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FE Archive Volume 13, Number 3

Volume 13, Number 3 - 2/15/10

  • The increasing complexity and interdependency of society is making civilization ever more vulnerable to a "digital doomsday", the loss of knowledge because we store it in ever more fragile and ephemeral forms.
  • According to Craig Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, our world may be a giant hologram.
  • Researchers have developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass.
  • China, the United States and Russia are among 20 countries locked in a cyberspace arms race and gearing up for possible Internet hostilities.

by John L. Petersen

Hope you had a happy Valentine's Day . . . if you celebrate this rather American holiday. It's one of those days where you don't get any time off, but lots of flowers, chocolate, dinners, and cards get sold. If you're in a part of the world where you have no idea what I'm talking about, this is a day for remembering your sweetheart - whoever that might be. I give my wife a heart made out of some mineral every year for Valentines Day- quartz, jasper, crystal, jade, etc. She has quite a collection now. The news in this part of the world has been dominated by the weather for the last two weeks. We've now had 40-some inches of snow around Washington, Baltimore and here in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. We're in the mountains and don't get that much very often, so it takes a good while for them to clear the roads. Here's a delightfully lyrical piece from the New York Times summarizing the scale and effect of this storm.

February 7, 2010 New York Times
A Storm Part Crippling and Part Enchanting

A blizzard that had forecasters reaching for superlatives engulfed the nation's capital and the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday with record snowfalls that paralyzed transportation, commerce and all but emergency services. But it transformed the weekend into an enchanted snowbound adventure for millions.

Halfway across the chasm of winter, the storm charged over the Appalachians, smothering cities and quilting the countrysides of a half-dozen states from Virginia to New Jersey. It obliterated Washington with over 20 inches, Baltimore with a record 30 inches and Philadelphia with 26.7 inches. Some sections of West Virginia were hit by nearly three feet of snow.

But the blow, which began Friday night and tapered off at midafternoon on Saturday, had sharply defined shoulders to the north and south. It generally spared New York City (no snow fell in Central Park) and Long Island with a mere dusting, and the Southeastern states got off with some rain.

The hard edges of Washington were softened as the snow recast the capital of monuments and malls into a postcard town of soft ice cream shapes that had been statues and aerodynamic blobs that had been parked cars: the buried machines of a lost civilization. The Capitol and the White House vanished in the whiteout, cross-country skiers appeared in parks and the Potomac was a grayish plate of pewter.

The National Weather Service said the blizzard did not challenge Washington's 28-inch record, set in January 1922, a snowfall that collapsed the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater, killing 98 people and injuring 158. Nor did it rival the three-foot snowfall of 1772, long before record-keeping began, although it was noted in the diaries of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

President Obama, unlike the millions snowed in just in time for the Super Bowl, rode down the plowed driveway of the White House in a four-wheel drive sport-utility vehicle to the Capital Hilton Hotel, where he spoke to the Democratic National Committee. The president, a veteran of Chicago snows who has chided Washington for its timidity in modest storms, could not resist a quip: "Snowmageddon," he said to loud applause.

In a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow, meteorologists had dubbed it "Snowpocalypse," and there was no doubt it was big and dangerous: a vast brindled nebula on the satellite pictures that stretched 400 miles along the Chesapeake coast and a bounding monster on the ground that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, caused countless accidents and left at least two people dead.

Airports closed and flights across the region were canceled, many on Friday night in anticipation of the storm, and by Saturday the backlog had spilled back across the continent, raising concern about possible travel delays over several days. Amtrak and many local railroads canceled trains and interstate buses and transit systems in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia were virtually shut down.

As snow fell in enormous sweeping curtains, piling up at a rate of several inches an hour, millions of people heeded warnings to stay home, and the ganglia of highways and back roads in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and much of Pennsylvania were at times strangely motionless and silent.

The governors of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was deployed to assist the police and people trapped on roads. In Virginia, the state police said a father and son, who had stopped on Interstate 81 to help a motorist, were killed Friday when a tractor-trailer struck them.

