Next Generation Battery Created at USC

“Scientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components. The new battery, which uses no metals or toxic materials, is intended for use in power plants, where it can make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed.”


I must once again thank Mike Cassidy at the Techno-Optimism FB group for the tip-off to this exciting development in battery technology. Please read the full article in USC News. If a battery based on this science can be mass-produced, utilities and other larger users and storers of energy can bank much, much more energy for later use.

Alzheimer’s Rate Falling in US

Three different studies have shown that the rate of Alzheimer’s in the US and other developed countries has dropped significantly…and in the space of just a few years:

“In one U.S. study, researchers found that compared with the late 1970s, the rate of dementia diagnosis was 44 percent lower in recent years. The sharpest decline was seen among people in their 60s.

A second study, which reviewed research from England, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, found a similar pattern. The third study, meanwhile, found signs of progress in the space of only a few years: In 2004, older German adults were about one-quarter more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than in 2007.”

From HealthDay, Amy Norton

Fitness Tipping Point?

We all know there’s an obesity epidemic in the United States. In 1962 about 13% of Americans were obese. In 2010 the rate had grown to 35.7%, including 17% of children. This is a real public health problem that has a hefty impact.

However, there are some encouraging trends. One came this spring in the form of CDC/JAMA data that demonstrated “a significant decline in obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years.”  Another is the increased use of personal fitness and health devices, including Fitbit, Nike’s Fuelband, and Jawbone’s Up. These devices and associated apps have helped thousands to meet their health and fitness goals. And the next generation of personal fitness tech will be in your smartphone. You won’t have to buy a clip-on or wrist band device to track your calories, steps and sleep. And the personal data will be much deeper and wider.

“Apple, Google, and Samsung — have all thrown their weight behind platform plays aiming to aggregate and simplify the universe of devices and apps available to consumers.”

“We could be at a real tipping point,” says Harry Wang, an analyst who leads health and mobile research for Park Associates. “Fitness devices and apps have been a fast-growing but still relatively niche market. These new ecosystems, if they gain traction, could finally push the industry into the mainstream.”

See the article in The Verge.

Thanks to Cecile Tamura at Techn-Optimism FB group for this article.





7,256 Fewer Child Deaths Each Day

If you don’t think that foreign aid and development work work, check this out: 7,256 fewer children die every day thanks to the success of programs in developing countries combating infant death from diarrhea, malnutrition, pneumonia, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

“If you compare today to the year 2000, there are now 7,256 fewer children dying every single day. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, read it again, or think of it this way—there are 2.56 million fewer infant deaths each year compared to the year 2000. If you’re a parent, consider the 7,256 families that today did not have to contend with the death of their child.

And this progress isn’t just recent—it has been sustained in a slow march over decades. According to the World Bank, ‘In 1990, more than 12 million children in developing countries died before the age of 5 from diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition, pneumonia, AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. By 2012, that number had dropped to 6.6 million.'” —from Impatient Optimists, the blog of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Renewables Where They’re Needed

Rational centralization was an organizing paradigm of the 20th century. Our age of innovation is all about decentralization. In our pockets we carry access to far more information than that contained at the Library of Congress. And phones (smart & dumb) now allow banking and ecommerce even for the poorest of the planet. Right now I’m blogging on my iPhone as I wait for a hot dog at a baseball game. Nowadays you can do everything anywhere.

For many, renewable energy is all about saving the planet, but for others it’s a way to get power to remote places that are off the grid. That’s much of the developing world. For example, the school and orphanage I help support in rural Kenya has several solar panels. This helps them charge computers and turn on some lights for evening study time, but its most important benefit is the recharging of cell phones, the great connectors and agents of positive change in places like Kenya, the rest of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Renewables get cheaper and cheaper, and thus more and more feasible for remote places in the developed world and remote and off-the-grid places in the developing world. Is getting on the grid impossible or prohibitively expensive? Install (increasingly cheaper) solar or wind power.

Check out this NYTimes article about the many benefits of renewables in remote places:

Better Government, Bit by Bit

“The United States government has historically been good at the big stuff, from fighting wars to breaking new scientific ground. It’s everything else that tends to present a problem.

David Leonhardt’s sweeping assessment of the performance of our government over the last 200+ years is, well, sweeping, but it captures the heart of the problem of big government: Even if well-meaning programs help people in need, these efforts are often slow, inefficient and not very effective.

Progressives deem government programs worthy ipso facto, while the far right wants to vivisect the government–the good and the bad.

A third way is to set ideological assumptions aside and put programs to the test via the gold standard: the randomized study.

Leonhardt, in today’s New York Times, reports on a small but growing trend in testing government programs:

“Less than 1 percent of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence of cost-effectiveness,” writes Peter Schuck, a Yale law professor, in his new book, “Why Government Fails So Often,” a sweeping history of policy disappointments. As Mr. Schuck puts it, “the government has largely ignored the ‘moneyball’ revolution in which private-sector decisions are increasingly based on hard data.”

A solution? “The explosion of available data has made evaluating success – in the government and the private sector – easier and less expensive than it used to be. At the same time, a generation of data-savvy policy makers and researchers has entered government and begun pushing it to do better. They have built on earlier efforts by the Bush and Clinton administrations.

“The result is a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

While I strongly doubt that this sensible approach will be taken up quickly given our current political environment, the trend bodes well.