|Volume 11, Number 17 – 10/01/08PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENT|
John Petersen wrote his newest book “to provide a framework for the next administration – or any organization, for that matter – for thinking about how to deal with the great change that appears to be on the horizon”. Priests, shamans, and holy men have been talking about the coming decade for hundreds of years. Many scholars, examining the recurring patterns of history, also foresee major upheaval on the horizon.
In the small, hard cover volume Petersen surveys the big changes that he sees converging in the next few years and presents alternative scenarios that may emerge from the confluence. He highlights the unbelievable breakthroughs in knowledge, mindsets, and scientific capabilities that demonstrate our extraordinary capacity not just to preserve, but to evolve.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich has said that “A Vision for 2012 will stimulate you to think deeply about the challenges we face, the solutions we need, and the changes that should occur to prevent the bad changes that could occur”. Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart added “Even for those of us who have known John Petersen over the years, his insights into our revolutionary age still are enlightening, and often astonishing. As the Paul Revere of the early 21st century, his message is: The Future is Here! He is a visionary with an ethical dimension and a too little known national asset. This deceptively short essay is a primer for an explosive future that is already upon us. It should be required reading for the next President.”
PUNCTUATIONSPursuing the Future of the United States
By John L. Petersen, editor
Converging trends strongly suggest that the world – and our country – are about to experience the greatest change and disruption known in our history. The next half dozen years will likely see rapid, global climate change coupled with the beginning of the end of the petroleum era and a reorganization of the planetary energy regime, a major shock to the global financial system, unprecedented food prices, and the growing possibility of wild card events such as a bird flu pandemic.In the face of such change, any new president will be hard pressed to succeed in guiding our country through the minefield that appears to be in our path. But, the task will be impossible without a significant change in the way we pursue the future. Many of our problems are the direct result of how we presently see ourselves, our nation, and the world. Those must change. As the old adage suggests: If we keep doing what we have been doing, we’ll keep getting what we have been getting.To safely negotiate this extraordinary global reorganization and allow a new world and new human to emerge, the next President will need to:Develop a clear, sophisticated vision for the U.S. and the world for 2018
Responses to the unprecedented change that we are likely to experience in the next decade will necessarily be fragmented and incoherent without a clear, overarching sense of a) what is happening to this planet and humanity at this time, b) what the potential implications might be, c) what big options are available to us, and, considering all of this, d) who and what we want to be in ten years . This vision – a mental picture – must be easy to communicate so that it can be understood and embraced by the millions of people who will have to contribute to achieving the vision.
That vision then needs to drive all major governmental decisions made in the next four years.
Humans are disempowered when they’re afraid. We don’t think effectively or solve problems as well as we could. The present administration’s response to the problems of the day has been one of responding from fear and sowing fear throughout our citizenry. The fear of what someone might do to us has allowed Americans to give up to their government an intrusion into their lives that would have been unthinkable and unconscionable for most of our country’s history. This state of fear is continually encouraged by the present administration, with threat levels, random searches, unlimited communications monitoring, and many other public initiatives.
We will not rise to the occasion of effectively dealing with the problems on our horizon if we are frozen in fear. American’s must be called to greatness – not told to be afraid.
The extraordinary need for new ideas and solutions from all levels of society must underpin all of our policies. We must unleash and loose the constraints on our most creative people. We must allow ideas to flow and interactions to proliferate. The present policy is toward increasing constraints and intrusions on air travel, the media, the Internet, reductions on funding for science and research, education that rewards test scores rather than new ideas, and an entertainment sector that seems to be constantly searching for the lowest common denominator possible.
We must not allow the influence and interests of large commercial entities, who are fundamentally against the instability and uncertainty that attends a highly innovative environment, to dampen the most basic need of our nation for new ideas and products. We must foster the environment that encourages individuals and small groups to create and invent.
Rapidly Build Resilience and Community
The future will be disruptive on a scale that is greater than anything that any humans now alive have ever experienced. To weather the coming storms we will need for our systems to be redundant, our emergency services to be effective, alternative supply chains to be in place, and neighbors to have built extended networks of trusted relationships so that they are not only willing to help each other but know what to do. At its essence, this resilience requires community and preparation. Even if it turns out that we are not tried to the extent that it appears we will be, the emergence of strong communities would produce many substantial, positive benefits.
