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Archive for the ‘Environmental Sustainability & eWaste’ Category

Japan’s Disaster Sparks Serious Tech Supply Shortage Concerns

As if Japan didn’t have enough problems. Its economy may take decades to recover. But the related consequences on a global scale for technology and consumer electronics could equally devastating. Components such as memory chips and liquid crystal displays that are used in consumer electronics ranging from smartphones to televisions will likely be in short supply in the weeks ahead. This could have huge supply and economic implications for companies like Motorola, Apple, HTC, Samsung, Vizio, Sony and many others both in OEM and Retail.

I remember back several years ago when a memory chip manufacturer’s facility in Taiwan caught fire and burn to the ground. That single event raised the price of RAM to huge levels. In the current case, Japan is home to several memory chip makers, including Elpida Memory Inc. and Toshiba Corp., the world’s second-largest NAND flash memory chip producer by revenue after Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea. Obviously, this is a very volatile industry with a select group of manufactures, most located in Japan, Taiwan, or Korea.

To underscore my point, “We expect phenomenal price swings and large near-term shortages as a result of this earthquake,” said Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis. “Over 40% of the world’s NAND flash … are manufactured in Japan. It doesn’t take a large production decrease to cause prices to increase dramatically.” All I can say is what a mess. Humanitarian crises, energy crisis, economic crisis all on unprecedented levels and that’s just in Japan. The fragile world economy can not sustain huge hits like this without major economic repercussions. I fear, we are only at the beginning of the economic aftershock of this catastrophe for both the people of Japan and the world.

The WSJ has a very interesting article on this topic. Check it out here!

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Written by David Frederick

March 15, 2011 at 10:07 AM

The State of the Future

This is kind of a big read, but extremely relevant, interesting and somewhat comprehensive. The one area that the report does not really cover or take into consideration is the direct impact of local, regional, state, government and sovereign debt, deficits and spending and their impact on Countries ability to positively impact or negatively contribute to the articulated challenges. Check it out if you dare!

– DF

The state of the future
July 14, 2010 by Jerome C. Glenn

As noted in our 2010 State of the Future (the 14th annual report from the Millennium Project, just published), the world is in a race between implementing ever-increasing ways to improve the human condition and the seemingly ever-increasing complexity and scale of global problems.

If current trends in population growth, resource depletion, climate change, terrorism, organized crime, and disease continue and converge over the next 50 to 100 years, it is easy to imagine an unstable world with catastrophic results. However, if current trends in self-organization via future Internets, transnational cooperation, materials science, alternative energy, cognitive science, inter-religious dialogues, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology continue and converge over the next 50 to 100 years, it is easy to imagine a world that works for all.

Fewer children are dying, more children are going to school, people are living longer, the world powers are at peace, and the US and Russia have signed a nuclear weapons reduction treaty. Yet the numbers of malnourished children in Africa and Asia are increasing; education is poorly preparing the next generation for a more knowledge-oriented future; aging populations will overburden the financial capability to provide retirement benefits and health care without new policies; and the sophistication and diversity of terrorism continues to proliferate. The 2010 Peace Index in the report shows that while the risk of war is declining in most areas of the world, violent crime has increased.

Our study has found eight specific problem areas where things are getting worse: Global Surface Temperature Anomalies, People Voting in Elections (% population of voting age for 15 largest countries), Unemployment (% of total labor force), Fossil fuel energy consumption (% of total), Levels of Corruption (15 largest countries), People killed or injured in terrorist attacks (number), and Refugee population by country or territory of asylum.

To Read more of this article click here

To purchase the report, click here

Nanoparticles could pose threat to humans: scientists

I recently came across this article on PHYSORG.com and found it actually compelling. Why is the strange? Well for one, I am a big believer in nano-technology and the future it holds. My team is also working on a nano project around the reduction of thermal challenges in high performance processors. So I am totally cool with nano-tech (pun intended! 😉 )

But why I thought this subject was interesting was because it reminded me of the issues with food safety i.e. irradiation, antibiotics, nut allergies (not the allergy where your allergic to crazy people, but peanuts,etc.) You see, the key point here is this and nicely articulated by Susanne Stark, of the Consumer Information Association. She recently told a seminar in the Austrian city of Salzburg that companies should be forced to indicate on labels whether a product contains the tiny particles. “There are more questions than answers on the effects of nanoparticles” on human health, the chemist said.

