Thursday, November 5, 2015

Friday Thinking 06 November 2015

Hello – Friday Thinking is curated on the basis of my own curiosity and offered in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. 

In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

In an uncanny case of “science is stranger than fiction,” it appears that real-life bacteria took lessons straight out of Bartlett’s story. That is, certain types of bacteria have developed the ability to cooperatively respond to their surroundings by using what is known as “quorum sensing.” When the bacteria reach a critical local density, they seemingly act in unison to send a signal—to glow with bioluminescence, for example, or start spewing toxic substances into our bodies that can make us very sick. The community knows when a big enough change in quantity has created a qualitatively different environment, even when individuals may not know.
Why You Didn’t See It Coming

In the realm of physics, the opposite of matter is not nothingness, but antimatter. In the realm of practical epistemology, the opposite of knowledge is not ignorance but anti-knowledge. This seldom recognized fact is one of the prime forces behind the decay of political and civic culture in America.

Some common-sense philosophers have observed this point over the years. “Genuine ignorance is . . . profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas,” observed psychologist John Dewey.
the Rise of Anti-Knowledge

Twitter, some time ago, depended on a common mode of participation. That mode was built on a unity of writing and consumption, people writing and reading at the same time, that let “audiences and producers shift roles and come to share contexts.” As more people have joined Twitter though, that mode has gotten more and more strained..

And what has specifically gotten pressed is the balance of spoken-word habits and written-word ones. “The rot we’re seeing in Twitter is the rot of participatory media devolved into competitive spheres where the collective ‘we’ treats conversational contributions as fixed print-like identity claims,”

In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”
The Decay of Twitter

Ledgers that no longer need to be maintained by a company—or a government—may in time spur new changes in how companies and governments work, in what is expected of them and in what can be done without them. A realisation that systems without centralised record-keeping can be just as trustworthy as those that have them may bring radical change.
The great chain of being sure about things

But people aren’t investing in Amazon because it’s good at delivering books and gummy bears.

Amazon invests in its own enterprise to stay competitive. If they were to try and balance their budget, it would mean cutting the lifeblood that is ensuring the only thing about themselves that people are actually invested in seeing succeed: its own future.

For Amazon to balance its budget, it would have to liquidate its long-term potential for short-term gains solely to appeal to [people] who like the sound of the phrase “balanced budget.” They’d run profit for a brief window of time, making current investors a ton of money before they are invariably ... by a competitor who doesn’t care about balancing budgets because the idea of balancing budgets when you’re trying to innovate solutions and grow as a business is absolutely stupid.

The weird thing is [some] people think the Government, which is a nothing but the biggest public enterprise, should balance its budget because they like the sound of that. They think that the reason America is Bad is because we’re running a deficit.

Or worse still, they think the reason the economy is bad is somehow related to the public deficit…..

So austerity is just really just entrepreneurial suicide. It’s like if Amazon were to decide to cut all of its research and development tomorrow to make a handful of ... investors happy and stopped innovating new products that allow people to continue to take interest in their company and invest in its future, Amazon would be committing industrial suicide.
Damn Right Amazon Runs a F@#$ing Deficit and So Should America

This is a Must Read article - despite being a longish one, it is a very thoughtful exploration of the nature of Twitter and similar forms of social media. The digital environment has created a condition that enables a new hybrid form of orality-as-literacy. The article has helped me understand something fundamental about social media that I had felt but not consciously understood.
The question is whether we will kill it before it matures.
The Decay of Twitter
The social network fundamentally changed in early 2014. And that’s causing big problems for the company.
Since it went public two years ago, investors have rarely considered Twitter’s prospects rosy. The sliver of Twitter’s users who are interested in how it fares as a corporation have gotten used to this, I think: There’s an idea you see floating around that, beyond avoiding bankruptcy, Twitter’s financial success has little bearing on its social utility. Maybe there are only 320 million humans interested in seeing 140-character updates from their friends every day after all. If you make a website that 4 percent of the world’s population finds interesting enough to peek at every month, you shouldn’t exactly feel embarrassed.

