Finance

Plastic bottles made with plants

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 16, 2011   View Article

Travel to almost anywhere in the world and chances are high that a bottle of Coke or Pepsi is close at hand. That’s why the development and rollout of plastic bottles made with at least a portion of plant materials is potentially good news for the environment.

The Coca-Cola Co. made headlines in the UK Monday with the rollout there of its plastic bottle made with up to 30 percent plant material. The bottle is an identical match with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of recyclable plastic widely used around the world.

Software taps human brains

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 29, 2011   View Article

Computers may eventually outsmart human intelligence, but for now they’re just finally getting smart enough to ask humans for help.

That’s the basic idea behind MobileWorks, a startup that is weaving crowdsourcing capability into computer software. Crowdsourcing is the concept of putting out a question to your social network to help solve a problem.

More work for robots in China

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 15, 2011   View Article

Assembling and welding together gadgets like Apple’s iPhones and iPads is tedious, dull, low-paying work that even a robot can do. That’s why 1 million more robots will soon be on the job at Foxconn Technology Group’s factories in China.

“This is the kind of stuff that drives people crazy when they have to do it themselves, which leads to suicide, which is what the Foxconn people had a problem with,” Frank Tobe, owner and publisher of The Robot Report, which focuses on news and analysis of the robotics industry, told me today.

The revolution at work is here

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 12, 2011   View Article

The Internet bubble inflated during the late 1990s partly on the promise that technology would revolutionize how and where we work. More than a decade after the bubble popped, the workspace revolution is finally upon us, according to a technology company executive.

“As the world has progressed over the past 10 years, pretty much everything has gone towards an IP-based way of doing things,” Rick Hutley, vice president of global innovation at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, told me in a wide-ranging interview Thursday.

Is the smart grid too smart for us?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 21, 2011   View Article

The Obama administration unveiled a string of new initiatives last week that will pump political muscle and federal dollars into the development of the smart grid. Did you miss the news? You’re not alone. Most of us don’t really know what the smart grid is or care that much about it.

This lack of knowledge about and interest in the smart grid is the biggest impediment to its implementation, the energy consulting firm Black and Veatch found in its annual survey on the electric utility industry.

Caterpillar Fungus Making Tibetan Herders Rich

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 27, 2011   View Article

Harvesting of a parasitic fungus that grows high on the Tibetan Plateau in China is infusing hordes of cash into rural communities, scientists say.

The fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, takes over the bodies of caterpillar larvae then shoots up like finger-size blades of grass out of the dead insects’ heads.

Known as yartsa gunbu—or “summer grass winter worm”—by Chinese consumers, the nutty-tasting fungus is highly valued for its purported medicinal benefits, for instance, as a treatment for cancer and aging and as a libido booster. Far away in the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai, demand for the fungus has soared.

4 lessons from a 97 year old real estate agent

Publication: MSN/SwitchYard Media   Date: September 16, 2010   View Article

Buy a house today if you can, but don’t sell one if you don’t have to, says George W. Johnson, a 97-year-old real-estate agent who has been working the Seattle market since 1936.

Johnson, who is reluctant to call himself America’s oldest real-estate agent — he says he just learned of a 99-year-old broker in Florida — has seen his share of housing booms and busts since he hung his first real-estate shingle 74 years ago.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach