FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- “Big data,” as it has been dubbed by researchers, has become so valuable that the World Economic Forum, in a report published last year, deemed it a new class of economic asset, like oil.
- Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? Here’s a TED presentation that suggests that possibility.
- What if there were a pill that would make you feel motivated to exercise? A new research report suggests that it might be possible.
- A new tissue which reinforces human skin cells with spider silk can stop a bullet without being pierced (within some parameters).
by John L. Petersen
The Emergence of a New Human Being
For some time now I have been suggesting that we are in the middle of an extraordinary global shift that has unprecedented implications. Significant earth changes and human biological changes seem inevitably to be driving us toward the emergence of a new human and a new world.
There have been a number of indications in the past that have pointed me specifically toward these possibilities, but in the last week I have become aware of an extraordinary TED Talk that makes the case for the evolution of a new human species in rather profound terms. This is one of the most important talks that I’ve ever heard.
First, let me tell you about Juan Enriquez. This is a substantive guy. A bestselling author, businessman, and academic, he is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on the economic and political impacts of life sciences. He is currently Chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy LLC, a life sciences research and investment firm. He was the Founding Director of the Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project, and author of the global bestseller As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. (Selected by Amazon's editors as one of the best business books of the year).
In Will our kids be a different species?, Enriquez describes the different converging indications that show suggest that our human DNA may be changing such that our children may be (or, I’d say, are) becoming a different species. Please watch this talk.
One of the folks who alerted me to this amazing talk was an FE reader who sent the following note:
As a long time reader of the FUTUREdition I tend to separate hard science from the more esoteric forms of information, like Kryon. Yesterday I received your latest email and felt compelled to find out what Kryon was about. Rather than listen to the latest recordings I went back through the archives and decided on a 2008 recording.
In that recording he spoke of a DNA change that was afoot driven by the universe and man himself manifesting the change somewhat in a evolutionary way. As I listened the ugly skeptic in me reared its ugly head and I said to myself, “easy to say hard to prove”.
Last night I watched a presentation on TED that blew me away and I'm curious if you draw the same comparisons and parallels?
Let me know your thoughts.
In the last issue of FE I wrote:
Lately, KRYON has been describing the functioning of DNA and how humans are evolving into a new version of the species. It is a message that is quite encouraging.
So, yes, as a matter of fact, the parallels are rather extraordinary, but these are the kinds of things that Kryon has been saying for almost 20 years – related to a variety of disciplines.
For years now, for example, KRYON has been saying that the climate change that we are experiencing is the beginning of a shift that is going to turn rather rapidly into a global cooling that will bring a lengthy period that will be described as a mini ice age. He says that this is a natural, cyclical shift that is predictable and is called a water cycle . . . and that human industrial activity is not influencing this and that the present erratic weather are the oscillations before the system shifts.
That is certainly one way to make sense out of the extraordinarily cold February European weather that killed led to the deaths of 650 people and the warmest North American spring in history happening coincidently.
Our climate change is being driven by changes in the sun, which, in turn is influencing climactic and environmental shifts on all of the other planets in our solar system. As I write this, an unusually large solar storm is sending huge amounts of magnetic energy toward the earth – the latest of an increasing number of a series of coronal mass ejections.
Fortunately for us, Kryon and Lee Carroll who communicates Kryon’s messages, are coming to Berkeley Springs in two weeks. They’ll be here on Saturday the 30th of June from about noon until 6:00 PM. Lee always gives a provocative and very informative and enlightening seminar which is followed by a Kryon channeling.
With the big changes that are taking place around the world increasing in number and size, the 30th of June will be a particularly special time to have Kryon with us. I’m looking forward to hearing both Lee’s and Kryon’s take on what we all are (and may be) experiencing.
We’d love to have you join us. We’re meeting at the historic Star Theatre in the middle of town in what will certainly be a memorable afternoon. You can find additional information here. Do come if you can.
