|Volume 12, Number 5 – 10/15/09PUNCTUATIONS|
by John L. Petersen
Upcoming events – Let me call your attention to a couple upcoming events that you may want to consider.
Next month on the 14th of November, I’ll be joining Nancy Seifer and Martin Vieweg, authors of When the Soul Awakens: The Path to Spiritual Evolution and a New World Era in a day-long seminar and workshop in Fairfax, Virginia outside Washington, DC . The theme is 2012: Breakdowns and Breakthroughs and we’re going to have a great time trying to engage everyone in some deep conversation discussing what form this global shift on our horizon might take and what new human and new world may emerge after the dust settles. Nancy and Martin are very knowledgeable about what the wisdom traditions say about all this change and they are great thinkers about what might be coming. I assure you that it will be provocative and you will learn something important if you are able to make it. Registration information is here.
In December Psychologist Don Beck and I are co-hosting a two-day workshop here in Berkeley Springs on the 11th and 12th to work with a small group of lucky people on beginning to understand the architecture of the coming global shift. We’ll be addressing a whole host of questions like: What might be the forces driving this unprecedented change? What is the spectrum of most likely scenarios? Where are the fault lines in the social systems that are likely to fail? How can we prepare ourselves to be able to transcend the extraordinary disruption that is likely to reorganize the way we all live? What are the potential big surprises that might be in the mix?
I really see this session as in-depth training for some of those individuals who will be players in designing and building the new world. If that sounds like you, then look for the announcement that will be coming in a couple of days.
2012 and Big Change
The next financial disruption seems to be slowly slipping into November. Multiple sources are now pointing to an inevitable reorganization. One weak signal was John Mauldin, who always tends toward conservatism, beginning his recent Out of the Box newsletter in this out-of-character way:
Peggy Noonan, maybe the most gifted essayist of our time, wrote a few weeks ago about the vague concern that many of us have that the monster looming up ahead of us has the potential (my interpretation) for not just plucking a few feathers from the goose that lays the golden egg (the US free-market economy), or stealing a few more of the valuable eggs, but of actually killing the goose. Today we look at the possibility that the fiscal path of the enormous US government deficits we are on could indeed kill the goose, or harm it so badly it will make the lost decades that Japan has suffered seem like a stroll in the park.
And while I do not think we will get to that point (though I can’t deny the possibility), for reasons I will go into, there is the very real prospect that the upheavals created by not dealing proactively with the problems (or denying they exist) will be as bad as or worse than the credit crisis we have gone through. This is not going to be something that happens overnight, and the seeming return to normalcy that so many predict has the rather alarming aspect of creating a sense of complacency that will only serve to “kick the can” down the road.
And then Marv Langston sent along this Chris Martenson assessment of the situation.
Title: Exponential Money in a Finite World
I recently attended and presented at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conference in Denver.
The entire summary of everything I heard boils down to this; we are already past peak oil.
I’ll wait for a minute while that sinks in.
While the implications are enormous and seemingly incalculable and therefore ungraspable, I truly believe that understanding the impact this will have on our economy will illuminate the future for those who take the time to internalize the details.
One of my central contributions centers on the idea that it is our monetary system itself that is out of step with reality. Everything else we see around us economically are merely symptoms while it is the dependence of our monetary system on perpetual exponential growth that is the cause of our current and future ills. A profound and important set of conclusions immediately result from the acceptance of this argument.
While I spend a lot of time sifting through current data and trying to explain it, this is the primary scaffolding upon which I hang everything else and which drives my long-term views.
If I am right, this has enormous implications for our future prosperity and the trajectory of our current investments and other stores of wealth, especially those denominated in a defective currency. And I am not just talking about the dollar here, but all debt-backed fiat currencies.
While at the ASPO conference I had a strong urge to re-post the article below as it concisely lays out my central thesis and it occurred to me that perhaps we should periodically revisit and discuss this topic.
If you really internalize this argument, which is admittedly difficult because it means suspending an enormous range of internal beliefs and external confirmations, then you might find yourself unable to entirely slip on your old spectacles and view the world of economics and money quite the same way again.
In the parlance of the movie The Matrix, this point of view represents a red pill; once taken it’s extraordinarily difficult to see things the old way.
My hope is that we can have a vigorous discussion here. I am constantly looking for evidence to either bolster or refute this hypothesis. Where is this wrong? What could mitigate this argument, besides some miracle energy breakthrough? Is there another way to view this? Is it somehow possible for our money system to be tweaked into compliance with reality?
As always, higher style points are being offered for comments that are fact-based and logical over arguments that are grounded in beliefs and opinions.
Exponential Money in a Finite World
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. ~ Dr. Albert Bartlett
Within the next twenty years, the most profound changes in all of economic history will sweep the globe. The economic chaos and turbulence we are now experiencing are merely the opening salvos in what will prove to be a long, disruptive period of adjustment. Our choices now are to either evolve a new economic model that is compatible with limited physical resources, or to risk a catastrophic failure of our monetary system, and with it the basis for civilization as we know it today.
