(Click on the link to see the one minute long video.)
(Click on the link to see the one minute long video.)
1. The United States had its financial bubble. Europe is having one too. Is China next? If it is, it could reshape the global economy and radically reshape Chinese government. Here is an interesting piece about China's real estate bubble.
2. Robert Tracinski thinks we are in midst of a Third Industrial Revolution.
... I like the idea of a breaking the Industrial Revolution into stages, but I would define them in more fundamental terms. The first Industrial Revolution was the harnessing of large-scale man-made power, which began with the steam engine. The internal combustion engine, electric power, and other sources of energy are just further refinements of this basic idea. The second Industrial Revolution would be the development of interchangeable parts and the assembly line, which made possible inexpensive mass production with relatively unskilled labor. The Third Industrial Revolution would not be computers, the Internet, or mobile phones, because up to now these have not been industrial tools; they have been used for moving information, not for making things. Instead, the rise of computers and the Internet is just a warm-up for the real Third Industrial Revolution, which is the full integration of information technology with industrial production.
The effect of the Third Industrial Revolution will be to collapse the distance between the design of a product and its physical manufacture, in much the same way that the Internet has eliminated the distance between the origination of a new idea and its communication to an audience. ...
3. Tyler Cowen has some thoughts about the impact our technological revolution as well Are we living in the early 19th century?
... Eventually all of the creative ferment of the industrial revolution pays off in a big “whoosh,” but it takes many decades, depending on where you draw the starting line of course. A look at the early 19th century is sobering, or should be, for anyone doing fiscal budgeting today. But it is also optimistic in terms of the larger picture facing humanity over the longer run.
4. You may have seen a deeply flawed viral video about wealth inequality this past week. I working on my own response but here is economist Mark Perry's response. In response to the viral ‘Wealth Inequality in America’ video
5. What are the contours of income inequality in the United States? This 40 minute video by Emmanuel Saez offers some important insights.
6. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is a little too sensationalist for my taste but this vid offers interesting food for thought about nanotechnology and the future sports. We will even be able to have meaningful sports competition?
7. Atlantic takes up at a frequently perpetuated myth. 'Women Own 1% of World Property': A Feminist Myth That Won't Die
The recovered wealth - most of it from higher stock prices - has been flowing mainly to richer Americans. By contrast, middle class wealth is mostly in the form of home equity, which has risen much less.
10. When looking at decisions in your own context, Seth Godin explains why Macro trends don't matter so much
Whether or not you think science is wonderful, the stereotype of all scientists being atheists is unrealistic. There is, however, a special dance.
12. I consider this good news. Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution
More Christian parents are asking for mainstream science in their children's curricula.
13. Remember to keep Syria and Egypt in your prayers. Nearly 1 in 20 Syrians are now refugees
Mar 09, 2013 in Asia, China, Current Affairs, Economic Development, Economics, Religion, Science, Sports and Entertainment, Technology, Technology (Biotech & Health), Technology (Digital, Telecom, & Web), Technology (Energy), Technology (Food & Water), Technology (Manufacturing & Construction)), Technology (Transportation & Distribution), Weatlh and Income Distribution | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Associated Press: Practically human: Can smart machines do your job?
... To better understand the impact of technology on jobs, The Associated Press analyzed employment data from 20 countries; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, CEOs and workers who are competing with smarter machines.
The AP found that almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. Jobs that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia.
In the United States, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession paid middle-class wages, and the numbers are even more grim in the 17 European countries that use the euro as their currency. A total of 7.6 million midpay jobs disappeared in those countries from January 2008 through last June.
Those jobs are being replaced in many cases by machines and software that can do the same work better and cheaper.
"Everything that humans can do a machine can do," says Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston. "Things are happening that look like science fiction." ...
... So machines are getting smarter and people are more comfortable using them. Those factors, combined with the financial pressures of the Great Recession, have led companies and government agencies to cut jobs the past five years, yet continue to operate just as well.
How is that happening?
-Reduced aid from Indiana's state government and other budget problems forced the Gary, Ind., public school system last year to cut its annual transportation budget in half, to $5 million. The school district responded by using sophisticated software to draw up new, more efficient bus routes. And it cut 80 of 160 drivers. ...
... -In South Korea, Standard Chartered is expanding "smart banking" branches that employ a staff of three, compared with an average of about eight in traditional branches. ...
... -The British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto announced plans last year to invest $518 million in the world's first long-haul, heavy-duty driverless train system at its Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia. The automated trains are expected to start running next year. The trains are part of what Rio Tinto calls its "Mine of the Future" program, which includes 150 driverless trucks and automated drills.
Like many technologically savvy startups, Dirk Vander Kooij's furniture-making company in the Netherlands needs only a skeleton crew - four people ...
