Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Innovation (page 1 / 5)

It Took the Washing Machine A Long Time to Catch On →

Fascinating.

Today I learned that the washing machine is more than 250 years old.

After reading the lead article in this morning's Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, I briefly thought it was exactly 250 years old. This purported Feb. 23 anniversary is being celebrated all over the German news media this week, but it can't be right, given that there's a full copy online of the book in which German pastor and professor Jacob Christian Schaeffer made his invention known, and it's dated Oct. 16, 1766.

Not only that, but Schaeffer also writes in the book's foreword that he got the idea from a magazine article about an English washing machine that some guy in Copenhagen had successfully reconstructed.

​And yet…

It was only with the invention of the electric washing machine by Alva Fisher in Chicago in 1907 that something dramatically better than the washboard came along, and even then it took decades more for the machines to become cheap and reliable enough to change how people cleaned their clothes (and of course in much of the world, washboards still rule). In the U.S., according to a 2013 paper by Benjamin Bridgman of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the big gains in household productivity enabled by the washing machine, dishwasher and other such devices occurred between about 1948 and 1977.

This entry was tagged. History Innovation

Surf’s Up, and the Ocean Is Nowhere in Sight →

Diane Cardwell and Matt Higgins report for the New York Times on artificial surf parks. I started out feeling bemused by the entire idea. But the article is interesting and the technology and challenges are fascinating.

The quest to surf on artificial waves has long been challenged by the difficulties of mastering the fluid dynamics, engineering and mechanics necessary to mimic the ocean. And the energy required was often too expensive.

...

Mr. Townend was also an investor in the Ron Jon Surfpark, in Orlando, which was scheduled to open in 2008. It promised to produce saltwater waves eight to 10 feet high and to transform artificial waves from water park attractions into stand-alone operations.

The wave test run at Ron Jon Surfpark was “unreal,” Mr. Townend recalled. “But it tore the bottom up.” Investors lost millions in the failed experiment.

​So what's changed?

The newer surfing pools have been made possible by advances in computing, allowing for better simulations of how the water will behave and for more sophisticated controls. Slight changes in timing, pressure or angle of the water can determine whether a wave will form a curling barrel — the holy grail for skilled surfers — or a soft hump that’s easier to ride.

​The focus of the article is the new NLand Surf Park, in the Texas desert. (I just love the visual of ambitious investors trying to bring the most quintessential beach activity to one of the harshest and least beach like areas in America.) What is NLand?

a much-delayed attraction under development by Doug Coors, a scion of the beer-making family ... a giant artificial body of water within 160 acres of cactus-studded former ranch land here in Hill Country.

And how does NLand produce its waves?

The waves at NLand, like those at Mr. Slater’s site in California, which uses its own closely guarded technology, are produced using a hydrofoil. The large blade moves through the water, pushing it into formations as it hits the contoured bottom of the pool.

“Essentially a chairlift motor with a snowplow on it,” Mr. Coors said, the mechanism travels beneath a central pier, creating waves that flow off both sides until it reaches the end, where it resets and runs back the other way. The water comes from a rain catchment and filtration system, and the approach is less energy intensive than older wave-making practices that involved pumping.

Still it takes a lot of energy to make a wave — roughly equivalent to running 10 cars. Mr. Coors is considering installing solar panels to help generate the electricity.

​What are the advantages to surfing in Texas instead of in California?

“It takes a long time to become a surfer,” said Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association, the global governing body for the sport. “If you’re in the ocean for an hour, and you get six, seven waves, you’re very lucky. Learning to surf is like learning to play the guitar when you can only strum once every 30 seconds.”

Some who have surfed NLand say it feels just like natural waves but with more frequent and longer rides — up to 35 seconds — that give novices more time to properly position themselves and advanced practitioners the opportunity for more maneuvers.

The entire article is interesting and includes some video of the NLand Surf Park. Sure, real beaches are the best, but I'd like to have some other options for waves when I'm stuck in Wisconsin, far from the beach.

Innovation and its enemies →

​Matt Ridley wrote about a new book, Innovation and Its Enemies.

“When a new invention is first propounded,” said William Petty in 1679, “in the beginning every man objects and the poor inventor runs the gauntloop of all petulant wits.” As Calestous Juma, of Harvard Kennedy School, recounts in a fascinating new book called Innovation and Its Enemies, even coffee and margarine were fiercely rejected at first.

He shared some of the stories from the book.

In the 16th and 17th century, coffee was repeatedly outlawed by religious and political leaders in Cairo, Istanbul and parts of Europe as it spread north from Ethiopia and Yemen. Their objection was ostensibly to its “intoxicating” qualities or on some spurious religious ground, but the real motivation was usually to ban coffee-houses’ alarming tendency to encourage the free exchange of ideas. King Charles II sought to close down all coffee houses explicitly because he did not like people sitting “half the day” in them “insinuating into the ears of people a prejudice against” rulers. He’d have hated Starbucks.

Margarine, invented in France in 1869, was subjected to a decades-long smear campaign (blame Professor Juma for the pun, not me) from the American dairy industry. “There never was . . . a more deliberate and outrageous swindle than this bogus butter business,” thundered the New York dairy commission. Even Mark Twain denounced margarine, showing that celebs have been anti-progress before.

Laws were passed in many states to cripple the margarine industry with bans, taxes, labelling laws and licensing provisions. By the early 1940s, two thirds of states had banned yellow margarine altogether on spurious health grounds. This is reminiscent of today’s reaction to the invention of vaping: banned in some countries, such as Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, discouraged in most others.

The Horse Association of America once fought a furious rearguard action against tractors. The American musicians’ union managed to ban all recorded music on the radio for a while. Like the initially successful opposition to railways from the canal owners in Britain a century before, incumbent industries will do their utmost to stop new challengers.

People react to many new innovations with an attitude of "ban it until it's proven safe". This is an easy reaction, but a wrong headed one. We're all made poorer by knee jerk fear. We look people at our ancestors and wonder how they could have possibly been afraid of margarine or coffee. What will our descendants think of our fear of GMO foods or plastics?

How the Microwave Was Invented by Accident →

What a great story, from Popular Mechanics.

The microwave is beloved for its speed and ease of use. But what you might not know about your indispensable kitchen appliance is that it was invented utterly by accident one fateful day 70 years ago, when a Raytheon engineer named Percy Spencer was testing a military-grade magnetron and suddenly realized his snack had melted.

​> …

Spencer earned several patents while working on more efficient and effective ways to mass-produce radar magnetrons. A radar magnetron is a sort of electric whistle that instead of creating vibrating sound creates vibrating electromagnetic waves. According to Michalak, at the time Spencer was trying to improve the power level of the magnetron tubes to be used in radar sets. On that fateful day in 1946, Spencer was testing one of his magnetrons when he stuck his hand in his pocket, preparing for the lunch break, when he made a shocking discovery: The peanut cluster bar had melted. Says Spencer, "It was a gooey, sticky mess."

​> Understandably curious just what the heck had happened, Spencer ran another test with the magnetron. This time he put an egg underneath the tube. Moments later, it exploded, covering his face in egg. "I always thought that this was the origin of the expression 'egg in your face'," Rod Spencer laughs. The following day, Percy Spencer brought in corn kernels, popped them with his new invention, and shared some popcorn with the entire office. The microwave oven was born.

Drop-In Chefs Help Seniors Stay In Their Own Homes →

This is a very interesting service, from a local Madison company.

“A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors’ homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.”

“According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million seniors living in their own homes who are malnourished. In long-term care facilities, up to 50 percent may suffer from malnutrition. This leads to increased risk for illness, frailty and falls.”

“Part of the business plan is keeping the service affordable. In addition to the cost of the food, the client pays $30 an hour for the chef’s time. That’s usually a couple of hours a week of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. There’s also a $15 charge for grocery shopping. So clients pay on average $45 to $75 a week.

And while there are lots of personal chefs out there and services that deliver meals for seniors there are few services specifically for older adults that prepare food in their homes.”

This isn't what most people would think of as healthcare, but I'd call it healthcare innovation. Living a healthy life—and eating right— is a big part of staying out of clinics and hospitals. If people spend money on this service, they could very well be saving thousands of dollars in other healthcare expenses.

This strikes me as the kind of service that insurance companies won't want to provide but that patients would be willing to pay for, if they have control over their own healthcare dollars.

Drop-In Chefs Help Seniors Stay In Their Own Homes →

This is a very interesting service, from a local Madison company.

“A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors’ homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.”

“According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million seniors living in their own homes who are malnourished. In long-term care facilities, up to 50 percent may suffer from malnutrition. This leads to increased risk for illness, frailty and falls.”

“Part of the business plan is keeping the service affordable. In addition to the cost of the food, the client pays $30 an hour for the chef’s time. That’s usually a couple of hours a week of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. There’s also a $15 charge for grocery shopping. So clients pay on average $45 to $75 a week.

And while there are lots of personal chefs out there and services that deliver meals for seniors there are few services specifically for older adults that prepare food in their homes.”

This isn't what most people would think of as healthcare, but I'd call it healthcare innovation. Living a healthy life—and eating right— is a big part of staying out of clinics and hospitals. If people spend money on this service, they could very well be saving thousands of dollars in other healthcare expenses.

This strikes me as the kind of service that insurance companies won't want to provide but that patients would be willing to pay for, if they have control over their own healthcare dollars.

An Experimental Wireless Network from Artemis →

Artemis Networks, a start-up that says it has created a technology for increasing the speed and reliability of wireless networks, is getting closer to bringing that service to the public.

The start-up, which first announced its technology a year ago, said it planned to lease wireless spectrum from Dish Network, the satellite television provider, for up to two years. It will use the spectrum to introduce a wireless Internet service in San Francisco.

… San Francisco, like many big cities, is already served by all the major wireless carriers, but Artemis has developed a technology that it promises will increase wireless Internet speeds through an innovative method of dealing with the congestion that dogs cellular networks.

When too many users get onto the Internet in one area from wireless devices, speeds typically slow, like a freeway jammed with too many cars. Carriers try to mitigate the problem by putting up more antennas in busy places like stadiums, but there are limits to how much of that can be done without creating interference between the antennas.

Artemis, in contrast, has an antenna technology called pCell that it says embraces, rather than avoids, avoids wireless interference. The antennas on an Artemis network are connected to data centers that perform nearly instantaneous mathematical calculations to fashion a unique wireless signal for every person on the network, giving them access to wireless data speeds that are not degraded as other people use the Internet from their devices.

This is the type of innovation that makes me skeptical about the need for net neutrality. The entire push for net neutrality is predicated on the idea that internet access lacks the competition needed to keep internet providers honest.

New technologies can quickly provide competition where none previously existed. My iPhone's LTE connection is already as fast as my home internet connection. If it weren't for data transfer caps, I could use my LTE access as my only internet access, bypassing Charter.

This pCell technology could enable wireless providers to offer much higher data caps, providing competition for cable in every city in America. With that kind of competitive pressure, who'd need network neutrality to keep providers honest? Big cable would be falling all over itself to offer "true unlimited" internet access, at prices below that offered by Big Cellular. We should be looking for every opportunity to increase competition, rather than looking to increase regulation.

This entry was tagged. Innovation Regulation

The Future of Meat Is Plant-Based Burgers →

Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the idea of plant based meat substitutes. My interest is purely tech based. I'm not worried about the ethics of eating meat or about saving the environment. I just think that the idea of transmorgifying plants into meat is fascinating.

If Beyond Meat is right, it's an idea that may be closer to moving from SF to reality.

a box arrived at my door and made it easy.

