web analytics
Dent explores the magic and science of visionary leadership and groundbreaking success... Learn more about dent



The United States House of Representatives is considering legislation that would protect ownership rights for companies that set up mining operations in space. If enacted into law, the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act stipulates that “any resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto.”

It further requires that the United States government take action to promote, and avoid actions to hinder, the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in outer space.

From Bloomberg News:

Nobody is going to start mining asteroids this year, or even this decade. But that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs — including Cameron, who is an investor in and adviser to Planetary Resources, an asteroid prospecting company — from dreaming and seeking funding. Next year Virginia-based Deep Space Industries is planning to launch a fleet of 55-pound satellites to find asteroids worth sampling, followed by craft designed to dig out and bring rocks back to Earth.

So while outer space mining operations aren’t coming anytime soon, at least it’s nice to know that this Congress is thinking ahead…at least on this issue.

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.



During his amazing talk on the epidemiology of violence at Dent the Future 2014, Dr. Gary Slutkin said (and I paraphrase) that one of the key determining factors in whether an individual will commit a violent act is whether or not that person thinks their peer group will find the violent act acceptable. Slutkin’s work is showing that violence spreads just like an epidemic, with cultural attitudes about violent behavior as the key vector for predicting when and where violence will occur.

In the aftermath of the NFL’s admission that it mishandled disciplinary action for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in the wake of his brutal assault on his then-fiancé; the organization has announced that it will start offering mandatory trainings for players and staff in the hopes of changing the culture towards domestic violence within professional football:

[NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell apologized for his role in the NFL’s handling of the matter.

He also vowed that the NFL will mandate trainings on preventing abuse for all players and staff. What the trainings will entail remains to be seen. But researchers say that to truly cut back on violence among players, the NFL should address at least one major risk factor: a culture of acceptance in professional sports.

“What we’re talking about here is culture change,” [violence prevention educator Jason] Katz says. “We’re talking about setting a tone where abusive behavior is seen as completely unacceptable.”

We shall have to wait and see whether these trainings will curb the problem of NFL players beating up their partners; but even the notion that the step is needed is in line with what we know about intervening in violence.

I plan to follow up with Dr. Slutkin and ask for his take on this.

Image: a doctored CoverGirl ad that went viral in the wake of the revelations about Rice’s domestic violence history.

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.



Dark Matter: Mapping the Unseen Universe

by Teresa on September 29, 2014

Parallel Universes

Just as 17th century microbiology pioneer Antonie van Leeuwenhoek used his homemade microscope to view the previously unseen world of microbes, scientists today are creating a map of the dark matter in the universe; applying computer models to the gravitational forces impacting the stuff that we can observe directly to theorize about the nature of what we cannot.

The brute mathematical truth is that atoms, the stuff of stars, you and me, make up only 5 percent of the universe by weight. A quarter of it is made of mysterious particles known as dark matter, and the remaining 70 percent a mysterious form of energy called dark energy. Physicists theorize that dark matter could be exotic particles left over from the Big Bang. They don’t know what it is, but they can deduce that dark matter is there by its gravitational effect on the things they can see.

To strip the greasepaint from cosmic history, astronomers have performed computer simulations of how dark matter would evolve from a nearly uniform cloud into the filaments and clumps characteristic of the arrangement of galaxies today in the luminous universe. A multinational group led by Mark Vogelsberger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has recently performed one of the most detailed of these studies yet, a calculation called Illustris.

I am struck by the amazing parallel between the shadow universe of dark matter and the discoveries van Leeuwenhoek made about the world of microbes. In both cases, the vast majority of the action was happening out of sight; humanity had to doggedly push the boundaries of the visible world just to see it.

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.



The Wall Street Journal reports that data gathered from brain training apps like London-based Brainbow Ltd.’s “Peak” (free to $34.99 / year on the App Store) can tell us a lot about how brains perform in different professions.

The app also asks users to state their profession and due to popular demand, you can compare your mental abilities with others in the same line of work.