The combination of wet heavy snow and winds that gusted as high as 50 miles an hour toppled trees and power lines in Washington and the mid-Atlantic states. Blackouts affected more than 150,000 homes and businesses in Virginia, 150,000 customers in Maryland, 160,000 in Pennsylvania and 90,000 in New Jersey. Utility crews were working around the clock, but power companies were not certain when service might be restored.

"We are battling Mother Nature here," Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland said at a morning news conference in Baltimore. "Our main message is that no one with an ounce of common sense goes out on the roads today. We are going to be digging out of this for some days to come."

Maryland's major airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, was closed. No public transportation was operating in the state, and many of the major highways had only one lane plowed. Some 300 members of the Maryland National Guard were mobilized to cope with the storm.

Matthew Kramar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., ticked off some of the big regional snow totals, mostly in the higher elevations - 33 inches in Bayard, W. Va., and in Smith Crossroads in Morgan County, W. Va., 32 inches at Howellsville, Va., 29.5 at Frostburg, Md., 28.5 inches at Savage, Md., and 30.3 inches at Elkridge, Md., southwest of Baltimore.

At Union Station in Washington, Matthew Boucher, of Gorham, Me., was stranded. He was on his way to a construction job in South Carolina when the storm hit, and had waited nearly a day as train after train going south was canceled. "I don't have the money to go to a hotel, so I'm stuck here," he said.

Three New Jersey Counties - Atlantic, Camden and Ocean - banned all but emergency vehicles from the roadways as the snow piled up. Atlantic City's casinos were open, but the boardwalk was adrift in snow, and much of the city was shut down. Thousands of businesses across the region were closed for the weekend. Shoppers had mobbed grocery stores on Friday, picking shelves almost clean and stock up with supplies for the storm and munchies for the Super Bowl on Sunday in Miami. Some people were already calling it the Super Bowl storm of 2010.

Hundreds of churches across the region announced the cancellation of Sunday services. United States Postal Service operations were closed in Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

It was the second big storm of the season for Washington, coming less than two months after a Dec. 19 snowfall of 16 inches. Snows of that magnitude - not to mention two in one season - are rare in the nation's capital.

After the snow stopped falling Saturday afternoon, the skies turned blue in the remaining hours of daylight as the crowd in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of downtown Washington grew even larger with hundreds of people on hand. A giant snowball fight - with police cars and sport utility vehicles a common target - intensified.

But when a city police cruiser became lodged in the snow, the taunts and snowballs suddenly ended. "Push them out!" a man shouted and nearly a dozen people ran over to help get the police car on its way.

Young staffers from the administration and several from Capitol Hill were among the revelers who filled the streets when the snow ended and the calm before the cleanup began.

On the National Mall in Washington, cross-country skiers and children on sleds moved through the storm like ghosts, padded and muffled to the eyes. Sounds were distant and subdued. The trees were magical: dark limbed, looped and netted, with flourishes of white lace. And in the distance, the Capitol standing like a sentinel in the storm.

Reporting was contributed by Liz Robbins in New York; Scott Shane and Rebecca Corbett in Baltimore; Jeff Zeleny, Janie Lorber and Ron Nixon in Washington; Robert Strauss in Trenton, N.J.; and Lisa Bacon in Richmond, Va.

And then another storm came and dumped an additional 10 inches on all of us.

And now, as I head to the airport to fly to sunny California . . . another two days of snow is supposed to top things off with 4-6 more inches. The climate is certainly different HERE.

As mentioned in the NYT piece, a fascinating thing happened in Washington in the middle of the first storm -- they had a big snowball fight. Got organized in on FaceBook and Twitter in a matter of hours and an estimated 1000 showed up to battle each other. Nice video here. Wonder what else could be organized like this in the future.

The snow certainly provided a few good opportunities for book reading - since we couldn't get out to do much else. A couple of the four or five books that I'm working through bear mention.

