Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reasons for Optimism IX

1. Last week, initial jobless claims fell to a 5-year low. At 335k, jobless aid applications haven't been this low since the beginning of the recession in January 2008.

2. Don Boudreaux continues his Cleaned by Capitalism series with an entry on the washing machine. See Hans Rosling's TED talk for more on the washing machine.

3. The Slingshot water purifier, invented by Dean Kamen and backed by Coca-Cola, is expanding from initial trials in Ghana to Paraguay, Mexico and South Africa. In the video below, Kamen says, "Global organizations... work on top-down, government-to-government big programs, and we're working on the Slingshot, the little tool that David needs to take on Goliath. [...] We could empty half of all the beds in all the hospitals in the world by just giving people clean water."

4. A new study shows that official poverty statistics in the United States grossly overstate poverty. The poverty rate has declined by 25 percentage point since 1960, and 8.5 percentage points since 1980.

5. Via Mark Perry, U.S. oil production grew more in 2012 than in any other year since we started keeping track. Weekly U.S. oil production is now at it's highest point in 20 years.

6. Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has released a tech update, including video of a prototype for the Arkyd-100 satellite. But perhaps I should call them an asteroid mining company, because Planetary Resources isn't the only one anymore. A company called Deep Space Industries is also targeting asteroids. Deep Space Industries plans to bring back samples weighing 50+ pounds by 2016, and to have an established mining operation by 2020.

7. Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space station idea is getting a boost with a two-year trial as a module on the ISS.

8. TSA has cancelled its contract with Rapiscan, the makers of the naked scanners. All naked scanners will be removed from airports by June. They will be replaced by scanners that do not show such fine detail. While the health concerns remain, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

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