As a refugee growing up in Tel Aviv, Haim Saban remembers not having enough money to eat. As an adult, he hustled his way into the entertainment business, writing theme songs for classic cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff. But producing the mega-hit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers put him on track to becoming a billionaire media titan.
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President Richard Nixon once boasted that at any moment he could pick up a telephone and - in 20 minutes - kill 60 million people. Such is the power of the US President over the nation’s nuclear arsenal. But what if you were the military officer on the receiving end of that phone call? Could you refuse the order?
This episode, we profile one Air Force Major who asked that question back in the 1970s and learn how the very act of asking it was so dangerous it derailed his career. We also pick up the question ourselves and pose it to veterans both high and low on the nuclear chain of command. Their responses reveal once and for all whether there are any legal checks and balances between us and a phone call for Armageddon.
When the perfect woman started writing Jesse letters, it seemed too good to be true. Because it was. This week, a story about a con, and why sometimes we prefer a lie to the truth.
Remember Google Glass?
They’re the headsets that look like regular glasses but have a small computer on the side to speak to and access the Internet. If that’s not ringing a bell, it could be because Google Glass fizzled out and was discontinued in the consumer market.
But now, it’s getting a second life in the manufacturing industry.
One of the pioneers of this technology is a company based in suburban Atlanta. AGCO has factories all over the world where it makes large tractors, chemical sprayers and other farm equipment.
At one of AGCO’s factories, Heather Erickson is putting together a tractor engine before it goes on to the assembly line.
She’s wearing a red-and-black uniform over her blue jeans at a facility in Jackson, Minn. And she’s wearing something else: Google Glass on her head.
Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers ALL TECH CONSIDERED Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers "It took a little getting used to. But once I got used to it, it’s just been awesome," Erickson says.
Google Glass tells her what to do should she forget, for example, which part goes where. "I don’t have to leave my area to go look at the computer every time I need to look up something," she says.
With Google Glass, she scans the serial number on the part she’s working on. This brings up manuals, photos or videos she may need. She can tap the side of headset or say "OK Glass" and use voice commands to leave notes for the next shift worker.
The headsets are being used in other industries as well. Companies working in the health care, entertainment and energy industries are listed as some of the Google Glass certified partners. And autistic children are using the technology to recognize emotions.
It was always my assumption that Google Glass was going to go into business for enterprises instead of mass consumer consumption. Tiffany Tsai, a technology writer Peggy Gullick, business process improvement director with AGCO, says the addition of Google Glass has been "a total game changer." Quality checks are now 20 percent faster, she says, and it’s also helpful for on-the-job training of new employees. Before this, workers used tablets.
"We had a lot of tablets on our floor, and the tablets were being broken just by being dropped. And tractors are very tall machines when you’re climbing on and off," Gullick says. "So we were looking for a solution that offered them more information in a more timely manner."
AGCO has about 100 employees using the custom Google Glass, which is attached to them and harder to lose. Each costs about $2,000.
Tiffany Tsai, who writes about technology, says it’s one of a growing number of companies — including General Electric and Boeing — testing it out.
"It was always my assumption that Google Glass was going to go into business for enterprises instead of mass consumer consumption," she says.
She was one of the early users of Google Glass when it came out in 2013.
Two years later, it was discontinued for some consumers because people were concerned about privacy and security. And there were concerns that the headset could be distracting to drivers or that it wasn’t made with all people in mind.
Applying A Silicon Valley Approach To Jump-Start Medical Research SHOTS - HEALTH NEWS Applying A Silicon Valley Approach To Jump-Start Medical Research Tsai says another reason for it being discontinued was its challenging of social norms: With Google Glass, it may look like you’re listening to the person in front of you, but you could actually be watching a movie or looking up sports stats. You could be in a different world.
"On Google Glass, [another person] has no idea what’s happening, does not see anything that the user is looking at or analyzing," Tsai says. "And that creates this disconnect between people, and I think that that’s highly frowned upon right now, especially with older generations."
Millennials may be more open to it in the future, but Google Glass still has a long way to go until it’s considered more socially acceptable, she says.
But at AGCO’s factories, it’s not only accepted; it’s desired. Gullick says the company plans to double the number in use by the end of the year.
WABE host Jim Burress contributed to this report.
About a year ago, in a synthetic biology class at London’s Royal College of Art, 24-year-old Marguerite Humeau learned about the work of Japanese researcher Hideyuki Sawada.
