Category Archives: Innovation

Innovation shifts to western states in the U.S.

What are the most innovative U.S. states?

Source: Geographic Patterns of Innovation Across U.S. States: 1980-2010 | St. Louis Fed

Between the 1980s and the 2000s, based on patents filed/1000 population, innovations has strongly increased in the western US, but we also see strong growth in the Intermountain region (ID, UT, CO), plus Texas, MN, MI and New England.

One big changes, besides the growth in computing and semiconductors, is that software patents were not allowed in the 1980s. That new category opened opportunities for many more patent filings.

How 21st Century News Ought to be

For the most part, how the news is reported to the consumer has changed little in decades, perhaps a century.

When the Internet became available, television stations began to offer print (and video) stories via web sites. Newspapers began to offer web sites – and occasionally offered video.

But few took advantage of the underlying technologies to develop interactive news and analysis tools.

There have been some gradual tip toe steps towards providing these kinds of tools. During elections, results are often presented in interactive, clickable maps or charts.

A very few news sites have offer a bit of Covid-19 data in interactive form. When the news is based on data – or time – there is so much that could be done to deliver a richer, more informative interactive news experience.

An interactive time line would enable the news consumer to scroll through past timeline events – or just linked news stories – by time. This would help us see how the issue has changed, over time, or how the reporting has changed, over time.

Several web sites provide interactive tools to explore Covid-19 related data. Occasionally, an online news web site here and there will offer similar functionality.

It is now 2021 and the news media is still stuck in the past and not thinking “outside of the box” to deliver enhanced value made possible by technology.

They remain stuck with click bait, fear inducing headlines. This is not the path forward for journalism success. It is long past time to embrace available technologies. They have demonstrated they can do it – but mostly for special features. It’s time to make these tools a standard part of reporting.

(Oh, and could you cite references? The story that says “a new study says” but never gives the title of the study, the publication, or a link, is DOA for me.)

Samsung demonstrates 3D holographic display

Samsung scientists have created an interactive slim-panel holographic display that increases the viewing angle for 3D videos by 30 times.

Source: Thin display increases the viewing angle for 3D videos by 30 times | Daily Mail Online

Note – stereoscopic 3D – used by existing 3D TVs and movies – is not the same as 3D holography. A hologram creates images by recording the interference pattern of light across, traditionally, a film.  Viewing a hologram is somewhat like looking at a 3D world through a window. As you physically move yourself to the left or right, the scene appears as if it were a real scene on the other side of the window – this means you can look slightly to the left and right of the object too.

A stereoscopic 3D image, on the other hand, presents two images – one to your left eye and one to your right eye. You cannot move your head around and see anything other than what was recorded in the two images.

The news article is not entirely clear but my interpretation is that Samsung has developed a digital equivalent of a holographic film that  presents images via the interference pattern waveform of a hologram.

This would be a significant advance because holograms do not required 3D glasses for viewing.

IOT, Covid: Smart Watch fitness trackers may help predict Covid-19 infections and outbreaks

Combines self reported data and information such as heart rate, from fitness trackers and smart phones to identify potential Covid-19 infections:
Source: Early results from DETECT study suggest fitness trackers and smartwatches can predict COVID-19 infection | Scripps Research

The smart phone app may be downloaded here. The app works with any smart watch phone app that uses Google Fit or Apple Health interfaces. The study has been underway since spring of 2020 and is expected to run for two years. Not only would this app track potential illness (similar to the Kinsa thermometer) but might also be used to eventually measure effectiveness of vaccines.

“Low code” app development surges amongst pandemic

The shift to remote work has led some companies to come up with quick digital solutions for tasks that have become hard to tackle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Emptying Offices Prompt Adoption of Low-Code to Build Work Apps


“Low code” means using “drag and drop” tools to create software applications. These systems make the creation of user interfaces easy, and provide functionality through similar drag and drop interfaces. We used to call this “Rapid Application Development” or RAD.

I have long though future software would be created with advanced tools that simplify the development process, particularly for straight forward applications of modest size. MIT App Inventor, and Scratch, are examples of drag and drop programming interfaces. Scratch is for teaching programming concepts to children. App Inventor leverages the Scratch concept into developing mobile apps for Android. You can learn about Microsoft’s Power Apps feature here.

