Volume 11, Number 11 – 06/26/08

Volume 11, Number 11 – 06/26/08
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKSA life for sale: one man is auctioning his house, car, job and even an introduction to his friends on eBay.Carbon nanotubes could be a promising strategy for designing cartilage implants.New cars are on the horizon: one that runs on compressed air, one on water and one that combines almost every possible fuel source including solar panels on the roof and pedals for the passengers.MIT engineers have created the first synthetic nanoparticles that can penetrate a cell without poking a hole in its protective membrane and killing it.INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE• MySpace Legions March into Movies
• Heartbroken Briton Sells His ‘Entire Life’

MySpace Legions March into Movies – (Times – June 15, 2008)
Social networking has moved from the computer screen to the big screen. The first cinema production made with the help of contributions from an online community is to receive its world premiere later this month. For Faintheart, a comedy centering on a battle reenactment club, the director and much of the music were chosen by users of the networking site MySpace. “It’s the world’s first publicly generated movie,” said Jamie Kantrowitz, vice-president of marketing for MySpace. “It’s about involving a potential audience for a movie in the making of the film itself.”

Heartbroken Briton Sells His ‘Entire Life’ – ( – June 24,2 008)
Ian Usher, who moved to Australia from the UK six years ago, is selling his house, car, job and even an introduction to his friends on eBay. By 1530 GMT on Monday bids had reached almost US $285,000. Usher is saying goodbye to his three-bedroom home in the western Australian city of Perth and all its contents, including his car, motorbike, jet ski and parachuting equipment. “On the day it’s all sold and settled, I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all,” he said on his Web site, Usher said he wanted a fresh start because his current life reminds him of his former marriage.

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NEW REALITIESDo You Want to Live Forever? – (Google video – August 16, 2007)
This made-for-television documentary explores the revolutionary life-extension and immortality ideas of the Cambridge biologist, Dr. Aubrey de Grey. With enough research funding, he believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).

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DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY• ‘Circadian Eye’ Could be Key to Insomnia
• Diamonds on Demand

‘Circadian Eye’ Could be Key to Insomnia – (New Scientist – June 11, 2008)
A handful of retina cells sense light, not for vision, but instead to reset our body clocks each day. Killing off these cells in mice leaves their sight unharmed, but throws their clocks out of whack, two new studies show. Jolting these cells back into action might offer salvation to insomniacs, whose circadian cycles are slightly off, says Satchidananda Panda, a molecular biologist at the Salk Institute in San Diego, who led one study. Natural degeneration of these cells could also explain why insomnia often strikes the elderly.

Diamonds on Demand – (Smithsonian – June, 2008)
Lab-grown gemstones are now practically indistinguishable from mined diamonds. Scientists and engineers see a world of possibilities; jewelers are less enthusiastic. Over the past decade, researchers have perfected a chemical process that grows diamonds as pure and nearly as big as the finest specimens hauled out of the ground. The process, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), passes a carbon gas cloud over diamond seeds in a vacuum chamber heated to more than 1,800 degrees. A diamond grows as carbon crystallizes on top of the seed. The only visible difference is that the lab-grown ones are devoid of natural inclusions. In terms of commercial use, diamonds are an excellent electrical insulator and semiconductor, and can be tweaked to hold an electrical charge.

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GENTICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY• Regenerating Lost Cartilage
• Scientists Close to Reconstructing First Living Cell
• Retuning Bacteria
• New Finding Links Pollution to Childhood Allergies
• Skin Cancer Patient ‘Cured’ Using His Own Blood Cells

Regenerating Lost Cartilage – (Technology Review – June 16, 2008)

The key to coaxing cells to regenerate might be to make things a little rough for them. Thomas Webster, a bioengineer at Brown University, has been developing implantable materials with nanoscale textures to mimic the roughness of living tissues. Now, his team has found that cartilage cells can adhere to and grow more densely on a surface covered with carbon nanotubes, particularly when they are also exposed to electrical stimulation. Webster believes that surfaces incorporating carbon nanotubes, which are not only textured but are also electrically conductive, could be a promising strategy for designing cartilage implants.

Scientists Close to Reconstructing First Living Cell – (Scientific American – June 10, 2008)
When life began 3.5 billion to four billion years ago, cells were similar to a purse that carried instructions—consisting of just a membrane with genetic information inside. They lacked the structures and proteins that now make them tick. The question is: How then were they able to take in the nutrients necessary to survive and reproduce? Harvard Medical School researchers have built a model of what they believe the very first living cell may have looked like, which contains a strip of genetic material surrounded by a fatty membrane.

