Setting Intentions

If you have been following this blog over the years, you will know that I am not big on ‘resolutions’ for the New Year. Not because I do not think setting goals is important, or because I think we should not strive to do better in the new year. However, my issue with resolutions is that society makes it seem that we need to set one huge big fancy thing that we will work on for the year. And often, these resolutions become redundant — such as weight loss, exercise, healthy eating, etc. And while these are important, I do not think making a resolution is important. It is the ACTION PLAN that is.

This is why I like intentions. I feel that they are more goal-directed and achievable. Allow me to explain. A resolution could be ‘this year, I resolve to eat more vegetables and exercise more’. If you try that for a week or two, you may not be able to sustain it.

Meanwhile, an intention could be ‘this year, I intend on becoming physically and mentally stronger. To do this, I will eat foods that nourish my body and I will move my body in ways that makes me feel good. I can do this by having an apple each morning with breakfast, and I will take a walk every Sunday evening’.

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See the difference? Intentions allow us to not only think about WHAT we want to do, but HOW we are going to them. When setting intentions, it is helpful to think about whether or not they are doable. For example, we have all heard that goals should be ‘SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented’. But I will be the first to admit that I don’t always use this when making my goals. This year, however, I know that if I do not make my intentions SMART, I will not be able to sustain them long-term. I need to challenge myself by making intentions, but if they are not sustainable or something hat I can reasonably do, I will give up after one or two weeks.

And finally, resolutions tend to make us feel hopeless when we are not successful at first. ‘Oh no. I did not read my daily meditation for two days, like my resolution was. This sucks. I cannot achieve this resolution. Oh, well. There is always next year. Or maybe I should change my resolution….?’

This sets us up for failure — and makes us feel that we cannot achieve anything. Instead of thinking like this, look at why your goal did not work out. Was it too big of a jump at once? Did you forget to think about how you would actually achieve the goal given your resources and demands? Do you need to look back on your intention and understand WHY it is important to you — and whether or not you REALLY want this? This is the beauty of intentions — it gets us to reflect on our goals, the actions we will take to achieve them, and how we are going to get there. Intentions helps us be present in the moment, and focus on what we CAN do, rather than what we CANNOT do.
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This year, if you are setting a goal or intention, be patient with yourself. Make an action plan, and try your best. And if it does not work out, find out why. Remind yourself of why this intention is important to you. And try your best. It is never ever ever too late to start again, to try something new, and to set another intention.

The Molecular Structure of Biopolymers: Developing Nanopores as Probes

A hallmark of modern science has been the continual development of experimental strategies to observe individual atomic scale ‘events’. These strategies ultimately rely on significantly amplifying the consequences of a selective microscopic interaction, for example the chemical development of a silver halide grain in a photographic emulsion, or the charge amplification in electron multiplier devices. Research performed by members of the nanopore research group at Harvard has shown that individual polymers associated with replication and regulation of life, DNA and RNA, can be registered and characterized singly with a new kind of detector, a nanopore.

A nanopore can be a protein channel in a lipid bilayer or an extremely small isolated ‘hole’ in a thin, solid-state membrane. For a nanopore to be useful as a single molecule detector, its diameter must not be much larger than the size of the molecule to be detected — just a few tens of Angstroms across. When a single molecule enters a nanopore in an insulating membrane, it causes changes in the nanopore’s electrical properties that are readily detected with modern electronic devices and circuits. The mission of the Nanopore Group at Harvard is to study the science of single molecules in nanopores. Our aim is to use this knowledge to develop an ultra high-speed method for sequencing DNA, but we are also developing a number of other important, but less demanding, applications that utilize the extraordinary sensitivity and speed of nanopore probing. On the path to achieving sequencing, we are modeling the physics of DNA polymer movement through the confined space of a nanopore, coordinating the application of material science tools to fabricate solid-state nanopores, and developing the associated biochemistry, molecular biology, electronics, and signal processing to effect molecular recognition.

Sculpting optical microstructures with slight changes in chemistry

In 2013, materials scientists at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering grew a garden of self-assembled crystal microstructures. Now, applied mathematicians at the SEAS and Wyss have developed a framework to better understand and control the fabrication of these microstructures.

Together, the researchers used that framework to grow sophisticated optical microcomponents.

The research is published in Science.

An experimental realization of the base shapes for Bragg resonators

Researchers used a new framework to grow sophisticated optical microcomponents, including experimental realizations of the base shapes for Bragg resonators (Credit Wim L. Noorduin/ Harvard University)

When it comes to the fabrication of multifunctional materials, nature has humans beat by miles. Marine mollusks can embed photonic structures into their curved shells without compromising shell strength; deep sea sponges evolved fiber optic cables to direct light to symbiotically living organisms; and brittlestars cover their skeletons with lenses to focus light into the body to “see” at night. During growth, these sophisticated optical structures tune tiny, well-defined curves and hollow shapes to better guide and trap light.

Manufacturing complex bio-inspired shapes in the lab is often time consuming and costly. The breakthrough in 2013 was led by materials scientists Joanna Aizenberg, the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science and Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute and former postdoctoral fellow Wim L. Noorduin. The research allowed researchers to fabricate delicate, flower-like structures on a substrate by simply manipulating chemical gradients in a beaker of fluid. These structures, composed of carbonate and glass, form a bouquet of thin walls.

What that research lacked then was a quantitative understanding of the mechanisms involved that would enable even more precise control over these structures.

Enter the theorists.

Inspired by the theory to explain solidification and crystallization patterns, L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Physics, and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and postdoctoral fellow C. Nadir Kaplan, developed a new geometrical framework to explain how previous precipitation patterns grew and even predicted new structures.

Mahadevan is also core member of the Wyss Institute.

In experiments, the shape of the structures can be controlled by changing the pH of the solution in which the shapes are fabricated.

“At high pH, these structures grow in a flat manner and you get flat shapes, like side of a vase,” said Kaplan, co-first author of the paper. “At low pH, the structure starts to curve and you get helical structures.”

A helical microstructure made from carbonate-silica coprecipitation patterns

A mathematical model (left) uses a geometrical framework to explain how previous patterns grew and predict new carbonate-silica structures (right, imaged by scanning electron microscopy). (Credit Wim L. Noorduin/ C. Nadir Kaplan/ Harvard University)

When Kaplan solved the resulting equations as a function of pH, with a mathematical parameter standing in for the chemical change, he found that he could recreate all the shapes developed by Noorduin and Aizenberg — and come up with new ones.

“Once we understood the growth and form of these structures and we could quantify them; our goal was to use the theory to come up with a strategy to build optical structures from the bottom up,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan and Noorduin worked together to grow resonators, waveguides and beam splitters.

“When we had the theoretical framework, we were able to show the same process experimentally,” said Noorduin, co-first author. “Not only were we able to grow these microstructures, but we could also demonstrate their ability to conduct light.

Noorduin is now a group lead at the Dutch materials research organization AMOLF.

“The approach may provide a scalable, inexpensive and accurate strategy to fabricate complex three-dimensional microstructures, which cannot be made by top-down manufacturing and tailor them for magnetic, electronic, or optical applications,” said Joanna Aizenberg, co-author of the paper.

“Our theory reveals that, in addition to growth, carbonate-silica structures can also undergo bending along the edge of their thin walls,” said Mahadevan, the senior author of the paper. “This additional degree of freedom is typically lacking in conventional crystals, such as a growing snowflake. This points to a new kind of growth mechanism in mineralization, and because the theory is independent of absolute scale, it may be adapted to other geometrically constrained growth phenomena in physical and biological systems.”

Our theory reveals that, in addition to growth, carbonate-silica structures can also undergo bending along the edge of their thin walls.

Next, the researchers hope to model how groups of these structures compete against each other for chemicals, like trees in a forest competing for sunlight.

The research was coauthored by Ling Li, Roel Sadza and Laura Folkertsma. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University and Harvard MRSEC.

Top tips for tax relief

Most of us have heard or read about NISA, pension contribution tax relief, capital gains and personal annual allowance, but do we all use them each year?

I doubt it – many people don’t maximise opportunities for tax relief. There are too many things to worry about – work, shuttling children back and forth to various activities, DIY. There are often much more pressing matters that stand in the way of properly analysing your tax accountability. In fact, most people do what they can to avoid thinking about tax until January, before the annual race to get your tax return in.