Yet the two entities that are called “Twitter”—the San Francisco-based corporation and the character-delimited social network—are not entirely disconnected. And similarly, no matter how many features Twitter-the-company tacks on to draw in new people, it’s still captive to the whims of Twitter-the-network. Recently, I’ve started to wonder if the corporation is trapped in more than a nominal way. What if the network is one of the company’s greatest obstacles, especially when it comes to growth?

Talking about Twitter the Network is hard. I’ve tried it once before, when my colleague Adrienne LaFrance and I tried to describe how English-language, U.S. Twitter of April 2014 differed from the equivalent Twitter of two years prior. Eighteen months on, I think our effort missed a lot. But I do think we noticed that the social network was slipping into something like midlife. It sometimes feels like Instagram, for instance, is the only social network that people actually still love to use.

But I’m still talking in terms of feel: a biased, decidedly non-precise way of discussing something which emerges from more than 300 million minds. And that’s why I like one theory of what’s changed about Twitter from the Canadian academic Bonnie Stewart. I think it makes clear why Twitter the Company is finding such difficulty attracting new users, especially in the United States. And I think it even helps answer the Instagram question, namely: Why is Instagram (or Vine, or Pinterest) so much more fun than Twitter?

The only problem: To talk about Stewart’s theory, you have to first tackle the ideas of the 20th-century philosopher of media, Walter J. Ong.  

Thinking  about the potential convergence of orality and literacy that some social media platforms enable - this article should provide a some additional insight to some aspects of text-malfunctions.
You don't always know what you're saying
People's conscious awareness of their speech often comes after they've spoken, not before.
If you think you know what you just said, think again. People can be tricked into believing they have just said something they did not, researchers report this week.
The dominant model of how speech works is that it is planned in advance — speakers begin with a conscious idea of exactly what they are going to say. But some researchers think that speech is not entirely planned, and that people know what they are saying in part through hearing themselves speak.

So cognitive scientist Andreas Lind and his colleagues at Lund University in Sweden wanted to see what would happen if someone said one word, but heard themselves saying another. “If we use auditory feedback to compare what we say with a well-specified intention, then any mismatch should be quickly detected,” he says. “But if the feedback is instead a powerful factor in a dynamic, interpretative process, then the manipulation could go undetected.”

This is a delightful find - I am sure everyone will find current examples of the antibodies actively sabotaging change (in the name of change or efficiency) in every organization.
Timeless Tips for 'Simple Sabotage'
Here’s a list of five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual
In 1944, CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created the Simple Sabotage Field Manual.

This classified booklet described ways to sabotage the US’ World War II enemies. The OSS Director William J. Donovan recommended that the sabotage guidance be declassified and distributed to citizens of enemy states via pamphlets and targeted broadcasts.

Many of the sabotage instructions guide ordinary citizens, who may not have agree with their country’s wartime policies towards the US, to destabilize their governments by taking disruptive actions.  Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant. Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.
  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  4. Telephone: At office, hotel and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off “accidentally,” or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again.
  5. Transportation: Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument.

This is a short article on the work of Philip Tetlock (an expert on experts capacity to predict) about prediction - worth the read.
We can learn to predict future events
It is possible. Our governments and intelligence agencies must harness it better to predict wars or financial calamity, write Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Depending on definitions, the British government is thought to employ several thousand intelligence analysts who spend much of their time forecasting. The state also employs legions of economists and foreign affairs specialists doing similar predictive work. The goal of all these people is to see what’s coming and help policy-makers make critical decisions for the government and the nation: Will Russia escalate in Syria? Will the Chinese economy recover? Will the price of oil rise?
And yet no one really knows how good these predictions actually are. People may have opinions, particularly about themselves, but that’s all they are – hunches and impressions based on anecdotes. Despite the money it costs, despite its importance in government decision-making, the quality of so much forecasting remains untested, and therefore unknown. Forecasters never learn what they’re getting right and wrong. They never adjust what they’re doing to make their forecasts better.

