the next generation of consumers that buying better and fewer clothes will not only benefit them, but also the planet.

Deborah J. C. Brosdahl is Associate Professor at the Department of Apparel, Textiles and Interior Design, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University - Manhattan, KS

Reprinted courtesy of earthpledge.org. Earth Pledge has also published this book on the topic:

The Past and the Future of the Universe

April 15, 2013 FUTURE|Nation No Comments
The Past and the Future of the Universe

How did the universe begin? And, once knowing, will we ever be the same?

Interview with Dr. Paul Padley by Arthur G. Insana

How did the universe begin? And, once knowing, will we ever be the same?
Imagine a time when the mysterious and fundamental secrets of the universe finally have been answered and are as accepted as knowing that the Earth is round. Imagine a world in which other dimensions are opened up to exploration, or that limitless energy sources finally solve the global crises we face.
Now imagine that that time has come, and that the world of imagination… is reality.
Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, are on the verge of potentially not only discovering those unsolved universal mysteries, but also of opening the door to a mind-boggling array of new technologies that may promise to eclipse the notions brought to us by the science of fiction.


Imagine a time when the mysterious and fundamental secrets of the universe finally have been answered and are as accepted as knowing that the Earth is round. Imagine a world in which other dimensions are opened up to exploration, or that limitless energy sources finally solve the global crises we face.

Now imagine that that time has come, and that the world of imagination… is reality.

Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, are on the verge of potentially not only discovering those unsolved universal mysteries, but also of opening the door to a mind-boggling array of new technologies that may promise to eclipse the notions brought to us by the science of fiction.

As we beta-launch the-future.com, we are proud to open our doors to some of the world’s most ground-breaking theorists… pioneers on the razor’s edge of tomorrow.

We welcome Dr. Paul Padley, professor of physics at Rice University, and a lead physicist of experimental research for the LHC. Dr. Padley has agreed to become a regular editorial contributor to our feature: Portals – an open channel of communication with leading global thinkers from a variety of disciplines integral to our evolution as a species. Dr Padley also is joining our Board of Directors, as a science mentor and advisor.

For this first overview of the operations at CERN, we spoke with Dr. Padley to foster a better understanding of the LHC’s purpose and goals. Subsequent interviews and articles will delve more deeply into the Collider’s ongoing experiments, with supplemental articles from Dr. Padley, himself. (See his first accompanying article: Revolutions in Science.)

t-f/c: Can you explain what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is?

Dr. P: The LHC is a particle accelerator which takes protons and accelerates them to 7 TeV protons crashing into 7 TeV protons (7 TeV energy is the energy a proton would have after being accelerated to 7,000,000,000,000 Volts), which is seven times more energetic than has ever been achieved before. [According to CERN’s run plan for the next year, the accelerator will initially start at  3.5TeV on 3.5TeV and then will be raised  to 5 on 5.] It (the Collider) will take two beams of protons, which are going in opposite directions, around the ring. They will hit, head-on and, in those collisions, new matter, new processes, should reveal themselves.

This computer-generated image shows the location of the 27-km LHC tunnel (in blue) on the Swiss-France border. The four main experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb) are located in underground caverns connected to the surface by 50 m to 150 m pits. Part of the pre-acceleration chain is shown in grey.

This computer-generated image shows the location of the 27-km LHC tunnel (in blue) on the Swiss-France border. The four main experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb) are located in underground caverns connected to the surface by 50 m to 150 m pits. Part of the pre-acceleration chain is shown in grey.

So what’s going on is… we’re harnessing Einstein’s equation E=MC²,  to take the energy we’re putting into those protons and convert it into mass energy and make new unobserved particles – particles that haven’t been seen before in nature… or see processes taking place, that we haven’t seen before in nature.

The processes and the particles that we see in this, are things that must have happened in the beginning of the universe, or shortly after the Big Bang… and these processes we’re examining are what give rise to the structure of the universe. We’re actually, really trying to do cosmology on a microscopic scale…we’re trying to understand the underlying physics that goes on at a sub-atomic level. There’s a deep connection with what we see in the universe, and what we see on the microscopic scale…that we’ll be examining.

t-f/c: How do you make that assumption?

Dr. P: We know some of the properties of the universe… we know some of the things we see… and we can’t explain what we see in the universe without invoking something that we call the Standard Model of Particle Physics. You can’t explain where the elements come from, you can’t explain where the quarks that make up the protons and neutrons come from, and how they interact, without using the Standard Model of Particle Physics. So, what we’re doing, at these high energies, is replicating a point in time, shortly after the Big Bang, where the energy density of the universe is comparable to the energy densities we’ll have in these collisions.

t-f/c: Still, the experiments begin with a basic assumption?

Dr. P: There’s an assumption being made that the laws of physics today, are the same laws of physics that existed at the beginning of the universe. It’s not totally outside the realm of debate, so people can call that into question.

t-f/c: So, your experiments are an attempt to recreate The Big Bang… or, maybe, The Little Big Bang?

Dr. P: I do experimental particle physics…we’re trying to understand the most fundamental constituents of matter, and how they interact. We’re trying to understand the most basic elements of the universe. Now, we know that when we look out at the universe, it’s comprised, largely, of dark energy and dark matter. So, about 95% of what’s out there in the universe has not been identified by science. And this is a big mystery. There is a sub-set, a small minority, of scientists, who explain dark energy by saying…”well, the laws of physics could be a bit different…and what you’re seeing could be an effect of that.” But the thing that you see with the Hubble telescope is an accelerating expansion of the universe…and that’s a complete mystery. So, for me, this is an opportunity. We don’t know what 95% of the universe is made out of – let’s try and make some of that stuff in the lab.