One powerful little antique (or classic) from 1944 that a friend recommended is FEELINGS is the Secret, by Neville. Neville was apparently a well-known spiritualist and mystic around the time of my birth who wrote very clearly and compellingly about the process and technique of influencing your future and manifesting your desires. I was impressed with the clarity of this little 53 page book. If a bunch of people read this book and learned how to effectively internalize the processes that are presented here, they could literally change the world.

Solar Rain: The Earth Changes Have Begun by Mitch Battros, which I believe I mentioned earlier, makes a very compelling case for the sun (and events on the sun like coronal mass ejections) being the principal drivers of this planet's climate. It makes a lot of sense to me that this star, which has more effect on life here than anything else, would also influence our weather. The earth's magnetic field is deformed in the face of these huge mass ejections and the new magnetic patterns in turn effect the weather systems on the surface. It's a very interesting theoretical framework for both explaining and predicting climate and weather. Lot's of big ideas.

The book, by the way, was written in 2005 at which time Battros had already identified that the IPCC had cherry-picked and manipulated the data that they were using to suggest that the earth was warming.

Jeane Manning and Joel Garbon's BreakThrough Power: How quantum-leap new energy inventions can transform our world, probes the leading edge of what looks like an emerging energy revolution that could change how everything works. This revolution has been brewing for more than a decade now and I've seen enough real, hard examples of technology that have the potential to break through the over-unity barrier to continue to believe that a new energy world is inevitably coming our way. Books like this are always useful to me in that they survey a broad spectrum of what's out there, providing a more comprehensive picture of things.

And speaking about energy, my architect friend Stu Rose has written a new book about his experience in developing and building his extraordinary highly sustainable, zero net energy homes down in the Norfolk, Virginia area. Stu and Trina Duncan, his wife, are building a little subdivision of seven homes -- Garden Atriums -- that are all zero net energy buildings. These atrium structures produce all of the energy that they use over a period of a year and are the most delightful places that I know. They're like a little jungle inside. Stu's book, Sustainability, tells his story of building their highly sustainable community and then he dabbles with prognosticating a bit about the future.


Firm Brings Gene Tests to Masses
Digital Doomsday: The End of Knowledge
Who Owns Your DNA?
New Seastead Design

Firm Brings Gene Tests to Masses - (New York Times - January 28, 2010)
Silicon Valley start-up Counsyl is selling a test that it says can tell couples whether they are at risk of having children for 100 inherited diseases, including rare inherited diseases. Some genetic testing of prospective parents is done now, but only for a few diseases like cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs, and only for certain ethnic groups. Each test can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Counsyl's test costs $349 for an individual or $698 for a couple.

Digital Doomsday: The End of Knowledge - (New Scientist - February 6, 2010)
Even as we are acquiring ever more extraordinary knowledge, we are storing it in ever more fragile and ephemeral forms. If our civilization runs into trouble, like all others before it, how much would survive? Of course, in the event of a disaster big enough to wipe out all humans, such as a colossal asteroid strike, it would not really matter. But suppose, however, that something less cataclysmic occurs. The increasing complexity and interdependency of society is making civilization ever more vulnerable to such events. Whatever the cause, if the power were cut off to the banks of computers that now store much of humanity's knowledge, and people stopped looking after them and the buildings housing them, and factories ceased to churn out new chips and drives, how long would all our knowledge survive?

Who Owns Your DNA? - (Newsweek - February 4, 2010)
Ever since the first human gene was patented in 1982, there's been a near-universal "What??!!" when people hear that it's legal for someone to own the rights to our DNA. Blame the Constitution, which empowers Congress to give inventors "the exclusive right" to their discoveries;" the patent office, which interprets "discoveries" as including genes; and the courts, which have said similar patents "promote the progress of science". However, in the first lawsuit of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation of Cardozo School of Law argued last week in federal court in New York that patents on breast- and ovarian-cancer genes held by Myriad Genetics are unconstitutional because they restrict research and thus violate free speech.

New Seastead Design: The Gyre - (Al Fin - February 8, 2010)
Work in progress: initial design for a deep sea floating port. The Gyre is an upside-down skyscraper floating on the surface of the ocean. It is like an iceberg in that most of its mass is beneath the surface, but more stable than an iceberg since the underwater ballast will not melt. The Gyre is essentially an inverted underwater skyscraper, diving down to a depth of 400 m (1,312 ft) and would be about the same height as the Empire State Building. Four arms extend from the center spire (1.25 km in diameter) and act to buoy the structure as well as create a safe inner harbor and port large enough to accommodate the world's most titanic ships.


Our World May Be a Giant Hologram
Why Water Is So Weird

Our World May Be a Giant Hologram - (New Scientist - January 15, 2010)
According to Craig Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, an experimental procedure looking for gravitational waves (GEO600) has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan. "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram." The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

Why Water Is So Weird - (New Scientist - February 3, 2010)
Water's odd properties are vital to life. Despite that, no single theory had been able to satisfactorily explain its mysterious properties - until now. The controversial ideas expand on a theory proposed more than a century ago by Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of X-rays, who claimed that the molecules in liquid water pack together not in just one way, as today's textbooks would have it, but in two fundamentally different ways.


Mice Tail Turned into Brain Cells in Feat Possible for Humans
Brain Imaging Lets Vegetative Patient Communicate
Locked-in Man Controls Speech Synthesizer with Thought

Mice Tail Turned into Brain Cells in Feat Possible for Humans - (Bloomberg - January 27, 2010)
In just two weeks, 20% of the skin cells from the tails of mice had morphed into neurons able to form connections crucial to brain function. The Stanford University scientists who performed the feat said it should work with human tissue. The work provides a more efficient way to make neurons from the skin of people with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases than a method developed four years ago by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan. Yamanaka's breakthrough showed that skin cells from mice or humans could be made into stem cells and manipulated again to become any cell in the body. "That means reprogramming doesn't only go backward, but can occur in any direction," Wernig said in a Jan. 22 telephone interview. "If you extrapolate from this, you could probably turn any cell in your body into any other cell if you just know the right factors. A year ago, I would not really have believed this was possible."

Brain Imaging Lets Vegetative Patient Communicate - (Technology Review - February 4, 2010)
Some people thought to be in a vegetative state--a persistent lack of awareness following brain injury--may be more aware than previously thought, even able to communicate, according to new research. One patient in the study was able to correctly answer a series of yes or no questions, his responses interpreted via brain imaging. The research highlights how difficult it can be to diagnose people in this condition and how new technologies may be able to help. It also opens new avenues for communicating with those thought to be lost to the waking world, and raises a host of ethical and philosophical questions over the definition of consciousness and how to assess it.

Locked-in Man Controls Speech Synthesizer with Thought - (New Scientist - December 15, 2009)
A paralyzed man has "spoken" three different vowel sounds using a voice synthesiser controlled by an implant deep in his brain. If more sounds can be added to the repertoire of brain signals the implant can translate, such systems could revolutionize communication for people who are completely paralyzed. A brain implant, which requires invasive surgery, may sound drastic. But lifting signals directly from neurons may be the only way that locked-in people or those with advanced forms of ALS, a neurodegenerative disease, will ever be able to communicate quickly and naturally. Devices that rely on interpreting residual muscle activity, such as eye blinks, are no good for people who are completely paralyzed, while those that use brain signals captured by scalp electrodes are slow, allowing typing on a keyboard at a rate of one to two words per minute.


