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|June 19, 2012||6 Mo Ago
|1 Yr Ago
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|Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 619.77 or 5.07% since 12/31/11)
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|10 Year Treasury Bond Yield||1.62%||1.81%||2.96%||5.09%|
Not Just Sci-Fi
Quiz: What do snail mail, bank deposit slips and fold-up road maps have in common?
Answer: Future generations will consider them relics of the past, never having used them.
Today's convenience items will also be replaced as time and technology offer more efficient means to obtain the same result. Many of you reading this article can remember mom cranking the wringer washer. You'd get to stand nearby, catching the clothes as they emerged from the other side of the wringer.
As time went on, some families in the neighborhood actually got an electric motor to crank the wringer. But the kids still fought over who would do the catching on laundry day.
Our grandchildren will look back and wonder how we were able to function without a smartphone or microwave oven. Their children may never touch actual paper money or coins.
But you can bet they'll have some really neat devices of their own. Some we may even get to enjoy ourselves.
Husbands and wives do not have the same body temperature. One will always want the bedroom cooler at night than the other.
A company called Chili Technology has the answer. They've developed a high-tech mattress pad that adjusts to the body temperatures of two sleepers. It can cool down for someone with a higher body temperature and heat up for the cooler sleeping partner.
It uses soft medical grade silicone tubing to circulate regular water through the pad, with a connection tube to the control unit. Dual Zone pads have independent control units and separate tubing to maintain your optimum temperature. Available now.
Those old phone cords were clunky. You were restricted to a limited area around your phone, and often knocked over items in the cord's path as you tried to work in the kitchen while catching up on the latest gossip.
Queen's University in Ontario has found a way to make you forget the kitchen chores but not the gabbing. TeleHuman creates a 3D display using Microsoft Kinect sensors to "beam" a life-size image of yourself to a pod in another location a la Star Wars. Talk and interact with each other as if you were really there.
It's not actually holographic but as close as we can get right now. The pod has a 3D projector hidden in its base that projects your image onto a convex mirror, which reflects it onto a wrap-around acrylic screen. A person can walk around the pod to see the other person's back.
Now.... if the other person could actually dry the dishes while you wash, we have a winner here.
Data Killer. Sounds frightening but it's a good thing. Are you reluctant to donate old PCs in fear of someone finding fragments of old data on your hard drive? Shredding those files can be time consuming. But not anymore.
Japan's Platform erases all data in a flash. It creates a strong magnetic field that obliterates whatever incriminating evidence you have stored on your hard drive quicker than the police can knock down your door.
It works on those old mag tapes you have stored in the garage too, allowing you to reuse them. Or donate to a museum.
Sidewalk stone tiles that function as WiFi hotspots? Spanish tech firm Via Inteligente embeds a 5 GB microprocessor featuring cloud base apps into each stone, giving area users access to maps, a digital library and more.
Forget headphone wires. The Taps earbud system by Koss uses a microprocessor in each bud instead of a wire. Users can connect to their music library and jam to free music.
The deaf communicate through sign language. But what if the other person doesn't speak the language? Cornell University engineering students have designed a glove that uses contact and flex sensors to translate hand gestures from sign language into spoken English via a transmitter. Both the glove and transmitter are wireless and use common 9 volt batteries.
Innovations keep life interesting. And the more widespread our technology, the greater base we have to build from. Before you can scratch your head, wondering what they'll think of next, you'll have the answer.
|On The World Wide Web
Find answers to your health questions from industry experts and top hospitals such as Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic. Compare responses from research experts. Get multiple points of view and perspectives at this site.
The FCC is the regulating body for all things communications - including the Internet. Are you really getting the speed you're paying for? Should you switch Internet providers? Find answers to these and more on their web site.
Find links to everything consumer-related on the Internet here.
Breakthroughs in Medical Technology
The blind may see. And this is no Bible story.
Stanford University researchers are working on prototype glasses that may help some blind people see. They have cameras on the front and projectors on the back that send images to implanted light-sensing elements. These, in turn, relay information to retinal cells.
Scientists at MIT are working on a wristband that monitors epileptic seizures in patients outside of a hospital setting. This allows patients to engage in daily activities rather than remain hospitalized until an event occurs. The wristband measures the severity of seizures and lets users know when to seek medical care.
Sony's Cell Sorter SH800 will be available this fall. The device uses a Blu-ray laser to measure the size and number of cells and analyze their structure. It's the size of a small refrigerator.
I sometimes can't help but wonder about the people who discover certain things. Who was the first person to try eating a blue claw crab? And whatever made him think to do so?
The same goes for the researchers who discovered that the saliva of the Gila monster reduces appetite and helps fight type 2 diabetes. Stranger yet is that they were from Sweden's University of Gothenburg. Not exactly a place where Gila monsters are prevalent.
Their finding was based on existing science. In 2005, the FDA approved a drug called Exanatide which is derived from Gila monster saliva. It proved effective in treating type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy glucose levels through progressive weight loss.
The Swedish researchers found that Exanatide reduces food cravings by affecting the part of the brain that controls addictive behavior. They hope it can one day be used to treat drug, alcohol or tobacco addictions as well.
Gilatide, another drug made with Gila monster saliva, has enhanced memory function in laboratory mice. Researchers are working to determine if it may benefit Alzheimer's patients.
You no longer need wonder why prescription costs are so high. It must be hard to find people capable of making such abstract connections. Harder yet to find those willing to handle a Gila monster.