* * *

In upcoming coverage of the LHC, we’ll examine the importance of the research, the global cooperation required to mount this enormous effort of science and the potential applications of the discoveries made.

For example, it sometimes takes decades for technological applications to arise from pure scientific theory and research: Did you know that your Global Positioning System (GPS) requires the application of both Einstein’s special theory of relativity and his general theory of relativity to correctly calculate your position? Without correcting for the effects predicted by those theories, the GPS would never get you to your destination… at least, not the one you intended!

Or, that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web – coincidently, a monumental technological advancement that not only makes this communication possible, but originally was developed by the deep thinkers at CERN, for their own internal use. http://info.cern.ch/www20/

As we embark upon our species’ journey toward tomorrow, it should not be lost on us, that to understand the future, pioneers like Dr, Padley and his colleagues must look back to the very beginning of time. AGI

Revolutions in Science

By Dr. Paul Padley, Professor of Physics, Rice University

In a recent blog on the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/jun/22/end-science-unified-theory-mavericks

Ehsan Masood posed the question “Are we witnessing the end of science?” This is an excellent discussion and it is correctly pointed out that the LHC at CERN may lead to the revolution. There was an interesting comment made that is worthy of a bit more conversation: Masood writes, “Revolutions in scientific thinking are always difficult – but perhaps one reason why we may see fewer of them in the future is because of the highly professional way in which modern science is organized. It takes a lot of courage to challenge conventionally accepted views, and it needs a certain amount of stamina to constantly battle those who want to protect the status quo. Mavericks do not do well in large organizations, which is what some scientific fields have become.”

As someone who is working on one of the LHC experiments, I would like to give an insider’s view that is quite contrary. The major experiments at the LHC have been preparing to analyze the data that will be forthcoming when the LHC is turned back on. Of course no one knows, in advance, what will be found (you wouldn’t need to do the experiment if you already had the answer) and so the collaborations survey the theoretical ideas that are in existence and, using simulations, see how well they can test these ideas. They have produced large documents called Physics TDRs that survey all the ideas that have been put through this process. This is like a dress rehearsal for when the data will be available.

What is striking, incredibly striking, about these documents is that a large fraction of the effort is exploring the potential for discovering evidence of new and revolutionary science. The CMS experiment (full disclosure, I am a collaborator on that experiment), has assets of Web pages for the public about the physics that will be pursued by the experiment…

http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/Physics/index.html and you can see that physics, beyond what is known, is the major goal for the experiment. The fact that we might not have a clue as to what that will be is fully acknowledged…

http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/Physics/Rewriting/index.html. Quoting that Web page:

“The Higgs mechanism and speculative theories like supersymmetry are exciting physics and will be scrutinized and tested at CMS. But if they are not correct and we, instead, see new, interesting and different phenomena, this could launch a revolution in physics, sending theorists back to the drawing board and challenging our ideas about the world at the most basic level.”

For me, and most of my colleagues, this is the foremost goal of the experiment. In fact, this is even a bit self serving, because the greatest rewards in academia go to those who have challenged the status quo and had their ideas prevail. (Einstein was unable to get a job in academia until he had done so — he had to work in the Swiss patent office until then.)   Like all good science, the ideas and results that come from the experiments  will be scrutinized and challenged. However, the correct ideas will prevail. Most of us expect that there will be a revolutionary change in our view of the universe.

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=495

Arthur G. Insana is Co-founder/Publisher & Editor-In-Chief of the-future.com.

Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

April 15, 2013 CAUSE & EFFECT No Comments
Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

The Earth Pledge FutureFashion Textile Library online is the go-to source for eco-friendly fabrics.  They promote renewable, reusable and nonpolluting materials and processes at every step of the supply chain and work to assist designers and brands in their sourcing.  Since 2004, They’ve connected designers and suppliers in the sustainable design process, and have encouraged investment in innovative technologies and techniques that restore the balance between human and natural systems associated with fashion.

Through their collaboration with textile suppliers, we have compiled sustainable fabrics produced with sustainable fibers and/or using sustainable techniques. Images of these fabrics along with information on their manufacture, composition and ordering can be found in the FutureFashion Textile Library which currently has over 2,000 fabrics from 85 mills worldwide, and continues to grow daily.

To learn more about the library, go to www.earthpledge.org and visit the FutureFashion initiative.

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Amanda Martinez at (212) 725-6611 ext 248 or at library@earthpledge.org.

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Founders' Messages

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

April 14, 2013

How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
that has such people in ‘t!
- Shakespeare’s The Tempest
In the final scene of the film Quest for Fire, after learning how to harness the power of the flame, the first futurist gazes toward the silvery glow of the moon, and then afar, to the stars in the heavens, as [...]

Never Underestimate the Power of Tomorrow

April 14, 2013

Bill Gates said, “People always overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10.” While I half expect a letter from some poor Xerox PARC guy challenging the provenance of that statement, the truth of its content is undeniable. In the immediate rush of the present we can [...]

CAUSE & EFFECT

Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

April 15, 2013

Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

The Earth Pledge FutureFashion Textile Library online is the go-to source for eco-friendly fabrics.  They promote renewable, reusable and nonpolluting materials and processes at every step of the supply chain and work to assist designers and brands in their sourcing.  Since 2004, They’ve connected designers and suppliers in the sustainable design process, and have encouraged [...]