Globetrotting: news from around the world – December 2016

Japan and Saudi Arabia are launching a US$100-billion investment fund specializing in technology. Plus, recent advances in 3-D printing could give doctors a quick way to repair broken bones.


Super fund

Investment funds that specialize in technology — usually venture capital funds — rarely amount to more than US$3 billion in available capital. So the US$100-billion Vision Fund that is being launched by Japan’s SoftBank Group and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) will be a behemoth, as reported by the International Business Times.

Over the next five years, SoftBank intends to invest at least US$25 billion, while PIF will invest up to US$45 billion. A few large global investors are expected to make up the remainder.

The super fund is in line with Saudi Arabia’s 2030 economic plan, which includes the creation of a US$2-trillion sovereign wealth fund for investments in strategic financial and industrial assets around the world. With this fund, it intends to reduce its dependence on oil.


In the doghouse?

Space capsules

At first glance, these Hong Kong apartments sound comfortable enough: they have TVs, memory foam mattresses and special lights that “create the feeling of being in space,” according to the landlord. The problem, as the BBC reports, is their size: 2.2 square metres. At HK$5,100 (about $880) a month, they don’t come cheap, either.

“Space capsule” pods are not new: in Japan, they are popular with cost-conscious travellers who may be just passing through. In this Hong Kong listing, however, the minimum stay is a month. Netizens voiced their outrage after the ad went online. Facebook user Jeri Lee called them “an enlarged dog house.” And Ralf Cheung wrote, “This is not a space capsule. This is sleeping in a coffin before your death.”


Nowhere to go

There’s more to renewable energy than building wind turbines and solar panels. As Germany and China are now discovering, the grid needs to be able to carry all that extra energy, reports The Guardian.

Leaked plans from the German federal network agency suggest the agency is planning to cut back by 50% on its wind power programs in northern Germany because the distribution grid can’t cope.

China is in a similar situation. The country has been adding solar power capacity at such a rate that, in some provinces, up to 50% of the energy generated cannot be used.


3-D printed bones

3D printed bones

A new advance in 3-D printing could give doctors a quick way to repair damaged bones and speed up the healing process, reports Science News.

The “hyperelastic bone,” created by an engineer at Chicago’s Northwestern University, is made of a flexible material that can be 3-D printed into the shape of any bone in the body, including femurs and skullcaps.

The material is a mix of elastic polymer and hydroxyapatite, a calcium mineral found in bones and teeth. Once implanted, it acts as a scaffold that encourages real bone tissue to start growing.

So far, testing has been done only on animals, but there have been no rejections.