In the weeks and months following Sir Arthur’s death, many asked me what kind of monument was being planned in his memory. As far as the Arthur C Clarke Estate is concerned, there is none –- and that seems to surprise many.
Yet it was fully consistent with the man of ideas, imagination and dreams that Sir Arthur Clarke was. Monuments of brick and mortar — or even of steel and silicon — seem superfluous for a writer who stretched the minds of millions. Commemorative lectures or volumes cannot begin to capture the spirit and energy of the visionary who left behind a rich collection of books, papers and ideas.
Speaking at ORBIT’15 astronomy event last week in Colombo, organised by the Astronomy & Space Science Association of D S Senanayake College, Colombo, I reiterated this point. Here are the most relevant slides from my talk:
In my Ravaya column (in Sinhala) this week, I write about Lentil As Anything, the uncommon restaurant chain in Melbourne, Australia. It has no prices on the menu, no cashier, no cash register. Customers are invited to dine first — and pay what they think their meal was worth. This pay-as-you-feel approach has survived a dozen years, earning its founder Shanaka Fernando honours and accolades.
Published in Ceylon Today newspaper, 16 October 2012:
Six Lankan inventors are shortlisted for the inaugural “Ray Award” to help a state recognised inventor to commercialise his or her invention.
All six have proven track records in innovation — they are past winners of the Presidential Awards for Innovation.
The winner will be announced at a gala awards ceremony to be held on 17 October 2012 at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo 2. The chief guest will be Dr Tissa Vitarana, Senior Minister of Scientific Affairs.
“The Ray” carries a plaque and citation from the Trust. The Commercial Bank would provide a credit line worth Rs 1 million worth to assist the winner to prepare the invention for commercialisation.
Meanwhile, the University of Moratuwa would provide the technical support to convert the winner’s invention to a product or process ready for the market.
The Ray Award is a biennial award given in memory of the late Ray Wijewardene, one of the finest Lankan inventors. Trained as an engineer but applying his skills to help small farmers, he designed the world’s first two-wheeled hand tractor in the 1950s.
The Award is administered and presented by the Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust (RWCT) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission (SLIC). It is powered by Commercial Bank.
All past winners of the Presidential Awards for innovation, presented by SLIC, were eligible and invited to apply for this award. As part of their application, they were asked to present a plan for commercialising their invention.
The Trust received a total of 56 applications by the deadline of 31 July 2012. During August 2012, an independent selection panel appointed by the Trust reviewed all applications and conducted face-to-face interviews with a long list of 17 candidates.
Applications were assessed on three criteria, or three ‘I’s – Invention, Innovation and Impact, according to the Ray Wijewardene Trust.
The shortlist of six candidates was announced in early October 2012. Listed in no particular order, they are:
Dr Anil Goonetilleke
A chest specialist who invented a dry powder inhaler, or ‘Ventohaler’, that helps users take in more of the dose
Sunil Somasiri Gomes
An expert in cleaner production who invented the Ecodesigned Spherical to reduce wastage and increase efficiency in natural rubber latex industry
I S Waidiyarathna Karunatilake
An accountant who built an eco-friendly motor boat that is fuel-efficient and does not erode river banks
Dr S J B Lenadora
A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who designed an innovative Pneumatic Self Retaining Abdominal Retractor
An electrical and electronics engineer who invented a surge diverter with unlimited surge handling capability
R M Dammika Sujith Rathnayake
A self-taught technician who has developed an efficient coir machine that reduces waste
Winner of the Ray Award 2012 is being selected by an independent selection panel appointed by the Ray Wijewardene Trust. It is headed by Prof Uditha Liyanage, Director and Chairman of the Board of Management, Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) affiliated to University of Sri Jayawardenapura. Other members are: Prof Ranjith Senaratne Senior Professor of Crop Science, University of Ruhuna; Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, Commissioner, Sri Lanka Inventors Commission (SLIC); Tissa Jinasena, Director of Loadstar (Private) Limited; Tissa Jayatilaka, Executive Director of U.S – Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission; and Mrs Nirmali Wickremesinghe, Principal, Ladies College, Colombo.
