Eugene Wei:

We now live in that age, though it’s not the desktops and laptops but our tablets and smart phones that are the instant-on computers. Whether it’s transformed Amazon’s business, I can’t say; they have plenty going for them. But it’s certainly changed our usage of computers generally. I only ever turn off my iPad or iPhone if something has gone wrong and I need to reboot them or if I’m low on battery power and need to speed up recharging.

In this next age, anything that cannot turn on instantly and isn’t connected to the internet at all times will feel deficient.

So true. After a week on the road, I just booted my my desktop computer — it boots pretty fast, under 20 seconds, but it still seems like forever versus just hitting a button to turn on the screen of my iPhone or iPad.

I still remember the days it would take several minutes to start up a computer. And when you were supposed to shut them down after using them. Seems like ancient history.

Raffi Khatchadourian on the race to make fusion power a reality:

Years from now—maybe in a decade, maybe sooner—if all goes according to plan, the most complex machine ever built will be switched on in an Alpine forest in the South of France. The machine, called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, will stand a hundred feet tall, and it will weigh twenty-three thousand tons—more than twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower. At its core, densely packed high-precision equipment will encase a cavernous vacuum chamber, in which a super-hot cloud of heavy hydrogen will rotate faster than the speed of sound, twisting like a strand of DNA as it circulates. The cloud will be scorched by electric current (a surge so forceful that it will make lightning seem like a tiny arc of static electricity), and bombarded by concentrated waves of radiation. Beams of uncharged particles—the energy in them so great it could vaporize a car in seconds—will pour into the chamber, adding tremendous heat. In this way, the circulating hydrogen will become ionized, and achieve temperatures exceeding two hundred million degrees Celsius—more than ten times as hot as the sun at its blazing core.

It will essentially be a miniature star. Yes, the kind found in space.

Well, at least theoretically:

What will happen when ITER is turned on? The answer, as with all experiments, is something of a mystery, since no one has yet produced a plasma that is hot and dense and durable enough to heat itself. Will such a thing be more difficult to contain, or will it possess an unforeseen equilibrium?

This reads like complete science fiction, but it’s very real. The billions spent — and the billions yet to be spent — by several governments will prove it.

Felicity Barringer:

In the United States, lighting consumes more than 20 percent of electric power generated each year; the Energy Department says LEDs can cut consumption by up to 80 percent. LEDs — also called solid-state lighting — are already a $12.5 billion business worldwide, according to analysts at the research firm Strategies Unlimited in Mountain View, Calif. A 2012 McKinsey report estimates LEDs will be an $84 billion business by 2020.

That’s fairly insane how much of our power consumption goes towards lighting when it already really doesn’t need to thanks to lighting tech available right now. Let there be LEDs.


My single biggest takeaway from SXSW was all the talk about battery life. Every single person. All the time. People changing plans because they needed to recharge their phones. People walking around with chargers. People who were chargers. Mophies galore. People uninstalling apps that would drain power. People putting phones into airplane mode in areas of weak signal. People borrowing other phones so they didn’t have to waste the power on their phone.

Power. Power. Power.

This talk is nothing new of course, but it’s ramping up. As we transition into an LTE world, it’s going to be more and more of an issue, as Farhad Manjoo points out today. One of the most impressive things about the new iPad is the fact that it maintains the 9 to 10 hour battery life even with the addition of LTE. The next question is if they can do that with the iPhone as well. We’ll see. It’s gonna need a bigger battery.

To me, the most impressive thing about my MacBook Air isn’t its size, it’s the battery life. I routinely get 6 to 7 hours on one charge. Just a few years ago, this was unthinkable for a laptop (especially one this size). Part of that is better technology, but a large part is also simply a larger battery.

Manjoo is right that unlike the rest of the technology we use everyday, battery technology hasn’t evolved all that much over the past few decades. It’s constantly being refined and perfected, but it’s still largely the same. Want more battery life? Get a bigger battery.

If someone can truly disrupt this space, it will act as a lubricant that accelerates our already amazing pace of technological transformation. 

I want a laptop that lasts for a week on one charge. I want a cellphone that lasts a month. I want to be able to go to SXSW without a Mophie in each pocket. I don’t want to have to be constantly worrying about battery life every single time I leave my house.

Today’s battery technology is holding back several other advances in technology in major ways. And we are about to see just how bad the situation is in the coming months. Maybe wireless power sources that constantly charge and re-charge devices is the ultimate answer. But it just seems like battery technology is really ripe for disruption.