Inside were four quarter-pound brown patties. I tossed one on the grill. It hit with a satisfying sizzle. Gobbets of lovely fat began to bubble out. A beefy smell filled the air. I browned a bun. Popped a pilsner. Mustard, ketchup, pickle, onions. I threw it all together with some chips on the side and took a bite. I chewed. I thought. I chewed some more. And then I began to get excited about the future.

It was called the Beast Burger, and it came from a Southern California company called Beyond Meat, located a few blocks from the ocean. At that point, the Beast was still a secret, known only by its code name: the Manhattan Beach Project. I’d had to beg Ethan Brown, the company’s 43-year-old CEO, to send me a sample.

And it was vegan. “More protein than beef,” Brown told me when I rang him up after tasting it. “More omegas than salmon. More calcium than milk. More antioxidants than blueberries. Plus muscle-recovery aids. It’s the ultimate performance burger.”

This entry was tagged. Food Innovation

Here's A Better Idea Than Net Neutrality Knockoffs →

Brock Cusick writes,

My proposal for fixing these problems is fairly simple, and relies on a mix of civic organization and free-market entrepreneurialism. The goal is to break the current monopoly on ISP service held by local cable companies in most of America, force local utility companies to act in the public's best interest, and bring some competition to the ISP business to keep prices low and innovation high.

Here it is.

Require utility companies to lease space on their rights-of-way to at least four ISPs, at cost.

Call it infrastructure neutrality, or open leasing. This proposal should independently provide most of the benefits in changing the Internet companies' status to 'telecommunications service' as mere competition between local firms will discourage them from withholding any service or level of service offered by their local competitors. This competition would thus provide the consumer protections that voters are looking for, while allowing Internet companies to remain more lightly regulated (and thus more innovative) information services.

I like this idea much better than the current net neutrality suggestions floating around. I really want my internet providers to compete against each other for my business. I have far more faith in that competition than I do that we'll get competent regulation of monopoly internet providers.

Literary Lions Take Themselves Too Seriously Against Amazon →

Over 300 authors have decided to take a joint stand against Amazon.

[H]undreds of other writers, including some of the world's most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

They also want to highlight the issue being debated endlessly and furiously on writers' blogs: What are the rights and responsibilities of a company that sells half the books in America and controls the dominant e-book platform?

They have a rather apocalyptic view of Amazon's role in the literary world. Here's agent Andrew Wylie.

"It's very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors," the agent said. "If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America."

And here's Ursula K. Le Guin.

"We're talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, 'disappearing' an author," Ms. Le Guin wrote in an email. "Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable."

Full disclosure: I've been an Amazon customer for about 15 years now. I was both stunned and thrilled when they announced the very first eInk Kindle. I've owned almost every eInk Kindle they've made and the Kindle has been my preferred way to read for at least 6 years.

With that background in mind, my response to Ms. Le Guin is something along the lines of "Say, what? How's that again?".

Amazon has created a self-publishing platform that allows anyone (literally anyone, have you seen some of the dreck that's up there?) to publish a book. They give authors a platform to self-publish in both print and digital formats. How that correlates to dictating to authors what they can write and to readers what they can buy is beyond me. (As a reader of discriminating tastes, I sometimes wish that Amazon would exercise more control over what writers write and readers read.)

The Times attempts to provide some evidence of Amazon's dastardly deeds and pernicious effects.

Even Amazon's detractors readily admit that it is one of the most powerful tools for selling books since the Gutenberg press. But how that power is used is increasingly being questioned in a way it was not during the company's rise.

So what are they guilty of?

Take, for instance, the different treatment Amazon has given two new Hachette books on political themes.

"Sons of Wichita" by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.

"The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea" by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.

Amazon refused to take advance orders for "The Way Forward," as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than "Sons of Wichita."

That's really reaching. First of all, the complaint isn't that Amazon is jacking up the prices on books that they don't like. They're complaining that Amazon isn't discounting Sons of Wichita, as if a discount were a moral right.