Malima (New Directions in Innovation) is a Sinhala language TV series on science, technology and innovation. This episode was produced and first broadcast by Sri Lanka’s Rupavahini TV channel on 27 September 2012.
Produced by Suminda Thilakasena and hosted by science writer Nalaka Gunawardene, this episode features the following items:
• An interview with inventor Nalaka Chandrawansa, who has developed an energy-efficient fan that can be fitted under a mosquito net. It consumes less than 20W to operate, compared with table fans (average 45W) and ceiling fans (average 70W), accumulating power savings. And because the compact fan provides a more targeted stream of air that cools the sleeper on the bed, it also does not stir dust elsewhere in the room that sometimes causes health problems. This innovation has been grated a Sri Lanka Patent, certified by Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority and won a President’s Award in 2010. It is manufactured and marketed by the inventor himself. Details at: http://www.freshnight.net
• Introducing Sri Lanka’s indigenous technology: kedella karuwa, a simple tool for sweeping outdoors, which might have inspired the rake.
• An interview with schoolboy inventor Therusha Chethana Fernando, a student of De Mazenod College, Kandana, Sri Lanka. He has developed a portable water cooler that can chill water to 5 degrees C below outside temperature without using refrigeration technology or electricity. Instead, the simple device uses a permeable clay container and a battery-powered small fan. With 3 litres of water filled, the entire unit weighs 4 kg, easy enough to carry around.
In this week’s Ravaya column (in Sinhala), published in issue for 7 Oct 2012, I share my impressions of Sahasak Nimawum, the first national inventors exhibition of Sri Lanka held on Sep 30, Oct 1 and 2 in Colombo.
Organised by Sri Lanka Inventors Commission, it brought together over 900 innovations – including some 400 by school children from around the island.
I spent many hours at the exhibition, talking to dozens of exhibitors and taking hundreds of photos. Clearly, I can only share a few overall impressions in a column like this. I’ll be using the other info in my future writing aimed at critically cheerleading innovation in Sri Lanka.
Malima (New Directions in Innovation) is a Sinhala language TV series on science, technology and innovation. This episode was produced and first broadcast by Sri Lanka’s Rupavahini TV channel on 23 August 2012.
Produced by Suminda Thilakasena and presented by science writer Nalaka Gunawardene, this episode features the following items:
• An interview with prolific Lankan inventor M A Prince Chandrasena (of Mawathagama, Kurunegala) who holds 4 Lankan patents with fifth one pending. A refrigerator technician by training, he has developed a compact refrigerator that can remain cold (i.e. retain its low temperature) without mains power supply even for 24 hours. This is ideal for storing vaccines that require an uninterrupted cold chain (most vaccines need to be stored between 3 and 7 degrees C). The “Plus 4-7” refrigerator is particularly helpful to pharmacies and the public health service in a country like Sri Lanka that experiences frequent electricity failures. Profile at: http://tiny.cc/MAPrin
• A Japanese innovation: a small gadget that can ‘read’ basic emotions of dogs. Can this make us better understand our best friends?
• Introducing another indigenous technology of Sri Lanka: the ‘Dee-rangaya’ that is locally made and helps keep pests away from farmlands.
