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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Without the ocean Earth would be a pretty inhospitable place even though we lie within our Sun's Goldilocks Zone. Those of you who live by the ocean can probably figure out why that is the case. You see the ocean is a temperature moderator and a heat transport mechanism that evens out the climate across the planet.
The horror of 298 lives snuffed out by a missile is reverberating around the planet this week after last Thursday's downing of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777. How could missile technology meant to shoot down warplanes get used to destroy a civilian aircraft?
I remain skeptical about the economics of industrial technologies for carbon capture. Almost every project started has been heavily subsidized by government. But for the operators without government subsidy there seems to be no return on investment. First of all, all existing industrial carbon capture technologies are expensive to implement.
On a recent driving trip, my wife and I became immersed in the audio version of one of Tom Clancy’s last novels, titled “Threat Vector.” Without giving away too much of the plot, a Chinese super-geek villain has hatched a plan to hack into our most secure networks and blackmail people with their darkest secrets to subversively cause chaos and disruption for the American government.
If you work for the post office these days then you already have an inkling of what the 21st century will do to many jobs. Texting, email, and mobile connectivity have forever altered the way we communicate. How many of us still write letters on paper and mail them?
Some of you who know me personally know that in my formative years I started studying geophysics in university before a physical accident laid me up for more than a year and I in an epiphany changed my major to Islamic Studies and Medieval History. So I was both a science and history nerd all at the same time. Well nothing has changed.
The government in South Korea is organizing its manufacturing sector along with academics and ministries to tackle and develop 3D printing as an economic opportunity. Rather than rely on the hits and misses of free enterprise, the South Korean leadership is directing all interested players within the country to come up with a roadmap that will lead to innovation in manufacturing and the creation of new jobs.
Edward Cornish has served as the World Future Society’s lead visionary, founder, first President (1966-2004), and Editor of THE FUTURIST magazine (1967-2010). Since stepping away from daily editorial management, he has remained on the WFS Board and has been our Futurist in Residence, contributing book reviews and essays on “Futurists and Their Ideas.” And he’s come to the office faithfully every day.