This is far from a uniquely British oversight. By a rough estimate, the United States employs some 20,000 intelligence analysts and spends more than $50 billion a year on its intelligence agencies, a large portion of which supports forecasting. And yet forecast accuracy is not tested – so it is impossible to say what sort of value all that money and effort is delivering.

Nor is this a uniquely governmental oversight. Corporations routinely pay for forecasting whose accuracy is unknown. The financial sector does better – all those numbers are conducive to keeping score – but even on Wall Street and in the City there are big gaps in the extent and rigour of analysis.

Forecasting today is like the field of medicine before it became truly scientific: a discipline in which experts are unreasonably confident in the quality of their work and customers trust the experts because they are confident. And where does that get us? Read the history of medicine. Without scientific testing, medical treatments were often of such poor quality that the best thing for the sick was to keep them away from doctors, and the quality of treatments did not improve as time passed. Proper testing changed everything.

Thinking about foresight - this is an interesting article - that provide some other worthwhile questions.
Why You Didn’t See It Coming
When scale confounds our perceptions, stories can clarify them
You don’t see it coming. You probably couldn’t if you tried. The effects of large changes in scale are frequently beyond our powers of perception, even our imagination. They seem to emerge out of nowhere: the cumulative effects of climate change, the creation of a black hole, the spookiness of quantum mechanics, the societal tipping points reached when the rich have billions rather than millions—even the sudden boiling of water in a slowly heating pot.

More or less of almost anything can change nearly everything.

I’ve been pondering this a lot recently as I watch the explosion of mini-mansions in my once modest Santa Monica neighborhood. A run on teardowns has left older homes looking like abandoned toys wedged between grand new structures straining at the seams of their property lines. They tower into the trees, the better to catch a glimpse of ocean, casting shadows, blocking light.

With enough eyeballs - all bugs are shallow. Many hands make light work (no it not a ‘how to screw in a lightbulb joke). The pro-sumer is helping to shape a new economy, and new forms of knowledge generation. This is an interesting site from Scientific America exploring the increasing number of examples of this participatory approach to knowledge.
Citizen Science
What Is Citizen Science?
Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

It’s not as if we don’t know this is happening - but it very important that our politician know that we know - and want something done about it.
The $24 Billion Data Business That Telcos Don't Want to Talk About
Mobile Carriers Are Working With Partners to Manage, Package and Sell Data
U.K. grocer Morrisons, ad-buying behemoth GroupM and other marketers and agencies are testing never-before-available data from cellphone carriers that connects device location and other information with telcos' real-world files on subscribers. Some services offer real-time heat maps showing the neighborhoods where store visitors go home at night, lists the sites they visited on mobile browsers recently and more.

Under the radar, Verizon, Sprint, Telefonica and other carriers have partnered with firms including SAP, IBM, HP and AirSage to manage, package and sell various levels of data to marketers and other clients. It's all part of a push by the world's largest phone operators to counteract diminishing subscriber growth through new business ventures that tap into the data that showers from consumers' mobile web surfing, text messaging and phone calls.

SAP's Consumer Insight 365 ingests regularly updated data representing as many as 300 cellphone events per day for each of the 20 million to 25 million mobile subscribers. SAP won't disclose the carriers providing this data. It "tells you where your consumers are coming from, because obviously the mobile operator knows their home location," said Lori Mitchell-Keller, head of SAP's global retail industry business unit.

I’ve spoken often about the future of Big Data and the emergence of a social currency transmuting what we think of as ‘money’. Now all that’s left is to add some aspect of the blockchain and we’ll have a distributed, transparent social currency.
China's Social Credit system, computerized Orwell with a government reputation and trust score
The Chinese government is building an omnipotent "social credit" system that is meant to rate each citizen's trustworthiness.
By 2020, everyone in China will be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information, including minor traffic violations, and distils it into a single number ranking each citizen.

That system isn't in place yet. For now, the government is watching how eight Chinese companies issue their own "social credit" scores under state-approved pilot projects.

One of the most high-profile projects is by Sesame Credit, the financial wing of Alibaba. With 400 million users, Alibaba is the world's biggest online shopping platform. It's using its unique database of consumer information to compile individual "social credit" scores.