• An interview with young inventor D Chathura Madushanka, until recently a student of Pinnawela Central College, Rambukkana, who has invented a multi-function shoe. Fitted to the expanded sole of this shoe is a small dynamo that turns kinetic energy of walking into electrical energy. A battery stores this energy which can help charge a range of electronic devices including mobile phones and iPods. The shoe also comes fitted with a torch light that helps walkers at night. He recently participated in Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, USA, in May 2012. More info at: http://www.ft.lk/2012/05/24/sri-lankan-students-win-big-at-intel-isef-in-usa/
• An interview with Dinesh Katugampola, a textile engineer who has invented the world’s first Radius Metre that calculates the radius of a circle. The Radius Meter – which comprises measuring instruments as well as a software based calculator – instantly works out the radius an arch or sphere by measuring only small part of that arch or sphere. In practical terms, this helps plot major arches in mechanical engineering, road and building construction and in many other fields. This invention won a silver medal in mechanical designs category at ‘Inventions Geneva’ international exhibition in April 2012. More at: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120429/BusinessTimes/bt25.html
• Introducing Sri Lanka’s indigenous technology: Dongaraya is a simple device used by farmers to make noise from the breeze that, in turn, scares birds away from paddy fields.
• A Japanese university research team has developed a machine that can measure brain waves and capture different moods. We have a news story on what this means for future of brain-machine interface.
• An interview with Nipun Kavishka Silva a Grade 9 student at De Mazenod College, Kandana, Sri Lanka, who — with his sister Pipunika Silva, has invented ‘NP System’: a computer operating system for blind and visually impaired people. It assists those who cannot see to use computers by providing voice instructions as they use a Braille keyboard and mouse or touchpad. They were winners at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, USA, in May 2012. More info at: http://www.ft.lk/2012/05/24/sri-lankan-students-win-big-at-intel-isef-in-usa/
Malima (New Directions in Innovation) is a Sinhala language TV series on science, technology and innovation. This episode was produced and first broadcast by Sri Lanka’s Rupavahini TV channel on 26 July 2012.
Produced by Suminda Thilakasena and hosted by science writer Nalaka Gunawardene, this episode features the following items:
• An interview with K M Wijepala, proprietor of Wijaya Agro Products in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, who has developed an entirely organic, liquid fertilizer as a substitute for imported, costly chemical fertilizers. Named GOLF (Gold Organic Lanka Fertilizer), it provides all required nutrients for all kinds of crops according to the innovator. Already patented in Sri Lanka, GOLF’s efficacy has been tested and confirmed by the state’s Tea Research Institute (TRI) and Industrial Technology Institute (ITI). Wijepala, a former field officer of the Department of Agriculture, is giving the recipe away to his fellow farmers as his contribution to a chemicals-free future for agriculture. In his view, the only ‘obstacle’ standing in the way of popularising this indigenous, low-cost fertilizer is the huge state subsidy given to imported chemical fertilizers. GOLF sells at one fifth of the real cost of chemical fertilizers but the 90% subsidy distorts the market. As long as the subsidy continues, farmers will have no interest or incentive in looking at any alternatives.
• An interview with young inventor Samali Gunasekera, a Grade 13 student at Bomiriya Central College, Kaduwala, Sri Lanka, who has designed a multipurpose helping handle for the kitchen. It helps raise cooking vessels, kettles and other utensils; it is also fitted with a spoon. This handle can make life easier for everyone including those with disabilities.
Buckminster Fuller, the visionary American engineer and designer who used challenge his audiences saying: “There’s no energy shortage; there’s no energy crisis; there’s a crisis of ignorance.”
In this episode of Malima (New Directions in Innovation), a Sinhala language TV series on science, technology and innovation, we feature a wide-ranging interview on how innovation can find solutions to the energy crisis.
Produced by Suminda Thilakasena and hosted by science writer Nalaka Gunawardene, this show interviews two Lankan specialists:
• Dr Ajith de Alwis, Professor of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
• Engineer Asoka Abeygunawardana, Adviser to the Minister of Power and Energy and Executive Director, Energy Forum, Sri Lanka
The interview opens with an overview of Sri Lanka’s energy generation and use, and then looks at the current role and future potential of renewable energy sources – ranging from biomass and hydro electricity to wind, solar, biogas and dendro power. In particular, we look at what Lankan inventors can do to make renewable energies cheaper, safer and more user-friendly.