Using the data available so far, Shorrer and his team have been able to identify, based on top skills per profession, that while many occupations emphasize memory and language over all, the top skills for software engineers are focus and mental agility, while the top two skills for police officers are memory and mental agility.

I’d be curious to look at outliers in each profession. For example, how do successful software engineers with below-average focus compensate? (Or do they just go straight for the Adderall?)

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.


Denter of the Week: Ellen Petry Leanse

by Teresa on September 25, 2014

Each week from now through December, we’ll pose several short questions to a member of the Dent family and share their answers with you. This week’s featured Denter is Ellen Petry Leanse, a Strategist, Advisor, & Coach at Work in Progress Consulting. She tweets under the handle @chep2m

Say it in a sentence: Whether you’ve met your biggest goal or it’s still ahead of you, how would you like to be known for having dented the universe?
I want to leave behind some sort of epic story about Silicon Valley that helps the world understand, and learn from, all of the choices and innovations we’ve made here – and gain new understanding of the gains and tradeoffs we’ve made as we’ve changed this Valley in the last fifty years.

What would I know about you after we’d worked together for a year?
That I value the process as much as the outcome. That I value accountability and impact as greatly as I do creativity.  That I genuinely care about the work I do and the people I do it with. And that I’m more likely to have a bad hair day than a bad mood day.

What fault in others do you have the most patience for?

If not yourself, who would you be?
Jane Goodall.

Who else is doing interesting, universe-denting work right now?
We all are. Every action creates a dent, and those dents affect everything else that happens as life moves forward.

Question from last week’s Denter, Alanna Gombert: What one thing would you like to do more of that you sacrifice for your day to day? And will you now make a plan to try to do it?
“Writing” is my answer. In the last year I’ve worked hard on changes that integrate a bit more research and writing time into my ongoing work weeks and months. For me, writing is an “all in” process; little by little I’m moving in the direction that will free me to plunge more deeply into it. So plan is already tiptoeing into action….

What would you like to ask the next Denter of the Week?
What early experience or influence most shaped the course you’ve taken with your life?

An online pioneer and respected business leader, Ellen has worked in Silicon Valley since 1981, driving innovation and growth for Apple, NeXT, Google, and early-stage mobile, social, and B2C technology companies. She spoke at Dent the Future in 2014.

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.


Ask a Simple Question…Dent the Universe

by Teresa on September 24, 2014

Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage recently sat down with NPR to talk about how asking simple questions can lead to world-changing discoveries. You can listen to the entire interview here.


A New Take on a Centuries-Old Dent in Microbiology

by Teresa on September 24, 2014

The Times' papier-mâché rendering of van Leeuwenhoek at his microscope.

Yesterday, we looked at modern day microbiologists who are looking to the flora within the human body as a source for new methods of killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Today, we travel back to 1647 and the birth of microbiology with the New York Times.

In 1647, a Dutch scientist named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked through looked at a jar of lake water through his homemade microscope; and in that moment, became the first human being to ever see microscopic lifeforms. Van Leeuwenhoek, who worked as a haberdasher by day, then spent the remainder of his life cataloguing all manner of microscopic organisms and relaying his findings to other scientists in Europe.

The New York Times has a beautiful animated short documentary that evokes the wonder van Leeuwenhoek must have felt as he made discovery after discovery in a previously unseen world. The piece is the first in a series of short films that will cover many of the most important early discoveries in science:

This video is the debut of a new Op-Docs series called “Animated Life,” a collaboration between Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s BioInteractive and The New York Times. Born from a previous Op-Doc, “The Animated Life of A.R. Wallace” (which features the other guy who discovered natural selection), the series will explore pivotal moments of discovery, and the characters past and present who have driven us to see the world in new ways.

Since these moments are rarely captured on film, we are recreating them — with paper. The style is not without challenges: We went through 15 different heads before poor Leeuwenhoek looked sufficiently human. Admittedly, our Vibrio harveyi bacteria still don’t look quite like sausages, which is how the microbiologist Bonnie Bassler describes them. Truly, there are limits to what can be achieved with papier-mâché.

