Volume 10, Number 20
Edited by John L. Petersen
In This Issue:
- Using a recently developed technique for turning skin cells into stem cells, scientists have cured mice of sickle cell anemia.
- The latest scientific modeling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.
- Pacific Gas and Electric Company has become the country’s first utility to agree to buy renewable electricity made by the ebb and flow of ocean waves.
- Major crude producer Iran has completely stopped carrying out its oil transactions in dollars.
Cure for and Preventive Treatment against Alzheimer’s Disease on the Horizon
Bisphenol A in Infant Formula at Dangerous Levels
Scientists Cure Mice of Sickle Cell Using Stem Cell Technique
More Functional DNA in Genome than Previously Thought
Culture Speeds Up Human Evolution
Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms
Cure for and Preventive Treatment against Alzheimer’s Disease on the Horizon – (Smart Economy – November 8, 2007)
A team of scientists from Ukraine, who have been working with water-soluble fullerenes (or hydrated fullerenes), have announced the initial results of their work in finding a cure for the debilitating disease of Alzheimer’s. Link gives abstract of article in the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
Bisphenol A in Infant Formula at Dangerous Levels – (Neutraingredients – June 12, 2007)
Bisphenol A (BPA), known as the ‘gender bender’ chemical, leaches into liquid baby formula from the linings of cans at levels dangerous to infant health, according to research published by a US environmental group. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) said the research reveals that Bisphenol-A, used to line nearly all infant formula cans, was found in at levels “far higher” in the product than those that leach from plastic bottles under normal use.
Scientists Cure Mice of Sickle Cell Using Stem Cell Technique – (Washington Post – December 7, 2007)
Using a recently developed technique for turning skin cells into stem cells, scientists have cured mice of sickle cell anemia — the first direct proof that the easily obtained cells can reverse an inherited, potentially fatal disease. But researchers also cautioned that aspects of the new approach will have to be changed before it can be tried in human patients. Most important, the technique depends on the use of gene-altered viruses that have the potential to trigger tumor growth.
More Functional DNA in Genome than Previously Thought – (Science Daily – December 13, 2007)
Surrounding the small islands of genes within the human genome is a vast sea of mysterious DNA. While most of this non-coding DNA is junk, some of it is used to help genes turn on and off. As reported in Genome Research, Johns Hopkins researchers have now found that this latter portion, which is known as regulatory DNA and contributes to inherited diseases like Parkinson’s or mental disorders, may be more abundant than we realize.
Culture Speeds Up Human Evolution – (Scientific American – December 10, 2007)
Analysis of common patterns of genetic variation reveals that humans have been evolving faster in recent history. Homo sapiens sapiens has spread across the globe and increased vastly in numbers over the past 50,000 years or so—from an estimated five million in 9000 B.C. to roughly 6.5 billion today. More people means more opportunity for mutations to creep into the basic human genome and new research confirms that in the past 10,000 years a host of changes to everything from digestion to bones has been taking place. “Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes,” the analysis notes, because that gene—OCA2—had not yet developed.
Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms – (Washington Post – December 17, 2007)
Until recently, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA — an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought. Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA. Scientists in Maryland have already built the world’s first entirely handcrafted chromosome — a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce. In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to “boot itself up,” like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding.
DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY
Top 10 Scientific Discoveries
Whales May Have Come from Deer-like Animal
Physicists Perform the First Ever Quantum Calculation
Top 10 Scientific Discoveries of 2007 – (Time Magazine – December, 2007)
Time gives its “Top 10 for 2007” in 50 categories. For scientific discoveries, stem cell breakthroughs are #1. Coming in at second place, J. Craig Venter published his entire “diploid” genetic sequence, or all the DNA in both sets of chromosomes inherited from each of his parents — the first such genome ever published of a single person.
