The Idea Incubator

How can trash be used to build new buildings?

  • Trash may serve as the building blocks of the future, if a Dutch researcher has his way. Rather than burying it in landfills, the researcher suggests mixing trash with cement to make slabs for foundations. Additives could be used to ensure the slabs don't leak toxic materials. The researcher is also building landmarks or tourist attractions from the materials. He laid out his vision in the Journal of Global Environmental Issues.

How are piracy and terrorism connected?

  • Ocean piracy surged 68% worldwide from 2000 to 2006, the Rand Corp. said. Terrorist activity at sea grew modestly over the same period. Rand says the study results show that there's little evidence that pirates and terrorists are starting to work together. It argues that the objectives of piracy and terrorism remain far different.

How fast can a computer be?

  • The world's fastest computer was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM. The new computer, .named Roadrunner, can sustain 100 trillion operations per second. It will be used to help maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The energy secretary says Roadrunner will also be used to help solve energy problems.

Are banks monitoring their staffs?

  • Banks boost monitoring of staff. Spending by banks on what's called e-discovery technology is rising, as banks try to keep an eye on their employees in the wake of Societe Generale’s rogue trader scandal, .recent rumors hit the U.K. bank HBOS, and new regulations and lawsuits spawned by the credit crunch. The banks' increased surveillance efforts include tracking bank employee’s e-mails. Listening to their phone calls, and analyzing their online chats. Some analysts see e-discovery or e-surveillance spending as a bright spot amid a slowdown in other parts of the tech sector. One French software firm involved in e-discovery has hired the former SocGen rogue trader.

How can we catch hit-and-run drivers?

  • Hit-and-run crashes are resolved more often now that motorists and witnesses are more likely to be carrying mobile phones reports the Oregonian. The faster such incidents are called in, the better the chances that the culprits will be caught police say.` I’ve had cases where I happen to be in the right place at the right time and — Bam — I’ve made the arrest," said Beaverton policeman Kevin McDonald.

What are "Loosies"?

  • The sale of individual sale of small cigars, known as loosies, may be banned by Baltimore officials who want to reduce teen smoking. Small cigars are the cigar market's fastest-growing niche, with consumption up 154% from ’98 to ‘06. Baltimore officials worry that loosies, which often come in fruit flavors and sell for just 50 cents, can lead to years of nicotine dependence among teens. Could this become a national trend for adolescents?

Which countries lead in clean energy technology?

  • Venture capitalists say Germany is a new hub for clean energy technology, and Taiwan has the best semiconductor technology, according to a survey by the National Venture Capital Assoc. Of U.S. venture capitalists, 57% are investing in overseas start ups vs. 46% last year. India ranked No. 2 for software innovation, followed by U.K., Israel and Germany.

Why are cam corders increasing in sales?

  • Smaller, cheaper, camcorders are in increasing with the You Tube generation. The cell phone size Flip-Video Mino has a 1.4-inch LCD display and can store 60 minutes of video. Using built-in software, users can plug the devise into a PC’s USB port and transmit videos via the internet to You Tube or My Space. The Mino costs $179.

Does Internet messaging decrease productivity?

  • Instant messages cut disruptions. A new study contradicts the view that instant messaging disrupts workers and cuts their productivity. It found workers who instant-message on the job report less interruption than those who don't. Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of California at Irvine say instant messaging leads to more-frequent but shorter conversations via PCs. It also serves as a substitute for more disruptive interactions such e-mail or in-person discussions.

Why are gold cart injuries increasing?

  • Golf cart related injuries rose 130% from 1990 to 2006 as more people began using the small vehicles to not only putter around the links, but their neighborhoods or other open areas as well, says the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Ohio. Golf-cart makers need to add more safety features to help combat growing injuries, researchers said. Can you think of any innovative suggestions to offer them?

Why people stealing cooking grease?

