With all the news of disasters, I thought it was time for another round of unwarranted optimism to cheer you up.

As I have previously noted in this blog, every week the media reports breakthroughs in curing deadly diseases, and inventions that turn just about anything into cheap energy. The one thing all of these reports have in common is that you never hear much about them again. The stories are generally completely fraudulent, overhyped, or prematurely optimistic. But that doesn't stop me from hoping the next one is real. That hope makes me feel good. To spread the joy, I give you the three stories of amazing breakthroughs that will change the world. Or not.

We start with the 12-year old genius who recently invented a type of solar panel that is 500 times more efficient than what is on the market now. I questioned whether a 12-year old could really do this sort of thing until I looked at his biography. If that doesn't convince you, just look at his picture then look at yourself in the mirror. Who looks smarter?


You still need a cheap way to store the solar energy. Otherwise you need other sources of energy at night, or for cars. Some smart guy at MIT (Dilbert's alma mater) has you covered. I've shown this link before, but it makes me happy every time I think about it:


It does you no good to have electricity if you have no clean water to drink. That's a huge problem in a lot of places, and getting worse. Luckily, inventor Dean Kamen has you covered with his water purifier that requires no filters.


Kamen also invented a device that will inexpensively create energy from manure. It works best if you have livestock, but there's no rule that says you can't crap in it yourself. This will lead to new sayings replacing the venerable "I have to go drop a penny," and "I have to see a man about a horse." In the future you will be able to say, "I have to go pinch a watt," or "power the Kamen."

Do you feel hopeful yet?

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Sep 23, 2008
I look smarter (that was way easy).
Sep 23, 2008

Battery technology will probably be a "bridge" technology, just as natural gas (if TBoonePickens is right) and wind power are, and for those states who are willing to do it--nuclear power plants. I'd be willing to have one in my very own back yard, if need be. Since nuclear power probably won't be popular in every state, ( a political reality), I have looked into other technologies. At least Nantucket Sound is starting to "fan" offshore, now, with windpower. There was a time when off-shore wind farms were a no-no. Now they will probably be embraced as an alternative to off shore drilling.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 23, 2008
Oh wow - I love the 12 year old's story - I had a school assembly today (I'm a school principal) and this would have been a perfect story to recount! Definitely gave me hope! Many thanks.
Sep 23, 2008
Regarding the clean water invention... when it's coupled with effective birth control for the third world, then and only then it will be a great idea. As it is, what's the advantage of taking away one of the few natural controls on population? Leaving aside the implications for our civilisation's survival of a huge and growing population of barely civilised induhviduals, giving food and similar aid to third world nations in a no-strings fashion only results in a greater population of starving people, and even the blindest "why can't we all just get alooong" hippy should surely consider that to be a bad thing.
Sep 23, 2008
The storage solution has me excited, since it appears credible and fully formed. Man am I gonna squander me some energy when that bad boy gets up and running.
Sep 22, 2008
Hi Scott,
On an unrelated note: I just saw the movie called "Into The Wild" (2007).(It is in IMDBs list of greatest movies of all times.) I was greatly moved by the movie. Have you seen it? Remember you once wrote some blog entries on the movie. What is your take on this one? Just want to know, as there are some detractors too of this movie. How does this movie make you feel?
Sep 22, 2008
I like it when anybody says "therein lies the rub."
Sep 22, 2008
I'll read the article in an attempt to get the thrill, but sight unseen I find myself dubious at the prospect of solar cells working at 750% efficiency. Maybe it's the physicist training limiting my mind.
Sep 22, 2008
It is going to take combined private industry/government cooperation to solve the energy crises. The proposed solutions for energy independence coming out of the two Presidential candidates are pretty much hyperbole and typical round fuzzy campaign promises.

They propose to spend billions for this and billions for that. offering no written and clear plan with logical sources of funding and implementation from a disfunctrional legislative and judicial.

Time frames they give are meaningless, production projections are unrealistic and there is little across the board joining of technical and research community in harmony with the bureaucracy and industry to pull it all together.

The likely reality after the election of ongoing government bureaucracy and company boardrooms pursing their own interest for power and profit is that it will not lead to much of an energy revolution.

Add to this mix the terrible state of affairs in the big mortgage an financial markets today, the negative balance of payments growth, staggering government borrowing, return of real inflation, illegal immigration crises and crippling adverse weather in oil critical states, there is the potential for a depression like era collapse nation and world wide.

And this does not even take into account an ever souring international geopolitical meltdown.

This country will either rise to the occasion, blunder through somehow or turn it all around in a blazing demonstration that democracy, the free market and private enterprise will eventually triumph.

So takes your chance and makes your pick, meanwhile wishing the new leaders the courage to take the steps fearlessly to do what has to be done. This is all our futures we are talking about.

Sep 22, 2008
There should be a section on Scott's site where he keeps track of:
1) Medical "breakthroughs" and their current status
2) Scientific and/or energy "discoveries" and their current status

They could all be kept in a list of links with their original posting date.

It would be very interesting to see what becomes of these things - they all sound so good when they're first reported on.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 22, 2008
On another note your website is now advertiseing for OBAMA 08 was this a concious decision or was this handled by an advertising company?
Sep 22, 2008
Hope and happiness permeates my soul now. Wow!
Sep 22, 2008
Optimistic? When someone WHO DOESN'T BELIEVE IN SCIENCE is possibly to be the most powerful person in the world shortly?
World crisis you say? Fetch me my magic hat!
Sep 22, 2008
If we pay 35,000 for a Poet Laureate,


Can't we get Kamen to be our Inventor Laureate and pay him a salary and let the government produce his stuff with our huge resources of people and money? Aren't we throwing money away at people who don't have the track record of Kamen (portable dialysis machine, segway, artificial limbs)?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 22, 2008
I can't wait to put my stool to good use!

If taking a good dump wasn't satisfactory enough, how much more proud could a man get when he realises he has just provided for his family's energy needs, all in one go. "That's for cooking dinner and watching some tv... and oh wait... for Johnny's xbox"
Sep 22, 2008
Are you saying he looks smart just because he's Asian? That's a stereotype if I ever heard one (albeit a positive one).
Sep 22, 2008
Just tell me what to invest in now.

S.S. won't be around when I retire, and I'd like a few bucks then.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 22, 2008
I came across this link:

It seems that there is a small island somewhere in Denmark named Sanso which generates all the electricity that it needs through Wind Turbines. They have a population of about 4000 and generate enough electricity for themselves and then sell the surplus to the mainland.

They even have hot water running with the use of solar panels (for the whole island), which is quite a mean feat considering the fact that this is a very cold place with long nights and very short days.

And this has been going on for at least a couple of years, so it's not lame hype.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 22, 2008
And then there's the girl I heard about on BBC who invented a cheaper solar cell--using a pizza oven, nail polish and your standard inkjet printer.
I love cheap stuff ;)
Sep 22, 2008
First of all, it doesn't surprise me that a child came up with the idea. Kids aren't bound by the "can't be done" mentality that constipates adults, and they are more focused on environmentally sound ideas. Plus kids today are more technically savvy. (My son is 5 and is already more comfortable on the computer than I'll ever be. And I was a programmer for 5 years.)

Secondly, this kid may very well positively impact the entire world. Check out "Energy for a Developing World" on e2 on PBS: http://www.pbs.org/e2/energy.html . Watch the bit about solar panels in rural Bangladesh.

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