All entries by this author

A Library in Jaffna

Shareeq is too young to remember much of the war years. But for another patron, 75-year-old Rajenthiran Selvanayagam, spending time at the library is a peaceful contrast to that era. He lost his wife to the war. His son went mad. Selvanayagam visits the library three times a week. “Having a book in my hand,” he says, “is more than meditation to me.” Read/listen to the report on NPR about the library in a war-torn land. So what books should such a library stock? The authorities, […]



Ethan Zuckerman: ‘I go to Reddit for the cat pictures’

Ethan Zuckerman: ‘I go to Reddit for the cat pictures’

Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media. Over a decade ago, the Internet scholar co-founded GlobalVoicesOnline.org, a site to help guide readers through the maze of citizen journalism from several countries. He is the author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. What wakes you up? My son, when I’m lucky enough to be at home in western MA. He’s six, and our morning ritual involves blueberry waffles and Disney cartoons recorded on the DVR, so my first media of […]



The Original Angry Young Man

The Original Angry Young Man

Many boys who went to school in Madras must’ve worn this costume for the “fancy-dress” competition at school. Draw on a mustache, wear your dad’s wedding reception coat, memorize a couple of Tamil verses, and you are all set! Outside of Tamilnadu, this costume cannot work unless your audience is predominantly Tamil for some reason. Recently, I have been running into a lot of interesting details about the life of the revolutionary Tamil poet Subramaniya Bharathi (1882 –1921). There is always the question, why did […]



The Download with An Old-Fashioned Novelist

The Download with An Old-Fashioned Novelist

Allegra Goodman is a novelist who lives in Cambridge, MA. She is married to David Karger, a professor at MIT. She is a mother of four. She uses a computer to write, but she prints out the draft, and edits by hand. Then, she types in all the “30,000 changes.” What wakes you up? I am a morning person and I wake up without an alarm clock. How do you get your news? I get my news from “The New York Times” paper edition—but I […]



Driving Ms. Desi

Driving Ms. Desi

Even as we speak, hundreds of women in India are getting ready to enrol in universities across the United States for the fall semester. I was also a graduate student once, but I set out before the days of unlimited Internet access. Back then, America might well have been undiscovered for the precious little information I managed to gather about my destination. Once on campus, undergraduates have an option of being rushed into three-letter Greek societies, which let them build lasting friendships with others who […]



The Download with Prof. Sherry Turkle

The Download with Prof. Sherry Turkle

  Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and a psychologist by training researches the relationship between humans and technology. Her recent writing has focused on how new forms of communication – email, texting, and social media – are affecting our lives. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in A Digital Age, her message is clear: Stop Googling, Let’s Talk. And yet the tech critic is, by no means, a Luddite. Prof. Turkle talks to Beta Boston about her digital habits. Yes, she […]



The Download With My Favorite Digital Native

The Download With My Favorite Digital Native

What device wakes you up in the morning? No device, no alarm. My mom pats me awake. Are you the inbox-zero type when it comes to email? Since I am 6 years old, I am not allowed to have an email account. How do you communicate with relatives who live far away? I Skype with them. I also have other fans and followers. They are online. You have a favorite website? Oh yes– that HAS to be scratch.mit.edu. I create my own games there. I […]



End of life Planning

End of life Planning

After you are gone, should your Facebook profile be deleted? Do you have a health care proxy who will make medical decisions for you when you can’t? Burial or cremation? And what music should be played at your funeral? An emerging startup called Cake wants to make advance care and end-of-life planning a simpler process for all of us – a piece of cake, if you will. The Cake team was a finalist in this year’s MassChallenge startup accelerator. They are collaborating with Brigham Innovation […]



A Camera That Can See Through Walls

A Camera That Can See Through Walls

Humans cannot see through walls. Even out in the open, they can’t see too far on a foggy day. Ditto for search-and-rescue robots or self-driving cars with cameras for eyes. MIT researchers have hit upon a way to give those cameras an ability to see through walls and bad weather. While most materials will stop visible light dead in its tracks, radio waves and microwaves with their longer wavelength can go straight through these objects. Still, conventional microwave or radar-detecting systems are huge, complex, and […]



Mango Mistletoe

Mango Mistletoe

That the mistletoe has medicinal properties, shouldn’t have been lost on any reader of Asterix comics. Getafix needed sprigs of mistletoe to make magic potion for the inhabitants of that little Gaulish village, we knew so well. And some 2,000 years ago, the druids in what is now Britain venerated the plant when it grew on an oak. When they found it, they dressed in white, harvested it with a golden sickle, and sacrificed two white bulls. Or so says that great Roman, Pliny the […]