In Portland, Growing Vertical
Dry Cold
Ocean Acidification
6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World
Trend #6 for 2010

In Portland, Growing Vertical - (New York Times - January 30, 2010)
In Portland, OR, the federal government plans to plant its own bold garden directly above a downtown plaza. As part of a $133 million renovation, the General Services Administration is planning to cultivate "vegetated fins" that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons and nurtures plants that yield energy savings. "They will bloom in the spring and summer when you want the shade, and then they will go away in the winter when you want to let the light in," said Bob Peck, commissioner of public buildings for the G.S.A. Irrigation from rainwater, captured on the roof, and perhaps even "gray water" recycled from the interior plumbing are possibilities, the architects say. But they concede that they are still figuring out some of the finer points of renovating the Wyatt Federal Building, which was completed in 1975 and is currently 18 stories of concrete, glass and minimal inspiration.

Dry Cold - (Economist - February 1, 2010)
The lower stratosphere has, it seems, been drying out. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and the cooling effect on the Earth's climate due to this desiccation may account for a fair bit of the slowdown in the rise of global temperatures seen over the past ten years. Plugging the changes in water vapor into a climate model that looks at the way different substances absorb and emit infrared radiation, researchers conclude that between 2000 and 2009 a drop in stratospheric water vapor of less than one part per million slowed the rate of warming at the Earth's surface by about 25%.

Ocean Acidification - (Congressional Research Reports - July 2, 2009)
With increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the extent of effects on the ocean and marine resources is an increasing concern. One aspect of this issue is the ongoing process whereby seawater becomes acidified (i.e., ocean acidification) as more CO2 dissolves in it, causing hydrogen ion concentration in seawater to increase. Scientists are concerned that increasing hydrogen ion concentration could reduce growth or even cause death of shell-forming animals (e.g., corals, molluscs, and certain planktonic organisms) as well as disrupt marine food webs and the reproductive physiology of certain species.

6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World - (TED - May 8, 2008)
Mycologist Paul Stamets studies the mycelium and lists 6 ways that this astonishing fungus might help save the planet, such as cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides and treating smallpox.

Trend #6 for 2010 - (21st Century Waves - January 26, 2010)
Tucked among 10 Space Trends for 2010 is one in particular - #6 - that bears special notice. 2009 was the year that Global Warming politics showed significant decline in response to Climategate, new science results, and the public's rejection of this negative vision of the future. The Climategate scandal showed that most scientists - including those associated with the IPCC who didn't want to publicly admit it - agree that global warming ended in 1998, that temperatures have declined in recent years, and that global climate models based on CO2 effects cannot account for the current lack of warming, and thus cannot be scientifically used to forecast climate in future decades. The Climategate scientists also speak privately of manipulating temperature data sets to emphasize warming.


Best Seat in the House: You're Virtually There
U.S. Considers Internet Access for All
Malleable Maps, Artistic Robots and Bubble Interfaces

Best Seat in the House: You're Virtually There - (H Plus Magazine - (December 30, 2009)
Let's jump to about five years from now. The celestial jukebox, now realized through search engines specialized for streaming music, has dealt a fatal blow to conventional music sales. Like most other entertainment media, music is now in the business of creating social experiences, rather than leasing licenses on intellectual property. Music sales continue in the form of interactive multimedia album packages, but most of the action takes place at concerts. And concerts don't look like they used to. When I get to the theater I am half an hour late, but that's okay because my friends and I took a taxi and have been watching and listening through our glasses on the ride down. Our tickets - purchased and redeemed online - grant us access not only to the building, but also a secure server where other concertgoers are streaming live feeds from their own glasses.

U.S. Considers Internet Access for All - (Live Science - January 28, 2010)
In February, the United States will introduce a national program aimed at giving every American access to a fast Internet connection, raising the standard from a dial-up connection to broadband. the right to access the Internet might pale in comparison to other basic human rights, such as the right to life, freedom of expression and equality before the law, but the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights also includes the right to education and the right to work, which may hinge on Internet access. The United States is currently the only industrialized nation without a national policy for Internet access. Estonia, Greece, France and Finland have recognized Internet access as a basic human right in accordance with the United Nations recommendation.

Malleable Maps, Artistic Robots and Bubble Interfaces - (Technology Review - January 29, 2010)
At the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference, technologists and designers from around the world gathered to demonstrate projects exploring the blurring of physical and digital user interfaces. Check out some of the most interesting projects from the conference.


