The Amazing New Ideas That Shape Our World

Carl DeTorres

Welcome to New Think, a new section that explores the exciting developments at the intersection of technology, design and science.

Remember when we were all trying to think outside the box? Now that expression is as tired as whatever was inside the box to begin with. We need something different. But New Think isn’t exactly a replacement. New Think isn’t meant to be a catchphrase. It shouldn’t get stale. New Think can be something as oddly simple as a disposable pen made from a potato. New Think is sanitizing hospitals with antimicrobial copper alloys. It’s urban locavores who travel only as far as their roof farms to get fresh vegetables. New Think can have an air of science fiction: 3-D body scanners, reminiscent of Star Trek transporters, taking measurements for on-demand custom tailoring. At the same time New Think is grounded in the present reality, where an ALS–afflicted graffiti artist teams up with scientists to devise EyeWriter, a way for him to tag with his eyes. New Think is art and science joining together in the creation of artist Erik Guzman’s Weather Beacon, a high-tech sculpture in Lower Manhattan that translates meteorological data into a forecast of flashing lights. (For a few more similar-minded projects, see the column at right.) New Think is the convergence of design and technology, in which architects and engineers build futuristic “passive houses” so efficient that they require no energy for heating. New Think is open to anything. It adapts with the times, but it’s willing to return to the source. It aspires but has no illusions. It’s both basic and complex. New Think is anything that improves our lives—the minor details or the major hurdles—anything that makes them a little more interesting, a little more pleasurable.

Time Piece

Behind a translucent black screen a man continually erases and repaints parts of LED–style clock numbers, keeping correct time. Adapted from a video of Dutch designer Maarten Baas’s installation, the Analog Digital Clock is now a 99 cent app on iTunes.

Depth Perception

Canadian artists Joy Charbonneau and Ed Zec designed a rug, in gradations of blue, based on Lake Ontario’s underwater topography, using data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Body Electric

When people touch Seattle artist Maggie Orth’s woven wall hangings, the conductive yarn she uses sends small electric charges through their bodies, triggering color changes in the fibers across the entire surface of the work.