Category Blockchain

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.

COMPOSITES | GRAPHENE | MATERIALS

Graphene Nanotubes Find Industrial Niche in Fiberglass Storage Tanks

Roughly 10% of accidents that involve storage tanks are caused by the electrostatic charge generated when dissimilar materials are in relative motion to each other. To combat this, fiberglass tank manufacturers have typically relied on anti-static fillers such as carbon black or conductive mica, but graphene nanotubes are allowing them to reduce filler ratios by an order of magnitude while at the same time providing other benefits. [COMPOSITES WORLD]

STRATEGY | TRANSFORMATION

How to Embrace Digital Transformation

If you are sick of hearing about digital transformation, it’s understandable: the term has been used so indiscriminately that it’s become almost meaningless. But don’t give up because companies that do it wrong (or don’t do it at all) are not long for this world. This article provides a quick primer about the right way to think about the subject. [RACONTEUR]

PLATFORMS | BLOCKCHAIN | STRATEGY

The Myth of the Infrastructure Phase

Apps always come before infrastructure. Although this piece is aimed at the future of blockchain, there are lessons for any business struggling with a great idea that the world may not be ready for yet: the lightbulb came before the electrical grid, and airplanes were flying before there were airports. [UNION SQUARE VENTURES]

ENGINEERING | THE FUTURE

Will Elevators to Outer Space Ever Get Off the Ground?

Are space elevators the future of extra-planetary travel? Supporters see them as a way to ferry people and goods to space for a lower cost than rocket trips and with little need for passenger training. But this far-off goal faces significant engineering and political challenges. And don’t skip the comments because they are hilarious. [WSJ]

DATA SCIENCE | INFOGRAPHIC

FiveThirtyEight Gave It’s Readers 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets. Here’s What They’ve Found So Far

Last week, FiveThirtyEight published nearly 3 million tweets sent by handles affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll factory.” They shared the data with the public in concert with the researchers who first assembled it, Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, both of Clemson University. The goal: that other researchers, as well as FiveThirtyEight’s broader readership, would explore the tweet data, and share their findings, deepening our understanding of Russian interference in American politics. Readers did not disappoint. Some found ways to improve the data set while others created some useful—and startling—data visualizations. [FIVETHIRTYEIGHT]

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In the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

In Just 4 Hours, Google’s AI Mastered All the Chess Knowledge in History

In a new paper, Google researchers detail how their latest AI evolution, AlphaZero, developed “superhuman performance” in chess, taking just four hours to learn the rules (with no strategic programming) before obliterating the world champion chess program, Stockfish. “We now know who our new overlord is,” said chess researcher David Kramaley, the CEO of chess science website Chessable, “It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.”
[SCIENCE ALERT]

STRATEGY

Grow by Creating Markets, Versus Killing Competitors

This short summary of “Blue Ocean Shift,” W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne’s update to “Blue Ocean,” describes a systematic, five-step approach to creating new markets rather than fighting to the death with your existing competitors. In our experience, the approach works, but even innovative companies struggle with Step 2: building an objective view of the strategic landscape. Their deep connection to existing markets, low risk tolerance, focus on short-term revenue pressure from investors, and rapid executive turn-over, are all factors conspiring against their ability to take the long-term view of their future necessary to build new markets from scratch. [ALLEYWATCH]

BLOCKCHAIN

In Search of Blockchain’s Killer-Apps

“Blockchain has yet to cross the chasm from technology enthusiasts and visionaries to the wider marketplace that’s more interested in business value and applications”. Though most commonly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has been getting a lot of breathless publicity for its potential to transform almost any application [we doubt it: blockchain has a massive scaling problem ]. The author speculates that two killer-app categories will benefit most from blockchain: 1. applications involving complex transactions and multiple institutions, and 2. internet security applications for identity management and data sharing. [WALL STREET JOURNAL]

CHEMISTRY | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Retrosynthesis: Here It Comes

Chematica—the MilliporeSigma-owned retrosynthesis software—was put to a DARPA-funded test: could the software produce a better synthesis path for eight molecules of commercial interest? The results: software 8, chemists 0. For seven of the eight targets, Chematica substantially improved synthesis routes (shorter routes, fewer chromatography steps, higher yields, more reproducible) and came from several directions (completely different synthetic approaches, different starting materials, etc.). For the eighth, it did even better, improving the synthesis but also breaking the patented route to the compound. [SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE]

ENERGY | PULP and PAPER

Newly Discovered Cellulose Could Have Applications From Energy to Medicine

A modified version of cellulose polymer was noticed in the extracellular matrix structure of e.coli . The newly identified version of cellulose does not form crystals and is readily soluble in water, making it a more suitable precursor for ethanol production. Because of its function as an extracellular matrix component, this cellulose polymer nurtures infectious bacteria, leading to a follow-on set of experiments inhibiting production of the cellulose in mice. Next stage research will involve introducing the modified cellulose genes into plants for scaled up production. [STANFORD]

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