Retuning Bacteria – (Technology Review – June 12, 2008)
Researchers at Duke University are hoping to develop methods to reversibly turn off harmful or unwanted genes in bacteria. If they succeed, gene silencing could be used to treat persistent infections by turning off antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria and in environmental and industrial applications, including water filtration. The technique could also make it possible to engineer bacteria to more efficiently make biofuels and other industrial products.

New Finding Links Pollution to Childhood Allergies – (Planet Ark – June 16, 2008)
German researchers say they have found some of the strongest evidence yet linking traffic pollution to childhood allergies. The risk of developing asthma, hay fever, eczema or other allergies is about 50% higher for children living 50 meters from a busy road than for those living 1,000 meters away. The study followed 3,000 healthy children from all over Munich for six years from birth to determine rates of allergy-related diseases and exposure to traffic pollution.
The researchers mapped each residential address and the distance to busy roads, then developed a model to calculate exposure to pollution at birth and ages two, three and six. A busy road was considered one used by 10,000 cars each day.

Skin Cancer Patient ‘Cured’ Using His Own Blood Cells – (Independent – June 19, 2008)
Researchers in the US who were treating A 52-year-old man with advanced melanoma, the lethal form of skin cancer, extracted white blood cells, the key component of the immune system, and grew one type – the infection-fighting CD4+ T cells – in the laboratory. The cloned T cells, which had been vastly expanded, were then reinfused to the patient to fight the cancer.

Return to Top of Page ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES• Climate Destruction Will Produce Millions of “Envirogees”
• PVC Shower Curtains Harmful to Your Health
• European System for Cutting CO2 Emissions is Working Well
• Most Companies Fail to Embrace Sustainability
• Tapping the Oceans
• Nature Laid Waste: The Destruction of Africa
• Arctic Thaw Threatens Siberian Permafrost
• Iowa Flooding Could Be an Act of Man

Climate Destruction Will Produce Millions of “Envirogees” – (Truth Out – May 27, 2008)

Chew on this word, jargon lovers: envirogee – a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate because of environmental devastation. In short, immigration is about to enter a new phase, which resembles an old one, but with a 21st century twist. For thousands of years, humanity has fled across Earth’s surface fearing instability and in search of sustainability. But that resource war has kicked into overdrive thanks to our current climate crisis – a manufactured war with its own ticking timebomb.

PVC Shower Curtains Harmful to Your Health – (Food Consumer – June 16, 2008)

An environmental organization has discovered that polyvinyl chloride (PVC) curtains release a variety of harmful chemicals when newly unpacked and used, at least for the first month and may pose a risk to your health because they emit a large number of toxic compounds. The PVC shower curtains were tested for two things, the concentrations of chemicals involved in the make-up of these curtains and the volatile organic compounds (VOC) present when unpacked. These organic compounds have been linked to diseases such as cancer, and reproductive toxicity and they are also known to cause conditions such as kidney and liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous system and other important parts of the body.

European System for Cutting CO2 Emissions is Working Well – (Phys Org – June 10, 2008)

In a bid to control greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, the European Union has been operating the world’s first system to limit and to trade carbon dioxide. Despite its hasty adoption and somewhat rocky beginning three years ago, the EU “cap-and-trade” system has operated well and has had little or no negative impact on the overall EU economy.

Most Companies Fail to Embrace Sustainability – (Green Biz – June 9, 2008)
By and large, companies are a long way from taking sustainability seriously and fail to grasp the opportunities it presents, according to a new report. “Sustainable Performance” from Arthur D. Little argues that regulatory and consumer pressures have not pushed corporations toward sustainability beyond superficial measures. International investors, however, are proving to be a driving force in nudging corporations to embrace the concept.

Tapping the Oceans – (Economist – June 5, 2008)

Over 97% of the planet’s water is too salty for human consumption and only a fraction of the remainder is easily accessible in rivers, lakes or groundwater. One solution is desalination, but that requires large amounts of energy and can cost several times as much as treating river or groundwater. Because of that, its use in the past was largely confined to oil-rich nations, where energy is cheap and water is scarce. But now things are changing.