Energy: Why throwing money at climate solutions leads to no solutions

When a political leader has a choice, such as am I going to inaugurate a new solar park or wind farm, or something, and show how I care? Or am I going to spend money on some eggheads [R&D] that don’t make for good picture? The problem is the extra solar panel park is not going to do very much, but these eggheads could make a huge difference

Source: We are throwing money at the wrong solutions to climate change

I began looking at solar PV and EVs as ways to take personal action. Read my other posts about what I learned – basically, adding solar PV for some homes will reduce CO2-emissions while for others it will have not only no impact but will have spent money that will then not be available for actual CO2-emission reductions. Similarly, in some situations, purchasing an EV just transfers your CO2-emissions to the utility company and has little or no impact. And at present prices, buying an EV uses up resources that might better be spent on say, home insulation.

Longer term, we need to invest in R&D and invent new technologies. Unfortunately, we invest little in R&D while politicians are pursuing actions that have little impact. Because they do not understand what they are doing.

Disaster tech: Should California require fire proof construction methods in wildland fire areas?

California has more wild fires, in large part, because its expanding population is wealthier and has migrated into outlying areas in historically fire prone wild land areas. As homes move in, so to do more power lines which are subject to start fires when wind blown trees contact power lines. The state is also historically prone to intense droughts that dry out forests.

Standard wood sided homes with a shake roof are easily burned by wild fires. Homes can, however, be built to be highly fire resistant through the use of non-flammable roofing and non-flammable siding and deck material. This is in addition to keeping clear the area around the home, and using detached garages and shops (a frequent source of accidental fire starts).

When wildfire swept through Bob Heath’s neighborhood in Napa, Calif., a lot of other homes in the fire’s path burned to the ground. In recent years, as many as 2,000 homes (annually) have been destroyed by wildfire, a loss inflated by drought conditions in both eastern and western states, along with steady encroachment of development onto “frontier” lands.Jim Smalley, manager of wildland fire protection for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), notes that some home builders have taken an active role in fire prevention–often getting some perks in the process.

Source: How to Build Fire-Proof Homes | Builder Magazine

A major reason that wild land fires seem worse is the same reason hurricane damages seem worse – as documented by researchers and the insurance industry, more people are living in more expensive structures in locations that are historically prone to “natural disasters”. Damages are up because we are wealthier and build more, nicer buildings in these zones, not because of an increasing incidence of events.

There are solutions. In hurricane prone areas near the ocean, new homes are built on risers with the bottom floor being a garage, storage and recreational area with “break away” walls to accommodate a storm surge.

In tornado prone areas, new construction uses steel fastening straps – or even steel stud construction – to create buildings that can survive the high winds of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Logically, fire prone zones should be using fire resistant construction techniques.

Update – a day after writing this, the SF Chronicle had a report saying much the same, and adding that roof vents are an important weakness in fire resistance as wind blown sparks get sucked into attics.

The problems with models versus the real world

Model-land is a hypothetical world in which our simulations are perfect, an attractive fairy-tale state of mind in which optimising a simulation invariably reflects desirable pathways in the real world. Decision-support in model-land implies taking the output of model simulations at face value (perhaps using some form of statistical post-processing to account for blatant inconsistencies), and then interpreting frequencies in model-land to represent probabilities in the real-world.

The following is something I see nearly every day in the media – where the model output is presented as the real world (even when the real world is different):

As a trivial example, when writing about forecasts of household consumption, energy prices, or global average surface temperature, many authors will use the same name and the same phrasing to refer to effects seen in the simulation as those used for the real world. It may not be the case that these authors are actually confused about which is which, the point is that readers of conclusions would benefit from a clear distinction being made, especially where such results are presented as if they have relevance to real-world phenomena and decision-making.

For what we term “climate-like” models, the realms of sophisticated statistical processing which variously “identify the best model”, “calibrate the parameters of the model”, “form a probability distribution from the ensemble”, “calculate the size of the discrepancy” etc., are castles in the air built on a single assumption which is known to be incorrect: that the model is perfect.


It is not clear why multi-model ensembles are taken to represent a probability distribution at all; the distributions from each imperfect model in the ensemble will differ from the desired perfect model probability distribution (if such a thing exists); it is not clear how combining them might lead to a relevant, much less precise, distribution for the real-world target of interest.

Source: 1662970102.pdf

The last paragraph quoted above is something that has long bothered me about model ensembles.

This paper is a good read. Click on the link above to read the full paper.

Thompson, Erica L.; Smith, Leonard A. (2019) : Escape from model-land, Economics Discussion Papers, No. 2019-23, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), Kiel. Retrieved from: