Posts tagged with "Fast Company"

Airbnbee? This company rents you a beehive for your backyard

November 5, 2020

Across the Triangle in North Carolina—a region that includes Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—at least 55 residents have voluntarily devoted a section of their backyards to bees. These residents aren’t beekeepers themselves, but pay a fee to Buddha Bee Apiary to host the hives, Fast Company reports.

For its part, Buddha Bee Apiary, based in Durham, installs each hive, visits monthly to inspect and care for the bees, and harvests the honey.

The honeybee population in the U.S. has been declining; beekeepers here lost 37% of their colonies in 2019—a matter of concern, experts say, because of how crucial these bees are to pollinating crops and wild plants. Beekeeping can help build that population (and even help wild bees) to pollinate your local flora, but can be expensive and time consuming to get into. That’s where Buddha Bee Apiary, founded in 2020 by Justin Maness, comes in, to bring the benefits of bees to people without them needing all the equipment or any knowledge of beekeeping.

Buddha Bee Apiary also harvests the honey, and the host gets half for his or her own family’s consumption and use. But Maness says that’s not the main draw. “There’s some folks who are interested in the honey and some who are not,” he says. “I think the real big value that people get out of it is the fact that they can get invested in the hive, learn more [about bees], and also know that they’re contributing back to something that’s going to be good for our environment.”

Before you can host a hive, an expert from Buddha Bee Apiary will assess your yard to see if it’s suitable for bees. The biggest needs, Maness says, are enough space for the two-by-three-foot hive and about an eight-foot low-traffic radius around it to give the bees some calm. Sunlight helps, too, because it can keep away a pest called the small hive beetle (it’s important that you don’t use mosquito sprays on your lawn).

Once a yard is hive-approved, Buddha Bee Apiary makes the installation an event—a “welcoming of the bees,” Maness says—telling the host to invite family and friends. Neighbors or friend groups have gone in on the $150-per-month fee for a hive together, too. Some of the hosts eventually want to take over the beekeeping duties, and Buddha Bee Apiary will help with that transition. Others don’t, but want their kids to be involved in the inspection; for those groups, the beekeeper will bring an extra protective jacket so they can get up close.

“Once people get invested into the bees, their health, and the hive as a whole, it’s interesting to see people take on projects of converting their yard,” Maness says. “Taking a green space and completely digging it up and planting wildflowers, or taking a list [of plants] that we send them and removing some of these plants so that they can put in plants that are pollinator-friendly.”

Grass lawns aren’t that environmentally friendly, since they’re a monoculture that requires a lot of care (and grass is pollinated by wind, not bees). A side effect of bringing beehives to backyards, Maness says, is that people have been transforming their grass yards into something more impactful for the environment.

The bees pollinate plants within a three-mile radius of their home. With 55 installations of 60 hives, and each hive home to about 45,000 bees, Maness estimates the company has helped install more than 2 million bees all over the region, Fast Company notes.

Buddha Bee Apiary isn’t the only company to do a host-a-hive program. Maness started the company after working with Bee Downtown, which installs and maintains beehives on corporate campuses in North Carolina. “It was amazing to experience this one-on-one interaction with people who have never had this experience with bees, and see their eyes light up and just be absolutely in awe at how beautiful the inner workings of a beehive are,” he says.

He wanted to bring that directly to people at their homes. Other beekeepers have done the same. Best Bees manages hives for both corporations and residential homes in Boston, Houston, Chicago, and other cities. Hive hosting also has taken off across Australia and in the U.K.

Research contact: @FastCompany

The strange story of the Southern town that Hollywood insiders are building from scratch

October 13, 2020

It’s not a studio set for a movie—but on a 235-acre location just outside Atlanta, a small town, retail businesses, parks, and a huge media production facility are going up rapidly, with funding and boots-on-the-ground support from U.S. and U.K. film insiders, Fast Company reports.

When the British film studio company Pinewood—located just outside London—opened a production facility in the suburbs of Atlanta in 2014; it framed the venture as a one-stop-shop alternative to the mature, but spatially fragmented, system in Hollywood.

With a high-tech media center, soundstages, offices, prop houses, and set builders all co-located, Pinewood Atlanta was a turnkey space for filming. An early relationship with Marvel Studios led to a steady stream of big-budget superhero movies such as Ant Man and Captain America: Civil War, and Pinewood Atlanta quickly became a contender in the film business.

