|Volume 11, Number 18 – 11/03/08PUBLICATION 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.”
PUNCTUATIONSBy John L. Petersen, editor
Well, as we have been saying for over two-and-a-half years now, it really appears that the world’s financial system is going to fail in a very significant way in the coming months. We’re not talking about recession here. It looks worse than that.
My guess, from reading the folks who both have a reason to best understand the potential behavior of this system and have a track record of not being biased by ties to the institutions they are analyzing, is that we haven’t begun to see the bottom of this collapse. Twelve to 18 months seems to be a common notion of when it begins to turn up . . . presuming, of course, that other significant events like rapid climate change or bird flu don’t come along and exacerbate things.
Our own Dr. David Martin laid out the emergence and evolution of this crisis in July of 2006 and has updated his assessment regularly with two Spring-side Chats (One and Two) here in Berkeley Springs.
If you’d like a couple of other data points, consider these pieces by Nouriel Roubini and this NEWSHOUR interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Benoit Mandelbrot. Roubini has been spot on about this whole thing up to now, outlining the 12 steps to the system’s meltdown in February of this year. He now says there is another year or more to go.
Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, and Mandelbrot, the best-known developer of fractal geometry, approach this crisis from a more theoretical perspective, trying to understand the potential behavior of an extraordinarily complicated system. They say that this system is too complex for anyone to understand and that presents the distinct possibility of rolling, interconnected failures that build into what may be the most significant disruption since the American Revolution – this could be the most important event in the history of the country.
The wild card in this mix seems to me to be the derivatives – all 60 to 600 TRILLION dollars worth of them. There are differing estimates as to the amount that is in the system (part of the problem is that they are unregulated). The operative issue is that they are (relatively) benign only until the group psychology changes. If, for any reason, confidence in the system is significantly lost, there are good reasons to believe that, as Warren Buffett has suggested, the house of cards will come tumbling down.
So it will be interesting, no matter what happens.
It’s clear that there is a new world beginning to emerge here that will be quite different from what we have found familiar all of our lives. There are a number of authors who are responding to this transition by attempting to frame ideas and concepts about and for the new future. Let me recommend a couple to you.
For quite some time now, James Howard Kunstler has been one of the most articulate and creative people following and reporting on this global shift. His writing (The Long Emergency) and presentations on the systemic meltdown of the system make great, provocative reading and wonderful, entertaining listening. Jim’s most recent book, World Made By Hand is great grist for futuring. It is a scenario – in the form a fictional tale – about a post-petroleum future where horses are the only mode of land transportation and the old social system has been upset. As with any good scenario, it causes one to think seriously about what might actually emerge out of all of this change. I liked it.
Futurist Joe Coats has been thinking about the new world and how a new set of values might inform our societies. His book, A Bill of Rights for 21st Century America is a very creative attempt to distill the shifting beliefs that underpin life in our rapidly changing world into a practical platform that could be the basis for the new era. Quite provocative.
From his perch at George Washington University, Bill Halal has been continuing his broad-based cataloging of the world of technology. His book, Technology’s Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society, is a rather comprehensive forecast of the future of science and technology that ranges widely through many possibilities including biogenetics, society online, deep space travel, shifting social structures, and even the age of consciousness. It will help expand your mind.
And of course, there is the 2008 State of the Future, from The Millennium Project and Jerry Glenn and Ted Gordon. This deep look at global futures has no parallel. Jerry and Ted have been collecting input from their global network of futures practitioners for more than a decade now (I remember sitting in the meeting where they first announced the launch of MP), and cooking up global scenarios, analysis and forecasts on significant issues. Among many other things, they detail global challenges, energy and environmental issues and include a CD on which resides 6,300 pages of information, including the cumulative work of the Millennium Project since 1996. On the CD you’ll find a section on sustainable development, environmental security, future ethical issues . . . and an appendix of 2,600 pages. It will keep you busy for a while!
Finally, I’d like to encourage you to support us here at The Arlington Institute.
From the beginning of this endeavor, our philosophy has been, “We give our stuff away”. Our interest has been to make what we know and think as generally and freely accessible to as many people as possible – with hope that FUTUREdition and the other things that we publish and events that we host will help to shape the extraordinary global transition that is carrying us into the future.
