Category Environmental

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.

LEADERSHIP | MANAGEMENT | BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE

The Surprising Power of Questions

Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in organizations: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members. This article draws on insights from behavioral science research to explore how the way we frame questions and choose to answer our counterparts can influence the outcome of conversations. [HBR]

MATERIALS | SEMICONDUCTORS

Heat-Conducting Crystals Could Help Computer Chips Keep Their Cool

As consumers demand smaller, faster and more powerful electronic devices that draw more current and generate more heat, the issue of heat management is reaching a bottleneck. Researchers at UT Dallas and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a potential solution: crystals of a semiconducting material called boron arsenide that have a thermal conductivity of 1000 watts per meter-kelvin, second only to diamonds. Boron arsenide’s semiconducting properties are very comparable to silicon. [SCIENCE DAILY]

HUMAN EVOLUTION | ANTHROPOLOGY

A Group of People with an Amphibious Life Have Evolved Traits to Match

A group of people in the Malay Archipelago, the Bajau, spend the majority of their lives at sea, and historical evidence suggest they have been living this way for at least 1,000 years. Unsurprisingly, their diving abilities are prodigious: they sometimes descend more than 70 meters and can stay submerged for up to five minutes. By studying DNA samples from the Bajau and comparing it to the DNA of closely-related, land-living neighbors, scientists have uncovered natural selection at work on modern humans. [THE ECONOMIST]

ELECTRIC VEHICLES | TRANSPORTATION

Sweden Builds First Ever Electrified Road for Charging Vehicles as They Drive

Around 1.2 miles of electric rail has been built into a public road just outside Stockholm, and plans are in place to expand the project throughout other parts of the country and the world. The electrified road works by transferring energy from the rail through a moveable arm on the bottom of an electric car or truck. Those behind the initiative estimate that only the major routes – around 3 per cent of the total road network – would need to be modified to considerably cut carbon emissions. [INDEPENDENT]

ENVIRONMENT | INFOGRAPHIC

7 Striking Maps that Visualize the Human Footprint

Humans have changed the face of the planet. Our impact has been so profound, in fact, that many have declared the dawn of the Anthropocene epoch, or the age of human influence, a term that is not without controversy as can be seen here or—hilariously—here. This ambitious graphic from Reldresal looks at the human footprint from a number of different angles, some expected and others creative. [VISUAL CAPITALIST | BBC | REDDIT | WINNER]

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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.

QUANTUM PHYSICS

Coolest Science Ever Headed to the Space Station

On May 21, NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory arrived at the International Space Station to explore a state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), in which atoms shed their individual identities and crowd en masse into a single quantum wave. Long-predicted, but first observed in 1995, achieving the state requires chilling atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, even colder than the average temperature of deep space. Moving experiments to space solves a key challenge: being able to observe the BEC for more than 10-20 milliseconds after release from the magnets and lasers used to trap and chill the atoms. [SCIENCE]

STRATEGY | PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Building a Better MVP: How to Say No to the Wrong Things So You Can Say Yes to the Right Things

The most persistent mistake companies make during product development is also one of the easiest to solve. In fact, post-mortem evaluations of over 100 startups revealed that the primary cause of startup failure—in 42% of cases—was “no market need.” How can this happen? Founders overwhelmingly said “they were more focused on solving an interesting version of the problem, rather than solving the real problem as it existed.” Don’t ignore the importance of deeply understanding the job-to-be-done: whether you are a start-up or a major corporation, get out and talk to the market. Again and again. [ALLEYWATCH]

CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING

Chemists Synthesize Millions of Proteins Not Found in Nature

In a DARPA-funded project, MIT chemists have devised a way to rapidly synthesize and screen millions of novel proteins from amino acids not used in nature; the proteins could be used as drugs against Ebola and other viruses. These “xenoproteins” offer many advantages over naturally occurring proteins: they are more stable, don’t require refrigeration, and may not provoke an immune response. Amino acids can exist in two different configurations, known as L and D, but cells can use only the L variant. As building blocks for their xenoproteins, the researchers used 16 “mirror-image” (D) amino acids. The program has already synthesized D-variant proteins that will bind to the influenza virus, the anthrax toxin, and an Ebola glycoprotein. [MIT]

STRATEGY | AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

Building Autonomous Vehicles is Hard

This New York Times piece describes how Apple—handicapped by hubris and a demand to control everything—has struggled to find a partner to help execute its autonomous driving ambitions. Tesla, on the other hand, is struggling with a different problem: too much vision and not enough execution. In this piece (and podcast) which originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Steve Blank compares Elon Musk to Billy Durant (the founder of GM who was fired twice before Alfred Sloan took over) and “wonders if $2.6 billion in executive compensation [for Musk] would be better spent finding someone to lead Tesla to becoming a reliable producer of cars in high volume – without the drama in each new model. Perhaps Tesla now needs its Alfred P. Sloan.”

CHEMICALS | ENVIRONMENTAL

Water Woes Lead EPA to Toughen Fluorochemical Rules

The EPA held an invitation-only forum in Washington last week to announce the development of tougher national regulations on the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), and the related perfluorooctanoic acid, in an effort to keep these chemicals out of the drinking water supply. Administrator Pruitt said, “This should be and must be a national priority, and . . . we are going to be taking concrete steps as an agency to address that, along with you at the state and local level.” PFAs and PFOAs are known to persist in the environment and can pose health risks even at relatively low concentrations. Controversy plagues the EPA on this issue; it has been accused of suppressing a report suggesting the existing limits are too high and it did not open the May summit to affected community groups and activist organizations. New regulations will likely face opposition because of the importance of these chemicals across many industries. [PLASTICS NEWS]

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