Sunday Reading – 03/12/17

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

IKEA is going to save your relationship with new furniture that simply snaps together – Hands down, the most frustrating thing about IKEA’s flat pack furniture is the assembly. A mess of loose parts, bolts, screws, wayward allen wrenches and an infuriating manual stand between you and the picture in the catalogue. Sometimes, they can even come between you and your parter: As the Wall Street Journal reports, IKEA’s Liatorp entertainment unit even has a nickname: “the divorce maker.”

To allay complaints, the Swedish company started experimenting with how to mass manufacture a wedge dowel-based construction, which would eliminate the need for metal parts and teeny tools. After successfully trying out the joint in their Stockholm and Regissör lines in 2014, IKEA announced at the Design Indaba conference last week that they’re ready to deploy the relationship-saver furniture assembly method to more models. Read More > at Quartz

Samsung-linked scandal takes down South Korea’s president – The same scandal behind the arrest and indictment of Samsung exec and heir Lee Jae-yong has resulted in the removal of South Korean president Park Geun-Hye. Parliament impeached Park on December 9th over charges including bribery and corruption for allegedly trying to squeeze money out of large companies in return for favors. Today’s unanimous court decision by eight judges ends the 92-day leadership crisis (the country’s prime minister had assumed her duties) and triggers the process for a new election to take place within 60 days.

According to Yonhap News, former opposition leader Moon Jae-in is leading in the polls. As for Park, her impeachment comes due to accusations that adviser Choi Soon-sil used her connection with the president to force companies to donate millions to foundations she controlled. An investigation into the charges continues, and Park’s impeachment means she loses protection from prosecution. Read More > at Engadget

California won’t meet its climate change goals without a lot more housing density in its cities – The state has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. To do so, Southern Californians will have to drive nearly 12% less by that date than they did five years ago, cutting their miles on the road every day from 22.8 to 20.2, according a Los Angeles Times estimate based on data from state and regional climate and planning officials.

These driving reductions mean that Californians will have to walk, bike and use mass transit much more frequently than they do now. By 2030, residents will have to travel by foot four times more frequently than they did in 2012, alongside a nine-fold increase in bicycling over the same time, and a substantial boost in bus and rail ridership, climate officials say.

Getting people out of their cars in favor of walking, cycling or riding mass transit will require the development of new, closely packed housing near jobs and commercial centers at a rate not seen in the United States since at least before World War II, according to a recent study by permit and contractor data analysis website BuildZoom.

…State climate officials don’t assume that everyone will spend less time on the road, but they’re planning for a significant percentage of Californians to do so — and for many to abandon cars altogether. For that to happen, more people will have to live near where they work or shop, which means more housing in urban neighborhoods and other job centers. On top of that, the state’s population is expected to grow by 4.5 million people by 2030.

Since 2008, state law has required the Southern California Assn. of Governments and California’s other regional governments to plan their residential growth to meet the climate goals. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

There is a retail bubble — and it’s bursting – Urban Outfitters, Staples, Dick’s (DKS) and Men’s Wearhouse/Jos. A Bank owner Tailored Brands (TLRD) all reported disappointing quarterly results this week.

Women’s apparel retailer J. Jill (JILL) went public on Thursday and found few interested shoppers. The stock fell — after pricing its offering below its expected range. Handbag retailer Vera Bradley (VRA) underwhelmed Wall Street too.

RadioShack just went bankrupt. Again.

And Sears (SHLD) continues to hemorrhage red ink.

The story is the same for these and other struggling chains like Macy’s (M), JCPenney (JCP), Barnes & Noble (BKS), Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands (LB) and Target (TGT).

Shoppers are more inclined to click and order than visit bricks and mortar.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30), of course, is the biggest beneficiary of this trend. Its stock is up almost 15% this year and is trading near an all-time high. The company is worth nearly $410 billion — almost double the market value of Walmart (WMT).

…During a conference call with analysts on Tuesday, CEO Richard Hayne compared the state of retail to the housing glut last decade that helped bring about the Great Recession.

“Retail square feet per capita in the United States is more than six times that of Europe or Japan. And this doesn’t count digital commerce,” Hayne said. “Our industry, not unlike the housing industry, saw too much square footage capacity added in the 1990s and early 2000s.”

“Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared. This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst,” he added. “We are seeing the results: doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate.” Read More > at CNN Money

After near-record Northern California storms, signs of El Niño rise – If you don’t think California has seen enough rain this year, just wait. There may be more to come.

Federal forecasters said Thursday that the chances of an El Niño developing by fall are on the rise — now between 50 and 55 percent —an outlook that could skew the odds in favor of yet another wet winter.

“There are a lot of players on the (weather) field,” said Emily Becker, a research scientist with the Climate Prediction Center, the federal agency that released the latest report on the El Niño climate pattern. But “El Niño is associated with an increased chance — not a 100 percent chance, but an increased chance — of higher-than-average rainfall in California.”

The state is already seeing some of its wettest weather in recorded history.

According to Golden Gate Weather Services, this year’s rainy season, going back to July, has seen just 0.27 inches less than the record-setting 28.30 inches of rain that had fallen — on average across the state — at this point in the soggy 1968-69 rain year. Read More > at SF Gate

Could Dianne Feinstein Face a Democratic Challenge in 2018? – By every indication, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is running for re-election next year. In an interview with KQED in January, Feinstein indicated she would be a candidate and has since begun raising money. But some in the party wonder if it isn’t time for the 83-year-old Feinstein to step aside and let a younger Democrat take the baton.

Since 1994, when she barely won re-election, Feinstein has been re-elected three times with increasingly large margins as the Republican Party’s share of the electorate shrank. But other than the 2000 race against moderate Silicon Valley opponent Tom Campbell, Feinstein has faced relatively weak Republican challengers at the outer edges of the GOP’s increasingly conservative spectrum.

…“Almost anyone willing to take a shot at her is by definition not viable,” Schnur said, “and anyone who’s viable is going to want to preserve their viability.”

In other words, someone who would be a strong candidate for an open Senate seat, like Southern California congressman Adam Schiff, environmental activist Tom Steyer or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, wouldn’t want to poison their relationship with the party by taking on Feinstein.

And someone willing to take her on, Schnur believes, would likely be someone from the extreme left of the Democratic Party who under California’s “top two” primary system probably couldn’t win a statewide election against Feinstein in November. Read More > at KQED

State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2017 – Individual income taxes are a major source of state government revenue, accounting for 36 percent of state tax collections.[1] Their prominence in public policy considerations is further enhanced by the fact that individuals are directly responsible for filing their income taxes, in contrast to the indirect payment of sales and excise taxes. To many taxpayers, the personal income tax is practically synonymous with their own tax burdens.

Forty-three states levy individual income taxes. Forty-one tax wage and salary income, while two states—New Hampshire and Tennessee—exclusively tax dividend and interest. Seven states levy no income tax at all. Tennessee is currently phasing out its Hall Tax (income tax applied only to dividends and interest income) and will repeal its income tax entirely by 2022.[2]

Of those states taxing wages, eight have single-rate tax structures, with one rate applying to all taxable income. Conversely, 33 states levy graduated-rate income taxes, with the number of brackets varying widely by state. Kansas, for example, imposes a two-bracket income tax system. At the other end of the spectrum, two states—California and Missouri—each have 10 tax brackets. Top marginal rates range from North Dakota’s 2.9 percent to California’s 13.3 percent.

In some states, a large number of brackets are clustered within a narrow income band; Missouri taxpayers reach the state’s tenth and highest bracket at $9,072 in annual income. In other states, the top marginal rate kicks in at $500,000 (New Jersey) or even $1 million (California, when one includes the state’s “millionaire’s tax” surcharge). Read More > from the Tax Foundation

Annual death toll from alzheimer’s nearly doubles in 15 years – Alzheimer’s disease claims nearly twice as many American lives annually as it did just 15 years ago, a new report shows.

The report also found that more than 5 million American seniors aged 65 and older now live with the memory-robbing disease.

That represents approximately 10 percent of all the nation’s seniors, and that number is projected to jump to nearly 14 million by 2050. In fact, nearly half a million seniors are expected to develop the disease in 2017 alone.

