As the famous American philosopher Yogi Berra said, "The future ain't what it used to be."
Don't believe him? I'd like to walk you through a couple of the week's more noteworthy scientific and technological breakthroughs and explain how they could affect your portfolio sooner than you might expect.
Your new power shirt
You've heard of the power tie -- perhaps you've also heard of the nanotechnology ties from Brooks Brothers. They're coated with nanomaterials from Nano-Tex and are stain-resistant. Thanks to nanotechnology, you might soon be adding power shoes, shirts, and baseball caps to your wardrobe.
How so, you ask? Innovative researchers at Georgia Tech have announced that they have made an important step forward in creating fabrics that generate power from the wearer's movement.
The most immediate application is that Nike (NYSE: NKE ) -- already partners with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) on the Nike + iPod shoe -- might soon power electronic devices from a new source: you. Imagine never running out of power for your cellphone or laptop because those devices replenish themselves from your movements.
More exciting applications of this technology will power up the medical device industry, where companies such as Medtronic (NYSE: MDT ) and Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX ) might produce pacemakers and biological sensors capable of using the movement of blood or muscles as sources of power. Patients would not have to replace chemical batteries in their medical devices.
Put a lid on that tailpipe
In another exciting development from Georgia Tech, researchers are working to develop a technology to capture, store, and eventually recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from automobiles.
If the problem of automobiles contributing CO2 emissions could be solved, then some of the environmental advantages of hybrid automobiles that Toyota (NYSE: TM ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM ) are pursuing so aggressively could be minimized.
I'm not implying that the future for hybrids is bleak, but I'd caution investors to stay abreast of this and other carbon-capture technologies because they could provide a little spark to the old internal combustion engine.
Nanotechnology + carbon capture
In a breakthrough that combines advances in both nanotechnology and carbon capture technology, researchers at UCLA have developed a nanomaterial that can soak up CO2 at a level equal to 80 times its volume. And this at a fraction of the cost of today's expensive CO2 capture technology, which is widely employed by the coal-powered electricity-generation business.
As an added benefit, these nanomaterials, which are similar to those already in production at BASF, might only be two or three years away from widespread commercialization.
It is easy to think that emerging technologies will adversely affect only stodgy old industries such as textiles, automobiles, and coal, but this week's advances suggest otherwise.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra: The future might not be what it used to be, but it might look a lot like today.