What about those start-ups raising mountains of cash from investors? The queasy truth is that many of those investors could afford to lose it all. Technology giants — Apple, Facebook and Google, among many others — are raking in cash. They might be overpaying for acquisitions, but there is no reason to think that should damn their bottom lines in the long term. The same goes for the rich individuals funneling money to young companies through venture-capital firms and other vehicles.
“Where’s the bulk of the ownership of these companies?” said Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School. “They’re mostly in the hands of a small number of venture funds.”
But the American public has bought into the tech boom, at least a bit, in a more concealed way. Big institutional investors, like pension funds, do put some of their money into private-equity and venture-capital firms. A drop in tech stocks or a flotilla of start-ups going belly up could sting Uncle Joe and Aunt Nancy that way.
And that downturn might already be taking hold. Recently, Bloomberg asked investors, analysts and traders if Internet and social-media stock valuations were unsustainable. Only 14 percent did not see a bubble. Even some tech companies themselves have argued that expectations have drifted too high. For instance, Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, recently said he sensed some “euphoria” driving the firm’s stock price. “We have a sense of momentum, investors driving the stock price more than we might normally,” Hastings said. “There’s not a lot we can do about it.”
Instead, consumers pay $8 to $12 a month to watch almost live — there is a delay of a few seconds — and recorded programs from the major broadcast networks and public television. It’s a threat to both the lucrative cable bundle and the networks that receive rich fees for being part of that cable package. Aereo would give so-called cord cutters the means to assemble a more affordable package of online streaming options like Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Netflix, and still spend a Sunday afternoon watching the N.F.L. and “60 Minutes” immediately afterward. As antenna-driven viewing has dropped and digital consumption has surged, Aereo is a way to put old wine in a new bottle.
It is a crafty workaround to existing regulations, which rides on the Cablevision court ruling in 2008, which held that consumers had the right, through their cable boxes, to record programming. But then, cable companies pay broadcasters billions in so-called retransmission fees while Aereo pays them exactly nothing. (And the case is not just about Aereo — it opens the gate for cable companies or others to build a similar service and skip the billions in payments to the networks.)
The broadcast networks have a technical legal term for this particular innovation — theft — and they have been trying to shut down Aereo from the start.
It all collides on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court will hear the caseAmerican Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo. It will be up to the court to decide whether the service is a consumer-friendly reskinning of the broadcast universe or just one more example of an Internet pirate trying to loot copyrighted content. In some senses, the case is as big of a deal as the Betamax ruling in 1984, which allowed consumers to record programming.
“This is the Sony Betamax of this century,” Mr. Kanojia said on the phone last week, citing a case that is likely to come up a lot on Tuesday.
Last night's episode of Cosmos - The Clean Room - was excellent. If you haven't seen it try their streaming version.
For those interested in the history of the current obfuscation of science that stretches back to the 50s I recommend “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. They do a great job pointing out how the public’s misunderstanding of how science works has been and is being used to support pseudoscientific goals.
Don’t try this at home. No really, don’t: it almost certainly won’t work and you won’t be able to use your kitchen blender for food afterwards. But buried in the supplementary information of a research paper published today is a domestic recipe for producing large quantities of clean flakes of graphene.
In Nature Materials, a team led by Coleman (and funded by the UK-based firm Thomas Swan) describe how they took a high-power (400 watt) kitchen blender and added half a litre of water, 10 to 25 mls of detergent, and 20 to 50 grams of graphite powder (found in pencil leads). They turned the machine on for 10 to 30 minutes. The result, the team reports: a large number of micrometre-sized flakes of graphene, suspended in the water.
Starting in the 30s trains started to see streamlining. io9 lists a few. Mostly conventional designs, but a few are interesting. One of the most unusual was the Schienenzeppelin - the Zeppelin train. A small streamlined car with a huge 46L BMW v12 engine driving a pusher prop. There were issues with safety and noise, but it held the world record for train speed for decades traveling 230 km/h in 1931/