Among the report’s additional findings: Alzheimer’s is now the fifth leading cause of death among seniors; the sixth leading cause of fatalities among all Americans; and the only disease among the nation’s top 10 biggest killers for which there is no prevention, no way to slow progression and no cure. Read More > at Medical Xpress

The 40-year decline in the tolerance of college students, graphed – …However, a systematic look at the survey data on political tolerance shows a much longer trend at work. Forty years ago, young college students were the most tolerant of controversial speech. That is no longer the case.

Since the 1970s, the General Social Survey (GSS) has been measuring people’s willingness to allow controversial people — racists, atheists, communists — to speak in their community. Of course, a response to a survey interviewer may not signal how someone would act in real life. We cannot assume, for example, that people opposed to these speakers would actually shout them down. But the trends over time are notable nonetheless.

One GSS question asks: “Consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community claiming that Blacks are inferior, should he be allowed to speak, or not?”

Typically, we would expect tolerance to be most prevalent among the young and better-educated. As of 1976, when this question was first asked, that was exactly the case. Roughly 84 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds who had some college education supported allowing this person to speak. This was higher than older people who had attended college (78 percent) as well as 18-to-25-year-olds who had not attended college (68 percent).

Over time, however, young people in college became less willing to let a racist speak in their community. The trend among this group is particularly steep, more so than among any of the other groups. By 2014, young people in college are no more tolerant than older people who have not attended college. Or to put it differently, later generations of college students are less tolerant than earlier generations. Read More > in The Washington Post

‘No Such Thing as Absolute Privacy in America,’ Warns FBI Director Comey – Earlier this week, FBI Director James Comey spoke at the Boston Conference on Cyber Security at Boston College and addressed the growth of cyber threats. While the agency head explained that “cybersecurity is a priority for every enterprise in the United States at all levels,” he also made some chilling statements that should give every American pause.

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” Comey announced at the conference, Politico reported. “There is no place in America outside of judicial reach.”

This comes on the heels of a Wikileaks dump that revealed the CIA is working on hacks into everything from smart televisions to cars. The reality of a mass surveillance state has been apparent at least since then–National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked information in 2013 that the organization was spying on the public, so admissions like these from the intelligence community should come as no surprise. Yet the candidness with which Comey admits that Americans’ privacy is circumscribed is striking.

He acknowledged that the law says “all of us have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, and in our devices,” but provided a nice little caveat that if it has a “good reason,” the state can nonetheless “invade our private spaces.” Read More > at Reason

Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan wants to set up a weed shop in San Francisco. So far, the residents aren’t having it. – Ever wonder what former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has been up to since leaving office? Apparently, she’s one of the many Californians joining the state’s green rush.

Now out of elected office, former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and her husband, Floyd Huen, are embarking on a new venture: a medical marijuana dispensary.

Quan and Huen, a physician, are partnering with Apothecarium to open a dispensary in the Outer Sunset, in a predominantly Chinese American neighborhood in San Francisco. Apothecarium already operates a dispensary in the Castro, but Huen said there is a great need for one in the Sunset.

Some 3,500 patients live in the Sunset and travel to the Castro dispensary, he said.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Quan, her new venture is going about as well as her political career. At a community meeting Thursday, a raucous crowd gathered to oppose the dispensary, fearing it would bring crime into their neighborhood. Tensions ran so high that the it had to be cut short. Read More > at California City News

Rise of the Machines: A Burger Flipping Robot Is About To Start Work at a Fast Food Chain – The term “burger flipper” is often used as a derogatory way of referring to someone working a low-paying job (sometimes, but not always, literally flipping burgers) that is generally seen as the kind of gig that could be done by anyone. And that’s paraphrasing the politest definition on Urban Dictionary. But if you think burger flipping is more complex than the haters like to let on, science hasn’t done you any favors as of late: CaliBurger, a chain whose last sustained time in the spotlight was occurred because it was too much like In-N-Out Burger by In-N-Out Burger, is the latest restaurant to announce it’ll be using a burger flipping robot to handle grill duties.

Created by Miso Robotics, “Flippy” is billed as an even better alternative to using a lowly human being to upend burger patties in your commercial kitchen. According to a promotional video, “Flippy cooks burgers perfectly – every time,” implying whoever fast food joints have in their kitchens now are achieving less than perfection. Read More > at Food & Wine

Americans Are Eating Too Much Bacon and Too Few Nuts: Study – Gorging on bacon, skimping on nuts? These are among food habits that new research links with deaths from heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Overeating or not eating enough of the 10 foods and nutrients contributes to nearly half of U.S. deaths from these causes, the study suggests.

