Google, NASA, X Prize team to form "humanity's grand challenges" university

How do you get the world's best and brightest to focus on solving problems with  everything from networks and computing systems; biotechnology and bioinformatics; nanotechnology; medicine, neuroscience; AI, robotics, and cognitive computing; energy and ecological systems; space and physical sciences; policy, law and ethics; and finance and entrepreneurship? You give them a major university where they can study how to change the world

Sound grandiose? It may be, but with NASA, Google, the X Prize Foundation and a broad host of leading experts in a variety of fields backing the school, it may work.

Singularity University (SU) will open this summer on the NASA Research Park campus in California with a nine-week graduate-level curriculum designed to" facilitate understanding, collaboration, and innovation across a broad range of carefully chosen scientific and technological disciplines whose developments are exponentially accelerating."

According to the university's Web site, SU has been founded by a group of leaders including renowned author and futurist, Dr. Ray Kurzweil; space entrepreneur and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, Dr. Peter Diamandis; Director of NASA's Ames Research Center, Pete Worden; co-founder of the International Space University, Dr. Robert Richards; International Space University President, Dr. Michael Simpson, and a group of Associate Founders who have contributed philanthropic capital, time and key relationships. Singularity University is also engaging a small number of corporate founding companies that will play a special role in the university's growth and direction.

"The exponentially increasing power of computers and optical networks, when combined with developments in AI, nanotechnology, and other technologies, will create extraordinary opportunities," said Dr. Larry Smarr, Harry E. Gruber Professor, Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD, and Director at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, in a release.

It is modeled after the successful International Space University, founded at MIT in 1987, which has become one of the leading interdisciplinary, international and intercultural institutions for the study of space.

While not directly related - but SU will likely  address -- you may recall last year  the National Science Foundation announced 14 Grand Engineering Challenges for the 21st century that, if met, would greatly improve our world.  Those challenges included:

1. Make solar energy economical

2. Provide energy from fusion

3. Provide access to clean water

4. Reverse-engineer the brain

5. Advance personalized learning

6. Develop carbon sequestration methods

7. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

8. Restore and improve urban infrastructure

9. Advance health informatics

10. Prevent nuclear terror

11. Engineer better medicines

12. Enhance virtual reality

13.  Manage the nitrogen cycle

14. Secure cyberspace

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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