« January 2009 | Main | March 2009 »

3 posts from February 2009


GOOD NEWS #31 - #35 - Weather Protection, Cooling the Planet, Nanowires at Work, eBooks Getting Better, Moving Water

Hello everyone,

Five more "good news" ideas! If you're new to this blog, check out my first two posts, they will introduce you to what you'll find here.  1st post  2nd post

ALSO, on March 31, I'm joining my long-time colleague, Debbe Kennedy, at the Global Dialogue Center ONLINE Conference Center for a conversation on INNOVATING in HARD TIMES as part of Debbe's Economic Conversation Series. If you would like to join us ONLINE, here are the links to learn more about our conversation and details to register to attend. There are no fees.

See web-based invitation to the MARCH 31 Dialogue


Scroll down to see my good news ideas #31 through #35...

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author



Hurricane-Protection#31 - A New Anti-Hurricane Material
Protecting your windows from flying objects is a big deal in hurricane country which includes two of America's most populous states. New fabric has
been developed from the same stuff that is used for bulletproof vests that can hang in front of windows as a kind of hurricane curtain. Two-by-fours that were shot at half-inch plywood and went right through, yet they could not penetrate the fabric.

Not only is it very strong and easy to deploy, it is also translucent so 80% of the sunlight comes through. If the power goes out, you can still have light during the day.





Reflection-Global-Warming #32 - Growing Crops to Cool the Planet
United Kingdom researchers are looking at a surprising new way to cool off Earth as part of the response to global warming.  Andy Ridgwell's team at the University of Bristol have identified what crops could be modified so that their leaves would reflect more sunlight back into outer space. It turns out it has significant effect, especially in the termperate zones where most people live and where most farmland is. It could drop temperatures by as much as 2 degrees Celsius during the summer. The best part of this idea is that is comes automatically with the planting of the crops.




Nano-DNA-Strand #33 - Nanowires as Testing Kits for Disease
Nanomaterials are creating a new paradigm for solving all sorts of problems.  Penn State researchers have figured out how to align nanowires so that they can be used as testing kits 
for all sorts of things--in particular identification of diseases.  Using electrical charges in really clever ways, Christine Keating and her colleagues were able to draw specially coated nano wires into specific locations on a testing tray. 99% of the wires went where they were supposed to which is more than enough to build a successful testing system.

This approach is revolutionary because of the level of control and alignment of nano materials. The process could be used to create a cheap testing device for many diseases simultaneously and in a matter of seconds. And it also shows the way for aligning nanowires for other uses.  If you want a careful description of how this all works, go to the New Scientist URL given below.



KINDLE2#34 - eBooks Keep Getting Better

Amazon.com has come out with their second generation ebook, the Kindle. It is selling very well and suggests that we are about to move to another technology breakthrough in education and information access. Because the Kindle can tap into the 3G telephone network around the country, it can wirelessly and at no connection cost, download new books, newspapers, magazines, etc. almost anywhere. The Sony eBook has not yet adopted this important capability. 

Where is this heading?  Well, for starters, it is getting people to read on a new medium--the ebook screen. Second, it lowers the costs of buying a book to $9.99 for a new best seller, instead of $25-$30, typical of a hard cover. It also allows you to access your newspaper (as a result, maybe eBooks will be the saviors of daily newspapers since there is no paper cost or delivery cost. )

As the price comes down and a color screen becomes available, eBooks will begin to replace textbooks for all schools. Keep in mind that by the time a students has finished 12 grades, the textbook cost can be over $1000 for that student. And those textbooks go out of date faster every year. With eBooks, the textbook can be updated every fall at minimal costs to the publisher.  For the rest of us, the Kindle and the other ebooks permit us to be more environmentally thoughtful by buying electrons instead of paper.  Wouldn't it be interesting to see what kind of price school systems could get if they ordered 10 million at a time?

