Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:
1) Google CEO Larry Page conducted a surprise open question-and-answer session during the Google I/O conference Wednesday.
Among other observations (including the fact he “didn’t appreciate” this), Page expressed his sadness over the state of innovation online and offline and offered his take (not positive) on the rocky relationship between Google and Microsoft. Page, who recently revealed that he suffers from vocal cord paralysis, also openly mulled the idea of creating a separate country free of the regulations and strictures that, as Page sees it, hold back innovation:
“We haven’t maybe built mechanisms to allow experimentation. There [are] many, many exciting and important things you can do that you just can’t do because they’re illegal or they’re not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense. We don’t want our world to change too fast. But maybe we should set aside a small part of the world. … I think, as technologists, we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society—what is the effect on people— without having to deploy it into the normal world. And people who like those kinds of things can go there and experience that. And we don’t have mechanisms for that.”
Would you live in this, as The Verge put it on their live blog, “beta-test country“? Or would you steer clear?
2) The Obama administration on Wednesday announced round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards. The $1 billion initiative, part of the Affordable Care Act, was announced by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The agency released the video below, featuring 2012 award recipients’ answers to questions such as “what does it mean to be an innovator today” and “why innovate”:
This round of awards seeks submissions from applicants prepared to focus on four key areas, including the driving down of costs for Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients in certain stages of care, improving care for patients with special needs, transforming financial and clinical models and improving health for specific populations based on one or more of a number of criteria. The awards are administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Just about any type of organization, public or private, can apply. Letters of intent are due June 1-28, and applications must be turned in June 14-Aug.15. (Department of Health and Human Services, Reuters)
3) One technology begins to break down, another new technology arrives at NASA. As news broke that the Kepler spacecraft was experiencing technical difficulties that could potentially derail the Earth-like planet hunting mission, NASA announced the arrival of the Dream Chaser prototype for engineering tests. The Dream Chaser, created by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), is part of a NASA program to develop a spacecraft to safely and reliably transport U.S. astronauts to and from the international space station and low-earth orbit. SpaceX and Boeing are also partnering with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is overseeing the effort.
4) In other NASA news, the space agency has also teamed up with Google and the Universities Space Research Association to acquire a supercomputing system from Canadian-based D-Wave, reports the Wall Street Journal. The computer is only the second ever to be purchased from the company. The $10 million D-Wave Two system will be housed in Calif., near Google, at NASA’s Ames Research Center. A new laboratory at Ames is in the works to house the technology and focus on the study of quantum computing. (WSJ)
5) In the “can’t we all just get along” file is this dispatch from the land of science fiction: “Star Wars” and “Doctor Who” fans were involved in a dispute at a science fiction convention at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, according to the BBC. Apparently a Sharks-versus-Jets style feud existed between two fan groups, which erupted into an apparently mild altercation that led to a call to the police.
“This wasn’t a fight between Star Wars fans and Doctor Who fans with lightsabers and sonic screwdrivers drawn,” Norwich Sci-Fi Club treasurer Jim Poole reportedly said. “It’s a bit sad and pathetic. We’re all in the same boat. We’re not in competition. … We’d like to extend the hand of friendship.”
Good idea because if Star Wars taught us anything, it’s that you never know who your friends (or father) are. And, if that doesn’t do it for you, just think of the children (Star Wars: spoiler alert):