Develop a Foresight Capability
The change ahead will increase exponentially. There will be less and less time to both anticipate and respond to the inevitable shocks. Without a sophisticated capability to foresee potentially disruptive future events, every such experience will be a surprise. Without a foresight capability, instead of having positioned ourselves to defend against or derail the incoming disruption we are destined to react after the blow with much higher costs. New technical capabilities have been developed and are on the drawing boards that could provide a robust national surprise anticipation capability. The U.S. must develop this.
Move Toward Cooperation
Our world is becoming increasingly more interconnected and interdependent. Coincidentally, more complex, destructive technical capabilities are being developed such that the influence of a single empowered individual is greater than it has ever been in history. A smart, knowledgeable malcontent could now destroy our whole social and economic system.
This escalating global complexity and interdependency married with more destructive power available to very small groups means that the concept of competition, as it has been taught and practiced throughout recorded history, is rapidly becoming self-destructive behavior that threatens society and country.
The solution is cooperation – to learn how to get along and resolve conflicts peacefully rather than through violence. Understanding this new dynamic and its implications and the need for developing new formalized approaches to engaging other groups and our environment are now at a critical state. We must do this soon.
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THIS ISSUEEarth’s most ancient rocks, with an age of 4.28 billion years, have been found on the shore of Hudson Bay, Canada.The Australian government has issued its first license allowing scientists to create cloned human embryos to try to obtain embryonic stem cells.A new gene-therapy technique may bring relief to cancer patients who suffer from chronic, untreatable pain.Night-vision cameras, biometric sensors and other gadgets already give snoops access to private spaces. Coming soon: palm-size “bug-bots”. Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe.INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE• U.S. Sees Six ‘Disruptive Technologies’ by 2025
• Google to Digitize Newspaper Archives
U.S. Sees Six ‘Disruptive Technologies’ by 2025 – (Computer World – September 10, 2008)
In December, the president-elect will get a report detailing threats to the U.S. that will most likely include a list of emerging technologies that will have a major impact on the U.S. and the world. This report, called Global Trends 2025, is a forecast prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies. The report will be a grim assessment, with warnings about economic challenges, an aging work force, climate change and U.S. adversaries, according to emerging details, which most recently surfaced in a speech by Thomas Fingar, deputy director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the body that oversees all U.S intelligence agencies.
Google to Digitize Newspaper Archives – (New York Times – September 8, 2008)
Google has begun scanning microfilm from some newspapers’ historic archives to make them searchable online, first through Google News and eventually on the papers’ own Web sites. The new program expands a two-year-old service that allows Google News users to search the archives of some major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, that were already available in digital form. Readers will be able to search the archives using keywords and view articles as they appeared originally in the print pages of newspapers.
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NEW REALITIESGut Instinct’s Surprising Role in Math – (New York Times – September 15, 2008)
Whenever we choose a shorter grocery line over a longer one, we rally our approximate number system, an ancient and intuitive sense that we are born with and that we share with many other animals. Rats, pigeons, monkeys, babies — all can tell more from fewer. But genuine computation, however, calls for a very different number system, one that is specific, symbolic and highly abstract. Math-making seems the opposite of automatic, which is why scientists long thought it had nothing to do with our ancient, pre-verbal size-em-up ways. Yet a host of new studies suggests that the two number systems, the bestial and celestial, may be profoundly related, an insight with potentially broad implications for math education.
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DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY• Team Finds Earth’s Oldest Rocks
• UCLA Group Discovers Humongous Prime Number
• Collider Halted until Next Year
Team Finds Earth’s Oldest Rocks – (BBC News – September 26, 2008)
Earth’s most ancient rocks, with an age of 4.28 billion years, have been found on the shore of Hudson Bay, Canada. A sample of Nuvvuagittuq greenstone has been found which is 250 million years older than any rocks known. It may even hold evidence of activity by ancient life forms but, co-author Don Francis cautioned, this had not been established. He said, “Originally, we thought the rocks were maybe 3.8 billion years old. Now we have pushed the Earth’s crust back by hundreds of millions of years. That’s why everyone is so excited.”