  • Grease thefts jump as crude soars. Restaurants across the U.S. are reporting a rise in thefts of used cooking oil amid a surging demand for biofuel. The value of cooking grease has risen sharply in recent months as higher gas prices have helped drive more motorists to switch to biofuel-powered vehicles. Griffin Industries, which collects and processes used cooking oil, says the problem is widespread, with thefts reported in at least 20 states. A typical 300-gallon tank of used cooking oil from a restaurant could fetch $750.

How can sponges clean up oil spills?

  • Sponge may help clean up oil spills. A thin sponge made out of nanowires could be used for cleaning up oil spills fast. The new thin membrane created at MIT can swell up with oil and toxic chemicals up to 20 times its weight; at the same time; the material repels water. Usually oil spills are cleaned up using the same basic technology used 20 years ago, including natural sorbents such as hay and cellulose. But conventional methods can only soak up 3 -15 times their weight in oil. The material can be cleaned by exposing it to extreme high temperatures, allowing repeated uses.

How can robotic fish track polution?

  • A new robotic fish about the size of a 10 pound salmon are able to work cooperatively on tasks while communicating only with each other. The robofish, made by the University of Washington researchers may one day be used to track pollution, whales or other underwater targets, as well as explore ice covered waters. They represent an advance in underwater robotics because they don’t have to surface frequently for instructions.

Who are the biggest advertisers on the Internet?

  • Millions of fast food ads served. McDonald’s buys more online ads than any other fast-food seller by far and reaches the widest audience. Pizza Hut, which lets customers order food online, has the biggest share of Website visits among the top 10 advertisers.

How can we stop lava flow from volcanos?

  • A new tactic may help stop lava from volcanoes in its tracks. A Dutch researcher suggests building walls made of limestone between volcanoes and potentially threatened communities When lava mixes with limestone, it spurs a chemical reaction that rapidly cools the lava and makes it solidify more rapidly, thus halting the lava flow. The researcher also said limestone blocks could be dropped into lava flows from aircraft to steer it away from populated areas.

What is causing increased fatigue in young people?

  • News fatigue is a common problem among young adults in the U.S., U.K. and India says an Associated Press study. Young adults feel bombarded with headlines and snippets of news. At the same time they yearn for and have trouble accessing in depth stories. The study says young adult’s news consumption behavior differs greatly from that of previous generations. Maybe in depth stories need to be put on the internet for them?

How do clothes make the man?

  • Male barn swallows whose feathers were darkened to a more attractive shade ended up producing more testosterone and losing weight says a study published in the journal Current Biology This finding among birds lends some support to the maxim that "Clothes make the man."

How can bubbles improve textures?

  • New Tech won’t burst your bubble. Researchers have developed bubbles that last as long as a year, in a breakthrough that promises to improve many consumer products such as ice cream and cosmetics. Manufacturers use small bubbles to give an airy texture to many products, so they want the bubbles to last as long as possible. Researchers at Harvard University found that a coating based on a mixture of simple sugars can act as anarmor around the bubbles. The study, funded by consumer products giant Unilever, is detailed in the journal Science. Can it be made cheaper than bubble wrap made from oil?

How can cameras monitor how you drive?

  • Cameras monitor how you drive. An eye-tracking devise may help may help drivers keep their eyes on the road. The EMR-9 System has three CCD cameras mounted on an eyeglass frame and would record eye movements at 240 frames; per second. Japan's Nac Image Technology developed the device to help automakers add safety features. Toyota already placed a driving-monitoring camera on a steering column to track the driver's eyes and face so that the computer can sound an alert if the driver isn't looking forward.

How can diets change genders?

  • Fat diet may set livestock gender. The livestock industry may have a new means for controlling the sex ratio of offspring born to a particular herd or flock. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that ewes feed a diet high in polyunsaturated fats for a month prior to conception have a significantly greater chance of giving birth to male sheep. The study was published the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Sex ratios are important because it is considered more economically efficient to have a herd of cows with fewer bulls or a flock of chickens with just one rooster. Same affect on humans?

Who leads the world in service and technology?

