Poisonous Tree Holds Bio-Fuel Promise

Jatropha curcas seed

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Jatropha curcas, a poisonous, semi-evergreen shrub that can grow as high as 20 feet, produces seeds laden with oil that backers say is an ideal biofuel.  It has already fared well in testing with airlines and trucking companies.

Jatropha can provide “environmentally responsible fuel without compromising the food supply, so we can help the Earth while helping the public,” said James Garton, president of the firm’s U.S. branch. “That means we can finally reverse the skyrocketing prices at the pump and dependence on traditional sources of oil.”

Apple iPad and iPhone Operating System the Most Secure

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Back in 2007, Apple’s new entry to the smartphone market was one of the least secure operating systems on the market.  Although it had been based on their desktop/laptop operating system, they managed to lose much of their security focus.  Fast forward 4 years and things are much different.

Apple’s newest iPad/iPhone Operating System (iOS 5) is now heralded as the most secure operating system on the market.  Apple’s tight control over applications which can run on the device (through its App Store) provide an ability to review every bit of potentially malicious code which may run on the device.  That coupled with the fact that you can’t run anything which hasn’t been Apple-Blessed (& “Apple taxed”) ensures a smooth experience for anyone choosing to use their iOS operating system.

China Becomes the World’s Largest Energy Consumer in 2010

An attempt at showing world energy usage types...

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China became the world’s largest energy consumer in 2010 overtaking the USA during a year which saw the rebound in the global economy drive consumption higher and at a rate not seen since the aftermath of the 1973 oil price shocks.

Demand for all forms of energy grew strongly in 2010 and increases in fossil fuel consumption suggest that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use rose at their fastest rate since 1969.
The growth in energy consumption was broad-based, with both mature OECD economies and non-OECD countries growing at above-average rates.

The figures come from today’s publication of the 60th annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the longest-running, consistent set of objective, global energy data used by business, academics, and governments to inform policy and decision making.

“There were both structural and cyclical factors at work,” said Bob Dudley, BP Chief Executive. “The cyclical factor is reflected in the fact that industrial production rebounded very sharply as the world recovered from the global downturn. Structurally, the increase reflects the continuing rapid economic growth in the developing world.

“I was in China a couple of weeks ago and I came away with a very clear sense of how rigorously China is thinking about these issues. Growth is by no means the only game in town. They want to maintain social cohesion and they want to make their growth more sustainable. In sum, they are worried about energy security and climate change – just as we are.”

To address these concerns, “we can look to the markets, policy tools, technology advances and not least to the growth of renewable energies to allay these worries,” said Dudley.

“This year, we have seen that the global energy markets are resilient. In the face of significant disruptions to the world’s energy system in Japan and Libya, demand continues to be satisfied. Markets work and markets work best when they are open and transparent.”

Will Facebook Win the Google War?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

The winner-takes-almost-all battle between giants is entering phase two as Google begins to compete directly against Facebook and as Facebook is rumored to be starting a new email service.  Both companies have completely different methods, but share the same ultimate goal of taking over the online world.

Google wants to be the ultimate container and search engine for all knowledge in the world.  They’ve been indexing the online world since their inception and have added massive scanning of books, photographing of homes and businesses and second-to-none mapping technologies.

Facebook is taking another approach.  They’re building a closed universe of users who trust each other.  Ultimately, they’re looking to have friends recommend friends — something that happens regularly in real life.  If you’re looking for anything from a new TV to a new Doctor you’re likely to ask a friend or two their opinions.  And that’s where Facebook wants to be.

If both companies are able to play their cards out to the end it’s likely that the Facebook strategy will win.  Of course, much of that depends upon finances and Google is the clear winner here with billions in real revenue and profits.

Facebook is still far behind Google’s income, but has solved the eternal Internet problem – How Do You Get People to Identify Themselves?  Over 200 million people have voluntarily given Facebook detailed information about themselves, their friends, the things they like and even their family details.  Wins don’t get much bigger than this.

