Category Biology

In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

PRIVACY | TECHNOLOGY

Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop

Growing privacy concerns and the lack of control over data captured by smart devices has prompted a surge in new products designed to help consumers opt-out of surveillance. Among them is a wrist-worn device that jams nearby microphones. [NYT]

AVIATION

No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay In The Air

Flying is an amazing example of human ingenuity. But providing an explanation for how exactly planes are able to stay in the air is a much more difficult feat. The two prevailing theories, developed by scientists whose work long predates air travel, attempt to explain lift but neither gives a complete account of the scientific process. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

LEADERSHIP

Don’t Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems

Problem spotters don’t especially enjoy bearing bad news, but they do it to advance the organization and help you, the leader. Maybe it’s because they have a different perspective. Maybe it’s that they are better at expressing the issue, where others struggle. Stop making it so hard on them to help you. [HBR]

BIOLOGY | ASTRONOMY

What Does It Means for a Planet to be “Habitable”

For many years scientists believed a planet needed two things to support life: a rocky surface and liquid surface water. Now the general consensus is . . . that there is no general consensus. [MIT TECH REVIEW]

EXISTENTIAL THREATS | PODCAST

The Bomb

Fred Kaplan is the author of the new book The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War. In this in-depth discussion between Sam Harris and Mr. Kaplan, they cover the history of nuclear deterrence, nuclear politics, U.S. first-strike policy, preventive war, limited nuclear war, and the details of nuclear weapon command and control. Although terrifying, all of it is worth your time. [MAKING SENSE PODCAST]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

ROBOTICS | BIOLOGY | ETHICS

Scientists Use Stem Cells from Frogs to Build First Living Robots

Designed by an evolutionary algorithm and less than 1mm long, researchers at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University used cells from African clawed frogs to create programmable living organisms. If ethical concerns can be navigated, the “xenobots” could one day deliver drugs in the body, locate and digest toxic materials, and clean microplastic pollution from the oceans. [THE GUARDIAN]

COATINGS | MATERIALS

Smudge-Proof, Bendable Coating Resists Scratches

Researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario have created the first coating that is wear-resistant, flexible, transparent, and omniphobic. And it’s easy to make. [C&EN]

PRODUCTIVITY

Let’s Face Facts, The Digital Revolution Has Been a Huge Disappointment

The paradox of increasing investment in digital technology yielding negligible productivity growth is a conundrum that has left economists baffled. What must be done to shift these results in a better direction? Learning from past mistakes, making different choices, and putting the technology to good use is a start. [DIGITAL TONTO]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE | HUMOR

We Shouldn’t Bother the Feral Scooters of Central Park

In this absurdist tale of feral scooters in the not-so-distant-future, optics research scientist and author Janelle Shane considers what can happen when artificially intelligent systems evolve. [NYT OPINION]

PHOTOGRAPHY | NATURE

How One Photographer Captures the Glory of Birds in Flight

If birds could leave visible trails in the sky, what would they look like? Catalan photographer Xavi Bou found out, and here he shares some of the astonishing—almost alien—images he captured. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

THERMODYNAMICS | ENERGY

A New Way to Turn Heat Into Useful Energy

A discovery published last month in the journal Science Advances could lead to more efficient thermal energy harvesting. The effect—which researchers call paramagnon drag thermopower—is a local thermal perturbation of spins in a solid that can convert heat to energy even in a paramagnetic material, a place where spins weren’t thought to correlate long enough to do so. [NEW ENERGY AND FUEL]

BIOLOGY

First Hint That Body’s ‘Biological Age’ Can Be Reversed

Taking a cocktail of two diabetes medications and a growth hormone over the course of a year, nine healthy volunteers’ immune systems showed signs of rejuvenation and shed, on average, 2.5 years from their biological ages. Described as “surprising” and “futuristic” these results will need to be replicated in larger and better controlled trials in order to have an impact on disease and anti-aging treatments. [NATURE]

FUTURE OF WORK | TECHNOLOGY

The Work of the Future: Shaping Technology and Institutions

Robots are taking our jobs. AI will mean the end of work. Three-fourths of all jobs will be automated. The rhetoric may be alarmist, but it arises from genuine concerns. MIT recently created the Task Force on the Work of the Future to identify an evidence-based path forward. This is its first report, and its aim is to provide preliminary insights to help frame the public debate and public policy. [MIT]