Nature Laid Waste: The Destruction of Africa – (Independent – June 11, 2008)
The massive scale of environmental devastation across the continent of Africa has been fully revealed for the first time in an atlas compiled by UN geographers. Using “before and after” satellite photos, taken in all 53 countries, UN geographers have constructed an African atlas of environmental change over the past four decades – the vast majority of it for the worse. In nearly 400 pages of dramatic pictures, disappearing forests, shrinking lakes, vanishing glaciers and degraded landscapes are brought together for the first time, providing a deeply disturbing portfolio of devastation.

Arctic Thaw Threatens Siberian Permafrost – (Independent – June 14, 2008)
The permafrost belt stretching across Siberia to Alaska and Canada could start melting three times faster than expected because of the speed at which Arctic Sea ice is disappearing. A study found that the effects of sea-ice loss – which reached an all-time record last summer – extend almost 1,000 miles inland to areas where the ground is usually frozen all year round.

Iowa Flooding Could Be an Act of Man – (Washington Post – June 19, 2008)
Officials are still trying to understand all the factors that contributed to Iowa’s flooding. Some Iowans who study the environment suspect that changes in the land, both recently and over the past century or so, have made Iowa’s terrain not only highly profitable but also highly vulnerable to flooding. The basic hydrology of Iowa has been changed since the coming of the plow. By the early 20th century, farmers had installed drainage pipes under the surface to lower the water table and keep water from pooling in what is now valuable farmland but that used to be natural wetlands. More of this drainage “tiling” has been added in recent years. The direct effect is that water moves quickly from the farmland to the streams and rivers.

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ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS• Toyota Will Produce New Hybrid Battery Next Year
• Hybrid Trucks Drive through the ‘Valley of Death’
• Antro Solo Gets 150mpg
• Compressed Air Car
• Water-fuel Car Unveiled in Japan
• Construction to Start on Rotating Wind-Power Tower
• Scientists Find Bugs that Eat Waste and Excrete Petrol

Toyota Will Produce New Hybrid Battery Next Year – (Phys Org – June 11, 2008)
Automakers have for years been competing to develop lithium-ion batteries suitable for long distance hybrids, but there have been safety concerns after massive recalls of the same type of battery by laptop computer manufacturers. Now, Toyota, seeking to keep its lead in the growing hybrid market amid rising petrol prices, said its joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. will move into full-scale production of lithium-ion batteries in 2010. Nissan Motor Co. said last month it and NEC Corp. will invest $115m to mass produce new lithium-ion batteries for electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. German automaker Volkswagen AG has teamed up with Japan’s Sanyo Electric to develop a lithium-ion battery for next-generation hybrids.

Hybrid Trucks Drive through the ‘Valley of Death’ – (Forbes – June 11, 2008)
The use of hybrid engine technology in commercial trucks remains very much in its infancy. Expect that infancy to last a while, even with diesel prices soaring. A hybrid big rig costs 50% more than a conventional one, too rich a premium for most consumers. Could the federal government straighten things out? The track record doesn’t look promising.

Antro Solo Gets 150mpg – (Inhabitat – June 24, 2008)
The Antro Solo is a three seat gas-electric hybrid made entirely of carbon fiber, lowering the weight of the vehicle to 270kg. This allows phenomenal fuel efficiency and a top speed of 87mph. It also has solar panels on the roof which store energy in the car’s batteries, good for short trips. If there hasn’t been enough sun to power the batteries, each of the passenger’s seats have pedals that can power the vehicle’s generator. And, wow, is this car sleek.

Compressed Air Car – (Hoax Slayer – June, 2008)
This website has been debunking email hoaxes and exposing Internet scams since 2003. In and of itself, it is a useful resource. And now it unveils the truth about a car “being developed in India which runs on compressed air and can travel up to 125 miles for only 2 dollars”. Apparently, the answer is: It’s true.

Water-fuel Car Unveiled in Japan – (Reuters – June 15, 2008)

In a short video, the Japanese company Genepax presents its eco-friendly car that runs on nothing but water. The car has an energy generator that extracts hydrogen from water that is poured into the car’s tank. The generator then releases electrons that produce electric power to run the car. Genepax, the company that invented the technology, aims to collaborate with Japanese manufacturers to mass produce it. The video leaves a few large questions open, such as the generator/extractor is powered, but it certainly demonstrates that there is a lot of very interesting innovation going on.

Construction to Start on Rotating Wind-Power Tower – (Ecogeek – June 13, 2008)
Construction is set to begin in Dubai this month on a “twirling tower”. Each of the office building’s 59 floors will be able to rotate independently and in between them will be wind turbines to generate all the power needed to run the tower, plus, apparently, several others. The tower is expected to generate 10 times the power it needs through solar panels on the roof and 48 wind turbines, each of which are expected to generate as much as 0.3 megawatts of electricity, creating an estimated 1,200,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually.