Google: Kindle, eBook




If you want to take a look at the Sony eBook:  http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&categoryId=8198552921644523779&XID=O:kindle:corp_reader08_gglsrch


ENERGY-2-27-09 #35 - Wiggle Power from Moving Water
The movement of water, ocean waves, rivers flowing, has always been a potentially huge source of sustainable energy. But, much of that water moves slowly, especially in the ocean making it unharvestable by standard means. A new energy harvesting machine that goes by the initials, VIVACE,  has been developed by University of Michigan engineer, Michael Bernitsas, that creates whirlpools in the slow currents and then captures the power of the whirling water. Because of its simple design, it is easy to deploy and causes minimal damage to the environment.

Google:  VIVACE energy,  Michael Bernitsas

http://www.vortexhydroenergy.com/  NOTE: This site has cool videos! 


Visit the Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
Joel Barker's Innovation at the Verge Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center



GOOD NEWS #26 - #30 -- Personal Helicopter, SkyBike, 3-D TV, Growing New Teeth, Wasps as Teachers

Hello again!

The good news ideas keep coming our way. This time I've included new ideas in transportation, highlighted how 3D TV is changing communications, advances in growing new teeth, and how nature continues to serve as a great teacher.

Again, if this is your first time visiting my GOOD NEWS Blog, you may want to read my first two posts, An Epiphany and Joel Barker's New Ideas to Consider. They will introduce you to what you'll find here when you visit.

Remember: We have reversed the order of the posts so the newest post will be first.

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #26 through #30...

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author



Tilt-roter #26 - Personal Helicopter
I remember when I was a kid and everyone talked about flying cars. Well, we are a lot closer today. And every time I have discussions with youngsters, someone asks me about flying cars.  Popular Science in November has a delightful article about a tilt rotor vehicle that lands like a helicopter but flies like a plane by tilting the propellers. It is also powered by a hybrid system so it is very fuel efficient.

It only exists right now in the designer's computer. But it would be fun to look at and talk to your children about the good things of being able to have a flying car and the bad things about having a flying car.  This is an especially good topic to get your children to start thinking about long term implications instead of just short term ones.

No matter, what, if I could get one that was safe, environmentally friendly, and quiet, I sure would consider it.

Google: personal tilt rotor

Pop Science November, pp70-71 


Skypebike #27 - The SkyBike
Here is another really cool looking vehicle that can fly and also be driven on the road.  Go the website with your children so they can see the great graphics.  The simple idea is wings that telescope in and out, so that when you are driving, you can't even see the wings. But when you intend to fly, they extend and off you go.  And, it is really a great looking vehicle, besides. (This is also a verge innovation.)

The company is serious about producing them. No matter what, it is a hoot!

Google: skybike




3-D-TV #28 - 3D TV
Here is another "Gee Whiz" idea coming to fruition--3D TV.  In January 3D TV was tested with on network TV show, The Office. haven't heard how it was received, but it marks the beginning of the next wave for television. Now, there is always a catch to this stuff: you need a "3D capable" TV (special models are already on the market) and you need to wear polarizing glasses to make it work, but those who have seen it say it is impressive. 3alty Digital is the name of the company leading the development effort.

So, what kinds of programs work well with 3D, besides scary, reach-out-and-grab-you movies?  Those who have watched football games in 3D say it is an incredible experience. Movie theaters may very well take the lead in this because their electronic projectors are 3D capable. And it is a great way to bring people back to the theaters where the big screen coupled with 3D sporting events makes sense. A ticket is really buying you something you can't get at home.

What is clear is that TV manufacturers are racing to add 3D capability to their systems, so we will have it in our homes in the next three years.

Google: 3D TV




Growth-teeth-sm #29 - Growing New Teeth
When you lose an adult tooth these days, you get an artificial one to replace it. Not for much longer if expert Dr. Jie Chen and his associate Dr. Ying Tsui from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta have anything to say about it.  They have discovered that low intensity ultrasound (that is sound that is way above our ability to hear) can stimulate the growth of new teeth.

They have developed a miniaturized device that can be applied for 20 minutes a day sending pulses of ultrasound into biological matter, such as gums, muscles or bones to increase healing or stimulate growth of new tissue--a new tooth! It takes four months to regrow a tooth, but that's a whole lot better than losing your tooth forever.(This is also a Verge Innovation.)

If the testing goes as planned, the device will be on the market in two years.