Wireless Social Media Rewrites Election Rules

County by Cont Iowa Caucus Results

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In late 2007, as the Democrats made final adjustments to their campaigns in preparation for the Iowa Caucus, Democrat Barack Obama was a third place candidate, behind John Edwards and Hilary Rodham Clinton.  After losing the Iowa Caucus, he was expected to fade into another also-ran.

To the surprise of pretty much everyone, that didn’t happen.  Obama went on to win Iowa.  How did he manage to beat two veteran campaigners, especially considering how much more money, influence and (apparent) support each had?  He had a secret weapon.

The gadget of choice in those days was the Blackberry smart-phone.  Obama had one.  So did thousands of his followers and, more importantly, his campaign team.  His team used mobile social media to talk to each other, to get a feel for what their supporters were concerned with and to get the message out about what their candidate stood for.  This type of campaigning was entirely new and it appealed greatly to a severely underrepresented demographic in elections: the young.  It drove people who not only normally didn’t vote, but didn’t even pay attention, to get involved.  Neither the Clinton nor the Edwards campaign had taken advantage of the new technology; neither had any of the Republican candidates.  The result was a huge surprise, probably even to the Obama team.

After winning Iowa, the Obama camp did something else unexpected.  They re-purposed their existing (and growing) network to send out an appeal for more money to fund their suddenly surging campaign.  This, again, was unexpectedly (and spectacularly) successful.  Obama had outflanked his opponents again.  Other candidates of all political stripes would try desperately to catch up, just as they would try to catch Obama up in the polls as the year wore on—all to no avail.

The 2008 federal election was the first one anywhere to be decided by Facebook and Twitter.  What does this mean for the future of politics in America, and around the world?

What’s Next?

Time rolls on and the march of technology waits for no one.  In the 2010 mid-term elections, more than half of those polled admitted to using the internet to get information as well as to get involved in the campaigns.  These numbers were impressive, especially for mid-term elections.  By this time, it wasn’t just the kids paying attention, either.  Almost as many 45 year-olds as twenty-somethings were surfing, blogging and pledging their support.

This was still only the beginning.  The trend to fully mobile internet access that started before the 2008 federal election was just picking up steam.  The explosion in both the quantity and variety of smart-phones was just the beginning.  Today there are net-books and tablet computers and things in between, like the Blackberry Playbook, that allow the full internet experience anywhere.  Equipped with 3G connectivity, either natively or through mobile internet sticks (for those with notebooks), these devices don’t rely on a Wi-Fi signal to stay connected.

For someone running an election campaign, both the increased online presence of the electorate and the increasing mobility of the internet is a Godsend.  It means that, no matter where they are, they can keep track of what the voters are thinking, what the important issues are and what questions potential supporters are asking.  Not only that, campaigners can come up with thoughtful, well-researched answers to those questions almost as they are posed, reducing a turnaround that might have taken days—and cost a lot of money.

In fact, having a largely virtual campaign means saving tremendous amounts of money on almost everything from prime time national ad campaigns on television, radio and print media to lawn signs.  This means that smaller candidates with much more limited budgets are no longer at a disadvantage compared to their well-funded competitors.  Consequently, as we’ve seen in 2008 and 2010, these smaller candidates are doing much better.

What’s the Future Look Like?

We’re already seeing the end of the hit-or-miss style of campaigning of past elections.  Targeting the right voter with the right message used to be a time consuming process that wasn’t very efficient.  The problem was getting up-to-date data on potential voters—and keeping it up-to-date.  It took months to build a database of potential voters’ views and voting trends.

Flash forward and a completely different picture emerges.  Mobile computers, like tablets and net-books, and software that integrates names and addresses with programs like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare—in real time—eliminates the need for all that work.  The guy knocking on your door to sell you on his client not only knows whether or not you’re likely to vote, but what the odds are that you’ll vote for his candidate.  (Hint:  he wouldn’t be standing outside your door if he had any serious doubts about your likely choice).  In fact, if you’ve posted it on your Facebook page, he likely already knows what your friends call you—and even your favorite color.