Tomorrow in Brief
Cars That Generate Power
Future car buyers may be quizzing the dealer not on how much fuel a vehicle consumes, but rather on how much energy it produces.
A scheme envisioned at the Technology University of Delft proposes the development of electricity plants in parking garages and other facilities. Not only could electric vehicles be easily charged there, but also their fuel cells would be used to convert biogas or hydrogen into more electricity when the cars are parked. As a bonus, car owners would be paid for the electricity that their vehicles produce.
Another project at the university is the Energy Wall, a motorway whose walls generate energy for roadside lighting and serve as a support for a people mover on top.
Source: Delft University of Technology, www.tudelft.nl.
Childhood Cancer Survivors’ Children
Aggressive treatment for cancer during childhood may not put the survivors’ future offspring at a greater risk of birth defects than the children of survivors who did not receive such treatment.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy with alkylating agents may damage DNA, but it now appears that the damage may not be passed along to offspring, according to a large retrospective Childhood Cancer Survivor Study led by Lisa Signorello of Vanderbilt University.
“We hope this study will become part of the arsenal of information used by the physicians of childhood cancer survivors if reproductive worries arise,” says Signorello.
Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, www.mc.vanderbilt.edu. The study was published in the December 12, 2012, issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Open-Source Robot Blueprints
Robot development may accelerate, thanks to a new open-source hardware-sharing system launched by Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The Robotic Open Platform allows participants to share their designs so that other developers can adapt or improve on them. For example, Eindhoven’s AMIGO caregiving robot would cost €300,000 to €400,000 to purchase, but because the designs are being made available, future researchers could build AMIGO’s successor for just €10,000.
Source: Eindhoven University of Technology, www.tue.nl.
Big Tobacco’s Future: Up in Smoke?
China accounts for 40% of the world’s production and consumption of cigarettes, but it may become the first country to bar their sale, predicts Stanford University historian Robert Proctor.
The cigarette industry will not die easily, as it is incredibly profitable—not just for the manufacturers, but also for governments relying on revenue from tobacco taxes, Proctor observes in his book, Golden Holocaust.
But smoking is also incredibly costly to societies, especially in terms of lost productivity. Proctor bets that China will be among the first to recognize these costs and to do something about it.
Source: Stanford University, www.stanford.edu.
The term mistweetment, referring to an ill-conceived, misdirected, erroneously attributed, or simply sloppy tweet (with comical or catastrophic impacts), is almost as old as Twitter itself.
In 2009, a minister in India botched his report on a meeting with an Australian minister, perhaps by leaving out the word no when suggesting that he left his guest “with doubt” about his stance on the issue under discussion.
Other opportunities for mistweetment come when groups inadvertently borrow other groups’ hashtags for their discussions, as happened recently when a group of futurists and a group of food service industry professionals were both chatting about #fsed (futures studies education and food service equipment distribution, respectively).
Source: Tharoor story reported by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, www.lowyinterpreter.org.
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October 8, 2015 - In the past five years 33% of all new medicines approved by the American Food and Drug Administration have focused on rare disorders often called "orphan diseases." A category that numbers approximately 7,000, "orphan diseases" impact 350 million people around the planet. The best known is cystic fibrosis.
October 7, 2015 - Small island nations are most vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs. They also are most vulnerable to climate change. It makes sense, therefore, that their governments take the lead in finding a path to a sustainable future that doesn't rely on fossil fuels.
October 5, 2015 - All the boxes have been unpacked. All the cupboards are stuffed to the gills. Finally I can begin to get back to what I like doing, writing about science, technology and the future.
October 2, 2015 - This last week has proven to be tougher than both my wife and I thought. Moving at our age leads to lots of aches and pains. There is only so much that these old bones and muscles can endure before they protest seeking acetaminophen or something stronger to stop the ache.
Money is the primary mechanism for storing and exchanging value, especially in our daily purchases, and it’s heading rapidly into a faster, smarter and more mobile future. Nevertheless, the constant in the midst of change will remain levels of human trust in the proliferating forms of money.
September 23, 2015 - In 2015 437 companies so far have factored carbon emissions in their financial planning.
September 22, 2015 - There are no geopolitical boundaries when it comes to the atmosphere. The molecules of air I exhale right now at some point may find their way to China and back again.
September 21, 2015 - One of the most interesting 21st century phenomenon is the rise of an entirely new type of business built on the infrastructure of the Internet and designed not just to make money but to provide a public benefit as well. In the past public benefit was something delivered by government. Think libraries and hospitals.