The Year in Review (2014)

"The World is a lot Poorer without You": a tribute to the great people we lost in 2014...

  • Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz
  • Jazz musician Charlie Haden
  • Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • South African novelist Nadine Gordimer
  • Argentine poet Juan Gelman
  • French filmmaker Alain Resnais
  • Italian conductor Claudio Abbado
  • US conductor Lorin Maazel
  • US folksinger Pete Seeger, inventor of world-music with this ditty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7XjzqPZJDc (better known in this cover by the Tokens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LBmUwi6mEo )
  • Reyhaneh Jabbari, executed by Iran for stabbing the man who was trying to rape her
(Musicians | Writers | Filmmakers | Science)

Centennials to celebrate in 2015:
  • Orson Welles, one of the greatest filmmakers ever
  • Franz Kafka's "The Trial", one of the greatest novels of all time
  • Muddy Waters, one of the greatest blues musicians of all time
  • Einstein's general relativity
  • Saul Bellow, one of the greatest writers of the century
  • Edith Piaf, a legendary French singer
(Musicians | Writers | Filmmakers | Science)

Most important inventions/discoveries of 2014:
  • Ivory Coast has adopted the educational tablet computer Qelasy, a "digital backpack" for schoolchildren, created by Thierry N'Doufou http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29163842
  • Aaswath Raman (Stanford Univ) has invented a material that reflects the heat of the Sun while radiating its own heat (in other words, cooling the building without any need for energy) http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/november/radiative-cooling-mirror-112614.html
  • RoboEarth, a world-wide web for robots to learn from each other http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25727110
  • Jeremy England's theory of life https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/
  • The Solar Impulse 2 plane, a solar-powered plane as wide as a Boeing 747 jet but that weighs less than three tons http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/our-adventure/solar-impulse-2/
  • The first malaria vaccine, developed by Joe Cohen at GlaxoSmithKline under the non-profit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative funded by Bill & Melinda Gates http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/pharmaceuticalsandchemicals/10988120/Malaria-vaccine-why-has-it-taken-30-years-to-develop.html
  • China's 1200-km long canal from the Yangtze to Beijing http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-12/28/c_133883672.htm
  • University of Missouri's nuclear-powered, water-based battery http://www.gizmag.com/water-nuclear-battery-radiolysis/33844/
  • The European robot probe Philae landed on a comet http://www.esa.int/var/esa/storage/images/esa_multimedia/images/2014/02/philae_touchdown/14277343-1-eng-GB/Philae_touchdown_node_full_image_2.jpg
  • Japan's experimental magnetic levitation train that reached 500 km/h (where i live, Silicon Valley, the fastest train reaches the speed of 127 km/h) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30067889
  • South Korea's 10 gigabit/sec Internet http://televisions.reviewed.com/news/south-korea-to-unveil-10gbps-broadband-connection (and read here how it happened: http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/8960/why-does-south-korea-have-fastest-internet ) (Comcast Extreme 505 is the fastest available in Silicon Valley: 0.5 gigabit/sec)
  • A staggering number of mobile payment systems popping up everywhere in Africa http://blogs.wsj.com/frontiers/2014/09/03/mobile-money-the-battle-for-africa/ (Note for those who live in Silicon Valley and missed the news: M-Pesa was introduced in Kenya in 2007, seven years before Apple Pay, and it now has 13 million active customers, carrying out more than $1 billion in transactions per month with 100s of associated services http://www.safaricom.co.ke/mpesa_timeline/timeline.html ).
  • Biologists (a large group) synthesized a chromosomes of the yeast Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (the first time ever for a eukaryote) http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/39573/title/Synthetic-Yeast-Chromosome/
  • Yes, i have seen lists like http://www.wareable.com/internet-of-things/best-wearable-tech-startups of wearables (and robots and 3D printers...) Yawn.
See also: A timeline of modern science and technology
Scientific flukes of the year:
  • Haruko Obokata's team at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan ("Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency", 2014) "discovered" how to grow stem cells from blood cells treated with acid instead of taking them from embryos but then retracted the claim.
  • The US team operating the BICEP2, a telescope situated at the South Pole, announced the detection of gravitational wave imprints in the universe's background radiation but then retracted the claim.

Recommended books of 2014:
  • Charles Montgomery: "Happy City - Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The way a city is built determines the mood and mindset of its inhabitants. Factors that determine how happy people are: how short their commute to work is, how connected their community is.
  • Fred Turner: "The Democratic Surround" (University of Chicago Press). How the counterculture movement of the 1960s originated from mass media originally designed for national propaganda.
  • Courtney Roby: "Technical Ekphrasis in Ancient Science - The Written Machine between Alexandria and Rome" (Cambridge University Press). The literary techniques used in the textual representation of technological artifacts from Hellenistic Greece to late-ancient Rome.
  • Max Tegmark (Knopf): "Our Mathematical Universe". Math is so effective in describing the world, he says, because physical reality is a mathematical structure.
  • John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge: "The Fourth Revolution - The Global Race to Reinvent the State" (Penguin). How the modern state was created in the West through three conceptual revolutions and how it overextended itself and is now being challenged by leaner autocratic states.
  • Howard French: "China's Second Continent". How more than a million Chinese pioneers have colonized Africa.
  • Tom Wilkinson: "Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made"
  • John Potter & Neil Sorrell: "A History of Singing" (Cambridge Univ Press). A whirlwind tour of the world's main singing traditions.
  • Michael Harris: "The End of Absence" (2014). Rediscovering solitude in the age of constant online connection.
  • Zephyr Teachout: "Corruption in America". If you think that developing countries are doomed by widespread corruption, you forgot the history of the current superpower.
  • Christine Kenneally: "The Invisible History of the Human Race". How DNA can "open up tracts of human history that had been entirely obscure."
  • Karen Dawisha: "Putin's Kleptocracy". A detailed account on politics and money in contemporary Russia.
  • Joann Eckstut & Arielle Eckstut: "The Secret Language of Color". A mix of psychology, chemistry, history, art.
  • Lester Brown: "World on the Edge". A combination of falling water tables (due to overpumping), soil erosion (on a third of the world's cropland), shrinking forests (due to logging and urbanization) and desert expansion is likely to lead to food shortages and mass migrations.
  • Carrie Gibson: "Empire's Crossroads". The Caribbeans were at the center of the geopolitical order for almost 500 years.
  • Sven Beckert: "Empire of Cotton". The violent history of the industrialization of cotton.
  • Adam Greenfield: "Against the Smart City". A scathing critique of modern corporate-driven utopias.
(Reviews of Scientific Books | Reviews of Non-scientific Books)

Recommended articles:
(All recommended articles)

Best films of 2014:
Best jazz albums of 2014:
Hero of the year:
  • Aitzaz Hasan, a Pakistani teenager who got killed when he stopped a suicide bomber at his school.
  • Loujain al-Hathloul, a woman who is being tried as a terrorist in Saudi Arabia (where women are not allowed to drive) for daring to drive a car and post the video on the Internet: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30602155
( Current events)

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