That approach has worked. I am constantly encouraged by the warm responses that we get from TAI friends around the world telling me of the value they receive from the newsletter and their appreciation for our alerts and other communications. It’s always a happy surprise when I am approached at some meeting somewhere on the other side of the world by a friendly face who begins to tell me why they really love FUTUREdition and how they appreciate the intellectual contribution that The Arlington Institute makes to their life.
That encourages me to keep on pushing!
Now I’d like to ask you to do two things that would be very helpful to us here at TAI.
First, recommend FUTUREdition to your friends. Better yet, give it to your friends for Thanksgiving. Don’t wait for Christmas! It still doesn’t cost anything, has no advertising, and could really be helpful to those in your life that seriously wonder what might be coming their way.
Would you add five of your friends to our list? We’ll send them our alerts and newsletter and help them to anticipate and prepare for the future. It’s easy. Just click here, and add their email address.
IMPORTANT: Send them a note and tell them about the nice thing you did for them. Let’s not have it be a surprise that they confuse with spam!
Secondly, you can help us with a financial contribution during this season of giving.
It takes quite a bit of time and effort (and money) to run this little nonprofit. Right now, things are tight and we need your help.
We’ve got some great projects in the works. One big one is to engage a large number of people to help design a model of the emerging new world. Cooperation, sustainability, innovation, and resilience would be the underlying values in this new paradigm. It would be a place that presumes that we all are connected together . . . and demonstrates that a practical new way of living was possible.
We’ll look at all of the new ideas that we can find for economies, governments, legal and education systems, energy, ecology, etc. There are all kinds of them popping up – seeding the landscape with alternatives of how the world might work in this new space.
With the current systems continuing to fail, with this model we could show humanity a new option – an emerging alternative. We could provide hope, in an otherwise gloomy world.
There’s also serious interest in our WHETHEReport project: using advanced technology in a way that would produce an extraordinary breakthrough in anticipating futures.
We’d build a revolutionary new capability to gather up unusual precognitive dreams and intuitions in multiple languages from around the world. Map them and track them . . . and see how the global collective unconscious actually anticipates big disruptions.
We know it works in principle. In the past we’ve interacted with precog dreamers and have hundreds of case studies available to us of regular, every day people who had unusual, predictive dreams about the Asian tsunami and 9/11. And, we’ve got the technology that will allow us to put it all together.
I’m pleased to report that there are growing groups of friends who want to support these new projects and carry us forward in this new phase of TAI’s life.
But right now, we need you to help us get to that place. If FUTUREdition has been good for you, now you can assure that it keeps coming.
We will put whatever you send us – no matter what the amount – to very good use. The good news is . . . there is no limit to what you can give. At TAI we try to think big, so I can assure you that you cannot over-respond to this request.
So please be generous.
If you want to send a check, please mail your tax-deductible contribution to:
The Arlington Institute
192 Fairfax Street
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 USA
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Thanks. Very much.
All of us here at TAI enjoy our work and think it is very important. We appreciate your support.
Very warm wishes from us for the coming holidays.
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THIS ISSUEScientists say that the Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. This condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe’s expansion. Researchers say they have a working prototype of a fully artificial heart ready for implanting in humans. Vertical farming: Why not grow grains, vegetables and fruits right where the expanding crowds of consumers are – in the middle of a city, inside a tall glass building?Two inventors at the New University of Lisbon have found a way to use ordinary paper as the substrate for transistors, rather than silicon chips.A flute-playing robot is now able to teach beginners and play in a band. INSTITUTIONAL CHANGEParents Queue to Select Baby Gender – (BBC News – October 29, 2008)
It is possible to almost guarantee the sex of a baby using IVF and a type of embryo screening called Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). A growing number of British couples are undergoing procedures at clinics overseas to determine the gender of their babies. However, many patients who were planning to go abroad (because the procedure is illegal in the UK) were completely confused as to where it was legal and where it wasn’t. In most countries, PGD is used only for medical reasons. So if there is a genetic disease which runs in boys, couples would be allowed to have PGD to implant only female embryos. The US and Russia legally allow sex selection.
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NEW REALITIESDo We Live in a Giant Cosmic Bubble? – (Live Science – September 30, 2008)
If the notion of dark energy sounds improbable, get ready for an even more outlandish suggestion. Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe’s expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation. Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario.
