Volume 10, Number 19
Edited by John L. Petersen
In This Issue:
- An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.
- Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our very ability to study the heavens may have shortened the inferred lifetime of the cosmos.
- Consumer and corporate use of the Internet could overload the current capacity and lead to brown-outs in two years unless backbone providers invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure.
- From 29 November to 4 December a virtual frigate (which looks remarkably like the yet-to-be-built Franco-Italian FREMM) called in on Second Life as part of real recruiting efforts on the part of the French Navy.
The Biggest Library Ever Built
Faster Computers Accelerate Pace of Discovery
The Biggest Library Ever Built – (The Times – November 16, 2007)
Over the past four years, in partnership with Google, the Bodleian and a number of other great libraries have gradually been transferring their holdings into digital, searchable form. By next year, the Bodleian will have put half a million books online. According to one estimate, Google is digitising books at the rate of ten million a year, and it is not alone. Microsoft, Yahoo! and Amazon are all taking part in what amounts to a digital-literary gold-rush. This digitizing of human knowledge is the most profound cultural event since the invention of the printing press itself. The Bodleian is digitizing selectively and has placed nothing under copyright into the Library Project.
Faster Computers Accelerate Pace of Discovery – (Washington Post – December 3, 2007)
Sometime next year, developers will boot up the next generation of supercomputers. The first “petascale” supercomputer will be capable of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. That’s about twice as powerful as today’s dominant model, a basketball-court-size beast known as BlueGene/L. This will enable dramatically improved computer simulations. That will help shed new light on subjects such as climate change, geology, new drug development, dark matter and other secrets of the universe, as well as other fields in which direct experimental observation is time-consuming, costly, dangerous or impossible.
Surfer Dude Stuns Physicists with Theory of Everything
Mankind Shortening the Universe’s Life
Surfer Dude Stuns Physicists with Theory of Everything – (Telegraph – November 14, 2007)
An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists. Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder. Despite this unusual career path, his proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics. Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts. And it may even be possible to test his theory, which predicts a host of new particles.
Mankind Shortening the Universe’s Life – (Telegraph – November 21, 2007)
Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our very ability to study the heavens may have shortened the inferred lifetime of the cosmos. That does not mean the field of astronomy does direct harm. A universe with a truncated lifespan may come hand in hand with the ability of astronomers to make cosmological measurements, according to two American scientists who have studied the strange, subtle and cosmic implications of quantum mechanics, the most successful theory we have.
Duke Scientists Map Silenced Genes
Popping Bubbles to Treat Cancer
Milestone Stem Cell Advance Reported
Newt Protein May Offer Clues for Human Regeneration
Duke Scientists Map Silenced Genes – (Wired – November 30, 2007)
Remember biology class where you learned that children inherit one copy of a gene from mom and a second from dad? There’s a twist: Some of those genes arrive switched off, so there is no backup if the other copy goes bad, making you more vulnerable to disorders from obesity to cancer. Duke University scientists now have identified these “silenced genes,” creating the first map of this unique group of about 200 genes believed to play a profound role in people’s health.
Popping Bubbles to Treat Cancer – (BBC News – November 19, 2007)
Scientists at the University of Oxford have built a device to beam waves of ultrasound into the body, generating bubbles at the site of a tumor. When these bubbles “pop”, they release energy as heat – killing rogue cells. Clinical trials of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (Hifu) are now being conducted. Hifu is non-invasive: studies have shown that it is at least as effective as surgery, without surgery’s risks. It also limits the damage to healthy tissue which occurs in radiotherapy.
Milestone Stem Cell Advance Reported – (CNN – November 20, 2007)
Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy. Laboratory teams on two continents report success in a pair of landmark papers released Tuesday. It’s a neck-and-neck finish to a race that made headlines five months ago, when scientists announced that the feat had been accomplished in mice.
