Sanyo Electric and Nippon Oil announce joint solar venture

Sanyo’s Solar Ark solar generator
Daylife/AP Photo by Katsumi Kasahara

Japan’s Sanyo Electric and Nippon Oil announced they would collaborate to produce thin-film solar cells for large-scale power generation. The 50-50 joint venture will spend roughly 20 billion yen (226 million dollars) to build a factory in Japan that can annually produce enough solar cells to produce electricity worth 80 megawatts.

The venture should have capacity of one gigawatt by March 2016 and two gigawatts by March 2021, when the companies estimate the solar cell market will be worth 10 trillion yen.

“The solar power market is showing temporary flat growth for now due to the global slowdown, but we expect the market to grow significantly in the medium- to long-term,” Sanyo president Seiichiro Sano told a news conference.

The venture will initially target markets in Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. They will include the United States in their goals if and when Congress and the White House ever get beyond panicking over the economy.

The current global economic crisis should not pose significant problems, as the venture focuses on long-term projects, Nishio said. “The current economic situation will eventually improve. We are not concerned about the effects of the current economic condition on the management of this company,” he said.

Ain’t it something to hear from some of the Big Boys outside the U.S.? Instead of whining about the next two quarters of Wall Street crumbling, they’re focusing on how to make long-term money from manufacturing sensible infrastructure products.

U.S. businesses invent roadblocks to using cellphone as credit card

Consumers in the United States will not be able to pay for purchases by waving their mobile phones in front of a reader anytime soon because of a dispute over how to split the revenue.

The Japanese have been using the technology for five years to pay for train tickets, groceries, even candy in vending machines. And in small trials around the world, nearly everyone has liked using this form of payment.

“In Japan it was easier,” said Gerhard Romen, director for corporate business development at Nokia. “It was just the major guys saying, ‘This is how it will be.”‘ A single carrier, NTT DoCoMo, accounted for more than half the Japanese market at the time the system was rolled out and thus had significant leverage with financial institutions and phone manufacturers…

This is not the case in the United States. For such payments to work there, cellphone manufacturers, carriers, financial institutions and retailers must all play roles. There must also be a trusted intermediary to activate the virtual credit cards inside the phone…

“At the end of the day, the question is, ‘Who pays whom and how much?”‘ Romen said. “The carriers and the banks need to get their act together on payment.” He called the back-and-forth a necessary step in the creation of a complex system…

It is completely possible nothing will happen in mobile payments in the next five years”…because each greedy bastard is afraid someone else will make a penny more than they do.

What has technology taught the Next Gen kiddies?

Which finger do you use to press a doorbell? Your answer will reveal your age almost as accurately as wrinkly hands, the way you dance, whether and where you’ve been pierced, and if you think “being poked” means a) a jab in the ribs, b) saying “hi” online, or c) something unmentionable.

If you’re over 30, you’ll probably press a doorbell with your index finger, while anyone under 30 may well use their thumb. That’s because they’ve spent so much time flexing their thumbs when sending text messages on cellphones and gunning down baddies on games consoles. Thanks to all of that exercise, those thumbs have become stronger, nimbler and more dexterous, which is why they’re likelier to use them more than their index fingers.

Frisky thumbs aren’t the only legacy of the latest round of design innovations. The type of products and technologies we use not only affects the development of our physical skills, but mental skills too. Mostly it does so surreptitiously, because we make the necessary changes instinctively.

Just think of all of the skills that, if (like me) you’re over 30, you learned years ago, but rarely use now because something else does the job for you. Who needs to learn how to spell when you can use spell-check software? To read a map in the age of sat nav? To be good at math when there are calculators? To remember exactly where that great antiquarian bookstore is in Paris when it’s so easy to Google it? Those old skills haven’t suddenly become useless, just less useful than they would have been 10 years ago. What have we replaced them with?

Multitasking, synthesizing, visualizing…are some of the qualities Rawsthorn offers for further discussion; though, she seems transfixed by dextrous thumbs.

What dilettantes call multi-tasking I think best describes people with the attention span of a cricket.

Sunrise frost

Click on photo for larger view

Yesterday, we reached fairly high humidity – for when it’s not snowing – here in the high desert. 57%. Down behind our back meadow in the bosque of the Santa Fe River we had a rare frost form. And out walking with the dogs, this morning, I caught that moment just before the frost turned into a bit of mist, rising and disappearing in the morning sun.