UCLA Group Discovers Humongous Prime Number – (Wired – September 28, 2008)
Mathematicians at UCLA have discovered a 13 million-digit prime number, a long-sought milestone that makes them eligible for a $100,000 prize. The group found the 46th known Mersenne prime last month on a network of 75 computers running Windows XP. The number was verified by a different computer system running a different algorithm. Mersenne primes – named for their discoverer, 17th century French mathematician Marin Mersenne – are expressed as 2P-1, or two to the power of “P” minus one. P is itself a prime number. For the new prime, P is 43,112,609.
Collider Halted until Next Year – (BBC News – September 23, 2008)
The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva will be shut off until spring 2009 while engineers probe a magnet failure. The incident on 19 September caused a ton of liquid helium to leak out into the experiment’s 27km-long tunnel. Officials said the time required to fully investigate the problem precluded a re-start before the lab’s winter maintenance period. A spokesman for Cern said that it was unclear at this stage when the collider could re-start operations after the lab’s regular winter shut-down – which is partly done to save money on electricity during this period of peak demand.
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GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY• Researchers Develop New Antimicrobial Polymers
• Antidepressants May Harm Sperm
• Gene Therapy Painkillers
• Australia Issues Embryo Cloning License
• A Switch to Turn off Autism?
• Soy May Benefit Stroke Patients
• Stem Cells without Side Effects
Researchers Develop New Antimicrobial Polymers – (Device Link – September, 2008)
In recent years, there has been a substantial growth in the number of hospital-acquired infections globally—a problem that has become especially worrisome as antibiotic resistance worsens. Medical devices have been implicated as part of the problem, because, after they are removed from their sterile packaging, they can transmit bacteria found in the air or on a patient’s skin. Jeffrey Dabkowski, and other researchers at the University of Massachusetts have been working to develop a variety of polymers that quickly kill bacteria and other microbes on contact. Unlike antibiotics, the polymers avoid the problem of antibacterial resistance. The inspiration for the polymers came from a diverse class of naturally occurring antimicrobial agents known as host defense peptides.
Antidepressants May Harm Sperm – (BBC News – September 26, 2008)
Drugs taken by millions of men to alleviate depression may affect their fertility, say US scientists. A small number of healthy men given the antidepressant paroxetine for four weeks had far higher levels of sperm with damaged DNA. This is the second study by a team of researchers at Cornell Medical Center in New York which points to a possible effect on sperm quality. Dr Allan Pacey, at the University of Sheffield, said that while there had been “sporadic reports” that antidepressants could affect semen quality, more research would be needed to help scientists evaluate the risk. “The apparent increase in sperm DNA damage is alarming, although the level at which we think the damage becomes clinically significant is controversial to many scientists.”
Gene Therapy Painkillers – (Technology Review – September 22, 2008)
A new gene-therapy technique, which has entered early-stage clinical trials, may bring relief to cancer patients who suffer from chronic, untreatable pain. By delivering the gene for an opiate-like chemical directly to affected nerves, the treatment may circumvent the debilitating side effects normally associated with opiate drugs. The new technique uses a crippled version of herpes simplex virus (HSV) – the virus responsible for cold sores – to deliver a therapeutic gene to affected nerves. This is also the first clinical trial that uses HSV to shuttle a foreign gene into the body.
Australia Issues Embryo Cloning License – (Reuters – September 17, 2008)
The Australian government has issued its first license allowing scientists to create cloned human embryos to try to obtain embryonic stem cells. The in vitro-fertilization firm Sydney IVF was granted the license and reportedly has access to 7,200 human eggs for its research. Chair of the government licensing committee, Dr John Findlay, said Sydney IVF’s research would be closely monitored. “They have been given a license to do therapeutic cloning,” Findlay told Reuters, adding the scientists are not licensed to reach the fetal stage. If the firm is successful it would be a world first. Scientists in other countries have made stem cells they believe are similar to embryonic cells using a variety of techniques, but none have been able to extract embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos.
A Switch to Turn off Autism? – (Scientific American – September 25, 2008)
Scientists say they have pinpointed a gene in the brain that can calm nerve cells that become too jumpy, potentially paving the way for new therapies to treat autism and other neurological disorders. The brain is continually trying to strike a balance between too much and too little nerve cell activity. Neurologists believe that when the balance tips, disorders such as autism and schizophrenia may occur. Michael Greenberg, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School, says he and his colleagues located a gene in mice and rats that helps keep neural activity in check—and may one day be manipulated to prevent or reverse neurological problems.