We at Dent fully expect that this visually stunning and moving new series will make some dents in both science reporting and papier-mâché. Watch out, world!

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.


Finding New Antibiotics in Unlikely Places

by Teresa on September 23, 2014

With the rise of so-called superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics, humanity is in a race against time to find new ways of killing potentially deadly microorganisms. Some scientists think that looking to our own biomes may be a great place to find new ways of killing off unwelcome bacteria:

“Microorganisms are the best chemists on the planet,” declared Michael A. Fischbach, a chemist himself at the University of California, San Francisco.

For evidence, Dr. Fischbach points to the many lifesaving drugs that microorganisms produce. In 1928, for example, Alexander Fleming discovered that mold wafting into his lab produced a bacteria-killing chemical that he dubbed penicillin.

Scientists today are still searching jungles, oceans and other corners of the world for microorganisms that make medicines. But in a new studypublished Thursday in the journal Cell, Dr. Fischbach and his colleagues suggest that we should also be looking inward.


Dent New York Dinner: Makerbot and Fitzcarraldo

by Jason on September 23, 2014

View from Makerbot Offices

It was fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the offices on the 21st floor (about which an NDA requires that I say…not much), but we also got to spend a few minutes peppering Makerbot’s new CEO (former Makerbot President, and Denter) Jenny Lawton with questions about everything from innovations in materials science to “which Makerbot should I get first?” (Answer: The Mini).

After the tour, and a lot of hands-on time with 3D printed objects of all imaginable kinds, including dinosaur skulls and mechanical hearts, we left again in the Buicks for Fitzcarraldo, a small but gorgeous restaurant on the edge of East Williamsburg, where over dinner we heard from New York Times New Digital Products lead John Geraci. John filled us in on the transformative innovation story unfolding at the Times right now. Off the record, of course.

Even more important than the places we visited was the conversation between the participants. For this third Dent Dinner of 2014 we had a exciting and energizing crowd. Many new faces joined our familiar friends, and one guest told us “I really love a party where everyone you talk to is interesting, and this was one of those parties.”

Hosting these dinners with Buick and Silicon Valley Bank throughout the year has been a rewarding adventure for us, and we hope it’s helped to foster connections among the community as well. We can’t wait to see everyone again next March, but as always, don’t be a stranger in the meantime, we are always happy to hear from you.


Much has been made about the promise of using human stem cells to regenerate damaged organs; but at this point, the research is taking incremental steps forward. Revolutionary leaps aren’t here just yet:

Stem cells broke into the public consciousness in the early 1990s, alluring for their potential to help the body beat back diseases of degeneration Alzheimer’s, and to grow new parts to treat conditions like spinal cord injuries.

Researchers have been slowly learning how to best use stem cells, what types to use and how to deliver them to the body — findings that are not singularly transformational, but progressive and pragmatic.

But despite the slow progress on the use of stem cells in clinical settings, scientists are using them creatively in other ways that may end up saving lives a lot sooner:

Stem cells are also giving researchers new tools in the lab. Using cells created from patients with specific ailments, it’s possible to reproduce and study diseases in a dish.

Kevin Eggan, also with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, uses the technique to study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Five years ago, he took skin cells from two women dying from the same genetic form of A.L.S. He turned these skin cells into stem cells and then into nerve cells, and noticed an electrical problem: The cells weren’t signaling to one another properly, which was probably causing the neural degeneration that characterizes A.L.S.

He replicated these nerve cells thousands of times and then tested thousands of drug compounds to see which would correct the electrical signaling problem. He found a candidate drug — an existing medication approved for epilepsy — that will be tested in A.L.S. patients as soon as the end of this year.

Dent the Future is a conference series that tackles the art and discipline of visionary leadership. The next Dent The Future conference is coming up March 22-25, 2015. Register here.