World Population Trends

This post at Slate is for all my conservative friends — and I’m looking at you dad — that have sent me links over the years arguing that the West is doomed because Muslims are outbreeding us by some ratio. It turns out that population growth rates are declining world wide: the populations of China and Russia could be halved in the years to come. So, please, chill out. (Or at least always examine evidence or trends with the biggest possible frame of reference.)

Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation

Nature is reporting on a recent study that “examined the trends in crop yields for four key global crops: maize, rice, wheat and soybeans” and concluded that “although yields continue to increase in many areas, we find that across 24–39% of maize-, rice-, wheat- and soybean-growing areas, yields either never improve, stagnate or collapse.”

That’s not good news for an increasingly urbanized population dependent upon complex, and all too distant, agricultural producers. It is, potentially, good news for farmers — and here I am thinking more of family farms and not agribusiness.

Hartmut Essinger

DesignBoom has posted a lot of images from Hartmut Essinger’s archives detailing his early work with Apple. While the images are from 1982 to 1985, only a few of the designs were implemented during that period. The rest seemed to have seeped into the design consciousness of the company.

As I’ve noted before, I always like encountering past views of the future. What is really surprising about Essinger’s work is how untied it is to contemporary technological possibilities. The prototypes for a tablet computer and a notebook computer are particularly striking for just how close they were to what would come to be.

Heavier-than-Air Solar Ships

A company called SolarShip has debuted its plans for three heavier-than-air airships that use solar panels built into the roof of their envelope to power themselves. The short video they have released illustrates the concept really well: I almost used “demonstrates” but these are clearly computer animations — very well done animations keyed over actual footage for some stunning realism. I love seeing people re-thinking supposedly old technology like airships using modern materials to create new possibilities, and I like to imagine what it would be like to work in such a company.