Soy May Benefit Stroke Patients – (BBC News – September 26, 2008)
A chemical found in soybeans and chickpeas could benefit people who have suffered a stroke, say researchers. The University of Hong Kong team says the treatment effect of the chemical, isoflavone, is comparable to that of cholesterol-busting statin drugs. The European Heart Journal study showed isoflavone helped improve blood flow through the arteries. Soya isoflavones in particular have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk as they inhibit the growth of cells that form artery-clogging plaque.
Stem Cells without Side Effects – (Technology Review – September 25, 2008)
Last year, researchers announced one of the most promising methods yet for creating ethically neutral stem cells: reprogramming adult human cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This involved using four transcription factor proteins to turn specific genes on and off. But the resulting cells have one huge flaw: they’re made with a virus that embeds itself into the cells’ DNA and, over time, can induce cancer. Now, scientists at Harvard University have found a way to effect the same reprogramming without using a harmful virus – a method that paves the way for tissue transplants made from a patient’s own cells.
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ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES• Google Wants U.S. to Use 100% Alternative Energy by 2030
• Bleak Outlook for Europe’s Toads
• Experts Find Chemical Equator Dividing Globe
• The Methane Time Bomb
• Solar Wind Blows at 50-year Low
• Ancient Arctic Ice Could Tell Us about Future of Permafrost
Google Wants U.S. to Use 100% Alternative Energy by 2030 – (Daily Tech – September
Google has already made it clear that it wants to promote alternative energy in a big way as part of its “Don’t be evil” philosophy. Now Google has outlined a comprehensive plan to accomplish what the U.S. government and private business has thus far been unable to do – eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil and non-renewable energy sources. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that the justification for adopting alternative energy boils down to basic math, with the formula energy efficiency = savings (or E2=$) being the key. He stated, “It’s just a math problem.”
Bleak Outlook for Europe’s Toads – (BBC News – September 25, 2008)
More than half of Europe’s amphibians could be extinct by 2050, a team of UK researchers has warned. Climate change, habitat destruction and disease were the main factors threatening the species’ long-term survival, they added. A recent global assessment found that a third of all amphibians were at risk of being wiped off the face of the planet.
Experts Find Chemical Equator Dividing Globe – (MSNBC – September 23, 2008)
Scientists have discovered a “chemical equator” that divides the polluted air of the Northern Hemisphere from the largely uncontaminated atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers found evidence for an atmospheric chemical line about 30 miles wide in cloudless skies in the Western Pacific, with levels of carbon monoxide four times higher on the northern side.
The Methane Time Bomb – (Independent – September 23, 2008)
Millions of tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, are being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed. Preliminary findings suggest that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats. Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia’s northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.
Solar Wind Blows at 50-year Low – (BBC News – September 24, 2008)
The solar wind – the stream of charged particles billowing away from the Sun – is at its weakest for 50 years. Scientists made the assessment after studying 18 years of data from the Ulysses satellite which has sampled the space environment all around our star. They expect the reduced output to have effects right across the Solar System. The entire Sun is blowing significantly less hard – about 20-25% less hard – than it was during the last solar minimum 10-15 years ago. In addition to being calmer, the wind is 13% cooler.
Ancient Arctic Ice Could Tell Us about Future of Permafrost – (Science Daily – September 29, 2008)
Researchers have discovered the oldest known ice in North America, and that permafrost may be a significant touchstone when looking at global warming. Within the discontinuous permafrost zone-the area where permafrost is warm and within a few degrees of 0C and shallow, only a few to tens of meters thick – it has survived at some locations for more than 700,000 years. Because of the potential longevity of the permafrost, it tells the story of climate changes over the course of hundreds of thousands of years which is immeasurably valuable.
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ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS• White Roofs, Streets Could Curb Global Warming
• Inpex to Use Bacteria at Old Oil Wells to Produce Gas
• As America Implodes, the Bike Industry Booms
White Roofs, Streets Could Curb Global Warming – (Phys Org – September 17, 2008)
The idea of painting our roofs and roads white to offset global warming is not new, but a recent study has calculated just how significantly white surfaces could impact greenhouse gas emissions. If the 100 largest cities in the world replaced their dark roofs with white shingles and their asphalt-based roads with concrete or other light-colored material, it could offset 44 metric billion tons of greenhouse gases. That amounts to more greenhouse gas than the entire human population emits in one year, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. The strategy could also offset the growth in carbon dioxide emissions, which account for about 75% of greenhouse gases, for the next 10 years.
