1. Productivity. The latest data for the nonfarm business sector show the productivity index at 137.7, compared with 135.8 a year ago. That is an increase of only 1.4 percent. I think that we need to follow longer-term averages (five years or more), but the most recent trend, while not awful, is not particularly encouraging.
2. Cognitive Neuroscience. Interesting developments continue in this field. One that drew my attention earlier this year showed that strong political partisanship is associated with activity in the emotional centers of the brain, rather than with the reasoning center. More recently, BrainBlog has many interesting stories, such as this one on new research into how memories are replayed during sleep.
3. Solar Power. I did not see any dramatic stories on solar power this year. One would think that the rise in oil prices would start to move forward the date at which solar becomes price competitive.
A tiny chip similar to the solar cells carried by many satellites and other spacecraft today--including the surprisingly long-lived Mars Rovers--has shattered previous records for maximum efficiency in producing electricity from sunlight...this system could potentially generate electricity in the range of 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour--roughly equal to consumer electricity prices today.
4. Cancer Therapy. See Randall Parker's recent posts here and here. The latter post deals broadly with the anti-aging potential of a strategy that focuses on reducing or correcting damage to DNA.
5. Mainstream Media Meltdown. There were a lot of stories this year about turmoil in the newspaper business.
Overall, I think that all five stories are still worth following.