FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MIT Demonstrates "Wireless Electricity"

The ability to direct and transmit electrical power through the air, without wires, took a further step from the theoretical to the practical in June when a group of MIT researchers demonstrated their "WiTricity" concept.

The technology works by transmitting electricity as a magnetic field oscillating at a specific frequency. Through "magnetically coupled resonance," the "receiver" can capture the electricity, making for an efficient and safe method of over-the-air transfer.

Wireless transmission of electricity has been understood in theory since the work of Nikolai Tesla in the 19th Century. Safe, efficient and cost-effective wireless electricity could hold countless beenfits, from eliminating the need to install costly copper wiring to lowered reliance on batteries for small devices. However, despite the success of WiTricity, the technology has a long way to go before it is deployed commercially... not to mention the need to better understand side effects such as interference and possible effects on health and the environment.

Source: Self Service World

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to Stop -- Or Live With -- Global Warming

According to research at Princeton, current technologies are capable of stopping (or at least slowing) the rate of global warming by 2050 if properly applied. Using a mix-and-match approach, students who participated in a game-like experiment found that the current portfolio of energy-saving policies and technologies (flourescent bulbs, nuclear power, wind turbines, reducing deforestation, etc.) could indeed keep global greenhouse gases constant over the next 50 years. The trick is to apply these solutions to developing countries, where rapid industrial growth will put them on track to overtake the developed world in greenhouse gas output within the next several decades.

Meanwhile, Live Science has a top-10 list of side effects of global warming, such as more severe allergies, more sinkholes from permafrost melting, a less dense upper atmosphere that will affect how satellites orbit the earth, more forest fires and rapid deterioration of ancient ruins. Perhaps the strangest prediction of all: mountains that lose their glaciers and permanent snow caps will actually "grow" as the weight on them decreases.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The End of "Cheap Food"?

From the end of World War II until now, most nations have enjoyed plentiful and relatively inexpensive food supplies. But now, according to the well-known futurist think tank Global Business Network, that era may be ending.

GBN cites the near doubling of corn prices on the world market in the past year as evidence that this trend has already begun. Factors that are driving up prices include increased demand by the growing world population, as well as the growth of Asian economies. The latter is significant because, as economies prosper, meat consumption increases... and with it, the need for livestock feed. Increasing consumption of bio-fuels will stress grain supplies even further. Throw global warming into the mix (crop yields can fall by up to 5% for every 0.9 degree F rise in temperature) , and the stage is set for possibly much higher food prices worldwide, shortages, and ultimately, mass starvation in the poorest countries.

Writes GBN's Gwynne Dyer, PhD, "In the early stages of this process, higher food prices will help millions of farmers who have been scraping along on very poor returns for their effort because political power lies in the cities, but later it gets uglier. The price of food relative to average income is heading for levels that have not been seen since the early 19th century, and it will not come down again in our lifetimes." [Emphasis added]

Source: Arlington Institute

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The iPhone Revolution?

The iPhone, released to the public last Friday, is one of the most hyped devices in memory. But is all the excitement justified?

John McCormick of Baseline suggests that the iPhone could blow the market for handheld rich Internet applications wide open, even though the iPhone was designed for the consumer rather than the enterprise market. Om Malik concurs, noting the significance of the built-in Safari browser that brings the full Web experience to mobile phones for the first time. Smart Mobs opines that mobile phones (not just the iPhone) represent a mass medium unto themselves that are revolutionizing the fundamental ways in which we communicate.

UPDATE: Read a contrarian view...