... -Google's driverless car and the Pentagon's drone aircraft are raising the specter of highways and skies filled with cars and planes that can get around by themselves. ...
... "Trying to keep it from happening would have been like the Teamsters in the early 1900s trying to stop the combustion engine," Lavin says. "You can't stand in the way of technology."
The upside of emerging technology is that most will make goods and services less expensive. That improves our living standard. The downside is that much of the work we used to do in order to earn the wages to buy goods and services is rapidly changing. As the last sentence of the article notes, this is not the first time we have been in these circumstances. Years ago I read that in 1885, approximately 80% of everything we consumed in the U.S. was produced at home. By 1915, 80% was produced outside the home. It created massive economic dislocations. Each time these disruptions occur it has been hard for the people living at that time to foresee what the new economic order would look like.
It is critical that Christian thinkers wrestle with the challenges of technological innovation. Creative destruction (the market dynamic where jobs and industries are destroyed in the wake of creating new ones) has always been a difficult one for ethics. It is painful but the social cost of other alternatives is also quite high. Anti-technological calls to abandon consumerism or, conversely, just saying that “the market will sort it all out,” are not legitimate responses. I think topics like this should be at the center of our theological reflection about human labor and the economy.
Jan 24, 2013 in Capitalism and Markets, Economics, Generations & Trends, Technology, Technology (Biotech & Health), Technology (Digital, Telecom, & Web), Technology (Energy), Technology (Food & Water), Technology (Manufacturing & Construction)), Technology (Transportation & Distribution) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Many have been inspired by Star Trek to become scientists, and some are starting to make its gadgetry a reality.
Destination Star Trek London has kicked off at the ExCeL exhibition centre, and I'm willing to bet that among those heading down for a weekend of pointy-eared fun, there'll be a high proportion of scientists and engineers.
Many have been inspired by Star Trek to take up a career in science, technology or engineering. I think the franchise deserves more respect as a science popularisation medium – how many other prime-time TV shows would allow their characters to toss out phrases like "I performed a Fourier analysis on the harmonics, Captain"?
Since its inception in 1966, Star Trek has familiarised us with the lingo and applications of science. At least, that was the case for me. I felt pretty disenfranchised from science at school: it wasn't until I discovered science fiction that I realised I could understand "difficult" technical concepts.
Since the show began, many of us have become more tech-savvy than we could possibly have imagined at school. More than that, we're now seeing emergent technology here on Earth that was once little more than a Star Trek scriptwriter's dream. To get you in the mood for this weekend's festivities, here's a roundup of some of the best Star Trek-inspired technology.
Replicators - ... Three-dimensional printers have been on the open market commercially for most of the 21st century. ...
Transporters - Earlier this year, Nature reported that photons had been teleported 89 miles, between La Palma and Tenerife. OK, it wasn't exactly transportation ...
Bioneural circuitry - ... And in February of this year, the Scripps Research Institute published details of a DNA-based biological computer based on an original design by Alan Turing. ...
Cloaking devices - ... In January, our first real "invisibility cloak" was unveiled at the University of Texas. ...
Nanites - ... They've constructed a set of nanorobots, with inbuilt chemical sensors, that can silence genes within cancerous cells. ...
Androids - Japanese scientists have created some remarkably human-looking androids, though they wouldn't beat Data in a game of three-dimensional chess. ...
Of course, we all ready have personal communication devices. But as someone recently pointed out, while we all have communication devices, we don't see people in Star Trek constantly looking down at them and running into things. ;-) Warp drive would be pretty cool. Any other Trekkie devices that you want to see?
Oct 22, 2012 in Generations & Trends, Science, Technology, Technology (Biotech & Health), Technology (Digital, Telecom, & Web), Technology (Energy), Technology (Food & Water), Technology (Manufacturing & Construction)), Technology (Transportation & Distribution) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: 3D-Printing, Androids, Bioneural circuitry, cancerous cells, chemical sensors, Cloaking device, emergent technology, Hyposprays, invisibility cloak, Nanites, nanorobots, Replicators, science fiction, Star Trek, Star Trek-inspired technology, teleport, Transporters, Tricorders, warp drive
Atlantic Cities: Online Grocery Shopping Is Returning to the Physical World
... Grocery stores that found success on the internet are instead returning to the physical world with a hybrid business model: the "virtual" supermarket, a shop for smartphone users that carries photographs and bar codes instead of food. After the success of locations in mass transit stations from Seoul to Philadelphia, the virtual supermarket is about to hit the city above ground. Chinese supermarket giant Yihaodian announced this week it is opening 1,000 brick-and-mortar locations. ...
... Grocery stores want to reach time-starved commuters, but they also seem to be capitalizing on consumers' desire to browse. It's one of the reasons why many people at least claim to still prefer physical bookstores, even as the monstrous success of websites like Amazon seem to negate that notion.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Yihaodian has also experimented with subway stores, but the announcement this week marks a big move back into physical space. No longer will "virtual supermarkets" be only in mass transit stations. They'll occupy actual retail space in the city.