More and more of Baihe's 90 million clients are displaying their credit scores in their dating profiles, doing away with the idea that a credit score is a private matter.
However, Sesame Credit will not divulge exactly how it calculates its credit scores, explaining that it is a "complex algorithm".

A lengthy planning document from China's elite State Council explains that social credit will "forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious", warning that the "new system will reward those who report acts of breach of trust".

Interesting how change can happen - how so much that we tend to take as ‘given’ can change with a bit of legislation. Here’s another weak signal for looming change in democratic political-economies.
Seattle Votes Big Money Out of Politics
Seattle voters won big tonight. Seattle leads the nation, first on $15/hour and now on campaign finance reform.
Much to the detriment of Washington State’s biggest corporate donors like Microsoft and Starbucks, and to the chagrin of Seattle’s newspaper of record, Seattle voters have elected to have publicly-financed elections, and to severely limit the influence of corporate power on city hall.

The I-122 initiative — also known as “Honest Elections Seattle” — passed with 60 percent of votes cast. The initiative provides $100 in “Democracy Vouchers” for each of Seattle’s 400,000-plus registered voters, meaning that ordinary voters can counter corporate influence on elections by up to $40 million in a given cycle. The funding for the vouchers comes from an $8 property tax levied on homes worth $400,000 or more.

but I-122 does more than just provide public campaign financing — I-122 also prohibits corporations that do more than $250,000 in annual business with the city from donating to local political campaigns. It also outright bans all donations from corporations that put more than $5,000 a  year into lobbying elected officials.

Voters in Seattle have good reason to demand publicly-financed elections, given the disproportionate influence corporate donors have won through campaign donations and lobbying. As reported, Mayor Ed Murray’s 2013 campaign asked for and received the maximum allowed donation from Microsoft. After Murray won the election, Microsoft was awarded a $46,000 contract to provide tech support for Murray’s transition team.

….Sightline discovered that 22 of the biggest corporate donors won $84 million in contracts from the city of Seattle between 2013 and 2015, in return for donating just $28,000 to candidates for municipal elections and lobbying.

Here’s an interesting article from the Economist - another take on the technology platform of the Blockchain (e.g. what enables the Bitcoin - and can enable a lot more). This is well worth the read for anyone wanting to understand the power of a distributed, transparent - ledger.
The great chain of being sure about things
The technology behind bitcoin lets people who do not know or trust each other build a dependable ledger. This has implications far beyond the cryptocurrency
WHEN the Honduran police came to evict her in 2009 Mariana Catalina Izaguirre had lived in her lowly house for three decades. Unlike many of her neighbours in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, she even had an official title to the land on which it stood. But the records at the country’s Property Institute showed another person registered as its owner, too—and that person convinced a judge to sign an eviction order. By the time the legal confusion was finally sorted out, Ms Izaguirre’s house had been demolished.  

It is the sort of thing that happens every day in places where land registries are badly kept, mismanaged and/or corrupt—which is to say across much of the world. This lack of secure property rights is an endemic source of insecurity and injustice. It also makes it harder to use a house or a piece of land as collateral, stymying investment and job creation.

Such problems seem worlds away from bitcoin, a currency based on clever cryptography which has a devoted following among mostly well-off, often anti-government and sometimes criminal geeks. But the cryptographic technology that underlies bitcoin, called the “blockchain”, has applications well beyond cash and currency. It offers a way for people who do not know or trust each other to create a record of who owns what that will compel the assent of everyone concerned. It is a way of making and preserving truths.

That is why politicians seeking to clean up the Property Institute in Honduras have asked Factom, an American startup, to provide a prototype of a blockchain-based land registry. Interest in the idea has also been expressed in Greece, which has no proper land registry and where only 7% of the territory is adequately mapped.

This is an very interesting article that more people should think about - another weak signal of a changing narrative - from austerity to investment in a new political-economic paradigm. The article is a little cranky - so be prepared for some expletives.
Damn Right Amazon Runs a Fucking Deficit and So Should America
You’ve heard of Amazon, right? Twitter? Google? Basically every major tech-powered industry in America that politicians now point to when they talk about American ingenuity, innovation and progress?
You know the other thing most of these companies have in common?
They’re broke.

