Archives for Nathan Myhrvold

Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Next week, the White House is hosting a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (known to most laypeople as “terrorism”). It was originally scheduled for last year but got delayed – and then put back on the calendar after the Paris attacks in January. What should we expect from a summit like this? “Alas, I’m expecting very little of a positive nature,” Col. (Ret.) Jack Jacobs tells us. “I view this principally as a media event. I hope I’m wrong.”

Just in case the summit does turn out to be primarily a media event, we thought we’d take our podcast – which technically, is a media event – and turn it into a terrorism summit. This week’s episode is called “Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »

Another Look at an Unorthodox Hurricane-Prevention Idea

Very interesting backgrounder on Stephen Salter, the British scientist who, in the course of trying to turn ocean waves into electric power, discovered a potential way to prevent, or at least limit, the impact of hurricanes:

Devastating tropical storms of the kind that battered the U.S. last week could be weakened and rendered less deadly using a simple and cheap technology based on a surprising component – old car tyres.

One of Britain’s leading marine engineers, Stephen Salter, emeritus professor of engineering design at Edinburgh university and a global pioneer of wave power research, has patented with Microsoft billionaires Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold the idea of using thousands of tyres lashed together to support giant plastic tubes which extend 100m deep into the ocean.

Wave action on the ocean surface would force warm surface water down into the deeper ocean. If non-return valves were used, he says, the result would be to mix the waters and cool the surface temperature of the ocean to under 26.5C, the critical temperature at which hurricanes form.

This is the same hurricane-prevention invention we discussed in a brief Freakonomics Radio segment and in greater depth in SuperFreakonomics: Read More »

FREAK-est Links

1. Just published: Rough Beasts, Charles Siebert‘s new e-book on the Zanesville Zoo Massacre.

2. Chris Sprigman on software patents.

3. 36 bizarre economic indicators. (HT: V. Brenner)

4. Nathan Myhrvold‘s absurdly prolific and diverse output can now be sampled in one place, on his new website. Also, his award-winning six-volume $625 cookbook Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking has just been repurposed into a one-volume edition (retailing for just $140) called Modernist Cuisine at Home.

The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It?

Season 3, Episode 3

Until not so long ago, chicken feet were essentially waste material.  Now they provide enough money to keep U.S. chicken producers in the black — by exporting 300,000 metric tons of chicken “paws” to China and Hong Kong each year. In the first part of this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner explores this and other examples of weird recycling. We hear the story of a Cleveland non-profit called MedWish, which ships unused or outdated hospital equipment to hospitals in poor countries around the world. We also hear Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold describe a new nuclear-power reactor that runs on radioactive waste. Read More »

The New Yorker Geoengineers Itself

Michael Specter has written a good and interesting New Yorker article about the history and current state of geoengineering, called “The Climate Fixers: Is There a Technological Solution to Global Warming?”

Let me rephrase:

Michael Specter has written a good and interesting New Yorker article about the history and current state of geoengineering, called “The Climate Fixers: Is There a Technological Solution to Global Warming?,” which is essentially a New Yorkerized version of Chapter 5 of SuperFreakonomics, all the way down to the Mount Pinatubo explosion and the reliance on scientists Ken Caldeira and Nathan Myhrvold. Read More »

Should We Be Searching for Dinosaur Vomit?

Yes! That’s the argument in a new Historical Biology paper called “A Call to Search for Fossilized Gastric Pellets.” Here’s the abstract:

Numerous extant carnivorous, piscivorous and insectivorous species – including birds, pinnipeds, varanid lizards and crocodiles and mammals – routinely ingest food combined with a high proportion of indigestible material that can be neither absorbed through digestion nor eliminated as faecal matter. Their solution is to egest the indigestible portion through the mouth as a gastric pellet. The status of gastric pellets in extant species is reviewed. Arguments based on phylogeny, anatomy and biomechanics strongly suggest that many extinct species, including crocodilians and pterosaurs, may also have produced gastric pellets routinely.

Read More »

The Hurricane “Vaccine”

Parts of the East Coast are still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Irene. The storm wreaked havoc, causing more than 40 deaths and billions of dollars in damages. One thing that is striking about hurricanes is that, even after years of study, all we really know how to do is deal with the symptoms; we don’t actually have a way to treat the disease itself.

So what if there were a hurricane “vaccine”? Read More »

FREAK-est Links

This week: Researchers say it pays to be loyal; are ovulating women better at detecting sexual orientation? Nathan Myhrvold on risk and the state of the Earth; a Gallup poll suggests slowing migration, and why your paycheck just might kill you. Read More »