Whales May Have Come from Deer-like Animal – (Yahoo News – December 19, 2007)
A new study suggests that the missing evolutionary link between whales and land animals is an odd raccoon-sized animal that looks like a long-tailed deer without antlers. Or an overgrown long-legged rat. The creature is called Indohyus, and recently dug up fossils reveal some crucial evolutionary similarities between it and water-dwelling cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises. The Indohyus was a tiny little deer maybe the size of a raccoon and had no antlers. It most resembled the current African mousedeer, which has a rat-like nose and when danger approaches, it jumps in the water and hides.
Physicists Perform the First Ever Quantum Calculation – Phys Org – December 11, 2007)
Professor Andrew White, from UQ’s Centre for Quantum Computer Technology together with colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada, said by manipulating quantum mechanically entangled photons – the fundamental particles of light – the prime factors of the number 15 were calculated. Professor White said, “Although the answer to this problem could have been obtained much more quickly by querying a bright eight-year-old, as the number becomes bigger and bigger the problem becomes more and more difficult.” Calculating the prime factors of 15 was a crucial step towards calculating much larger numbers, which could be used to crack cryptographic codes that are unbreakable using conventional computers.
Ear Phone Sounds Like a Good Idea
How We Taught the Internet to Dream
Ear Phone Sounds Like a Good Idea – (Sidney Morning Herald – December 18, 2007)
A Japanese company has unveiled a new device that will allow people “speak” through their ear so they can use their mobile telephones in noisy places. The device – named “e-Mimi-kun” (good ear boy) – doubles as an earphone and a microphone by detecting air vibrations inside the ear, developer NS-ELEX Co. said. The earpiece and an accompanying device can be connected to a mobile phone, or wirelessly to a Bluetooth handset, so that users no longer have to cover their mouths when speaking in a loud environment, the company said.
How We Taught the Internet to Dream – (Enterprise Animation – May 26, 2007)
This is a hypothetical news clip from 2017 which suggests one of the directions in which the internet may grow – by inventing a method whereby the Internet could take advantage of the same processes that the human mind employs during sleep (and while awake) to process and organize the experiences of the day into memory hierarchies.
High Weed Killer Levels Found in River Checks
Arctic Summers Ice-free by 2013
Lice from Fish Farms Threaten Canadian Wild Salmon
High Weed Killer Levels Found in River Checks – (Washington Post – December 9, 2007)
Atrazine, the second most widely used weed killer in the country, is showing up in some streams and rivers at levels high enough to potentially harm amphibians, fish and aquatic ecosystems, according to the findings of an extensive Environmental Protection Agency database that has not been made public. The analysis — conducted by the chemical’s manufacturer, Syngenta Crop Protection — suggests that atrazine has entered streams and rivers in the Midwest at a rate that could harm those ecosystems. Atrazine has been linked to sexual abnormalities in frogs and fish in several scientific studies, but the EPA ruled in September that the evidence was not sufficiently compelling to restrict use of the pesticide.
Arctic Summers Ice-free by 2013 – (BBC News – December 12, 2007)
Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modeling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years. Summer melting this year reduced the ice cover to 4.13 million sq km, the smallest ever extent in modern times. Remarkably, this stunning low point was not even incorporated into the computer model runs, which used data sets from 1979 to 2004 to constrain their future projections.
Lice from Fish Farms Threaten Canadian Wild Salmon – (Reuters – December 13, 2007)
Infestations of sea lice at salmon farms on Canada’s west coast are threatening local wild pink salmon populations and could result in their extinction in another four years, according to Canadian researchers. Overall the populations that were not exposed to sea lice disease are stable or increasing,” said Martin Krkosek, a fisheries ecologist from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, whose study appears in the journal Science. “This is true even for populations with commercial fishing,” Krkosek said.