Google: ultrasound tooth regrowth



WASP-SM #30 - Wasps as TEACHERS
Wasp Tail Teaches Surgeons How Bore Better Holes
Biomimicry is defined as copying the way Mother Nature does something.  Researchers at the Imperial College in London have taken the boring process of the female wood wasp 
and adapted it to bore holes in the brain. The technique allows the "drill" to be flexible and to change directions while doing minimum damage to the brain tissue. (All biomimicry is 
verge innovation.)

Google: wasp drill



Visit the Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
Joel Barker's Innovation at the Verge Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center


GOOD NEWS #21 - #25 -- Best Ever Start-UP, Bamboo Bridges, EcoRock, Natural Plastic, Improving Neighborboods

Hello again!

Five more good news ideas. They offer great promise for the future for organizations, sustainability, the environment, and our neighborhoods.

Remember: We have reversed the order of the posts so the newest post will be first. If this is your first time visiting my GOOD NEWS Blog, you may want to read my first two posts, An Epiphany and Joel Barker's New Ideas to Consider. They will introduce you to the good news ideas you'll find here.

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #21 through #25...

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author


OOF-bookcover#21 - The Most Successful Start-up Organization in the World!
Mondragon is a cooperative in Spain that is employee owned, more than 50 years old. It has a track record of 80% of their start-ups being successful over the long term.  No other organization in the world is even close!  I believe we can learn many lessons from their paradigm.

Below is a link to an article about them. I wrote it for the Peter Drucker book series. Enjoy!

URL: www.globaldialoguecenter.com/Joel-Barker-Mondragon-article.pdf


Bamboo-bridge #22 - Bambo--High Tech?
Why has this taken so long?  Yan Xiao, engineering professor at USC and born in China, has developed a process to transform bamboo strips into structural beams. "GluBam", as he calls it is a very sturdy material. He has built bridges with the material and sees it as a perfect material to cheaply reinforce homes against earthquakes. Because it grows so rapidly and in so many parts of the world, bamboo used this new way could trigger a sustainable industry that could replace much of the forest harvesting that is going on now.

Google: GluBam, Yan Xiao, bamboo bridge

URL: www.popsci.com  http://www.timesfirst.com/Product/203957/Glubam.html

Ecorock22 #23 - Drywall Improvement

Drywall is not usually an exciting topic, but producing it creates enormous amounts of CO2, something we're trying not to do. A company named Serious Materials has invented "EcoRock", a drywall that doesn't require high temperatures to cure. Their formula uses materials that are industrial by-products combined under pressure instead of heat, so only 20% as much energy is used in creating it. It is also impervious to terminites and mold.  This is another example of getting what we need in a much greener way.

Google:  EcoRock, Serious Materials

URL: www.seriousmaterials.com

#24 - Natural Plastic
Switchgrass is a plant that is being seriously considered for a sustainable cellulose basee from which liquid fuel can be generated. But Metabolix, a Massachuetts company, has figured out a way to make it grow plastic inside its leaves. By splicing certain genes into the plant, it forms granules of plastic that can be harvested easily. The plastic known as PHB is very durable over a wide range of temperatures so it can be used for many purposes. The leftover switchgrass can be used to make biofuels. Commericialization looks about five years out.

Google:  Metabolix, switchgrass plastic, switchgrass PHB

URL: popsci.com


Graffitti #25 - Graffiti-Free Neighborhoods
This doesn't sound like good news, but the conclusion is, trust me.  It turns out, from both old research (google: broken window theory) and new research in the Netherlands that when an environment is treated badly, other people coming into that environment think that they don't have to take care of it either. One of the reasons for the disrespect is that once the mess begins, it seems to give permission to others to do the same.  Now, here is the good news: if you keep the environment clean, other people tend to keep it clean, too.

A personal note: Three times a week, when we are in Minnesota, my wife and I walk down a street where there are no homes and where people throw things out of their cars. We pick it up--usually two bags of stuff every time. But over the years, as we have done this, we have seen less and less stuff littering the street. We are removing the "permission" to throw things out of the car and it makes us feel good because we are making a difference, too. Remember little things add up!

Google: broken window theory, Kee Keizer



Visit the Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
Joel Barker's Innovation at the Verge Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center