This is really cool - you have to check it out. The future of storytelling?
"What’s in your noodle soup? You may never have heard of it before. Cassava - or tapioca - is a root crop like sweet potato originally from South America, where it is steamed or boiled and eaten as a source of carbohydrate. It appears that Spanish traders introduced the species from Mexico to Southeast Asia in the 19th Century, where it survived drought and high temperatures. It’s still eaten as a root crop in some areas, especially in mountainous areas where few other crops will grow. But today it’s also used in a wide range of other foods and markets, and cassava starch is used to make everything from noodles to sweeteners. "
The first prototype of a sodium-ion battery has just been revealed by the RS2E, a French network bringing together researchers and industrial actors. This technology, inspired by the lithium-ion batteries already used in portable computers and electric vehicles, could lead to the mass storage of intermittent renewable energy sources.
Passwords are crap. Nobody picks good ones, when they do they re-use them across sites, and if you use even a trustworthy password manager, they'll get hacked too. But you know what's worse than a pas...
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People will need to lead less materialistic lifestyles if we are to transition to a green economy, but the challenge in changing actual behaviours and lifestyles lies in overcoming our ingrained notions about consumption, success and happiness.
That's according to Ricardo García Mira from the University of A Coruña in Spain, who is leading an EU-funded project looking at how to encourage people to behave in a pro-environmental manner.
How will our individual lifestyles have to change over the next 10 years if we are serious about reducing climate change?
the impact per hectare corn and cotton generated on the ecological health of freshwater systems decreased by about 50% in the last decade. This change is mainly due to the use of genetically modified (GM) crops
In 1970 the United States recognised the potential of crop science by broadening the scope of patents in agriculture. Patents are supposed to reward inventiveness, so that should have galvanised progress. Yet, despite providing extra protection, that change and a further broadening of the regime in the 1980s led neither to more private research into wheat nor to an increase in yields. Overall, the productivity of American agriculture continued its gentle upward climb, much as it had before.
In other industries, too, stronger patent systems seem not to lead to more innovation. That alone would be disappointing, but the evidence suggests something far worse.
Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.
The patent system is expensive. A decade-old study reckons that in 2005, without the temporary monopoly patents bestow, America might have saved three-quarters of its $210 billion bill for prescription drugs. The expense would be worth it if patents brought innovation and prosperity. They don’t.
Innovation fuels the abundance of modern life. From Google’s algorithms to a new treatment for cystic fibrosis, it underpins the knowledge in the “knowledge economy”. The cost of the innovation that never takes place because of the flawed patent system is incalculable. Patent protection is spreading, through deals such as the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership, which promises to cover one-third of world trade. The aim should be to fix the system, not make it more pervasive.
One radical answer would be to abolish patents altogether—indeed, in 19th-century Britain, that was this newspaper’s preference. But abolition flies in the face of the intuition that if you create a drug or invent a machine, you have a claim on your work just as you would if you had built a house. Should someone move into your living room uninvited, you would feel justifiably aggrieved. So do those who have their ideas stolen.
Yet no property rights are absolute. When the benefits are large enough, governments routinely override them—by seizing money through taxation, demolishing houses to make way for roads and controlling what you can do with your land. Striking the balance between the claim of the individual and the interests of society is hard. But with ideas, the argument that the government should force the owners of intellectual property to share is especially strong...
Governments have long recognised that these arguments justify limits on patents. Still, despite repeated attempts to reform it, the system fails. Can it be made to work better? ... One aim should be to rout the trolls and the blockers. Studies have found that 40-90% of patents are never exploited or licensed out by their owners. Patents should come with a blunt “use it or lose it” rule, so that they expire if the invention is not brought to market. Patents should also be easier to challenge without the expense of a full-blown court case. The burden of proof for overturning a patent in court should be lowered.
Patents should reward those who work hard on big, fresh ideas, rather than those who file the paperwork on a tiddler. The requirement for ideas to be “non-obvious” must be strengthened... Patents also last too long. Protection for 20 years might make sense in the pharmaceutical industry, because to test a drug and bring it to market can take more than a decade. But in industries like information technology, the time from brain wave to production line, or line of code, is much shorter. When patents lag behind the pace of innovation, firms end up with monopolies on the building-blocks of an industry...
From Scott Keough, ANU, "I have a long-standing interest in helping students develop the skills they need to be successful in science and so I have constructed this web site as a first source of information on the development of these important life skills."
You'll find advice about finding a PhD or postdoc position and funding, writing grants etc.
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