Up Next: App-enabled Bike Sharing – (Yahoo – June 1, 2012)
Ryan Rzepecki’s love of biking led him to borrow the Huffy. It’s also led him on a mission to change the bike-sharing model. Taking advantage of new social and mobile technology and cheaper startup costs, Rzepecki believes he’s hit the target. His new company, Social Bicycles, also called SoBi, will launch a pilot program “at the end of the summer” in Buffalo and two unnamed West Coast cities soon after, Rzepecki says. “I looked at the model in Europe, where there are big docking stations and kiosks,” said Rzepecki. “It’s very expensive. I thought, what if they have smart bikes rather than smart bike racks?” It is that idea of a smart bike – and a mobile app to connect all those bikes – that is at the heart of Social Bicycles. Once you subscribe to the service, the app will tell where the closest sharable bike is and will allow you to reserve it. Once you get to the bike, the app provides a confirmation pin to release the custom bike-immobilizing lock, allowing you to get on your way. The lock contains the bike’s GPS unit, which tracks your ride and makes sure the next subscriber can find and reserve the bike once you’re done. SoBi isn’t alone in trying to reinvent the local transit-sharing model. Scoot Networks, for example, wants to do for scooters what Zipcar has done for cars, hoping to launch in the San Francisco area this year. Another Bay area company, Local Motion, aims to leverage enhanced golf carts to do the same. Paired with the smart bike technology that SoBi has created, Rzepecki says he can see any number of models working.
‘Big Data’ from Social Media, Elsewhere Online Redefines Trend-watching – (Washington Post – June 6, 2012)
The explosion in the use of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other services has resulted in the generation of some 2.5 quintillion bytes each day, according to IBM. “Big data,” as it has been dubbed by researchers, has become so valuable that the World Economic Forum, in a report published last year, deemed it a new class of economic asset, like oil. “This is changing the world in a big way. It enables us to watch changes in society in real time and make decisions in a way we haven’t been able to ever before,” said Gary King, a social science professor at Harvard University and a co-founder of Crimson Hexagon, a data analysis firm based in Boston. The Obama campaign employs rows of people manning computers that monitor Twitter sentiment about the candidates in key states. Google scientists are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the spread of flu around the world by analyzing what people are typing in to search. And the United Nations is measuring inflation through computers that analyze the price of bread advertised in online supermarkets across Latin America. And nowhere has big data been as transformative as it has been in finance.
Will Our Kids Be a Different Species? – (TED – June, 2012)
Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? In this TED talk, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment—and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way. Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about profound changes that genomics will bring in business, technology, and society. His TED Book, Homo Evolutis, explores those changes. Enriquez was the founding director of the Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project, has published widely on topics from the technical (global nucleotide data flow) to the sociological (gene research and national competitiveness), and was a member of Celera Genomics founder Craig Venter's marine-based team to collect genetic data from the world's oceans.
Do Plants Think? – (Scientific American – June 5, 2012)
How aware are plants? This is the central question behind a fascinating new book, What a Plant Knows, by Daniel Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University. A plant, he argues, can see, smell and feel. It can mount a defense when under siege, and warn its neighbors of trouble on the way. A plant can even be said to have a memory. “People have to realize that plants are complex organisms that live rich, sensual lives…. If we realize that all of plant biology arises from the evolutionary constriction of the “rootedness” that keep plants immobile, then we can start to appreciate the very sophisticated biology going on in leaves and flowers. If you think about it, rootedness is a huge evolutionary constraint. It means that plants can’t escape a bad environment, can’t migrate in the search of food or a mate. So plants had to develop incredibly sensitive and complex sensory mechanisms that would let them survive in ever changing environments.”
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Paralyzed Rats Walk Again in Swiss Study – (Washington Post – May 31, 2012)
Gregoire Courtine and his team at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne saw rats with severe paralysis walking and running again, after a combination of electrical and chemical stimulation of the spinal cord together with robotic support. “Our rats are not only voluntarily initiating a walking gait, but they are soon sprinting, climbing up stairs and avoiding obstacles,” said Courtine, whose results from the five-year study will be published in the journal Science on Friday. Courtine is quick to point out that it remains unclear whether a similar technique could help people with spinal cord damage. But he adds the technique does hint at new ways of treating paralysis. Other scientists agree.