Robots Display Predator-Prey Co-Evolution, Evolve Better Homing Techniques - (Popular Science - December 28, 2009)
At the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland, evolving robots have learned how deceive other robots about the location of a resource. Since then, their robots have continued to evolve, learning how to navigate a maze, beginning to cooperate and share, and even developing complex predator-prey interactions. The Swiss scientists placed within the robot's operating system both basic instructions, and some random variations that changed every generation in virtual mutations. After each trial, the code for the more successful robots got passed on to the next generation, while the code for the less successful robots got bred out.


Scientists Grow Cheap Biodegradable Solar Using Tobacco
Microbes Produce Fuels Directly from Biomass
Can the Myth of Clean Coal Become a Reality?

Scientists Grow Cheap Biodegradable Solar Using Tobacco - (Tree Hugger - January 29, 2010)
Researchers at UC Berkeley have hacked tobacco plants to grow synthetic photovoltaic cells which can then be extracted and sprayed onto any substrate to create solar cells. The scientists tweaked a few genes within the tobacco mosaic virus to build tiny structures called chromophores. Once the plant is sprayed with the virus, the new chromophores will group into tightly coiled formations. Chromophores are structures that turn light into high powered electrons.

Microbes Produce Fuels Directly from Biomass - (Science Daily - January 31, 2010)
Researchers collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Using synthetic biology, the researchers engineered a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel and other important chemicals derived from fatty acids. "Given that the costs of recovering biodiesel are nowhere near the costs required to distill ethanol, we believe our results can significantly contribute to the ultimate goal of producing scalable and cost effective advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals."

Can the Myth of Clean Coal Become a Reality? - (Tri Cities - February 7, 2010)
In the past two years, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced $6.7 billion in funding initiatives for "clean coal" research projects. A step beyond scrubbing power plant emissions of harmful chemicals, the clean coal projects are aimed at removing carbon dioxide - a gas produced from the burning of fossil fuel and blamed in many scientific circles for global warming. Once the carbon dioxide is removed from power plant emissions, the goal is to inject it into the ground for permanent storage.


Liquid Glass - (Nanopool - no date)
"SiO2-ultra thin layering" is the technical term for Liquid Glass. If you visit certain hospitals in the UK you are touching it. If you see an unusually clean train you are probably looking at it, and if you wonder how your white settee looks so clean, you may be sitting on it. All of these surfaces have been coated with invisible glass. The flexible and breathable glass coating is approximately 100 nanometers thick (500 times thinner than a human hair), so it is completely undetectable. It is food safe, environmentally friendly (winner of the Green Apple Award) and it can be applied to almost any surface within seconds . When coated, all surfaces become easy to clean and anti- microbially protected (Winner of the NHS Smart Solutions Award ). Houses, cars, ovens, wedding dress or any other protected surface become stain resistant and can be easily cleaned with water. The coatings are now also recognized as being suitable for agricultural and in-vivo application. Vines coated with SiO2 don't suffer from mildew, and coated seeds grow more rapidly without the need for anti-fungal chemicals.


Cyber 'War' Costs Companies Millions per Day
China, US, Russia in Cyber Arms Race
US Matrix-style Cyberwar Firing Range

Cyber 'War' Costs Companies Millions per Day - (Business Journal - January 28, 2010)
A survey of 600 IT security executives worldwide showed that more than half have already suffered large scale attacks or stealthy infiltrations from organized crime gangs, terrorists or nation-states with an average estimated $6.3 million cost of downtime associated with a major incident. 55% believe that the laws in their country are inadequate in deterring potential cyberattacks with those based in Russia, Mexico and Brazil the most skeptical; 45% don't believe that the authorities are capable of preventing or deterring attacks.

