In “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand forewarned that the ever-growing mindset placing society over the individual is destructive to economic creativity. Hank Rearden, one of Rand’s central characters, is a self-made entrepreneur. He invents Rearden Metal, which is an alloy stronger, lighter, and cheaper than steel. Turns out, Rand’s fiction was quite similar to reality. Gary Cola, a real-life Hank Rearden, is an amateur metallurgist and entrepreneur. Cola has developed a new form of steel called Bainite Steel. Like Rearden Metal, Bainite Steel has the potential to revolutionize the world; although this time, it’s not fiction.
What’s so Rearden about Bainite Steel?
Bainite Steel is purportedly 7 percent stronger than regular steel. In fact, its strength-to-weight ratio is higher than titanium (of the 6Al-4V variety). Bainite requires only 56% the volume of this form of titanium to maintain the same strength. Also, the process to create Bainite Steel is much cheaper and faster. Typically, regular steel sheets are heat-treated at around 900 degrees Celsius – a process that can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Cola’s entire process, on the other hand, uses rollers that carry the sheets through flames as hot as 1,100 degrees Celsius and then sends the sheets through a cooling liquid bath. The entire process takes less than 10 seconds and gives Bainite Steel its characteristic strength and ductile qualities. Given that Bainite’s strength-by-volume is much higher – and its production costs much lower – the metal is useful for a large array of applications.
Many speculators are already pondering the applications and uses of the metal. Continue reading →
The arrogance of the FCC just spews from the mountain tops in this video. His points are reminiscent of the same tired and worn-out talking points that have been used to justify myriad regulations. The internet does not need fixing. The internet is perhaps the only agent of communication that the government has not intervened in and I would like to keep it that way.
The launch of the App Store for the iPhone has generated great results for consumers. Developers looking to develop for the iPhone have relatively low barriers to entry, leaving a large amount of developers competing to create the best apps. This large competitive field of developers has left consumers with a large variety of great apps, and also rewarded some top notch developers.
Steve Demeter, 29, created the app Trism and has made over $250,000. He talks about what a great opportunity the App Store has been and how it would be much more difficult to develop a game for the Playstation or Xbox.
–Lauren M. Ruhland, 2008 MCPP intern & Science Editor
The 1908 election was marked by a major technological change in the way candidates campaigned– both candidates (Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan) were recorded on phonographs, allowing their speeches to be heard (not just read) by voters around the country. From ScienceNews:
Whether for profit or prestige, the 1908 campaign was the first in which presidential candidates recorded their own voices for the mass market. “We now have Records by Mr. Bryan and Mr. Taft, so that no matter how the November election may result, we shall have Records by the next President,” an advertisement in the September 1908 Edison Phonograph Monthly exclaimed. “Now, for the first time, one can introduce the rival candidates for the Presidency in one’s own home, can listen to their political views, expressed in their real voices, and make comparisons.”
It sounds fun and exciting in retrospect, but it has me wondering what sorts of media will be used to bring candidates’ messages to their voters in the next century. Obviously, we’ve already come a long way.
Yeah, we like capitalism here. And, we are not ashamed of that. Markets are good things. So, let’s hear a little applause for Armin Heinrich, a developer for the iPhone who released a new application at the App Store yesterday. The program, called I Am Rich is designed to nothing other than illustrate to other that you are indeed rich. The app costs $999.99 and does nothing other than display a small red, glowing gem on the screen. Oh wait, there is also an information button that can be clicked to provide a mantra, the secret to staying ” rich, healthy, and successful.”
Folksacrossthe blogosphere are up in arms against Apple and Heinrich for allowing such an application. Yet, this program illustrates one of the great beauties of capitalism – supply and demand. Not everyone wants to buy the $1000 application, and nobody is forced to do so. But, the folks who would like to show off their wealth can do so (or could until Apple pulled the app). People should, for the most part, be allowed to buy what they would like to buy. If that is an iPhone application that self-admittedly does little to nothing, so be it.
Viacom has relented! Well, at least a little bit. A BBC news article had a bit more to say on the topic, but it looks like Youtube, and by extension, Google, will not have to provide potentially personally identifying information to Viacom. The internet movie giant will still have to provide histories of every video ever watched on Youtube, but they will not be providing data that could potentially be used to identify someone.
Neither will Youtube be forced to divulge many of its search algorithms, the trade secrets of search engines like Youtube and Google, which is good news. Now, whether one argues these algorithms should be available for everyone to study or not is another issue. The thing worth celebrating here is that whether or not they have to give up these secrets is still their choice. They are free to do with their discoveries what they wish. Intellectual property rights are maintained, and that is a good thing.
Four years ago, I obsessively watched NBC’s frustratingly delayed, hand-picked and limited TV coverage of the Athens summer Olympics. When a necessary two-day trip pulled me away from civilization (read: Internet access), I made calls to the local paper to find out if Michael Phelps was still winning all his races. When I returned home, I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world because I could watch little 4-minute video clips on nbcolympics.com of the highlights of what I’d missed.
