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Q&A WITH PETER HUBER
What Energy Crisis?
By Spencer Reiss

Peter Huber, an engineering professor turned telecommunications lawyer, doesn’t worry whence the next electron will come.

The idea that we’re running out of energy is deeply ingrained. How can it be so wrong? It’s very easy to get pessimistic about energy. Energy doesn’t just drop into your lap. The idea that demand will someday outpace supply seems obvious. But historically that hasn’t happened, and there’s good reason to suppose it won’t, because the factors that determine supply are overwhelmingly technological. And our technology improves very fast. Energy technology in particular is advancing faster than it ever has before.

Why is your new book, The Bottomless Well, subtitled The Twilight of Fuel? What matters isn’t the price of a barrel of oil. What matters is the price of getting mom and the kids to the soccer field. And that depends on two factors: the cost of the fuel and the cost of all the hardware, the technology, we wrap around it. Fuel is an ever diminishing part of the equation.

You mean efficiency saves the day? The opposite: efficiency always leads to more consumption, not less. Hybrid cars and semiconductor lights are very quickly going to be cloned into all sorts of new applications that don’t even exist today, and total energy consumption will rise, not fall. One highly energy-efficient Nintendo machine per teenager consumes far more power in the aggregate than one ENIAC per planet.

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If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

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Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

PROTOTYPE
Swell Pill

Drugmakers pack medicines into small pills so they’ll slide easily down the throat, but pills’ drawbacks – the uneven way they deliver drugs, their tendency to cause nausea and diarrhea – can be hard to swallow. Menlo Park, CA’s Depomed has a solution: an aspirin-sized tablet that swells to the size of a nickel once it reaches the stomach. When the pill hits the stomach’s gastric fluid, polymers mixed in with the drug puff up. The bloated tablet can’t pass into the small intestine, so it stays in the stomach – where many drugs are best absorbed – for six to eight hours. This delay permits a slower, steadier release of the drug as the pill dissolves. It also keeps the drug out of the lower gastrointestinal tract, where medications such as antibiotics can kill normal bacteria, causing diarrhea and other side effects. Depomed expects its first product – containing metformin, a popular diabetes drug – to earn regulatory approval this year. Because it releases a steady dose of metformin over a longer period of time, the new pill will need to be taken only once a day, versus two to three times a day for the conventional version. Depomed is also testing pills aimed at treating urinary-tract infections, seizures, pain, and other conditions.

Other short items of interest

If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

Microsoft Declares War on Spam

Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

FACTS MACHINE
The DNA Defense

» In approximately 25 percent of cases submitted to the FBI lab for DNA testing, the suspect’s DNA does not match that found at a crime scene.
» DNA labs’ casework increased 73 percent, and their casework backlog increased 135 percent, between 1997 and 2000.
» DNA evidence was first used to exonerate an innocent U.S. prisoner in 1989.
» From 1989 through 2003, 145 U.S. prisoners were exonerated based on DNA evidence.
» 13 of the people exonerated by DNA evidence had been sentenced to death.
» Exonerated prisoners have spent, on average, more than 10 years in prison.
» It costs an average of $22,600 to keep one person in a U.S. prison for one year.
» Until October 2004, the maximum restitution for exonerated federal prisoners allowed by law was $5,000.
» 32 states offer no restitution for exonerated prisoners aside from “gate money,” which typically includes bus fare, clothing, and a nominal amount of cash.
» Approximately half of convicts who receive postconviction DNA screening in an attempt to prove their innocence are in fact confirmed guilty.

Other short items of interest

If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

Microsoft Declares War on Spam

Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE
Nano Investment

Just 14 countries accounted for nearly 90 percent of the $5.5 billion invested globally in nanotechnology in 2003. According to research firm Venture Analytics, Japan and the United States alone provide more than half of the world’s nanotech funding. Worldwide, governments and corporations invest almost equally in the technology.

Other short items of interest

If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

Microsoft Declares War on Spam

Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

PROTOTYPE
Universal Flu Vaccine

A new influenza vaccine could protect against almost any strain of the virus, eliminating the need to create a new flu shot each year and the potential for shortages like the one faced by the United States last fall. Unlike current flu vaccines, which consist of inactivated virus and take months to manufacture, the new vaccine uses small snippets of viral DNA and could be made in only days or weeks. While DNA-based flu vaccines have been tested in the past, they have consistently proved less effective than inoculations of inactivated virus. A team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, increased the effectiveness of its DNA vaccine by adding an injection of tucaresol, a drug being tested in humans against sickle cell anemia and AIDS. In mice, the results were comparable to those that inactivated-virus jabs had produced in prior studies. A tucaresol-DNA combination should provide long-lasting protection against the flu in humans, say the researchers

Other short items of interest

If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

Microsoft Declares War on Spam

Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

75 YEARS AGO IN TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
Purblind Cities

Already The Review has many times asseverated that the adoption by American cities of comprehensive and intelligent regional plans, as well as methods for noise and smoke abatement, is imperative if we are to have metropolitan areas free from the chaotic and choking congestion, the nerve-wracking roar, and the filth that is beginning to prevail. The immediate need is that the ordinary citizens as well as the office-holders recognize the acuteness of the problem, for its solution depends upon the coöperation of every component of a metropolitan community. Professional city planners, architects, physicians, and social critics have long perceived the need and shouted about it. In books, speeches, and the press their pleas are growing into a crescendo that can hardly fail to move municipal constituencies to action.

- February 1930, p. 200

Other short items of interest

If Only It Were This Easy

Cornell’s Minister of Technology

Microsoft Declares War on Spam

Guiding the Evolution of Things

So what are you reading these days?

Logging On to Your Lawyer

What Energy Crisis?

Swell Pill

The DNA Defense

Nano Investment

Universal Flu Vaccine

Purblind Cities

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