Goodbye to Eureka, Hello to Eureka?


This Saturday I’ll be attending the Mini Maker Faire in Atlanta, Georgia – held at the Georgia Tech campus, it’s promising to be a nice collection of makers showing off their machines, artwork, and other stuff. I attended the one in San Francisco this past May (a much larger event, of course) and I was blown away by the sheer volume of Smart People in attendance. I got to talk with a rocket scientist (a real one), some physicists, a botanist, and other smart science-y folks… and I got to talk with some super-artistic men and women involved in all sorts of artistic endeavors — sculpture, painting, clothing, and more. Like I said, a lot of Smart People. (Everyone’s definition of smart is likely different, but I think you know what I mean… gifted, creative, pick-your-term.)

Even better, I got to brainstorm with a lot of folks that share some of my interests — robotics, electronics, CNC, 3D printing, and woodworking. Leaving California, I had well over a dozen ideas and topics with which to research, prototype, and/or experiment. There’s something to be said for putting a group of like-minded individuals together and seeing what they can come up with in a short or long-term time period.

And that’s the premise of the TV show Eureka — a town full of geniuses. Yes, it’s a bit hokey at times. Maybe even a lot hokey. The science is often questionable and the Problem-of-the-Day typically involves the same five or six individuals saving the town (or planet) from disaster.

But it’s fun. Love it or hate it, it’s been a fun show. Past tense, because as any fan knows, the show has recently been cancelled by SyFy and will be finishing out its final season some time next year. Bummer.

At the time the show’s cancellation was announced, I was ironing out some details for the Mini Maker Faire here in Atlanta. (I’ll be covering it for as well as demoing a 3D printer and CNC machine with my co-author, Patrick Hood-Daniel.) And it got me thinking…

How cool would it be to put together a real town and populate it with some of the smartest folks on the planet? Give them a nice big budget, maybe invite some corporate sponsors to set up shop in town, and let the townsfolk go to work? Invitations to join the town could be issued in the form of Request for Proposals — residents would have to apply for a spot with a great problem or two and a plan to solve it.

Yes, I know it’s crazy.

It’ll never see the light of day. There are issues of national security, intellectual properly rights, and patent ownership. There’s the risk of putting so many resources in one location. There are the questions of military involvement and who profits from any breakthroughs. Lots of issues I can’t even come up with (but I’m sure commenters can provide).

But wouldn’t it be cool, though? A town, located somewhere in the USA (I’m a US citizen, so I’m speaking from a US-centric position here) full of Smart People who can feed off one another, help one another, brainstorm together, pool skills and funding, and just push one another to do really inspiring things. Right now, the only sources for this kind of thing are the university system and the corporate world — both have their own agendas, rules, and expectations that don’t always line up with the common good.

Yeah, I know… it’s a dream.

But wouldn’t it be great to see a real-life Eureka spring up and thrive? Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where solving the world’s problems was done in a place where profit wasn’t the primary incentive? (Yes, I know Global Dynamics would occasionally profit from a discovery on the TV show, but this definitely wasn’t the norm, and discovery seemed to be the rule for the town.)

Oh, well… we can say goodbye to Eureka. In a world where patent infringement lawsuits are being filed daily, a world where Google and Microsoft and Apple and Sony and Samsung and AT&T and Verizon are constantly on the lookout for the Next Big Thing, a world where the some of the brightest minds in mathematics, physics, and engineering go to work in the financial districts… how awesome would it be to offer up the brightest minds in our country a place to go and work where the rewards benefit the world and not just to those who can afford them?

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