See my earlier post, The Grocery Store of the Future?
Atlantic Cities: Forget Electric Cars, This One Runs on Compressed Air
Using compressed air to power cars is something people have experimented with since at least 1840. That's when two French men named Andraud and Tessie tested such a gaseous vehicle on a track. The eco-friendly automobile "worked well," reports the air-car lobby, which exists, "but the idea was not pursued further. "
Why not? Perhaps because making a practical, well-working model is damnably hard. But India's Tata Motors is pushing the technology forward, inch by inch, with its project to build "Airpods" – zero-pollution, cute-as-a-bug smartcars that zip along at 40 m.p.h. via the magic of squeezed air. ...
... So what does this auto of the future look like? Following the smartcar trend, sort of like it stumbled off the set of Disney's Cars. The mid-sized model fits three passengers, although one must face backward like he's being punished for something, and is streamlined almost to the point of becoming a sphere. Its tank can hold 175 liters of air, which a driver gets either at a specialized fueling station or by activating an onboard electric motor to suck it in. Its makers say that filling er' up will cost a paltry €1, and that a full tank of air can last for roughly 125 miles. ...
Looks a little like a lady bug to me.
One of the first essays I ever read about economics in college was Leonard Read's I, Pencil written in the year before I was born. While a little outdated in some ways it still does a wonderful job of illustrating the wonder and complexity of the market process. The Institute for Faith Work and Economics has just released a four minute clip that updates "I, Pencil" in a compelling and entertaining way.
Now let me add a caveat, especially for those of my readers who are skeptical of markets and free enterprise. Markets are not a quasi-deity. They do not solve every problem. They aren't perfect. They don't prevent evil people from doing evil things. But what they do, by historical measure, is astounding. Until very recently, human beings were trapped in low productivity labor. There was minimal ability to trade with others beyond the immediate community. There was no way for us to coordinate with, and mutually benefit from, the work of countless strangers from across the globe. Markets make that possible. Markets made this very conversation possbile that you an I are having right now because without it there would be no computers and no internet to enable this interaction. And for that reason markets can be celebrated, even as we wrestle with many implications that have arisen because of emergence of well-coordinated markets.
(CNN) -- A private spacecraft docked with the International Space Station on Friday, a milestone in a new era of commercial space flight.
The docking happened just before 10 a.m., almost two hours later than planned. A radar system aboard the unmanned SpaceX Dragon that measures distance to the station had picked up a different part of the space station, meaning it could not dock properly, NASA said. ...
... The launch is an important step for NASA and the United States, which currently has no means of independently reaching space. NASA relies on the Russian space agency to ferry U.S. astronauts to orbit.
The first attempt to launch Falcon 9 was halted Saturday when a flight computer detected high pressure in an engine combustion chamber. Workers replaced the valve Saturday, SpaceX said.
The company plans 11 more flights to the space station.
One of a handful of private companies receiving funds from NASA to develop a space taxi system, SpaceX hopes the experience with the cargo flights will help the company reach its goal of carrying astronauts aboard the Dragon.
The company is developing a heavy-lift rocket with twice the cargo capability of the space shuttle, and also dreams of building a spacecraft that could carry a crew to Mars. ...
When the price of a tourist flight gets below about one year's salary, I'm buying a ticket! ;-)
WASHINGTON D.C. (CNNMoney) -- My first ride in Google's self-driving car was, all at the same time, thrilling, fascinating and a little disappointing.
The car was in Washington DC where Google representatives met with groups like the AARP and the National Council for the Blind, groups which might have an interest in cars that that could act as chauffeurs for those who, for one reason or another, can't drive themselves.
I got to ride along on a loop around several DC blocks with two Google engineers in the front seats. Google's "self-driving cars" must always have someone seated at the controls, whether in Nevada -- which recently licensed Google's cars -- or anywhere else.
The drive was thrilling and fascinating because, come on, the car drives itself. In traffic! Disappointing because it's clearly not going to be ready for public use for years and years. ...
I'm convinced that in some other language "Google" translates into "Skynet." ;-)
Los Angeles Times: U.S. traffic deaths at record low; economy may be a factor
WASHINGTON -- U.S. traffic deaths dropped last year to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1949, according to an estimate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. ...
... Last year's national decline in traffic fatalities -- to 32,310 -- came as motorists drove about 36 billion, or about 1.2%, fewer miles, perhaps because of high gas prices and a still-difficult economy that might have discouraged pleasure road trips.
