The French have a phrase for it. “L’esprit d’escalier,” that is, thinking of what you meant to say when it’s too late to say it.
For me, a week as a journalist in Silicon Valley typically means there are many more interesting things crossing my path than I have time to blog about, and I end up full of regrets for the posts that got away. Or almost got away; this week, I’ll follow in San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen’s shoes; he published a Friday “Fishwrap.” I’ll call mine the weekly “Tek-Wrap”
Tracking tuna using Fukushima radiation. The fact that fish were affected by the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has its upside. Stanford University researchers reported that instead of having to catch tuna and radio tag them in order to track their travels around the oceans, they can track young Pacific Bluefin tuna born near Japan since Fukushima by analyzing the radioisotopes they carry, particularly, cesium-134 and cesium-137. Measuring the ratio of the two isotopes when a fish is caught tells researchers how long ago that fish left Japan, providing clues to their migratory habits.
Carbon-neutral electricity for Palo Alto. I live in Palo Alto, Calif., a city that runs its own power grid. This week the city announced that by the end of this year its entire electric supply will be carbon neutral. The city already gets most of its electricity from renewable sources; it will increase that to 100 percent. If it falls short in the short term, the city will buy renewable energy credits to support renewable energy elsewhere in the state to compensate for its use of nonrenewable energy. The carbon neutral system is apparently going to cost me $3 more a year; I can live with that.
Goldie Blox to go on sale. If you are the parent of a girl, you’re probably familiar with the American Girl series of books and matching dolls. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Debbie Sterling is about to come out with her own series of girl-adventure books, but instead of dolls, her books pair with buildable machines. The first in the series, Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, involves a belt drive to help a toy dog chase his tail.
Parc Inc.’s Innovation Day. The research center formerly known as Xerox Parc (and now Parc Inc.) invited a group of journalists over for a show and tell on Wednesday. Highlights for me included a system for elementary school teachers that lets them scan hand-written answers on paper worksheets and tests for automatic grading and analysis; a project that uses a webcam to monitor heart rate and blood pressure at a distance; reports from a Los Angeles test of parking spaces networked by sensors for adaptive pricing; and a print method that can extrude multiple pastes from one nozzle, used to structure cathodes for higher efficiency in lithium ion batteries. (To see my tweets throughout my visit, see @TeklaPerry at Twitter.)
Photo top: Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. Credit: Goldie Blox
Photo center: Analysis of Los Angeles parking patterns on a single street shows heavy usage (red) midday. A day with minimal parking (blue band, near center), likely represented a street closure due to a movie shoot, said Parc Inc. project lead Onno Zoeter. Credit: Tekla Perry
Photo bottom: Print heads that can extrude multiple pastes simultaneously can structure cathodes for better energy density in lithium ion batteries, as shown in this battery mockup. Credit: Tekla Perry
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.