Doctors make no bones about corpse shortage

Whatever happened to tradition?

Scots medics urgently need donations, but in this case they’re not talking about cash, blood or even organs. From students of medicine to the most experienced surgeons, they need whole, dead bodies.

The number of people donating their mortal remains to medical science needs to double “with immediate effect”, according to the man with the imposing title Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Anatomy for Scotland. Professor Bertie Wood needs 300 bodies a year to keep pace with developments in training that offer new hope to the living.

One of the key new demands is from surgeons who specialise in operating on the joints to help arthritis sufferers and other patients with debilitating conditions related to their limbs. These already highly-trained doctors need a steady supply of bodies on which to hone their skills.

Around a dozen body parts recently had to be imported from the United States because there were not sufficient numbers available for use in training surgeons in complex shoulder surgery techniques.

Perish the thought that Scots medics-in-training should have to cut through those extra layers of fat.

What’s your Paleofantasy?

Remember when life was simpler, and diets weren’t full of processed food and chemicals? No, not the 1950s. Increasingly, we are developing nostalgia for a much earlier epoch: the Pleistocene, when humans lived in small hunter-gatherer groups and didn’t worry about high cholesterol…

In short, we have what the anthropologist Leslie Aiello called “paleofantasies.” She was referring to stories about human evolution based on limited fossil evidence, but the term applies just as well to nostalgia for the very old days as a touchstone for the way life is supposed to be and why it sometimes feels so out of balance…

Instead, evolution lurches along, with successive generations sometimes unchanged, sometimes better suited to their surroundings in some ways but not others. At any one point, adaptations take place: individuals who can endure heat or cold or famine leave more offspring than their less hardy counterparts. But there is no one point when one can say, “VoilĂ ! Finished.”

You might argue that hunter-gatherers were better adapted to their environment simply because they spent many thousands of years at it. That’s true for some attributes, but not all. Evolution isn’t the creaky old process we used to think it was. Increasingly, scientists are discovering that the rate of evolution can be fast (sometimes blindingly so) or slow, or anything in between…

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Microsoft’s Zune crashes as iPod sales continue to grow

Microsoft’s Zune hit the ground even harder in its third holiday quarter. After two years of annual sales that barely reached the million unit mark, the company reported a major new drop in device sales for the winter quarter.

Microsoft’s latest 10-Q filing stated that “Zune platform revenue decreased $100 million or 54% reflecting a decrease in device sales.” The music player’s sharp decline in revenues helped erase 60% of the company’s earnings in its Entertainment and Devices Division, which includes the Xbox gaming platform.

Apple’s iPod business, once feared to be at a dead end with satiated demand, hit a new quarterly unit record with sales of 22.7 million units. That’s just 3% higher than the company’s sales in the year ago quarter, but demonstrates a demand for innovative products even in the midst of difficult economic times.

Apple’s record iPod sales don’t include the iPhone, which Apple has referred to as its “best iPod yet.” With iPhone sales, Apple sold over 27 million mobile devices last quarter, and over 208 million in total since it began selling the iPod.

The article delves briefly into whys and wherefores. My experience in sales with solid products that have an established base – is that inertia doesn’t require much more than talented touch-ups, tweaks and taste to keep rolling. And Apple seems to understand all three qualities.

Colorado bill on slow drivers proceeds through legislature – slowly

Colorado legislators gave initial approval to a bill requiring slowpoke drivers to pull over and let faster vehicles pass.

The House gave its preliminary approval to the measure, which requires slow-moving vehicles to pull over to the side of the road whenever five or more cars are lined up behind them.

The Denver Post said the proposal has been controversial in rural areas where representatives say it could be dangerous to pull tractors hauling chemical tanks or trucks loaded with hay off the road.

The bill has an amendment attached that would exempt farm vehicles from the law.

Of course, the bill is a laugher. You’d have to get a few county sheriffs willing to waste the time pulling over and ticketing someone who’s violating the ordnance.

It’s like the law we have here in New Mexico requiring [1] backhoes to be transported from job-site to job-site on flatbed trailers. Har! [2] If they’re licensed and can travel at speed limit speeds, light up flashers and stay to the right – it’s OK for them to be on public roads.

Don’t hold your breath!