Inpex to Use Bacteria at Old Oil Wells to Produce Gas – (Bloomberg – September 29, 2008)
Japanese researchers have developed a method of using bacteria found in depleted oil wells to turn leftover crude into natural gas, a technique that could help meet 10% of Japan’s demand for the fuel. Inpex Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest energy explorer, has produced methane using microbes and crude residue from the 139- year-old Yabase field in northern Japan. A $19 million trial will start in 2015 to decide if gas can be produced commercially at Yabase.
As America Implodes, the Bike Industry Booms – (Wired – September 26, 2008)
As a perfect storm of eco-conscious consumerism, health-conscious lifestyles and wallet-sapping gas prices people are getting out of cars and onto bikes – especially electric ones. Cycling enjoyed a “huge spike” in interest in June when gas topped four bucks a gallon, Blumenthal says. Much of the bike industry has enjoyed double digit growth since then. Some manufacturers have seen 50% growth in the last quarter, and dealers can’t keep up with demand. The service sector (“tubes and lube” in industry jargon) also is booming as old bikes are hauled out of sheds and garages and dragged into shops for tune-ups and tires.
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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY• Google Funds Startup to Bring Cheap Satellite Internet to 3 Billion People
• 3M Launches First Pocket Projector
Google Funds Startup to Bring Cheap Satellite Internet to 3 Billion People – (Daily Tech – September 12, 2008)
The company O3B, which draws its name from the phrase “other 3 billion” to describe the world’s population with no internet coverage, located in U.K.’s Channel Islands, is building 16 satellites thanks to $65M in funding from HSBC Principal Investments, a private equity provider; Liberty Global, a service provider for phone and Internet access in 15 countries; and Google. O3B’s unique plan is to launch medium-earth orbit (MEO) satellites, which orbit at 5,000 miles and only have 120 millisecond latency and are less expensive compared to geosatellites which orbit at 22,500 miles, have a latency of up to 600 milliseconds, and cost more.
3M Launches First Pocket Projector – (Pop Sci – September 11, 2008)
That’s projector, not protector. But geeks will rejoice nonetheless. The pocketsize projector has been the Holy Grail of gadgets for many years, and now we’ve got it. In a dark room, it could project a big enough image to be the ultimate cheap-o home theater. The projector will sell for a mere $359. It doesn’t have a speaker, so you’ll have to get that separately. But really, how good could a microscopic speaker jammed into this thing sound, anyway?
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TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE• U.S. Pushing Through Dozens of Foreign Weapons Deals
• PlanetData Adds Security News Maps
• MI6 Pokes Facebook for New Spy Recruits
• Meet the Hackers
• Digital Surveillance: Tools of the Spy Trade
U.S. Pushing Through Dozens of Foreign Weapons Deals – (Herald Tribune – September 14, 2008)
From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005. The trend, which started in 2006, is most pronounced in the Middle East, but it reaches into northern Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and even Canada. The United States is far from the only country pushing sophisticated weapons systems: It is facing intense competition from Russia and elsewhere in Europe, including continuing contests for multibillion-dollar deals to sell fighter jets to India and Brazil.
PlanetData Adds Security News Maps – (Planet Data – September 16, 2008)
PlanetData — The Security News Network™ is a security news and information website organized by essential security industry markets, including Global Security, Aviation Security, Corporate Security, Cyber Security, Homeland Security, Maritime Security, Law Enforcement and Intelligence. Registration is free. PlanetData has News Maps for all eight sections of its website. With these maps, PlanetData plots security-related news and information on a daily basis to give readers a visual representation of where world-shaping events are taking place within specific areas of interest. This tool uses Google Maps API, which provides features such as satellite views and the ability to zoom in and out.
MI6 Pokes Facebook for New Spy Recruits – (Yahoo News – September 28, 2008)
Britain’s overseas security service, MI6, has turned to social networking website Facebook to help recruit new agents. A spokeswoman for MI6 said they launched Facebook job advertisements a few weeks ago to try and reach a larger variety of people. The intelligence service began using radio and newspapers for recruitment more than two years ago. Budding spies can also apply for jobs at the MI6 website.