STRATEGY | ECOSYSTEM

Here’s What You Need to Know to Compete in an Ecosystem-Driven World

We tend to think about business as hierarchy-driven, and you win by climbing your way to the top of the stack. In reality, however, the impact of a good idea is seldom felt until an ecosystem develops to support it: cars couldn’t take off until we build roads, and the productivity impact of PCs wasn’t revolutionary until software and the internet matured. In an ecosystem-driven world, power emanates from the center of networks. How do you make your way there? [DIGITAL TONTO]

MARINE BIOLOGY | VIDEO

Watch an Octopus Dream

A marine biologist captured incredible footage of a dreaming octopus rapidly changing color. [PBS]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

CHEMISTRY | ENERGY

Eliminating the Middleman Improves the Production of Clean-Burning Hydrogen

The hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) relies on electrocatalysts to derive oxygen and molecular hydrogen from water. Now researchers have synthetically conjugated a water-splitting catalyst to a graphite electrode to cut out the catalytic mediator. The result: rather than having HER proceed through a step-wise path involving redox intermediates, the conjugated catalyst facilitates a direct route to the reaction. [C&EN]

AEROSPACE | BIOLOGY

A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

The first private spacecraft to reach the moon was loaded with an archive of human knowledge, DNA, and . . . dehydrated tardigrades. On April 11, the the lunar lander crashed, ejecting the package onto the lunar surface where—presumably—it will remain for a very, very long time. [WIRED]

MANAGEMENT | LEADERSHIP

Identifying and Defusing Idea Bullies

Do you think you might have an idea bully in your life? Chances are you do. This short read presents ways to help you spot (or self-identify as) a potential idea bully and a discussion about how to bring them back into the fold as powerfully contributing team members. [FUTURE SHAPERS]

ECONOMICS | AUTOMATION

Who Will Own the Robots?

Could the proliferation of increasingly efficient AI provoke social upheaval by eliminating huge numbers of jobs while producing great wealth for a very few? These concerns have been around since the Industrial Revolution, but there is surprisingly little evidence regarding the impact of automation on employment. Is there a way forward that is both fair and broadly delivers benefits? [MIT TECH REVIEW]

AGRICULTURE | INNOVATION

15 Agtech Startups to Watch in 2020

The world population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050. Simultaneously, the agriculture industry is facing increasing production costs, labor shortages, land management inefficiencies, food waste, and disconnected consumers demanding transparency to the origin of their food. Agtech startups worldwide are developing innovative solutions to tackle these challenges. [ROCKETSPACE]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

ASTROPHYSICS

A Flashing Mystery is Unfolding at the Center of the Milky Way

At the heart of our galaxy lies a black hole with some four million times the mass of the sun. Known as Sagittarius A* (which is pronounced “Sagittarius A star”), it creates a tumultuous environment, whipping stars around at millions of miles per hour and shredding any asteroids that come close with the force of its gravity. The beast now appears to be acting even more aggressively than usual, flashing twice as brightly as astrophysicists have ever seen before. [POPULAR SCIENCE]

CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGY

Did Biology Begin with Tiny Bubbles?

New research suggests that tiny, heated, gas-filled bubbles in hydrothermal rocks could have kick-started life’s emergence on prebiotic Earth. Simulation experiments suggest that bubbles could enrich prebiotic molecules and enable six essential processes that could eventually give rise to life, adding weight to the idea that conditions at hydrothermal vents were ideal for life to first form. [ROYAL SOCIETY]

INNOVATION

Telling a Good Innovation Story

Partners at McKinsey spent three years researching how people frame their innovation stories to create differentiation and attract attention. After analyzing more than 1000 “innovation stories,” they extracted three lessons for senior managers and entrepreneurs on what makes a compelling an emotional story. [MCKINSEY]

SEMICONDUCTORS | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Cerebras Systems Unveils a Record 1.2 Trillion Transistor Chip for AI

A California based startup, Cerebras Systems, this week revealed the largest processor ever built, with 400,000 cores on a single chip. Why build bigger when the trend over the past decades has been smaller and smaller? Because it’s ideal for AI applications where it dramatically speeds training time. [VENTURE BEAT]

INNOVATION

Top Emerging Technologies 2019

Leading technology experts from around the globe evaluated dozens of proposals to come up with this list of emerging technologies poised to shake up the world. Some of them will surprise you. [WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

PHYSICS

Physicists Reverse Time Using Quantum Computer

In a four-stage experiment, researchers have seemingly defied the second law of thermodynamics and reversed time. Observing highly organized qubits on a quantum computer, they used an evolution program to cause chaos among the qubits, then used the same algorithm to rewind the qubits to their original state. [PHYS ORG]