Scientists Find Bugs that Eat Waste and Excrete Petrol – (Times – June 14, 2008)
Silicon Valley is experimenting with the genetic alteration of bacteria so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil. Instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – the company LS9 is trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY• Using Brainwaves to Chat and Stroll through Second Life – (Science Daily – June 16, 2008)
• Lost Cameras “Phone Home” to Catch Thieves – (Reuters – June 6, 2008)

Using Brainwaves to Chat and Stroll through Second Life – (Science Daily – June 16, 2008)
A research group from Keio University in Japan has demonstrated technology enabling a disabled person suffering muscle disorder to operate the computer using brain images. The subject was able to stroll through “Second Life”, a three-dimensional virtual world on the Internet and to have a conversation with using the “voice chat” function. This demonstration experiment opens a new possibility for motion-impaired people in serious conditions to communicate with others and to engage in business.

Lost Cameras “Phone Home” to Catch Thieves – (Reuters – June 6, 2008)
Cameras are perhaps the most common home-phoning gadget used to thwart criminals. An eerie case occurred last month, when a Japanese man set up a hidden camera because food was disappearing from his kitchen. While he was out, the camera sent pictures to his mobile phone of the intruder – an unknown woman living secretly in his closet. GadgetTrak, of Beaverton, Oregon, sells software that can be loaded onto any of those devices. If a BlackBerry, for example, falls into the wrong hands, the software grabs information from the new user’s SIM data card and e-mails it to the rightful owner. Some 20,000 GadgetTrack licenses have been purchased in about one year.

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TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE• CIA Explains its Wikipedia-like National Security Project
• Satellites Document War, Destruction from Outer Space
• Climate Change Could Spark War

CIA Explains its Wikipedia-like National Security Project – (Computer World – June 10, 2008)
Intellipedia lets spies post and edit content wiki-style, and includes YouTube and Flickr versions. Despite the early challenges, the CIA now has users on its top secret, secret and sensitive unclassified networks reading and editing a central wiki that has been enhanced with a YouTube-like video channel, a Flickr-like photo-sharing feature, content tagging, blogs and RSS feeds.Underscoring how vital Intellipedia has become to the agency, the CIA has been providing briefings about data posted on the wiki since October 2007. Intellipedia is built with the same open-source software as Wikipedia, and anyone with access on the various networks can read the posts. Only those users verified as authentic users can edit the content.
“This has enforced a degree of collegiality amongst colleagues,”

Satellites Document War, Destruction from Outer Space – (Wired – June 13, 2008)
The American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences’ Geospatial Technology and Human Rights Project is charged with using the latest in technology, primarily high-resolution satellite photography, to detect and call attention to possible human rights violations. presents a variety of before and after satellite photographs spanning the globe, including the most recent photographs from Ethiopia, which helped make the case for what Human Rights Watch declared “crimes against humanity” by government soldiers in the Ogaden region of the country.

Climate Change Could Spark War – (Wired – June 23, 2008)
The U.S. intelligence community has finished up its classified assessment of how our changing weather patterns could contribute to “political instability around the world, the collapse of governments and the creation of terrorist safe havens,” Inside Defense reports. “Climate change is a threat multiplier in the world’s most unstable regions,” a source familiar with the document tells Danger Room. “It’s like a match to the tinder.” Just think about the fights over water already under way in the Middle East and Africa, or the tensions exacerbated by the hurricanes and tsunamis in Asia.

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NANOTECHNOLGY• Pollution Danger Higher than Earlier Estimated
• Stripes Key to Nanoparticle Drug Delivery
• New ‘Super-paper’ is Stronger than Cast Iron

Pollution Danger Higher than Earlier Estimated – (San Francisco Chronicle – may 23, 2008)
Microscopic air pollutants from trucks, cars, power plants and wood burning may pose greater health problems than previously believed. The California Air Resources Board requested up-to-date research on premature deaths associated with inhaling particles one-thirtieth the width of a strand of hair (nano-particles). Based on 60 studies worldwide and advice from a team of experts, including the World Health Organization, the researchers concluded that the new risk factor for fine-particle pollution is 70% higher than previously estimated.