The Fuel of the Future? Say ‘Cheese’
Toshiba’s New Battery Recharges 90% in Five Minutes
A Way to Squeeze Oil and Gas from Just About Anything
PG&E Signs First U.S. Agreement to Buy Ocean Energy
The Fuel of the Future? Say ‘Cheese’ – (Fond du Lac Reporter – November 4, 2007)
Prepare for a variety of fuels from many sources, says Wisconsin entrepreneur Joe Van Groll whose start-up renewable energy company produces both ethanol and bio-diesel without a single corn kernel or soybean in sight. The Grand Meadow Energy LLC near Stratford, WI trucks in waste from surrounding cheese plants and raw canola oil from a nearby farm. Van Groll said in a press release, “The silver bullets are already out there: taking waste streams and turning them into profit centers.”
Toshiba’s New Battery Recharges 90% in Five Minutes – (Associated Press – December 11, 2007)
Toshiba Corp.’s Super Charge ion Battery, or SCiB, can recharge to 90 percent of its full capacity in less than five minutes and has a life cycle of more than 10 years, Toshiba spokeswoman Hiroko Mochida said. Toshiba said the new lithium-ion battery will eventually be used in hybrid and electric cars however Toshiba is not giving a date for that application and doesn’t expect it until about 2010.
A Way to Squeeze Oil and Gas from Just About Anything – (Popular Science – 2007)
Everything that goes into Frank Pringle’s recycling machine—a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup—turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. “I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me,” Pringle says without sarcasm. The machine is a microwave emitter that extracts the petroleum and gas hidden inside everyday objects—or at least anything made with hydrocarbons, which, it turns out, is most of what’s around you. Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running).
PG&E Signs First U.S. Agreement to Buy Ocean Energy – (Reuters – December 18, 2007)
Pacific Gas and Electric Company became the country’s first utility to agree to buy renewable electricity made by the ebb and flow of ocean waves. The energy will be captured by several buoys bobbing 2.5 miles off the California coast and then transmitted to shore by an undersea cable. At peak times, the electricity will light at least 1,400 homes. There is enough ocean wave energy surging off U.S. coasts to match the power generated from the country’s hydroelectric dams, which account for 6.5 percent of its electricity use, said Roger Bedard, a specialist at the Energy Power Research Institute.
No Threat of Bird Flu Pandemic: Pakistan
Plan for Pandemic
Pandemic Test Undertaken by Financial Services Paints Dire Scenario
No Threat of Bird Flu Pandemic: Pakistan – (The News – December 19, 2007)
Pakistani authorities have confirmed eight human cases of bird flu, including one death. The WHO said they were likely to be a combination of infections from poultry and limited human to human transmission of the H5N1 avian flu virus due to close contact. The WHO says a similar case occurred in Indonesia in 2006 among family members believed to have contracted the virus while caring for sick loved ones. So it appears from this report that the bird flu is human to human transmissible – but not readily.
Plan for Pandemic – (H5N1 Avian Influenza website – no date)
In less formal circles, the news on the spread of bird flu is not quite as reassuring. This website includes a blog in which people offer translations of news items reported in small foreign presses – for example, Chinese provincial newspapers – that suggest the situation may be more serious than health officials are conveying. We encourage you to read and judge for yourself.
Pandemic Test Undertaken by Financial Services Paints Dire Scenario – (Computer World – October 24, 2007)
If a pandemic strikes the U.S., it will kill about 1.7 million people, hospitalize 9 million, exhaust antiviral medications and reduce basic food supplies, according to a planning scenario developed by financial service firms preparing for such a catastrophe. This particular disaster occurred only on paper. But those grim numbers are some of the pandemic planning assumptions used by nearly 3,000 banks, insurance companies and security firms in a recently concluded, three-week, paper-based exercise that may have been the largest pandemic test of its kind.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
White House Announces (Secret) Nuclear Weapons Cuts – (Strategic Security Blog – December 18, 2007)
The While House has announced that the President had “approved a significant reduction in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile to take effect by the end of 2007.” The decision reaffirmed an earlier decision from June 2004 to cut the stockpile “nearly 50 percent,” but moved the timeline up five years from 2012 to 2007. The White House’s announcement to implement the 2004 stockpile plan in 2007 does not mean that the “cut” warheads will have been dismantled by then – far from it. In fact, the decision to reduce the stockpile does not in itself result in the destruction of a single warhead. “Reducing” the stockpile by nearly half is a form of nuclear book keeping that means that ownership of the “cut” warheads will shift from DOD to DOE. But DOE doesn’t have storage capacity for all of these weapons at its facility at Pantex. That factory is busy rebuilding the warheads slated to remain in the “enduring stockpile” beyond 2012. As a result, dismantlement of the backlog of warheads from the current reductions is not scheduled to be completed until 2023, more than a decade-and-a-half after today’s White House announcement to speed things up.