Technically, all of these companies run deficits. They do not balance their budgets. Sure, they generate a ton of revenue but they don’t actually make a profit. They constantly run in the red.
Because they are trying to enterprise.

To put this very simply, they are quite literally banking on the presumption that they will come up with new things people will want the longer they stay alive. That they can roll the ball up the hill indefinitely.

All venture capital is based off convincing someone you can keep the ball of enterprise rolling so eventually my gamble to trade you capital in exchange for shares in your hopefully ever-expanding company will pay interest on my investment.
If my shares in your company remain highly valued, I don’t care if you run a deficit. People will trade me capital for my shares in your company not because my shares are inherently worth anything, but because other people recognize the value of your company and are willing to pay me cash money for my percentage of it it.

Sure, there’s more nuance that boring people who get paid lots of money to complicate this can add to this conversation but at the fundamental level this is all entrepreneurship and investing really is.
But like in terms of cash on hand, Amazon is broke. Worse than broke, even. It owes people money.

How can this be, you ask? They generate so much revenue!
That’s absolutely true. They generate an absurd amount of revenue.
So why are they broke?

Because not only does Amazon cannibalize profit into self-investment instead of paying out dividends, they also borrow even more money on top of that to keep going.

Now, Amazon, as a company could fire like 90% of its staff tomorrow, dispense with all its R&D, and undoubtedly run a huge profit. Massive. Honestly, if they were to actually do that, it would be a huge market upset. I cannot even imagine how ridiculous an economic event Amazon suddenly deciding to adopt corporate austerity to pay out dividends would be.
But they won’t.
Because they aren’t stupid.

Figuring out how to get Amazon to make money is not the hard part here. I mean everyone knows how it makes money.

But if they were to try to make profit off of what they do, they would cease to be competitive. The idea of Amazon isn’t an industry secret.

Surveillance or Souveillance? The question of whether the watched can watch the watchers become more pressing everyday.
Cars That Talk to Each Other Are Much Easier to Spy On
DIGITALLY CONNECTING CARS to each other and to highway infrastructure promises to drastically reduce collisions and traffic jams. But that wireless vehicular chatter comes at a cost to your privacy: A car that never shuts up may be a lot easier to track.

Researchers at the Universities of Twente in the Netherlands and Ulm in Germany have found that they can use just a few thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to track a vehicle that’s emitting the so-called “connected vehicle” wireless communications proposed for future vehicle-to-vehicle connections. With only two $550 devices strategically planted at intersections on the University of Twente’s 432-acre campus, they were able to follow unique signatures in cars’ radio communications, predicting which of two campus regions the vehicle was in with 78 percent accuracy, as well as the car’s more precise location on a specific road with 40 percent accuracy. Extrapolating from that proof-of-concept, the researchers believe that the same technique, expanded with a few hundred thousand dollars of hardware, could be used by governments or even amateurs to monitor vehicles over an entire small city.

“The vehicle is saying ‘I’m Alice, this is my location, this is my speed and my direction.’ Everyone around you can listen to that,” says Jonathan Petit, one of the authors of the study, which will be presented at the Black Hat Europe security conference next month and was first reported by IEEE Spectrum. “They can say, ‘there’s Alice, she claimed she was at home, but she drove by the drug store, went to a fertility clinic,” this kind of thing…Someone can infer a lot of private information about the passenger.”

The proposed connected car protocol, which the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) will consider mandating for the first time in American cars in 2017, uses the Wi-Fi-like 802.11p wireless signal and could allow cars to communicate with both each other and with highway infrastructure like roads or bridges. One NHTSA study in 2010 estimated that the protocol could prevent as many as 81 percent of all vehicle collisions.

This is a 45 min video - a documentary about a billionaire’s view - a billionaire who’s pledged to give away 99% of his $4 billion net worth.
Billions in Change Official Film
The world is facing some huge problems. There’s a lot of talk about how to solve them. But talk doesn’t reduce pollution, or grow food, or heal the sick. That takes doing. This film is the story about a group of doers, the elegantly simple inventions they have made to change the lives of billions of people, and the unconventional billionaire spearheading the project.