But if you knew what to look out for, there are some really good opportunities to reduce your tax liability. Here are some top tips for tax relief:

  • Tax allowance for spouses: in addition to these commonly known allowances, couples now are able to register to shift unused tax allowance between spouses, which could help them save up to £220 a year. If you claim it now, it can be back-dated so you can claim another £212 for 15/16 tax year.
  • Use your tax relief allowance: either to reduce your tax bill, or use your allowances to help loved ones who are just over thresholds such as the Child Benefit Earning threshold or the 20% tax rate threshold. With careful planning, a timely gift to them of a sum of money, which they place in their pension, allows them to use up their pension allowance while reducing their taxable earnings by that same amount. This gift can also help reduce your estate for Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes if that is something you are interested in doing or help you use your annual gift allowance.
  • Older and wiser: as you get older, there are certain age-related allowances that can reduce your tax. Some are amounts of income that you don’t have to pay tax on, others are amounts that reduce your tax bill. Try to discover some of these this tax year like personal savings allowance and new dividend tax allowance.
  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT): were you aware that in the last budget the rates of capital gains tax – were cut? The CGT rate for basic rate taxpayers will fall from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, while the rate for higher rate taxpayers will fall from 28 per cent to 18 per cent. However, the rates of CGT payable on residential property sales will remain unchanged at 18 per cent for basic rate taxpayers and 28 per cent for higher rate taxpayers.

As the saying goes nothing is as certain as death and taxes. But with some careful planning it’s possible to see some real opportunities to maximise tax relief and drive down your tax liability. Thinking about tax might not be everyone’s cup of tea – but by putting it to the bottom of your to-do-list, you really could be missing a trick. So, why not consider whether these top tips for tax relief are right for you?

Tax treatment set out above is based on our current understanding of UK legislation. It is a broad summary and cannot cover every circumstance, it does not constitute advice. Tax benefits depend upon the investor’s individual circumstances; levels and bases of taxation may be subject to change in the future.

You should not take, or refrain from taking, any action based solely on this article. The investments discussed in this article may not be suitable for all investors. Investors should make their own investment decisions based upon their own financial objectives and financial resources and, if in any doubt, should seek advice from an investment advisor.

Your capital is at risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

Opera’s awful role models and the #MeToo moment

A typical work has as much sex and violence as “Game of Thrones”, but a less plausible plot. Should we expose our children to such filth?

Nearly all the great operas are crammed with gore, crudity and all the things from which right-thinking parents seek to shield their precious progeny. And the main characters, especially the female ones, make appalling role models. They fall for the worst sort of men: jealous, violent soldiers (“Carmen”, “Otello”) or unprincipled rakes (“Rigoletto”, “Don Giovanni”). They die horribly: Aida is buried alive; Madame Butterfly stabs herself; Tosca throws herself off a castle parapet. Even the ones who do not die violently succumb to unpleasant diseases (“La Boheme”, “La Traviata”).

Operatic heroines often make awful decisions. Gilda, in “Rigoletto”, sacrifices her life to save the Duke who raped her, because she loves him, even though she overhears him seducing another woman with the same lies he once used on her. Carmen lacks even basic common sense. Confronted by a homicidal ex-boyfriend who whips out a knife and demands to know if she still loves him, she should have played for time. There’s a bullfight nearby, it’s almost over and the crowd will be out in a few minutes. Just keep him talking, for heaven’s sake, and you’ll be safe. Instead, she throws the ring he gave her in his face—whereupon he stabs her to death.

“How can I love an artform that is so consistently, insistently cruel to its female characters?” asks Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian, wondering if opera is “the most misogynistic art form”. She has a point. In the age of #MeToo, some directors have decided to adapt old plots to make them more female-friendly. At the Maggio theatre in Florence this month, Carmen avoids being stabbed by stealing Don Jose’s pistol and shooting him (pictured). “It was just the last 30 seconds and we wanted to draw attention to one of the plagues of our society,” the theatre superintendent told the Financial Times. Changes like this are rare, however. In most productions, it ain’t over till the fat lady bleeds all over the stage. This being the case, can a sensitive, caring dad take his daughter to the opera?

Yes of course, for several reasons. First, as “Rigoletto” so vividly illustrates, over-protective parenting does not work. Gilda’s father, Rigoletto, keeps her sequestered for her entire life and allows her out only to go to church. This backfires spectacularly when the Duke of Mantua, a kind of 16th-century Harvey Weinstein, finds her. Having been shielded from the world, she is so naive that she believes everything he tells her when trying to get her into bed.

