November 17, 2015
During the Cold War, defense money funded much of Northern California’s nascent tech industry, and the military worked closely with universities and companies to develop electronics, microwave devices, semiconductors, and spy satellites. But the military did not stay connected to the venture capital–fueled tech industry that emerged in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. Until recently, the Pentagon didn’t see this as a liability: The United States enjoyed unmatched technological superiority on the battlefield. That advantage, though, is now dissipating. China and Russia have invested heavily in new systems. ISIS is using hobby-style drones for reconnaissance. Rebels in Syria are using iPads to aim mortars. Equipment like this was once prohibitively expensive. Now you can get a lot of what you need off the shelf. ... As much as Defense Department officials say they want better access to commercial technology, the way the Pentagon functions often makes this impossible. The military has spent decades configuring itself to work with defense contractors to build complicated systems that take years to produce, like fighter jets and aircraft carriers. With its cumbersome rules and processes, the Department of Defense is not set up to race alongside small, agile companies. ... The Pentagon is beginning to realize it must operate differently. Some of the most advanced work in computing, big data, cybersecurity, energy, robotics, and space — all areas the military draws on — is being done by tech companies, not traditional defense contractors. Last year, the Pentagon kicked off a large-scale effort called the Defense Innovation Initiative.
For years, Phua has navigated the globe in an ultra-long-range business jet, its tail designation -- N888XS -- a nod to the Chinese belief in lucky number eight and the overindulgence that often accompanies a gambling windfall. With billions of dollars reportedly at hand, Phua has erected a gaming empire, touching down in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Melbourne and anyplace in between where there are casinos, nosebleed poker games and gamblers ready to place max bets on the world's most lucrative sporting events. ... an unassuming 51-year-old Malaysian and the reputed principal owner of the world's largest sportsbook, IBCBet. ... What follows is the story of Phua's rise from a Borneo numbers runner to the biggest bookie around -- as well as the most powerful figure in poker. And how the FBI finally hooked him, only to watch him walk away a free man. ... According to trade estimates, IBCBet handles roughly $60 billion of betting per year. With a 1 percent take, the book clears $600 million annually. An IBCBet source in Manila says Phua owns 70 percent of the enterprise. ... By 2013, Macau's annual gaming revenue had grown to more than $45 billion. This growth -- which Adelson and Wynn publicly fronted -- was propelled in part by Phua, who for the moment remained unknown to those located anywhere but at the center of the industry.
What Pyrex-maker Corning is to glass, CoorsTek is to ceramics. Name any big American manufacturer and it probably buys CoorsTek parts. ... CoorsTek makes over 1 billion tiny parts for cars each year, used in brakes, air bags, mirrors and headrests. Its parts are on NASA’s space shuttles; its valves are used in the fountain machines at McDonald’s; its bulletproof armor protects U.S. soldiers; and its fake knees are helping an aging population keep moving. ... With sales of $1.25 billion, CoorsTek is the largest engineered-ceramics manufacturer on the planet. It is also one of the most profitable, with estimated cash flow margins of 27%. ... tapping into the vast clay deposits surrounding Golden to form a pottery company that first made dinnerware and then labware during World War I; the Germans had dominated that market beforehand but were embargoed from selling to Americans during the war. Thomas Edison was an early customer. ... The ceramics business helped to keep the family fortune afloat for nearly two decades. ... Another factor that makes CoorsTek different from most industrial giants is that it can completely change its product offerings year to year without checking in with a public board of directors or worrying how investors will respond. Three of its largest markets–armor and defense, semiconductor equipment and oil and gas–are roller-coaster industries, so it must constantly shift its focus.
This apple had been carefully grown somewhere in Washington state, the result of millions of dollars and two decades of labor. Break apart its unremarkable surface to reveal its flesh, wait long enough, and you’ll see what’s different: It remains pure white. It doesn’t start to brown right after you take a bite and leave it on the kitchen counter. In fact, it doesn’t start to brown until it molds or rots. It doesn’t bruise, either. Through a feat of genetic engineering, Carter’s apples hold on indefinitely to the pearly-white insides that inspired their name — the Arctic. ... The Arctic was conceived by Carter’s company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which he runs with his wife, Louisa, and four other full-time employees, newly under the umbrella of a large biotech company that bought it this year. It’s an intended solution to what Carter sees as two interrelated problems: First, millions of pounds of perfectly good apples get dumped every year because they look a little too bruised or brown, the victims of an instinctive human aversion to fruits and vegetables that aren’t smooth, shiny, and symmetrical. And at the same time, North American consumers, accustomed to 100-calorie packs and grab-and-go everything, have developed an impatience for food that can’t be quickly eaten. ... Taken together, these two trends mean that while apple consumption has flatlined in the United States for decades, a staggering amount of apples go wasted. ... Apples in particular have been transformed dramatically by commercial cultivation and serendipitous acts of nature over the last two millennia. The apples grocery store shoppers pluck off shelves in 2015 are vastly different from the ones first discovered in Kazakhstan, or even the ones grown by Johnny Appleseed in the 19th century. ... A study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs estimated that $15 billion in fresh and processed fruit was lost from the U.S. food supply in 2008 — about $9 billion at the consumer level and the rest at the retail level.
Discovery used to mean going out and coming across stuff - now it seems to mean turning inwards and gazing at screens. We've become reliant on machines to help us get around, so much so that it's changing the way we behave, particularly among younger people who have no experience of a time before GPS. ... Experts believe that making maps in our heads, by working out routes and remembering them, is a vital cognitive function for developing minds. ... the maze and its leafy purlieus were also vital as an escape from the overwhelming busy-ness of court life. Kings and courtesans fled the info-babble of their own day to this soothing oasis of flower power, centuries before the hippies were even thought of.