“Good” foods that were under-eaten include: nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fats including salmon and sardines; fruits and vegetables; and whole grains.

“Bad” foods or nutrients that were over-eaten include salt and salty foods; processed meats including bacon, bologna and hot dogs; red meat including steaks and hamburgers; and sugary drinks. Read More > at TIME

Airbus unveils an autonomous, modular flying car concept – Flying cars face many obstacles, but one of the biggest is accommodating all the parts needed to both drive and fly — their designs amount to big, heavy compromises. Airbus and Italdesign want to try something different. They’ve just unveiled the Pop.Up, an autonomous concept that uses a modular passenger capsule to switch between four-wheeled ground transport and quadcopter flight. All you do is tell the vehicle’s AI where to go — it’ll snap on air or ground modules based on both the available routes and your habits. Airbus even floats the possibility of shuttling your capsule through hyperloop tubes when they’re available.

This wouldn’t sit in your driveway. Airbus foresees Pop.Up vehicles forming an on-demand transportation network that isn’t hampered by the limitations of ground-based options. It could dramatically reduce traffic congestion, too. Why drive on a packed bridge when you can simply fly over the river?

The gotcha, as you might guess, is that this is just a concept. There are life-size examples of Pop.Up at the Geneva Motor Show, but there’s a big difference between that and showing off a working prototype, let alone something ready to handle your commute. If Airbus is committed to making this a real product, any practical use is going to be years away. Read More > at Engadget

Families who leave the S.F. metro area for the suburbs save as much as $13K a year – Families who leave the San Francisco metro area for less costly local cities save an average of $12,560 a year, a new report from Zillow and has found, as the cost of living and raising children in the city continues to mount.

Real estate site Zillow and childcare portal teamed up for the study to look at how much families can save by moving from urban areas to the suburbs. In most parts of the country, they found that it was actually more expensive to raise children in the suburbs.

But that’s definitely not the case in San Francisco, which they defined as the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward census area.

“Whereas housing and childcare costs combined will run more than $84,800/year in San Francisco, relocating drives the total down to just over $72,200,” Curbed reports. “Note that this is an enormous gap. For comparison’s sake, in San Jose the difference is only $1,628. A move to the suburbs in LA means a difference of only $407.”

The study is just one more look at how difficult it has become to raise a family in the S.F. metro area — and particularly in the city. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Why are Millennials Buying in Suburbs? – New research reveals that a majority of millennials are interested in buying a home in the suburbs. In fact, the studies show they are already making the move, largely basing the decision on affordability.

The reports by Zillow and Harvard University show millennials are breaking from stereotypes of primarily preferring to rent in urban living environments that offer experience over equity. Zillow found that the group makes up roughly 10% of the nation’s homeowners, with nearly half owning in the suburbs, 33% in urban environments and 20% in rural areas.

Harvard’s study found millennial homeownership rates were 5% higher in metro areas, where median home prices were 20% below the national median. The metrics demonstrate that, if millennials can afford to become homeowners, they will. Read More > at Connect Media

Cryogenic Preservation of Human Organs Is Now Inevitable – In a huge breakthrough for transplant medicine, scientists have developed a successful technique for rewarming cryogenically frozen tissue.

Cutting-edge nanotechnology is now able to rapidly reheat biological samples that have been vitrified — which is super-cooling them to a glassy state — without damaging them. This brings humanity a step closer to making organ cryopreservation a reality. The process could save millions of lives and eliminate the entire transplant waiting list.

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota successfully thawed 50-milliliter samples, far beyond the previous record of one millimeter. A study detailing the research was published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Now, it’s a straight shot to cryopreserving full human organs.

In addition to human skin cells, researchers have successfully thawed samples from various animals like pigs, whose human-like hearts make them notable in medical science). Most impressively, a full pig kidney has been thawed after being cryogenically frozen. Once thawing is complete, the nanoparticles simply wash away. Scientists working at the level of rabbit organs now and will progressively scale up to larger organs before eventually trying freeze and then thaw out human organ.