Second, operas portray so many honey-voiced but duplicitious seducers that they are a useful inoculation against believing anything a young man says under such circumstances. A young female opera fan who meets a real-life Don Giovanni or Lieutenant Pinkerton will know what to say to him. They don’t teach life skills like that in school.

Third, opera gives young girls a valuable sense of historical perspective. Since the best ones were written at least 100 years ago, they brim with old-fashioned sexist assumptions, such as that a woman who loses her virginity is ruined. A modern listener does not adopt these mores; she marvels at how far women have progressed. Asked if she wanted to copy Gilda’s supremely self-sacrificing approach to romance, your correspondent’s daughter replied: “No, the opera made it quite clear that people who act like Gilda end up shanked and in a bag.”

Finally, and most importantly, the music is sublime. As the daughter put it: “I enjoyed the evil minor key and the cheerful flutes. Overall, it was incredibly sweet to the ear.”

Readers may enjoy this short selection of arias that either celebrate male chauvinism or hint at women’s experiences of it:

“ La donna è mobile”
“Women are fickle”. Sung with brio and hypocrisy by the licentious Duke in Rigoletto
«Madamina, il catalogo è questo”
Don Giovanni’s servant lists his master’s conquests, including 1,003 women in Spain
“Près des remparts de Seville”
To avoid prison, Carmen woos a violent, jealous soldier
«Vissi d’arte»
After being told that she must sleep with Baron Scarpia or he will have her lover executed, Tosca is upset. She later stabs him
«Un bel dì vedremo» 
One fine day, Madame Butterfly sings, my sailor-husband will return. He does, but with a new wife

Why marijuana retailers can’t use banks

Banks cannot handle dope money lest they fall foul of federal rules about money laundering

RECREATIONAL marijuana has been legally sold in California since the start of the year. The state treasury estimates that sales in 2018 will reach $7bn. But it will not collect its fair share, because pot taxes, it turns out, must be paid in cash. This makes tax collection “a nightmare”, as the treasury has described it. The predicament of Oregon, where recreational pot became legal in 2015, is a case in point. Sellers who declare sales have had to bring tax payments in cash every month to a guarded, bulletproof site in Salem, the state capital, no matter the distance they must travel. Operating only one such “cash-transaction unit” saves the revenue department money, but it also reduces the number of sellers who declare sales. So why can’t tax payments be made electronically?

Nearly two-thirds of America’s states have legalised pot sales for certain uses, but the federal government still classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug, on a par with heroin. Banks that handle marijuana money can be charged with money laundering. Pot businesses, therefore, are on the whole stuck working with cash, which causes problems for more than just tax collection. For starters, cash operations are inefficient. To pay its staff of 200 in cash, CannaCraft, a Californian maker of marijuana products, requires four employees who would otherwise be unneeded. Businesses restricted to cash are “targets for assaults” that endanger the public, laments California’s treasury. And as firms accumulate untraceable cash, some will offer bribes for operating permits, says Fred Timpner, head of the Michigan Association of Police. He expects recent arrests for such corruption in his state to be followed by more.

It may sound like a nightmare for law enforcement. But police are generally happy to keep marijuana money out of banks. That is because “asset-forfeiture” laws allow them to seize cash and, astonishingly, pocket much of it for their departments, even if they merely suspect it of including proceeds from crime. (Cars, homes, and other goods can also be taken, but cash requires less paperwork.) The police do not need to prove that the cash is from crime, or charge that a crime has been committed. Police in Detroit now take so much cash from Michigan’s pot dispensaries that their number has fallen from roughly 500 two years ago to about 200 today, says Rick Thompson, owner of the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group, a conference organiser in Flint. Sometimes the money can be recovered, but this requires a lot of time and money, as well as a judge who can be amenable to the victim of the asset forfeiture. Pot businesses are only “legal” at state levels, so cash from marijuana is by definition illegal federally. Mr Timpner says that police departments broadly respect state laws and will not routinely seize assets from legal marijuana dispensaries except for those wihch have cut corners. But Mr Thompson also points out that Michigan and California have the most “police-friendly” asset-forfeiture laws in the country.

This sort of asset forfeiture is set to continue. Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, has directed the Department of Justice to craft seizure policies that increase the cops’ take. Few expect the federal government to reclassify pot, or Congress to protect banks that handle marijuana money, as California’s treasury wishes. Some reckon crypto-currencies like bitcoin may help to solve the problem. But they are volatile and, for many, tricky to use. In the absence of transparent law enforcement and sound legislation, states are left to come up with their own solutions. The California treasury’s Cannabis Banking Working Group is advising government agencies to hire armoured couriers for the collection of businesses’ taxes and permit payments.

