Thursday, August 30, 2007

Questions of Returns

Oak Ridge National Lab has announced an efficiency break- through in the use of phase- change materials for roof insulation. This hits one of the biggest energy issues in the US, which is the incredible waste produced by non-transportation sources like houses. This is a picture of Steve Glenn's Santa Monica house, reported to be the LEED rating system's first "platinum" house.

The predicted result of the Oak Ridge work, however, is an 8% savings in energy bills. This is either a worthy return for lots of good science, or a disappointing return in an age where venture capital and nano-style expectations look for exponential improvements, or at least a "Factor Four" kind of leap, or, rock-bottom, a doubling of performance. Should we make ourselves happier by lowering our expectations? Nice research in any case.

We often say the future belongs to brainworkers,. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't agree. They say the big growth involves working with bedpans and brooms. But what about rapidly growing economies that simultaneously emphasize high-tech growth, like China's?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting item today about China capping growth in master's programs for the next five years because even the booming Chinese labor market can't absorb them.

High-tech's employment impacts, nano included, can be overrated.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our good friend (and CNS Fellow Alum), Aaron Rowe, has an interesting take on the global race to create a nanotechnology infrastructure here. ** His Wired blog entry also inspired some commentary at IEEE's blog, here, about how nanotechnology infrastructures won't bring about the "nanotech revolution."

While both Aaron and Dexter, the IEEE blogger, make some good points about government-supported research initiatives, I particularly support one of Dexter's secondary points, his take on nanotechnology as an enabling technology - meaning that nanoscale technological innovations are most likely going to be tools for other technologies.


** in reference to Aaron's blog entry: Interestingly, Biopolis (a huge science park in Singapore) was supposed to be the stem cell research center of the world by now...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fun with Analogs

darn hard to find the two syllables "nano" in the daily press especially while travelling. But I did read a couple of good columns about 1) the difficulty with innovation in games, especially if you don't really know what you mean by innovation, and 2) a very good short primer on the business world's mixed interest in Open Source, focusing here on Microsoft.