Meet the Hackers – (The Week – September 26, 2008)
With the advent of the profit motive in the Internet, came new definitions of the word “hacker”. There are now White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat hackers. The Whites do legal stuff for good reasons, the Blacks do it for criminal financial gain, and the Grays sometimes do bad things with good motives. According to the Pentagon, hackers were once a hindrance, but now, collectively, they’re viewed as a huge unpaid resource. Says Jim Christy, director of future exploration at the Defense Department’s Cyber Crime Center: “These guys have become our eyes and ears.”
Digital Surveillance: Tools of the Spy Trade – (Scientific American – August, 2008)
Night-vision cameras, biometric sensors and other gadgets already give snoops access to private spaces. Coming soon: palm-size “bug-bots”. This article describes 17 surveillance gadgets, including a “DNA sensor”, one of the latest biometric systems, which can sample DNA left on a glass or doorknob and compare it with genetic information on file and the “artificial nose” which can detect a subject’s body “odor print,” which is then matched against records.
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AUGMENTED/ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE• Voice-Commanded Robot Wheelchair Finds Its Own Way
• Teaching Robots New Tricks
Voice-Commanded Robot Wheelchair Finds Its Own Way – (Science Daily – September 29, 2008)
MIT researchers are developing a new kind of autonomous wheelchair that can learn all about the locations in a given building, and then take its occupant to a given place in response to a verbal command. Unlike other attempts to program wheelchairs or other mobile devices, which rely on an intensive process of manually capturing a detailed map of a building, the MIT system can learn about its environment in much the same way as a person would: By being taken around once on a guided tour, with important places identified along the way
Teaching Robots New Tricks – (Technology Review – September 29, 2008)
Programming instructions for robots can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Many roboticists believe that training robots by demonstrating new skills could speed up the process and enable the machines to perform more difficult tasks. Now researchers have created such a system for robotic helicopters. With their approach, the team can train a robotic helicopter to perform a complicated aerial maneuver in less than 30 minutes simply by analyzing video footage of the trick. The work could one day be applied to a wide variety of robots on land and sea, as well as in the air
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GLOBAL EPIDEMIC‘Sumo Virus’ Warning is Issued – (BBC News – September 28, 2008)
A viral skin condition linked to contact sports such as rugby and wrestling has prompted warnings after two deaths in Japan. “Herpes gladiatorum” is passed through broken skin. Researchers studying 39 infected sumo wrestlers said the unusual strain found was easily spread and more severe than other virus types.
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TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT• Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error that Dropped Votes
• How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People
• Senate Passes Bill Creating ‘Copyright Czar’
Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error that Dropped Votes – (Washington Post – August 21, 2008)
A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges. The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold. As recently as May, Premier said the problem was not of its making but stemmed from anti-virus software that Ohio had installed on its machines. It also briefly said the mistakes could have come from human mistakes. Further testing by Ohio elections officials and then high volume tests by Premier uncovered the programming error.
How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People – (Scientific American – August, 2008)
If you live in a state bordering Canada or Mexico, you may soon be given an opportunity to carry a very high tech item: a remotely readable driver’s license. Designed to identify U.S. citizens as they approach the nation’s borders, the cards are being promoted by the Department of Homeland Security as a way to save time and simplify border crossings. But if you care about your safety and privacy as much as convenience, you might want to think twice before signing up. The new licenses come equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be read right through a wallet, pocket or purse from as far away as 30 feet.
Senate Passes Bill Creating ‘Copyright Czar’ – (Wired – September 26, 2008)
U.S. lawmakers have approved the creation of a cabinet-level position of copyright czar as part of sweeping intellectual property enforcement legislation. However, a controversial measure granting the Justice Department the authority to sue copyright infringers on behalf of Hollywood and the music industry was removed after the White House lobbied against assuming those new powers. The new copyright czar will oversee government anti-piracy crackdowns and, among other things, train other countries about IP enforcement. The legislation also creates an FBI piracy unit and allows for the forfeiture of equipment used in large pirating operations.
