Category Strategy

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.

THERMODYNAMICS | ENERGY

A New Way to Turn Heat Into Useful Energy

A discovery published last month in the journal Science Advances could lead to more efficient thermal energy harvesting. The effect—which researchers call paramagnon drag thermopower—is a local thermal perturbation of spins in a solid that can convert heat to energy even in a paramagnetic material, a place where spins weren’t thought to correlate long enough to do so. [NEW ENERGY AND FUEL]

BIOLOGY

First Hint That Body’s ‘Biological Age’ Can Be Reversed

Taking a cocktail of two diabetes medications and a growth hormone over the course of a year, nine healthy volunteers’ immune systems showed signs of rejuvenation and shed, on average, 2.5 years from their biological ages. Described as “surprising” and “futuristic” these results will need to be replicated in larger and better controlled trials in order to have an impact on disease and anti-aging treatments. [NATURE]

FUTURE OF WORK | TECHNOLOGY

The Work of the Future: Shaping Technology and Institutions

Robots are taking our jobs. AI will mean the end of work. Three-fourths of all jobs will be automated. The rhetoric may be alarmist, but it arises from genuine concerns. MIT recently created the Task Force on the Work of the Future to identify an evidence-based path forward. This is its first report, and its aim is to provide preliminary insights to help frame the public debate and public policy. [MIT]

STRATEGY | ECOSYSTEM

Here’s What You Need to Know to Compete in an Ecosystem-Driven World

We tend to think about business as hierarchy-driven, and you win by climbing your way to the top of the stack. In reality, however, the impact of a good idea is seldom felt until an ecosystem develops to support it: cars couldn’t take off until we build roads, and the productivity impact of PCs wasn’t revolutionary until software and the internet matured. In an ecosystem-driven world, power emanates from the center of networks. How do you make your way there? [DIGITAL TONTO]

MARINE BIOLOGY | VIDEO

Watch an Octopus Dream

A marine biologist captured incredible footage of a dreaming octopus rapidly changing color. [PBS]

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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.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY | MANUFACTURING

A Better Way to Adiponitrile

Adiponitrile is an important precursor for making nylon 6,6 and one of the most produced chemicals worldwide. Industry generally synthesizes it through an energy-intensive process involving acutely toxic reactants. The less-often-used route is driven by electrochemistry; it’s environmentally-friendly but inefficient. Researchers at NYU discovered that pulsing the current used to drive the reaction could increase yields and then used a machine-learning algorithm to optimize the process. The result: they increased selectivity by 325% and yields by 30%. [C&EN]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Allen Institute’s Aristo AI System Finally Passes an Eighth-Grade Science Test

It’s easy to mistake extraordinarily good (but narrow) AI performance in a single domain for human-like reasoning, yet very few machines are capable of the feat. A minor milestone was reached last month, however, by a program developed specifically for test-taking: it managed to score 90% on a multiple choice science test usually given to New York eighth-graders. But there are caveats. [GEEKWIRE]

STRATEGY | NEGOTIATION

One Negotiation Strategy That Will Make You a World-Class Negotiator


Hyperfocus is required to negotiate, but it’s also where we most often trip ourselves up in any complex negotiation. We become myopic, losing sight of the context and larger goal of the negotiation. This simple strategy can solve the problem and help you become a better negotiator by getting outside your biases and preconceptions. [INC]

LANGUAGE | INFORMATION THEORY

Listening For Extraterrestrial Blah Blah

After listening for decades, the general consensus is that we have never heard a signal from an alien civilization. But what if we have and we just didn’t recognize it? By applying information theory to the communications of socially complex animals, scientists have broadened our understanding of what signals generated by an alien intelligence might look like and are applying this understanding to an analysis of data collected by the Allen Telescope Array at the SETI Institute. [NAUTILUS]

QUANTUM COMPUTING

Quantum Radar Demonstrated For the First Time

Researchers created the world’s first quantum radar, a device that can detect objects at a distance using only a few photons and emitting little detectable electromagnetic radiation. This device could have potential for use in both non-invasive biomedical and security applications. [MIT TECH REVIEW]

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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

Physicists Reverse Time Using Quantum Computer

In a four-stage experiment, researchers have seemingly defied the second law of thermodynamics and reversed time. Observing highly organized qubits on a quantum computer, they used an evolution program to cause chaos among the qubits, then used the same algorithm to rewind the qubits to their original state. [PHYS ORG]

DRONES | TECHNOLOGY

Your Drone-Delivered Coffee is (Almost) Here

With major cities packed with tall buildings, trucks, people, and power lines, some delivery services are focusing their drone delivery efforts on less challenging rural and suburban areas. Experiments underway in the U.S., Iceland, and Australia using a new generation of bigger, faster drones, are proving that drone deliveries are more cost and energy efficient than cars in less populated locales. [WSJ]

STRATEGY | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

How to Develop an Artificial Intelligence Strategy: 9 Things Every Business Must Include

Artificial Intelligence has the power to transform the world, and if your business isn’t figuring out how to use it to your advantage, you risk being left behind. Here, Bernard Marr lays out a tight roadmap detailing the questions you should be asking and the steps you should be taking right now. [FORBES]

CLIMATE SCIENCE | ECOLOGY

Rise of the Golden Jackal

One of the least-studied canine predators, the Golden Jackal, once inhabited only the fringes of Europe. But over the past two decades its range has exploded, and jackals now outnumber wolves in Europe by more than 5-to-1. This unheard-of expansion of a medium-sized predator has scientists—and the general public—grappling with what the long-term ecological impacts may be for the continent. [NYT]

BIOLOGY

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment

After Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh revived bacteria from a 10-year-old dried petri dish he had forgotten about, he became intrigued by questions about bacterial longevity. So Cockell and a group of German and U.S. collaborators designed a 500-year experiment to try and answer them. At the heart of the experiment are 800 hermetically sealed vials of bacteria, some of which will be tested every 25 years. Opening vials, adding water, and counting colonies that grow is easy. The hard part is ensuring someone will be doing this on schedule for 500 years. [ATLANTIC]

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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.

NANOPARTICLES | BIOENGINEERING

Nanoparticles Give Mice Infrared Vision

The ability to see infrared light has only been available to a select few species . . . until now. Scientist at the University of Science & Technology of China have designed nanoparticles that stick to the light-detecting cells of retinas and injected them into the eyes of mice. The particles convert infrared light into green light allowing the mice to respond to light they otherwise cannot see. [ATLANTIC]

STRATEGY

How Blockbuster, Kodak, and Xerox Really Failed (It’s Not What You Think)

Go to just about any conference today and you will hear a familiar tale of woe. A once great corporation, which had dominated its industry, fails to adapt and descends into irrelevance. The protagonists of these stories always come out looking more than a little bit silly, failing to recognize business trends that seem obvious.The problem with these stories is that they are rarely true. [DIGITALTONTO]

EVOLUTION

Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

It has long been believed that beauty in the animal kingdom was an indicator of good health or survival skills and therefore a significant part of natural selection. But a new crop of biologists disagree and are now favoring a once ridiculed and abandoned theory—that animals appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake—posited by Charles Darwin almost 150 years ago. [NYT]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial Intelligence Milestones From 1637 to 2018

A brief history of important artificial intelligence milestones. While the list starts in the 1600s with Rene Descartes and his thoughts on machines and their possibilities, the rest of the breakthroughs appear about halfway through the 20th century. [LINKEDIN]

ASTRONOMY | PODCAST

More on Interstellar Visitor Oumuamua

Back in November, we included a story about Oumuamua, the first interstellar object detected in our solar system, a body so strange that we still cannot rule out the possibility that its origin is artificial. In this fascinating podcast, Avi Loeb, chairman of the astronomy department at Harvard, describes the facts that led him to publish a controversial paper arguing that Oumuamua is not a natural object. The episode is also available on iTunes, etc. [AFTER ON PODCAST]

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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 | POLYMERS | ENVIRONMENT

Scaling up Nodax, a Landfill and Waterway-Biodegradable, Biobased Plastic

Nodax PHA—a bioplastic produced by bacterial cultures grown with canola oil—is compostable, biodegradable in marine environments, biocompatible, and customizable for a variety of applications. Due to a partnership between Danimer Scientific (developers of Nodax) and Nestle, we could soon see Nodax on store shelves and in our homes. [LAB CONSCIOUS]

BIOLOGY

The Extraordinary Life and Death of the World’s Oldest Known Spider

A fascinating look at the life of an Australian trapdoor spider with details provided by the zoologists who studied her for her entire life. [WASHINGTON POST]

STRATEGY

Bias Busters: Pruning Projects Proactively

A quick look at the reasons why executives hold on to under-performing assets and projects, and some tips to help determine which to keep and which to let go. [MCKINSEY]

3D PRINTING | SPACE

The Future of In-Space Manufacturing

Everything needed for a trip to space, including food, tools, and all supplies for any contingency, have to be made on Earth. This makes solar system exploration a costly endeavor, but space-based 3D printers will soon make loading rockets with supplies and spare parts a thing of the past. [COSMOS]

TECHNOLOGY

I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.

A fascinating look at what happened when one woman decided to completely remove Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon from her life. If you are concerned about the reach and influence of Big Tech in your life . . . well . . . it’s worse than you think. [GIZMODO]

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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

Predicting the Properties of a New Class of Glasses

Using a modeling method called ReaxFF, researchers are testing a new class of glass-forming material: zeolitic imidazolate frameworks, or ZIF. Their goal is to combine the transparency of silicate glass with the non-brittle quality of metallic glass. ZIF glasses have the potential to be more transparent and bendable than traditional glass, making them a better choice for a variety of applications. [EUREKA ALERT]

LANGUAGE | HISTORY

How Humans Invented Writing – Four Different Times

Developed circa 3,200 B.C., Mesopotamian cuneiform is the oldest known writing system in the world. But it does not stand alone. Research shows that writing was invented independently in a least three other civilizations over time. This articles gives a quick history of how those scripts were developed and how they form the basis for every other writing system that followed. [DISCOVER]

STRATEGY

Trying to Understand the Science Behind Strategy

Where do brilliant decisions come from? Business schools teach entrepreneurs and aspiring executives to be successful—training them to make brilliant decisions and hire people who do the same. But while graduates may leave with improved strategic skills, researchers have only recently begun collecting the empirical evidence to explain how lessons learned in the business-school classroom produce effective decision-making in the field. [CHICAGO BOOTH REVIEW]

SENSORS | MEDICINE

MIT’s Smart Capsule Could be Used to Release Drugs in Response to Fever

MIT researchers have developed a Bluetooth-controlled, 3D-printed capsule which, once ingested, can communicate core body temperature to your doctor and release drugs in response to symptoms that it detects. While not available yet for use in humans, researchers plan to expand the delivery system’s capabilities by adding sensors able to detect other vital signs, such as heart/breathing rate. [DIGITAL TRENDS]

ASTRONOMY | EXOPLANETS

Evaporating Planets, Disintegrating Rings [LINKS IN TEXT BELOW]

Planet GJ 3407b, a Neptune sized exoplanet, is disappearing at a rapid pace. Its upper atmosphere is being blown off by wind and stellar radiation, and it has lost about 35 percent of its mass since its birth 2 million years ago. Astronomers believe that it and other gas giants orbiting close to their stars “simply can’t take the heat . . .” [MOTHERBOARD]

New NASA research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity, falling into the planet as a dusty rain of ice particles. The new data indicates the rings are less than 100 million years old and have less than 100 million years left to live; given what a blink-of-the-eye 200 million years is to the solar system, we’re lucky we got to see them at all. [SCIENCE DAILY]

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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.

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, 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.

NEUROSCIENCE | CREATIVITY

Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving

An interview with Professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University. He and colleagues served vodka-cranberry cocktails to 20 male subjects until their blood alcohol levels neared legal intoxication and then gave each a series of word association problems to solve. Not only did those who imbibed give more correct answers than a sober control group performing the same task, but they also arrived at solutions more quickly. The conclusion: drunk people are better at creative problem solving. [HBR]

CLIMATE SCIENCE

Maybe We Can Afford to Suck CO2 Out of the Sky After All

While avoiding the worst dangers of climate change will likely require sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky, prominent scientists have long dismissed such technologies as far too expensive. But a detailed new analysis published in early June in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all. The study concludes it would cost between $94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale. [MIT Technology Review]

STRATEGY | INNOVATION

How “The Lean Startup” Turned Eric Ries Into an Unlikely Corporate Guru

Although The Lean Startup focused on . . . well . . . startups, Ries now believes innovation lurks in the bellies of even the stodgiest corporations. Ries’s second book, The Startup Way, published in October, focuses squarely on big companies, and this interesting profile reveals a lot of his thinking. Ries thinks that the trick for big companies is to stop thinking about their size: they need to form small groups devoted to the practice of innovation, and empower and protect them on a continual basis. [FORTUNE]

INNOVATION | ECONOMICS

“A Powerful Signal of Recessions” Has Wall Street’s Attention

Every recession of the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted bond market yield curve (with only one false positive), and we’re moving rapidly toward another inversion right now. That means it’s a good time to think about how your company will react to the next downturn, particularly in an area most of us really care about: innovation. With that in mind, we’re revisiting this 2008 Forbes’ piece by Scott Anthony and Leslie Feinzaig, Innovating During a Recession. As they point out, during a downturn “[f]ocusing too much on the core business can lead companies smack dab into the roots of the innovator’s dilemma, where they get diminishing returns from investments while missing great growth opportunities emerging in the fringes of their markets or in completely new ones.. [NEW YORK TIMES | FORBES]

BUSINESS MODEL INNOVATION

Fast-Fine Dining Is the New Restaurant Frontier

Driven by a shrinking pool of workers, high labor costs, and high rent, the Bay Area is trying to optimize something new by replacing employee labor with customer labor: the fine dining industry. So what? This trend—finding creative ways to eliminate labor cost through business model innovation—is something you ought to be thinking about in your own business because it’s going to spread, first to high-cost cities and soon to lower cost areas. As this shift happens, opportunities are going to be created for companies in the supply chain to optimize the experience of fast-fine dining. And outside the restaurant supply chain the same thing is going to be happening: if you make things that wind up in the service sector, the world is going to be changing fast. Start planning now to get ahead of the emerging opportunities. [BON APPETITE | NEW YORK TIMES]

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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.

SEMICONDUCTORS | QUANTUM COMPUTING

Intel Can Now Produce Full Silicon Wafers of Quantum Computing Chips

Unlike previous quantum efforts at Intel, their latest is focusing on spin qubits instead of superconducting qubits. This secondary technology is still a few years behind superconducting quantum work but could turn out to be more easily scalable: Intel now has the capability to produce up to five silicon wafers every week containing up to 26-qubit quantum chips. The current technology being used for small scale production could eventually scale to beyond 1000 qubits. [TECHSPOT]

STRATEGY | ANALYTICS | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Ten Red Flags Signaling Your Analytics Program Will Fail

It’s the rare CEO who doesn’t know that their business must become analytics-driven, and many have been charging ahead with bold investments in analytics resources and AI, appointing chief analytics officers, chief data officers, or hiring all sorts of data specialists. But frustrations are beginning to surface: more boards and shareholders are pressing for answers about the scant returns on many early and expensive analytics programs. This long but comprehensive McKinsey article takes apart the various mistakes being made and suggests ways around them. [THINKGROWTH.ORG]

BIOLOGY | ASTROBIOLOGY

Mars Rover Finds Organics, Changing Methane Levels

NASA’s Curiosity rover has delivered some of its most intriguing results so far, with the discovery of organic molecules in three billion-year-old rock just beneath the surface of Mars. The pattern of small molecules detected was similar to what is seen when ancient organic matter from earth, known as kerogen, is analyzed by the same technique: crushing the rock, heating to 860°C, and then using mass spectrometry. [COSMOS]

NEUROSCIENCE | BOOK REVIEW | PODCASTS

How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan

How to Change Your Mind is Pollan’s sweeping and often thrilling chronicle of the history of psychedelics, their brief modern ascendancy and suppression, their renaissance and possible future, all interwoven with a self-deprecating travelogue of his own cautious but ultimately transformative adventures as a middle-aged psychedelic novice. Why should you care? Because recent studies have demonstrated the antibiotic-level effectiveness of psilocybin and other psychedelics at combatting treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and depression in the terminally ill. If you want to know more, below are several links to interesting interviews with Pollan and others who are conducting clinical trials of the treatment. [THE GUARDIAN]

Depression – The Psychedelic Cure? Rob Reid talks with Katya Malievskaia and George Goldsmith whose startup, Compass Pathways, will soon launch the largest triple-blind clinical trial ever of a psychedelic drug, psilocybin. Board members of the startup include a former head of the European Medicines Agency (the EU’s FDA) and the former Chief Medical Officer of Bristol Meyers Squibb; they’ve raised $20 million to manufacture a synthetic version of the drug and conduct the trials. [AFTER ON PODCAST]

Freedom from the Known. Neuroscientist Sam Harris discusses How to Change Your Mind with Michael Pollan. Good if you want to understand the science behind the growing confidence in psychedelics as a treatment for depression. [WAKING UP PODCAST]

MATERIALS SCIENCE | 3-D PRINTING

4-D Printing Using Light-Sensitive Ink

This article is intended for students, but it reveals a potentially important advance in multi-material printing, including laying down polymers and metals in the same layer. The new technology—still in a lab at Georgia Tech—can print 4D objects that respond to their environment, transforming in response to temperature changes, pH changes, or other factors. One of the key innovations is the use of precision light curing with epoxy composites that can allow the stiffest part of a printed object to be 600 time harder than its softest part. [SCIENCE NEWS FOR STUDENTS]

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