The 2011 fatality rate is projected to decline to the lowest on record, to 1.09 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Traffic deaths have fallen by about 26% since the 43,510 fatalities reported in 2005; highway fatalities peaked in 1972, at 54,589. In 1949, there were 30,246 fatalities, but the rate was 7.13 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Traffic safety experts attributed the decline to a number of factors -- "probably people driving less, safer vehicles, safer roads and an improvement in the safety culture across the United States,’’ Jacob Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy for the AAA national office, said in an interview.
Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Assn. cited increased seat belt use, safer cars, better roads and an improved emergency medical service response effort. "Also, the economy continues to keep traffic deaths lower than normal," he added. ...
(Reuters) - New cars and trucks sold in the United States are getting an average of 24 miles per gallon of gasoline, the highest ever, researchers at the University of Michigan said on Tuesday.
The average fuel economy rating as shown by window stickers on new vehicles bought in March - including pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans and passenger cars - was 24.1 mpg, the researchers found. That was up 20 percent from the average of 20 mpg in October 2007, they said.
The university's Transportation Research Institute began monthly updates on fuel economy four-and-a-half years ago.
The researchers also said that their index measuring polluting greenhouse gas emissions per new vehicle has fallen by 17 percent since October 2007.
For more on fuel economy calculations by researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, click: www.umich.edu/~umtriswt/EDI_sales-weighted-mpg.html for fuel economy
HONOLULU (AP) — Hollywood icon James Cameron has made it to Earth's deepest point.
The director of "Titanic," ''Avatar" and other films used a specially designed submarine to dive nearly seven miles, completing his journey a little before 8 a.m. Monday local time, according to Stephanie Montgomery of the National Geographic Society.
He plans to spend about six hours exploring and filming the Mariana Trench, about 200 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam.
"All systems OK," were Cameron's first words upon reaching the bottom, according to a statement. His arrival at a depth of 35,756 feet came early Sunday evening on the U.S. East Coast, after a descent that took more than two hours.
The scale of the trench is hard to grasp — it's 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall. ...
The Atlantic Cities: Is Urbanism Slowing the Rise of Car Travel?
Early last week the State Smart Transportation Initiative, a sustainable transport program funded by the Department of Transportation, released some charts on the continued decline of vehicle-miles traveled in the United States. Overall VMT dropped 1.2 percent in 2011 from the previous year, reaching its lowest total since 2003, and per capita VMT fell 2.1 percent to levels not seen since 1998:
Researchers have been saying for several years now that cities in the United States and other developed countries may have reached "peak driving" — a level of vehicle miles at or near the saturation point. The idea is that the sheer volume of VMT can't possibly rise at the same rate it did in the second half of the 20th century, so mileage will either increase far more modestly than it has in the recent past, or perhaps even start to decline.
So far that prediction seems on point. SSTI notes a DOT study from 2006 [PDF] that estimated a rise of 50 to 60 percent in VMT from 2001 to 2025. That would be a significantly slower rise than over the previous 25-year period, 1977 to 2001, during which VMT rose 151 percent. But even this conservative estimate now seems incredibly generous: "In the first 10 years of the period, per capita VMT actually declined by nearly 3 percent," SSTI reports.
The 64-mile-per-gallon question is why. ...
The Atlantic Cities: The Grocery Store of the Future?
People do any number of things while waiting on the platform for the next subway or commuter train. Some pre-walk to position themselves at the best station exit for their destination. Some just mindlessly pace. The ones who used to look down the track every few moments for the next train now look at the digital arrival times every few moments instead. Some take pictures of rats.
And, as of earlier this month, some Philadelphians have been able to shop for groceries. The online grocer Peapod introduced virtual storefronts at select SEPTA stations throughout the city. While awaiting a train, users can download the Peapod app, peruse the items in front of them, and scan the barcode of anything they'd like to purchase. The groceries are delivered to their homes later that day.
Philly marks the idea's American debut, but a number of international cities already have similar services. Woolworths has placed virtual storefronts at the Town Hall Station in Sydney, Australia, and displays from British retailer Tesco were installed last year in South Korea. If three is a trend, you just got trended. ...
Economist: Obesity and driving
AMERICANS are getting fatter: obesity rates have risen 74% in the past 15 years to nearly 28% of the adult population. And they are driving more: the number of miles driven by each licensed driver (VMT/LD), excluding commercial vehicles, increased by an average of 0.6% a year between 1988 and 2008. Academics at the University of Illinois have found a striking correlation between these two variables—but with a large time lag. They noted that previous research had found that changes in diet had an affect on body weight only after some six years. Therefore VMT/LD in 2004 is correlated with obesity in 2010 (see left-hand chart). This near-perfect correlation (99.6%) permits predictions about obesity rates. Since VMT/LD fell in 2007 and 2008, America's obesity rate could fall to as low as 24% in 2014 (see right-hand chart). These predictions come with a strong caveat: correlation does not equal causation. And it should be noted that the authors did not control for factors such as diet, income and lifestyle. Additionally, they did not explore the possibility that the larger, and thus more immobile, people become, the more they drive.