  • U.S. still tops in science and technology. The U.S. retains its global pre-eminence in science and technology with a big boost from foreign students, scientists, and engineers a RandCorp. Report said. Researchers said their conclusions contradict perceptions among some Americans that the nation is losing its competitiveness in these crucial fields. In what specific areas of study?

What are the riskiest domains on the Internet?

  • Internet’s riskiest domains identified. Some Web-domains are more vulnerable to cyber crimes than others, and Hong Kong’s ".hk," ranked as the most dangerous domain, followed by China’s ".cn" and ".info" according to a report by anti-virus software vender McAfee. The servers for ".hk" and ".cn" Web sites don’t have to be in China. Some Internet scam operators gravitate to domain name services with lower fees, and to services that cut registration requirements to boost profit. Among ".com" sites about 5% were identified as dangerous. The least risky domain names are ".gov," ".jp" (Japan) and ".au" Australia.

Do Web videos decrease TV time?

  • Web videos chip away at TV time. TV's position as the main place to watch video content is safe for now, but a new survey details how it’s eroding as more people check out, shows and movies on their PC.s. The percentage of video consumed via a TV among people who also get video content online fell to 70% in Feb. '08 from 75% in Feb. '07, says the survey by researcher Ipsos Media CT. Meanwhile, the percentage of video content consumed via PCs among survey participants rose to 19% from 11%. Movie theaters' share to 5% from 7%. Ipsos Media CT emphasizes that online video is now something that many Americans enjoy on a regular basis. Will bigger home screens create any new industries or products?

Are poor students Internet savvy?

  • Poor students are internet savvy. Low-income students are just as technologically proficient as their counterparts. A study by the University of Minnesota found Internet usage of teenagers from families whose incomes were below the county’s median income was 94%. The result was going against '05 research by Pew, which suggested an "economic digital divide." Also social network sites helped teenagers build creative web skills, the research said.

Are people switching to lower grade automotive fuels?

  • High gas prices have spurred many cash-strapped drivers to switch from premium to lower grade fuels, even owners of cars for which premium is recommended. Sales of mid-grade gas rose 16% in March vs. April "07, while premium sales dipped 0.4% and regular grade sales fell 1.4%, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Do new widgets increase sales to assertive customers?

  • People who can't wait to buy the newest widgets could be very assertive and even a bit arrogant. According to a study by Internet and network firm Mindset Media and Nielsen Online, responders who rated high in assertiveness were 52% more likely to buy a new cell phone when the newest model arrived. Avid tech consumers were also likely to score low in modesty and many were perceived as arrogant by others, the study found.

Has .cn passed the use of .net on the Internet?

  • The rapid rise in internet use in China is highlighted by the study that says Web addresses ending in that nation’s "cn" domain have surpassed those for "net". The study by tech firm Verisign didn’t provide breakdowns, but said "cn" registration grew 23% in Q1 from the previous quarter. The "net" domain was intended for network providers but is often treated a as a second "com" by many users.

How can bacteria produce oil?

  • Startup strikes oil by using bacteria. A Silicon Valley company called LS9 is using genetically modified bacteria to produce crude oil. Some types of naturally occurring bacteria already produce fatty acids that are just a few chemical steps removed from crude oil. LS9 has developed genetically modified E. Coli bacteria that produces crude-oil- quality-excretions. Using a 40-square-foot fermentation machine, LS0 currently can only produce one barrel of oil in 7 days. It plans to have a demonstration plant running by 2010.


“Once you’ve done the mental work, there come s appoint (where) you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line.”

“No one wants to hear about the labor pains; they just want to see the baby.”

“Virtually nothing on earth can stop a person with a positive attitude who has his goal clearly in sight.”

“The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence.”

“A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

“Not failure, but low aim, is a crime.”

“Whether or not you reach your goals depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them.”

“Today’s decisions are tomorrow’s realities.”

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.”

‘The world makes way for the person who knows where he or she is going.”

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

"High expectations are the key to everything.”

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

“You must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessings.”