New Paint Reduces Boat Drag, Developed from Tuna and Dolphins

November 12 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation   Year: 2009   Rating: 11 Hot

Nippon Paint Co. has developed a new gel-like paint to coat ships in order to reduce the drag they face on the water. The substance, developed with tuna and dolphins in mind, promises to improve fuel efficiency by 4%. That’s a considerable amount when you consider how much fuel the average tanker uses in an ocean crossing.

Not only does the gel-like paint reduce drag on the boat, it also fills in small imperfections in the hull that may be small but still have the overall effect of causing drag. Although the paint is three times more expensive than regular paint, the savings made over a year in fuel costs more than offset this investment.

Transportation is trying really hard to save money while saving the environment. One wonders if we’ve gone past the point where companies stop worrying about PR (does a shipping company need PR?) and just want to help out the environment. On top of gel-paint for hulls, you may have read about how the largest shipping company in China (COSCO) has signed a deal to develop solar sails for their tankers in order to reduce fuel usage by 20-40 percent. With Obama and Biden moving into the White House, the hope is that Biden (a huge supporter of trains) will help the train industry here in the US to greater heights as well.

via DigitalWorldTokyo

Image: get directly down (Flickr, CC-Attribution)

Japanese Researchers Close to Recording Your Dreams

December 11 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Gadgets   Year: Beyond   Rating: 11 Hot

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Researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have succeeded in partially translating brain activity in humans into images.  "While the team for now has managed to reproduce only simple images from the brain, they said the technology could eventually be used to figure out dreams and other secrets inside people's minds."  They honed the computer to each tested individual by showing them over 400 different images and recording how their brain reacted.  While successful tests have been run so far, the images used in the tests have been fairly simple ones such as the word "neuron."

Anyone who saw the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has to remember how the main character was able to record her dreams for later viewing.  And, true to fashion, the images were somewhat cluttered and fuzzy, an excellent representation of where the technology might be in 20 years (due to the erratic nature of dreams and the speed at which they occur, we may never be able to record a dream like we see it sleeping).  And while it may lead to reading minds entirely, the "secrets" the team refers to, this technology is universally wanted by gadget-hounds everywhere.  Controlling things with the mind will always be the end goal for all of these BCIs.

via Yahoo!

Looking for a powerful future economy? Look no further than the Land of the Rising Sun.

September 22 2008 / by TonyManfredi / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

As global economies are shaken by the US financial disaster and rising stars digest their growth, Japan continues to be the world leader in innovation. Could massive investments in areas such as robotics make it the envy of the world?

In the midst of our current economic storm it is difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel. Leading financial experts are talking about a twenty year stagnation. In the face of this cold economic reality some are calling for the wholesale abandonment of the consumption based economy in order to embrace a system more focused on innovation and quality of life. Thanks to their own stark lack of native resources, the Japanese have been embracing this model for some time, intensely focused on education, infrastructure, and innovation.

For the past ten years the United States has replaced one outlandish bull market with another, allowing itself to become drunk with complacency as the tech bubble and housing bubble each provided false buoyancy to a badly misguided set of principles, or lack thereof. During this time countries such as China became the envy of the world, supplying the seemingly insatiable American appetite for stuff. Now even China, despite its still strong GDP growth numbers, is being forced to deal with the weaknesses offered by an economy devoted to manufacturing. Competition from the likes of Vietnam, Laos, and Bangladesh, environmental degradation, and the rust-belt principle are all slowly chipping away at what were once stellar growth numbers.

During this time Japan has emerged from its own bubble, and has been slowly and steadily rebuilding for over a decade. While all of the media attention has been focused on China due in large part to its incredible growth, Japan has been out of the limelight.

Could it be possible that Japan is quietly poised to be the leading economy of the future? By looking at some interesting factoids on economics and technology, it seems not so far fetched. While most would agree Japans GDP growth rate likely won’t exceed 2%-3% in the coming years, raw growth has proven that it will never replace a stable and innovative economy. Maybe there are other metrics that are more important.

Japan already possesses a manufacturing base that in recent years was larger than that of the United States. For such a geographically small country that is innovation in and of itself. It also is the largest creditor nation in the world, meaning more countries owe it money than any other country in the world. Many of its corporate titans, such as Toyota, are the number one companies in their respective fields. It also has a technological sophistication that few countries can match, producing more patents than any other country.

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The Empty Playgrounds of Tomorrow: Europe's Negative Growth

July 03 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By JC Chan

In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world. Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in the world. With world population exploding and shifting so dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the case.

Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen, and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased altogether.

“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly states.

The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons, terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria strain, asteroids, global warming.

Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and should do something about issues like global warming and runaway population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in Children of Men remind us that there may well be other formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our control.

Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.

This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily losing population. (cont.)

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Japan Launches First Partially Solar Powered Cargo Ship

December 24 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

aurigaleader.jpgJapan's largest shipping company, Nippon Yusen, has unveiled a cargo ship outfitted with enough solar panels to produce 40 Kilowatts of power.  Named the Auriga Leader, the energy comes from 328 solar panels outfitted on top of the ship which set the company back about $1.7 million dollars.  While 40 Kilowatts is a huge sum house-wise, it really only produces enough energy to power about 7% of the lighting systems on board.  But when one considers the size of the ship (frickin' HUGE) it should save them quite bit down the road.  When combined with Nippon's gel-like paint, it promises to save them hundreds of thousands down the road with this ship alone.

Honestly, it's surprising this kind of tech has waited this long in this market.  Transportation eats up a huge amount of oil, especially things like ships, trains, tractor trailers and planes.  And to be honest, any help is much needed help for these behemoths.  Japan has its solar panels, China is working on solar sails for its cargo ships, and tons of people in America are calling for more efficient big rigs.  Now we just need to press innovation ahead faster.

via Crunch Gear

Commuters to Generate Electricity From Walking Into Train Station

December 08 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 1

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A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator.  "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice."  The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far.  Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.

img_photo1.jpgThe greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world.  So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy.  The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack.  If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy.  If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.

via Digital World Tokyo