Penn State Starting a MOOC on Coursera – “Geodesign: Change Your World”  May 15th, 2014 by Sanjay Gang


What happens when creativity and science come together? The power to design our world is unleashed, providing tools to inform choices about how we live! Geodesign is the glue—it’s a process that deploys creativity to connect information to people, using collaboration to better inform how we design our world.

You can register for the course at

About the Course

Our world is awash in facts and information, which are now easily accessible.  So why are so many bad decisions being made?  What is needed is creativity and design that brings those facts to life – to create a vision and choices as well as an understanding about the potential impacts of those choices.  The geodesign process has evolved over nearly 40 years and now combines the core concepts of design thinking with the latest in geo-spatial technologies. 

Geodesign is a proven form of design that uses techniques and practices from a multitude of professions to determine optimal ways to design for complex land use challenges. It is a collaborative process that capitalizes on the strengths of people with a variety of expertise to create and implement unique models to aid in the design decision-making process.

Our MOOC will introduce the average person to the core concepts of geodesign through real-world examples which showcase how geodesign has worked across the globe.  People from all walks of life with interests in science, design, sustainability and environmental stewardship will want to learn about geodesign.  Together we will explore how anyone can use the geodesign process to work with others to effect change in their world.



Nearly 25 state-specific fact sheets are now available to understand 3DEP applications

14 May 2014 —- Want to know how elevation will benefit your state? The USGS National Geospatial Program is advancing the 3D Elevation Program, known as 3DEP, in response to the growing need for high-quality three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features. 3DEP uses modern technology to systematically collect high-density light detection and ranging ( lidar) elevation data over the U.S. and interferometric synthetic aperture radar ( ifsar) data above Alaska where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of lidar for much of the State.

“Looking at lidar is like looking at the world through 3D glasses” said Kevin Gallagher, the USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems. “Phenomena that were once obscured are suddenly fully evident in rich color and detail. As you might expect, the applications of such new and transformational data are growing rapidly, from civil engineering, precision agriculture and flood inundation modeling, to forest management, intelligent vehicle navigation and emergency response. A national dataset of such data will drive innovation, transform government and industry, and stimulate the economy.”

Elevation data are essential to a broad range of applications and support a large range of business uses including national security, wildlife and habitat management, water resource management, and geologic hazards mitigation, to name a few.

Examples of how each state benefits from current high accuracy elevation data are explained in the 24 3DEP state fact sheets available on the 3DEP or The National Map websites. Those states include:

Remaining state-specific fact sheets will continue to be released in the near future.

The use of 3DEP technology has been recommended and endorsed by National Digital Elevation Program Committee and its 12 member agencies, the National States Geographic Information Council, the Management Association for Private Photogrametric Surveyors and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee.

Since 1990, USGS has collected National Elevation Data and has the Federal lead responsibility for terrestrial elevation data. The 3DEP project is designed to fulfill that coordination responsibility and to assure the Nation receives the essential high quality coverage.

This Tiny Drone Can Climb Walls

And it’s only the size of a softball

Fun–but Thought-provoking: Moneyball 2.0: The New, Team-Oriented Study of Baseball  MAY 15 2014, 8:15 AM

Baseball is a team sport, but it sure gets lonely at times.

The pitcher stands at the center, for example, spitting and pacing before thousands. The infield stays lively, but there’s stoicism in the faces of outfielders whose involvement in the game is either nil or total. When a fly ball isn’t plummeting towards the outfielder’s glove, he simply waits. Basketball has the free throw, and football the field goal, but no other team sport is so composed of discrete events whose outcome is solely on the shoulders of individual players. In baseball, if the ball’s on its way, it’s up to you (and no one else) to do with it what you will.  click to continue. 

Google helps out cyclists by adding elevation data to Maps bike routes  By Chris Welch on May 16, 2014 05:03 pm

Google has quietly begun adding elevation data for bike routes listed on Google Maps. TechCrunch first spotted the new elevation profiles, and the company has since confirmed it’s taking new steps to offer cyclists a better preview of bike routes and trails. It’ll certainly be a welcome improvement for riders, who previously had to turn elsewhere if they wanted to know whether they’d be climbing a steep hill or flying down a mountain ahead of time.

And Google’s implementation does more than simply tell you how high you’ll be going. When you pick a route that contains elevation info, you’ll see a card appear that breaks down exactly how much of the trip will be spent spent riding uphill (and also down). Google has yet to officially announce the new feature, and it’s currently not appearing in Google Maps for mobile. But if history is any indication, it won’t be long before you’re able to scope out routes on the go.  Click to read more.