Economist: Nikola Tesla's revenge
Transport: The car industry’s effort to reduce its dependence on rare-earth elements has prompted a revival in the fortunes of an old-fashioned sort of electric motor.
ONCE again, worrywarts are wringing their hands over possible shortages of so-called “critical materials” crucial for high-tech industries. In America the Department of Energy is fretting about materials used to manufacture wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting. The substances in question include a bunch of rare-earth metals and a few other elements which—used a pinch here, a pinch there—enhance the way many industrial materials function. ...
... The rare-earth element that other industrial countries worry about most is neodymium. It is the key ingredient of super-strong permanent magnets. Over the past year the price of neodymium has quadrupled as electric motors that use permanent magnets instead of electromagnetic windings have gained even wider acceptance. Cheaper, smaller and more powerful, permanent-magnet motors and generators have made modern wind turbines and electric vehicles viable.
That said, not all makers of electric cars have rushed to embrace permanent-magnet motors. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car based on a Lotus Elise, uses no rare-earth metals whatsoever. Nor does the Mini-E, an electric version of BMW’s reinvention of the iconic 1960s car. Meanwhile, the company that pioneered much of today’s electric-vehicle technology, AC Propulsion of San Dimas, California, has steered clear of permanent-magnet motors. Clearly, a number of manufacturers think the risk of relying on a single source of rare-earth metals is too high.
The latest carmaker to seek a rare-earth alternative is Toyota. The world’s largest carmaker is reported to be developing a neodymium-free electric motor for its expanding range of hybrid cars. Following in AC Propulsion’s tyre tracks, Toyota is believed to have based its new design on that electromotive industrial mainstay, the cheap and rugged alternating-current (AC) induction motor patented by Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor, back in 1888. ...
There is another lesson in this story: As long as there are free markets we will never run out of anything. As a resource becomes more expensive, humans innovate and find substitute resources or substitute processes. As neodymium becomes too expensive, we find alternatives. As Douglas Hay observed 25 years ago, nearly everything we make can ultimately made from renewable resources ... including building materials and plastics. As recycling becomes more prevalent and more efficient, it drives down costs as well. Technology improves the efficiency of how resources are mined, processed, and utiliezed, eliminating waste. While neodymium may become so expensive no one wants to use it, we will never run out of neodymium as long as there are market economies. The Stone Age did not end to due an absence of stones and the horse transporation age did not end due to the extinction of horses. Neither will the rare-earth age end because of the exhuastion of minetal deposits.
Related: Also see the article on rhenium
Pileus: Should We Go to the Moon Again?
... As might be expected, the Cato Institute has some sensible words on the subject of NASA: here, here, and here. If you don’t want to believe these guys, see what Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, has said about manned space flight: “The moon landings were an important impetus to technology but you have to ask the question, what is the case for sending people back into space? I think that the practical case gets weaker and weaker with every advance in robotics and miniaturisation. It’s hard to see any particular reason or purpose in going back to the moon or indeed sending people into space at all.”
Fortunately, President Obama has been eminently sensible on the moon, having already scrapped the moon landing project that had been in the works for some time. Indeed, the announcement of this decision provided what might be my favorite – and most refreshing – quotation from our 44th President: ”Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.” I just wish he had scrapped most of the NASA missions, turned over what could be justified on national defense/public goods grounds to the Department of Defense and other agencies, and sold whatever was left over to private industry. Now that would be change I could believe in!
But of course this just illustrates that Obama lies. We all know we've never been to the moon. It was all broadcast from a soundstage in Burbank, CA. How can you trust a guy who wasn't born in the U.S. <***Big grin with tongue firmly in cheek.***>
Fortune: China charges into electric cars
... China has just launched an Apollo moon shot of sorts: The government recently decreed that 5 million electric cars will be traveling the nation's roads by 2020 -- up from basically none today. According to banking giant HSBC, that will equate to 35% of the global electric-vehicle market.
What that means is that China, which last year rocketed past the U.S. as the world's largest market for new-auto sales, is also determined to become its most innovative. As part of the country's 12th five-year plan (2011--2015), Beijing has pledged that it will do whatever it takes to help the Chinese car industry take the lead in electric vehicles (See: China vs. the U.S. in electric vehicles). (Its long-term plan also calls for building bullet trains, subways, and electric buses to alleviate traffic congestion.) "The Chinese are trailing in the development of internal-combustion engines," says Bill Russo, a senior adviser at Booz & Co. in Beijing who covers the car industry. "They figure, Why not leapfrog that technology and become a dominant global purveyor of battery-powered vehicles?"