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CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE• Hubble Finds a Mystery Object
• Mysterious New ‘Dark Flow’ Discovered in Space
• Fermilab Looks for Visitors from Another Dimension
Hubble Finds a Mystery Object – (Sky and Telescope – September 11, 2008)
On February 21, 2006, in the direction of a far-away cluster in Bootes, Hubble began seeing something brighten. It continued brightening for about 100 days and peaked at 21st magnitude in two near-infrared colors. It then faded away over a similar timescale, until nothing was left in view down to 26th magnitude. The object brightened and faded by a factor of at least 120. The mystery object did not behave like any known kind of supernova and is not in any detectable galaxy.
Mysterious New ‘Dark Flow’ Discovered in Space – (Space – September 26, 2008)
As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren’t vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered. Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon “dark flow.” The stuff that’s pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude.
Fermilab Looks for Visitors from Another Dimension – (Scientific American – September, 2008)
The detection of extra dimensions beyond the familiar four—the three dimensions of space and one of time—would be among the most earth-shattering discoveries in the history of physics. Now scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., are designing a new experiment that would investigate tantalizing hints that extra dimensions may indeed exist. Last year researchers involved in Fermilab’s MiniBooNE study, which detects elusive subatomic particles called neutrinos, announced that they had found a surprising anomaly.
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ECONOMIC INDICATORSHow to Prevent the Next Wall Street Crisis – (CNN – September 17, 2008)
This commentary by Joseph E. Stiglitz, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, outlines the details behind his observation that “America [has been] living on borrowed money and borrowed time.” He says, “At the center of blame must be the financial institutions themselves. They – and even more their executives – had incentives that were not well aligned with the needs of our economy and our society. They were amply rewarded, presumably for managing risk and allocating capital, which was supposed to improve the efficiency of the economy so much that it justified their generous compensation. But they misallocated capital; they mismanaged risk – they created risk.” There is a pattern here, Stiglitz goes on to say, one that suggests deep systemic problems — and a variety of solutions.
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DEMOGRAPHICS• Why I Am Leaving Guyland
• In Hard Times, Tent Cities Rise Across the Country
Why I Am Leaving Guyland – (Newsweek – August 30, 2008)
In his new book, Guyland, Michael Kimmel, sociology professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook, notes that the traditional markers of manhood—leaving home, getting an education, finding a partner, starting work and becoming a father—have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved from “a transitional moment to a whole new stage of life.” In 1960, almost 70% of men had reached these milestones by the age of 30. Today, less than a third of males that age can say the same. Today’s guys are perhaps the first downwardly mobile—and endlessly adolescent—generation of men in U.S. history. They’re also among the most distraught—men between the ages of 16 and 26 have the highest suicide rate for any group except men above 70—and socially isolated, despite their image as a band of backslapping buddies.
In Hard Times, Tent Cities Rise Across the Country – (MSNBC – September 17, 2008)
Homeless encampments are springing up around the country. From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation. Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions say they’ve experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report’s release in April. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported a 12% drop in homelessness nationally in two years, from about 754,000 in January 2005 to 666,000 in January 2007. But the 2007 numbers omitted people who previously had been considered homeless — such as those staying with relatives or friends or living in campgrounds or motel rooms for more than a week. In addition, the housing and economic crisis began soon after HUD’s most recent data was compiled.
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JUST FOR FUNTouring the Greenest Museum Ever – (BBC News – September 25, 2008)
The California Academy of Sciences, based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, has opened its doors to the public following 3 years of construction and 10 years of planning. Designed by Renzo Piano, a winner of the most respected prize in architecture, the Pritzker, the Academy has green credentials running from the planetarium to the aquarium and from the rainforest to the living roof which mirrors the hills the city is built on. The list of sustainable design features is seemingly endless: non-toxic insulation, a passive heating and cooling system, a recycled steel structure and electricity provided by some 60,000 photovoltaic cells. The crowning glory of this new $488m edifice is the living roof which unites the 12 separate buildings. It boasts 1.7m native Californian plants spread over 2.5 acres.
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A FINAL QUOTE…The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present. – Bill Watterson, author of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes”.
A special thanks to:, Paul Alois, Ken Dabkowski, Ann Feeney,Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, Tucker Greco, Jim Hoyt, KurzweilAI, Planet 2025, Sebastian McCallister, Diane C. Petersen, Planet 2025, Hal Puthoff, the Schwartzreport, Connie Swenson, Joel Snell, our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
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