DRONES | TECHNOLOGY

Your Drone-Delivered Coffee is (Almost) Here

With major cities packed with tall buildings, trucks, people, and power lines, some delivery services are focusing their drone delivery efforts on less challenging rural and suburban areas. Experiments underway in the U.S., Iceland, and Australia using a new generation of bigger, faster drones, are proving that drone deliveries are more cost and energy efficient than cars in less populated locales. [WSJ]

STRATEGY | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

How to Develop an Artificial Intelligence Strategy: 9 Things Every Business Must Include

Artificial Intelligence has the power to transform the world, and if your business isn’t figuring out how to use it to your advantage, you risk being left behind. Here, Bernard Marr lays out a tight roadmap detailing the questions you should be asking and the steps you should be taking right now. [FORBES]

CLIMATE SCIENCE | ECOLOGY

Rise of the Golden Jackal

One of the least-studied canine predators, the Golden Jackal, once inhabited only the fringes of Europe. But over the past two decades its range has exploded, and jackals now outnumber wolves in Europe by more than 5-to-1. This unheard-of expansion of a medium-sized predator has scientists—and the general public—grappling with what the long-term ecological impacts may be for the continent. [NYT]

BIOLOGY

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment

After Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh revived bacteria from a 10-year-old dried petri dish he had forgotten about, he became intrigued by questions about bacterial longevity. So Cockell and a group of German and U.S. collaborators designed a 500-year experiment to try and answer them. At the heart of the experiment are 800 hermetically sealed vials of bacteria, some of which will be tested every 25 years. Opening vials, adding water, and counting colonies that grow is easy. The hard part is ensuring someone will be doing this on schedule for 500 years. [ATLANTIC]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

MATERIALS SCIENCE | POLYMERS | ENVIRONMENT

Scaling up Nodax, a Landfill and Waterway-Biodegradable, Biobased Plastic

Nodax PHA—a bioplastic produced by bacterial cultures grown with canola oil—is compostable, biodegradable in marine environments, biocompatible, and customizable for a variety of applications. Due to a partnership between Danimer Scientific (developers of Nodax) and Nestle, we could soon see Nodax on store shelves and in our homes. [LAB CONSCIOUS]

BIOLOGY

The Extraordinary Life and Death of the World’s Oldest Known Spider

A fascinating look at the life of an Australian trapdoor spider with details provided by the zoologists who studied her for her entire life. [WASHINGTON POST]

STRATEGY

Bias Busters: Pruning Projects Proactively

A quick look at the reasons why executives hold on to under-performing assets and projects, and some tips to help determine which to keep and which to let go. [MCKINSEY]

3D PRINTING | SPACE

The Future of In-Space Manufacturing

Everything needed for a trip to space, including food, tools, and all supplies for any contingency, have to be made on Earth. This makes solar system exploration a costly endeavor, but space-based 3D printers will soon make loading rockets with supplies and spare parts a thing of the past. [COSMOS]

TECHNOLOGY

I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.

A fascinating look at what happened when one woman decided to completely remove Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon from her life. If you are concerned about the reach and influence of Big Tech in your life . . . well . . . it’s worse than you think. [GIZMODO]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

MICROMACHINES | VIDEO

Metal-Free Micromotor Could Clean Waste Water

Micromachines can propel themselves through solutions by reacting with fuel in their environment. But most of these machines have relied on ultraviolet light and expensive noble metals like gold and platinum to drive the reactions. Now, a team led by researchers from the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague have made a simple, metal-free micromotor that operates under visible light. This short video shows them in action. [C&EN]

CELLULAR AGRICULTURE | BIOLOGY

Here’s Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Own Hamburgers

This in-depth article breaks down the very-involved process of instructing cells from live organisms to grow into edible muscle, outside that organism. Follow these steps, and after much trial and error, you can be well on your way to eating your own cultured meat. [MASSIVE SCIENCE]

INNOVATION | PODCAST

How Big Companies Can Innovate Like Small Startups

In his new book, Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation, Harvard business administration professor Gary Pisano outlines the three factors that large firms must develop to foster innovation. [WHARTON]

DISRUPTION | AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

Distraction or Disruption? Autonomous Trucks Gain Ground in US Logistics

In the first of a series of articles detailing trends in near future disruptive technologies, this article focuses on autonomous trucks, their likely development, expected cost-saving boost for US retailers, and their impact on the deeply traditional trucking industry. [MCKINSEY]

MOBILITY | AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES | FUTURE

How Generation Alpha Will Experience Mobility

A quick look at one possible mobility future. It’s a little pie-in-the-sky but an interesting take on how today’s children may get around as they move into their teen years and beyond. [2025AD]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