Building an electric-car infrastructure won't be easy. Vehicle makers must work with a jumble of different players -- from the utilities, which will provide the power and smart-grid networks, to local governments, which will provide public charging stations. Standards must be set. But China, an authoritarian state, is particularly well positioned to help make the electric car a reality. "China's government is supporting electric-car technology more than any other country on earth," says Kevin Wale, head of GM China Group. ...
(Reuters) - Boeing Co plans to offer passengers the chance to fly into space on a craft it is developing for travel in low-Earth orbit, the aerospace company said on Wednesday.Boeing said it reached an agreement with Virginia-based Space Adventures to market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard Boeing's CST-100 space vehicle being developed for NASA.
The spacecraft could carry seven people and fly in low-Earth orbit as soon as 2015, Boeing said. The company added that potential customers could include private individuals, companies, nongovernmental organizations and U.S. federal agencies. ...
The Economist: An electric car that really works
... One South Korean firm, however, is taking a different tack. CT&T, whose main line of business until now has been making electric golf carts, is producing a range of battery-powered cars more suited to low-speed, short-distance urban driving than to cruising the freeways of the American West. Its flagship model, the eZone, is a quirky two-seater aimed at housewives, the elderly and those making the daily school run. It has a range of 100km and can clip along at 70kph if you really put your foot down.
It is a proper car, though. In particular, it is the only low-speed electric car to have passed international front and side crash tests, meaning that it can go on general sale. That will happen in Europe any day now, with a starting price between $8,000 and $16,000, and CT&T has plans to introduce the eZone into Hawaii (one part of the United States where journeys are, by definition, short) in two years’ time, when a local factory is up and running. It is also cheap to run. The firm claims that 1,500km of urban driving—about a month’s worth—will cost a mere $7 in electricity bills. ...
Even if we could farm on Mars, astronauts might be too weak by the time they get there to help plow the fields.
The first cellular analysis of muscles from astronauts who have spent 180 days at the International Space Station shows that their muscles lost more than 40 percent of their capacity for physical work, despite in-flight exercise.
No matter how good their shape was before the astronauts left, they returned with muscle tone that resembled that of the average 80-year-old. In fact, the astronauts who were in the best shape before they launched were the most likely to come back with withered, or atrophied, muscles.
NASA currently estimates it would take a crew 10 months to reach Mars, with a one year stay, and 10 months to get back, for a total mission time of about three years. These studies suggest they would barely be able to crawl by the time they got back to Earth with the current exercise regime. ...
Christian Science Monitor: In India, rich and poor line up for $2,000 Nano
Ten months after India's $2,000 Nano was launched, carmaker Tata has sold more than 200,000 vehicles.
Months after buying the shiny silver car, farmer Satish Kumar still keeps the plastic wrap on the seats. Most days, his Tata Nano – his first car – sits in the front yard, proudly displayed between the brick pillars of a homemade carport. Tucked from sight are a couple of cows and a humble scooter that still is driven a lot more than the four-wheeled wonder.
The Kumars actually don’t much need a car: Mr. Kumar works in the fields around his house; Mrs. Kumar stays at home; and the kids go to school by bus. The car proves useful for those special occasions when the family wants to arrive together – and in style. “I’m mainly concentrating on using it socially – taking my whole family to weddings and other family functions,” he says.
For Tata, the Indian automaker, Kumar belongs to a new class of customer, thanks to the Nano’s price of just $2,000. But while the Nano spurred much chatter about what it allows the middle class to do, Kumar suggests the Indian consumer may be more smitten with what the car allows them to be. “I think the Nano is actually used as a signaling device,” says Sourabh Mishra, chief strategy officer at marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi India. “It’s signaling, ‘I’m now part of a group who can afford a lifestyle that hitherto was not possible to me.’ ”
Some 10 months after Nano’s launch, Tata has booked sales of 206,703 cars; 17,000 Nanos have been delivered. Some 70 percent of bookings came from nonmetro areas. ...
The "Nemo H2," which can carry about 87 people, is the first of its kind designed specifically to run on a fuel cell engine, in which hydrogen and oxygen are mixed to create electricity and water, without producing air-polluting gases.
"That's important in a city like Amsterdam with over 125 canal trips per day," said project manager Alexander Overdiep.
A boat trip around Amsterdam's concentric semi-circles of canals is a popular tourist pastime in the Dutch capital.
From spring, visitors will have the option of a 'CO2 Zero Canal Cruise', for an extra 50 (euro) cents, which will go toward further research into carbon-reducing technology, said Freek Vermeulen, managing director of Lovers boat company.
The new boat cost more than double to build than a canal boat running on a diesel engine, and needs to visit a hydrogen dispensing station for a refill once a day, while normal boats only need a fuel top-up once a week.
But developers of the 3 million euro project, which was partly government funded, said costs would decline as more boats followed this test phase, and if more advanced hydrogen distribution infrastructure emerged.