Children with Older Fathers and Grandfathers Live Longer – (BBC News – June 11, 2012)
Delaying fatherhood may offer survival advantages, say US scientists who have found children with older fathers and grandfathers appear to be "genetically programmed" to live longer. The genetic make-up of sperm changes as a man ages and develops DNA code that favors a longer life - a trait he then passes to his children. Experts have known for some time that lifespan is linked to the length of structures known as telomeres that sit at the end of the chromosomes that house our genetic code, DNA. Generally, a shorter telomere length means a shorter life expectancy. However, scientists have discovered that in sperm, telomeres lengthen with age. And since men pass on their DNA to their children via sperm, these long telomeres can be inherited by the next generation. But it is also possible that the advantage of receiving long telomeres from an old father may be more than offset by the disadvantage of higher levels of general DNA damage and mutations in sperm. No research has yet been conducted to support either possibility.
Don’t Feel Like Exercise? Scientists Find a Compound That May Help You Workout Harder – (EurekAlert – May 12, 2012)
As science rushes to develop safe weight loss drugs, a new research report approaches this problem from an entirely new angle: What if there were a pill that would make you want to exercise harder? A new research report suggests that it might be possible. A team of Swiss researchers has found that when a hormone in the brain, erythropoietin (Epo), was elevated in mice, they were more motivated to exercise. In addition, the form of erythropoietin used in these experiments did not elevate red blood cell counts. Such a treatment has obvious benefits for a wide range of health problems ranging from Alzheimer's to obesity, including mental health disorders for which increased physical activity is known to improve symptoms. "If you can't put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the online journal in which the study was published.
Pentagon’s Prosthetic Plan: Tap Spinal Fluid to Fuel Prostheses – (Wired – June 13, 2012)
The prostheses of the future will be powered by spinal fluid. At least that’s the idea of one group of MIT researchers, who are working with Pentagon funding to create fluid, lifelike, neurally mediated prosthetic limbs. They’ve already designed the brain-implant portion of such a prosthetic, which is meant to interface with the brain’s neurons and communicate those signals to the artificial limb. Now they’ve come up with novel new fuel cells to power that implant … by squeezing energy out of the patient’s own spinal fluid. The energy is glucose. Cerebrospinal fluid, found in the spinal canal and certain brain regions and used by the body to protect neural tissues, is actually a particularly rich source. It’s also a savvy spot to implant a foreign object, in this case a fuel cell that powers a brain implant. Because cerebrospinal fluid contains few immune cells, it’s less likely than other regions of the body to reject an invading entity. The fluid is also low in proteins, which, in other regions of the body, threaten to trigger biofouling — a process whereby proteins stick to an implant, causing infections and rejection.
Could the Radiation Found in Bluefin Tuna Help Save Them? – (Forbes – May 31, 2012)
It sounds counterintuitive, but the radiation in the tuna may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the species. Bluefin tuna, found in the Atlantic and northern and southern Pacific, are among the most imperiled fish species on the planet. The Atlantic Bluefin population has dwindled by as much as 80% since the 1970s, mainly because of overfishing. (Southern Pacific Bluefin are also in peril.) All species Bluefin are among the most prized table fish on the globe, especially among sushi aficionados who pay up to $24 for one single piece of the fish. Last year, the U.S. government petitioned to protect the Atlantic Bluefin. But the effort was blocked by Japan, where much of the world’s Bluefin end up at market. If the governments can’t help, maybe bad publicity will.
Pacific Ocean Will Not Dilute Dumped Radioactive Water – (Global Research – June 1, 2012)
The University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center predicts that: “In three years, the [tsunami debris] plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska, and Baja California. The debris will then drift into the famous North Pacific Garbage Patch, where it will wander around and break into smaller and smaller pieces. In five years, Hawaii shores can expect to see another barrage of debris that is stronger and longer lasting than the first one. Much of the debris leaving the North Pacific Garbage Patch ends up on Hawaii’s reefs and beaches.” The debris mass, which appears as an island from the air, contains cars, trucks, tractors, boats and entire houses floating in the current heading toward the U.S. and Canada, according to ABC News. The bulk of the debris will likely not be radioactive, as it was presumably washed out to sea during the initial tsunami – before much radioactivity had leaked. An animated graphic (embedded in the article) from the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center shows the projected dispersion of debris from Japan over time.
