October 13, 2016

Do you remember high school math? Do you know how to repair your gadgets? Do you understand the engineering that goes into making planes fly? Regardless of your level of technical know-how, you’ll find something to grasp in these stories that touch on the practical side of innovation.

First up, math class isn’t usually a favorite memory from high school. Trigonometry, sines, cosines… too often, they don’t add up to a fun-filled learning experience. And that’s a big problem, says Steven Strogatz, mathematician and author of The Joy of X He argues that the math we’re teaching is great… if you’re a rocket engineer in the 1950s. Strogatz wants to make math education more exciting, and more applicable to people’s daily lives. Here’s how he wants to do it:

Then, have you ever actually fixed your iPhone? (People-watching while leaning against The Genius Bar does not count.) If you’re like most people, probably not. And Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, thinks that this is by design. Companies are making it harder and harder for customers to repair their gadgets, forcing us to either use the company’s repair options, or just toss a slightly-damaged product and buy a totally new one. Wiens believes that this is a sign of a broken system, and he wants people to resist corporate power:

And, finally, something that takes a lot of technical know-how… flying. Which for lots of us means tiny seats, terrible food, and an uncomfortable ride. And, according to Jenifer Van Vleck, it was like this even during the 1940s and 50s, the so-called “Golden Age” of flying. Van Vleck explains how, after WWII, flying completely changed the landscape of America politically, economically, and socially. And we’re still feeling those effects now:

Jenifer Van Vleck, Steven Strogatz, Kyle Wiens, innovation hub, WGBH, NPR, Kara Miller

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