Falling Walls 2012. What I remember


Falling Walls is a German government-led initiative aimed at encouraging breakthrough research in science, industry and politics. Started as a one-off event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Falling Walls Conference brings together the best of the world’s researchers and thinkers for one day, 9 November. One day prior to the conference, 100 outstanding young scientists, professionals, and entrepreneurs present their groundbreaking ideas in 3 minutes at the Falling Walls Lab (urbangems.org was one of the 100, and that’s why I attended the conference and the lab). More on both conference and lab …

It hosted distinguished scientists and policy makers, including Annette Schavan (German Minister of Education and Research), Philip D. Murphy (US Ambassador to Germany), Philip Campbell (Editor-in-Chief of Nature), Helga Nowotny (President of the European Research Council), and Alan I. Leshner (Executive Publisher of Science). The talks included (full program here and speakers here):

Breaking the Wall of Economic Uncertainty. How Online Data Can Help us Understand the Economy. Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google ”…central banks around the world have been looking for new real time economic indicators. Inspired by the work of Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, the Bank of Israel, followed by the Federal Reserve and the central banks of England, Italy, Spain and Chile, have recently started new studies to see if online search volumes track trends in the economies they oversee. .. he demonstrated how data reported on the Google Insights for Search service improved forecasts of auto and home sales and retail spending in the US. No wonder the enthusiasm of the central banks, that usually have to set interest rates based on economic information with weeks of delay. With the web data are available one to three days after users perform searches: a time lapse that could make the difference between a slowdown and a recession.”

Breaking the Wall of Internet Censorship. How Peer to Peer Wireless Mesh Networks Are Replacing Centralized Connectivity. Aaron Kaplan. Founder of Funkfeuer FREE NET, Vienna. Very interesting use of Mesh Networks (finally!) “On January 28, 2011, the Egyptian government, after three days of massive anti-regime protests, mostly organized through social networks, switched off 93 percent of the nation’s Internet. .. Computer scientist Aaron Kaplan is one of the founders of the FunkFeuer initiative, an Austrian wireless mesh networking project that plants WiFi antennae on rooftops

Breaking the Wall of the Polling Booth. How Electoral Psychology Enlightens Democratic Citizenship. Michael Bruter. LSE. ”What do citizens think about when they stand in the polling booth? ..Bruter, who joined the LSE in 2001, explores the voters’ mind in 15 countries combining surveys, interviews, experiments, and direct observation including innovative techniques such as “election diaries”, “polling station observers” and “emotional” questions on favorite animal, colour or drink or how they would rank the seven ‘deadly sins’ or ’10 commandments’ “

Breaking the Wall of Uninformed Cities. How Open Data Makes Urban Life Smarter. Ina Schieferdecker. Fraunhofer FOKUS, Berlin. ”…the program ICT for Smart Cities, aimed at not only helping local government authorities share information with its citizens, but also businesses and organizations to innovate novel urban processes and develop new services.”

Breaking the Wall Between Earth and Sky. How Art Challenges Gravity and Light in Our Habitat. Tomás Saraceno. Crazy crazy talk. Crazy, in a good way

Breaking the Wall of Tropical Diseases. How the Tropical Laboratory Initiative is Increasing Access to Healthcare in Low Resource Countries. Yanis Ben Amor. Columbia University. ”…he explained the innovative ideas of harnessing mobile phone technologies to provide increased access to laboratory diagnosis for the underserved in resource-constraint settings.”

Breaking the Wall of Convention. How Architecture Can Provoke New Thought. Daniel Libeskind. Inspiring talk by a great man

Breaking the Wall between Science and Society. Daniel Zajfman, Weizmann Institute of Science. ”Zajfman invests much time and effort in community outreach, to the public in general and youth in particular. One of his goals is to broaden interest in and knowledge of the advances taking place on the scientific front.” He encourages Weizmann’s professors to teach science in Tel Aviv bars at night ;)

Few months ago young researchers around the world submitted more than 600 works to the Falling Lab. Only one hundred were selected for presentation. One hundred participants (including me with UrbanGems.org) spoke about their ideas, research projects and initiatives in under three minutes. It was a great experience which I highly recommend. I got to know 99 brilliant young minds in all fields of science coming from 26 nations. Most of the pitches were in the area of natural science. Here is the full list of pitches, which included:

Breaking the Wall of Classical Music Concerts. Hedwig Pottag. Change the classical concert world based on the needs of the young generations. Create it more active, well-paced, without strict rituals and experiencable.

Breaking the Wall of Ordinary Beauty. Daniele Quercia. UrbanGems.org identifies the visual cues in neighbourhoods that are generally associated with concepts difficult to define such as beauty or happiness.

Breaking the Wall of Pro-Social Behaviour. Regina Kühne. I analyze the role of generalized trust (i.e. attitude towards strangers) for pro-social or altruistic behavior. I therefore use blood donation data for Germany.

Breaking the Wall of Oil Industry Secrecy. Zara Rahman. The culture of secrecy around oil needs to change; first step, providing tools for citizens to understand the industry, and thus hold governments accountable (book here).

Breaking the Wall of Communication Across Borders. Kai P. Kaufmann. Making walls fall may lead to the integration of what stood on both sides of them but requires finding common linguistic ground as the basis of communication.

Breaking the Wall of Volunteering. André de Geus Cervi. Atados is a business that bridges the gap between NGOs and citizens willing to help. The site exhibits in a easy way the volunteering opportunities in Brazil.

Breaking the Wall of Collaborative Transport. Stella Schieffer. Our transport infrastructure is at its limit. Yet 70% of all transport capacities are unused today. PolyPort (twitter + site) matches free transport capacities

I was advised this interesting site

with delivery needs via a peer-to-peer marketplace.

Breaking the Wall of Immigrants and Host Society. Chun Chen of University of Zurich. Which role do media play in the integration process of migrants in the host society? Different media uses determine various migrant integration strategies. The more immigrants use host society’s media, the better integrated they are. Interesting idea ;)

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