Category Innovation

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

NASA’s Solar Probe Found Things Near the Sun that We Can’t Explain

The fastest object ever created by humans discovered intensely energetic rogue waves within our Sun and solar wind speeds beyond what any model had predicted. Neither discovery was expected (or can be easily explained), suggesting there are significant gaps in our understanding of the Sun. [MOTHERBOARD]

QUANTUM COMPUTING

In Surprise Breakthrough, Scientists Create Quantum States in Everyday Electronics

Usually thought of as too delicate to coexist with consumer electronics, a team working at the University of Chicago just announced that they can electronically control quantum states in silicon carbide semiconductors. The breakthrough could offer a means to more easily build and design quantum electronics. [UCHICAGO]

INNOVATION

American Innovation, a Murder Mystery

For about a century, American growth was driven by tinkerers, trusts, and corporate labs, which eked out regular advances in products based on engines, electrical circuits, and synthetic materials. Today, another half-century later, a coast-to-coast flight still takes you as long as it took in the 70s, and—with the major exception of computers—nothing in your luggage is likely to be much more useful or valuable than your parents’ equivalent. Who killed American innovation? There are a lot of suspects. [WSJ OPINION]

MATERIALS SCIENCE

Tiny Magnetic Particles Enable New Material to Bend, Twist, and Grab

A team of researchers from Georgia Tech and Ohio State has developed a soft polymer material that uses magnetic fields to transform into a variety of shapes. The material—which incorporates two types of magnetic particles and a shape-memory polymer— could enable a range of new applications from antennas that change frequencies on the fly to gripper arms for delicate or heavy objects. [PHYS ORG]

ASTRONOMY | SPACE

The 15 Most Awe-Inspiring Space Images of the Decade

Scientists revealed an astonishing amount about the universe over the last decade. Here—in pictures—are some of their most inspirational accomplishments. [VOX]

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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

Scientists find ‘Monster’ Black Hole So Big They Didn’t Think It Was Possible

Stellar black holes are caused by the death of star, and there are estimated to be 100 million in the Milky Way. An international group of scientists recently discovered one with a mass 70 times that of the sun, more than three times larger than current theories predicted was possible. Figuring out its origin is the next step. If you want to read more, this article by one of the team members that discovered it is a good place to start. [WASHINGTON POST | CONVERSATION]

SOLAR ENERGY

Sunshine Coast University Switches On a Solar-Powered Thermal Battery

Sunshine Coast University in Australia recently turned on its new solar-fed thermal battery. Using rooftop solar arrays and a battery that stores 7 MW of energy in water, the system powers more than 40% of everything on campus from air conditioning to lighting to computer processing. The school will save $100 million in electric bills over the next 25 years and eliminate 92,000 tons of CO2 emissions. [PV MAGAZINE]

INNOVATION

Why Companies Do “Innovation Theater” Instead of Actual Innovation

As companies get larger, they start to value process over product, and the product people end up reporting to the process people. The company loses its ability to compete as an innovator. In response, they often turn to hackathons, design thinking classes, innovation workshops and other innovation theater activities that rarely deliver a shippable product. There’s a way to fix this. [STEVE BLANK writing in HBR]

SECURITY

A New Hack Uses Lasers to Send Inaudible Commands to Your Amazon Echo

Researchers used laser light to insert acoustic signals into micro-electro mechanical system microphones (MEMS). The result? The microphones produced electric signals as if the laser light was genuine audio. While it does not appear this security flaw has yet been exploited, scientists warn that any device using MEMS (smart phones, speakers, and even cars) is vulnerable to attack. [NEXT WEB]

NEUROLOGY

‘Promising Evidence’ Shows Mindfulness Meditation Can Slow Cognitive Decline

A recent study finds that practicing mindfulness meditation, training your mind to stay in the moment and relieving it from outside distractions and stress, can boost cognitive reserves. While more research is needed, this may be helpful for people living with mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor to Alzheimer’s. [STUDY FINDS]

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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