This anecdote ignores the fact that the central disagreement between Hachette and Amazon is that Amazon wants a wholesale pricing model for eBooks (like the one they have in print books) that would allow them to discount eBooks. Hachette is fighting that, insisting on an agency model that gives them full control over pricing. And, yet, here the complaint about Amazon's "abuse of power" is that they should be discounting more, not less.

Second. "Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than Sons of Wichita". I'm pretty sure that the pricing discount isn't the entire reason—or even the main reason—why a book by a national political figure is selling better than a book about comparatively obscure political donors. As much as Harry Reid wishes it weren't so, most of America neither knows nor cares who the Koch brothers are.

Here's what I think is going on. Andrew Wylie represents a large number of very successful literary figures. Like most successful people, these literary lights seem to feel that not only do they know their own craft better than anyone else, but that they know everything better than anyone else. As a result, they're confidently claiming to know how Amazon should run its business. Not only that, they're confident that they know how the entire publishing industry should be run. Not for their own benefit, of course, but for the good of civilization.

Personally, I think it's likely that the authors know far more about the craft of writing than Amazon does. And I think it's likely that Amazon knows far more about the craft of getting books into readers' hands than these writers do. As a longtime voracious reader, I appreciate what Amazon has done for me over the past 15 years. I've continually had access to an ever widening variety of books, especially the obscure ones that I despaired of ever getting access to.

I find Ms. Le Guin's and Mr. Wylie's comments to be more than a little ridiculous. I absolutely respect their right to free speech and their right to advocate for any position that they like. But the more I hear of what they have to say on this topic, the more my respect for them diminishes.

Virgin Galactic and the Future of Transportation →

Virgin Galactic is working to offer tourist trips to space in the next months to year. But they're looking beyond that too.

"If we can make significant progress on the challenge of reusable space access then I think that opens up all kinds of opportunities in the future," he said. "One of the directions that might open up is high-speed point-to-point travel on Earth -- so that you could go from London to Singapore in an hour or go from London to Los Angeles in a couple of hours.

Regular passenger service to the moon and super fast travel around the globe—this was a staple of the Golden Age SF that I read as a teenager. I hardly know how to process the idea that it might actually come true. If it does, I'll be positively giddy.

Pure Genius: How Dean Kamen's Invention Could Bring Clean Water To Millions →

Popular Science published an exciting, inspiring article about Dean Kamen's water purifier. (Kamen is the inventor of the Segway, among many other items.) The purifier requires minuscule energy to operate and works reliably in remote, undeveloped places. This makes it well suited to improve health by providing the world's poorest people with a reliable source of clean water.

As I was reading the article, this particular section jumped out at me.

“ ‘Dean,’ he says to me, ‘if we can make the water, why can’t we do other things too?’ ” Providing clean water could be the cornerstone of what’s known as a bottom-of-the-pyramid strategy for developing markets. By providing the poorest people in the world with new technologies, services, and opportunities, a company can help lift them out of poverty and transform them into viable customers. Hence, the Ekocenter concept took shape as a companion to the water purifier, at least in some markets.

Coca-Cola launched the first Ekocenter in Heidelberg, South Africa in August 2013. A slingshot attached to the faucets provides clean water. Courtesy Coca Cola “We believe Coca-Cola’s business can only be as healthy as the community it is part of, so the well-being of the community is important to our long-term strategy,” says Derk Hendriksen, the general manager of the Ekocenter program. Notably, the company won’t directly profit from the program; each “downtown in a box” will operate as a standalone business run by a local entrepreneur, typically a woman, selected and trained by Coke. (That the soda giant enjoys an image boost in the process goes without saying.)

I love Derk Hendriksen's quote. It's a direct refutation of the idea that businesses must be regulated because—absent regulation—they'll sacrifice the health and safety of their customers for short-term profit. That fallacious idea is crazy making.

Every successful business wants their customers to be as healthy and happy as possible. Repeat customers are the best customers. There's simply no long-term profit in killing off or driving away your customer base.