But some of its local investors wanted it to be more than just a production facility. They wanted the entire business to have a place at the studios, with development of new shows happening where they’d eventually be filmed, and local workers able to easily commute to jobs on the site.

They broke ground on the town in 2018.

“Originally the idea of it was to do a mill town, a company town, which just meant get some housing here because people have got to live somewhere, and we want to make it convenient. And it grew into, if you’re going to build a town from scratch, what would you do?” says Rob Parker, president of what is now known as Trilith, a 235-acre town built within the 900-acre site of the studios.

According to Fast Company, Pinewood recently left the project, amiably, and the studio and town are now fully in the hands of local founders, who have accelerated Trilith’s development. Planned with New Urbanist design principles, Trilith is a dense, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use village, with a commercial town center, more than half of its area dedicated to green space and forest, and room for an eventual population of 5,000.

About 500 people are currently living in the town, which is planned to have a total of 1,400 townhomes, apartments, co-housing units, and 500-square-foot “microhomes.” Housing is available to rent or buy, and Trilith’s developers say it’s luring residents from within the film industry, as well as people from other walks of life.

The studio side, now  named Trilith Studios, is also being redeveloped, with new facilities geared toward more parts of  the business, such as development offices and space for tech companies. These spaces are intended to bring in new types of companies in addition to the 60 vendors already providing production and ancillary services to productions on-site. The town side feeds into this ecosystem, creating the kind of place where people can work on months-long productions or years-long TV series without feeling like they’re living out of a suitcase.

“Instead of just being a soundstage facility that you haul people to when you’re ready to shoot, it can be a place where the development team can live and work, or have a second home at,” says Frank Patterson, president and CEO of Trilith Studios. “In some cases we have producers and production managers and coordinators that are now just living here because there’s so many shows coming.”

“We’re not talking about some kind of fantasy nirvana,” says Parker, noting that residents include firefighters, schoolteachers, and pilots working out of nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as film industry professionals. “We’re talking about a real town, with the grit of a real town, the authenticity of a real town, all different housing types, all the way down to making sure all of your teams can afford to live here.”

How diverse the town ends up being remains to be seen as more of its homes and commercial properties come online. For now, it’s undeniably centered around film and TV production. Patterson, who’s worked in film since living in Hollywood in the 1980s, says Trilith is hoping to create a new kind of ecosystem for creative people to both work and live in, an industry town that’s as much about the town as it is about the industry.

“I know a lot of industries work this way, but it’s particular to the film industry that we like to make stuff together, we like to hang out together, we like to drink together, we like to raise our families together,” he says. “It just wouldn’t exist without the town.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

How to move to Canada: Fearing a Trump win, many Americans are hoping to pack their bags

October 2, 2020

Exactly four years ago, Stephen Shainbart made an important decision: If Donald Trump got elected president, he was going to leave the United States.

But while many Americans threatened to move away in the months leading up to the 2016 election, he actually followed through—swapping New York for Toronto, Fast Company reports.

The night Trump won his bid for the White House, the 56-year-old psychologist started seriously researching the land that begat Margaret AtwoodDan Levy, and Garrett Camp—and then spent so much money becoming a permanent resident that he doesn’t yet own property in the 416.

“I didn’t think his judgment was sound because of his personality and his narcissism, and I thought he’d probably put his own interests in front of the people’s. As a native New Yorker, I’ve known all about Trump my entire life,” Shainbart explains, adding that with a father who survived the Holocaust and a grandfather killed in Auschwitz, he had personal reasons, too.

In 2020, Americans whose exposure to Trump had been limited to The Celebrity Apprentice, juicy tabloid stories about his marriages and real estate, and The Art of the Deal now have a presidential track record of 3.5 years to examine.

And for those willing to leave in the wake of another Trump victory, Canada is once again emerging as the most attractive choice. Our northern neighbor has the advantage of language, proximity, and a similar culture; and professionals on the front lines of the relocation, like real estate agents and immigration lawyers, say they’re fielding more calls from Americans.

Daniel Dagenais of Sotheby’s International Realty in Quebec, for example, has had a 50% increase in queries from Americans, while Wayne Ellis, president of the Prince Edward Island Real Estate Association, reports a 300% jump.

People in California, New York, and Florida have been contacting Brenda Westbrook of the Sutton Group Admiral Realty in Toronto, looking for executive homes or cottages, Fast Company notes.