Nanosolar Powersheet – (Popular Science – 2007)
Popular Science’s “Innovation of the Year”. Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, as thin as a layer of paint, that converts light to electricity. From there, you can picture roof shingles with solar cells built inside and window coatings that seem to suck power from the air. Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
UFOs Exist, Says Japan Official
Mystery Space Machines Above: Black Ops, Star Wars or ET? Or All of the Above?
Is a New Solar Cycle Beginning?
UFOs Exist, Says Japan Official – (BBC News – December 18, 2007)
Japan’s chief government spokesman has announced that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) exist. Earlier, in response to a question from an opposition lawmaker, the Japanese government issued a statement saying it could not confirm any cases of UFOs. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura later told reporters he believed they were “definitely” real. He said work should begin urgently to try to confirm whether or not they exist because of what he called “incessant” reports of sightings.
Is a New Solar Cycle Beginning? – (NASA – December 14, 2007)
The solar physics community is abuzz over a modest knot of magnetism that popped over the sun’s eastern limb on Dec. 11th. It may be a sign of the next solar cycle. For more than a year, the sun has been experiencing a lull in activity, marking the end of Solar Cycle 23, which peaked with many furious storms in 2000–2003. “Solar minimum is upon us,” says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Many forecasters believe Solar Cycle 24 will be big and intense. Peaking in 2011 or 2012, the cycle to come could have significant impacts on telecommunications, air traffic, power grids and GPS systems.
Mystery Space Machines Above: Black Ops, Star Wars or ET? Or All of the Above? – (Rense – December 12, 2007)
John Lenard Walson has discovered a new way to extend the capabilities of small telescopes and has been able to achieve optical resolutions – at almost the diffraction limit – not commonly achievable. With this new-found ability, he has proceeded to videotape, night and day, many strange and heretofore unseen objects in earth orbit. The resulting astrophotographic video footage has revealed a raft of machines, hardware, satellites, spacecraft and possibly space ships which otherwise appear as ‘stars’…if they appear at all. There are, indeed, hundreds of satellites in Earth orbit. However, the images he has captured are clearly of large and sizeable machines which have not been seen before.
Iran Has Halted Oil Transactions in Dollars
The End of Cheap Food
What Will We Eat When the Oil Runs Out?
Retailers Face an Ominous Holiday Sign
Iran Has Halted Oil Transactions in Dollars – (Dow Jones Newswire – December 8, 2007)
Major crude producer Iran has completely stopped carrying out its oil transactions in dollars, Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said on Saturday, labeling the greenback an “unreliable” currency. “At the moment selling oil in dollars has been completely halted, in line with the policy of selling crude in non-dollar currencies,” Nozari said. “The dollar is an unreliable currency, considering its devaluation and the oil exporters’ losses,” he added.
The End of Cheap Food – (The Economist – December 6, 2007)
Since the spring, wheat prices have doubled and almost every crop under the sun—maize, milk, oilseeds, you name it—is at or near a peak in nominal terms. The Economist’s food-price index is higher today than at any time since it was created in 1845. Even in real terms, prices have jumped by 75% since 2005. That is because “agflation” is underpinned by long-running changes in diet that accompany the growing wealth of emerging economies. But the rise in prices is also the self-inflicted result of America’s reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America’s (record) maize harvest.