An evolution of innovative, technologically advanced pizza boxes. →

I loved seeing this. I'm always excited by innovation in mundane areas. Who would have thought that the humble pizza box was such a hotbed of creativity?

Space Saver Pizza Box

In 2009, Andrew DePascale and Marcello Mandreucci invented a space-saving solution for cluttered pizza-eating situations. This box transforms into a serving stand to free up table space that would normally be eaten up by the box’s footprint. Perforated regions of the lid fold out to connect with tabs on the side and front flaps, lifting the box base 6 inches off the surface. Since the box is not losing heat by direct conduction, the pizza theoretically stays hotter longer than it would if sitting directly on a table.

There are many more examples in the article.

This entry was tagged. Innovation

For $300, You Can Buy a Stunning 3-D Printed Version of Yourself →

Model family

Using the latest in 360-degree scanning and 3-D printing technologies, Twinkind, a new company based in Hamburg, Germany, will turn you, your loved ones, or your pets into a marvelously detailed little statues. It might seem a bit gimmicky if the results weren’t so stunning. The final figurines, which can range in size from roughly 6″ (around $300) to 13″ (around $1,700), are strikingly, maybe even a little unsettlingly realistic, capturing everything from poses and facial expressions down to hair styles and the folds in clothes, all in full, faithful color.

It's probably a bit gauche to make a model of yourself. But why not put models of your family in your office, instead of just a flat portrait?

This entry was tagged. Innovation

Science Fiction Comes Alive as Researchers Grow Organs in Lab →

Gautam Naik, writing for the Wall Street Journal:

Inside a warren of rooms buried in the basement of Gregorio Marañón hospital here, Dr. Aviles and his team are at the sharpest edge of the bioengineering revolution that has turned the science-fiction dream of building replacement parts for the human body into a reality.

Now, with the quest to build a heart, researchers are tackling the most complex organ yet. The payoff could be huge, both medically and financially, because so many people around the world are afflicted with heart disease. Researchers see a multi-billion-dollar market developing for heart parts that could repair diseased hearts and clogged arteries.

Lab grown replacement organs using adult stem cells. Awesome. I see no reason to back down from my prediction that my generation will have a substantially longer lifespan than my grandparents' generation.

A new practice: The doctor will see you today →

Here's something interesting from my files.

Medical personnel are fond of saying that you can't practice medicine like a business. They often believe that their work is unique and can't be easily optimized by industrial engineers. But there is some room for improvement. Take scheduling. What if you did today's work today? Worry about next week, next week. Don't try to schedule it today.

A few doctors have started applying that principle in their offices and have found that their patients spend less time in their waiting rooms and spend less time waiting for an available appointment. And the doctors spend less time being overbooked and overworked. The concept is called "open access scheduling" and allows doctors to leave most of their time unbooked.

[P]atients start calling at 9 a.m. and are assigned 15-minute time slots on a first-call, first-serve basis. Those who want a traditional scheduled appointment can try for the two to three hours a day he reserves for advanced bookings, usually for annual physicals or patients who need regular follow-ups. A few extra slots are left open for walk-ins or emergencies.

This is the type of innovation and experimentation that you'd see more of, if patients paid for their care directly, giving them the freedom to shop around and consult different doctors. That kind of open ended market would also give providers more freedom to experiment with how they practice healthcare, rather than being tied to the rules of large HMOs and large group practices.

You Can Make Gummy Bear Versions of Yourself →

You can basically create a gummy replica of yourself to eat. It looks absolutely delicious.

FabCafe in Japan is offering the service for approximately $65 (6,000 Yen), which sounds like a complete steal to me. It's apparently a 2-part process that requires a 3D body scanner and a lot of gummy colors. FabCafe, which made a chocolate replica for faces, is doing this for Japan's White Day (in Asian countries, White Day is like Valentine's Day but the girls give the gifts to the guys. Awesome).

How cool is this? Sure, $65 is a bit expensive, but how often do you get to eat yourself as a gummy bear?

