Category Physics

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.

BATTERIES | CHEMISTRY | NANOPARTICLES

Superconductor Boosts Lithium-Sulfur Battery Performance

Next-generation batteries based on lithium-sulfur chemistry could store more energy in lighter packages than today’s best lithium-ion batteries. But the intricacies of Li-S chemistry also limit its durability. Now researchers have found they can rein in the chemistry of Li-S cathodes by adding nanoparticles of the superconductor magnesium diboride. [C&EN]

ELECTRICITY | EMISSIONS

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the U.S. Power Sector Have Declined 28% Since 2005

Carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector have been on a steady decline and are now at the lowest level since 1987. Driven by low demand, state policies, and federal tax incentives encouraging the use of noncarbon electric generation like solar and wind, this decline in emissions will likely be a continuing trend. [EIA]

INNOVATION | STARTUPS

Lean StartUp’s Newest Tool: Innovation Accounting

A recent study of 1200 executives found that over half of them struggle with connecting their business and innovation strategies. Almost 75% believe they are not out-innovating their competition. Eric Ries, author of The Startup Way, thinks it’s because companies are measuring their progress using wild guesses; they should start using science instead. [INC]

PHYSICS

Redefining the Kilogram

The official object that defines the mass of a kilogram is a tiny, 139-year-old cylinder of platinum and iridium that resides in a triple-locked vault near Paris. Because it is so important, scientists almost never take it out; instead they use copies called working standards. But the last time they did inspect the real kilogram, they found it slightly heavier than all the working standards, which have been leaving behind a few atoms of metal every time they are put on scales. The result: representatives from 57 countries are meeting this month to vote on a proposal to make the International System of Units fully dependent on constants of nature. The ampere, kelvin, mole, and kilogram are all expected to get new definitions. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

SCIENCE | VIDEOS| IMAGES

The 8 Best Science Images, Videos, and Visualizations of the Year

From basic principles that explain our universe, to the newest technology, science can be weird, fun, and down right exciting. But science can also be strikingly beautiful. These 8 visuals are the best this year that not only explain scientific concepts clearly, but also show just how stunning science can be. [POP SCI]

Read More

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 | PACKAGING | FOOD & BEVERAGE

Model Predicts Polymer Food Packaging’s Propensity for Absorbing Aroma Molecules from Their Contents

Packaging materials used to store products are a significant source of food and beverage flavor loss. Adapting a well-known model of polymer properties, researchers at A*STAR and Coca-Cola developed a mathematical model that can describe the mixing behavior of polymers with organic compounds and could lead to better tasting foods. [PHYS ORG]

DISRUPTION | TESLA | PODCAST

Tesla and the Nature of Disruption

In the context of an interesting discussion about whether Tesla is disruptive, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky deliver a great overview of opportunity ecosystems in general. If you’ve ever wondered whether you are considering all the right factors when you have a new product idea, this provides high-level answers. [A16Z]

PHYSICS | COSMIC RAYS

Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice and They Might Shatter Modern Physics

A previously unknown and undetected high-energy particle has been making its way up through the frozen ground in Antarctica and blasting into space. What we know of cosmic rays is that they in fact, do the opposite, usually shooting down from space to enter Earth. So what exactly is this mysterious particle? That’s what physicists are working to figure out. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

NANOWIRES | SOUND

This Flexible Nanomembrane Loudspeaker Attaches to Skin and Plays a Violin Concerto

Researchers in South Korea have developed a hybrid nanomembrane that emits sound waves when fed with sound frequency electric currents. Using silver nanowires, a thin, flexible, and transparent membrane could act as a loud speaker as well as a microphone. We could all soon carry our own loudspeakers wherever we go, not in our bags or pockets, but on our skin. [INTERESTING ENGINEERING]

WIKIPEDIA | INFOGRAPHIC

WIKIGALAXY

A fascinating, three-dimensional visualization of the Wikipedia “galaxy:” 100,000 articles grouped into 500 thematic nebulas with the ability to fly across the galaxy following links from one article to the next. [WIKI]

Read More

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]

Read More

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.

MANAGEMENT | WORK-LIFE BALANCE

You Could Be Too Much of a Team Player

Amid a sweeping workplace trend pushing collaboration, some people are finding they play a little too well with others, turning some personal qualities that might be strengths in other settings into weaknesses at work. The good news: changing just a few behaviors can regain 18% to 24% of the time you spend collaborating. [WSJ]

ENERGY

Alternative Photovoltaic Systems for the Houses of the Future

Following California’s new mandate requiring solar-powered systems for residential construction, this article highlights technologies likely to get a bump and discusses those that may be coming in the future. Coverage of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) includes alternative roofing materials, window glazings, solar facades, and energy-harvesting concrete. [ARCHITECT]

PHYSICS

Settling Arguments About Hydrogen with 168 Giant Lasers

With gentle pulses from gigantic lasers, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California transformed hydrogen into droplets of shiny liquid metal. Their research, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, could improve understanding of giant gas planets like Jupiter and Saturn whose interiors are believed to be awash with liquid metallic hydrogen. [NYTIMES]

3D PRINTING | MANUFACTURING

Five Myths About 3D Printing

Like any fast-developing technology, 3-D printing, described more technically as “additive manufacturing,” is susceptible to a variety of misconceptions. While recent debates have revolved around 3-D-printed firearms, most of the practical issues in the field come down to the emergence of new manufacturing techniques. The resulting culture of innovation has led to some persistent myths. Here are five of the most common. [WASHINGTON POST]

ECONOMICS | INFOGRAPHIC

Here’s How America Uses Its Land

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is, but it can be hard to decipher how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure. This series of infographics derived from Department of Agriculture statistics break it all down. [BLOOMBERG]

Read More

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]

Read More

Throughout our work week, 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.

COMPUTING | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Chinese Police Add Facial-Recognition Glasses to Surveillance Arsenal

China is already the global leader in deploying cutting-edge surveillance technologies based on artificial intelligence. Now, mobile facial-recognition units mounted on eyeglasses are expanding the reach of that surveillance, allowing authorities to peer into places that fixed cameras aren’t scanning, and to respond more quickly. Unlike many fixed-camera facial-recognition systems that remotely connect cameras to vast facial databases stored in the cloud, the police glasses are wired directly to a hand-held device that contains an offline database—allowing them to work more quickly. [WALL STREET JOURNAL]

STRATEGY | INNOVATION | DISRUPTION

How GE Got Disrupted

GE’s problems are no secret, but their source is interesting: they spent the last few decades cutting costs, streamlining operations and increasing efficiency, yet it’s hard to think of any major invention that’s come out of the company since the CT scanner back in the 1970s. Six Sigma will only take you so far if you stop exploring: until GE can learn to make new discoveries that lead to new markets, its future will be in question. [DIGITAL TONTO]

Read More