What Will We Eat When the Oil Runs Out? – (Soil Association – November 22, 2007)
Global food production faces four simultaneous crises arising from our relatively recent pattern of dependence on depleting fossil fuels. The first consists of the direct impacts on agriculture of higher oil prices: increased costs for tractor fuel, agricultural chemicals, and the transport of farm inputs and outputs. The other three are equally impactful. As these crises grow and mutually interact, the consequences for humanity and the biosphere are likely to be profound and unprecedented in scope.
Retailers Face an Ominous Holiday Sign – (New York Times – December 17, 2007)
Sales of women’s clothing, a traditional pillar of the holiday shopping season, are unusually bleak so far this year, according to a major credit card company, an ominous sign for the retail industry. Analysts blamed a rough economy, which has discouraged women — and mothers, in particular — from splurging on clothing for themselves and a lack of compelling fashions this winter. But the clouds do have a silver lining: with energy prices high, consumers are also turning to the Web to avoid costly trips to the mall. The SpendingPulse report from MasterCard found that Americans pumped 1.2 percent less gas during the first half of the holiday season than they did during the same period in 2006.
How China is Eating the World – (The Independent – November 9, 2007)
According to the IMF, about half of the world’s economic growth this year will be accounted for by Brazil, Russia, India and China. India, staggeringly, is contributing more growth to the world economy than the United States, but China is by far the most powerful engine of growth – more so than the US, the eurozone and Japan combined. Yet this phenomenon is not an unalloyed economic good. Chinese demand for oil, copper, zinc, nickel and all the other raw materials of industrialization is pushing the prices of those commodities to ever-higher peaks. The International Energy Agency estimates that Chinese and Indian crude oil imports will almost quadruple by 2030, creating a supply “crunch” as soon as 2015.
TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT
The Government Got All of AT&T’s Internet and Voice Traffic
Whitehouse Sharply Criticizes Bush Administration’s Assertion of Executive Power
The Government Got All of AT&T’s Internet and Voice Traffic – (eFluxMedia – November 8, 2007)
The U.S. government is apparently spying on all Internet traffic and voice calls going through AT&T’s backbones, according to a former employee of the company who testified before the Congress. Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, says that the National Security Agency (NSA) installed special equipment which splits communication backbones and sends an exact copy to the government. Indiscriminately, and without any warrant.
Whitehouse Sharply Criticizes Bush Administration’s Assertion of Executive Power – (Senator Whitehouse press release – December 7, 2007)
This is a remarkable set of revelations about the legal reasoning the Bush Administration has been applying to national security in general and wiretaps and other forms of electronic eavesdropping in particular. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered these remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
JUST FOR FUN
Top 10 Games of 2007
Scientists Find Contents of Prehistoric Messenger Bag
Top 10 Games of 2007 – (Wired – December 18, 2007
2007 will be remembered as the year next-generation gaming came into its own. A veritable avalanche of quality software kept the Xbox 360 in stiff competition with Nintendo’s upstart Wii, which is still in great part riding on the mammoth mindshare of Wii Sports. Wired Magainze‘s panel of gaming experts has engaged in a vicious e-mail fight (at to bring you their countdown of the top 10 favorite games of 2007.
Scientists Find Contents of Prehistoric Messenger Bag – (Wired – December 19, 2007)
Australian scientists have released a picture that is the prehistoric antecedent to Flickr’s 8,000+ strong pool of “What’s in your bag?”. (http://flickr.com/groups/[email protected]/pool/ ) According to lead researcher Phillp Edwards, it contained: a sickle for harvesting wild wheat or barley, a cluster of flint spearheads, a flint core for making more spearheads, some smooth stones (maybe slingshots), a large stone (maybe for striking flint pieces off the flint core), a cluster of gazelle toe bones which were used to make beads, and part of a second bone tool.
May the dreams of your past be the reality of your future. – Author unknown. We here at The Arlington Institute wish you all the best for the coming new year.
A special thanks to: Ken Dabkowski, Walter Derzko, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, KurzweilAI, Sebastian McCallister, Diane C. Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Stu Rose, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, and Chris Young our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
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