By Tom Still
MADISON – A little bit about a lot of things …
Putting a charge into electric cars: The world’s slow but inevitable transition to electric vehicles is reshaping an entire industry, with companies and even nations racing to remain competitive in technology, consumer marketing and more. Wisconsin should be no exception.
Companion bills introduced in the Legislature by state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, would allow companies that build only electric vehicles – Tesla is the leading American example – to own their own showrooms, charging stations and service centers. It’s an idea that rubs against the grain of current law in Wisconsin, which dictates that manufacturers cannot directly own dealerships.
In a public hearing Tuesday before the Senate and Assembly transportation committee, Tesla owners wondered why they must travel out of state to buy or service cars. Others asked why Wisconsin isn’t embracing an innovative, inevitable trend. Lined up against the bills were car dealers who said changing the status quo would be disruptive to consumers and others.
At least two-dozen states, including Illinois and Minnesota, allow purely electric vehicle makers such as U.S.-based Tesla to own dealerships. The electric car revolution is coming; Wisconsin should be plugged in earlier rather than later.
Federal 5G network? Gee, no: The release of a National Security Council memo calling for the government to build and operate a fifth-generation mobile phone and digital communication network has been met with opposition, and rightfully so.
Experts have said they don’t trust the government to build a secure network of that size, scale and cost; have expressed deep privacy concerns; and have pointed to the fact the internet grew largely free of government entanglement. A better strategy, they say, is for the feds to get behind research and development projects and underwriting broadband, especially for rural areas.
“What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.
Tech Summit open for applicants: It’s not as racy as Tinder or other match-making sites, but the fifth annual Wisconsin Tech Summit is a “speed dating” event for companies large and small. To be held March 19 at the GE Healthcare Institute in Waukesha, the Tech Summit will match selected emerging companies with 18 major companies – think GE, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls, Promega and Foxconn, for starters – that may be looking for strategic partners. It’s all done in a series of 15-minute meetings that may be otherwise hard to get. Visit www.wistechsummit.com by Feb. 14 to learn more and apply.
Health acronyms of the month: Science sometimes comes up with clever acronyms that help the rest of us understand the latest in innovation. Two examples are CRISPR and CHIP.
CRISPR is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which is a family of DNA sequences found in bacteria. It’s the basis for a tool (Crispr-Cas9) which can be used by scientists to edit DNA, even repairing genes in plants and animals. Lab experiments have shown it’s possible to correct some causes of incurable diseases in humans.
American scientists are moving slowly on any medical uses, however, pending more research and peer review. Scientists in other countries, notably China, are taking a much more aggressive approach. Nine human trials in China are listed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
CHIP is an abbreviation for Clonal Hematopoiesis of Indeterminate Potential, which may explain why people who don’t have problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes or just bad family genetics can have heart attacks or strokes.
Research shows that an accumulation of mutated stem cells in bone marrow is the culprit, and it can dramatically increase a person’s risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke. For now, most doctors advise against testing for CHIP, as there’s no remedy even if it shows up. Pending more research, the best advice for people worried about CHIP is to keep on top of the “known” factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.