Scientists Uncover Evidence of Impending Tipping Point for Earth – (UC Berkeley – June 6, 2012)
A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation. “It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the UC, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”
Pollutant Turns Fly-traps Veggie – (BBC News – June 14, 2012)
Predator plants may cut back on flies if they can access key nutrients elsewhere, according to research. Scientists studying carnivorous sundew plants in Swedish bogs found that nitrogen deposition from rain reduced how many insects the plants trapped. Pollution from transport and industry causes nitrogen-rich rain, meaning more reaches the ground in some areas. "If there's plenty of nitrogen available to their roots, they don't eat as much" says Dr Jonathan Millett. Plants living in lightly polluted areas got 57% of their nitrogen from their prey. In more heavily polluted areas that figure dropped to between 20% and 30%. But carnivorous plants actually benefit from nutrient-poor environments, because they have less competition from other plants. In a nitrogen-rich(er) environment, they may be at a disadvantage relative to non-carnivorous plants.
Use Their App, Keep Your Data – (Technology Review – June 11, 2012)
Have you noticed that many apps need access to your contact lists, browser history, location, and other personal data? As part of a fight back against this data-gobbling trend, a Bulgarian software developer has rewritten the Android operating system so that it gives apps bogus data.Under the radical rebuild of the mobile operating system, you still click to grant apps permission to access your data, but the apps don't get the real stuff. For bookmarks, it provides default ones that came with the device (such as www.google.com). For logs—which can store all sorts of data—and phone contacts, it simply returns empty ones.
Newspapers Cut Days from Publishing Week – (New York Times – June 3, 2012)
The news waits for no one. But newspapers might start asking readers to — at least for print copies. John Paton, chief executive officer of Digital First Media, which operates 75 daily newspapers, said he would consider reducing his print schedule when there was enough digital advertising to support it. Newspaper executives argue that printing and delivering newspapers only on certain days will sharply cut costs while at least preserving some of the paper advertising, which remains far more lucrative than digital ads. Harold Vogel, a media analyst, estimated that costs like ink, printing and delivery, make up at least 30% of total costs for the paper.
Flexible Glass in Consumer Electronics by 2013 – (Bloomberg – June 4, 2012)
Corning has released samples of flexible glass to makers of phones, tablets and televisions. The glass, which can be wrapped around a device or structure, can be manufactured in a roll, similar to how newsprint is produced, and will support thinner displays, Corning Chief Financial Officer James Flaws said. “We’re hopeful that by 2013, just a short 7 months away, it’ll be available in consumer products. There’s a revolution coming in new types of displays -- displays will be more conformable.”
Nuclear, Coal Power Face Climate Change Risk – (Reuters – June 4, 2012)
Based on projections of rising temperatures and lower river levels in summer and how these impacts would affect power plants dependent on river water for cooling, a team of European and US scientists predict that coal and nuclear power generating capacity between 2031 and 2060 will decrease by from 4-16% in the United States and from 6-19% in Europe due to lack of cooling water. Disruptions to power supplies were already occurring, the authors noted. During warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several power plants in Europe cut production because of restricted availability of cooling water, driving up power prices. A similar event in 2007-2008 in the United States caused several power plants to reduce production, or shut down for several days because of a lack of water for cooling and environmental restrictions on warm water discharges back into rivers, the study said. Adaptation strategies include placing new plants near the sea or building more gas-fired power plants, which are more efficient and use less water.
The Gas Station of the Future Just Opened – (Business Week – June 5, 2012)
Last month, Propel Fuels opened the country’s first station where drivers can pump gasoline, ethanol, and biodiesel, cyclists can get tune-ups, and commuters can find public transit schedules. Backed by more than $19 million in venture capital and nearly $12 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission, the 23-person Redwood City (Calif.) startup received yesterday an additional, $10.1 million grant from the commission to help build 100 stations around the state in the next four years. With its alternative-fuel pumps at about two dozen other stations, Propel is laying the foundation for what the 37-year-old Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, calls the “slow, but exciting” transformation of the U.S. automotive industry.