Crypto-currencies are in a tailspin

Tough regulation in Asia is to blame

THE past month has seen vertiginous swings in the prices of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. Most of the moves of late have been downwards, with some days seeing falls of over 20%. News from Asia has driven many of the fluctuations. On January 11th South Korea’s justice minister mooted a plan to ban crypto-currency exchanges, triggering a steep sell-off. Faced with public outcry, the government quickly tried to soften its stance. But last week, the finance minister said the ban remained a “live option”, and bitcoin slid even further.

Although east Asia has generally proven a fertile ground for crypto-currencies, the region’s financial regulators have begun to implement widely divergent policies towards them. China once accounted for over 90% of global bitcoin trading. But alarmed at the way crypto-currencies can evade government oversight, last year it banned domestic exchanges. Japan, by contrast, has given crypto-currencies room to run, deeming them assets that can be used for payments and licensing 11 exchanges.

Virtual currencies have bounced back from past sell-offs, but this has been a big one. At one point bitcoin was down about 50% from its highs in December. Believers in virtual currencies say that one of their selling points is freedom from government meddling. In Asia, the cutting edge of the crypto-world, it is governments that are making—and breaking—their fortunes.

A bitter rivalry between Arab states is spilling into Africa

THE rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on one side and the Gulf state of Qatar on the other is spilling poison into the Horn of Africa, embittering animosities between half a dozen countries in the region. Several of them have seized an opportunity to benefit from instability in the Arabian peninsula by offering bases. But if Arab conflicts spread, countries in the Horn could be dragged into the fray.

But peripheral countries are being affected, too. According to one recent report, not confirmed by independent sources, Egypt has deployed troops in Eritrea near the latter’s border with Sudan. This followed a bout of bad blood in which Egypt’s government accused Sudan’s of boosting the Brotherhood, which ruled Egypt for a year from 2012 until overthrown by General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, now Egypt’s president. On January 15th Eritrea’s long-serving president, Issaias Afwerki, furiously denied the report, saying that “outright lies” had been “repeated ad nauseam by an assortment of Eritrea’s detractors” led by Qatar and its influential broadcaster, Al Jazeera.

The civil war just across the Red Sea in Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are fighting a Gulf coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is further increasing regional tension. The countries of the Horn of Africa have been called on to take sides; many officially espouse neutrality, yet offer naval and military facilities.

A merry-go-round of island-swapping and port-lending is taking place. Even before the Yemen conflict erupted, Djibouti had earned billions of dollars by providing France (its former colonial master), America and China with military bases. Until a recent row it also hosted the UAE, which now uses a base in the Eritrean port of Assab, close to Djibouti, as a key spot from which to attack Houthi positions in Yemen. Sudan, which has deployed troops as part of the Gulf coalition against the Houthis, has been making friendly noises to Qatar, and has recently enraged Egypt by letting Turkey develop an old Ottoman port at Suakin, on the Red Sea. Egypt, for its part, last year delighted Saudi Arabia by ratifying an agreement that two small uninhabited islands near the Gulf of Aqaba belonged to the kingdom.

Somalia has been particularly friendly to Turkey and leans towards the Islamist camp. But Somaliland, the internationally unrecognised breakaway statelet on the Red Sea coast, which functions far better than the supposed mother country, has done a big deal with the UAE. The Emirates are building another base there and paying for a new road to connect Somaliland’s port of Berbera with landlocked Ethiopia. To confuse matters more, some of Somalia’s federal states, displaying their own quasi-independence, have made deals that seem to flout the foreign policy of the federal capital, Mogadishu. For instance, Somalia’s north-eastern statelet of Puntland last year signed a deal with the UAE to develop its port, Bosaso, to the annoyance of the government in Mogadishu. A hashtag called #HandsOffSomalia has become popular among Somalis prickly about what they see as infringements of their sovereignty.