Stripes Key to Nanoparticle Drug Delivery – (MIT News – June 9, 2008)
In work that could at the same time impact the delivery of drugs and explain a biological mystery, MIT engineers have created the first synthetic nanoparticles that can penetrate a cell without poking a hole in its protective membrane and killing it. The team found that gold nanoparticles coated with alternating bands of two different kinds of molecules can quickly pass into cells without harming them, while those randomly coated with the same materials cannot.

New ‘Super-paper’ is Stronger than Cast Iron – (New Scientist – June 6, 2008)
Anew kind of paper, stronger than cast iron, could be used to reinforce conventional paper, produce extra-strong sticky tape or help create tough synthetic replacements for biological tissues, says Lars Berglund from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Despite its great strength, the “nanopaper” is produced from a biological material found in conventional paper: cellulose.

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• Easy as Pi

We May All be Space Aliens – (ABC News – June 14, 2008)
Genetic material from outer space found in a meteorite in Australia may well have played a key role in the origin of life on Earth, according to a new study. European and US scientists have proved for the first time that two bits of genetic coding, called nucleobases, contained in the meteor fragment, are truly extraterrestrial. Previous studies had suggested that the space rocks, which hit Earth some 40 years ago, might have been contaminated upon impact. Both of the molecules identified, uracil and xanthine, “are present in our DNA and RNA,” lead author Zita Martins, a researcher at Imperial College London, said.

Easy as Pi – (Mail – June 19, 2008)
It is – by any calculation – a creation stunning in its beauty and its ingenuity. Carved out in a barley field, a 150ft wide pattern is said to be a pictorial representation of the first ten digits of Pi, one of the most fundamental symbols in mathematics. Believers in extra-terrestrials could argue it was made by mathematically-minded aliens on a field trip to Earth. Skeptics will see it as the work of humans with a fondness for figures and a penchant for puzzles. But whatever its origins, the experts say it is the most complex crop circle ever seen in Britain.

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DEMOGRAPHICSSurging Prices May Force More People from Homes – (The Age – June 21, 2008)
The head of the UN refugee agency has warned that instability created by surging oil and food prices may force increasing numbers of people from their homes in search of basic necessities. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in addition to conflicts, new challenges like global warming and poverty had also added to the growing refugee crisis. Food prices have doubled in three years sparking riots in many African nations and elsewhere. Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt have all imposed food export restrictions. Experts say Africa’s spending on cereal imports is expected to rise by more than 50% in 2008, with countries like Ivory Coast, Senegal and Nigeria — among the world’s top rice importers — suffering most because the major exporters in southeast Asia is reeling from similar problems

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JUST FOR FUN• Peter Callesen
• Astronauts Hardest Hit by High Gas Prices

Peter Callesen – (website – no date)
We’d like to introduce you to the Danish artist, Peter Callesen. About his work, he says, “Most recently I have started making white paper cuts/sculptures inspired by fairytales and romanticism exploring the relationship between two and three dimensionality, between image and reality. I find the materialization of a flat piece of paper into a 3D form as an almost magic process – or maybe one could call it obvious magic, because the process is obvious and the figures still stick to their origin.” Callesen’s work is elegant, witty, and insightful.

Astronauts Hardest Hit by High Gas Prices – (Free Ass. Press – June 24, 2008)

With fuel prices in the U.S. now averaging $4.07 per gallon and climbing, no one has been harder hit than NASA astronauts. To lessen that impact, NASA has announced that it will now allow its non-essential astronauts to telecommute. Although it looks very cool, the Space Shuttle burns 540,000 gallons of fuel just to go 200 miles, costing $2,197,800 to fill the tank. If you rent the Shuttle from Hertz, that jumps to $3,421,675. That’s roughly 3.7037 x 10-4 miles per gallon. To lessen that impact, NASA has announced that it will now allow its non-essential astronauts to telecommute. When asked how an astronaut telecommutes to work, Griffin said, “It’s easy: Google Universe. You just zoom way in at whatever you want to look at. It’s kinda pixelated, but no one knows what that stuff looks like anyway.”

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A FINAL QUOTE…It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.  –  Edgar Allan Poe

A special thanks to: Paul Alois, Jerry Berman, Tom Burgin, Ken Dabkowski, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, Eleanor Hamilton, Deanna Korda, KurzweilAI, Oliver Markley, Victor Martinez, Planet 2025, Sebastian McCallister, Cady North, Diane C. Petersen, John C..Petersen, Planet 2025, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, Gary Sycalik, 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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Volume 11, Number 10 06/13/2008

Volume 11, Number 12 – 07/10/08