Israeli Company Designs Aluminum-powered Car Engine – (Fox News – June 7, 2012)
Lightweight aluminum is a popular material in car manufacturing these days as automakers strive for unheard of levels of fuel efficiency. But could it be used as a fuel itself? That’s the idea being proposed by an Israeli company called Alchemy Research. The startup says it has developed a reactor that that combines aluminum and water to create hydrogen, which is then used to generate electricity in a fuel cell or burned to create steam and run a turbine.
FAA Clears Virgin Galactic Spaceship for Test Flights – (Reuters – May 31, 2012)
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has cleared SpaceShipTwo, a commercial six-passenger spacecraft owned by Virgin Galactic, to begin rocket-powered suborbital test flights, according to the company. SpaceShipTwo manufacturer Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, received a one-year experimental launch permit on May 23 for test flights beyond the atmosphere, FAA spokesman Hank Price said. The six-passenger, two-pilot spacecraft is based on the prototype SpaceShipOne, also built by Scaled, which clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 for the first privately funded human spaceflights.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
We Will Rue Stuxnet’s Cavalier Deployment – (Financial Times – June 6, 2012)
An arms race in cyberspace is a distinct reality. The existence of the Flame malware shocked computer security specialists. The fact that Flame has been going about its business for several years without anybody having noticed it means that millions of dollars must have been invested in creating the virus to ensure it remained undetected. In a second development, three days after the news about Flame, the White House revealed that the US had been behind the development and deployment of Flame’s most notorious predecessor, Stuxnet, which targeted Natanz, Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The American admission will act as a starting gun: countries around the world can now argue that it is legitimate to use malware pre-emptively against their enemies. The pre-emptive act against Iran sets an ugly precedent. There is no legal framework restraining intelligence agencies or the military from investing in and then testing these weapons. The implications are grave. Recently, for example, Bavarian police unwittingly allowed some specialist surveillance software to slip on to the web. The program was so intrusive that Germany’s highest court had deemed it unconstitutional. It was almost immediately spotted and copied by Europe’s oldest hacking group, the Chaos Computer Club, a relatively benign organization. But there is no knowing who else has picked up the software or even started using it. See also: Germany has confirmed that its military maintains an operational cyberwarfare unit with offensive capabilities. Prof. Dr. Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, a professor of law at European University Viadrina Frankfurt in Germany, said that “the armed forces of many nations are probably building up an offensive cyber capability. The only difference is that Germany and (also recently) the Obama administration in the US are publicly talking about it.” He added that “cyber-espionage activities are not prohibited by codes of international law but only national criminal laws.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
64 Drone Bases on American Soil – (Wired – June 11, 2012)
There are 64 drone bases on American soil. That includes 12 locations housing Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, which can be armed. Public Intelligence, a non-profit that advocates for free access to information, released a map of military UAV activities in the United States. Assembled from military sources—especially this little-known June 2011 Air Force presentation (.pdf)—it is arguably the most comprehensive map so far of the spread of the Pentagon’s unmanned fleet. What exact missions are performed at those locations is not clear. Some bases might be used as remote cockpits to control the robotic aircraft overseas, some for drone pilot training. Others may also serve as imagery analysis depots. This new map comes almost two months after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) revealed another one, this time of public agencies – including police departments and universities – that have a permit issued by the Federal Aviation Agency to use UAVs in American airspace. Trevor Timm, an EFF activist, when asked about the new map, said, “It’s clear that the drone industry is expanding rapidly and this map is just another example of that.”
