Refining metal ores is one of those things that’s really, really hard to do without emitting a huge amount of greenhouse gasses. The energy sources behind our material economies are not as easily substitutable with renewables, because what they often require is extreme heat, and sometimes the carbon itself (in the case of steelmaking and concrete). Researchers at MIT are looking at a way of directly refining molten iron oxide directly into pure iron electrolytically that results in very pure iron, and virtually no emissions, and it might work for other oxide refining processes as well.
Adam Greenfield has 100 short thoughts from his upcoming book, The City Is Here For You To Use. He’s somewhere between an urbanist and a science fiction writer… exploring the near future, or unseen present, of cities. How do networks change cities? Their structure, purpose. Is that good, bad, unavoidable?
A virus expressing telomerase enzymes in mice has extended their lifespan up to 24% with a single treatment. One year old mice get the full benefit. Two year old mice get about a 13% lifespan boost. No increased cancer incidence was observed. Can’t imagine what the FDA human trial for this would look like…
So Apple has patented a technology that would allow police to remotely disable protesters’ smartphones. So… what, are they aiming to corner the smartphone market in China? Iran? Syria? Burma? This kind of crap is why I’ve got a jailbroken Android device, and desperately wish that somebody would offer a high quality Ubuntu Linux laptop. The centralization of technological control allows for a beautiful UX, and catastrophic exploitation by the state.
Newell Instruments in Illinois has developed an all-in-one “magic box” heat management appliance, to compete with the ones currently manufactured in Europe, which are often prohibitively expensive in the US. The Newell CERV can both add and remove heat and humidity from a building and provide fresh air supply when needed. It can also be coupled with a heat-pump based hot water heater. Brought together in a super-insulated, airtight building this integration simplifies and increases the efficiency of space conditioning. Here’s hoping they can make it affordable too.
It turns out that there’s a rare variant of a gene involved in Alzheimer’s Disease that protects the carriers against age-related cognitive decline. It even, apparently, protects against other known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s. This is totally the kind of thing I can imagine parents paying big bucks to have inserted into their kids — rare genes that already exist in the broader population, that confer disease resistance or other advantages, but which haven’t had time to become prevalent under natural selection, or which confer an advantage that won’t have obvious reproductive consequences. We’re going to start accumulating a library of these potential genetic revisions and, I suspect, within a couple of decades, making sure that our descendants carry them disproportionately.
Twisted light. Polarized in a new and different way? Or a way I just never heard of? Really? Or maybe it’s just a new application of circular polarization? Not sure. But anyway, 2.5 terabits of information a second would be nice to have for communicating in space, between probes and the homeworld. Between homeworlds in the cosmic civilization-scale jetlag.
Essess is doing drive-by thermal imaging in high density urban areas across the US, hoping to target possible building energy efficiency opportunities. Another company is using urban satellite imagery to choose the best rooftops for solar energy siting. Big Brother may be watching you… but at least occasionally he’s got the right idea.
There’s a cool experimental Mozilla plugin called Collusion which lets you see what other sites are being told about your web browsing habits as you surf around. Even with ad-blocking and do-not-track and a host of other privacy enhancing features turned on, the list of notified trackers grows pretty darned quickly!
A completely creeptastic article from the NY Times on how Target can figure out that your 16 year old daughter is pregnant before she’s willing to talk to you about it, based on what she’s buying and when. Big Brother isn’t a mustachioed Stalinist, he’s a mild-mannered statistician attending corporate board meetings and sending out personalized coupon books that purposefully camouflage just how much his computers know about you and your so-called “private life”.