Telehealth solutions are catching on. Tools that allow people to get digital diagnoses or remote consultations with doctors are being used both to reach underserved rural populations in the states and to expand health care access in the developing world. Big brains are working on these solutions and one of them happens to be a 17 year-old tinkerer from suburban New Jersey named Catherine Wong.
Never seen a shooting star? This weekend is your chance to see hundreds and NASA wants you to count them. The Perseid Meteor shower—the best of the year—will light up the pre-dawn sky Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights. So, grab a blanket and a set of binoculars and get out of Dodge. The further away from city light pollution the better shape you'll be in to make lots of wishes.
Could you survive for a week without your smartphone, your iPod, or your new Michael Jackson Experience video game? If not, trust me, I understand. I'm ashamed to admit that my BlackBerry sleeps under my pillow. However, a classroom of suburban Chicago sixth graders managed to give up all the gadgets and technology that make our modern world go around, and guess what? They're still alive.
Inspired by a language arts unit on the "human condition," one of the students, Kelley Powell, came up with the tech abstinence experiment. Powell's teacher, Jennifer Coombs, told the Beacon-News, "Kelley e-mailed me with the suggestion that we go technology-free for a week. I asked the rest of the kids what they thought, and it sparked a great deal of enthusiasm. Over 90 percent of my students opted to take part in this.”
I received an email from a friend today which, he wrote, interrupted "my year-long vow of digital semi-silence as a cellular-and-social-media-free human.” Reflecting on the hours spent on the various gadgets that surround me, I thought, 'Maybe I should take that vow in 2011.'
New York Times reporter Matt Richtel would likely think that was not a bad idea, having spent the past year on the series, Our Brain on Computers, a provocative and often jarring collection of articles exploring how the constant use of our devices impacts not only our behavior but our thought processes and even our neurology. Richtel, who won a Pulitzer in 2009 for his series of the dangers of multitasking while driving, has in the course of his research, spoken to numerous scientists who recognize the merits of technology but not unconditionally. As Richtel explained it to Teri Gross in an interview on Fresh Air earlier this year, "When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline," he says. "Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You're conditioned by a neurological response: 'Check me check me check me check me.' "