Scientific American: 20 World Changing Ideas in Science

Scientific American 20 World Changing Ideas Scientific American published an article back in December titled “World Changing Ideas” that caught my eye.   The article provides a laundry list of ideas that Scientific American says have the potential to improve our lives and our planet.  The magazine has been running similar articles on an annual basis for a number of years.

The December article covers ideas in five general categories (Energy,Transportation, Environment, Electronics, and Health) that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world.

Here’s a summary of some of the 20 ideas from this article

Energy

  • Pay for solar panels on your house like you pay for a house mortgage.
  • Biofuels from genetically engineered plants.
  • Innovations in Nuclear Power production that can stem nuclear proliferation
  • Smart meters in the home
  • Wind Power harvested from a fleet of high-flying giant kites or windmills

Transportation

  • Plug-in hybrid trucks for short-haul cargo trips
  • Subway-like bus lines

Environment

  • Someday the oceans might be regulated by a worldwide marine planning and zoning committee
  • Harvesting energy trapped in garbage via a technology called plasma gasification
  • Cement that naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens
  • Introducing new honeybee colonies to our farms
  • Developing crops that can handle saltwater

Electronics

  • HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project
  • Smartphones that can act as real-time language translators
  • Advances in Personal Robotics

Health

  • Biomarkers can help understand the causes of complex diseases
  • Satellites can help track and predict the spread of diseases
  • Better and cheaper ways to help blood clot quicker
  • Performing blood tests in real time by putting a drop of blood on a computer chip
  • Innovations in dental care.

The 20 ideas above are all interesting and innovative trends in science and technology.  Some I would say are more ‘world changing’ than other ideas.  And I am sure we could all come up with another 20 trends / ideas in science that are not listed above.

There’s much more detail in the article.  Scientific American articles are available to subscribers only, but at the time of the writing of this post, I found the article at Scribd here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23475128/20-World-Changing-Ideas.  Also…you can listen to a podcast where Scientific American magazine Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina and editor Michael Moyer talk about the "World Changing Ideas" feature ( Download this podcast ). 

8 Emerging CleanTech Investment Areas

A new report is claiming that, with an aggressive infrastructure investment, eight emerging technologies could meet 60 % of new energy demand by 2020.  It is also claiming that we could abate more CO2 than is necessary for climate stabilization in just 10 years.  

The report, titled  "The Gigaton Throwdown", was developed with the support of many, many people who are tied to the cleantech industry.  The effort was led, in part, by Sunil Paul, who is a founder of Silicon Valley’s Spring Ventures.

The report estimates that if annual global private investment in cleantech tripled between now and 2020, clean energy investments would be in line with fossil-fuel investments.   It is a lofty goal, but the authors say that if we are able to shift investment into ready cleantech solutions, the results would be world changing:  climate mitigation, energy security and 5 million new jobs planetwide.

The report highlights the eight emerging clean technology solution areas that are ready for investment and could yield the stated goals.

  1. Biofuels
  2. Building Efficiency
  3. Concentrating Solar Power
  4. Construction Materials
  5. Geothermal
  6. Nuclear
  7. Solar Photovoltaics
  8. Wind

According to the report each of the eight solutions listed above could feasibly deliver one giagaton of global energy, and each could avoid one gigaton of emissions from being discharged into the atmosphere by 2020, thus the idea for the name of the report.

Apparently the authors considered plug-in electric vehicles , but the projected adoption of this technology is predicted to be too slow to have an impact by 2020.

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