Cosmetic and food products should indicate whether their products contain nanoparticles by 2012, she said. Why, because more and more consumer goods are including nano technology. From foods, to cosmetics, to pants! I even have a pair of those pants that are designed to be wrinkle free. Yes, they work pretty well.

But while we are spending all this time on developing very cool stuff, who is looking at the impact on humans i.e. when used in cosmetics, are they biodegradable or do they simply absorb into the skin? Then what? If used in food, how do they absorb or pass through? Or do they stay in your body? Then what? How does the human body process a foreign object like that? Will it cause cancer or other diseases? Do the nano particles stay embedded with the food so when the food breaks down and pass through your body, do they go along? How does the body’s digestive system handle these things? What effect if any do they have on major organs like your liver and kidney’s and the brain?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of nano tech. But who is asking the post development/implementation questions? Safety, efficacy?
Nano tech is revolutionizing almost everything we do and make. They can make fabric resistant to stains, improve the taste of food and help drug research, but nanoparticles could also pose a danger to human health at worst and best, we simply dont know what effect they have…. yet.

Its also not easy to figure out the impact. You see, nanoparticles, measure no more than 100 nanometres. Thats really really really small. 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Nanoparticles can enter the body through the mouth and nose, the digestive system or the skin, and spread inside the body through blood vessels, said Hans Peter Hutter, a doctor specialized in environmental hygiene in Vienna. “These tiny particles could without a doubt go all the way to the placenta,” he said. But he warned that little was known about their behavior inside human tissue.

With nano tech already being used in numerous products, from medical bandages to golf clubs and paints, Edinburgh University Professor Anthony Seaton, one of Britain’s leading environmental health experts, says concerns that tiny particles from the products might cause respiratory, cardiac and immune problems had not been properly assessed. Speaking with a newspaper ahead of a presentation he gave Tuesday at the Nanoparticles for European Industry conference in London, Seaton said that recommended nano testing “simply hasn’t happened.”

A recent report from a U.S. science watchdog suggested there are already 200 products containing nanoparticles on the marketplace, with hundreds more to be introduced during the coming year.n Nano critics point to asbestos — a nanoparticle already linked with cancer — and the high rate of heart failure in dense pollution areas, as early warnings of nanoparticles’ potential hazards when inhaled.

So what does this mean. Well, in my opinion, we have an incredible opportunity to improve the world through nana technology. No question. I love it and believe in it use across a broad spectrum of applications but, what I think may be needed is some strong research into the post development/implementation impacts of such technology. We simply need to know, what effects this technology will have post use.

Its simply a matter of intellectual honesty, responsibility and good science. If for no other reason, wouldn’t it make sense to see what happens after consumption and usage? This way you could “tweak” the secret sauce to be even better OR make adjustments to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and safety. Again, good, solid, practical science and product development practices. I am all for research on post development/implementation and even labeling. I could create a very strong and creative marketing position around the use of nano tech, so don’t let that be an excuse i.e. people wont buy it if the products labeled with nano-tech. BS. Its very cool and hip.

What do you think? I would really like to know.

-DF

Written by David Frederick

September 18, 2009 at 1:06 PM

Madness or Genius? Bill Gates of Microsoft envisions fighting hurricanes by manipulating the sea

Wow…. this is interesting. I think. Frankly, I am doubtful for a variety of scientific and meteorological reasons, but interesting non-the-less. Never know. What do you think?

-DF

Bill Gates of Microsoft envisions fighting hurricanes by manipulating the sea
by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 7:11 AM

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates’ visit to Xavier University, hopes to fight hurricanes with giant tubs that alter the seas.