In order to understand why, we must start at the beginning. While it was operating well, our monetary system was a great system, one that fostered incredible technological innovation and advances in standards of living, two characteristics that I fervently wish to continue. But every system has its pros and its cons, and our monetary system has a doozy of a flaw.
It is this: Our monetary system must continually expand, forever.
The US/world monetary system was designed and implemented at a time when the earth’s resources seemed limitless, so few gave much critical thought to the implications that every single dollar in circulation was to be loaned into existence by a bank with interest. In fact, most thought it a terribly “modern” concept, and most probably still do.
But anything that is continually expanding by some percentage amount, no matter how minuscule, is said to be growing geometrically, or exponentially.
Geometric growth can be seen in this sequence of numbers (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64), while an arithmetic growth sequence is (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). In 1798, Thomas Malthus postulated that the human population’s geometric growth would, at some point, exceed the arithmetic returns of the earth, principally in the arena of food. To paraphrase, he recognized that the exponential growth of human numbers would meet with the constraints imposed by a finite world. As seen in the chart below, human population is growing exponentially, and is on track to reach 9.5 billion by 2050. To put this in perspective, it was only in 1960 that the world first passed 3 billion in total population, the same amount that is projected to be added over the next 42 years. Each new person places additional demands on food, water, energy, and other finite resources.
In parallel with exponential population growth, our monetary system is also exhibiting exponential behavior. Consider this evidence:
1) Money supply growth (see chart above). It took us from 1620 until 1973 to create the first $1trillion of US money stock (measured by adding up every bank account, CD, money market fund, etc). Every road, factory, bridge, school, and house built, together with every war fought and every other economic transaction that ever took place over those first 350 years, resulted in the creation of $1 trillion in money stock . The most recent $1 trillion? That has been created in only 4.5 months. The dotted line in the chart is an idealized exponential curve, while the solid line is actual monetary data. The fit is nearly perfect (with a correlation of 0.98, for those interested). Data from the Federal Reserve.
2) Household debt has doubled in only 7 years, growing from seven to fourteen trillion dollars. Think about that for a minute. It is a stunning turn of events. Have household incomes also doubled in 7 years? No, not even close; they have grown less than half as much, calling into question how these loans will be repaid, let alone doubled again. Data from the Federal Reserve.
3) Total credit market debt (that’s all debt) had finally exceeded $5 trillion by 1975, but has recently increased by $5 trillion in just the past 2 years (from 2006 – 2008), and now stands at nearly $50 trillion. In order for the next twenty years to resemble the last twenty years, debt would have to expand by another 3 to 4 times, to somewhere between $150 trillion and $200 trillion. How likely do you think this is? Data from the Federal Reserve.
How do we make sense of money numbers this large and growing this fast? Why is this happening? Could it be that the US economy is so robust that it requires monetary and credit growth to double every 6-7 years? Are US households expecting a huge surge in wages, to be able to pay off all that debt? If not, then what’s going on? The key to understanding all three of the above money and debt charts was snuck in a few paragraphs ago; every single dollar in circulation is loaned into existence by a bank, with interest.
That little statement contains the entire mystery. As improbable as it may sound to you that all money is backed by debt, it is precisely correct, and while many of you are going to struggle with the concept, you’ll be in good company. John Kenneth Galbraith, the world-famous Harvard economist, said, “The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.” 
Here’s how money (and debt) creation works: Suppose we wipe the entire system clean and start over, so that we can more easily understand the process. Say you enter the first (and only) bank and receive the very first loan for $1000. At this point the bank has an asset (your loan) on the books, and you have $1000 in cash and a $1000 liability owed to the bank. After a month passes, and the first interest accrues, we peek into the system and observe that the $1000 in money still exists, but that your debt has grown by the size of the interest (let’s call that $10). Now your total debt to the bank is $1000 plus the $10 interest or $1010 in total. Since there’s only $1000 floating around, and that’s all there is, clearly there’s not enough money to settle the whole debt. So where will the required $10 come from? In our system it must be loaned into existence, taking the form of $10 of new money plus $10 of new debt that must also be paid back with interest.
But if our system requires new and larger loans to enable the repayment of old loans, aren’t we actually just compounding the total amount of debt (and resulting money) with every passing year? Yes, that is precisely what is happening, and the three money/debt charts supplied above all provide confirmation of that dynamic.
In other words, our monetary system, and by extension our entire economy, are textbook examples of exponential systems. Yeast in a vat of sugar water, predator-free lemming populations, and algal blooms are natural examples of exponential growth. Plotted on graph paper, the lines tracking these populations start out slowly, begin to rise more quickly, and then, suddenly, shoot almost straight up, yielding a shape that resembles a hockey stick.