“There’s nothing that precludes us from doing that,” Bischof says. “The technology does exist.” Read More > at Inverse

Oakland Is Right to Keep Refusing to Bend to the Will of the NFL – The Raiders’ long-discussed move from Oakland to Las Vegas now seems all but certain to happen. After the team’s original relocation plans, which included major contributions from Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs, fell apart toward the end of January, Raiders owner Mark Davis pivoted. On Monday, he announced to his fellow NFL owners that the team has secured $650 million from Bank of America; by Tuesday, there were reports that enough team owners — who will vote on whether to permit the Raiders to move at their annual meetings at the end of March — had pledged their support to make the move a reality.

So now it seems that Davis will get what he wants (a new stadium), as will the NFL (a more profitable franchise by dint of playing in a newer, nicer stadium). Vegas will get what lawmakers insist its citizens want: a football team and a stadium, courtesy of $750 million in bonds backed by a new hotel tax that was approved by Nevada’s legislature in October. And while Oakland appears destined to lose something it loves — the football team forged in the city in 1960 — it will gain something else: the knowledge that, in large part because of the vision of Mayor Libby Schaaf, the city held firm against the NFL. Even after the Alameda County board of supervisors approved a $1.3 billion deal for a Raiders stadium in December — which would have included $350 million of public money — Schaaf stood her ground and as recently as Monday declined to sweeten the city’s offer during a meeting with the NFL. Schaaf said that Oakland would not build the Raiders a stadium with taxpayer money, and, through years of threats by Davis and meddling by league commissioner Roger Goodell, she kept her promise. “We are competing,” she said last month, “but we are competing on our terms whether or not the NFL or the Raiders accept that.”

Oakland’s refusal to bend to the will of the NFL is noble. It is good. It is also deeply, crushingly sad: for Raiders fans, who may have to bid their team farewell in three weeks; for taxpayers in other cities, who keep contributing their money toward lavish new homes for billionaires’ franchises; for future taxpayers, who will have to contemplate where sports fall in the hierarchy of their city’s needs, or who may not — probably will not, if history is any indication — even be given the chance to vote on it. Read More > at The Ringer

Proposed California amendment would lower voting age to 17 – California would become the first state in the nation to allow 17-year-olds to vote in a general election under a proposed state constitutional amendment introduced this week by a Silicon Valley legislator.

In 1971, 18-year-olds across the United States won the right to vote through the 26th Amendment. But the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prevent states from further lowering the voting age, notes the measure’s main sponsor, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Cupertino.

Allowing citizens to vote while they’re still in high school will help to establish their voting habits early, before their transition to college or work, argues Low, who heads the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. Read More > in The Mercury News

ESPN Cutting Nearly $100 Million In On-Air Talent – Two years ago ESPN cut several hundred behind the scenes jobs to save hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly costs. Since that time ESPN’s subscriber losses have accelerated, averaging over three million lost subscribers a year. Now new jobs cuts are coming, only this time you’re likely to know some of the casualties — Outkick has heard from a variety of different sources that ESPN is cutting up to $100 million in on-air salaries.

The cuts will come via buyouts and expiring contracts that won’t be renewed and when those layoffs start becoming apparent many will recognize that what Outkick has been writing for a couple of years now — ESPN is in a world of trouble and doesn’t know how to stem a rapidly collapsing business model.

…ESPN’s collapse is a basic business reality, just like when the subprime mortgage crisis bubble popped. ESPN assumed that its subscriber numbers were going to remain fairly stable as it spent billions on sports rights. This wasn’t a bad bet since its subscribers had gone up consistently from 1979 to 2011. But in 2011, the number of national cable subscribers peaked. Since that time they’ve been going down every month.

Over the past several years ESPN has lost over 13 million cable and satellite subscribers. Given that each subscriber pays ESPN in the neighborhood of $7 a month for the network, that’s over a billion dollars a year in lost revenue that will never be recouped. And those losses aren’t stopping. Indeed, every single day in 2017 ESPN is losing 10,000 subscribers or more. Read More > at Outkick the Coverage

Apple Leak Reveals Massive, Expensive New iPhone – The iPhone 8 (some claim it will be called the “iPhone X”), is going to be the most radical redesign of Apple AAPL +0.06%’s smartphone range to date. And now a major source has just revealed its biggest new feature and most painful drawback…

Nikkei, the world’s largest financial newspaper, has reported that Apple will launch three configurations of iPhone in 2017. Two of these are expected to be incremental updates on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (with iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus branding), and an iPhone 8 with an all-new OLED display measuring a massive 5.8-inches.