Newt Protein May Offer Clues for Human Regeneration – (Reuters – November 1, 2007)
Scientists have found a key protein that helps newts regrow severed limbs and which may guide future research into human regenerative medicine. Biologists have long been intrigued by the ability of newts and salamanders to renew damaged body parts. But how they do it has been unclear
Internet Could Run out of Capacity in Two Years
Virtual Criminology Report
Light to Shrink Computer Clusters
ESnet, Internet2 Complete Next-Generation Network
Future Directions in Computing
Internet Could Run out of Capacity in Two Years – (InfoWorld – November 23, 2007)
Consumer and corporate use of the Internet could overload the current capacity and lead to brown-outs in two years unless backbone providers invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure. A flood of new video and other Web content could overwhelm the Internet by 2010 unless backbone providers invest up to $137 billion in new capacity, more than double what service providers plan to invest, according to the study by Nemertes Research Group, an independent analysis firm. In North America alone, backbone investments of $42 billion to $55 billion will be needed in the next three to five years to keep up with demand.
Virtual Criminology Report – ( McAfee – no date)
Download and read the annual McAfee Virtual Criminology Report. Free. McAfee has consulted more than a dozen security experts at some of the world’s premier institutions-NATO, the FBI, SOCA, The London School of Economics, and the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism-to get their insights on the complexities of the dark side of the Internet.
Xohm’s Law – (Economist – November 16, 2007)
Some firms believe WiMAX is the kind of revolutionary technology that comes along once a decade at most. They expect it to change the world of mobile communications in much the same way as broadband cable and DSL replaced dial-up internet access and ushered in a whole new generation of web services. WiMAX is good for at least 10 megabits per second over five miles or more and in its latest guise, WiMAX can “hand off” connections from one radio tower to the next as users roam around—just like a cellular network. WiMAX can thus fill the gaps in internet coverage, especially in rural areas and developing countries, where laying cables or telephone lines is too expensive. WiMAX can also provide internet access to mobile users from nearly anywhere.
Light to Shrink Computer Clusters – (BBC News – December 6, 2007)
Supercomputers may one day be the size of a laptop thanks to research by IBM. Scientists at IBM have completed work that may make it possible to do away with the copper wires used to couple processing cores to each other.
ESnet, Internet2 Complete Next-Generation Network – (Berkeley Lab – November 15, 2007)
Two of the nation’s leading research networks — the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) and Internet2 — announced today that they have completed five interconnected rings, each consisting of one or more 10-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) paths, that form a coast-to-coast network that is the backbone of DOE’s next-generation scientific network.
Future Directions in Computing – (BBC News – November 13, 2007)
A quantum computer is a theoretical device that would make use of the properties of quantum mechanics, the realm of physics that deals with energy and matter at atomic scales. In a quantum computer data is not processed by electrons passing through transistors, as is the case in today’s computers, but by caged atoms known as quantum bits or Qubits.
Global Warming is Happening at Faster Rate
150 Global Firms Seek Mandatory Cuts in Greenhouse Gas
Loss of Andes Glaciers Threatens Water Supply
World’s Coal Dependency Hits Environment
Global Warming is Happening at Faster Rate – (The Independent – November 30, 2007)
Global warming is happening at a far faster rate than the authoritative Stern Review on climate change suggested, according to its author, Sir Nicholas Stern. “If I was doing it again I’d portray the risks as bigger.” He said his review may have under-estimated the costs involved in combating climate change.
150 Global Firms Seek Mandatory Cuts in Greenhouse Gas – (Washington Post – November 30, 2007)
A sizable fraction of the international business community has launched an effort to press for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, leaders from 150 global companies endorsed the idea of a legally binding framework.