Business Week: Are EVs Risking or Saving the Planet?
A new report states that EVs could potentially speed climate change rather than reduce it.
"Electric cars should be rewarded for their energy efficiency, not for moving emissions from exhaust pipes to powerstation chimneys" says the UK's Environmental Transport Association (ETA). In a report titled "How to avoid an electric shock—Electric cars: from hype to reality", the ETA has taken a close look at electric-powered vehicles (EVs) and their associated technologies. In what could be a shock to some commuters—and governments—the report states that EVs could potentially speed climate change, rather than reduce it, and might not be as good for the planet as some of the spin suggests. Simply put, it's not necessarily the cars themselves that will cause the damage, but the way the electricity is generated to power them and how often we drive them. For instance, EVs powered by "green energy"—wind or solar—are obviously superior, but if the electricity comes from coal, hybrids perform better.
Director at the ETA, Andrew Davis, said: "Whilst the report is not intended to dampen enthusiasm for electric vehicles, their introduction should not be viewed as a panacea; significant changes to the way we produce and tax power are needed before we will reap any benefits." ...
Solution: Electric cars and nuclear power plants. Nuclear is the new green. :-)
The prototype of a solar-powered plane destined for a record round-the-world journey will make its first trip across a runway on Thursday and Friday.
This week saw the Solar Impulse plane outside its hangar for the first time, with tests of its engines and computer.
The plane's maiden flight is scheduled for February, and a final version will attempt to cross the Atlantic in 2012.
As wide as a jumbo jet but weighing just 1,500 kg, it will be piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard.
"It's very exciting, we are moving now toward a very concrete phase," said Solar Impulse chief executive Andre Borschberg.
"You have to realise this airplane is quite special and you cannot just put it on the runway, apply full power and go in the air - it has to be done really step-by-step," he told BBC News. ...
Yahoo! News: NASA lost moon footage, but Hollywood restores it
The Economist: Solar-powered manned flight: Flying for ever
New York Times: G.M. at 100: Is Its Future Electric?
New York Times: A Device That Was High-Tech In 100 B.C.
After a closer examination of a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology known as the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.
The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes.
Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon’s orbital course.
The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.
Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar....
From the department of unintended consequences, we now have a bill before Congress that would address one of the biggest problems with electric cars: They're too quiet.
It's not just blind pedestrians who have to worry. An ongoing study from the University of California at Riverside has found that even slow-moving hybrids can get 40 percent closer to any pedestrian than a combustion-engine car before they are detected. This is also a problem for bicyclists, who rely on their hearing to place traffic around them -- far more than many realize.
The bill before Congress would require the Transportation Department to establish safety standards for hybrids and other vehicles that make little discernible noise, including an audible alert.
There's got to be a better way.
New York Times: Taiwan’s Solution to Traffic Accidents
About a year ago in Taiwan, they started installing countdown timers at traffic lights at a number of intersections. Some counted down the amount of time remaining ’till a green light turned yellow and then red, while others counted down the amount of time remaining before a red light turned green. ...
...It’s a fact that a certain number of accidents are caused both by people who jump the gun on the red light, and those who try to make it through the intersection after the light has already turned red. Ostensibly, the reason for the timers was to give people more precise information about exactly how much time they had remaining before the light changed, in the hope of reducing accidents.
The results are quite interesting. A research institute within Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation released a report showing that at 187 intersections which had the timers installed, those that counted down the remaining time on green lights saw a doubling in the number of reported accidents, with a 33 percent increase in the number of injuries, while those that counted down until a red light turned green saw a halving in both the number of reported accidents and injuries. Intersection that had both red and green light timers saw a 19 percent increase in reported accidents and a 23 percent increase in injuries.
Scientific American: The Future of Space Exploration
The launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite half a century ago inaugurated the Space Age. What comes next?
When people talk about a moment being burned into memory, they usually mean it in a negative way: President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Princess Diana’s fatal car crash, 9/11. The launch of Sputnik 50 years ago this month was different. It certainly had its negative side: no one likes to wake up to find that your nuclear adversary has thrown a shiny ball over your head and that you can’t do a thing about it. But the dawn of the Space Age was also a hopeful event. Visionaries celebrated humanity’s long-awaited climb out of its cradle, and pragmatists soon savored the benefits of communications and weather satellites. Many of today’s scientists and engineers trace their life’s passions to that fast-moving dot in the night sky.
“In his millennia of looking at the stars, man has never faced so exciting a challenge as the year 1957 has suddenly thrust upon him,” astronomers Fred L. Whipple and J. Allen Hynek wrote in the December 1957 issue of Scientific American.
