reflections on the technium

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay

Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Personalized Energy

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What’s an Olympic-sized pool of water, the Sun, and an artificial leaf have in common? The solution to the worlds energy problems! Dr Daniel Nocera (lab, wikipedia) has created an “artificial leaf” that when immersed in water and illuminated by sunlight breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Dr Nocera says that one pool of water contains enough energy (by rearranging its bonds) to more than satisfy our present energy demands. He envisions a energy revolution where we personally create our own energy using the artificial leaf. No more meters… No more centralized electricity production… No more grid…

Video: Dan Nocera: Personalized Energy

Video: Sustainocene: Harvard Leads a New Epoch for Humankind

Video: Dr. Daniel G. Nocera – A Solution to the Global Energy Challenge

Video: The Artificial Leaf

More YouTube videos here.

List of patents by Prof Nocera.



Written by Chuck Petras

June 22, 2013 at 18:11

The Fourth Phase of Water

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States of matter… We’ve been taught that there are three: solid, liquid, and gas (some also add plasma). A researcher and his team in Seattle have added a fourth for water called an exclusion zone. A nether world between solid and liquid that exhibits amazing properties.

Dr Gerald Pollack defines this fourth phase, this exclusion zone (EZ), as “the unexpectedly large zone of water that forms next to many submersed materials, got its name because it excludes practically everything. The EZ contains a lot of charge, and its character differs from that of bulk water.”

An exclusion zone is deceptively easy to create. Whenever water comes into contact with a hydrophilic (water loving) surface a EZ forms. The amazing thing about this is that within the EZ any impurities are squeezed out, plus an electrical potential is created. Even more amazing is the fact that infrared radiation (sunlight) adds energy to the EZ causing it to expand and the electrical gradient to increase.

Essentially he’s identified natures technique for purifying water and making electricity from the sun. Wow!

Dr Pollack has written a book, The Fourth Phase of Water and you can preview some sample chapters here.

Here is a presentation Dr Pollack did on electrically structured water earlier this year: Part 1, Part 2.

Here’s a TEDx talk on the Fourth Phase of Water.

Dr Pollack’s web site and some links to this research are here and here.

Here are some links to patents he’s authored:
Method and system for generating electrical energy from water

Separating components of aqueous mixtures, suspensions, and solutions

Method and apparatus for collecting fractions of mixtures, suspensions, and solutions of non-polar liquids

Method and apparatus for generating a fluid flow

Membrane-electrode assembly for polymeric membrane fuel cell


Written by Chuck Petras

June 22, 2013 at 09:08

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Red Teams, Blue Teams, Tiger Teams Too…

A red team is an exercise in non-conventional thinking.  Has your organization tested its assumptions, plans, and future products yet? “Red teaming is not forecasting;  red teaming is the art of challenging assumptions and exploring the possible.”

The below are excerpts from The Role and Status of DoD Red Teaming Activities:

Red teams and red teaming processes have long been used as tools by the management of both government and commercial enterprises. Their purpose is to reduce an enterprise’s risks and increase its opportunities.

Red teams come in many varieties and there are different views about what constitutes a red team. We take an expanded view and include a diversity of activities that, while differing in some ways, share a fundamental feature.

Red teams are established by an enterprise to challenge aspects of that very enterprise’s plans, programs, assumptions, etc. It is this aspect of deliberate challenge that distinguishes red teaming from other management tools although the boundary is not a sharp one. …

In general, red team challenges can help hedge against surprise, particularly catastrophic surprises. It does this by providing a

  • Wider and deeper understanding of potential adversary options and behavior that can expose potential vulnerabilities in our strategies, postures, plans, programs, and concepts. This role (to explore technically feasible and responsive threats) has become increasingly important as a complement to the more traditional intelligence-based threat projections (capabilities-based versus threat-based planning).
  • Hedge against the social comfort of “the accepted assumptions and the accepted solutions”. This includes hedge against bias and conflict of interest.
  • Hedge against inexperience (a not uncommon situation in DoD and other Government Agencies where leadership tenures tend to be short).

Areas where red teams can and do play an important role within DoD include:

  • Training
  • Concept development and experimentation (not just an OPFOR for the experiment but continuous challenge by red teams throughout the concept development process)
  • Security of complex networks and systems
  • Activities where there is not much opportunity to try things out (for example, nuclear weapons stockpile issues)

The red team itself is only one element in a red teaming process. The process can be explicit or ad hoc. Elements of the process include the following: who the red team reports to; how it interacts with the management of the enterprise and with “blue” (the owner of the activity it is challenging), and how the enterprise considers and uses its products.

We identify three types of red teams. Our expanded notion of red teams includes teams established to serve as:

  • Surrogate adversaries and competitors of the enterprise,
  • Devil’s advocates,
  • Sources of judgment independent of the enterprise’s “normal” processes (often from team members with experience from positions at higher levels in industry or government).

And an example of a historical “red Team” activity:

Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). On the first day of the crisis, October 16, President Kennedy organized the “Ex Comm” (the Executive Committee of the National Security Council) to help advise him on the situation, and U.S. responses to the unfolding crisis. His choice of those in the Ex Comm (especially his brother and the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy) was a deliberate move to provide alternatives for courses of action and act as a counterbalance for the strong military response, originally being advocated.

Here’s a Red Team Testing Methodology.

Here’s the Red Team Journal.

Here’s how it might apply to open source software development, Your Open Source Management Approach: Red Team or Blue Team?

Also see Tiger Team and Red Cell.

Written by Chuck Petras

July 4, 2011 at 17:06

Brown Bag at the Movies – Selected technical topics(6)

For this installment of Brown Bag at the Movies we will be viewing (abstract below):

  • VW’s Transparent Factory in Dresden
  • Dr. NakaMats: Patently Strange: The World’s Most Prolific Inventor
  • The Art of Innovation from the Hacker’s Perspective
  • Did you know

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Written by Chuck Petras

May 30, 2011 at 12:42

Brown Bag at the Movies – Selected technical topics(5)

For this installment of Brown Bag at the Movies we will be viewing (abstract below):

  • Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization
  • Google’s driverless car
  • Phil McKinney: Hacking the Future
  • DIY Drones with Chris Anderson

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Written by Chuck Petras

May 30, 2011 at 12:24