Loss of Andes Glaciers Threatens Water Supply – (CNN – November 26, 2007)
La Paz, Bolivia, the world’s highest capital, depend on glaciers for at least a third of their water — more than any other urban sprawl. And those glaciers are rapidly melting because of global warming. Scientists predict that all the glaciers in the tropical Andes will disappear by mid-century. Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, is responsible for just 0.03 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions that scientists blame for global warming. The United States, by contrast, contributes about one quarter. President Evo Morales,earlier this month,said he’ll seek legal remedies if rich countries don’t agree to pay for the damage they’ve wreaked on the developing world:
World’s Coal Dependency Hits Environment – (Huffington Post – November 4, 2007)
It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm. It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in Oregon’s Willamette River. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States. This is the dark side of the world’s growing use of coal
Meet Your Robotic Firefighters
Sex and Marriage with Robots by 2050
Meet Your Robotic Firefighters – (Wired – December 6, 2007)
The makers of Iraq’s robot bomb squad are looking to automate firefighting, too. This article references two organizations working in this field. You may also be interested in entering the 2008 Trinity College (of Hartford, CT) Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest. The contest invites persons of all ages and skill levels to build a robot and register in its annual fire-fighting contest Please see http://www.trincoll.edu/events/robot/
Sex and Marriage with Robots by 2050 – (Fox News – October 12, 2007)
“My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots,” said artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as some of those outside it.
Super Trains: Plans to Fix U.S. Rail Could End Road & Sky Gridlock
China to Mass Produce Maglev Wind Power Generators
Making Fuel from Leftovers
How Africa’s Desert Sun Can Bring Europe Power
Nuke to the Future
Telling the Whole Truth about Oil
Energy Needs to Grow Inexorably
Super Trains: Plans to Fix U.S. Rail Could End Road & Sky Gridlock – (Popular Mechanics – December, 2007)
In the world of super-speedy trains, “maglev” or magnetic levitation, the technology for floating a train above its rails has the most impressive capabilities. A maglev train that began service four years ago in Shanghai runs 20 miles between Pudong International Airport and the city’s business district in just 8 minutes at speeds of up to 267 mph. And this past September, the city of Munich, Germany, announced plans to build a new maglev line that will cover the 25-mile route between Franz Joseph Strauss International Airport and downtown in 10 minutes.
China to Mass Produce Maglev Wind Power Generators – (China View – November 5, 2007)
Construction has begun on the world’s largest production base for magnetic levitation (maglev) wind power generators in central China. The problem of the traditional wind turbines was that they require high wind speeds to start, because of the friction caused by their bearings, said Li Guokun, chief scientific developer of the new technology. The frictionless maglev generator would cut the operational expenses of wind farms by up to half, keeping the overall cost of wind power under 0.4 yuan per kilowatt-hour, said Li.
Making Fuel from Leftovers – (Technology Review – November 26, 2007)
Bruce Logan, professor of environmental engineering, and colleagues at Penn State University have designed a tabletop reactor that uses bacteria to break down biodegradable organic material. Adding a small jolt of energy to the system causes hydrogen gas to bubble up to the surface. The entire process generated 288 percent more energy than the electricity required to produce the reaction.
How Africa’s Desert Sun Can Bring Europe Power – (Observer – December 2, 2007)
Europe is considering plans to spend more than £5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along the desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East. More than a hundred of the generators would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe. Billions of watts of power could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed supplies of fresh water.
Nuke to the Future – (Santa Fe Reporter – November 28, 2007)
The company Hyperion Power Generation was formed last month to develop the nuclear fission reactor at Los Alamos National Laboratory and take it into the private sector. The portable nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. If all goes according to plan, Hyperion could have a factory in New Mexico by late 2012, and begin producing 4,000 of these reactors. It’s self-contained, involves no moving parts and, therefore, doesn’t require a human operator.
Telling the Whole Truth about Oil – (Arab News – November 6, 2007)
In an understated way, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of the French oil company Total, one of the international “big five”, has recently implied that in his view peak oil is here and now – or at least not far from it. What he actually said was that “100 million barrels (per day)…is now in my view an optimistic case.” He was referring to the International Energy Agency’s estimate that world oil output would reach 116 million barrels/day by 2030, and the slightly more optimistic US government prediction that it will reach 118 million b/d by that date. Even these acts of faith are really a forecast of crisis, since calculations based on current trends suggest that 140 million b/d will be needed by 2030.
