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Mean Mr Mustard
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Post by Mean Mr Mustard »

Geoff Mulgan, the chief executive of Nesta, said “If you want to solve a scientific problem, one method is to go to top universities and top scientists and ask them to solve it. But over the years, and this was something pioneered by the Longitude Prize in the 18th Century, it's often better to open it up to anyone to come up with a solution.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/scien ... 95660.html

http://www.longitudeprize.org/
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emordnilap
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Post by emordnilap »

Hmmm. Serious problems addressed, well worth paying 10 mill to solve.

It's a start, but it'll need a lot more than that to solve really serious problems though.
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Post by featherstick »

Dunno 'bout this.

Some of the problems are systems failings. Hunger is one - there's no magic bullet for world hunger, it needs a change in how we organise human affairs.
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Post by careful_eugene »

I'm currently working on the last one, it involves a revolutionary spherical aircraft design and a massive catapult. Landing without destroying anything / being destroyed is proving a tad difficult though.
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cubes
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Post by cubes »

I looked at these questions last night and they just don't seem the type of questions that are really suitable for this kind of thing. Apart from the flight one they need answering/solutions, but finding a solution as definitive as the longitude one is going to be very hard/impossible.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this (and I probably am!)

Dementia - technology might help, but there's not going to be a silver bullet for this.

Food - I understood there to be enough food already, it's just not distributed correctly. If not, it will certainly means far less meat in diets.

Paralysis - Isn't this being researched already? From what I understand they are making relatively good progress already.

Flight - this one made me laugh, london to edinburgh? take the f***ing train and relax!

Antibiotics - not giving them out like sweets would be a good start. Aren't even the most powerful antibiotics available over the counter without prescription in some asian countries?

Water - this is going to be purification/desalination - for the second it's just how to make it use much less energy.

I predict the vote will choose the paralysis one even though I would probably choose antibiotics personally.
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Post by RenewableCandy »

When I looked through these the other day I found myself thinking exactly the same. To define these problems as solve-able by scientists alone is to bark up the wrong tree: with the possible exception of dementia and paralysis they are problems with our (global, cultural) system.

Quickest way to reduce dementia is to get rid of cats (many toxo sufferers are wrongly diagnosed with Altzheimers, then the toxo's found at the p-m). But no-one's going to agree to that, are they? Quickest way to reduce paralysis is to enforce safe driving: get a culture that expects, from motorists, the same level of care and attention as that made by people operating large dangerous things in their workplaces.
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Post by clv101 »

I thought the flight one was just daft... however, 'water' seems like a great idea. If someone could come up with a cheap/efficient method of desalinisation, it would change the world.
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Post by emordnilap »

clv101 wrote:I thought the flight one was just daft... however, 'water' seems like a great idea. If someone could come up with a cheap/efficient method of desalinisation, it would change the world.
Agree about the flight nonsense.

Also, I mostly agree about the desalination. The shame is, it couldn't be restricted to those that truly need it. Another Coke, anyone?
I experience pleasure and pains, and pursue goals in service of them, so I cannot reasonably deny the right of other sentient agents to do the same - Steven Pinker
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Post by biffvernon »

clv101 wrote:If someone could come up with a cheap/efficient method of desalinisation, it would change the world.
That comes into the category of 'sorting problems'. They are a tricky class.
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Post by cubes »

RenewableCandy wrote:When I looked through these the other day I found myself thinking exactly the same. To define these problems as solve-able by scientists alone is to bark up the wrong tree: with the possible exception of dementia and paralysis they are problems with our (global, cultural) system.
Yup, the longitude problem was clearly defined and when you had something that you believed worked to a sufficient degree it was easy to test. None of these are worded in this way, although the water or paralysis ones come close. With the flight one, apart from the obvious already pointed out I always have a problem with things getting classed as 'carbon neutral', always smells of greenwashing (and something that's difficult to truly get right) to me.

I do have to wonder how they picked these questions in the first place, large lunch (on expenses) then a 30 minute meeting -> done? I think a group of high schoolers could have done better.
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Mean Mr Mustard
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Post by Mean Mr Mustard »

cubes wrote:
I do have to wonder how they picked these questions in the first place, large lunch (on expenses) then a 30 minute meeting -> done? I think a group of high schoolers could have done better.
Yup. To me, curing blindness beats continued short-haul flying any day. The thing that bothers me was the underlying assumption that tech can fix anything, it all seems a tad cornucopian for my taste.
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Post by UndercoverElephant »

cubes wrote: I do have to wonder how they picked these questions in the first place, large lunch (on expenses) then a 30 minute meeting -> done? I think a group of high schoolers could have done better.
My feelings precisely when I heard them on the news.
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Post by AndySir »

I know some of the research related to the antibiotics one. There's a few techs low on the technology tree that promise a single unit that can identify bacteria from a simple pick test - rather like a blood glucose meter except for infection. If we can make something like that usable we can use targeted antibiotics (or not) rather than the nukes that we tend to prescribe.

I can certainly see why this has been chosen, and it makes me think it more likely that other areas have similar low readiness technologies that might benefit from a push... rather than assuming the committee are all idiots.

I wouldn't vote for this one myself (or the other two medical ones) as biomedical stuff already attracts a high level or funding. You'll never be short of money for a solid proposal to solve those problems. I reckon low carbon flight's got a whack of money behind it as well. My choices would be water desalination or low impact food production, both of which could benefit from a research push.
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Post by cubes »

Then maybe they could have explained it better? As it is, the flight one is just a no-go. There is and never will be such a thing as zero carbon flight (or zero carbon anything!) it's all accounting fudges from what I've seen.
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Post by PS_RalphW »

I think the antibiotic one is the only one which makes sense , in that there may be a scientific breakthrough that will dramatically extend the useful life of our currently available antibiotics. Even this one is trying to reverse entropy in the end, because all antibiotics will be abused somewhere in the world, and it is only a matter of time before bugs build resistance. The big pharma companies are refusing to put big money into new research because they know they would never be allowed to make big profits on a successful antibiotic - by its very nature it would be on prescription only and only for the few diseases that have built resistance to all antibiotics already. They make far more money on diseases of bad diet and little exercise.

Talking of which, Our French friend is suggesting incurable disease is no bad thing, as long as it kills someone else

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/m ... mmigration
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