The X17 Particle: Scientists May Have Discovered the Fifth Force of Nature

Physicists have long known of four fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. Now evidence is growing for a fifth. Building on experimentally-reproduced work from 2016, a team at Hungary’s Institute for Nuclear Research observed the X17 particle—a “protophobic X boson”—being emitted from the decay of a helium isotope rather than the original experiment’s beryllium-8. If confirmed, the existence of a fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe. [BIG THINK]

HEALTH

Humans Placed in Suspended Animation for the First Time

As part of a trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, doctors are using a technique in which a patient suffering from acute trauma is rapidly cooled to the point where all heart and brain function is stopped. They are, essentially, dead. The surgical team then has two hours to operate before the patient is warmed and their heart restarted. [NEW SCIENTIST]

INNOVATION

Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation

After reviewing 145 empirical studies, the authors conclude that innovation thrives when individuals, teams, and organizations are working with a healthy dose of constraints. But striking the right balance is hard, and they suggest guidelines for picking the constraints that will foster innovation rather than creating frustration and suppressing creativity. [HBR]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The Blogger Behind “AI Weirdness” Thinks Today’s AI is Dumb and Dangerous

In her recently released book You Look Like A Thing and I Love You, blogger Janelle Shane discusses and highlights the absurdly funny—but also quite serious—limitations of today’s AI. [IEEE SPECTRUM]

LIFE

The Saga of The Cannibal Ants in a Soviet Nuclear Bunker

This is the weird, but true, story of an extraordinarily resilient group of ants, who after falling into the darkness of an underground bunker, resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. It has a happy ending. [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.

ASTRONOMY

Is “Planet 9” Actually a Primordial Black Hole?

Astronomers are on the trail of something big. Their target is between 5 and 15 times the mass of Earth and orbits the sun beyond Neptune. This is Planet 9, the last undiscovered orbiting body in the solar system, and a new theory about why we’ve never seen it is gaining traction: it may be a tennis-ball-sized black hole. [MIT TECH REVIEW]

MATERIALS | REFRIGERATION

Refrigerators of the Future May Be Inspired by the Weird Physics of Rubber

A new refrigeration technique harnesses the ability of rubber and other materials to cool down when released from a tight twist. The team has already applied the technique to cool a stream of water by 7.7° C in a single, 30-second cycle. The technology is in its infancy, but the discovery could someday provide an alternative to traditional cooling systems which account for about 20% of global electricity consumption. [NOVA]

STRATEGY

Hey CEOs, Have You Hugged the Uncertainty Monster Lately?

Terrible headline, but interesting article. You’ll miss a lot if you spend all your time focusing on the unknown. Learn to embrace it, however, and you can turn it into a competitive advantage. [WSJ]

INNOVATION

Validate the Business Model Before Building It

The worst way to validate a business model is buy building it: all the learning happens after you spent the money. Instead of making this expensive mistake, try something new: prototype your business model. [SHIPULSKI]

EVOLUTION

What Whales and Dolphins Left Behind for Life in the Ocean

Genes that are not being used are usually inactivated or simply disappear. A new study has pinpointed 85 of these genes, including blood coagulation, hair growth, and melatonin that were purged as cetacean ancestors moved from land into the sea, eventually becoming modern day whales, dolphins, and porpoises. [NYT]

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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.

COATINGS | MATERIAL SCIENCE

Researchers Develop Ice-Proof Coating for Large Surfaces

Based on insights from the field of fracture mechanics, researchers at the University of Michigan developed a new class of coatings that sheds ice effortlessly from even large surfaces. The work could move the world closer to reaching the long-sought goal of ice-proofing cargo ships, airplanes, power lines and other large structures. [PCI]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE | VOICE ANALYSIS

How to Catch a Criminal Using Only Milliseconds of Audio

A criminal who made repeated hoax distress calls to the US Coast Guard over the course of 2014 probably thought they were untouchable. They left no fingerprints or DNA evidence behind and made sure their calls were too brief to allow investigators to triangulate their location. Unfortunately for this hoaxer, however, voice analysis powered by AI is now so advanced that it can reveal far more about you than a mere fingerprint. [WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM]