Why Working-class People Vote Conservative – (Guardian – June 5, 2012)
Across the world, blue-collar voters ally themselves with the political right – even when it appears to be against their own interests. But why on Earth would a working-class person ever vote for a conservative candidate? Isn't the Republican party the party of big business? Don't the Democrats stand up for the little guy, and try to redistribute the wealth downwards? Here's a painful but ultimately constructive diagnosis: politics at the national level is more like religion than it is like shopping. It's more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. Moral visions such as patriotism, social order, strong families, personal responsibility (not government safety nets) and free enterprise. Those are values, not government programs.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Last Moment Robot: 'End of Life Detected' – (CNET – June 5, 2012)
Imagine drawing your final breath in the sole company of a talking machine: "I am the Last Moment Robot. I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on Earth. I am sorry that your family and friends can't be with you right now, but don't be afraid. I am here to comfort you. You are not alone, you are with me. Your family and friends love you very much, they will remember you after you are gone.” Jarred by the notion of someone dying in the company of a machine instead of loved ones (or at least other humans)? That's partly the point. Dan Chen, an artist, designer, and engineer, built the machine as one of a series of functional robots capable of reenacting human social behaviors. But just how much can a machine impart comfort and security? It's a fascinating, complex question, and one Chen explores in his master's thesis titled "File > Save As > Intimacy" (PDF ), a study of interactions based on what he calls robotic intimacy technology (RIT). Among Chen's hand-built RIT creations are a hugging robot that uses a proximity sensor to detect incoming objects and then wrap its arm around them; a purring machine that produces low-frequency vibrations that can be felt through the body when held to the chest; and Okay Therapist, a little box that provides customized words of comfort in the event of depression or uncertainty.
Mind-reading Robot Teachers Keep Students Focused – (New Scientist – May 29, 2012)
We all remember dozing off during a boring class at school. A robotic teacher that monitors students' attention levels and mimics the techniques human teachers use to hold their pupils' attention promises to end the snoozing, especially for students who have their lessons online. Tests indicate the robot can boost how much students remember from their lessons. Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir at the University of Wisconsin-Madison programmed a Wakamaru humanoid robot to tell students a story in a one-on-one situation and then tested them afterwards to see how much they had remembered. Engagement levels were monitored using a $200 EEG sensor to monitor the FP1 area of the brain, which manages learning and concentration. When a significant decrease in certain brain signals indicated that the student's attention level had fallen, the system sent a signal to the robot to trigger a cue.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Light of Stars – (NASA – May 8, 2012)
Time lapse videos of the sky can be spectacular when they last long enough for stars, planets, aurora, and clouds to appear to move in just a few seconds. Here, astrovideographer Daniel López has used sliders and motorized cranes to move the imaging cameras themselves, creating a three-dimensional sense of depth. The video sequences were taken from Tenerife on the Canary Islands of Spain, and show scenes including sunset shadows approaching Observatorio del Teide, the Milky Way shifting as the sky rotates, bright planets Venus and trailing Jupiter setting, a reddened Moon rising through differing layers of atmospheric refraction, the MAGIC gamma-ray telescopes slewing to observe a new source, and unusual foreground objects including conic Echium wildpretii plants, unusual rock formations, and a spider moving about its web.
How Bad Is It? – (New Inquiry – May 26, 2012)
'During the last third of the twentieth century,” according to Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, 'all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.” Tens of thousands of community groups – church social and charitable groups, union halls, civic clubs, bridge clubs, and yes, bowling leagues - disappeared; by Putnam’s estimate, one-third of our social infrastructure vanished in these years. Frequency of having friends to dinner dropped by 45%; card parties declined 50%; Americans’ declared readiness to make new friends declined by 30%. Belief that most other people could be trusted dropped from 77% to 37%. Over a five-year period in the 1990s, reported incidents of aggressive driving rose by 50% - admittedly an odd, but probably not an insignificant, indicator of declining social capital. In Spenglerian fashion, Morris Berman (author of Why America Failed (2011)), seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animating Geist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. (Editor’s note: Going well beyond statistics, this essay is worth the reader’s time.)
Key Architect of the Religious Right Warns of Christian Jihad – (Daily Kos – May 31, 2012)
Colonel V. Doner is hardly a household name. (Note: "Colonel" is his name, not a title.) But in the creation of the modern, politicized Christian right, Doner can claim a surprising number of firsts - he created the first "Congressional Report Card" to tell evangelicals how exactly they should vote. He played a major role in mobilizing evangelicals to elect Ronald Reagan, in 1980. As he describes in his new book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalism and the Polarization of America, Doner also pioneered the use of "wedge issues", such as gay-bashing, as a political tactic to help get conservatives elected. But, says Doner, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were a wake up call. Over the course of the next decade, Doner came to question basic tenets of fundamentalism underlying his worldview, and the worldview of the movement he'd helped create - the notion that humans could possibly have the one, "correct" interpretation of scripture, then the claim that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God. Doner describes his train of questioning: "I began to ask myself a basic question: just how was it that we were privy to God's objective truth and everybody else was so pitifully subjective or just plain wrong?"
