Wed, 2 February 2011
Topics: Netflix verses Blockbuster; his essay Robotic Nation; how jobs are created and destroyed by technological innovation; a new bio-fuel; human population may plateau at about 9 billion; his project DecidingToBeBetter.com.
Marshall Brain is best known as the founder of HowStuffWorks.com, which grew into one of the top Web sites in the country. He sold it to Discovery Communications in 2007 for $250 million. He hosted the TV show Factory Floor which appeared on the National Geographic channel. And he has written a number of books, articles and essays, which -- just like the famous website he created -- explain in a no-nonsense way how stuff works. A perfect example is his article "How to make a million dollars." Which can be read for free on his website: MarshallBrain.com.
Hosted by Stephen Euin Cobb, this is the February 2, 2011 episode of The Future And You. [Running time: 36 minutes] This interview was recorded as a Skype-to-Skype call on Jan. 22, 2011.
 A new material could reduce charge-time for Lithium-ion batteries by a factor of 40. Handy for laptops, but it could be revolutionary for electric cars.
 A new interactive store window will allow passersby to shop even after store hours. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have developed a system using a series of cameras to take detailed pictures of potential customers as they approach the store window. A software program then transforms the shoppers’ hand and eye movements and facial expressions into commands. For instance, if a woman points to a designer handbag in the window, an image of it will appear on a display behind the shop window. When she points to a button, the handbag rotates on the screen to give the shopper the full view.
 A cloaking technology that bends sound waves around an object could render submarines and other underwater objects undetectable to sonar. The technique, developed by researchers at the University of Illinois, employs a highly engineered metamaterial to bend the waves around an object. Stealth submarines are an obvious potential military application for acoustic cloaking, but researchers also see possible medical applications, since many medical scans rely on sound waves. This new metamaterial could theoretically be used in a bandage that would curb disruption or interference from other body parts that sometimes interfere with ultrasound scanning, thus making these scans more accurate.
 Your host's birthday is tomorrow (February 3, 2011).