Here’s something that suggests the need for a deeper literacy - a more profound extension of our antibodies to advertising and marketing.
The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad
Nudges, small design changes that can markedly affect individual behavior, have been catching on. These techniques rely on insights from behavioral science, and when used ethically, they can be very helpful. But we need to be sure that they aren’t being employed to sway people to make bad decisions that they will later regret.

Whenever I’m asked to autograph a copy of “Nudge,” the book I wrote with Cass Sunstein, the Harvard law professor, I sign it, “Nudge for good.” Unfortunately, that is meant as a plea, not an expectation.

Three principles should guide the use of nudges:
  • All nudging should be transparent and never misleading.
  • It should be as easy as possible to opt out of the nudge, preferably with as little as one mouse click.
  • There should be good reason to believe that the behavior being encouraged will improve the welfare of those being nudged.

As far as I know, the government teams in Britain and the United States that have focused on nudging have followed these guidelines scrupulously. But the private sector is another matter. In this domain, I see much more troubling behavior.

This is an interesting problem and apparently a solution. As we make new materials - the problem of combining them in making things loomed as a serious constraint. But here we are - unpredictable in detail - but aligned with technological trajectories.
Making cars of the future stronger, using less energy
New welding technique can weld “un-weldable” metals
Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique that consumes 80 percent less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates bonds that are 50 percent stronger.

The new technique could have a huge impact on the auto industry, which is poised to offer new cars which combine traditional heavy steel parts with lighter, alternative metals to reduce vehicle weight.

Despite recent advances in materials design, alternative metals still pose a challenge to manufacturers in practice. Many are considered un-weldable by traditional means, in part because high heat and re-solidification weaken them, said Glenn Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, who helped develop the new technique.

“Materials have gotten stronger, but welds haven’t. We can design metals with intricate microstructures, but we destroy the microstructure when we weld,” he said.
“With our method, materials are shaped and bonded together at the same time, and they actually get stronger.”

Daehn explained the new process in a keynote address at the Materials Science & Technology 2015 meeting recently in Columbus.

This is another promising advance on the energy storage frontier - they hope to be prime time by 2018.
New Foam Batteries Promise Fast Charging, Higher Capacity
Affordable, lightweight, and versatile, batteries made of porous materials could soon transform energy storage.
Despite billions of dollars in investment and the launch of several high-profile startups, the energy sector still faces a fundamental and seemingly insoluble challenge: it’s very hard to store lots of power in a way that’s compact, long-lasting, and low-cost. A growing number of researchers are hoping to solve that with what are known as three-dimensional batteries, which can take several forms but tend to have porous, sponge-like structures, as opposed to the traditional “2-D” form: thin layers of metal in a liquid electrolyte solution inside a box (see “A Stretchable, Bendable and More Powerful Smart Watch Battery” and “Batteries: Cheapest Form of Grid Power?”).

Over the last several months, a startup called Prieto Battery, spun out of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has succeeded in producing what founder Amy Prieto calls “the first true 3-D battery that can be charged and discharged, and that will hold a charge”—in other words, that fills the basic requirements of a conventional battery. 3-D batteries could be cheaper to make, faster to charge, safer, smaller, and less environmentally toxic than conventional batteries. What’s more, because they can be made lightweight, flexible, and in an almost limitless variety of shapes, they could offer energy storage applications previously unimaginable.

Prieto’s 3-D solid-state battery represents two radical departures from today’s batteries: what they’re made of and how they’re made. In the Prieto lab, just below the Rocky Mountain foothills, a series of eight shallow water-filled bins sit in a recessed table. Next to the line is a rack with rolls of copper foam of varying densities. The foam is the raw material for the batteries, onto which the anode—made of copper antimonide (copper blended with antimony)—is electroplated. The foam is so porous it’s mostly air, but a small fragment could contain an enormous surface area. Increasing the surface area reduces the distance that the ions have to travel, thus increasing both power and energy density.

