The Top 5 Innovative Designs & Apps for the Holidays Editors

'Tis the season to be savvy. Here's a round-up of Big Thinkers' favorite tech ideas for simplifying - and beautifying - your holiday. 

1. Leave your wallet behind. Swipe your mobile phone instead. Perhaps we'll remember 2011 fondly as the year the credit card died. In January, Big Thinker (and tech entrepreneur) James Currier reported that Biometrics had gone mainstream -- and that your leather wallet would soon be replaced by a digital one. Google Wallet was released the following May. Square now makes it easy for individuals or small businesses to accept credit card payments. And Barcode scanning apps like RedLaser allow anyone to scan an item and compare prices in-store or online. 

2. Shop without dropping... "When looking at design as a utilitarian problem-solving tool, the smartest solutions are often the simplest ones," says Big Thinker Maria Popova. "That's certainly the case with Tube Grip – a compact inflatable grip-assistant designed to alleviate the pressure heavy shopping bags place on hands by applying basic physics with a bit of everyday ingenuity." Click here for the original post.


3. ...Or make all your presents. "While Americans rush en masse to Wal-Mart and other retail outlets... why not just make presents for your loved ones at home?" ask Big Thinkers Parag & Ayesha Khanna. They estimate that in five years you'll be able to manufacture gifts like toys, bowls, and lamps in the comfort of your living room using a 3D printer. (Until then, your crafty friends and co-workers will have to settle for soup mix or a jar of infused vodka.)

4. Send invitations, seasons greetings, and thank you notes electronically. Click to read Big Thinker Tobin Hacks' Case for Paperless Thank You Cards. Then head over to Paperless Post to create yours for free. 

5. Just add snow. Big Thinker Dominic Basulto's favorite free holiday app, Ogilvy's White Xmas, "lets you live the dream of festive winter snowfall wherever you are. Syncing with your Iphone camera, this smart little app works by adding a gently-falling veil of snow to anything you view. Just click the button and look... it's snowing. Like Bing Crosby, but smaller and easier to control."


Now, let the season begin! Happy Holidays from Big Think!

Image courtesy of Shutter stock

1 in 100 water molecules started in solar nebulae

New research identifies an unexpected source for some of earth's water.

Surprising Science
  • A lot of Earth's water is asteroidal in origin, but some of it may come from dissolved solar nebula gas.
  • Our planet hides majority of its water inside: two oceans in the mantle and 4–5 in the core.
  • New reason to suspect that water is abundant throughout the universe.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Elon Musk's SpaceX approved to launch 7,518 Starlink satellites into orbit

SpaceX plans to launch about 12,000 internet-providing satellites into orbit over the next six years.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX plans to launch 1,600 satellites over the next few years, and to complete its full network over the next six.
  • Blanketing the globe with wireless internet-providing satellites could have big implications for financial institutions and people in rural areas.
  • Some are concerned about the proliferation of space debris in Earth's orbit.
Keep reading Show less