Yesterday I mentioned some of the science and weather themes I will be keeping track of in 2012, and I will continue with that today. But before getting into today’s themes, I want to again hearken back to the metrics of “growth” that I have been harping on. Yesterday I mentioned once again that happiness should be a part of what we consider “socio-economic growth”. For example, I would be quite happy with a new medical technology that improved the health of my aging parents or myself.
It would make me a lot more happy than seeing another strip mall and parking lot erected on the outskirts of town. I would consider better health and more happiness to be good metrics of how we are doing as a society. Some researchers have recently found the same thing in regards to happiness. Health seems to correlate most strongly with happiness. I suggest instead of building more 8-lane freeways and expansive cookie-cutter sub-divisions, we should focus more on medical technology that will extend our healthy lives.
Now on to some other themes continue to appear in the blog.
One of the most common themes in my blog entries is the contrast between the possible threat of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the hopes of technological progress. This subject could be even “hotter” in 2012 as technological progress is not slowing down, and a warm start to the year, potential continuing drought in the southern U.S., and increasing carbon emissions from China and India will drive a lot of angst in the climatology and environmentalist communities. So there should be plenty to talk about. Already this holiday season, there was an record all time high temperature set at the south pole on Christmas Day. The temperature was 9.9 degrees. The records go back to 1957. Besides potential weather machinations driving angst in some quarters, the fact that India is not going to sign any new climate treaties and that China is planning to build one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in the world will give a lot of people reason to worry.
On the positive side of things, even though computing (data centers) continue to take up more of the world’s power, computing efficiency is currently following Moore’s law and we should expect more efficient computer chips to become more prevalent in 2012. Increasing computer presence in cars (while potentially having some downsides) has the potential to dramatically change transportation in the western world, making it more efficient with less pollution. In addition, my favorite alternative energy – solar power – while taking some significant lumps in 2011, is still progressing nicely. Check out the start-up Natcore and their three new technologies that could increase efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs.
No doubt the positive and negative stories will continue to arrive fast and furious in 2012.
I will also continue to follow up on some older stories that continue to evolve or are in need of updates including (but not limited to) a few exciting space exploration milestones coming up this year, LED lighting, and cloaking.
In the coolest new technology category of cloaking, a recent paper has described a way to make it more practical for large scale production. It involves joining many small tiles.
In LED lighting, I expect more $10 or less bulbs to arrive in 2012, but no new news recently in this regard.
In space exploration I will be closely watching the progress and landing of the latest Mars rover Opportunity. It is scheduled to land on Mars in August. I will also continue to provide short updates on commercial/private spaceflight. Companies such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Bigelow Aerospace should hit some major milestones this year. Also don’t forget that the Lunar X-prize is still in heated competition.
Have a fine Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on January 3, 2012