Updated 22 January 2019, 22 March 2019, 28 April 2019
This is a list of some current technological problems that we know about. Probably a tiny fraction of the reality.
A few preliminary points :
The first thing is :
Nothing here appears on the Wikipedia lists for biology, chemistry, physics
or mathematics. So far as we can see the Wiki lists have been composed by high level professors and dont have much to do with
the immediacies of real life. For example a resolution of the problems of baryon asymmetry is not in the purview of your clever artisan.
Things on the Wiki list, when understood, may lift us in the future to some higher technological level, but they are not to be resolved
in a workshop. Perhaps we should have called this Unsolved Technology Problems. Interestingly, nothing worthwhile comes up on
Google for this combination.
The second thing is :
We are guessing that an educated man or woman, with an experimentalist background
could have a chance of finding a solution to some or all of these problems. We believe that awkward youths with
a few tools can achieve a lot if the wind is blowing right.
The third thing is :
There are a lot of problems where there is no organisational structure which
allows free thinking on the subject and for which, consequently, funding is a difficulty. Universities, which tout themselves
as bastions of free speech, often restrict research activities to lines laid down by senior authoritarian professors. The
economist Paul Samuelson (*) encapsulated the thinking of scientists such as Max Planck when he said that
- Science advances funeral by funeral - ; by this he meant the deaths of older colleagues who preferred to luxuriate
in their own previous work rather than look at new suggestions. Shamefully, through these sorts of geriatric sabotage,
grants to younger innovators can be blocked and research papers rejected.
Some industrial research laboratories can sometimes offer a far more enlightened work environment.
The fourth thing is :
If you invent some new way of going on with a
problem, DO NOT patent it without a lot of thought. Patents, by and large, are only of use to companies large enough to
fight expensive legal battles. Patent law was never very good and in 2019 offers no protection at all to a start up. Furthermore,
since change in Patent Law seems to require many countries to agree on any proposed change, progress is unlikely.
The March 2019 List (Still too short)
(1) How birds manage their long distance migration and, similarly, how pigeons home.
This is under active consideration at Tushino Ltd. A book has recently
been published. See http://www.3aaa3.com
(2) How to control bed bugs Cimex lectularius.
Originally a universal plague, they were almost wiped out by the use of pesticides. Now they have
become immune and are invading civilised dwellings once more. It seems, additionally, that cockroaches are rapidly achieving the
same levels of immunity.
(3) How to stop marine weeds growing on undersea structures and ships hulls
Tushino Ltd is currently resurrecting work which previously passed sea trials and was then
discontinued for management reasons. A partner will be sought.
(4) Artificial muscles
Making machinery activation more like the animal world. Some progress has been made, but there is a
long way to go.
(5) Uses for old car tyres
Still a problematic waste source after more than 100 years. Ground rubber as an aggregate component
seems to be the most important route. A corollary : devise a recyclable tyre.
(6) Making the sea more transparent so that naval submarines become useless.
Naval technology advances slower than you would expect. A row of 2019 warships hardly look
much different from 1945, whereas aircraft and cars are vastly different even to the casual eye. Oh for a Charles Parsons
and a latter day Turbinia.
(7) A different way of flying.
Star Wars had the right picture but you do not necessarily have to have antigravity. If you had
a horizontal plate and reacted the nitrogen away from the top surface faster than it could be replaced, then
you would have lift.
(8) Desalination and de-contamination of water.
Again a long standing problem which needs an idea from a smart kid
(9) Stop mosquitoes homing in and biting
Everybody hates mosquitoes. In June 2019 it was announced that a fungus-based
preparation had been found that killed 99% of mosquitos. This cannot be the way to go. What would the birds eat ?
What would be the long term effect of such a drastic environmental change ?
(10) Control of slugs without killing them
Become a God to horticulturalists.
(11) Comminution of ores and rocks.
Grinding up rocks and metalliferous ores takes up between 1% and 4% of the World energy supply.
(12) Separation of gases
Still a tedious matter.
(13) Long term storage of low energy heat.
Save it up in the summer, use it in the winter. You would think it was unobjectionably simple,
a sort of Victorian ice house in reverse. Seems not.
(14) Extraction of water from nearly, but not quite, dry air
Sahara, the Atacama Desert. Slow modification of local climate.
(15) Non plastic packaging.
David Attenborough, in one program (Blue Planet II), pretty well dealt a death blow to the plastics
packaging industry. It is not dead yet, (it probably thinks itself to be in good health), but it is mortally wounded, something
along the lines of the market for tobacco.
We can not go back to brown paper bags.
What about Aluminium ? There is plenty of it and it can be endlessly recycled.
(16) Railways - Leaves on the line
Viewed with disgust by travellers in the UK, it would seem that this is a problem
that is genuine and widespread in Europe. The driving wheels skid, lubricated by crushed vegetation.
(17) Proofing cables (especially auto cables) against the Stone Marten (Martes foina).
See the Economist Feb 2-8 2019 p33
(18) I have seen an article in The Conversation saying that the supply of the element
phosphorus is becoming depleted and that most of it is defecated or urinated and ends up in the sea bed where it is
inaccessible. A method of recovering it from rivers, sewage farms is said to be needed. No information about the concentrations.
Find some facts first
(19) Extraction of energy from water motion in the sea. For example wave motion, or tidal flow.
You would think this was an easy project to progress and a certainty for
funding, but it has been dogged by failure.
(20) Pond keepers are often bedevilled by what they call Blanket Weed which is probably a
filamentous algae called spirogyra adnate. Even if you take everything out of a concrete pond and fill it with
hypochlorite, congratulate yourself, and refill the pond with clean water, next year the weed will return. Something to
kill this stuff.
Filamentous algae have many variants, dozens at the very least, and a useful
preliminary might be to provide some aids to detailed identification. Some varieties might be susceptible to
existing products while others, seemingly indistinguishable, could be resistant.
(21) Microchips that work in a radioactive environment.
Restoration work at Fukushima has been much hampered because the robots die.
(22) A way of bringing order to those people who kid other people that they have a way to make them,
the others, weigh less.
In the UK conmen are allowed to run riot partly because academics are wedded to a technology
that either does not work at all, or only works for a small class of people with the right type of body chemistry.
(23) A new method of making hydrogen gas.
Hydrogen ought to be a good, climate temerature neutral, fuel. It is not readily available.
Currently, the only large scale, industrial, production method is to react oil with steam. This
has carbon dioxide as a by-product and is therefore going to contribute to the greenhouse gas stock. Electrolysis
of water has been much discussed but remains an expensive process, and uses expensive rare metals in the electrode system.
(24) A new line is needed in sound (=acoustic) insulation or sound isolation No advances for a long time; in fact I think we have gone backwards.
We would like to get this list to be at least 50 items long.
We know there are all sorts of industries that have un-expressed, unpublicised, problems. We do not know where they could express
them. Send them in to our contact man. Try to include at least one descriptive reference.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org