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GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY• Eliminating Viral Vector in Stem Cell Reprogramming
• Full Artificial Heart Implant
• Smart Insulin
Eliminating Viral Vector in Stem Cell Reprogramming – (Science Daily – October 12, 2008)
Previously, Shinya Yamanaka MD, PhD, of Kyoto University and the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) had shown that adult cells can be reprogrammed to become embryonic stem cell–like using a cancer-causing oncogene as one of the four genes required to reprogram the cells, and a virus to transfer the genes into the cells. In the last year, Dr. Yamanaka and other labs showed that the oncogene, c-Myc, is not needed. Now Dr. Yamanaka’s laboratory in Kyoto has eliminated the need for the virus.
Full Artificial Heart Implant – (BBC News – October 28, 2008)
Scientists say they have a working prototype of a fully artificial heart ready for implanting in humans. The device beats almost exactly like the real thing using electronic sensors to regulate heart rate and blood flow. Developers Carmat now need approval from the French authorities before pushing ahead with clinical trials. But heart experts warned it was still early days as previous attempts to create a fully artificial heart had failed during human testing. However, the power supply for the heart remains a significant hurdle.
Smart Insulin – (Technology Review – October 30, 2008)
An experimental drug for diabetes dispenses insulin in response to glucose levels. The injectable drug, called SmartInsulin, senses high glucose levels and automatically dispenses insulin on demand. As glucose levels drop off, the drug stabilizes, trapping insulin until the next glucose spike. Such a drug may cut down the number of insulin injections required to once a day.
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ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES• Carbon Dioxide Scrubber Captures Greenhouse Gases
• Skyscraper Farming
• Time to Adapt as Earth Warms Up
• What’s Causing Bats to Drop Like Flies?
Carbon Dioxide Scrubber Captures Greenhouse Gases – (Phys Org – September 29, 2008)
University of Calgary climate change scientist David Keith and his team are working to efficiently capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide directly from the air, using near-commercial technology. The research is significant because air capture technology is the only way to capture CO2 emissions from transportation sources such as vehicles and airplanes. These so-called diffuse sources represent more than half of the greenhouse gases emitted on Earth.
Skyscraper Farming – (Scientific American – September 08, 2008)
A fanciful notion only a few years ago, vertical farming has captured the attention of large developers that are planning more sustainable cities. Why not grow grains, vegetables and fruits right where the expanding crowds of consumers are: in the middle of a city, inside a tall glass building? Poultry and pork could be reared there, too. A vertical farm would drastically reduce the fossil-fuel use and emissions associated with farm machinery and trucking, as well as the spread of fertilizer and its runoff. Crops could grow and be harvested year-round instead of at the end of one season, multiplying annual yield by at least four times.
Time to Adapt as Earth Warms Up – (Bloomberg – October 7, 2008)
Tasmanian salmon farmers are trying to breed a new species that can flourish in warmer ponds.
Along the coast in Britain the National Trust, a charity, is moving electricity sockets halfway up the wall in several buildings to safeguard against flooding from the sea. Adaptation is needed “so that humankind can cope with the significant inevitable climate change that we are already committed to,” according to Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
What’s Causing Bats to Drop Like Flies? – (Scientific American – October 30, 2008)
Bat populations throughout northeastern New York State, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have thinned by as much as 97%. In area bat caves, emaciated survivors were found hanging near cave entrances where it is typically too cold for them to stay the entire winter. The only clue to the mysterious phenomenon was a white, powdery fungus on the muzzles, ears and wings of the dead and dying bats. “Fungi are opportunistic pathogens,” David Blehert, a USGS microbiologist says, “they don’t usually attack and kill otherwise healthy animals.” One thing is certain, Blehert says, “Before the identification of white-nose syndrome, mass mortality events in bats as a result of disease were very rare.”
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ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS• Mass Production of Plastic Solar Cells
• Fuel-Cell Power-Up
Mass Production of Plastic Solar Cells – (Technology Review – October 17, 2008)
In a significant milestone in the deployment of flexible, printed photovoltaics, Konarka, a solar-cell startup based in Lowell, MA, has opened a commercial-scale factory, with the capacity to produce enough organic solar cells every year to generate one gigawatt of electricity, the equivalent of a large nuclear reactor. Organic solar cells could cut the cost of solar power by making use of inexpensive organic polymers rather than the expensive crystalline silicon used in most solar cells. What’s more, the polymers can be processed using low-cost equipment such as ink-jet printers or coating equipment employed to make photographic film, which reduces both capital and manufacturing costs compared with conventional solar-cell manufacturing.