Prieto has from the start sought simplicity, using common materials in a low-cost manufacturing process that can easily be scaled up. The company’s first product is not a full battery but a drop-in replacement copper foam anode that will replace graphite anodes in conventional batteries. In September Prieto announced a partnership with Intel that enables the startup to draw on the expertise of the chip maker’s Technology Manufacturing Group. Prieto’s first replacement anodes could be on the market by late 2016, says its founder, and a complete battery could follow by 2018.

The future is approaching ever faster - by 2020 where will home delivery be? Here’s a great 5 min video.
Drones are improving at a ridiculously fast pace — CES 2015
Some help from the titans of the semiconductor industry has lead to critical breakthroughs in sense and avoid technology.

This is one more step in the trajectory of domesticating bacteria to become manufacturing engines. There’s a 5 min video as well.
MIT Is Growing Living Bacteria Into a Second Skin That Reacts To Your Sweat
What if we could grow electronics in a lab, using carefully engineered bacteria rather than wires, plastic, and lithium? At MIT, computer interaction researchers are doing just that.

The director of MIT’s Tangible Media Group, Professor Hiroshi Ishii, describes it as a “paradigm shift from building to growing.” The group has named this idea Radical Atoms, a vision of the future where materials themselves are interactive, a.k.a. “material user interfaces,” or MUI. In this future, phone screens are the clunky, crude interface of the past. In their place, digital information has colonized the very fabric of our world, from our belongings to our homes.

Today, the lab unveiled a MUI called BioLogic, a project led by PhD student Lining Yao, whose work focuses on engineering materials that act like interfaces (“Rather than computing the virtual data, she is trying to compute the physical material,” her bio explains). Lining worked with New Balance and as well as the Royal College of Art in London, tapping chemical engineers and fabrication experts from MIT’s own ranks as well.
“We are imagining a world where actuators and sensors can be grown rather than manufactured, being derived from nature as opposed to engineered in factories,” Yao writes about the project. Biologic is a wearable technology that grows in a dish, rather than a factory.

If anyone has not heard of Paul Stamets (a world authority on mushrooms) then this is a MUST VIEW 26 min video. His patents may put disrupt Monsanto. Plus he suggests a plausible solution to the Bee collapse phenomena.
Paul Stamets - Report from the Underground | Bioneers
The renowned mycologist and genius discoverer of immunological and bio-remedial properties of mushrooms Paul Stamets unveils his latest breakthrough research. Since our emergence from Africa, mushrooms have represented a thread of knowledge – critical for human survival as medicine, fire portability and the regeneration of forests. His latest epiphany is MycoHoney, made by bees that sip mycelium droplets, which prolongs worker bee longevity, detoxifies the hive, and could prevent colony collapse disorder, as well as our own. Fasten your seat belt.

This speech was given at the 2014 Bioneers Annual Conference.

Another advance that should make us all feel a bit safer.
New Sepsis Detector Shrinks the Diagnosis from Days to Hours
Sepsis affects more than a million people every year in the U.S. alone, and diagnosis can take five days. A new tool cuts the time to five hours.
Hospitals are beginning to use a new, more potent weapon against sepsis, the devastating condition that kills more than 25 percent its victims and costs hospitals billions of dollars annually. In the U.S. alone, more than a million people become infected each year, and it contributes to as many half of all deaths in hospitals.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the new technology, developed by T2 Biosystems, for diagnosing sepsis caused by a fungus called Candida, the predominant cause of fungal sepsis. Several hospitals have begun deploying T2’s Candida-detection system, which is based on the same physical principle behind magnetic resonance imaging. By the end of this year the company aims to have 30 hospitals signed on to purchase and use the technology.

Sepsis is a destructive reaction to an infection marked by an overwhelming inflammatory response throughout the body. If left untreated, sepsis can cause organ malfunction and death. Treating a septic patient requires pinpointing the bacterial or fungal organism that is the root cause. Today that process takes at least a day, and can take up to five days, as the patient’s condition worsens. T2 Biosystems says its novel pathogen detector, called T2 Magnetic Resonance (T2MR), can identify the bug within five hours.

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