Ethiopia tries to keep out of the regional spat, though it is still at loggerheads with Egypt over the nearly completed Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, which Egypt says will drastically curb the flow of the Nile river. The Ethiopians are cosy with Turkey, a big investor, but have also put out friendly feelers to the UAE. Recently, by way of balance, they let Al Jazeera open an office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

In any event, Ethiopia is likely to oppose anything Eritrea supports: the two countries’ armies still glower at each other across a disputed border, though full-scale fighting ceased in 2000. Meanwhile Eritrea has seized the chance to boost its depleted coffers. Not only has it let the UAE build its base at Assab, by the mouth of the Red Sea. Eritrea is also said to let Israel, which has quietly provided intelligence to Saudi Arabia on Yemen, have discreet use of facilities in the Dahlak archipelago, along with a listening station on an Eritrean mountain. The Houthis in Yemen accuse the Saudis of cosying up to the Israelis—a most heinous crime in some Islamist circles.

Novel 3D printing technique yields high-performance composites

AMBRIDGE, MA – Nature has produced exquisite composite materials—wood, bone, teeth, and shells, for example—that combine light weight and density with desirable mechanical properties such as stiffness, strength and damage tolerance.

Since ancient civilizations first combined straw and mud to form bricks, people have fabricated engineered composites of increasing performance and complexity. But reproducing the exceptional mechanical properties and complex microstructures found in nature has been challenging.

Now, a team of researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has demonstrated a novel 3D printing method that yields unprecedented control of the arrangement of short fibers embedded in polymer matrices. They used this additive manufacturing technique to program fiber orientation within epoxy composites in specified locations, enabling the creation of structural materials that are optimized for strength, stiffness, and damage tolerance.

Their method, referred to as “rotational 3D printing,” could have broad ranging applications. Given the modular nature of their ink designs, many different filler and matrix combinations can be implemented to tailor electrical, optical, or thermal properties of the printed objects.

“Being able to locally control fiber orientation within engineered composites has been a grand challenge,” said the study’s senior author, Jennifer A. Lewis, Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard SEAS. “We can now pattern materials in a hierarchical manner, akin to the way that nature builds.” Lewis is also a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

The work, described in the journal PNAS, was carried out in the Lewis lab at Harvard. Collaborators included then-postdoctoral fellows Brett Compton (now Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville), and Jordan Raney (now Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania); and visiting PhD student Jochen Mueller from Prof. Kristina Shea’s lab at ETH Zurich.

“Rotational 3D printing can be used to achieve optimal, or near optimal, fiber arrangements at every location in the printed part, resulting in higher strength and stiffness with less material,” Compton said. “Rather than using magnetic or electric fields to orient fibers, we control the flow of the viscous ink itself to impart the desired fiber orientation.”

Compton noted that the team’s nozzle concept could be used on any material extrusion printing method, from fused filament fabrication, to direct ink writing, to large-scale thermoplastic additive manufacturing, and with any filler material, from carbon and glass fibers to metallic or ceramic whiskers and platelets.

The technique allows for the 3D printing of engineered materials that can be spatially programmed to achieve specific performance goals. For example, the orientation of the fibers can be locally optimized to increase the damage tolerance at locations that would be expected to undergo the highest stress during loading, hardening potential failure points.

“One of the exciting things about this work is that it offers a new avenue to produce complex microstructures, and to controllably vary the microstructure from region to region,” Raney said. “More control over structure means more control over the resulting properties, which vastly expands the design space that can be exploited to optimize properties further.»

«Biological composite materials often have remarkable mechanical properties: high stiffness and strength per unit weight and high toughness. One of the outstanding challenges of designing engineering materials inspired by biological composites is control of fiber orientation at small length scales and at the local level,” said Lorna J. Gibson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, who was not involved in the research. “This remarkable paper from the Lewis group demonstrates a way of doing just that. This represents a huge leap forward in the design of bio-inspired composites.»

The Harvard Office of Technology Development has protected the intellectual property relating to this project.

Previously, Lewis has conducted groundbreaking research in the 3D printing of tissue constructs with vasculature, lithium-ion microbatteries, and the first autonomous, entirely soft robot.

Other contributors to the paper include Thomas Ober from Harvard SEAS and Kristina Shea from ETH Zurich.

The research was supported by the Office of Naval Research and GETTYLAB.

The Hybrid Budgeting / Zombie System

Alright guys, I think we found our happy medium with the cashless society debate 😉

A guy I met at FinCon last year chimed into our convo here, and he officially wins the award for being the most creative, haha… But also super USEFUL too! Because not only does this take the pros of both sides of the equation (cash vs digital), but also solves a slew of those budgeting problems we listed out on Friday too.