PERSONAL PRIVACY | CORPORATE SECURITY

Your Browser Extensions Are Leaking Sensitive Data and Your Boss Is Spying on You [links in the text below]

I Found Your Data. It’s For Sale. As many a 4 million people are leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. The data these extension are gathering and then selling is . . . well . . . alarming: user names, passwords, patient names, medications, tax records, top-secret corporate R&D projects, and corporate network firewall codes. [WASHINGTON POST]

The New Ways Your Boss Is Spying on You. Many companies are employing high-tech surveillance to examine employee activity in the workplace. Advocates insist that monitoring every move and message of employees is necessary to allow companies to root out problems, spot high performers, and better allocate resources. Critics are concerned that workers are giving far too much of their personal privacy.
[WSJ]

DISRUPTION | INNOVATION

Is It Possible to Disrupt a Cow?

The cow is a new sort of target for Silicon Valley: it’s not a hunk of capital, it won’t join your social network, and it certainly won’t be called by an API. It is, instead, evolved to turn feed into protein as efficiently as nature allows, solar powered, fully autonomous, and has achieved a perfect product-market fit. So why are billions in venture capital betting on its competitors? [PERSPICACITY]

PHYSICS

The Greatest Long-Term Threats Facing Humanity

This is NOT a piece about threats that are already here like climate change or Ebola. Instead, it’s a fascinating look at the known, well-understood threats of the far future and speculation about how we might overcome them. And, naturally, it concludes with a spot-on reference to Isaac Asimov’s great short story, “The Last Question”. [BBC]

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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 | TEXTILES | VIDEO

Old Bread Becomes New Textiles

Researchers are hoping to grow a biomass of fungi on bread waste and then use it to spin yarn and to create a new class of nonwovens. [UNIVERSITY OF BORAS]

PHYSICS

Scientists Are Working to Confirm the Existence of a Mirror Universe

Almost thirty years ago, scientists studying how neutrons break down into protons may have unwittingly fired particles through a passage into a parallel universe. This summer, in a series of experiments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, physicist Leah Broussard is set to find out if this passage actually exists and how to open it methodically. Her results and those of several related experiments may suggest a new explanation for dark matter. [MACH]

INNOVATION | STRATEGY | MANAGEMENT

Innovative Companies Are Trouncing the Rest of the Market

Joseph Mezrich’s Innovation Index describes a finding that more executives should be paying attention to: companies that spend their cash on R&D (instead of on stock buybacks) nearly doubled the returns of their competitors, and the analysis applies to both technology companies and large manufacturers. In this Kraft Heinz case study, Colin Robinson applies the Mezrich framework to illustrate what happens when an industrial giant ignores innovation. [CNN | ECONIC]

ENERGY | CHEMISTRY

Magnets Can Double the Efficiency of Water Splitting and Could Help Usher in a Hydrogen Economy

Recent experiments at the Institute of Chemical Research in Catalonia, Spain, have shown that simply bringing an ordinary permanent magnet within touching distance of a water-splitting reactor can double process efficiency, slashing the amount of energy required to obtain hydrogen. [ROYAL SOCIETY OF CHEMISTRY]

HYDRAULICS | BATTERIES | VIDEO

Electrochemistry Helps This Fish Bot Shimmy

This robotic fish has fins powered by a flow battery with liquid electrolyte doubling as hydraulic fluid. [C&EN]

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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

Confirmed: New Phase of Matter is Solid and Liquid at the Same Time

A team of physicists at the University of Edinburgh has confirmed a new fourth state of matter. Potassium atoms, studied via a neural network that learned quantum mechanics, appear to be both a solid and a liquid simultaneously when subjected to tremendous pressure. Existing in this state is unusual and such matter would be found only in extreme environments, such as Earth’s mantle. [NAT GEO]

TECHNOLOGY

Your Car Knows When You Gain Weight

As your car collect information about its own systems, it’s also collecting massive amounts of data about you. It knows where you live, who you call and text, your finances, and even how much weight you gain. Who owns this data? Unclear. What are the car companies doing with it? Also unclear, but plans have been announced by at least one manufacturer to begin monetizing it. [NYT]

LEADERSHIP | INNOVATION

How to Manage Misfits And Not Kill Your Company

Identifying the right kind of “troublemakers” in your organization—the driven, talented, smart, and impatient-for-results people who can sometimes drive you a little crazy—is a key to reaching your innovation goals, but it’s not always easy to lead them effectively. This short piece can help. If you want a deeper dive into the subject, read this NASA case study about the renegades who brought real-time data systems to the Johnson Space Center despite opposition from an entrenched bureaucracy. [GAME-CHANGER | MITSLOAN]

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

Self-Driving Trucks Begin Mail Delivery Test for U.S. Postal Service

The USPS is partnering with the startup TuSimple to test autonomous trucks over five routes in the Southwestern US. With each round-trip totaling more than 2100 miles and 45 hours of driving—a distance that requires multiple human drivers for maximum efficiency—they’re hoping these trucks will be a solution for an industry bogged down by safety constraints and an aging workforce. [REUTERS]

3D PRINTING | BIOENGINEERING | VIDEO

Watch A 3D-Printed Lung Air Sac Breathe

Earlier this year, bioengineers debuted the first 3D-printed heart made from human tissue and now they’ve developed the first 3D-printed lung air sac. While these organs are a long way from being implanted into living creatures, continued study could lead to a future where printed organs for human use is the norm. [CNET | QUARTZ]

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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 | MATERIALS

With a Simple Twist, a ‘Magic’ Material Is Now the Big Thing in Physics

The stunning emergence of a new type of superconductivity with the mere twist of a carbon sheet has left physicists giddy and its discoverer nearly overwhelmed. The possibilities for higher-temperature superconductivity, revolutionary electronics, and the arrival of quantum computers are exciting, but the discovery has also opened a window into a relatively simple platform to explore exotic quantum effects. [QUANTA]

POLYMERS | CHEMISTRY

This New Plastic Can Be Endlessly Recycled

Many plastics can’t be reused without “downcycling” due to manufacturing additives. But a new material developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, PDK, may provide a solution: it can be deconstructed to the molecular level, separated from additives, and then reused as if new. And it’s not the only one; just last year, another new polymer was described as ‘infinitely’ recyclable. [SMITHSONIAN and SCIENCE DAILY]

INNOVATION

How to Stop Playing “Target Market Roulette”: A New Addition to the Lean Toolset

The Lean Methodology tells you how to rapidly find product/market fit inside a specific market and how to pivot when your hypotheses are incorrect, but it doesn’t help you figure out how to locate the best market for you new invention in the first place. A new book by Mark Gruber and Sharon Tai, Where to Play, closes this gap. In this post by Steve Blank, he asks the authors to summarize their technique and provide an example of how to use it. [STEVE BLANK]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE | BOOK REVIEW | PODCAST

How Will AI Change Our Lives? Experts Can’t Agree — and that Could Be a Problem

Some experts warn that AI represents an existential threat to human life, while others find the argument ridiculous. Two new books—Possible Minds, edited by John Brockman, and Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford—take similar approaches to grappling with the topic. Across the books, 45 researchers describe their thinking. Almost all perceive something momentous on the horizon, but they disagree profoundly on whether it should give us pause. For further thinking on the subject, listen to Sam Harris’s interesting interview with three of the contributors to Possible Minds. [VOX | MAKING SENSE PODCAST]

ASTROPHYSICS | VIDEO

A Violent Splash of Magma That May Have Made the Moon

Scientists remain uncertain about the moon’s origin. A study published a few weeks ago in Nature Geoscience suggests that it was forged from the fires of an ocean of magma sloshing over the baby Earth’s surface. If correct, the model may solve a longstanding paradox and help explain the evolution of our own planet. [NYT]

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