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Jan 3

TED (ideas worth spreading) is a world famous conference, and many of us have watched incredible videos of the talks from this conference. However, the attendance of TED is by invitation only (though you can apply for membership). The cost of membership is $ 6,000 a year. Okay, you can only attend if you are an invited member (or make it through the application procedure) and it cost $ 6,000 a year - I think it is fair to say this is in the elitist realm.

update: TED Feb 3-7, 2009 Long Beach, California is sold out :)

Are there any other options out there for the rest of us?


BIL is the answer for the rest of us, which is happening February 7 & 8, 2009 in Long Beach, CA. What is BIL you might ask. BIL is a no cost, ‘open source’, self-organizing conference that covers the same important topics as TED. From BIL website:

BIL is…

an open, self-organizing, emergent, arts, science, society and technology conference.

Anyone can come, just Register.  Anyone can speak, just add a Talk.

If you have an idea to spread, start talking.  If someone is saying something interesting, stop and listen.

Here is a chance to voice your thinking to a wide and open audience. What is BIL really about:

BIL is an ad-hoc conference for people changing the world in big ways. It’s a place for passionate people to come together to energize, brainstorm, and take action. We invite you to bring your world into ours. See you in Long Beach!

To give you a sense of the range of topics covered click here for a list of the 2008 talks.

Do you have any world changing ideas, or want to be involved in world changing ideas? Head to Long Beach in early February and get involved in BIL, share your ideas with spirited, like-minded people.

(p..s - for all you Vancouverites - flight is about $318 return - and might be better deals out there if we hunt).

Jun 23

Image via Wikipedia

Many scientist believe that in the near future there will be breakthroughs due to our ability to generate huge data bases, and more importantly our ability to mine them.

GlaxoSmithKline have done a huge and expensive study on cancer, and as of June 20 2008 released a mountain of data for free. They are not releasing all of the data, but the vast majority of it.

The data is mostly if the form of microarray results which the company has given to Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), part of the National Cancer Institute to house.

Here is a link to where the data is located. It contains the genomic profile of 300 cancer cell lines. The genomic profiles include both the results of SNPs microarrays and microarrays to measure mRNA transcript expression.

Now this is potential a fantastic resource of information for the hundreds of thousands of cancer researchers. I am sure the data in this bank could be the start of hundreds of Phd degrees.

I really hope that the new generation of smart open source scientist can harness this data and make gold out of straw (one example would be Shirley Wu).

Taking a slightly cynical route, do you think GlaxoSmithKline, or their shareholders, would be happy with the company giving away information that contains ‘value’? Or is it more likely they have used massive computer power all their bioinformatic personnel to strip out all the gold before releasing this mountain of data freely to the public ? Yes, this move will build some ‘good will’ for GlaxoSmithKline with the public which is of some worth, especially with the current climate of the publics trust in big pharmaceuticals. However, it seems unlikely that big pharma is really in the habit of giving away valuable information. Could it be that even after shifting through this mountain of data on cancer cell lines that they only found a few nuggets, but overall the mountain was barren? That would be a scary thought regarding future cancer research.