Money Weekend’s FutureWatch: 11 May 2013

TECHNOLOGY:
Mars Could Become the First Interplanetary Insane Asylum

There seems to be a lot of people who really don’t like their friends and family. What do we mean by this? Well, let us give you the back story first.

There’s a not-for-profit called Mars One. And this is their goal;

To establish a human settlement on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide. Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavour by involving the whole world as the audience of an interactive, televised broadcast of every aspect of this mission, from the astronaut selections and their preparations to the arrival on Mars and their lives on the Red Planet.

2023 is the year they plan on landing a settlement on Mars. The first group will be just four people. We like to call them Marstians. Two years later they plan on landing another four Marstians at the settlement. A grand total of eight people.

The plan is to establish the settlement, explore Mars, perform tests, carry out research and…live life. Luckily enough for the settlement, there will be cameras everywhere. Because their activity will be filmed 24/7, 365 days of the year. And of course back here on earth it will be on the TV. It’s all very Big Brother meets Survivor meets Alf.


Source: Mars One

Anyway here’s the amazing part which had us falling off our chairs. The trip to Mars is one way. That is…not coming back…ever. Who in their right mind would want a one-way ticket to Mars? Apparently thousands of people! You can check out the submissions here.

Don’t get us wrong; we’re all for space exploration and we’d probably jump at the chance under the right circumstances. But living with 7 other random people for the rest of our lives, saying goodbye to friends and family forever…uhh, no.

The project itself is truly pioneering, and credit to the crazy eight who end up going. It’s really amazing to think that within 10 years a colony of people will inhabit Mars. That’s mind blowing and exciting. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

But as optimistic as we are about breakthroughs and pioneering feats, we can’t help but think maybe they should rethink this one just a touch. Perhaps starting with a way to get back to Earth.

If this goes ahead as planned, it might get a little crazy. If you ever watched a series of Big Brother, you would’ve progressively seen the people start to go a little insane. Multiply that by 140 million miles and you start to see where this could end up.

We hope it’s successful, and it would make for some (initially) riveting TV. But more importantly, it would be a major breakthrough in the exploration of space.

HEALTH: Downright Dirty Problems Solved By Some Healthy Competition

The XPrize Foundation is a remarkable organisation, and one you should get familiar with. What they do is create competitions to solve world affecting problems. Then teams of scientist or researchers get together and try and win these competitions.

Big prize money is up for grabs too. Often this equates to millions of dollars. For example the Google Lunar XPrize has a prize pool of $30 million for the first privately funded team to land a robot on the Moon. This has subsequently spurred on a multi-billion dollar private space industry.

Aside from the Lunar Prize (which is the biggest one to date) there are other XPrizes in the works. Some with the design to challenge huge global problems.

One of the most ambitious projects in progress is the ‘Village Utility XPrize’.

This competition aims to use human faeces (poo) to power villages and purify drinking water. We weren’t joking when we said it was ambitious.

But as out-there as this one might seem, it’s not impossible. The reason for this prize is the huge impact dirty drinking water has on the world. As the prize description explains,

Nearly one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. As a result, half of the world’s hospitalizations are due to drinking water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), just one of those infectious agents – the bacteria that causes diarrhoea – accounts for 4.1% of the global disease burden, killing 1.8 million children a year.

This XPrize aim is for a pioneering team to develop a solution to this major health issue. It might be a little on the ‘gross’ side but it’s a problem worth solving. Hopefully enough smart minds can figure it out…with multi-million dollar motivation of course.

ENERGY: LED’s Could Save the World Millions of Barrels of Oil per Year

The humble LED is turning out to be quite a multi-talented device, sparking a lighting revolution, and now solving the world’s oil issues.

From improving home energy usage to being used for internet access, there’s not much LED’s can’t do. And it’s something that the car industry is now very aware of.

Research from Mercedes Benz has shown the LED’s in headlights can help reduce driver fatigue. The light from an LED is closer to natural light than the bi-xenon, xenon or halogen globes. This has a positive effect on the driver as it helps simulate day driving conditions.

Audi has found using LED’s in brake lights allows faster response time of drivers behind. LED’s illuminate instantly and what might be a millisecond faster than a normal light equates to meters in a road accident. It literally could mean the difference between a crash or not.

But what Mercedes have done is trump all the research, including their own. They’re so enthused by this finding they’ve put only LED’s in their new flagship 2014 S-Class model. About 200 of them in total.

Mercedes have found that LED’s create more fuel efficient cars. Because LED’s use a fraction of the power of normal lights there’s less strain on the car when running. Mercedes say the fuel savings are about half a litre per 100km.

If all car makers adopt this strategy and use only LED’s it will have a world changing effect. Let’s have a look at some raw numbers to understand how big an impact we’re talking about.

New cars sold in Australia every year

LED related fuel saving per 100km

Avg. distance travelled by car p.a

Fuel saving per car p.a

Total fuel saving in Australia

Barrels of Oil to make 75L of Fuel

1,000,000 (approx.)

0.5L

15,000km (approx.)

75L

75 million litres

1 (approx.)

That means in Australia the potential fuel saving LED’s create is equal to 1 million barrels of crude oil every year.

Looking abroad, the US sells 14 million new cars per year and the Chinese sell 19 million. That equates to about 33 million barrels of crude oil saved per year from the US and China.

So it next time you see a car with LED’s, take a moment to realise the real potential of the little lights. Because they’re actually helping save the world energy and in turn helping keep the world a little bit greener.

Sam Volkering
Technology Analyst, Money Weekend

 From the Archives…

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25-04-2013 – Dr Alex Cowie

Stand By for the Recession Rally in Resource Stocks: Take Two

23-04-2013 – Dr Alex Cowie

A New Take on Hard Asset Investing

22-04-2013 – Kris Sayce


Sam Volkering is an Editor for Money Morning and is small-cap, cryptocurrency and technology expert.

He’s not interested in boring blue chip stocks. He’s after explosive investments; companies whose shares trade for cents on the dollar, cryptocurrencies that can deliver life-changing returns. He looks for the ‘edge of the bell curve’ opportunities that are often shunned by those in the financial services industry.

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