This would mean the iPhone 8 has the largest display of any iPhone ever made and is significantly larger than any current mass-market smartphones (though the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus will change that). The good news for those worried the iPhone 8 will be too big is corroborating reports say Apple will shrink the top and bottom bezels to make it smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus. Read More > at Forbes

The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take First – Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. But which white-collar jobs will robots take first?

First, we should define “robots” (for this article only) as technologies, such as machine learning algorithms running on purpose-built computer platforms, that have been trained to perform tasks that currently require humans to perform. With this in mind, let’s think about what you’ll do after white-collar work. Oh, and I do have a solution for the short term that will make you the last to lose your job to a robot, but I’m saving it for the end of the article.

1 – Middle Management

If your main job function is taking a number from one box in Excel and putting it in another box in Excel and writing a narrative about how the number got from place to place, robots are knocking at your door. Any job where your “special and unique” knowledge of the industry is applied to divine a causal relationship between numbers in a matrix is going to be replaced first. Be ready.

2 – Commodity Salespeople (Ad Sales, Supplies, etc.)

Unless you sell dreams or magic or negotiate using special perks, bribes or other valuable add-ons that have nothing to do with specifications, price and availability, start thinking about your next gig. Machines can take so much cost out of any sales process (request for proposal, quotation, order and fulfillment system), it is the fiduciary responsibility of your CEO and the board to hire robots. You’re fighting gravity … get out!

3 – Report Writers, Journalists, Authors & Announcers

Writing is tough. But not report writing. Machines can be taught to read data, pattern match images or video, or analyze almost any kind of research materials and create a very readable (or announceable) writing. Read More > at Linked In

Driverless shuttles roll out in the East Bay (video) – The first driverless shuttles in the nation to be operating on public roads began driving on Monday in the East Bay, using GPS, lasers and obstacle sensing technology to pilot around San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch.

You can see the shuttles puttering around above, in a video created by the Mercury News.

The shuttles, made by the French company EasyMile, are in the second phase of a pilot program that began last summer with testing at Concord’s GoMentum Station. Now, two of them are transporting workers within the Bishop Ranch complex of office parks,” the Mercury News reports.

“They are expected to be on public streets surrounding the office park by the end of the year, said Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.”

Bishop Ranch is also a testing ground for self-driving cars from other tech companies, which have made major strides in the last few years in the state: The California DMV has issued permits for the technology to Google, Honda, Tesla and Ford, and will soon take a look at the EasyMile shuttles. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Ford to trial Stratasys system to use 3D printing of one-piece auto parts – Ford Motor said it is experimenting with 3D printers to manufacture large car parts such as spoilers for prototypes and production vehicles.

The effort will be powered by Stratasys’ Infinite Build 3D printer. Ford is the first automaker to trial the technology with Stratasys.

To date, 3D printing has largely been used for on-demand parts as well as prototypes. However, Ford’s experiments indicate that the technology could be used more widely in manufacturing efforts. Ford is also exploring how 3D printed parts may boost fuel efficiency since they are generally lighter.

Under the trial, Ford delivers specs from its computer aided design program to the printer, which analyzes the design. From there, a layer is printed one material at a time to create an object. The system replenishes its supplies via a robotic arm so it can operate unattended.

So far, 3D printing isn’t fast enough for high-volume manufacturing, but it could have a role for personalized parts and low volume applications. Read More > at ZD Net

Inside The Computerized Lettuce Factory Of The Future – Farming, even in its modern, hyper-industrialized form, still relies on some very old-school technology: the sun, dirt, seasons, tractors. It’s all a bit messy and inefficient, at least by the standards of modern technologists, who are more accustomed to server farms that churn through data 24/7.

It’s not that surprising, then, that the self-declared farms of the future look more like an Amazon data center than an organic apple orchard. A wave of companies are rushing to figure out how to grow commercial volumes of food in giant urban warehouses, using LED lights instead of sun, and stacked shelves of nutrient solution instead of soil.