Energy Needs to Grow Inexorably – (BBC News – November 7, 2007)
Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said energy needs in 2030 could be more than 50% above current levels, with fossil fuels (predominantly coal) still dominant. Rapid economic growth in China and India would be the main drivers behind the rise, he said. As a result, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could rise by 57% – from 27 giga-tons in 2005 to 42 giga-tons in 2030, it said.
Bird Flu Developments – (Guardian – December 6, 2007)
There have been 207 human deaths globally from the H5N1 strain and 336 confirmed cases of infection since 2003, according to World Health Organization data. On December 4, WHO confirms that a 24-year-old man from Jiangsu province in eastern China has died of H5N1. It is China’s first case since June. Of the 26 cases confirmed to date in China, 17 have been fatal.
Tiered Vaccine Plan Puts Military, Infants First – (NPR – October 24, 2007)
Government officials are thinking ahead about how to ration vaccines if and when a flu pandemic hits. After holding four public meetings and consulting with ethicists, officials have devised a new, tiered system for distributing limited supplies of vaccine. the highest tier will balance vaccination for critical military personnel, health-care and emergency medical responders, police, firemen, pregnant women, infants and toddlers. The next-highest tier will include people who keep the nation’s communications systems, power systems and water supply operating. It also will include children between the ages of 3 and 18.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
French Navy Uses Second Life to Recruit – (Aviation Week – December 7, 2007)
Young men and women today spend a lot of time in internet cafes and 11 million of them are pretending to be somebody else on Second Life. So, that’s where the French Navy recruitment drive decided to go and get them. From 29 November to 4 December a virtual frigate (which looks remarkably like the yet-to-be-built Franco-Italian FREMM) called in on Second Life which could be visited 24 hours a day and where youngsters could meet virtual sailors who would answer questions about the jobs and careers they might have if they joined the Navy. A competition was also held, first prize being a day aboard a frigate, a real one this time!
Nanoscale ‘barcodes’ can tag individual molecules – (New Scientist – November 30, 2007)
Nanoscopic “barcodes” made from nickel nanowires beaded with gold discs could make it easier to authenticate valuable products, and study a variety of biological molecules at the same time. A technique called on-wire lithography turns nanowires into readable tags by chemically depositing pairs of gold beads at precise locations along the wire.
Has the Long Farewell of the US Dollar Begun?
The Financial Tsunami: Sub-Prime Mortgage Debt is but the Tip of the Iceberg
The Next Dominos: Junk Bond and Counterparty Risk
U.A.E. May Peg to Currency Basket
Has the Long Farewell of the US Dollar Begun? – (Arab News – November 27, 2007)
For the majority of Americans who do not travel abroad, the only visible effect so far of the dollar’s steep fall has been higher fuel prices at the pump. The Chinese imports that fill the big-box stores still cost the same, because the Chinese yuan is still pegged to the American dollar. But that may be about to change, along with many other things. Three of the world’s biggest oil exporters, Iran, Venezuela and Russia, are demanding payment in euros rather than dollars. Recently a Chinese central bank vice director, Xu Jian, gave voice to the suspicion of many others, saying that the dollar was “losing its status as the world currency.”
The Financial Tsunami: Sub-Prime Mortgage Debt is but the Tip of the Iceberg – (Global Research – November 23, 2007)
Recently a judge in the Federal District Court in Cleveland Ohio ruled to dismiss a claim by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company. The Deutsche Bank Trust services home mortgages on behalf of those who own the mortgages. The company was seeking to take possession of 14 homes from Cleveland residents living in them, in order to claim the assets. The Judge asked DB to show documents proving legal title to the 14 homes. DB could not. All DB attorneys could show was a document showing only an “intent to convey the rights in the mortgages.” They could not produce the actual mortgages. Those had been bundled into Collateralized Debt Obligations and sold to investors. The question before the court and before DB was now “Who, exactly, owns those mortgages and, therefore, has the legal right to foreclose?” The banking community is going to have to find a way to sort out this issue.