Here’s his idea, in response to me wooing people with points if they can convince me cashless is good 😉 Let me know what you think:

Hey J. I will take you up on triple point offer! Actually, I’m going to want 1.5x in brownie points as I’m going to convert you to a hybrid system.

Here it is:

#1. Put your “Regular” expenses on autopay from one bank account. “Regular” = fixed expenses (including savings) in accounting terms.

#2. Deposit enough, but only enough, in that account to cover the Regular expenses that come due until your next paycheck. For most people this will amount to 40-70% of their monthly spending. Consider every dollar deposited to this account spent the moment it is deposited.

#3. Withdraw the remainder of your pay in cash.

#4. Divide the cash up into your “Irregular” expenses in the amounts you would like to spend on each in a perfect month.

#5. Doll out the cash as needed. If you run out of cash in one category, you can decide which area of your spending life needs to take the hit to subsidize the shortfall in that area. (This makes you decide if the overspending is a necessity, was bad planning requiring an adjustment, or just crappy willpower on your part)

#6. Repeat for next paycheck

Here is why this works so well based on the semi-doomsday scenario you wrote about.

  • No electricity to transfer funds for a payment that is due? Not to worry, the bank or vendor can’t tell you haven’t paid because their system is down too!
  • Even if they could tell you haven’t paid, they can’t come get your stuff because they can’t look up where you live, because that too is in some e-database somewhere
  • The utilities can’t shut off your power because it is already off due to the zombies

So there you sit with your little pouch full of cash from which you can buy groceries and toilet paper. Pretty nice. And who knows, since you are one of the few shoppers with cash, the grocery store may be open to huge discounts on their perishables and frozen foods! So enjoy your flame grilled steak and lobster tonight that you bought for less than the mac & cheese was going for.

Upon official notification, I’ll shoot you my brownie point bank account number so you can send my winnings electronically.

Mitchell Walker

Not too bad, sir! One foot in the digital landscape, and one in the cash-is-king other – milking the pros of both, while not screwing yourself by going “all in” on either.

I can dig it… Another perk is that if your cards/accounts get hacked, they only have access to a portion of your money too (which may or may not be there by the time they get in), and if the government is on your tail, they’ll also only have a portion to go on! Leaving you to your own sneaky lifestyle and improprieties! Boom!

So your points are on the way, Mr. Walker, and I salute you for your creativeness.

Although, I must say – I kinda feel like you cheated, as I just stalked your website and saw that this is the same system you’ve been peddling to all your friends and family too! For years now!

And you know what? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT 🙂 Not only did you figure out a set up that really works for you and your money, but you then took it a step further and decided to share it with the rest of the world too. Thanks for paying it forward!

And in fact, I take back all your brownie points, and in exchange give you something much better: FREE PUBLICITY. Let’s turn this into the “Mitchell” show today and spread around all your goodies – what say you? (I take that as a yes since I can’t hear you… let’s do this!)

>> Introducing, The PouchPlan System! <<

Tired of always being stressed out about money? Worried about the apocalypse and all those empty bank accounts of yours? Worry no more – there’s a budget for that! Introducing, The PouchPlan Budgeting System by Mitchell Walker!

The PouchPlan combines the best of the envelope budgeting system with the advantages of today’s electronic payment abilities, [resulting] in a safer, more reliable, and less active participation requirement for users… It’s core is a naturally intuitive based spreadsheet that has you split your expenses into those which are regular in amount and frequency and those expenses that are not…

The spreadsheet automatically calculates your bank deposits, cash needs, and the timing of both, not just your budgeted amount. Once set up, you are on autopilot. It requires about 5 minutes per paycheck to keep you exactly on target with your plan.

So not only is The PouchPlan a fully-integrated system, but it’s wrapped around a customized SPREADSHEET too! And it’s all yours, free of charge! –> Full Feature PouchPlan Spreadsheet

But that’s not all! Take this spreadsheet, and then throw in a copy of Mitchell’s corresponding book for only $14.95! (Or $3.95 for the ebook) Great for all ages! (But really just adults): The PouchPlan Budget: The Simple Way to Find Hidden Money, Improve Your Life, and Build Wealth

But wait, order now, and get this complimentery Tedx Talk too! An 11 minute value, absolutely yours and guaranteed to hype you up: