Category Environment

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.

BIOENGINEERING | TEXTILES

Next Generation Cotton You Won’t Have to Iron

A team at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has started working on a cotton with many of the properties of synthetics, such as being stretchy, non-creasing and even waterproof, while retaining its natural fiber feel. “We’re looking into the structure of cotton cell walls and harnessing the latest tools in synthetic biology to develop the next generation cotton fiber,” CSIRO scientist Dr. Madeline Mitchell said. The goal: use the next generation cotton to take substantial market share from the current synthetics industry. [CSIRO]

INNOVATION

The Future Belongs to Whoever Creates It

An interesting blog post from Jeffrey Phillips, author of Relentless Innovation: “The fact is that the future doesn’t belong to anyone. Given the rapid pace of change and the emergence of new technologies and solutions, you can’t say with much certainty who will win . . . but if we try just a bit we can understand what’s likely to happen and in some instances perhaps even influence it.” [INNOVATE ON PURPOSE]

ENERGY | ENVIRONMENT

The Big Bet in Fracking: Water

Some investors see fortunes to be made in the U.S.’s hottest oil field—by speculating in water, not crude. Fledgling companies, many backed by private equity, are rushing to help shale drillers deal with one of their trickiest problems: what to do with the vast volumes of wastewater that are a byproduct of fracking wells. The wastewater is commonly removed by truck, 125 barrels at a time, and start-ups are focused on building pipelines to handle the volume. It’s tempting to think of this as an infrastructure play, but global companies should be thinking about the opportunity in other ways because there is a lot of money to be made: rising water management costs can add as much as $6 to the cost of producing a single barrel of crude. [WSJ]

DRONES

Warehouse Drones are Ready for the Spotlight

Delivery drones may have been getting the most press, but warehouse drones are are already making a difference in many industries. This is just the start of many in-plant uses of drones and other autonomous robot, and it’s a great proving ground: Warehouses are much more physically structured than manufacturing plants and so make it easier to develop capabilities. [SUPPLYCHAINDIVE]

PHYSICS | BIOLOGY | (OLD) INFOGRAPHIC

Revisiting a 1958 Map of Space Mysteries

A year after Sputnik launched in 1957, speculation was sizzling. Surely, humans would be up there before too long, which in turn would finally put us in a position to answer our many, many questions about the universe. In 1958, the American Oil Company (AMOCO) released a pictorial map outlining some of the most bedeviling space-related puzzles of the age and predicting what might happen when space explorers were able to get a closer look. Some of these questions were tied up pretty quickly, but the rest aren’t so neatly resolved. Sixty years later, Atlas Obscura checked in with space experts to weigh in on which have been cracked, and what continues to confound. Use the zoom tool to take a closer look. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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