You might have seen his work in a recent viral video: a creepy, dismembered mouth "singing" a Japanese lullaby. That mouth has been called the most mechanically accurate talking robot, with real moving lips, a windpipe that flexes and expands, and even lungs — a pressurized air tank.
Humeau was inspired to do the same thing. But with animals.
"I realized there was no area of science that specialized in extinct sound," she says.
Enlarge this image Marguerite Humeau’s ‘Lucy’ reconstructs the voicebox of an ancient hominid. Marguerite Humeau That was a year ago.
Since then, Humeau has completed two works of extinct sound, the first of which is Australopithecus Afarensis. You might know her as Lucy — one of the earliest known hominids.
Lucy Finds Her Voice
To recreate Lucy’s voice, Humeau studied available skeletal data from Lucy’s remains. As best she could, she constructed synthetic versions of the resonance cavities in Lucy’s skull. She even spoke to the Martin Birchall, a British doctor who performed only the second successful human larynx transplant on a California woman earlier this year.
"He told me this very funny story," Humeau says. "I was thinking the woman would get the voice of the donor. And actually she recovered her own voice, meaning that the specificity of the voice doesn’t come from the larynx itself — but from the way you shape air in your lungs and the way it resonates in your resonance cavities. So it meant I was on the right track."
After more meetings with paleontologists and even an ear, nose and throat doctor, Humeau set to work reconstructing Lucy’s voice box out of resin, silicone and rubber. The result is a haunting yowl that sounds a lot like a human groan.
"It was an interesting being to me," she says. "What makes the difference between a human voice and an animal sound? The difference is the brain, so we think before we talk. I mean, for most people."
A Shaggy Sequel
Enlarge this image Marguerite Humeau worked with the the Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin to study the resonance cavities of elephants, a distant mammoth relative. Marguerite Humeau About the same time she was working on Lucy, Humeau decided she wanted to go bigger.
How much bigger? Woolly mammoth bigger.
She met with more experts, elephant vocalization specialists, even the guy who advised Stephen Speilberg on the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic Park.
French explorer Bernard Buigues was one of her most helpful sources.
"He has actually been able to touch these animals. They are completely preserved. And so he told me about the smell of them, and being able to touch the fur of a mammoth that lived 10,000 years ago."
Both works — Lucy and the mammoth — went on display earlier this year at the Royal College of Art. And Humeau was told that children would run in fear from the mammoth’s chest-thumping growl.
"I would have loved to have seen that," she says. "That was the whole purpose!"
Charlie Shrem had a prison epiphany. Instead of using packets of mackerel to buy and sell things, inmates should use something more like the digital currency Bitcoin. He even came up with a way it could work in prison, never mind that it was Bitcoin that got him arrested in the first place.
Before getting locked up, Shrem had run the company BitInstant. BitInstant made buying Bitcoin as easy as purchasing a money order. By the time he was 22, Shrem had hired dozens of employees, found a brand new office in Manhattan, and was processing a million dollars a day.
Shrem though ended up helping some of the wrong people trade dollars for Bitcoin: buyers and sellers of illegal drugs on the website Silk Road. As he was getting off a plane from Europe to New York, Shrem was arrested. He was convicted of aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitter, and sentenced to two years in federal prison .
While Shrem was behind bars he began to see Bitcoin in a new light. So did the rest of the world. Now he’s got a new idea, and he’s trying to convince investors to give him a second chance. It’s not about Bitcoin for him anymore. It’s about the technology behind Bitcoin: Blockchain.
Charlie Shrem’s journey to prison and back out again is a parable for the transformation of Bitcoin over the last five years. Shrem and Bitcoin have gone from being idealists to outlaws to trying to make it as respectable citizens.
On today’s show, a thought experiment involving packets of mackerel as a prison currency and a story about how a libertarian’s dream technology was taken over by big banks and stock traders.
Since the election, Bob’s been experiencing some despair. How can he move forward when the future looks so bleak? In an effort to shake him out of this state, we decided he should speak with Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Solnit reminds us that the future is unknowable — and that’s a good thing. Why? Because it creates space for creative intervention. She is impatient with despair, not only because it paralyzes political action, but because the lessons of history teach us that change happens in unexpected and often non-linear ways.
What’s in a name? For tech entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley, bidding contracts under the name "Steve" enabled her to launch and grow a freelance software company with a virtually all-female staff.
While some kids are selling lemonade, 11-year-old Mira Modi is selling cryptographically smart passwords for two dollars each.
The conversation with KCRW’s Chris Douridas was recorded just after Leonard Cohen’s 82nd birthday. The two talked about the singer’s health and final album, You Want It Darker.
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