“People are afraid on both ends, both Democrats and Republicans,” she says. “You can buy as a foreign investor and come just to have a foot in the door. They usually rent them until they need them . . . They think it’s unbearable. It’s crazy.”

Traffic from American IP addresses to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website was up this summer over the same period in 2019, according to the government agency, which reports an estimated 135,000 additional visits in July and 180,000 more in August. However, traffic from the U.S. was down in the winter and spring, compared to 2019, and the IRCC website features information about not only permanent immigration to Canada, but also temporary visits and work, international study, and COVID-related border restrictions.

According to Fast Company, attorneys are contending with a similar spike. Evan Green, who’s practiced law in Toronto for 30 years, says he used to file one or two immigration applications for people in the U.S. per month, but now, he’s doing one or two per day. His clients are primarily what he calls “wayward Canadians,” citizens of his country who moved to America years ago, built lives in the States, and now want to go home; Americans in commuter marriages with Canadians; and Americans who simply want out.

They are “people who are somewhat disillusioned by the United States in its current form,” Green explains. “These are people who while certainly worried about results of the elections, are also worried about other things which they see as issues in the United States; like violence and divisions within society they feel are much stronger.”

The naïveté Americans once had about Canada has disappeared. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the historically porous—and even post-9/11, relatively easy to pass through—borders between the countries that have been friends since the end of the War of 1812. (The White House played a role in that, too. In 1814, troops from Britain, which at the time claimed parts of Canada as colonies, burned down the presidential home, then inhabited by James Madison and his wife, Dolley.)

“We’re a regular country with laws . . . I don’t live in perfect country, but I’m very happy where I live right now,” says Green, who saw an uptick in interest from Americans in 2016, but not as much as now. “COVID has added a level of uncertainty to people’s lives. ‘You know what? Things are so unsettled. I’m feeling so unstable. Let’s get some place more stable.’”

But, Fast Company warns: If you’re planning to make the move now, be prepared to wait. No paperwork will be ready by November 3. For that, you can blame Canada—in this case bureaucracy, and not enough people in the department and not enough case processing centers. Also, causing the slowdown are the delays caused by COVID-19, according to Véronique Malka, a Canadian attorney licensed to operate in the U.S.A., whose inquiries from Americans are up 30%.

People whose paperwork is expedited tend to be refugees (not applicable here), individuals running startups, and self-employed extraordinarily accomplished people, like musicians, she explains. Other shortcuts may be available for people who can qualify for citizenship, which in 2019 was limited to the children of ex-pats; students; the dozens of professions set aside under NAFTA, such as accountants, dentists, certain types of scientists, social workers, and urban planners; and individuals willing to live in rural or far-northern communities.

“They thought about it during first election in 2016 and now they’re serious about it. The Canadian immigration website shut down, because it crashed on the night of the election,” Malka says. “There’s almost nothing under a two-year wait. That’s a big piece of it. It’s a big burst of the bubble. People say, ‘I want to get out of here.’”

Unlike realtors and attorneys who wait for clients to contact them, Rob Calabrese is actively recruiting Americans to relocate to Canada. In 2016, he launched cbiftrumpwins.com to promote an island off Nova Scotia called Cape Breton ( the CB in the URL). The D.J. turned apple cider maker has seen a steady increase in queries—now about a dozen a day, though he’s certain that’ll increase.

“People threaten to move to Canada every year you guys have an election. Usually, it’s Democrats, though I heard lots of Republicans threatened to move to Canada when Obama was elected, and I don’t think they really understood what we have going on here. My aim was to put Cape Breton in front of a large audience,” Calabrese explains. “Canada is a big place and we’re not just two big English cities and a French city.”

Cape Breton, which almost the size of the big island of Hawaii, has been losing about 1,000 people a year. The population drain concerns Calabrese.

“We have problems absolutely but nothing like yours,” he adds. “I love America and I love going to the United States. We would love for Americans to stay where they are and vote for someone other than Donald Trump. I’d much rather that. Canada and U.S.A, I thought we were best friends and now, we’re not.”

Shainbart says voting Trump out of office won’t change much, though. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election in November, he’s not heading back to America. When he immigrated to the Great White North, he knew he was there for good.