Fuel-Cell Power-Up – (Technology Review – November/December, 2008)
A new process increases the energy output of methanol fuel cells by 50%. MIT chemical-engineering professor Paula Hammond has developed what looks like thick Saran wrap. Though it appears un-remarkable, this polymer membrane can significantly increase the power output of a methanol fuel cell, which could make that technology suitable as a lighter, longer–lasting, and more environmentally friendly alternative to batteries in consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptops.
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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY• Looks Good on Paper
• Study Shows Hotels’ Internet Connections Unsafe
Looks Good on Paper – (Economist – October 16, 2008)
Elvira Fortunato, Rodrigo Martins and their colleagues at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal believe they have found a novel use for paper: they have used it to make a transistor. The two researchers built their transistors by coating both sides of a sheet of paper with semiconductors made of oxides of zinc, gallium and indium, rather than silicon. They then deposited aluminium onto the coated paper to connect the resulting components together. One side of the paper carried the control currents while the other carried the output currents. The paper thus acted as the dielectric between the components of each transistor, as well as being the substrate for the circuit, in the same way that the base of a silicon chip acts both as substrate and as dielectric.
Study Shows Hotels’ Internet Connections Unsafe – (Phys Org – October 1, 2008)
Travelers who use a hotel’s Internet network risk the possibility of data theft, concludes a new study from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. The analysis of the networks in 46 hotels and a survey of 147 U.S. hotels found that a majority of the hotels do not use all available tools to maintain network security. About 20% of the hotels surveyed still use simple hub-type systems, which are most vulnerable to hacking.
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TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE• Packs of Robots Will Hunt down Uncooperative Humans
• Watchdogs Battle Zombie Computer Networks as Attacks Double
• World Bank under Cyber Siege
Packs of Robots Will Hunt down Uncooperative Humans – (New Scientist – October 22, 2008)
According to a request from the Pentagon, it is looking for contractors to provide a “Multi-Robot Pursuit System” that will let packs of robots “search for and detect a non-cooperative human”. Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University, an expert on police and military technologies, last year correctly predicted this pack-hunting mode of operation would happen. “The giveaway here is the phrase ‘a non-cooperative human subject’,” he said. “What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed. We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed.”
Watchdogs Battle Zombie Computer Networks as Attacks Double – (Bloomberg – October 16, 2008)
The number of zombies out there lurking on desktops is growing. And to fight them, a band of Internet security experts is using a “neighborhood watch” approach and every honey pot it can muster. The Shadowserver Foundation’s worldwide daily count of zombie computers, which are infected with viruses and bent to malevolent purposes, doubled this month to 300,000 from 150,000 a year earlier. The spurt comes from more hackers linking machines to form botnets, networks they use to steal identities, attack Web sites and sell pilfered e-mail addresses to spammers. Internet crimes cost U.S. consumers and businesses $239 million in 2007, up 20% from the year before, according to government data.
World Bank under Cyber Siege – (Fox News – October 10, 2008)
The World Bank Group’s computer network — one of the largest repositories of sensitive data about the economies of every nation — has been raided repeatedly by outsiders for more than a year. It is still not known how much information was stolen. But sources inside the bank confirm that servers in the institution’s highly-restricted treasury unit were deeply penetrated with spy software last April. Invaders also had full access to the rest of the bank’s network for nearly a month in June and July. In total, at least six major intrusions — two of them using the same group of IP addresses originating from China — have been detected at the World Bank since the summer of 2007, with the most recent breach occurring just last month.
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AUGMENTED/ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE• A Robot Music Instructor
• Army Developing Synthetic Telepathy
A Robot Music Instructor – (Technology Review – October 30, 2008)
A clever flute-playing robot can teach beginners and play in a band. One of the more whimsical robots presented at BioRob 2008 was the latest version of the Waseda Flutist Robot, a robot musician first created in the 1990s. Jorge Solis, a researcher at Waseda University, in Japan, has been working on the robot since 2003, and he and other researchers recently made some important improvements, including adding more than 40 degrees of freedom to its body to make its flute playing more lifelike, and giving it the ability to recognize and interact with other human players.