China, US, Russia in Cyber Arms Race - (UFP - January 28, 2010)
China, the United States and Russia are among 20 countries locked in a cyberspace arms race and gearing up for possible Internet hostilities, according to the head of web security firm McAfee. Dave DeWalt, chief executive and president of the US firm said the traditional defensive stance of government computer infrastructures has shifted in recent years. "This movement from a defensive posture to a more offensive posture is just very obvious," he said. Pointing to the recent attack on Google, DeWalt noted that it illustrated a shift from espionage and attacks on government infrastructure to an offensive on structure that is "commercial in nature."

US Matrix-style Cyberwar Firing Range - (Register - January 12, 2010)
US plans to develop a virtual network world - to be populated by mirror computers and inhabited by myriad software sim-people "replicants", and used as a firing range in which to develop the art of cyber warfare - have moved ahead. It has been specified that the Range is to be able to simulate a cyber world on the same scale as the entire internet or the US military Global Information Grid. The Range's unprecedented tech is to be able to create simulated computers, nodes and other network entities of any type - if necessary duplicating a never-before-seen piece of kit "rapidly". Even more resemblance to a Matrix-esque artificial world is to be achieved with the provision in the Range of "replicants" representing human users, sysadmins and so forth, who will show fear and stress just as real humans do - reacting and changing their behavior as the frightful code pestilences, mutating malware plagues and other cybergeddon phenomena to be tested in the Range sweep through their universe.


Shadow Government Statistics - (ShadowStats - no date)
ShadowStats presents figures for unemployment, inflation, GDP etc. which it claims are based on reporting methodologies that used to be used by the US government but have been gradually changed (for whatever reason) since Reagan and particularly Clinton, with the effect that today's official figures make the US economy look much healthier than it really is. As regards joblessness, for example, it asserts that the real number experiencing distress because of un- and underemployment is over 20%, i.e. more than double the figure which grabs the headlines.


10 Space Trends for 2010
Hubble Sights Strange Spaceship-Shaped Object
   Traveling at 11,000 MPH

10 Space Trends for 2010 - (21st Century Waves - January 26, 2010)
The U.S. space program exists at the intersection of long-term trends in economics, geopolitics, and domestic politics, and thus the space trends for 2010 are best understood in the context of those for 2009 and previous years. Economically, 2010 will be a year of uncertainty, but long-term trends continue to show we're on schedule for a New Global Space Age starting near 2015.

Hubble Sights Strange Spaceship-Shaped Object Traveling at 11,000MPH - (Daily Galaxy - February 3, 2010)
First discovered on ground based LINEAR images on January 6, an odd X-shaped object appeared unusual enough to investigate further and call in the big guns last week - the Hubble Space Telescope. What Hubble saw indicates that P/2010 A2 is unlike any object ever seen before. Knowing that the object orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a preliminary hypothesis that appears to explain all of the known clues is that P/2010 A2 is the debris left over from a recent collision between two small asteroids. The orbit of P/2010 A2 is consistent with membership in the Flora asteroid family, produced by collisional shattering a few hundred million years ago. (One fragment of that ancient smashup may have struck Earth 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.) But, until now, no such asteroid-asteroid collision has been caught "in the act."


The World Clock
Five Myths about America's Credit Card Debt

The World Clock - (Poodwaddle - no date)
A website with constantly updating statistics on such things as population, environment, energy, illness, food production and more. See also the Earth Clock.

Five Myths about America's Credit Card Debt - (Washington Post - January 29, 2010)
They're yuppie food stamps. They give new meaning to the question "paper or plastic?" And they're in everyone's wallet. Americans have nearly 700 million all-purpose bank credit cards, plus nearly 500 million retail store cards - and they have transformed how we live and consume. Here are the myths that muddle our understanding of how we've racked up so much credit card debt.


