The United States Department of Energy wants to solve the world’s energy problems—one sunbeam at a time. Held every two years, the Department’s Solar Decathlon is a student design competition that celebrates the latest in clean-energy home building practices in an attempt to show both home builders and homeowners how good green can be.

For a company worth at one time something north of $200-billion, it is indeed an inglorious end. As for a surprise— well, no.

Ahhh, those were the days. In 2008, the world economy was swooning. Stock markets on all five continents were in freefall. The titans of Wall Street were drowning in an ocean of red ink—as were several European countries. There, amidst the financial apocalypse stood Canada.

And then there were two. Tech giant Apple has released not one, but two brand-new versions of its trend-setting, buzz-generating, profit-making phone.

It was all Jim O’Neill’s fault. In November 2001, the chair of Goldman Sachs’ asset management division started talking about how the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China—would soon outstrip the developed nations and come to rule the economic world.

Bread. Cabbage. Dough. Green. Moolah. Scratch. Call it what you will—it makes the world go round. But the day is rapidly nearing when consumers need never get their hands sullied by filthy lucre again—mostly because they will never see it.

“Run, run. Run, Dick, run. Run and see.” From such humble beginnings many of us were introduced to the wonders of the written word. By studiously following the adventures of the sprightly Dick and his spunky sister Jane, we were taught not only the building blocks of grammar, but the basics of plot, character, and point-of-view.

That street vendor hawking Japanese-style hot dogs in front of your office tower. That place on Main Street that’s been selling carpet since forever. That multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that’s into everything from automotive retailing to radio broadcasting to apple juice. They all have something in common: they’re all privately owned. And they’re all making money hand over fist.

Have and have-not: in the post-industrial age, the border between the two will not be defined by wealth or bloodline, but by education—by what initials you’re entitled to put behind your name, and what income you’re able to extract from them.

Death, taxes, and the lengths to which we will go to avoid either: three things of which we can be reasonably certain in this increasingly uncertain world. Such wisdom accounts for the ongoing popularity of, among other things, organized religion and offshore tax havens. It also goes a long way to explaining why health care may be the best investment idea of all time.

It was all such a noble idea: the ability to talk to, learn from, and work with people from all over the world. The liberty to exchange opinions, to explore bold new ideas. But in practice, the freedom offered by the Internet has proven to be something of a double-edged sword.

People invest for many reasons, but at the foundation of them all is the expectation of your investment appreciating over time; to get more money out of the effort than you put in. Someone has apparently forgotten to pass the memo on to bond investors.

Confession time: when was the last time you actually paid for music? As in, visited a record store (either bricks-and-mortar or virtual) and anted up for the latest and/or greatest from Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Ladytron, or whoever sits at the top of your favourite playlist. Been a while? You’re not alone.

Whether it be an uninsulated shack on the side of a distant mountain or a 10-bedroom mansion on the shore of a lake, the cottage is the ultimate escape —from noise, pollution, people, routine, responsibilities, the rat race, civilization itself—if only from Victoria Day to Labour Day. It can also be a darn fine investment.

A wide cesspool, the flotsam and jetsam of a thousand cities half-submerged in its moss-green water. Garbage piled in haphazard heaps. Fires belching acrid, jet-black smoke into the pale blue sky. A mob of grubby, half-dressed children poking a burning pile of plastic with charred sticks. All that’s missing are the Four Horsemen.

The anything-goes scripto-anarchy of online culture has made electronic censorship a rather elusive goal. Short of pulling the plug on the entire Internet (and accepting the resultant economic consequences), it’s difficult for state-controlled agencies to monitor an ever-increasing mountain of user-generated blogs, articles, video, comments, and tweets. As fast as it’s taken down, it goes right back up.

Hard drives, silicon wafers, evil robots bent on destroying humanity—just a few of the things that come to mind when one’s thoughts turn to technology. But there is another side to technology, one that has nothing to do with either Silicon Valley or galaxies far, far away. A technology expressed not in ones and zeros, but in the complex sequences of proteins and amino acids that form the building blocks of life itself.

Keep your eye on the register as your cashier rings up your groceries. Notice something? That’s right: you’re paying more than you used to for everything that passes by the bar code scanner. And that, dear reader, could very well be the best investment idea you’re likely to hear over the next decade.

Golf is a game of inches, both literal and figurative. A slight shift from front foot to back; an additional degree of inclination on a club face; a ball that rolls a little to the left rather than the right—any of these can make the difference between an afternoon spent dreaming about turning pro and one spent ruing the day you first put hand to club.

Thirty pounds: it doesn’t sound like too much of a burden. But when it’s thrashing and jumping on the end of 18 metres of thin nylon line as your boat rises and falls in a two-metre swell—well, 30 pounds might as well be a full-sized car.

After a lifetime of financial freedom and material abundance, how does one make meaning out of one’s millions? Giving back to the community, helping those less fortunate, improving the world—all noble goals. But how, practically, does one do it? How can one get good work done while getting the best bang for one’s charitable buck?

Crime, we are told, does not pay. Clearly someone forgot to pass on the memo to Nigeria, where enterprising crooks have transformed an age-old confidence trick into a significant, if scandalous, contribution to the African nation’s GDP. For nearly 30 years now, the 419 scam (so named for the statute in Nigeria’s criminal code that prohibits it) has been filling inboxes across cyberspace.

When it comes to making money, commodities offer plenty to get excited about. In fact, over the past decade, instead of putting your hard-earned cash into big-name brands, blockbuster drugs, or high-flying dot-coms, you would have been far better served by investing in rocks and stones: zinc, copper, potash, gold, uranium, and a variety of other metals and minerals.

They’re coming. The undead, that is. The only thing standing in their way: my garden. Such is the premise behind the appropriately named Plants vs. Zombies, the latest in a string of best-selling video games by Seattle-based PopCap Games.

It used to be the easiest job on Bay Street. In days gone by, one required neither an advanced degree in economics nor a crystal ball to predict the performance of the Canadian currency.

Annus horribilis. Of all the ways to describe the experience of hedge fund investors in 2008, none come quite as close as this to capturing the sense of disillusion and despair at a year in which the best-laid financial schemes went spectacularly awry.

Built by Vancouver-based molo Design, Softwall is a wall like no other: 400 layers of honeycombed fire-retardant paper some six feet tall, one foot thick and anywhere between eight and twenty feet long.

It has forged empires, spared cities from destruction, built and destroyed fortunes. It is piper nigrum, black pepper, the king of spices, the spice of kings.