In the year 02037…

Posted by on March 27th, 2011

Via Stuart “Futuryst” Candy we learn of MIT’s Future Freight Flows; four attempts to show just what the year 02037 might look like, from the POV of a person watching various iterations of a news program itself current to that period.  (Stuart uses the Long Now’s 10,000 year clock calendar.)

Of the four, this one seems closest to the mark:

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How close? Well in my view it’s good, apart from these elements of it’s depiction:

  • Firstly, and mostly obviously, Nuclear Power. An increasing problem in extrapolating from the present in these rapidly changing times, something can happen just next week that invalidates the prediction you made today. This is a perfect case of that. Except for maybe state-controlled China (and we’ll see how long that situation itself lasts), that push we’ve been seeing to “re-brand” nuclear power as being ‘Green’ is over. No matter how hard they green-wash it, the world’s just got a deservedly bad case of the NIMBY’s for nuclear reactors. My prediction: reduced energy demands thanks to efficiency gains, coupled with a distributed, renewable energy driven, grid.
  • Hyperlocal manufacturing thanks to 3D Printing tech? Hell yes! But… buying designs as DRM’ed products, controlled via IP law? Well, maybe for the new global elite it might be the chic thing, but for the rest..? No. Far more likely: downloading open-source designs from sites like thingiverse for everything from fashion and furniture to food to medicine, as the technology improves.
  • Finally the year itself: 02037. 02017, more likely. It’s been traditional to project radical changes as being far away, over the horizon of the present. So this imagining of a newish world, a fictional future present, is pitched as being 26 years distant. But as we ride the wave of accelerating change, 6 years is the new 26 years, and I will happily place a Long Bet to that effect.

By way of contrast with this, I leave you with my least favourite of the four scenarios: the quasi-fascist/quasi-communist Eco World Order future:

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Ark Hotels planned for heavy weather regions

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

The Ark Hotel is some shiny, shiny design porn courtesy of Russian firm Remistudio (with the assistance of the International Union of Architects’ program Architecture for Disasters Relief).

As more cities are devastated (Brisbane alone is looking at a price tag in the billions after last week’s floods) one thing’s for sure; just rebuilding what was there before won’t be enough. And if billions are to be spent, it should be on structures armored against heavy weather.

This design seems like a good place to start (if malls and hotels are your thing, that is..) has the full details:

Designed as “an integrated energy system with an uninterruptible power supply using alternative energy sources”, the slinky-like Ark Hotel uses solar panels and a rainwater collection system to provide inhabitants with power and water.

The dome-shaped hotel is constructed with wooden arches, steel cables and a “self-cleaning” plastic layer instead of glass.

Further, the 14,000 square metre shell-like construction of arches and cables distributes the weight evenly, meaning it can withstand earthquakes

It has also been designed to stay afloat in the event of floods or rising seas.

It would be built around a central pillar connecting to roof-top wind generators and heat pumps, as well as to energy storage and thermal conversion units below.

There will also be a “tornado” energy generating spiral at the top of the pillar.

Daylight is filtered through to internal rooms due to the hotel’s see-through structure, reducing the need for lighting.

There will be an array of vegetation to aid air quality and provide food sources.

Cambridge University Produces Cheap Plastic Organic Solar Cell

Posted by on September 17th, 2010

From Inhabitat:

The University of Cambridge has developed a low cost organic solar cell that has the potential to transform solar production. This new material is made of organic plastic and could be used on awnings, umbrellas and other plastic devices to generate energy.

By placing organic polymers (long chains of carbon-based molecules) in plastic you create an organic photovoltaic cell, that until now have not had much commercial success. With an operating principle similar to photosynthesis in green plants, organic photovoltaic cells are cheap to produce when compared to silicon solar cells, but have quite a low efficiency. This is something which the University of Cambridge is aiming to change.

The university team has reportedly come up with a commercial model that combines efficiency improvements, a longer lifespan, low-cost (and low-toxicity) raw materials, a cost-effective manufacturing process, and a product line that focuses on economies of scale and ease of installation. If this can be done, then cheaply produced solar cells have the ability to transform poorer countries and their energy demands.

Teleportation of energy theoretically possible

Posted by on February 4th, 2010

If reality was a science-fiction novel, the prologue for the one starting today would include this text:


Masahiro Hotta at Tohoku University in Japan has come up with a much more exotic idea. Why not use the same quantum principles to teleport energy?