“All the Trump supporters are still going to be there,” he explains. “Trump is as much of a symptom of the problem in America as the cause . . . I think something’s very wrong with the U.S. that we elected such a person, and that will remain.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

‘Will you shut up, man?’: Biden sells T-shirt flaunting a memorable phrase from a loony debate

October 1, 2020

Tuesday night’s presidential debate was, well, a “sh*t show” as CNN’s Dana Bash succinctly called it. Another CNN host, Jake Tapper, was a little more reserved—but just barely—calling the Trump-Biden face-off on September 29 “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”

On the other hand, Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien said in a statement (presumably because it would have been too hard to keep a straight face while actually speaking these words), “President Trump just turned in the greatest debate performance in presidential history.”

“Yeah,” said Fast Company on Wednesday.

But look, no matter the number of astonishing moments—like when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists, but instead told the White nationalist hate group, the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”—there were some great, if not shocking, zingers from Biden. For instance, after Trump continued to talk over Biden, the former VP let out the words that many viewers were probably thinking: “Will you shut up, man?”

Needless to say, Biden’s plea quickly went viral. It went so viral, matter of fact, that the Biden campaign started selling “Will You Shut Up, Man?” T-shirts before the debate was even over, Fast Company reports.

While there are no sales numbers available yet, it’s easy to imagine the shirt will be one of the Biden campaign’s best-sellers. You can grab one now for $30—and, if anything, you might want to just for posterity’s sake. It could easily be one of the most memorable pieces of 2020 election memorabilia.

Then again, we have two more debates to get through. If last night is any indication, who knows what will happen—and what possible T-shirts they may spawn.

Research contact: @FastCompany

The Halo effect: Amazon’s first health wearable, is no Fitbit or Apple Watch clone

August 31, 2020

Amazon is launching Halo, a minimalist $99 health sleek,wearable, companion to an app that measures your body fat and gauges your tone of voice. Executives who worked on the project told Fast Company last week that the offering is more about the app and its various features than the wearable itself.

Right now, consumers can preorder the Halo band for $65, which includes six months of access to the app. After the first six months, customers will have to pay $4 a month to continue using the app. Once it ships in a few weeks, Halo will be $99, also with the $4/month fee. The app and the band work with both iPhones and Android devices.

Though that pricing puts the Halo in competition with Fitbit’s fitness trackers, Amazon—which has also purchased online pharmacy PillPack, developed both virtual and in-clinic employee health centers, and sought out HIPPA compliance for its Alexa voice assistant—is taking a different approach to health than its competitors in wearables.

For one thing, the company thinks Halo’s real value is in the app. Data tracking is divided into four sections, Activity, Body, Sleep, and Tone. The app also offers Labs, a series of health challenges designed by a range of professionals and expert organizations. While Activity and Sleep offer standard health-tracking capabilities, Body, Tone, and Labs represent Halo’s distinguishing features, Fast Company reports..

The Halo tracker is extremely simple: just a piece of water-resistant fabric and a small sensor-laden bit of hardware that lays against the wrist. There’s no display, notifications, clock, or other features that have become standard fare on even basic fitness trackers from other companies. (Like other wrist wearables, it does offer band options in several colors and materials.)

Halo tracks movement, heart rate, skin temperature, and the tone of a person’s voice. Notably, it doesn’t track heart rate variability. Both the Apple Watch and Fitbit’s devices have added heart rate variability in recent versions of their wearables, seemingly as a test of their ability as a diagnostic tool.

Amazon’s tracker captures steps, duration, and intensity of activity, as well as sedentary time to generate an activity score. While any activity will raise your score, you’ll be awarded more points for running as opposed to walking. The band can detect the difference between walking and running, and you can manually mark if you swim, cycle, or perform some other form of exercise. Sedentary time can negatively impact your score if you sit for more than eight hours.

The app also measures activity on a weekly rather than daily basis. “It’s more aligned with the [CDC] guideline recommendations, which clearly state that people should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise on a weekly basis at a minimum,” says Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and Amazon’s chief medical officer. Before joining Amazon in 2018, he practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Halo tracks sleep too. Like the Apple Watch, Fitbits, and the Oura Ring, Halo identifies sleep duration and how long you linger in light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep. It also measures and monitors skin temperature at the wrist, to see if how this changes over the course of the night correlates to your sleep quality. Skin temperature is not the same as internal temperature, so it would not be a sound way to determine if someone has a fever, for example.

