Saturday, 6 April 2013

Rapid Innovation

Rapid Innovation on the Cheap by Michael BelfioreI’ve posted a new, free paper on my website, called “Rapid Innovation on the Cheap: Lessons from DARPA and the Commercial Space Age.”
This distills lessons learned from my reporting (ten years this year!) on some of the most extraordinary technology breakthroughs on the planet. As I’ve written about commercial space travel, the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, robotics, nanotech, and more for publications including National Geographic, the “Popular” magazines (Science and Mechanics), Reuters, and many others, I’ve found certain commonalities that make these programs and projects fly.
I’ve listed and I elaborate on seven of these commonalities driving the disruptive innovation I’ve been covering, and these are the focus of “Rapid Innovation on the Cheap.”
Along the way, I’ve teased out some answers that should be applicable to just about anyone seeking to do extraordinary things relatively quickly with relatively limited resources. These include:
  • How having  limited resources actually helps the process of creating disruptive innovation;
  • How to keep fresh ideas coming into an organization that seeks to create positive change in the world;
  • Why passion, not dollars, drives truly great research and development;
  • Why risk-taking doesn’t have to mean betting the farm, and more.
Sign up here to get your free copy of “Rapid Innovation on the Cheap: Lessons from DARPA and the Commercial Space Age.” And let me know what you think. See some room for improvement? Something I’ve missed? Think I’m on to something here? Drop me a line!
Space for all coming soon?

Recall the much loved story 'Charley and the Great Glass Elevator?' It may be a metaphor for the shape of space-flight to come!

Not to worry, I'm not going to try to convince you that we are all about to attach large silicon boxes to space anchored sky-hooks.

But from serious fact to fascinating fiction Space Elevators have been called space bridges, space ladders, beanstalks, skyhooks, and the great glass elevator.

So, now down to earth (and maybe up again).... What is actually happening?

Believe it or not the original idea goes back to 1895 to Konstantin Tsioikovsky. Back then he proposed a free standing Tower stretching to a level where obits can take place. That's where earth's atmosphere and its gravitational pull relinquishes to a point where masses can hover or can circle the earth. And that happens at about 170 kilometers up.

Most space Elevators ideas hang on tether and sheet like cables, where the structure is in tension on earth and counter weighted in space like a guitar string held taut. Problems is, a tether material made, for example, of Carbide Steel (CS) with a diameter of a mere 1mm would snap under its own weight. In fact the total mass of CS needed to construct such a structure would be so great that the cable would break in less than 2000 meters down.

News is that the much much famed CarbonNanoTube (CNT) is around 20 times the strength of CS in its natural from. Even better news is the kinds of molecular bonds obtainable from CNTs. They give an extraordinary number of creative interconnections, resulting in ultra-strength multidimensional geometric weaves. This Hypermaterial offers not just linear strength (20x steel), but 1000x the strength of steel, with at least 1000x less the weight.

But how strong does a Space Elevator tether have to be?

Many numbers are bandied about, and usually with a designation of GPa (Giga-Pascals) as their unit of measure. However, a GPa figure is meaningless without a density figure to go with it. The metric at question is GPa/(g/cc), or specific strength - strength-per-density.

The textile industry, which often deals with specific strength of materials, uses the unit of N/Tex. If you work out the units, a N/Tex turns out to be exactly equivalent to a GPa/(g/cc). In the metric system, we define 1 Yuri = 1 Pa/(kg/m3), and so a GPa/(g/cc) or a N/tex are equal to 1 MYuri (Mega Yuri).

Think about it this way: if you pull on a garden hose and it breaks at 100 lb, and if the diameter of the hose is such that its area is 2 square inches, can you say that the rubber failed at 50 PSI? Of course not - the hose is mostly air, only the wall of the hose is holding the force. you should use the area of the wall, not the hose.

In exactly the same way, if 12 inches of the garden hose weighs a pound, can you say that the density of the rubber is 1/24 [lbs/in3]? Of course not - only the wall of the hose has weight.

BUT!!! You can safely say that the *specific strength* of the rubber is 50/(1/24)=1200 PSI/(lb/in3) and you don’t have to even measure the diameter of the hose - just divide the breaking force (100) by the linear mass density (1/12), and you get the same exact number (1200). The cross-sectional area canceled out, and the only two things we need to measure is the breaking *force* (in lbs) and the weigh-per-linear-inch. Hence N/Tex.

So back to the Space Elevator: computer simulations of CNTs cap the specific strength of individual tubes at between 40 and 50 MYuri. Practical measurements seem to converge on that number as well. The density of Carbon Nanotubes is 2.2 g/cc, so using this density the proper strength figure is 88-110 GPa. 

Remember though, it’s the 40-50 MYuri figure that’s the deal maker. We can build a Space Elevator using a 40 MYuri material. Even 30. It’s just that the lower the specific strength, the heavier the ribbon, and the more powerful our motors have to be. 

So when will this all happen? 

I'll come to that in later blog postings. But for now I would urge you to spend sometime watching the video. 

Click here to see the big picture!

Friday, 5 April 2013

These type of 3D printer will be in UK shops soon!

(Need some

new Skateboard Wheels??)

Hyperinnovation by Chris Harris

Chris Harris' thesis in Hyperinnovation is that the business world is interconnecting in every conceivable dimension from ideas to technology to markets and even entire industries. As a result, the boundaries between once disparate business concepts are increasingly multi-dimensional.
This demands a complete rethink in terms of strategies, cultures, organisations and methodologies to bring about innovation. He goes on to discuss how uncertainty is not just an occasional deviation from predictability. It has become a common feature of the business environment.

Complexity is an underlying theme of the book and the definition of complexity science is given as the understanding of how a collective of large numbers of interrelated agents behave as a whole.

In Hyperinnovation, he has put forward three principles of hyperinnovation. The first principle is that the potential for hyperinnovation is proportional to the number of the meaningful interconnections between agents. He explains this with an equation that says that the number of possible (meaningful or otherwise) interconnections is half of the square of the sum of agents in a network so that 10 agents in a network would have 45 possible interconnections. Chris Harris describes the payoff as being the increase in the number of innovation possibilities.

Testimonials for: Hyperinnovation.

Rudi Ruggles, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young: 

‘Wonderful… combining cutting edge science and management practices to produce a new management model, one that not only take advantage of, but celebrates the richness of connectivity.’

John Mans, Fellow, Chartered Management Institute

'Organisational structures developed to meet the stable environmental conditions of the past may well not be able to cope fully with the demands now being made....a clear warning to both individuals and organisations to the complexities of the moder business world....the mix of approaches is well tailored to today’s new circumstances and provide an excellent starting point for managers needing to develop strategies in an interconnected world.’