AR Contact Lenses

AR contact lensScientists have already managed to create contact lenses that contain a single LED, so it’s no surprise they’re working on increasing that resolution to a more usable level.  Due to the obvious tactical advantage in a combat situation, it’s no surprised that DARPA is an active participant in such research, working with Washington-based iOptiks on just such a solution.  Eventually, you can expect this to trickle down to the consumer level, which would allow for virtually seamless augmented reality integration into our lives.  Until then, expect the AR experience to be first tackled through use of eye glasses such as these.  The next decade is going to be exciting for AR, I can’t wait to see how this develops!  Read more here.

(via Slashdot)

This Planet is Worth Fighting For

Take some time today to watch the video added below.  It’s a great reminder of how beautiful and wonderful this planet is, and how our actions are ruining it.  We have no right to deprive future generations of the magnificence of this world; we have a moral and social obligation to do everything we can to live in balance with the world around us.  If we destroy the planet, we will destroy our society as well; our current path is not sustainable and change will happen whether we want it or not.  Let’s lead that change and shape our future, rather than let it be shaped for us.

Solar Panel Efficiency Gains

North Carolina based Semprius has set a new standard for solar panel efficiency at 33.9 percent!  While only a small gain over the previous record of 32%, it’s nice to see this trend continue, as improved efficiency helps increase solar’s competitiveness in the marketplace.  They accomplish this through the use of lenses and mirrors to focus the incoming light, a technique known as concentrated photovoltaics (CPV).  They’re expecting production of this technology to begin in the second half of 2012, though it’s targeted more towards utility-scale installations, not residential owners.

Barefoot Running

Ah, technology. Solve some problems create others. My exercise focus these days is turning to running, and shoes. I had pretty much giving up on long distance running as a form of exercise due to concern about long term knee damage. Now, I’m learning more about more about barefoot running, which seems to address this concern. While not necessarily barefoot (minimalist shoes are also used effectively), the basic idea is to change a runner’s stride to avoid the heel strike and the impact that produces on the knees…instead, landing on the ball of the feet and using the foot geometry to absorb the impact. Good or bad? Well, look at it this way, our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution. We’ve invented new shoes that have allowed us to change our stride, only to find that other areas of the bodies are now unsuitable for the new loads being applied.  Wired magazine has a great article about this, and you can expect this ‘trend’ to really take off in 2012.

The solution is really quite simple and elegant.  Respect and understand how our bodies evolved, and ENHANCE the design rather than trying to alter it.  Wearing minimalist shoes is a form of enhancement…you get the optimal stride and form, but with more protection for your foot (nice to have in areas with hot pavement, or rocky surfaces).

Check out Barefoot Inclined for one runner’s story of re-learning how to run.

Food Scarcity

In the coming years and decades, you can expect more headlines like this one from Scientific American: “World Lacks Enough Food, Fuel as Population Soars.”  It’s a two-sided problem.  On the one hand, demand increases as more people move out of poverty and reach a traditional ‘middle class’ lifestyle.  On the other hand, the world population is increasing FAST, which compounds the first problem of increasing demand.  Perhaps this quote from the article sums it up best though:

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply.

So, what do we do?  Well, decreasing consumption is obviously a priority, and I hope that new technological advances can help reduce the amount of natural resources required to build products (but even then, there’s a finite limit to how much we can dig up out of the Earth…society will need to incorporate virtual reality into our lives if we are to hope to achieve balance).  In the meantime, the UN’s panel on global sustainability recommends managing water and marine ecosystems more efficiently (they’re both key to food supply) and increasing affordable sustainable energy.

You can read the panel’s full report here.

Buying Organic Food

So, let’s say you want to start eating healthier and buying organic foods. Where do you start? They’re more expensive, so it can be tough to go 100% organic. This video serves as a starting point, which foods offer the most ‘bang for the buck’, or as the video title’s puts it, ‘The 13 Most Toxic Foods‘ (not because of the food’s toxicity, but because of the chemicals added to them).

Palm Oil Biodiesel – not green

The EPA has ruled that biodiesel made from palm oil does not meet US standards for being defined as a renewable fuel, due primarily to the fact that the palm plantations are often created by clearing out the rainforest that once thrived there.  It’s a nice reminder that when you see something being touted as eco friendly or using tagwords like this ‘biodiesel’, we need to look at the whole picture and not just accept it as green (this can be a form of greenwashing – tricky marketing to make you think that something is eco-friendly when it isn’t).