Today, building on a number of papers published in the last year, Hotta outlines his idea and its implications. The process of teleportation involves making a measurement on each one an entangled pair of particles. He points out that the measurement on the first particle injects quantum energy into the system. He then shows that by carefully choosing the measurement to do on the second particle, it is possible to extract the original energy.

All this is possible because there are always quantum fluctuations in the energy of any particle. The teleportation process allows you to inject quantum energy at one point in the universe and then exploit quantum energy fluctuations to extract it from another point. Of course, the energy of the system as whole is unchanged.

He gives the example of a string of entangled ions oscillating back and forth in an electric field trap, a bit like Newton’s balls. Measuring the state of the first ion injects energy into the system in the form of a phonon, a quantum of oscillation. Hotta says that performing the right kind of measurement on the last ion extracts this energy. Since this can be done at the speed of light (in principle), the phonon doesn’t travel across the intermediate ions so there is no heating of these ions. The energy has been transmitted without traveling across the intervening space. That’s teleportation.

Chapter One would be the construction of giant solar panels in space.  The world would transition away from not just coal, but nuclear power too.  We’d have a reason, nay be compelled to build a giant space fleet, setting up relay stations and outposts at first the Moon, then in orbit around Venus and Mercury. 

Chapter Two would be the creation of a fleet powered by this very energy, having the power of the sun beamed straight into the star drives.

Chapter Three..  well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Crazy, I know.  But a guy can only hope for the best, right?!

Sanyo develops solar cell that’s thinner than hair

Posted by on November 26th, 2009

Thinner than hair, but won’t be availible until 2020:

Sanyo is in the news today, and again it’s about the company’s green tech power. The company today announced [JP] it will do everything to become Japan’s top player in the domestic solar industry by 2012 and eventually one of the top three solar companies on a global level. At the same time, the Nikkei reports [registration required, paid subscription] that Sanyo has succeeded in developing a solar cell that’s thinner than a human hair.

The company says it will benefit greatly from a new feed-in tariff program by the Japanese government introduced this month for green energy firms. Another factor for Sanyo’s self-confidence should be the speed with which it innovates. Their new prototype solar cell is just 58 micrometers thick, about one-fourth of most solar cells currently out there. (Sorry, there’s no picture available yet)

It’s made of two types of silicon whose structure Sanyo optimized to achieve a conversion efficiency of 22%. It’s said to be as bendable as paper, meaning it can be used for a variety of purposes, for example on uneven surfaces.

Sanyo says this technology might help reduce prices by as much as 25% when compared to solar cells available today. The company wants to commercialize the solar cells by 2020.


EyeStop – Italy’s 21C bus stops

Posted by on May 28th, 2009

From cnet:

eye stop

The EyeStop is a touch-screen bus shelter that monitors environmental conditions and real-time bus movement and also provides information and communication tools that can interact with your cell phone.

The EyeStop, which has touch sensitive e-Ink screens as well as LEDs, features a bus map plotting locations in real-time, e-mail and Web access, tools for planning a best route and getting directions, a community bulletin board, and, of course, a place for silent video advertisements. It will also use sensors to monitor and display local air quality.

Riders can choose to have their local EyeStop bus stop sync with their cell phone. The EyeStop you normally frequent, for example, could twitter you that your usual bus is running late that morning.

Intended for tourists as well as locals, the EyeStop tools will be accessible in several languages.

pole versionThe bus shelter and bus pole versions of the EyeStop will power themselves with solar energy, but they won’t be one-size-fits-all.

Each EyeStop will be customized by a computer program that takes into account the stop’s immediate surroundings. As a result, each can be built to fit into the existing space using steel, glass, and gray stone local to Florence. The software also considers maximum sunlight exposure for the location to determine power generation needs.


via chris arkenberg

Bat-Sized Spy Plane

Posted by on September 19th, 2008

Solar powered and using about one watt of energy, the bat-sized spy plane will be capable of sending back video, sound and potential data on biological or chemical warfare, in addition to nuclear radiation levels. The tiny spy is being developed researchers at three universities across the United States with money supplied by the US Army.

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Doctorow and Steffen present: The Outquisition

Posted by on July 16th, 2008

freakangels gank

The Outquisition, it’s the alterna-post-apocalypse:

Because if the ruins of the unsustainable are the new frontier, and if, as is already happening, the various economic and environmental transitions we face will leave many people unmoored from their familiar assumptions at the very least and, at the worst, cut loose from their jobs or driven from their homes, a huge number of people are going to need help forging new ways of life.

