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A LOOK BACK AT THE TR10
Your list of 10 emerging technologies ("TR10,"
March/April 2009) was interesting, but
sometimes implausible as well. Grant me
an indulgence and do this
one small exercise.
Revisit the technologies
you've profiled in previous
TR10 issues---say, in 2006
or 2007. I think it would be
quite startling to look at how
many of those technologies
given high praise have died,
mutated, or become termi-
nally stuck in an incubation
period. How good was TR at
making the right picks?
The struggle to nurture a good idea from
something theoretically possible into a
working prototype is child's play compared
with the endless real-world demands one
must break through to get something pro-
duced and into the public arena.
Silver Spring, MD
The editors respond:
If we do as Mr. Munsch suggests and look
back at our 2006 and 2007 issues, we see
that only a few entries (nuclear reprogram-
ming for stem cells, augmented reality for
cell phones) have made clear progress. But
the TR10 are emerging technologies---which,
as he says, are unlikely to be overnight suc-
cesses. It's not surprising, then, that when
we examine the first TR10 lists we pub-
lished, in 2001 and 2003, our performance
looks better. Many of those technologies
are well on their way to becoming com-
mercial successes, if they haven't already
arrived: data mining, biometrics, micro-
photonics, microfluidics, wireless sensor
networks, grid computing, and mecha-
tronic braking systems, to name a few.
BUT WHO S COUNTING WHAT?
In his article about the di culty of measur-
ing online audiences ("But Who's Counting?"
March/April 2009), Jason Pontin made the
case that media companies, and the adver-
tisers they wish to attract, need better tools
for measuring how many people are visiting
their sites. But while numbers of visitors are
important, the most impor-
tant numbers for advertisers
come in the form of dollars,
euros, and pesos. What we
need is reliable measurement
of how much money can be
made from sales by adver-
tising on a given media site.
The lack of such information
has enriched many a media-
industry Mado in my coun-
try of Mexico; a standard
measure of the impact of
advertising online would help prevent this
preposterous transfer of money.
José Luis López-Léautaud
A NUCLEAR DEBATE
I was heartened to read Andrew Kadak's
short piece arguing that nuclear power
must be understood as environmentally
friendly ("Green Nuclear," March/April
2009). When I managed plutonium man-
ufacturing at the Nuclear Materials and
Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) during
the late 1960s and early 1970s, we proved
that fuel recycling was accomplished easily
and that breeder reactors were well suited
to that end. We provided fuel for the Fast
Breeder Critical Assembly in Japan and for
the Zero Power Plutonium Reactor and the
Fast Flux Test Facility in this country. Fuel
recycling is the way to go!
As a student of nuclear energy at MIT, I am
as pro-nuclear as anyone, but I find fault
with the assertions of Andrew Kadak and
John Gilleland ("Traveling-Wave Reactor,"
March/April 2009) that we need to develop
new breeder reactors to extend the resource
base of nuclear power. Fuel composes only 10
percent of the levelized cost of nuclear power,
and of that 10 percent, only half is spent on the
uranium itself. Furthermore, with uranium
at under $130 per kilogram, we have nearly
a century's worth of reserves. With minimal
exploration, we could easily discover another
century's worth at that price; from 2003 to
2005, the world's known reserves doubled
thanks to just such an e ort.
When will the uranium misers realize that
they're solving the wrong problem? Their
e orts would be better spent on reducing
the capital costs of nuclear power and leav-
ing fuel utilization to another day.
OUT OF THIS WORLD
I read the January/February 2009 issue on
my flight home from South by Southwest
(the magazine was part of the conference's
swag bag). There wasn't a weak story on any
page, but one was out of this world: Adam
Fisher's oral history of space tourism ("Very
Stunning, Very Space, and Very Cool").
While I'll probably never have the millions
to a ord a flight to the International Space
Station, I can rest easy knowing that my $300
three-hour flight in a cramped coach seat
was more comfortable than the accommoda-
tions a orded professional space travelers. I
only wish I had the window seat they had.
Clarification: The March/April 2009 fea-
ture "A Zero-Emissions City in the Desert"
does not identify the designer of the Masdar
headquarters building. It is the Chicago-
based firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill
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