Global Supply of Rare Earth Elements Could Be Wiped out by 2012
When Will the Recession End?
Bloggers Call It Like They See It
America as Texas vs. California, U-Haul Version

Global Supply of Rare Earth Elements Could Be Wiped out by 2012 - (Natural News - January 26, 2010)
The rare earth bubble is due to pop in 2012, potentially devastating the industries of western nations that depend on rare elements such as terbium, lanthanum and neodymium. 97% of the world's supply comes from mines in China, and China is prepared to simply stop exporting these strategic elements to the rest of the world by 2012. What industries would be impacted? The automobile industry uses tens of thousands of tons of rare earth elements each year, and advanced military technology depends on these elements, too. Lots of "green" technologies depend on them, including wind turbines, low-energy light bulbs and hybrid car batteries.

When Will the Recession End? (Smart Economy - January 30, 2010)
Well hidden, camouflaged government lies, revisions, over hype, paradoxes, deceptions and omissions may be creating a false image of economic prosperity and an illusion that "we're back to normal times." Take China-the fastest growing economy in the world...well maybe? There are serious questions about the accuracy of Chinese GDP growth number. On the other hand, the Chinese consumer market is the largest in the world. And it is under-provided. Chinese consumers have historically not been prominent players in the global economy because of their relatively lack of wealth.However, this is changing rapidly.

Bloggers Call It Like They See It - (Public Radio - February 2, 2010)
About 80 econ bloggers were surveyed. About half of bloggers said economic conditions were worse than official statistics indicated. Only 6% said they were better. 33% said the economy was weak, seven % said it was strong. The remainder said it was mixed. When asked what the government should be doing, the only policies with more than 50% support were: increase high-skill immigration and increase legal immigration at all skill levels. Two policies stood out sharply with near-unanimous opposition: increasing business regulation and raising barriers to international trade.

America as Texas vs. California, U-Haul Version - (Enterprise Blog - January 8, 2010)
The article offers two measures of economic performance that can be used to compare our two most populous states, unemployment statistics and U-Haul rates. Bottom Line: According to the jobless rates over the last three years, the Texas economy has clearly been out-performing both the rest of the country and California's economy. People vote with their feet and will move away from high-cost, high-tax states with high unemployment rates to states with better job prospects and more favorable economic conditions; one-way U-Haul rates capture these migration patterns. Here is an examples from U-Haul of its current one-way rental rates for a 26-foot truck: From Dallas to San Francisco: $734. From San Francisco to Dallas: $2,116


Vacation on Mars: Antarctica's Dry Valleys
Shocking Climate Scandal Finally Revealed
Bottlenose Dolphins Mud-ring Feeding

Vacation on Mars: Antarctica's Dry Valleys - (Mental Floss - no date)
Most of Antarctica has about 2 1/2 miles of ice covering it, and that cold, white wasteland is what most people picture when they think of the South Pole. But a series of dry valleys in Antarctica, about 4,000 kilometers square, have no ice on them at all. The moisture is sucked from the dry valleys by a rain shadow effect - winds rushing over them at speeds up to 200/mph - leaving a bizarre landscape, which looks more like Mars than the rest of our planet. These photos, by scientists and researchers who've been there, are fascinating.

Shocking Climate Scandal Finally Revealed - (Al Fin - February 8, 2010)
Hackers have broken into the US Postal Service email servers to discover a shocking conspiracy to cover up the real cause of climate change: inflation in US Postal charges over the past 100 years. Yes, that's right: postal charges!

Bottlenose Dolphins Mud-ring Feeding - (You Tube - October 29, 2009)
One pod of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Florida have developed a remarkable hunting strategy in order to catch fish. More surprising still: only one female in the pod understands how to create the "mud-ring" that startles their prey into fleeing - right into the dolphins' mouths.


"The only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen furthest into it." -- E. J. Hobsbawm, British historian

A special thanks to: Matthew Budny, Bernard Calil, Kevin Clark, Walter Derzko, Ursula Freer, Susan Marx, Jeanne Mozier, Diane Petersen, Mark Rossiter, Carol Schwartz, Sonia Tarrish, Eric Tucker, Steve Ujvarosy, Fred Wood and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.


Edited by John L. Petersen

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