Even if we do a pretty decent job of hugging the curve, and bright green innovation brings prosperity and security to a lot of people in many regions, some others will still suffer from ecological shifts, political abandonment, economic collapse or some combination of all three. Unless things change dramatically, we have not seen our last Dust Bowl, our last New Orleans, our last Detroit. What do the people who are left trapped in degrading places, who don’t get the green collar jobs, do?

And we got on this riff about heroes who got the paradox of the moment: that abandoned people and places are sometimes the ones who most need radical innovation; that, these days, new tools and models are practically scattered all over the ground, just waiting for people to pick them up; but that those who most need them are those who least know how to find them.

What would it be like, we wondered, if folks who knew tools and innovation left the comfy bright green cities and traveled to the dead mall suburban slums, rustbelt browntowns and climate-smacked farm communities and started helping the locals get the tools they needed. We imagined that it would need an almost missionary fervor, something like the Inquisition (which largely destroyed knowledge) in reverse, a crusade of open sharing, or as Cory promptly dubbed it, the Outquisition.

Am I the only one that gets a vision of these emergent posthumans wandering the Earth: helping set up clean water, spread knowledge, settle disputes, trade tech and then vanishing once things are stabilized? Terraforming the Earth as practice for Mars?

Or dial it back a bit – and flash on Gibson’s notion of everting (from Spook Country), as the internet continues to swallow the “real world”. People start doing, instead of (mostly) just talking about it. New communities form, and blogs become ways for them to share their results, as they attempt to brute force the problem space of climate change.


Solar-Assisted Rickshaw Easier on Drivers

Posted by on June 13th, 2008

So it’s not a flying car….

We have seen eco-cabs, electric motor-assisted rickshaws in Toronto; Now London’s Solarlab, the team that brought us the Solar boat that Bonnie sailed on the Serpentine, adds solar. “The solar generatior will create 80% of the total power needed to drive the vehicle, while the remaining 20% will be provided by the drivers’ pedal-power. The physical exertion needed will be dramatically less than that of even a standard bicycle, much less than a traditional rickshaw, allowing any driver, not just athletes, to drive the vehicle.”

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Sunplant Photovoltaic Foliage

Posted by on June 1st, 2008

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Clearly a design better suited to sunny Italy than our native London, Toshiyuki Kita’s Sunplant, which we spotted in Milan this year, is an elaborate outdoor energy installation that fuses art with environmentally friendly gadget power. It’s a lovely metaphor: energy from the sun hits one of the plant’s eight PV panel ‘leaves’, which is then used to recharge up to 48 AA batteries that sit at the installation’s centre.

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Masdar’s Solar Powered Rapid Transit System

Posted by on May 30th, 2008

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In Arabic, Masdar means “the source,” and the the latest development to spring from the city’s upwelling of green tech is a futuristic transit system that will serve the city’s six square kilometers. Realizing a concept straight out of sci-fi, the system consists of a fleet of solar-powered programmable vehicles that seat six and keep streets congestion free.

Masdar’s ultra-efficient city plan makes no allowances for fossil fuel vehicles, favoring a new breed of mass transit – a personal rapid transit system. “You program what station you want to go to, and [the vehicle] will directly take you to that station . . . If you look at things like Blade Runner, etc., that we had 15 years ago, it’s really bringing that to the fore now,” says Scott McGuigan of CH2M Hill, the construction firm that’s building Masdar City.

The vehicles are set to run beneath the city like a subway minus the tracks, creating an aboveground infrastructure that is pedestrian-friendly and free from gridlock. Ease and efficiency are key features, since the programmable cars can take you anywhere you need to go, and energy won’t be expended running multiple railways on off-peak hours. Roughly 1,500 stations are planned, and no point in the city will be more than 200 meters from the system.

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See also Dharma Masdar Initiative

Calgary’s New Green Skyscraper

Posted by on May 27th, 2008

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The first steel tower to be built in Calgary, The Bow’s use of this core structural material reduces overall material use by 30%. Additional green features (often found in Foster + Partners’ designs) include a system of interior green spaces, and three sky gardens. These integrated green spaces will separate the commercial, residential, and retail spaces planned for occupancy following the building’s completion in 2010. The most pronounced green feature of the design is the building’s bow shaped tower which contains a south-facing atrium. Running the entire height of the façade, this passive solar space will absorb the sun’s energy to warm the tower in cold Calgary winters.

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Solar Cobras

Posted by on May 18th, 2008

Buro North, in conjunction with the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, has developed a solar-collecting sunshade for Australian schoolyards to create energy while protecting children from too much direct sunlight.

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