The California Drought Is Far From Over, And The Entire State Is Suffering  Carly Schwartz and Lydia O’Connor

The California Drought Is Far From Over, And The Entire State Is Suffering

In past years, California's drought has sparked a new push by federal lawmakers to create or expand a handful of reservoirs around the state. | ASSOCIATED PRESS
In past years, California’s drought has sparked a new push by federal lawmakers to create or expand a handful of reservoirs around the state. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

For a few days last month, it rained in San Francisco. Residents across the city cheered a welcomed respite from a drought that has crippled California for more than two years — but the celebration turned out to be premature.

On Thursday, for the first time this century, the U.S. Drought Monitor declared that all of California is in a “severe” drought, with many areas of the state in an even worse condition, from “extreme” to “exceptional,” the poorest possible rating.

“This is a once-in-a-generation conversation,” Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told The Huffington Post. He added that the last time California experienced comparable conditions was in the mid-1970s.

“The state has doubled its population between then and now,” Svoboda said. “You’ve got a lot more people using a relatively finite amount of water.”

The map below, courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor, shows the varying levels of drought throughout California. The orange represents “severe,” the red is “extreme,” and the maroon is “exceptional” — the agency’s highest level (Story continues below):


Detention in Malta: Europe’s migrant prison  Belen Fernandez  Last updated: 18 May 2014 12:03

Malta’s detention of asylum seekers is part and parcel of the racist and anti-immigrant frenzy now sweeping Europe.

Migrants arrive onboard a Maltese armed forces vessel after being rescued at sea [EPA]
Migrants arrive onboard a Maltese armed forces vessel after being rescued at sea [EPA]
A recent Quartz article about “unexpected and terrible destinations for the world’s persecuted” lists Malta as the industrialised nation with the largest number of asylum seekers per capita: 20.2 for every 1,000 inhabitants. On average, 1,500 undocumented migrants turn up in Malta every year.

Most are from sub-Saharan Africa and arrive by accident to the small European island, which is located south of Sicily, while attempting to sail to mainland Europe. It’s thus clearly an “unexpected” destination in the majority of cases, but why is it so “terrible”?  click to continue reading



In foreign countries, young students often turn to American TV to improve their English skills. The CNA language school in Liberdade, Brazil, found an unexpectedly engaging–and more giving way–to help them learn. Through a program called “Speaking Exchange,” CNA and agency FCB Brazil connected teens via web chats to elderly Americans at the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago, who are eager for conversation.

Students record their conversations with the old timers, so that teachers can evaluate their progress. But for the Brazilian teens, learning to speak English well is only half as great as hearing a nice old lady call you her “new granddaughter.”  Click here for video. 


FAA seeks to unleash small ‘low-risk’ drones for films and farms by November



Since the FAA has only just begun flying drones at test sites, it’ll take quite some time before it can draw up rules and regulations for commercial use of UAVs. But if you start seeing small flying contraptions frequently, it’s because the agency is considering approving drone use for farming, filmmaking and other industries it deems “low risk” a lot earlier than planned. The overlord of all things that fly even wants to dole out permits quickly and aims to greenlight commercial flights (of machines that pose no security risk and weigh less than 55 pounds) as soon as November. According to Bloomberg, the agency has already started taking requests from various companies, though the FAA’s unmanned aerial vehicle crew are still discussing how they can expedite approval requests. Oh yeah, the FAA might have yet to officially authorize commercial drone flights, but some companies have been flying UAVs illegally for films and other industries for a while. Clearly, there’s a demand for these flying machines, so it’s no surprise that the agency wants to speed things up.

Need Advil Or A Condom? Call Up A Drone


Sick in bed and need some medicine? Soon, you might be able to call up a drone delivery.
Sick in bed and need some medicine? Soon, you might be able to call up a drone delivery.

A new service launching in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood will use drones for small deliveries. Just make sure you’re good at catching things first: “We’re not going to be landing, we’re going to be dropping things.”

In a few months, if you happen to live in the Mission District in San Francisco and need a last-minute delivery from a local drugstore, you might be able to call up a drone to fly it to your apartment.

QuiQui (pronounced “quicky”), a new startup, is taking advantage of a recent court decision that made commercial drones legal to fly below 500 feet. The service will pick up small deliveries–say, a bottle of medicine that you don’t want to pick up because you’re sick in bed–and bring it to your front door for just $1.  Click here to continue reading.