Army Developing Synthetic Telepathy – (MSNBC – October 13, 2008)
The U.S. Army is developing a technology known as synthetic telepathy that would allow someone to create email or voice mail and send it by thought alone. The concept is based on reading electrical activity in the brain using an electroencephalograph, or EEG. Similar technology is being marketed as a way to control video games by thought. Mapping the brain’s response to most of the English language is a large task, and researchers say it will be 15-20 years before thought-based communication is a reality, but the work is underway.
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GLOBAL EPIDEMICRisk of Disease Rises with Water Temperatures – (Washington Post – October 20, 2008)
Scientists say, it is a near-certainty that global warming will drive significant increases in waterborne diseases around the world. For example, in 1991 a cholera outbreak that killed thousands in Peru was traced to plankton blooms fueled by warmer-than-usual coastal waters. Heavier rainfalls are one of the most agreed-upon effects of climate change. The consequences will be particularly severe in the 950 U.S. cities and towns – including New York, the District, Milwaukee and Philadelphia – that have “combined sewer systems,” archaic designs that carry storm water and sewage in the same pipes. During heavy rains, the systems often cannot handle the volume, and raw sewage spills into lakes or waterways, including drinking-water supplies.
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NANOTECHNOLOGYSecret Lives of Catalysts Revealed – (Berkeley Lab – October 21, 2008)
For the first time, nanoscale catalysts have been observed as they change during a reaction. With this development, scientists envision a new era of smarter catalysts that could be harnessed to fight pollution, feed hydrogen fuel cells, and drive fuel refinement techniques.
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TRENDS OF GOVERNMENTBorderline Security – (Technology Review – October 31, 2008)
For some U.S. travelers, border crossings can be sped up by enhanced driver’s licenses or by passport cards, wallet-sized plastic cards that are issued by the federal government and permit passage by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. Both types of cards are cheaper than ordinary passports and contain radio frequency identification (RFID) devices that can be read at a distance. Such cards are relatively new. They’re part of the U.S. government’s “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative”, which changes the rules for crossing nearby borders as of July, 2009.
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CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACEAstronauts to Vote from Space – (NASA – October 27, 2008)
Commander Edward Michael Fincke and Flight Engineer and Science Officer Greg Chamitoff are living and working onboard the International Space Station. Though they are 220 miles above Earth and orbiting at 17,500 miles per hour, they will still participate in the upcoming election. A 1997 bill passed by Texas legislators sets up a technical procedure for astronauts – nearly all of whom live in Houston – to vote directly from space.
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ECONOMIC INDICATORSNature Loss Dwarfs Bank Crisis – (BBC News – October 10, 2008)
The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study headed by a Deutsche Bank economist . It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion. The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.
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DEMOGRAPHICSIndia’s Highway – (National Geographic – October, 2008)
A new superhighway linking India’s four major cities is bringing old and new India into jarring proximity. The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ), the brand-new, 3,633-mile expressway linking the country’s major population centers of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. It is part of the largest and most ambitious public infrastructure project in the country’s history, one with a social engineering goal at its heart: Much as the U.S. interstate highway system mobilized American society and grooved the postwar economy, India hopes the Golden Quadrilateral will push the country’s economic engine into overdrive—bringing the benefits of growth in its booming metropolises out to its impoverished villages, where more than half the population lives.
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JUST FOR FUNExtreme Resolution Photos and Lasers Create Virtual Yosemite – (Wired Magazine – October 31, 2008)
The Yosemite Extreme Panoramic Imaging Project is intended to help catalog and understand dangerous rock slides in Yosemite. Printed out at magazine-quality 300 dpi resolution, the photos stretch uninterrupted for 40 feet. “People have been documenting rock fall in Yosemite for 150 years but we’re doing it now with a precision that other people couldn’t have dreamed of,” park geologist Greg Stock said. “Every rock-fall event begins with the basic documentation: Where was it, how big was it, and why did it happen? And sometimes these photos are the only way of ascertaining those things.”
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A FINAL QUOTE…Thanking you once more, I want to wish you the best of luck for your future life and to conclude by saying to you: Dream your dreams and may they come true! – Felix Bloch, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, 1952.
A special thanks to: Ken Dabkowski, Ann Feeney, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, KurzweilAI, Planet 2025, Sebastian McCallister, Diane C. Petersen, Planet 2025, Abby Porter, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell and Gary Sycalik, our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
CONTACTEdited by John L. Petersen
The Arlington Institute
192 E. Fairfax Street
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411