Ideas 151-160

#151: Cash Flow Drawing Tool

A cash flow diagram is a financial diagram that shows incomes and expenses for a given period, as arrows. 


How can one produce a cash flow in a computer, to place in a report, for example?

152: Squares Problem

The Squares Problem is a purely mathematical problem. Although interesting, it has no known practical application.

Imagine that you have a square grid made out of cells, like a chessboard. Each cell has a probability p of being either black (associated with the number 1) or white (associated with the number 0). Every start of the game, the board is filled randomly with either white or black cells. It can form continuous regions of black cells, when cells share a black neighbor to either one of the directions up, down, left or right.   

A continuous black area with 5 cells has an area of 5. We are interesting in finding out what is the distribution of areas, how many of them are isolated (area 1), of area 2, area 3, and so forth. 

How does the area distribution varies with p? 

Can you solve the problem analytically, and verify the results with the use of a computer?

#153: Colored Flowers

When I was young, I remember making a a white flower absorb ink and turn into some color. I don't recall if this was actually a true memory or not. 

The idea here is much more permanent, it is to develop a business that breeds or modifies genetically flowers so that they have unusual and unexpected colors. 

#154: Meta-Research

Forgive me for saying so, but the way we write scientific papers today is hardly consistent with our level of technological sophistication. A lot seems to be done "just because people always did this way". Tradition weights far too heavily on the Science Halls, and that leaves little space for true innovation. 

One problem that always plagued me is reading scientific papers that are riddled with citation acknowledgements. It is archaic, and your eyes need to skip text all the time. Plus it takes up valuable space, and whomever had to shorten that paper to fit the conference rules know what I'm talking about. Who reads hard copies of scientific papers today, anyway? 

The idea is to create a Scientific Text Editor, one that is specific tailored to view and edit scientific papers. A special format of file would be designed to hold both the textual content, the references, the images, tables, mathematical equations, and the citation acknowledgements. Get the best tools available to handle each format of data and place them working together. 

This text editor, would work best as a website service rather than a desktop application, but I'm not entirely sure. Personally, nothing in this world would make me happier than if it was freely done by scientists, and for scientists, to put an end to the evil domination of the printing industry.

When in View Mode, this editor would highlight a sentence if the user hovers to it, and pop up a balloon showing author, year and the first three words of the paper's title. Just so that the reader can know the source. If double clicked it opens up the free paper (preferably) or just the corresponding web page so that the paper can be purchased or accessed. 

We have fairly decent search tools for scientific papers already, but they could be incorporated into this scientific text editor, just to make it a complete toolkit. A few spell checking tools too would come in handy. LATEX support could be nice too. 

Real gain would come when these scientific paper files started talking to each other. I'm talking about seemingly creating webs of references,  collaboration networks, measure Research productivity, and assist in the so necessary peer-review process. It could even lead to AI parsing better scientific papers and performing all sorts of time demanding tasks.

That is the idea: Science is much too important to be done the same fashion as it was in the previous century.  

#155: PDF Hot Zone

This may exist already.

It is a simple modification to the scroll bar of a PDF reader, so that it shows in a color scale the parts of the document that were more accessed than others, in the history of the file.

This is so that for example, when you open up a book PDF, you know instantly what are the sections that deserve more attention. 

I've seen this done in websites, but not in PDFs. 

#156: Artificial Flesh

Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Zika, Chikungunya, all baddies transmitted by the same fellow: Aedes aegypti.

The idea is to create an artificial flesh, a lure that can fool this mosquito into biting it, instead of us! Just think about it, if you had one lure in your bedroom, and it worked, you would reduce the bites in 50%. Two lures, that goes to 33%. Personally, I like those odds. 

Just spread around enough lures to make the job of this guy a lot harder. Giving it more targets might not be so easy to do, in practice. I'd have reservations about making the lures deadly to the mosquito, however, as they might play some role in the biological networks that I'm unaware.

#157: Traffic Monitoring

This could either build a multi-billion corporate empire or fail completely. 

The idea is to measure traffic, using devices that would be placed at key locations on the road network of a city. Then, one would use this data to guide real-estate investments. 

It would not be just counting the number of vehicles travelling. You would use pattern recognition to identify specific car models. By knowing for example, that more luxury cars are commuting to a part of the city, you would get an indication that this region is booming. You would reposition the traffic meters until you can pinpoint exactly where is the sweet spot. You see, it is very hard to tell if region A or B is better for an investment, in practice, and this would aid the decision process. 

There are legal issues involved. The city hall need to issue a sort of permit I suppose, and should you start collecting individual nameplates and track people all hell would break loose. 

Additionally, should your company buy a lot, you could install some solar panels for as long as it takes for the land to gain value, and profit with renewables.

#158: Futuristic Math

Assume that energy-to-matter conversion is possible, somehow.

How fast could a solar park grow, if it reinvested 100% of its production into growing larger and larger?

#159: Water

There are some people that argue that the next major conflict on the planet will be for this: potable, drinking water. This already affects 2 billion people around the World, according to this UNESCO report. It is not possible to neglect this issue. 

The idea is actively search for means to assure that there will be water for the future generations. 

This can be achieved by increasing the water supply (improvements in water treatment, desalinization techniques, rain collection, protection of water streams) and decrease the losses with water usage. Ideally, one would start with the activities that are more responsible for waste, then move on to more marginal gains. 

Here are some suggestions:

#160: Filtering Atoms, A Sequel

In Idea #119, we proposed to filter atoms used slabs of a material that expand very little with temperature. The idea here has the same goal, to produce an atomic filter, but uses a different approach. 

Imagine that you have a flat paper surface. Then you take an ultra-sharp pencil, or rather a graphite rod, and start drawing a trajectory into the paper, without lifting the carbon rod. A random trajectory, it can be a zig-zag pattern bouncing off the edges of the paper or circles with various radii, or just a curly random line. 

The paper starts to get filled with carbon. The white areas start to slowly disappear, and become smaller and smaller.

If you keep this process for a long time, do you end up with a filter of atomic sizes?

Is this filter dense in holes enough to be useful?

By the way, you are supposed to dissolve the paper after it has been drawn to. 

You can also try this by pouring on the surface a trickle of something that solidifies in contact with a surface, like a polymer, and moving the container you are pouring. I suppose you could also use droplets, anything to fill most of the surface. 

BANNER IMAGE CREDITS: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) 

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