This entry was tagged. Food Foods Innovation

Domestic Drones Are Coming Your Way →

Reason argues, very persuasively I think, that commercial drones could be immensely useful and innovative. The argument against hasty changes to law is even, dare I say it, a conservative one.

Six hours into his epic filibuster last week, Sen. Rand Paul had to settle for Mike & Ike’s from the Senate candy drawer to quell his hunger. But is there any question he would have much rather had some delicious carnitas delivered by quadrocopter?

...

Restrictions on private drones may indeed be necessary some day, as the impending explosion of drone activity will no doubt disrupt our current social patterns. But before deciding on these restrictions, shouldn’t legislators and regulators wait until we have flying around more than a tiny fraction of the thousands of domestic drones the FAA estimates will be active this decade?

If officials don’t wait, they are bound to set the wrong rules since they will have no real data and only their imaginations to go on. It’s quite possible that existing privacy and liability laws will adequately handle most future conflicts. It’s also likely social norms will evolve and adapt to a world replete with robots.

By legislating hastily out of fear we would be forgoing the learning that comes from trial and error, trading progress for illusory security. And there is no clearer sign of human progress than tacos from the sky.

US may soon become world's top oil producer →

This is exciting news.

U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

The boom has surprised even the experts.

"Five years ago, if I or anyone had predicted today's production growth, people would have thought we were crazy," says Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets research at IHS CERA, an energy consulting firm.

The Energy Department forecasts that U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which includes biofuels, will average 11.4 million barrels per day next year. That would be a record for the U.S. and just below Saudi Arabia's output of 11.6 million barrels. Citibank forecasts U.S. production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels per day by 2020, helping to make North America "the new Middle East."

The driverless road ahead →

From The Economist. I love this kind of potential for revolutionary change.

Now another revolution on wheels is on the horizon: the driverless car. Nobody is sure when it will arrive. Google, which is testing a fleet of autonomous cars, thinks in maybe a decade, others reckon longer. A report from KPMG and the Centre for Automotive Research in Michigan concludes that it will come “sooner than you think”. And, when it does, the self-driving car, like the ordinary kind, could bring profound change.

All these trends will affect the car business. But when mass-produced cars appeared, they had an impact on the whole of society. What might be the equivalent social implications of driverless cars? And who might go the same way as the buggy-whip makers? Electronics and software firms will be among the winners: besides providing all the sensors and computing power that self-driving cars will need, they will enjoy strong demand for in-car entertainment systems, since cars’ occupants will no longer need to keep their eyes on the road. Bus companies might run convoys of self-piloting coaches down the motorways, providing competition for intercity railways. Travelling salesmen might prefer to journey from city to city overnight in driverless Winnebagos packed with creature comforts. So, indeed, might some tourists. If so, they will need fewer hotel rooms.

Cabbies, lorry drivers and all others whose job is to steer a vehicle will have to find other work. The taxi and car-rental businesses might merge into one automated pick-up and drop-off service: GM has already shown a prototype of a two-seater, battery-powered pod that would scuttle about town, with passengers summoning it by smartphone. Supermarkets, department stores and shopping centres might provide these free, to attract customers. Driverless cars will be programmed to obey the law, which means, sadly, the demise of the traffic cop and the parking warden. And since automated cars will reduce the need for parking spaces in town, that will mean less revenue for local authorities and car-park operators.

When people are no longer in control of their cars they will not need driver insurance—so goodbye to motor insurers and brokers. Traffic accidents now cause about 2m hospital visits a year in America alone, so autonomous vehicles will mean much less work for emergency rooms and orthopaedic wards. Roads will need fewer signs, signals, guard rails and other features designed for the human driver; their makers will lose business too. When commuters can work, rest or play while the car steers itself, longer commutes will become more bearable, the suburbs will spread even farther and house prices in the sticks will rise. When self-driving cars can ferry children to and from school, more mothers may be freed to re-enter the workforce. The popularity of the country pub, which has been undermined by strict drink-driving laws, may be revived. And so on.

This entry was tagged. Cars Innovation