Clapperton Mavhunga: The importance of going back

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga is associate professor of science, technology, and society at MIT and visiting associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He is working to establish interdisciplinary and applied STS programs to train the next generation of Africa’s policymakers, engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs in inclusive, ethical, and context-specific tools of trade. 


PopTech Ecomaterials Lab

Materials matter. Everything we touch, taste, wear, drive, drink, eat — all of it is connected to the use, re-use, and ultimate disposal of materials. The health of the planet and the prosperity of its inhabitants rest largely on how we extract and use materials.

In July 2010 at Harvard Medical School, the first meeting of the Ecomaterials Lab network brought together 40 of these thought leaders and stakeholders for a facilitated dialogue regarding the drivers, constraints, opportunities, and challenges surrounding next-generation sustainable materials (with a particular emphasis on textiles). The gathering unearthed new insights and areas of disagreement, and helped form a network around sustainable ecomaterials.

Alphachimp Studio Inc. was honored to be onsite for graphic facilitation support and graphic capture of the personal insight, passion and urgency expressed by this stellar group of material scientists.

Fast Company has included the results of this event in there list of 8 of the Most Exciting Developments in Material Sustainability!

July 2010 Ecomaterials Lab Report cover

Download the full report here:

Ecomaterials Lab Report (PDF

Reuben Margolin : On Kinetic Art

First inspired by the mysterious and mathematical qualities of a caterpillar’s crawl, artist Reuben Margolin creates large-scale kinetic sculptures that use pulleys and motors to create the complex movements and structures we see in nature. Margolin takes to the PopTech stage to share some of his extraordinary mechanical installations.

Reuben Margolin: On Kinetic Art from PopTech on Vimeo.

As a child, he started playing with stilts and was enamored with math. After going in a few different directions in school, he set out with a typewriter strapped to the back of a motorcycle to write poetry as he traveled across the country. This resulted in the creation of a mobile, which he drove for five months in order to have deep, meaningful conversations with people he met along the way.

Soon after, on a hike, he saw a transparent caterpillar that inspired him to try and replicate it as a machine. Although the finished product didn’t move as elegantly as a caterpillar in nature, it fueled his interest in examining movement in the natural world. Still seeking a way to perfectly capture the wave of a caterpillar’s motion, he demonstrated on the PopTech stage a much sleeker machine made of wood, thin rope and metal that did indeed undulate like caterpillar creeping. He’s now exploring applying this principal to giant circles, wooden frames and other forms.

Margolin ended his presentation by revealing a gorgeous, sparkling sculpture suspended from the Opera House Ceiling, which swung gently above the crowd as though wind was blowing through a giant, gilded glass net.

Margolin noted that there are two ways of looking at things: one is at the sparkle and the dawns and the beauty of the world, and one is at the structure and the meat and the math. His art brings both of these elements together in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually interesting. 



Dan Ariely: Predictably Irrational

The Reset Moment: Danny Ariely

Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, referenced the foolishness of certain actions (e.g. texting while driving), what he calls “small irrationalities” that we do every day. These can lead up to big problems. With our current model of labor, for instance, we reward people with rest. This doesn’t really capture what it is that engages people, what causes them to want to work.

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