Money Weekend’s FutureWatch: 18 May 2013 |

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Money Weekend’s FutureWatch: 18 May 2013.

Money Weekend’s FutureWatch: 18 May 2013

TECHNOLOGY: The Best Portable Transportation Since the Bike
Public roads are log jammed and in disarray. Public transport systems are a shambles. Motorbikes and scooters are too dangerous. And riding a bike means you’re more likely to get ‘doored’ than make it to your destination.

Aside from walking what other green alternatives are there to get from A to B at a decent speed? Not many. Except for inventions like the Segway.

But now, a new invention has taken the place of the Segway. And it’s called the Hovertrax.

From Shane Chen, a serial inventor, Hovertrax is’an autobalancing electric transporter with gyro technology.

Source: Kickstarter

Purely electrically charged, the Hovertrax can hold a person up to 102kg and travel about 7km on a single charge. It takes an hour to charge, has no emissions and charges itself as it brakes and slows down. You can fit it in a backpack and it charges via a normal electricity plug.

The gyroscope technology in it means, like a Segway, it’s pretty hard to fall off. And control is simply toes forward and heels back. That’s it.

It’s a great alternative for city dwellers. And perfect for short trips around town. I don’t see a future of freeways with people on Hovertrax, but it’s certainly something different. The need for a helmet is unlikely as honestly, you’d look like a goose on one with a helmet.

Regardless, it’s this kind of innovation that takes the world a step closer to reducing emissions and cleaning up the environment.

Hovertrax is a Kickstarter project that’s exceeded its funding target. That means it will be made. You can see the project here. I think it’s the best short distance transportation method created since the bike.

HEALTH: Why Dolly the Sheep Will Do for Now
Regenerative medicine will be one of the biggest changes to modern medicine ever. The crux of it is it fixes the body when injury and disease strike. That is it quickly repairs the body where otherwise repair could not occur.

During the week a major scientific breakthrough has brought this topic to the fore.

The hot debate has been about cloning to create embryonic cells to extract embryonic stem cells. The point of extracting stem cells is because they are the primary tool in regenerative medicine. Stem cells are the microscopic good guys that will shape the future of modern medicine.

But the cloning side of this breakthrough has created some controversy. And rightly so. Because this opens the debate on just how far scientists can take cloning technology. For now they’re a fair way offcloning and growing a human, but it could be just a matter of time.

Dolly the Sheep was the first cloned mammal. But for years before her birth cloning experiments had been undertaken. Even now scientists are working away at cloning primates. The next step from there is cloning humans.

But why is there a need for cloning anyway? From our perspective, there isn’t one.

Populations are exponentially growing, and arable land is running thin as it is. What’s the point of trying to create more humans, circumventing the traditional biological route? It’d just put a greater strain on economies and social systems.

We think this avenue of scientific research is better suited to cloning livestock. Because we could always do with more beef, pork and chicken for the world. But more primates and humans…no thanks.

Some argue we’ll never clone humans anyway. They say all we need is to clone human embryos for the stem cell benefit. This in turn will help the regenerative medicine revolution.

But that’s not true either, there’s plenty of research elsewhere in the world with stem cells. And there are companies well advanced in this area of expertise. This latest breakthrough is certainly topical. But it’s futile as there will be, and are, other methods for helping fix the world’s medical problems.

ENERGY: 2013, the Year the Sun Went Mental
We’re constantly talking about the potential the sun has for helping the world to create renewable energy. It’s the best source we have to harness power that will never run out.

Well actually that’s not technically correct. Although the sun will continue to send solar rays our way for many millions of years to come. It will be a few billion years after that when the sun goes ‘Boom!’ and dies.

Evidence that this is going to happen occurred early Monday morning. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, used to capture the intense heat from a solar flare, took the photo below. To give you a scale comparison, the flash below is substantially bigger than the entire Earth.

Source: NASA

Every 11 years the sun peaks in terms of solar activity. It fires off huge solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). These can do some pretty nasty stuff to things that get in the way.

CMEs are a giant burst of solar wind, energy particles and cosmic rays. Considering one solar flare has a length about 10-20 times the width of the Earth you get an appreciation of how big these are.

With CMEs, when they erupt from the Sun’s surface they send a shockwave through the galaxy. This can have a pretty strong impact when the Earth is in its pathway. It disrupts and breaks satellite communications, and in some instances has even melted down power stations due to the power surge of energy particles.

Added to this, if an astronaut is on Mars or the Moon, a CME could have a deadly impact due to the energy particles and x-rays it discharges. That might make the Mars One applicants we wrote abouthere last week take a second thought.

The next step in solar technology might be the development of a satellite system that can catch the energy particles from a solar flare or CME. Harnessing that kind of power might make interplanetary travel a little bit easier.
The current 11 year cycle of crazy sun activity is due to peak later this year. This means we’re on track for some pretty huge solar action. Already since January we’ve had some major solar flares, the biggest seen for a number of years. And Monday was a big CME. Expect it to get more heated towards the end of the year, and fingers crossed satellites don’t start falling from the sky.

Sam Volkering

This article is contributed by Money Morning. Click Here to Subscribe to their free newsletter.