However, Body is one of the most distinctive elements of the Halo app. Using a phone’s camera, it captures a three-dimensional model of a person’s body to help them track their body changes over time and to track its fat percentage.

“You’re probably wondering, why body fat?” Majmudar told Fast Company in an interview. “Body fat percentage is actually much better indicator of overall health than weight or body mass index [BMI] alone.” A recent meta-analysis, published in the journal, Nature, shows that BMI isn’t a great indicator for obesity, which doctors use to look out for obesity-related disease. However, getting a good reading on a person’s body fat has historically been cumbersome and expensive. Amazon now suggests it can make this determination using a phone camera.

To get their body fat percentage, people must wear “tight, minimal” clothing, such as bike shorts and a sports bra. Placing their phone 4-6 feet away, they then take capture photos or “body scans,” one front facing, one back, and one from each side. Artificial intelligence renders those photos into a 3D view of their body shape.

Once calculated, the body fat percentage number is presented alongside a corresponding national average based on a person’s gender, age, height, and weight. The body model can be morphed to show how a person might look if they gained or lost weight. The visualization is designed for those trying to work towards certain body goals.(However, it could also be dangerous fodder for anyone suffering from body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or compulsive exercising.)

Majmudar says that by default, the body-scan photos are processed in the cloud and then deleted after 12 hours. The body model is only stored locally on the phone.

Tone is by far the strangest of the app’s features. Using its embedded microphone, the band listens to your voice throughout the day and detects its tone—positive, sad, irritated, or otherwise. The idea is to address your social and emotional health.

To use Tone, you have to create a voice profile by reading a piece of text. That way, it can recognize and measure only your voice, not other ones it may pick up. When Tone is turned on, it runs passively and intermittently in the background, picking up on snippets of conversations throughout the day. It then tells you how you sounded to other people. Among the list of emotions is content, concerned, happy, and tired.

“This gives you a simple way to reflect on your communications and interactions throughout the day,” says Majmudar. This feature also gives you summaries of your mood throughout the day, highlighting when you were noticeably energetic, positive, or warm. It also notes outlier moments when you sound different than they ordinarily do.

For those that may be concerned about Amazon tracking their every word, the company says this audio never goes to the cloud. It’s processed on your phone, and isn’t stored. Amazon appears to be drawing a hard line on privacy here. In the past, its stance on

Amazon is balancing its consideration for privacy with a healthy amount of data sharing. In order to make the data Halo collects useful, it’s turning to partners. WW (Weight Watchers) users can link to the Halo app activity, so they can collect FitPoints. Cerner, the electronic health record provider, can also hook into Halo and transfer a persons health data over to his or her larger medical record.

The Labs feature—which provides activities that users can perform to change their health outlook—also draws on Amazon’s partners. For instance, the Mayo Clinic offers a pet-free bedroom Lab that is supposed to lower sleep interruptions from a restless pet. Weight loss program LifeSum, has an activity for reducing calorie intake. Other partners include Apptiv, Orange Theory, Harvard Medical, and the American Health Association. These activities provide one more way for users to put that wrist band to use (and perhaps ensure that it doesn’t get relegated to a drawer somewhere).

How well does Halo track and analyze the data it collects? For now, it’s anyone’s guess. Majmudar says that Amazon has done lots of internal testing, but has not yet published any studies verifying the Halo’s capabilities.

Indeed, Amazon has good reason to want to get this right. But we won’t know how well it’s done until Halo arrives and independent researchers put it to the test.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Serena Williams designs limited edition Gatorade bottle

July 3, 2020

Tennis ace Serena Williams isn’t afraid of coming on strong—either on the court or off it.

Throughout her career, she has grabbed headlines not just for her dominance on the court, but for her self-designed bold outfit choices as well. To some, her now-iconic catsuits, tutus, bold prints, and more may seem to supersede function.

But to Williams, fashion and performance go hand in hand, according to her recent interview with Fast Company. “My sister and I both say, ‘Look good, feel good, play good,’” Williams says.

Now, Fast Company says, she’s channeling that philosophy into a limited-edition Gatorade bottle.

To promote Gatorade’s Gx customizable hydration line, Williams designed a bottle that encompasses more than just something to hold your electrolytic fruit punch.

“I wanted to create something that tells a story about—not only my strength as an athlete but also my strength as a mom,” Williams says.

Williams’s bottle incorporates bright, almost neon colors broken up by thick black lettering that, if you look closely, spells out “STRONG.”

“For me, bold colors are essential. And we have Gatorade’s iconic orange because when I was younger, my dream was to be a Gatorade athlete. So I wanted to keep that inspirational story with the orange,” Williams says.

As for the black, it’s a theme Williams translates into her strength on and off the court.

“Being an athlete is easy,” she told Fast Company. “Being a mom is so hard. That’s like the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Williams has what she jokingly calls a “lifetime partnership” with Gatorade—and the pairing has certainly produced some noteworthy campaigns. So for both Williams and Gatorade, this collaboration was more than just imprinting her name on a bottle.

“When you think about Serena Williams, you think of someone that’s different and stands up and stands out for lots of different things outside of tennis,” Williams continues. “That was the same method that I wanted to do when I was designing this bottle.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

NASA’s human spaceflight leader mysteriously resigns before SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

May 21, 2020

The head of NASA’s Human Spaceflight program, Douglas Loverro, has resigned after spending about seven months at the agency.

The unexpected exit has set off alarms in Congress about the flight, itself—as well as how this disruption could affect the historic mission.

Indeed, in a letter to NASA employees, Loverro said that he is leaving the program “with a very, very heavy heart” after making a “mistake” during his tenure, according to a letter obtained by Politico,

The resignation comes little more than a week before NASA and SpaceX—the latter, a private American aerospace manufacturer—are slated to launch two astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station for the first time, Fast Company reports.

Meanwhile, Ars Technica reports that Loverro was set to give the final okay for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

That job now will fall to Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations.

Loverro wrote that he was leaving the agency due to an undisclosed “mistake,” according to the letter obtained by Politico. Throughout my long government career of over four and a half decades I have always found it to be true that we are sometimes, as leaders, called on to take risks,” Loverro reportedly wrote. “I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences.”

The question is, why?

Top lawmakers demanded answers late Tuesday, May 19, about Loverro’s departure, especially since it occurred just eight days before the maiden voyage set for May 27 of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,” Representative Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma), the chairperson of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, said in a statement. “Under this administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation’s efforts at human space flight.”

The bottom line is that, as the committee that overseas NASA, we need answers,” she concluded.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who chairs the science panel, was “shocked” by the development; but said in a statement. “I trust that NASA Administrator [Jim] Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt.”

“Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing.  I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.”

Reached by Fast Company, a NASA spokesperson sent over a boilerplate statement confirming Loverro’s departure and said that the agency is “unable to discuss personnel matters” beyond it.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Pedal to the metal: Elon Musk dares California to arrest him as Tesla plant reopens

May 13, 2020

He has challenged the laws of mobility and gravity with his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, so why should Elon Musk bend to the laws of Alameda County, California?

This week, Musk has escalated his war with Alameda officials—tweeting that he is reopening Tesla’s manufacturing plant there despite a local ban by authorities who believe it’s not safe to do so.

If county officials don’t like it, Musk said, they can arrest him, according to a report by Fast Company. Indeed, he tweeted on May 11, “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Indeed, he says, county officials are illegally flaunting California law. Also on Twitter, Musk noted, “Yes, California approved, but an unelected county official illegally overrode. Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!”

The tweet and decision to reopen Tesla’s only U.S. plant come after a dramatic weekend, during which Musk threatened to move the company’s headquarters from California to Nevada or Texas, Bloomberg reports.

The threat came after California Governor Gavin Newsom gave the okay last week for manufacturers in the state to start operations again, but Alameda County officials overruled that decision. It should be noted, however, that Governor Newsom granted local authorities the power to remain more restrictive with their stay-at-home orders than the state’s as a whole, essentially allowing them to decide when certain types of businesses can reopen in their areas.

That did not sit well with Musk, and Tesla then sued Alameda County over the weekend.. In response, Alameda County health officials issued a statement saying they were aware Tesla’s plant was reopening and hoped the company would choose to comply with local stay-at-home rules “without further enforcement measures.”

According to Fast Company, after Musk announced the Tesla plant would reopen, employees at the plant were emailed a memo announcing their furlough ended on Sunday and that they will be contacted within 24 hours with their return-to-work start date. Tesla said those who aren’t comfortable returning to work can stay at home—but they will be on unpaid leave and lose any jobless benefits.

The news outlet says that, since lockdown orders began, Musk has been the most vocal billionaire demanding people get back to work—going so far as to channel Trump in random outbursts on Twitter ranting against stay-at-home orders.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Flat broke during the lockdown? Then this ingenious $300 flat purse might not be for you

May 7, 2020

Ikea built its home furnishings empire on the strength of one simple idea—products designed in such a way that they can be flat-packed to reduce shipping costs and eliminate the need for a delivery truck. Now, that same level of innovation has come to global handbag and purse manufacturing.

The Milan, Italy-based bag label Up To You Anthology has created a flat-pack purse that it is selling in a variety of shapes and sizes, along with leather and felt options. And yes, just like Ikea furniture, you have to assemble it yourself, Fast Company reports.

Designed by the prolific Japanese firm Nendo, which is known for taking surprising approaches to the design of everyday objects, the bag is called the Mai.

Each bag is laser-cut from a single piece of leather. The consumer is instructed to fold the leather in half to assemble the bag; fitting the rivets into precut holes. And within about a minute of work, you have a fully functional, 3D purse, the business news outlet notes.

As COVID-19 keeps most of us home and puts tens of millions of people out of work, fashion retailers are in a lot of trouble notes. Indeed, J. Crew just filed for bankruptcy, and many direct-to-consumer companies are finding themselves underwater.

Mai wasn’t developed in response to COVID-19. Up To You Anthology told Fast Company in an interview that development actually started on it last year. But it was created specifically to be a bag sold through e-commerce. “Each bag had to be delivered to the customer’s house, so they designed a bag that could be delivered flat, to simplify this process,” a spokesperson explains. “And the customer would assemble the bag themselves. It can be fun!”

Indeed, the slight work of assembly could give the buyer more ownership over the bag—much like the old adage that Betty Crocker cake mix could have been formulated in a way that removed the need to add an egg, but that this modicum of effort makes it feel like you actually baked something.

But ultimately, this bag isn’t just flat to ship but 20% smaller in overall volume when deconstructed than it would be if mailed fully assembled. It costs money to ship air!

For a purse that runs around $300, saving the $8 between a USPS flat-rate envelope and a small flat-rate box might not seem like a lot. But especially as you get into international shipping, the difference jumps closer to $35.

The fact of the matter is, competitive online companies now are being forced to subsidize or eat their shipping costs entirely, Fast Company says—making it a huge expense for every online product company that doesn’t have the leverage of Amazon. And if these businesses are to survive the next two years, every dollar counts.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Artful masks let you wear the smiles of William Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, Picasso

April 29, 2020

Even if you’ve perfected the art of “smizing”—“the expression you get by smiling with your eyes without moving the rest of your face,” as Tyra Banks calls it—the now-ubiquitous protective face mask leaves a person with a lot of blank canvas to work with below the eyes.

Now, a new fundraiser for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) called “Smile for our NHS” puts that canvas to good use, with a series of masks depicting famous artists from the nose down, Fast Company reports.

A mask that covers up facial features can be downright disorienting, since we humans rely on nonverbal cues, such as the degree to which a person smiles, when we socialize, according to Fan Liu, an assistant professor of Decision Sciences and Marketing at Adelphi University.

Industrial designer, architect, and artist Ron Arad seems to think so too. Arad designed a series of painterly masks for the NHS project that depict the smiles of William Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale, as well as grinning portraits taken from paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Dalí.

In addition to the benefit the masks provide by reducing the spread of coronavirus, “the primary benefit of these non-medical face masks is to others: These designs turn them from something impersonal and frightening into coverings that will make people smile,” the project’s website reads. (Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder—some might find the contrast of reality and its painterly depiction downright creepy.)

The project is currently seeking new manufacturers to set up a supply chain and make the masks available to the general public—both as ready-made final products and by making the designs available for personal assembly, Fast Company says..

In reply to a comment on the charity’s Instagram feed April 26, Smile for our NHS wrote, “We are currently preparing stock and we will share our website with all the relevant information in due course.”

So why are private charities raising money for a government entity? The NHS has suffered years of budget cuts under a conservative government—and in a bit of an about-face, the public has become the safety net (although the NHS and its workers on the front lines are well-loved), Fast Company says.

Beyond the altruism of the project, Smile for our NHS is about as close as we’ll get to seeing the smiles in masterworks relatively up close for some time now. But we think there might be one that’s missing—Mona Lisa’s.

Research contact: @FastCompany