The Next Dominos: Junk Bond and Counterparty Risk – (Outside the Box – November 26, 2007)
This article explains counterparty risk in the various credit default swap markets. Over the past decade, the exponential growth of credit derivatives has created unprecedented amounts of financial leverage on corporate credit. Similar to the growth of subprime mortgages, the rapid rise of credit products required ideal economic conditions and disconnected the assessors of risk from those bearing it. The amount of outstanding corporate credit and leverage applied to it dwarfs the market for subprime mortgages. As such, the consequences of a problem in this arena may be far more severe than what happened in subprime.
U.A.E. May Peg to Currency Basket – (Bloomberg – November 15, 2007)
The United Arab Emirates may link the dirham to a basket of currencies, ending its 30-year-old peg to the dollar, central bank Governor Sultan Bin Nasser al-Suwaidi said. A switch by the federation of sheikhdoms would follow Kuwait, which ended the fixed exchange rate for the dinar in May. The dollar has fallen 10 percent against euro this year, making imports for the Gulf Arab states more expensive and helping push inflation in the U.A.E. to the second-highest level in the region.
TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT
US Says It Has Right to Kidnap British Citizens
Climate of Fear
Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
US Says It Has Right to Kidnap British Citizens – (The Times – December 2, 2007)
AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States. A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it. The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.
Climate of Fear – (Arkansas Democrat Gazette – November 6, 2007)
This is an op-ed piece discussing the rising climate of fear and the ways in which that is percolating through American society even at very local levels. Recently part of downtown Fayetteville was closed off when a white powder was found near the federal building. The powder was baking flour, used by a local running club to mark the route of one of its non-competitive races. The use of flour to mark race routes is a routine, environmentally friendly way to guide the runners. But for about two hours, traffic and other routine activities were disrupted while authorities tried to determine if the powder was dangerous.
Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request – (Washington Post – November 23, 2007)
Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers. The issue is taking on greater relevance as wireless carriers are racing to offer sleek services that allow cellphone users to know with the touch of a button where their friends or families are. Sprint Nextel, for instance, boasts that its “loopt” service even sends an alert when a friend is near, “putting an end to missed connections in the mall, at the movies or around town.” With Verizon’s Chaperone service, parents can set up a “geofence” around, say, a few city blocks and receive an automatic text message if their child, holding the cellphone, travels outside that area.
As Yellowstone Bubbles, Experts Are Calm – (Washington Post – November 9, 2007)
Something is stirring deep below the legendary hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone, the first and most famous national park in America — and home to a huge volcanic caldron. Parts of the park have been rising the past three years at a rate never before observed by scientists. They believe that magma — molten rock — is filling pores in the Earth’s crust and causing a large swath of Yellowstone to rise like a pie in the oven.
JUST FOR FUN
Personal Submersibles – (Personal submersibles website – no date)
PSUBS.ORG was organized to promote and encourage the discussion, designing, building, certifiying, owning and use of personal submersibles. We define a personal submersible as any submarine vehicle, manned or un-manned, dry, semi-dry, or wet that is owned and operated by individuals or small private groups and clubs. In general, a personal submersible is any underwater vehicle that can be owned by a member of the general public, housed in their own garage, and does not require a floatilla of support ships or large support staff to operate. If you check out their website, you can even see what’s currently available for sale by owner.
“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” Eleanor Roosevelt
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Ken Dabkowski, Jack DuVall, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, KurzweilAI, Lawrence London, Sebastian McCallister, Sher Patterson-Black, Diane C. Petersen, Stu Rose , Paul Saffo, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, and Steve Ujvarosy our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
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