Now, I am nearly devastated by the fact that, after four years of waiting, I must spend the 2008 Olympics week at a conference. However, I am greatly encouraged by the long segments of the U.S. Olympic Trials available on nbcolympics, and pleased so far with my experience with Microsoft’s new silverlight. I’m sure I’ll sit in my hotel room and connect wirelessly with my little laptop to watch extensive Olympics coverage — something I wouldn’t have counted on or even necessarily thought of in 2004. And if I were moderately well-off, I would have one of those fancy phones and no doubt watch the whole thing live on it.
The Olympics are really a spectacular marker to note the technological progress we’ve made. Four years is a good length of time: long enough to show drastic changes, and short enough to recall what life was like before. We can’t deny that technology is still improving in leaps and bounds. Maybe in four years, I’ll actually be at the Olympics — no technology could ever be a substitute that.
ITM-Power, a UK-based enterprise dedicated to “provid[ing] all aspects of the technology necessary to make the “hydrogen economy” a commercial reality”, has recently announced a product that could place them one step closer to that goal. Today, they introduced a home refueling station that uses electrolysis to create hydrogen that could be used to power a car, heat a home, cook food, or even power a refridgerator. ITM-Power plans to have the device, which takes slightly less space than said refridgerator, on the market within two years for under £2000 (about $3947.44 on today’s exchange).
The development should be welcomed for a number of reasons, the most apparent of which is the beginnings of viable competition with an oil-based fuel economy. In the past, hydrogen has been relegated to the shadows largely because it was unaffordable. The materials, among which Platinum played an important role, were quite expensive, and the hydrogen itself was difficult to store. ITM-Power has worked to solve those problems by introducing this new product, which makes no use of Platinum, making hydrogen at roughly 1% of the cost of previous devices. Further, the station is relatively affordable, and runs off simply water and electricity, so ITM-Power is hoping businesses and individuals will create a decentralized network of fueling stations worldwide. Although, I suppose only time will tell. What do you think about hydrogen fuel cells and the call for ridding the world of fossil fuel dependence? Are they viable products and realistic claims, or the work of idealists and dreamers? Let us know in the comments below.
A U.S. legal battle between Google and entertainment giant Viacom could have worldwide ramifications (but it probably won’t). The court recently ruled that the Google-owned Youtube must release a log of of every video ever watched on the site. Youtube has served billions of video views, and each time a user clicks on a video to watch it, an entry is recorded in Youtube’s digital log. In it are recorded the username of the viewer if they are signed in, as well as the video watched, and the IP address from which the video is watched, among other information. All this data will soon be provided to the court and to Viacom. Viacom hopes to use the information to prove that users prefer to watch copyrighted material, illegally posted on Youtube, over the uncopyrighted material the site was designed to host. Continue reading →
Richard Stallman has an op-ed today on BBC news about Open Source software and the Free Software Foundation, an organization he founded over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, Stallman tries to introduce a bit too much in such a short time and ends up bouncing from topic to topic in the article’s body without adequately supporting his claims. The piece is worth reading, however, simply for the introduction and conclusion, particularly the conclusion. There, Stallman does two things. First, he claims that writing proprietary software is wrong, and second, he proposes that Open Source software is written in the defense of freedom. Continue reading →
BBC News just put up an article about eBay’s recent work to open up international trading restrictions, particularly within the European Union. Current law makes it difficult, if not illegal, to trade goods across international borders as an online vendor. Accordingly, traditional vendors are working to see these laws enforced to curtail online trading. They do not want the extra competition deregulated online trading would bring. eBay, though, has denounced these trading restrictions and promotes a system in which goods can be freely traded online, regardless of either the buyer or the seller’s geographical location. Continue reading →
(Note: This is post 2 of a multi-part series about Open Source Software (OSS), and what the idea of Open Sourcing means economically. Read post 1.)
Money is not wealth. Money is typically just a collection of little bits of metal and paper with all sorts of designs scrawled across them. It has very little value of its own. Consequently, economists are not concerned with money, except as a tool for measuring wealth. And, while it is a fairly common way to measure wealth, money is not the only tool people use to determine value. In the Open Source world, money is one of the least common currencies of wealth. Continue reading →
(Note: This is post 1 of a multi-part series about Open Source Software (OSS), and what the idea of Open Sourcing means economically.)
What is Open Source Software, and why is it such a big deal? It’s something that shady characters, cyberpunks, and complete nerds do to fill their time because they have not discovered economics, right? It’s all about basements lit only by one computer screen, cans of red bull littering the floor, isn’t it? No, not really. Not by a long shot.
OSS refers to a body of software that meets the following 10 criterion as defined by the Open Source Initiative:
Hello everyone. Unlike most of the folks who will be writing on this blog, I have not majored in economics or political science. Actually, my majors are philosophy & computer science. So, you will probably see a number of posts about technology coming from me in the months ahead. In fact, in the next week or two I will be starting a series on the economics behind Open Source software. I hope you will find it as interesting as I do.
Right now, though, I want to talk about an article from BBC news. It’s about a study that used data from cell phone’s geographical monitoring capabilities to track people’s daily movements. The fact that they used cell phones really isn’t that surprising, since cell phones are able, in theory, to track location through signal triangulation. Apple uses it as a huge selling point that their mapping tools can pinpoint your location right from your iPhone, and many tools exist to allow consensual tracking by parents & friends.