The evolution of the space program continues to be dramatic. In a decade or so, it will be hardly recognizable. The shuttle, which for all its faults is the most sophisticated flying machine ever built, will be a thing of the past. NASA is moving to the Constellation system, which is basically a high-tech dusting off of the Apollo rockets and capsules. Whereas the shuttle is an ambitious spacecraft with modest goals (providing regular delivery-van service to orbit), Constellation is a modest spacecraft with ambitious goals: building a moon base, visiting an asteroid and eventually establishing human settlements on Mars. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is steering a slow but steady course that he argues can be sustained on a limited budget—an approach that many commentators wish his predecessors had pursued 30 years ago. ...
From TCS Daily: Highway to Heaven
As you prepare to head out to join with family and friends for that Thanksgiving turkey, give thanks right now for one of the most magnificent engineering feats of all time.
Or, as it is more formally known, The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
It's 50 years old this year. And it was in this very month, November, 1956, that the first eight-mile stretch of what would eventually be more than 42,000 miles of limited access highway lacing the states together was opened in Topeka, Kansas.
Clarkson loves it: a bicycle fitted with a jet engine that can do 70mph and may even beat the London congestion charge. Emma Smith reports Jeremy Clarkson has gone green. The Top Gear presenter has finally bowed to pressure from the environmental lobby and got himself a bicycle. It has a wicker basket on the front, a jet engine at the back and a theoretical top speed of 70mph.
Built for the MPH 06 motor show, a motoring circus co-hosted by Clarkson, it has made such an impact the designers are thinking of producing it for sale.
“It’s fantastic and completely legal, probably,” said Clarkson. “You can ride across London without paying the congestion charge and Ken Livingstone can’t touch you.”
The bike uses a standard JetCat P-180 model aircraft engine that can be bought over the counter at model aircraft shops or from online modelling specialists for about £1,800.
Man this is cool! Where was this bike when I was 12 years old. (Mike headed outside to calculate how big a ramp it would take to jump the neighbors house at 70 mph.)
From the Economist: Silent skies: Green Aircraft
...The researchers envisage a mid-range aircraft that would carry 215 passengers. Its top speed would be 0.8 Mach—that is, 0.8 times the speed of sound or around 600 miles per hour, slightly slower than the coming generation of airliners. Indeed, it is a slower speed that enables such an aircraft to be so quiet: it would drift in to land rather than powering in, all engines blazing, as today's jets do. Its low approach speed, combined with steep climbs and descents, would make it inaudible outside the airport.
The passenger aircraft is currently a conceptual design. There are many challenges that would have to be overcome before it could become a reality by 2030, as the researchers hope. Not only would passengers have to accept windowless flight, but several technical problems would also need to be overcome, including the need to manufacture pressurised cabins that are not the standard tubular shape.
But it is the concept aircraft's fuel efficiency that is really making aircraft manufacturers take note. The researchers claim that it would use 25% less fuel than current aircraft do. Airliners that are cheaper to run and contribute less to climate change may be more attractive than silent ones. That is why a slightly noisier alternative design by the same researchers that is even more fuel-efficient shows most promise.
From Wired: Venturi Eclectic: Powered By Nature
The Venturi Eclectic, currently on display at the Paris Motor Show, is powered by a 22hp, 50Nm electric motor that's charged by the 2.5 square meters of solar panels on its roof. If it's too cloudy out, a wind-powered force wheel generates the electricity, and in a pinch you can rehcarge using AC power. Designed for urban driving, the golf-cart styled vehicle can reach a top speed of 32mph. It goes into production next summer and will sell for 24,000 euros.
From the Christian Science Monitor: Race to make clean, fuel-sipping cars revs up
A global competition to build cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars is moving into a new and serious phase. In the past two weeks:
- Honda announced a new-generation diesel engine with so few emissions that it meets even California's tough clean-air standards, while getting 30 percent better mileage than an equivalent gasoline- powered vehicle. It plans to sell it in the US in 2009.
- General Motors said it would lease more than 100 hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles by next fall and sell them in volume by 2011.
- Daimler-Chrysler's Chrysler group said it would shift its emphasis from brawny truck-based vehicles to small cars, including 10 new fuel-sipping models.
"What we're seeing is a race that's been going on for a while, but is really heating up now," says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal in San Luis Obispo, Calif. "All the automakers are vying to bring out technology that is much cleaner and gets much better mileage."
The push for cleaner, more efficient cars is powered by two forces: the rise in gasoline prices, of course, and new emissions regulations.
From Yahoo News: BMW to roll out hydrogen-powered 7 Series
BMW will roll out the world's first hydrogen-burning car in serial production early next year, the German premium automaker said on Tuesday, eager to put its stamp on cars with green credentials.
The specially equipped 7-Series executive cars emit only water vapor when running on hydrogen.
The car hits the market next April and will be shown at the Los Angeles car show in November, the company said. It had said in March the hydrogen cars would arrive within two years.