Those confined to a wheelchair may not have to worry about tight spaces and broken vases much longer. Japanese researchers demoed a prototype dubbed as the next-generation wheelchair. Permoveh, or Personal Mobility Vehicle, has four wheels of the same size, each contains 32 rollers that can rotate perpendicular to its rim. A hand-held control allows the user to move in any direction. Wheels alone move when traveling forward or back. Rollers move it sideways. To travel diagonally, wheels and rollers move in tandem.
IBM's Watson supercomputer gained fame as a "Jeopardy" champion. But that game show win merely launched its career. As a cancer treatment service.
Watson can process the equivalent of 1 million books, analyze the retrieved data and give precise answers in less than three seconds. It can study textbooks, read oncology studies, review medical records with patient permission, and take individual patient concerns into consideration to suggest treatment approaches. An advisory panel will interpret and implement the assessments. Watson will only suggest, not treat patients. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center expects to have the service in place by the end of 2013.
Tip of the Week
A new Zeus mobile threat has been discovered. Posing as a fake security app called the Android Security Suite Premium, it lures people into downloading the Trojan that steals incoming text messages and sends them to command-and-control servers operated by the attackers. Depending on the apps you have installed, the texts could include sensitive data such as password-reset links. The Trojan can also receive commands for uninstalling itself after it steals your system information. You'll never know what hit you.
The malware installs a blue shield icon on the device and shows a fake activation code when executed. Protect your mobile device using a security product offered by a known vendor. Don't be fooled by a similar name or one that sounds good. Cyber crooks will use whatever means they can to hook you.
Rumors abound on the business wires today that the Federal Reserve may implement yet another round of monetary accommodation. Either an extension of the program to buy longer term securities in lieu of the more normal shorter term securities (known as the twist) or perhaps even an out and out round of "quantitative easing," sure to be dubbed by the media as QE3. A point of order: Some pundits are referring to this as monetary "stimulus," but my preferred term is "accommodation." Stimulus is more often associated with fiscal policy.
Regardless, more of either proves that the structural problems of the U.S. economy are severe, and not improving. American Capitalism, known for creating astonishing, yet unequal wealth, may finally be a thing of the past. It is increasingly evident that the modern American thought process is ever so tilted toward democratic socialism. A system more akin to Europe. And regardless of form, destines the country to have a fairer, yet far less prosperous future.
As Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once quipped, "An equal slice is usually a very small slice." So as the economy becomes ever increasingly hostile to business and friendly to wealth distribution, is it any wonder that the producers are headed for the modern day version of Galt's Gulch? If you are a capitalist, these are sad times. (Recommended economic reading: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957).
Speaking of capitalists, one of the most famous is Fred Smith, Founder and Chairman of the overnight package giant FedEx. Just today, FedEx reported better than expected earnings, surprising many on Wall Street. FedEx is almost certainly a company, like many others I fear, that could never have been founded in today's overly regulated and hostile business environment. Perhaps you have heard the FedEx story:
While working on his undergraduate degree in the 1960's, Fred Smith wrote a paper on an overnight package delivery service to serve business. His professor gave the paper the grade of C, telling Smith that in order to earn a higher grade, the idea had to be "feasible," and his was not.
So we have an academic opining on what is feasible in the world of business. Smith was undaunted, and set out to prove his professor wrong. Nor was Smith a pauper, and pooled his $4 million inheritance with $80 million from other venture capitalists and purchased a small fleet of Falcon Jets.
When the city of Little Rock proposed onerous restrictions on Smith's airport-based service, he moved it to business friendly Memphis. Overnight service began in Memphis in 1971 serving about a dozen cities. Just seven packages were delivered on the first night's run.
As business volume grew, the new company struggled financially. Fred Smith very nearly lost it all. With a loan payment due on his jet fleet, Smith had insufficient funds to cover the payment and no willing lenders.
What did Smith do? He took the largest risk of his life, and hopped a flight to Las Vegas with his last $10K. It was there at the blackjack table that Smith turned the $10K into $27K, enough, albeit barely, to make the loan payment. Smith wired the money home to Memphis and the company was saved. The rest is history.
- How well Smith could have lived on his $4 million inheritance (in 1971!), if he didn't have the drive to prove his college professor wrong.
- How much wealth would have been created if Smith had simply "redistributed" his inheritance among various charities or to those down on their luck.
- Where the more than a quarter of million Fed Ex employees would be if Smith had thrown in the towel.
- That beyond the direct employees, Fed Ex has 645 aircraft, 71,000 trucks - and the countless outside jobs this infrastructure has created.
- Where the City of Memphis would be (sorry Little Rock) if Smith hadn't made his Vegas trip, as FedEx is BY FAR the largest employer in Memphis.
- On an average day, FedEx delivers more than 5 million packages, most overnight. Imagine the productivity gains for business worldwide.
Unfortunately, by today's standards, Smith would have been hauled before Congress to explain his "excessive risk taking." The atmosphere simply no longer supports risk for profit. And make no mistake, risk is an essential ingredient for profit, and by extension prosperity (read jobs). Thanks Fred, for not heading to the Gulch. I hope others find the same fortitude, but I am not encouraged.
"We don't know who we are until we see what we can do." - Martha Grimes
Today in History
1934 - Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is created.
The first radio station debuted in Pittsburgh in 1920.
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