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Notes and Brief takes

Updated 12.08.2014

Brief notes gleaned open tabs from the first week in December. Call the neighbors, wake the kids: being a post-doc still stinks.

Being a Post-Doc still stinks

Tenured academic positions are still tough to get. Getting hired in academia has never been easy, and post-docs have always been overlooked. Publish or perish was the rule, when I did my time as a post-doc. Apparently, this has not changed. The number of retracted articles is increasing, and some point to the obsessive need for a large number of publications as the reason. Shortcuts are being taken and data is being massaged to death to produce a publishable tidbit.

From the Nature article:

These are common legitimate concerns, but how about this: a whopping 58% of scientists in the UK report said that they were aware of colleagues feeling tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity or standards. Asked whether they felt this way themselves, just 21% of scientists aged 35 or over said yes; strikingly, that figure shot up to one-third of those aged under 35. In the United States, postdocs consistently called themselves "the lost people" and "the invisible people". The US report states that "junior scientists are primarily treated as cheap labor rather than as participants in a well-rounded training program".

Fortune Profiles Elon Musk

Fortune Magazine profiles Elon Musk. Musk is an innovator, but he might be an even better at arranging tax breaks and government grants. The article goes through the process followed in choosing Nevada for his new huge battery manufacturing factory.

Wood pellets, the forgotten fuel

The National Geographic reports on the expanding wood pellet market. Wood pellets are best known as full for wood stoves in the Northeast in the US. But now they are being exported to Europe as a replacement for coal.

Pellets are made from low grade wood and logging remnants, the stuff thatís left after they take the good logs. Of course, environmentalists donít like the idea of burning wood (or of shipping it across the ocean prior to doing so) any better than coal. Trees are renewable, but trees take time to grow. Forests arenít keeping up.

Pellets can be made from pine plantations, but these would replace natural forests, and wouldnít be the same habitat for wildlife. The carbon equation isnít a slam dunk for wood pellets over coal either.

The UK is currently subsidizing wood pellet use, but that wonít last forever. Pellets are a form of biomass, and plants running on pellets are more expensive to run than coal fired plants. Absent the subsidies, would the market exist outside wood stoves in New England? Permalink

Brief Notes on Food News

Updated 11.18.2014

The intent with these notes is to collect interesting links and items that don't easily fit into the existing topics LWRAS covers. The difference between these Notes and the LWRAS blog is that on the blog links are posted without comment. In these notes, brief commentary will be included.

Even McDonald's doesn't want GMO potatoes

Actually, McDonald's probably would be interested in the GMO (genetically modified organism) potatoes, if they have the promised characteristics, but the company wants no part of the furor over GMO foods. J.R Simplot Co.'s potato is engineered to produce lower levels of acrylamide and to bruise less easily, which should increase shelf life and yield. Acrylamide is suspected of being a human carcinogen. Potatoes make acrylamide naturally when heated to high temperatures (such as when cooking fries.) Read the rest.

Shale Oil Market

Updated 10.13.2014

Energy and the politics surrounding energy are topics of long term interest at LWRAS because the importance of energy cannot be overstated. Energy policy is critical to any nation or state. For example, if Russian oil and gas wasn't so critical to European industry, the mess in Ukraine might be playing out differently. As it is, Europe does not have a replacement energy source, and thus their response to Putin's aggression is toothless. This page will be updated as needed

Falling Oil Prices Force Putin's Hand

The price of oil is falling, and in tandem, so is the ruble. It's lost in the media panic surrounding Ebola in the US, but Russia is reportedly pulling its troops back from the border with Eastern Ukraine. So how important is oil to Russia? Read the rest.

Will sapphire displace glass in phones?

Updated 7.12.2014
This Seeking Alpha article was the inspiration for this effort. Full disclosure: LWRAS owns both GLW and GTAT stocks.


Sapphire is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). Its refractive index is about 1.6, which is higher than glass. Glass refractive index will depend on the composition of glass, but typically the refractive index of glass is about 1.52. Glass does not a crystalline structure, in that the molecules that make up the glass are not regularly positioned. Glass does not produce peaks when xrayed, crystalline substances do. Read the rest.

Corning Update

Updated 6.11.2014
Corning Inc remains a bellweather company/stock here at LWRAS, and asi it's been awhile since the last update, the topic for today is Corning. Seeking Alpha published a transcript of Corning's company officers presenting the current state of the company to a group of investors at a Merrill Lynch coference. This transcript from the Sanford C Bernstein conference (also at Seeking Alpha) presents the same information, though obviously the Q&A and the end was different. All quotes in the article are taken from these transcripts.Read the rest.


Robotics is a technology of interest for LWRAS. Robots or unmanned vehicles have played a huge role in recent US military deployments. And despite the defense cuts that are supposedly coming, robots and drones (the difference seems t be whether or not the thing flies or not) are an area where the military will continue to spend.

The advantages are obviously, beginning with it's an inanimate object. And they were agnostic as to sourcing, meaning that cheapie commercial robots sufficed for some applications, while others (attack drones, etc) were much more expensive. Read the rest.


Haptics is a technology that remains of interest here.


Telematics and connected cars were an area of intense interest in 2013. LWRAS intends to review and analyze the existing market and players.

Photonic Integrated Circuits

This is an area of of recent interest. LWRAS intends to analyze investment opportunities.