Small Is Mighty

As the pressure on land and natural resources increases due to the increasing demands of a growing population then technology of all kinds will be forced to occupy the interstices of modern urban dwellings. Just as a jar full of rocks can accommodate additional sand and the jar full of sand can accommodate additional water so the performance of vital functions will begin to occur in very small places all around us. Such is the nature of synthetic biology. Powered by sunlight the urban system will become our residence, our factory and our farm. As Feynman said: “there’s plenty of room at the bottom”.

Nikolai Tesla, William the Conqueror and JP Morgan

Nikolai Tesla was a genius. No doubt about it.  He invented the idea of the internet way back in the 1890’s right after he invented radio. In Belgrade there is a museum dedicated to him. At one point this giant among intellectuals and practitioners of science suggested using high intensity electromagnetic fields to transmit power over long distances.  His idea was to create powerful electric fields that people could use to drive electronic devices wherever they were. This is exactly the same idea as the wireless charging devices you see on the market at the moment, but MUCH BIGGER! And not so different from the idea of solar energy. Here is a picture of such a coil powering a series of fluorescent tubes that are not connected to the device other than a flux linkage from the coils.

Tesla Coil

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Inspiring Landscapes

My research group in Cambridge looks for needles in haystacks every day and here I illustrate, jargon free, some of the concepts that we use to help us.

A mountain’s summit is an unremarkable pinnacle that is utterly indistinguishable from the local apex of the countless trillions of dust grains, stones and craggy outcrops that form the rest of the mountain. Despite the banality of the highest point itself, humans frequently yearn to visit.  Why do we do that? For many, the journey itself is far more rewarding than the actual moment of standing atop the mountain’s maximum maxima.

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Can greed eliminate greed?

Rich people hang out with other rich people. But the same applies to every sub-group of humanity; birds of a feather flock together!  Could a global society exist where flocking into naturally emergent sub-groups could be exploited to optimise resource distribution? How much wealth does each sub-group need? What universal protocols could eliminate bias in resource distribution between such groups? Could all the groups be as rich as each other, according to their self-defined notion of wealth?  Can we find a system in which each group is self-sufficient with no one group obliged to work for the others to maintain the status quo?

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Rubik’s cube is analogous to economics

If a red square on Rubik’s cube represented iron, the yellow squares sulphur, and so on, then the organisation of stickers on Rubik’s cube would represent a particular arrangement of material. Since economics is the study of resource re-arrangement, it would seem that both puzzles, i.e. planetary economics and Rubik’s Cube, have something in common. Consequently, can solving the simpler cubic puzzle teach us about solving the planetary one?

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