Archive for the ‘From Mags to Riches’ Category

“From Mags to Riches:  Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to” is back with a look at the latest issue of Wired U.K.!!!   Here’s a look at a few of my favorite ideas from this jam packed issue that revolved around Will.i.am and the people in his life:

Edible food wrapper – I won’t even eat the edges of a slice of bologna so the chances of me eating an edible food wrapper are probably slim to none.  But for all those foodies out there that are more adventurous than me there could be an exciting new invention on the way that can not only preserve our food but also become part of it.  Called Wikipearls they challenge our way of thinking and make the package part of the culinary experience.  Invented by David Edwards these wrappers are, “held together by calcium ions and can include particles of chocolate, nuts, and seeds.”  

As crazy (awesome?) as that sounds that’s not even the craziest (most awesome?) thing that Edwards has invented as he has also created a chocolate inhaler, an air-based energy shot that mixes caffeine and B vitamins, and a device that allows users to communicate through smells.  When it comes to food and our sense of smell there’s no one better.  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Programmable matter – In addition to food what’s the one thing that everybody loves universally? Why, Silly Putty of course!!  And now thanks to Alex Lorimer, an architecture student at Plymouth University, we may soon be able to use it to redesign our homes on the fly.  That’s because Lorimer has created a new material, a combination of Silly Putty and “nano-scale particles of magnetic iron oxide” that behave both like a fluid and a solid depending on how a neodymium magnet is applied.  Meaning that if you wanted to change the layout of your bachelor pad all you’d have to do is move around the magnets and presto!  A whole new layout is configured in a manner of minutes.

Visual search – The next great idea that I felt was worth extracting from this edition of Wired U.K. was found in an interview that was conducted with medical mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong who has primarily been focused on curing cancer.  Amazingly, it sounds as though he may actually be on the verge of a breakthrough but that’s not what tickled my fancy.  Rather, it was his discussion on how we can mimic human cognition that caught my attention.  Here’s what he had to say: 

“The synapses in the human brain are triggered by your senses, your eyes, your ears, your hearing and your sense of touch.  Today, the smart phone provides these senses.  So imagine a microphone of the phone that does not just hear, but actually understands; a camera that does not snap images but that can recognize objects as well – both still and video images – in the physical world.  We have built these algorithms and through our machine vision platform can now unlock any content on the internet.  This is the beginning of what we call visual search.”

I have no idea what he just said but I’m pretty sure that Google should be taking notice.  You should too.

Search parties – Lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention cover star, Will.i.am, who discussed that hosting search parties were a good idea.  Now a search party isn’t when you go out to a club and hunt for girls with your friends.  It’s when you gather some people around a computer and just start googling random search terms.  You’re never quite sure what you’ll find but regardless of what rabbit hole you fall down you’re likely to find something interesting that will change your perspective and turn you on to new ways of thinking.  There’s a lot of information out there, lurking in some dark corner of the internet, and it may be worthwhile to try and find it.  Perhaps you can start by searching for Will.i.am and see where it takes you!

Be sure to check out the rest of this issue for even more great ideas.

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This issue of Wired U.K. contained several great ideas.

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I resume my week long feature series “From Mags to Riches:  Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to” with a look at the BBC sponsored Focus.  Fans of Harry Potter, the Brittish Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and One Direction may disagree but Focus could very well be the best thing to come out of England since the Beatles.  At the very least it’s a close second behind Keira Knightley.

My affection can be traced to the fact that each issue is always jam packed with interesting articles about what’s on the cutting edge of science and technology and their October, 2012 issue was no different.  From the hunt for Earth’s Twin to the latest advances in robotics this issue covered a wide spectrum of potentially World changing ideas.  Here’s a look at a few of my favorite things from this issue:

Artificial Tactile Sensations:  “Imagine being able to run your finger across a picture of a dog on your tablet and being able to feel its fur..”  Thanks to scientists at Disney Research that dream may soon become reality.  According to the article, “When you touch certain objects, an electrostatic force is created that alters the friction between your finger and the surface.  By varying the electrical signal, different textures can be simulated.”  Thanks to this new technology the promise being offered by augmented reality may be realized.

