More good stuff on the open frontiers – 5/28

A few articles on technology, education, energy, and publishing that are worth a read. The frontier is wide open in those areas. Just a brief comment from me.

Innovation, inside the box

7/1/13 – Wharton – How LEGO Stopped Thinking Outside the Box and Innovated Inside the Brick – LEGO started losing money when their innovations needed a completely new set of parts for every innovation. They regained their 20%+ growth curve and 40% profit increase when they innovated new toys using existing pieces. Their outside-the-box innovation almost sank them. Staying inside the box returned them to growth and profits. Hat tip: Emproprise-BI: Structured innovation, via LEGO.

Lesson from my grad school classes: stay inside your competencies. LEGO makes bricks, not video games, TV shows, or bendable action figures. They thrive when they do what they do best.


4/30 – Wall Street Journal – With Free Web Courses, Wharton Seeks Edge in Traditional ProgramsWharton will have its 15th MOOC on-line by the end of the year. The free, non-credit courses are essentially an intro to the graduate experience. Four classes form a foundational series that tracks part of the first year curriculum. Article says the courses cost between $20K and $50K to produce. As an indicator of how light the courses are now and what it will take to upgrade them to credit, one professor said he would need to increase the outside reading load from one hour a week to four hours a week. A predictive comment from the professor:

Dr. Ulrich predicts that, using insights from running MOOCs, the school will eventually deliver a quarter of its traditional M.B.A. content online.


5/6 – SpaceX – F9R Flight Test – SpaceX posted a video of testing their main booster, the Falcon F9R. It went to 3,000 feet, hovered a few seconds, then set back down gently at the place it launched from. Very cool.


Behind the Black points out that SpaceX was able to turn the Falcon and earlier Grasshopper vehicles around and launch them again quickly. Very, very cool.

5/18 – SFGate – SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth from space station – A Dragon capsule returned safely to the ocean with 3,500 pounds of experiments and equipment. This is the fourth time SpaceX has successfully landed a Dragon. It is the only supply ship that can return contents to Earth. Goal is to expand its capabilities to ferry astronauts to and from space.


5/3 – Economist – Sex, writhes and videotape – This could upset lots of research that involves animals. Researchers found that mice can tell from scent whether males or females are in the room conducting experiments. The mice responded differently if men or women were around. The effect was repeated if t-shirts worn overnight by men or women were left in the room during an experiment. Further isolated to a chemical in men or women’s sweat. Bad news is this could skew test results depending on whether male or female lab assistants do the testing.

5/6 – Defense One – Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years – Article says 35 countries have drones today and 7 of those have armed drones. In a decade, every country on the planet could either buy or build drones with weapons. There is disagreement amongst experts whether an anti-proliferation treaty would do any good to slow the spread.

5/19 – tymshft – The pendulum is shifting away from the cloud. Told you so. – John Bredehoft points to an article in the Wall Street Journal that mentions bandwidth isn’t sufficient for every device to communicate to a cloud based source. As a result, more devices are doing more of the work on the local device. New word for this is ‘the fog.’ John points out this is a swing away from doing everything in the cloud. The pendulum is swinging again.


5/21 – The Feed – Is California’s Monterey Shale Just a Pipe Dream? – The EIA has revised downward by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale field in California. Old estimate was 13,700M barrels. Due to the shattering of rock due to all the earthquakes, EIA estimates there is only 600M barrels. If 13B were actually recoverable, it could have gone a long way towards fixing some serious problems in the Golden State.

5/16 – Fuel Fix – Shale is a U.S. Phenomenon – The radical increase in shale production started in the U.S. It is unlikely to take off very many other places in the world and even that will take years to develop. Why?

…no place else in the world has the combination the U.S. does – the capital, engineers, geologists, chemists, a legal system that recognizes mineral rights, pipelines, midstream infrastructure and a ready market.

Look at the concentration in the U.S.:

“We have more petroleum engineers than the rest of the countries put together. Of all of the horizontal wells that have been drilled in the last five years, 99 percent of them are in the United States. Of all the wells that have ever been drilled ever, three quarters are in the United States.”

The speaker thinks Mexico will be the next country with a shale revolution.

5/25- The Feed – America’s Biofuel Boondoggle in One Simple Graph – Short version: a massive gap today growing to humongous in 2022 between two lines. First, the accelerating amount of ethanol that manufacturers are mandated to produce. Second, the flatline of ethanol projected to be used. The flatline is because people are driving less and any engine older than a few years will burn up if fed more than 10% corn-in-the-tank. Conclusion: massive fail. When will we be able to admit that?

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