If you thought domination of the world’s software market was cool, get a load of Bill Gates’ next technological vision: giant ocean-going tubs that fight hurricanes by draining warm water from the surface to the depths, through a long tube.

A second tube could simultaneously suck cool water from the depths to the surface.

Microsoft founder Gates and a dozen other scientists and engineers have a patent pending for deploying such vessels, which they say would collect water through waves breaking over the walls of the tub. Some variations have the water moving through turbines on their way down, which would in turn generate electricity to suck up the cooler water.

As many as 200 vessels could be placed strategically in the predicted path of a hurricane, and they could be designed to be reused or to sink in place and decompose underwater. The vessels could be moved into place by towing or by dropping from airplanes.

A second patent application describes how part or all of the cost of building and maintaining the hurricane-killer ships could be raised by selling insurance to coastal residents whose risk would be reduced by using the new system.

The hurricane-killing ideas, contained in a half-dozen related patent applications, were made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Friday, with Gates listed as one of the inventors on each. The applications were submitted by Searete LLC, a subsidiary of Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, Wash., and created by former Microsoft executives to both buy up existing patents and develop patent applications for new ideas.

The hurricane-killer system isn’t expected to be rolled out any time soon, however, according to a posting on the Intellectual Ventures Lab Web site.

Paul “Pablos” Holman, whose job title is listed as “hacker, ” said the system would be feasible only if other responses to more active hurricane seasons or more intense hurricanes caused by global warming do not work.

“This type of technology is not something humankind would try as a ‘Plan A’ or ‘Plan B, ‘ ” he wrote. “These inventions are a ‘Plan C’ where humans decide that we have exhausted all of our behavior changing or alternative energy options and need to rely on mitigation technologies.

“If our planet is in this severe situation, then our belief is that we should not be starting from scratch at investigating mitigation options, ” he wrote.

The water-moving vessels would not be limited to killing hurricanes, however. The applications also suggest the “wave induced downwelling” could stir up nutrient-rich sediment on ocean floors to promote plant and animal growth in environmentally-degraded areas.

“This may be used for developing wildlife preservation areas, wildlife recreation areas, restoring wildlife destroyed by natural or man-made causes, etc., ” according to the patent application.

Another proposal calls for moving nutrients and other material from the ocean floor to the surface to promote growth of algae to trap carbon as a tool in fighting global warming.

Intellectual Ventures was created in 2000 by Nathan Myhrvold, who was Gates’ chief technology officer at Microsoft, and Edward Jung, who was Microsoft’s chief software architect. In a May article on the unveiling of Intellectual Venture’s own patent laboratory, the Seattle Times reported that the firm has earned $1 billion in licensing revenue from patents it has acquired and about $80 million from patents for ideas it has created since its founding in 2000.

“We consider ourselves basically an invention business, ” said Marelaine Dykes, a spokeswoman for the company. “We’re a non-practicing entity, a non-manufacturing entity because we don’t produce products, per se.”

But the new laboratory does produce prototypes of some of its new inventions, she said, and subsidiaries like Searete are being formed to handle a variety of categories of the patents held or developed by the company.

The hurricane killing plan was the product of a gathering of scientists and invention developers more than a year ago.

“These are brainstorming sessions where we come up with and develop ideas around particular topics, ” she said. “We bring in smart people from all over, depending on the topic.”

Gates, an investor in Intellectual Ventures, has attended several of the invention salons, resulting in his name being added to the ensuing patent applications.

Others listed on those patents include a nuclear reactor designer, an aerospace engineer who has designed reusable launch vehicles, and a climatologist researching ways of increasing water droplets in upper-level clouds to reflect sunlight into space to fight global warming.

New Orleans residents might be keen on at least two other ideas for which Gates and his allies have sought patents: an insulated container that can be used as a beer keg and a fence using photons — particles of light — to shoo mosquitoes away from homes.

For information about the patents, visit the company’s Web site at http://www.intellectualventures.com.

To read the actual article please visit: http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/bill_gates_of_microsoft_envisi.html

Written by David Frederick

July 15, 2009 at 8:36 PM