BioBricks:  Building a colony on the Moon or Mars isn’t just for science fiction anymore.  It’s probably going to happen within the next twenty years.  But whether or not it’s successful will largely depend on how cost effective it is.  Enter BioBricks, which according to the article are “sequences of DNA that perform a particular function and can be added to a cell.”  These genetically engineered bacteria could provide food, medicine and building materials saving untold billions of dollars in shipping costs.

Raspberry Pi:  Missed out on that Black Friday sale for a new laptop?  Don’t fret.  Just get the Raspberry Pi and make your own computer for under $50!  As the article states, “The Raspberry Pi is a complete computer built upon a single circuit board the size of a credit card.  Straight out of its plain cardboard box, it won’t do much.  But pop in an SD memory card with an Operating System (OS) loaded on it, hook it up to a TV or monitor, add a keyboard, plug it into a Micro-USB port for power, and you’ll have a working personal computer…”

(Note:  this idea was discussed in this issue but it first appeared in the September issue)

To read more about these great ideas and many more be sure to check out the rest of this issue.

Check out Focus to read more about the Raspberry Pi and other great ideas.

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Up next in my week long series, “From Mags to Riches:  Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to” is the December issue of Popular Mechanics which spotlights 110 futuristic predictions/ideas in honor of their 110th anniversary.  Here’s a look at a few of my favorites:

  • Don’t call it a comeback.  Woolly Mammoths and other extinct species could be brought back to life.  And it could be happening sooner than you think.
  • Climate-controlled jackets that could protect you from extreme heat or extreme cold by “sending an electric current across the junction between two different metals” could be on the way.
  • Speaking of awesome clothing researchers in China have developed clothes that use a titanium dioxide coating to clean themselves.   No need to hoard all those quarters anymore because in the future, “to revive your lucky shirt after a night of poker, you need only step into the sun.”
  • Addiction vaccines may soon be par for the course as scientists are hard at work trying to “persuade the body to produce antibodies that shut down drug molecules before they get to the brain.”  I wonder if this will work on my licorice nibs and Sunkist addictions.
  • Vegetarians rejoice.  You may soon be able to eat meat again thanks to new synthetic meat that tastes just like the real thing.  Sort of.  These new meats will be like the cover bands of the food pyramid.  It’ll look the same but you’ll know that something is a little bit off.  But will you mind?
  • People of the world rejoice.  Thanks to a new startup called Pronutria you won’t have any problem getting your fix of protein for they have “discovered an industrious single-cell organism that converts sunlight, CO2, and water into low-cost nutrients…in other words, the planet’s protein could be produced in an area half the size of Connecticut.”
  • And last but not least it may soon be possible to sequence someone’s genome before they are even born just by taking a blood sample from the mother and saliva from the father.  Could this help cure diseases before they start?

To read more about these ideas and dozens more be sure to check out the rest of this amazing issue.

With 110 ideas at your disposal you’re bound to find something you find interesting.

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Up next in my week long series, “From Mags to Riches:  Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to” is the December issue of Scientific American which touts 10 World Changing Ideas.  To be honest I’ve kind of soured on Scientific American recently, as their writing is a little bit too dense for my liking.  In fact, this is the only science based magazine that I don’t subscribe to.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit was due and this issue certainly delivered the goods.  Here’s a look at which of their World Changing Ideas grabbed my attention:

XNA:  Wouldn’t it be great if we could create synthetic life forms that could clean up oil spills or turn waste water into electricity?  That’s the promise being offered by a new class of organisms being designed with XNA instead of DNA.  As the article explains, “Life is inconceivable without a system for genetic information storage and replication, but DNA and RNA are not unique.”  Enter XNA whose uniqueness could make it “immediately useful for medicine, biotechnology, and biology research.”

And just in case anyone fears a doomsday scenario where a rogue XNA based organism escapes into the wild and wrecks havoc on the environment you can rest assured that no harm can be done.  According to the article, “if such a creature escaped into the wild, it would die without a steady supply of XNA specific enzymes.  XNA could not weave itself into the genomes of natural organisms, because their native enzymes would not recognize it.”

Drones at Home:  Let’s play a quick word association game.  Just say the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word drone.  Chances are you immediately thought of war or of the military.  And that’s a fair commentary.  But in a few years if we were to play that word association game again there’s a chance you could be saying something else.  There’s a chance you could be saying toy.  That’s right.  We could very well be on the verge of having drones available for personal use.  Suddenly that friendly game of hide and go seek in the backyard just got a whole lot more intense.