MATERIALS | ENVIRONMENT

Artificial Photosynthesis Breakthrough Could Turn CO2 into Plastics Cheaply

Scientists have long been able to capture and convert harmful CO2 into useful products. Researchers at Rutgers University have discovered that utilizing a new man-made photosynthesis process using nickel and phosphorus, which are both plentiful elements, converting CO2 is cheaper than ever. Next step, commercializing the technology and further investigation to go from the lab to producing plastics and other common materials. [NEW ATLAS]

ECONOMICS | INNOVATION | MANAGEMENT

Leaping Before the Platform Burns: The Increasing Necessity of Preemptive Innovation

10 years into the long recovery from the Great Recession, recessionary risks are rising. How is your business going to behave in the next downturn? History suggests that you will have a strong incentive to cut innovation investment and double-down on efforts to maximize efficiency and value extraction from existing core offerings. This is the wrong answer. In this wide-ranging piece, the authors draw on lessons from biology, computer science, and high-performing firms to suggest more successful strategies that you should start implementing now. [BCG HENDERSON INSTITUTE | REUTERS]

PHYSICS

A New Theory Unifies Dark Matter and Dark Energy as a “Dark Fluid” With Negative Mass

Drawing on a idea developed and then abandoned by Albert Einstein a century ago, a new theory attempts to explain why 95% of the universe appears to be missing. Astrophysicist James Farnes’ theory posits that dark matter and dark energy—unproven, placeholder theories designed to make the math accurately describe the observable behavior of the universe—with a new placeholder: a dark fluid with negative mass. If proven , the theory would challenge our fundamental understanding of the universe. [MOTHERBOARD]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

5 Important AI Predictions (for 2019) Everyone Should Read

Recent technological breakthroughs have raised questions and concerns about how they will improve, or destroy, our current way of life. Here are five Artificial Intelligence predictions that provide insight into some of those changes for the upcoming year and beyond. [FORBES]

BIOLOGY | GEOLOGY | PALEONTOLOGY | ANTHROPOCENE

How Giant Intelligent Snails Became a Marker of Our Age

Fossils and geochemical changes in the layers of the Earth’s crust are what scientist use to learn about geologic times past. New markers are being recorded, such as plastics, radioactive isotopes,–and the giant African land snail. Aided by its own natural survival traits and hitchhiking on human migrations around the globe, these large snails may play a key role in telling the story of the current Anthropocene era. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

POLYMERS | NANOPARTICLES | MATERIALS SCIENCE

Fluorinated Coating is Utterly Repellent

Scientists have created a super-omniphobic material containing polymer nanoparticles that form a highly texture surface trapping tiny air pockets that then repel liquids. Due to its unique chemistry and texture, this new repellent coating can rebuff oils and organic solvents, stay dry in water, heal itself after damage, withstand high temperatures and harsh acids, and much more. [C&EN]

BIOLOGY

The Human Cell Atlas is Biologists’ Latest Grand Project

The cell is the basic unit of life and has captivated scientists for hundreds of years. Until just the last few years, the technology to explore the inner workings of individual cells did not exist. Now that it does, an ambitious project, the Human Cell Atlas is underway with plans to catalog the 37 trillion cells that make up the human body. If successful, this map of cells could one day be instrumental in helping us better understand and treat diseases. [WIRED]

FIBER OPTICS | INTERNET

‘Twisted’ Fiber Optic Light Breakthrough Could Make Internet 100 times Faster

Fiber optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information, but engineers have created a new dimension for light to carry this info by twisting the light itself into a spiral. And with the creation of a tiny new detector to read the spiraled light, a faster and more efficient Internet could soon be headed our way. [THE GUARDIAN]

WWII | IONOSPHERE

Shockwaves from WWII Bombing Raids Rippled the Edges of Space

Scientists have long been aware that natural phenomena such as cloud to ground lightning strikes and solar flares have an observable and measurable effect on Earth’s atmosphere. But a new study published in Annales Geophysicae documents the similar effects that bombs dropped during WWII had on our ionosphere. Scientists hope the work will help more accurately predict communication-disrupting ionospheric disturbances in the future. [NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC]

3D PRINTING | TECHNOLOGY | INNOVATION

French Family Just Became the First to Permanently Live in a 3D Printed Home

This summer, a family of five moved into a 1,022 square foot home that was printed in 54 hours. The home, located in Nantes, France, features wheelchair access, smartphone controlled appliances, and walls made up of insulating polyurethane with cement filling between the layers. Other advances in architectural 3D printing from around the world are also covered. [BUSINESS INSIDER]

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