Along the way, along this process of intellectual self-examination, Doner says he was reborn - as a "post-conservative", "post-fundamentalist", postmodern Christian.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Bullet-proof Skin – (New Scientist – January, 2012)
A new tissue designed by artist Jalila Essaïdi, which reinforces human skin cells with spider silk, can stop a whizzing projectile without being pierced. Although its threads may look fragile, a spider-silk weave is four times stronger than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests. In an attached video clip, the bioengineered skin cushions a bullet fired at half speed. But its resistance has its limits: when shot at a full speed of 329 m/s, the bullet pierces the material and travels through it. An international team worked together to create the new material. First, transgenic goats and silkworms equipped to produce spider-silk proteins spun out the raw material in the synthetic biology lab at Utah State University. The cocoons were then shipped to South Korea, where they were reeled into thread, before being woven into fabric in Germany. The modified silk was then wedged between bioengineered skin cells developed by biochemist Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. After five weeks of incubation, the hybrid skin was ready for target practice. Spider silk is already being developed by other teams for high-tech applications, which range from artificial corneas to brain implants.
Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Save the World – (New York Times – May 30, 2012)
In the menagerie of Craig Venter’s imagination, tiny bugs will save the world. They will be custom bugs, designer bugs. There will be bugs to fight global warming, bugs to clean up toxic waste, bugs to manufacture medicine and diagnose disease, and they will all be driven to complete these tasks by the very fibers of their synthetic DNA. What’s rare about Venter is that the clarity he finds when he is hurtling through the sea and the sky, the dreams he summons, and the fantasies he concocts in his most unhinged moments of excess actually have a way of coming true.
Banks Eye Intangibles as Collateral – (Financial Times – June 12, 2012)
Here is another sign post along the road of the increasing de-materialization of value: Several US banks want to tap the value of the intellectual property holdings of their borrowers as a way of trimming their capital requirements, which are to be made tougher under Basel III rules. The banks seek deals in which an insurer agrees to buy a borrower’s intellectual property – anything from a mobile phone patent to a logo or recipe – for a fixed price in case of default. That price could then be counted against the expected losses, in the same way the expected proceeds from a credit default swap can be used today. The structure was given a boost by last year’s Nortel bankruptcy, where sale of the group’s wireless patents generated more than $4.5bn, five times the price originally offered by Google.
Auto Insurance Enters the ‘Pay per View’ Era – (Wall St. Journal – June 12, 2012)
A warning to motorists who take speed limits as suggestions, screech around tight turns or favor extra-long road trips: You might not like where the auto-insurance industry is heading. Insurers are accelerating efforts to tap into the systems that enable a car to communicate with satellites and mobile data networks, and use information about how you drive to set your rates. The companies say that basing your premiums on how and how much you drive—a concept known as user-based insurance or "pay-as-you-drive" insurance—will allow them to accurately target discounts at careful drivers, and charge more spirited customers an appropriately higher amount.
Wild Elephants Gather Inexplicably, Mourn Death of "Elephant Whisperer" – (Delight Makers – May 14, 2012)
Author and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony died March 2. His family tells of a solemn procession that defies human explanation. For 12 hours, two separate herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives. The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.” For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died?
Caroline Casey: Looking Past Limits – (TED – April, 2011)
Activist Caroline Casey tells the story of her extraordinary life, starting with a revelation (no spoilers). In a talk that challenges perceptions, Casey asks us all to move beyond the limits we may think we have. Casey has dedicated the past decade of her life to changing how global society views people with disabilities. In 2000, she rode 1,000 kilometers across India on an elephant named Kanchi and raised enough money so that 6,000 people could have cataract operations. Then, as founding CEO of Kanchi (named after her elephant, "because disability is like the elephant in the room") in Dublin, she developed a set of best practices (based on ISO 9000 quality standards) for businesses, to help them see "disabled" workers as an asset as opposed to a liability. Hundreds of companies have adopted the standards, changing their policies and attitudes.
Is This One Direction in the Future of Dance? – (Hulu – May 25, 2012)
Dancer, Hampton Williams, demonstrates what he calls “exorcist style” dance in which he states that he interprets the pain and fear of others and then releases it. Based on the responses of the audience, his claim of being able to effect catharsis bears serious consideration.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
In Tree Rings, Japanese Scientists Find 8th-century Mystery – (Yahoo – June 5, 20120
In the late eighth century, Earth was hit by a mystery blast of cosmic rays, according to a Japanese study that found a relic of the powerful event in cedar trees. Analysis of two ancient trees found a surge in carbon-14—a carbon isotope that derives from cosmic radiation—which occurred just in AD 774 and AD 775. A team led by Fusa Miyake of Nagoya University found that levels of carbon-14 in the two cedars were about 1.2% higher in 774 and 775 compared to other years. This may not sound much, but in relation to background concentrations of carbon-14, the difference is huge. "With our present knowledge, we cannot specify the cause of this event," Miyake admits. "However, we can say that an extremely energetic event occurred around our space environment in AD 775 -- (but) neither a solar flare nor a local supernova is likely to have been responsible."
Will Anonymous ‘Leak It All’? – (Personal Liberty – June 6, 2012)
The global “hacktivist” syndicate Anonymous wants people all over the world to expose evidence of corruption and injustice by leaking documents to which they have access. In a recently posted video, the group urges anyone who has access to evidence of corporate or government wrongdoing to purchase a USB drive and document the evidence for publication on the Internet. The initiative, dubbed Project Mayhem 2012, will take place over the 10-day period from Dec. 12 to Dec. 21, during which the video claims “the World will see an unprecedented amount of Corporate, Financial, Military and State leaks that will have been secretly gathered by millions of conscientious citizens, vigilantes, whistle blowers and insiders worldwide.”
LSD & ESP: Scientists Study Psychic Phenomena and Psychedelic Drugs – (Santa Cruz Patch – June 9, 2012)
Few people are aware that there have been numerous, carefully-controlled scientific experiments with telepathy, psychokinesis, remote viewing, and other types of psychic phenomena, which have consistently produced compelling, statistically-significant results that conventional science is at a loss to explain. It’s also interesting to note that many people have reported experiencing meaningful psychic experiences with psychedelic drugs--not to mention a wide range of paranormal events and synchronicities, which seem extremely difficult to explain by means of conventional reasoning. For example, according to psychologist Jean Millay, in 1997, students at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands did research to establish whether or not the use of psilocybin could influence remote viewing. This was a small experiment, with only 12 test-subjects, but the results of the study indicated that those subjects who were under the influence of psilocybin achieved a success rate of 58.3%, which was statistically significant. It is especially common for people to report experiences with telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, remote viewing, and psychokinesis while using ayahuasca, the potent hallucinogenic jungle juice from the Amazon.
JUST FOR FUN
Pendulum Waves – (Harvard University – June 9, 2010)
Although the description is somewhat complex, the patterns are elegant. Fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums of monotonically increasing lengths dance together to produce visual traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and random motion. The period of one complete cycle is 60 seconds. The length of the longest pendulum has been adjusted so that it executes 51 oscillations in this 60 second period. The length of each successive shorter pendulum is carefully adjusted so that it executes one additional oscillation in this period. Thus, the 15th pendulum (shortest) undergoes 65 oscillations. When all 15 pendulums are started together, they quickly fall out of sync—their relative phases continuously change because of their different periods of oscillation. However, after 60 seconds they will all have executed an integral number of oscillations and be back in sync again at that instant, ready to repeat the dance.
A FINAL QUOTE--
So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events. And in today already walks tomorrow. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ken Dabkowski, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Brad Hayden, Kurzweil AI, Joe Lee, John Messer, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Bobbie Rohn, SchwartzReport, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy 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