This particularly tech-centric model of urban farming us run by computer systems that monitor thousands of points of data and constantly adjust growing conditions. Marc Oshima, co-founder of AeroFarms, one of the world’s largest vertical farms, says the company uses “in-depth growing algorithms where we factor in all aspects from type and intensity of light to nutrients to environmental factors like temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, and we create the perfect recipe for each variety.” Read More > at Buzz Feed

Money, politics and the twin tunnels – In the wake of the Oroville dam near-disaster, a question floating around Capitol corridors now is: Given the amount of money needed for what everyone agrees must be an expensive revamping of the state’s water infrastructure, is there room now for Gov. Jerry Brown’s heart’s desire — the $15.5 billion twin tunnels project?

…Brown’s latest idea is to build two enormous tunnels, each four stories high and 40 feet in diameter, for 35 miles under the delta, through which about half of California’s drinking water flows. The watery superhighway would send fresh water from the Sacramento River to cities and farms to the south.

…But the American Society of Civil Engineers says it will cost $65 billion a year over the next 10 years to fix California’s overall infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, etc. And that’s from a report that is now more than four years old. (The engineers will issue a new report on March 9.)

The engineers said this in their 2012 “Report Card” on California’s overall infrastructure needs:

“In 2012, the 10-year total unfunded infrastructure investment required has increased to $650 billion In 2006, California voters passed almost $42 billion worth of infrastructure measures on the ballots, and although that was a good start and it has certainly helped at least maintain or in some cases improve the grades, the 2006 ballot measures represent only a drop in the bucket compared to the $650 billion needed to move California in the right direction.” Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Too Much Social Media Use Linked to Feelings of Isolation – Fans of social media may say that all of that posting and liking helps connect them with others, but a new study finds that spending more time on social media platforms is actually linked to a higher likelihood of feeling socially isolated.

Social isolation — which the researchers defined as a lack of a sense of belonging, true engagement with others and fulfilling relationships — has been linked to an increased risk of illness and death, according to the study.

Currently, “mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults,” lead study author Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, said in a statement. [9 Odd Ways Your Tech Devices May Injure You]

Although it’s possible that increased social media use could help alleviate feelings of social isolation, increased social media use could also have the opposite effect in young adults, by limiting in-person interactions, the researchers wrote in the study, published today (March 6) in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Read More > at Live Science

A CAR THAT FLIES, A PLANE THAT DRIVES – Inspired by nature, engineered by men and evolved over time, the PAL-V Liberty is a groundbreaking product that inaugurates the age of the flying car. The PAL-V Liberty is a marriage between safety and fun, designed to satisfy the most demanding customers.

Thanks to a number of patented technologies, the dimensions of the PAL-V Liberty do not exceed those of a regular car. It therefore blends perfectly with everyday road traffic, yet offers a new level of mobility.

Among many unique features, the PAL-V Liberty has two distinct attributes that set it apart from all other concepts. The first is that lift is created by a wind-powered rotor, making the PAL-V Liberty float in the air. Taking this gyroplane principle to the next level is the secret behind the safest and easiest flying vehicle on the market. Read More > at Pal-V

American Shale Ready to Take On Petrostates – The U.S. shale boom is back and better than ever. After weathering a collapse in crude prices that saw the value of a barrel of oil drop from more than $110 in June 2014 down below $30 in January 2016, American fracking firms (the ones that survived, that is) are looking fit once again. As Bloomberg reports, these companies are already taking advantage of a petrostate production cut that ceded valuable market share and pushed oil prices back above $50 per barrel.

So now, nearly three years after a global glut sent oil prices into a tailspin and American oil producers to their nearest lenders, U.S. oil production is once again floating above 9 million bpd. And as positive as this is for both the American economy and our country’s energy security, it’s a major threat to oil-soaked states both inside and out of OPEC. Those petrostates banded together late last year to finally agree on a production cut, and they managed to induce a price rebound of roughly $10 per barrel as a result. Now, however, their worst fears are being realized: U.S. shale producers are seizing the opportunity and bringing rigs out of retirement. Read More > at The American Interest


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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