Of course drones could also have any number of practical applications such as telling when crops need water, reporting on traffic jams or charting oil spills.  But there are legitimate concerns that should be raised before these drones start invading our stores.  Such as how to relegate the influx of so many small planes into already crowded air space and how to deal with the inevitable privacy issues that are going to arise when some ass clown uses ones to spy on his girlfriend.  And while those are legitimate concerns they could very well be negated by all of the good things that these drones are going to be doing.  So the question we have to ask ourselves is a rather simple one: is the risk worth the reward?  I don’t know.  All I know is that everyone’s going to want one.

Decanoic Acid:  In the future wars won’t be fought for oil.  They’ll be fought for water.  But what if there was a way to avoid that unsavory future?  What if there was a cheap and efficient way to turn salt water into fresh water?  The solution?  Decanoic Acid, a directional solvent, which occurs naturally in milk.  The key to its success?  It dissolves water without dissolving the other molecules that are in the water.

Unfortunately, there is a major deterrent to this plan.  It has to be cost effective.  As creator Anurag Bajpayee explains in the article, “we’ll have to beat the cost of the cheapest alternative, which right now is dumping.”  Let’s help that he can pull off that feat for this process, “could be a boon to cities, industries, and agricultural operations – all of which create vast amounts of dirty water…”

To find out  more about Decanoic Acid and the other ideas that I’ve spotlighted here as well to hear about foam that restores breathing, sugar-powered pacemakers, and electronic tattoos be sure to check out the rest of this issue.

Check out this issue to find out what other World Changing Ideas are out there.

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Welcome to my newest feature series, “From Mags to Riches: Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to”. I begin my week long look at the best ideas from the newsstand with an unlikely source: the November issue of Inc. I was drawn to their most recent issue for two reasons. First of all, the iconic Sir Richard Branson was on the cover. And more importantly they ran a cover story entitled, “5 Big Ideas For The Next 15 Years.”

What I liked about this story was the angle that they took as they sought to spotlight companies bringing these ideas to life not just the idea itself. As they explained in the piece, “the potential for riches was not a determining factor ; building a multibillion-dollar business may be practically but not conceptually ambitious. Innovation was necessary but not sufficient – we passed over breakthrough inventions unsupported by concrete plans for wide-scale deployment.”

So did they uncover any companies worth getting excited about? Boy did they ever. Here’s a look at a few of my favorites:

  • Waste Enterprises: This company aims to solve the sanitation crisis in the developing world by turning raw human waste into biofuel pellets that sell for upwards of $200 a ton in parts of Europe. From the magazine, “this company operates on the premise that human waste is the one truly infinite resource. Find a way to reuse and monetize that resource, and we may be able to stem the global sanitation crisis where it starts.” Hey, it’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.
  • Terrapower: In my last post I talked about a new technology that could usher in a clean energy revolution. The company that has that technology is none other than Terrapower. Why do I feel this way? Well, any company that boasts Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold as their brain trust will certainly get my attention. These titans are teaming up to develop a new nuclear energy technology called a traveling wave reactor that runs on depleted uranium. The reaction occurs slowly, over decades, with no need to refuel leading to reduced costs and improved safety. The article quotes Myhrvold as saying, “We knew we had to think about delivering massive amounts of emission-free energy with base-load power – meaning it’s available every hour of every day year round, not something that goes out when the sun or moon passes the horizon or the wind dies down.” An ambitious goal to be sure. If Terrapower can deliver the energy needed to pull it off we’ll all be better off.
  • Sage Bionetworks: This company aims to make medical research more efficient. As the article states, “In a world of competitive grants and publish – or – perish academe, data hoarding is the norm. Meanwhile, people in pain stay that way longer.” Sage Bionetworks wants to liberate that data making collaboration easier and helping to build a more complete picture of various diseases. They intend on doing that by building their own technology platform called “Synapse” which would create a shared space for researchers to use. According to founder Stephen Friend they aim to replace the “medical-industrial complex” with an open source model. If he’s able to pull it off patients everywhere may soon be giving up their personal information voluntarily. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

This issue also highlights the Minerva Project, an education start up, and Ekso Bionics, which develops a wearable exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk. Check out this issue to read all about those companies, the ones I spotlighted, and everything else that they have to offer.

Check out this issue for other great ideas.

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