The key feature of exponential functions that our species desperately needs to understand is illustrated in this next example:  Suppose I had a magic eyedropper that could dispense a drop of water with a most unusual trait – it will double in size every minute – and I place a drop of water in your hand. At first you’d just have a lonely drop of water sitting in your hand, but after one minute it would double in size, and after six minutes you’d have a blob of water that could fill a thimble. Do you have a sense of that growth? Now, follow me to Fenway Park, where I am going to place a drop from my magic eye dropper on the pitcher’s mound at 12:00 pm on January 1st of 2008. To make this interesting, let’s assume that the park is water-tight, and that I’ve handcuffed you to the highest row of bleacher seats. Way down there, on the mound, I bend over and plop a magic drop of water, so small you could not possibly see it from where you are sitting, and it begins to double. My question to you is, at what date and at what time would the park be completely filled? That is, how long do you have to escape from your handcuffs? Days? Weeks? Months? Years?
The answer is this: You have until 12:49 pm, on that same day, before the park is completely filled. You have only 49 minutes to escape your handcuffs. And at what time do you suppose that the park is still 97% empty space (and how many of you will appreciate the seriousness of your predicament)? The answer is that at 12:45 pm the park is still 97% unfilled. The first 44 minutes filled just 3% of the park, while the last 5 minutes filled the remaining 97%. From all of history until 1960 to reach a population of 3 billion humans; only 42 years from now to add another 3 billion.
And that’s why we need to appreciate exponential functions. For quite a while, everything seems just fine, and a few minutes later your park is overflowing. Time runs out in a hurry towards the end of any exponential growth system, forcing hurried decisions and limited options.
So how does this pertain to our economic problems, and why should you care? The truth is, there’s nothing inherently wrong with exponential growth, as long as you have unlimited room and resources. However, there are clear signs that several key resources on our planet are in their final minutes, to use our Fenway Park example.
And none of these are more important than crude oil. “Peak oil” is the global extension of the observation that individual oil fields, without exception, produce slightly more oil each year up to a point (“the peak”), after which they produce incrementally less and less oil each year, until their economics force abandonment. It is a fact that the US hit its peak of oil production in 1970 at approximately 10 million barrels a day and now produces barely more than 5 million barrels a day. It is now widely recognized that oil is a finite resource, and another cold, hard fact is that global oil discoveries peaked some 45 years ago. Because discoveries precede production (you’ve got to find it before you can pump it), we can be certain that production will peak too. We might disagree over the timing, but not the process.
I’m focusing on oil because energy drives an economy, not the other way around. The engine of any economy is energy, while money is merely the lubricating oil. Without energy, no amount of additional money would make the slightest difference in our lives. Economists love to say that higher oil prices will stimulate new oil production, as if demand could magically create supply. (Joke: If you lock three economists in a basement they won’t worry about starving, because they know their grumbling bellies will soon cause sandwiches to appear.) But just as there is no amount of additional price hikes that will cause more cod to come from the depleted oceans, oil fields will yield their treasures in accordance to geological limits, not human desire.
And here’s where the enormous monetary design flaw comes into the story. As Meadows, et al., in The Limits to Growth (1972) brilliantly predicted, we humans are now encountering physical, resource-constrained limits to our economic and population growth. So, on the one hand we have a monetary system that, by its very design, must expand exponentially in order to merely operate, while on the other hand we live on a spherical planet with finite resource limits.
When we started our exponential monetary system, initiated by the Bank of England around 1700 but kicked into high gear in 1971 with the international abandonment of gold settlement, nobody ever thought that the day would come when we’d find our ball park filled nearly to the brim. Who ever thought that oil production would hit a limit? Who knew that every acre of arable land, and then some, would someday be put into production? How could we possibly fish the seas empty? Yet all of these things have come to pass, and our monetary system demands that even more follow.
This is clearly an unsustainable arrangement. Someday soon, it will cease to be.
Repeating an opening sentence, our choices now are to either evolve a new economic model that is compatible with limited physical resources, or risk a catastrophic failure of our monetary system, and with it the basis for civilization as we know it today. I wish this collision between a finite planet and an exponential money system was far off in the future. Alas, it is certainly within the lifetime of people alive today, and likely already upon us.
We are leaving a legacy of debt to our children, born and unborn. Just as the direct printing of money favored by Wiemar Germany in the 1920s destroyed German’s purchasing power, so, too, does America’s debt accumulation promise to ruin our economy. Thus the moral argument beneath exponential growth in a finite context is: Should one generation consume beyond its means and either expect or hope that the next generations will somehow pick up the tab?
In summary, because our economic model and our entire system of money enforce a doctrine of limitless growth, they have become anachronisms incompatible with the well-being of the planet on which we live and depend. Our global money system might be complicated, and it might be sophisticated, but it is soon to be a vestige of the past.
Your job, your savings, your investments, and your future prospects and standard of living depend on the continuation of an unsustainable system now drawing to a close. You owe it to yourself to get ahead of the immense changes that are coming like water roiling up the steps towards the bleacher seat to which you are chained.
 Having trouble picturing a trillion? Think of it this way: If you had a single thousand-dollar bill, you could have a pretty good night on the town with your friends. If you had a stack of thousand dollar bills that was 4 inches high, you’d be a millionaire. If you had a stack just 40 inches high, you would be worth ten million dollars. How high would your stack have to be in order for you to be a trillionaire? The answer is, a solid stack of thousand dollar bills 68.9 miles high.
 If you need more help on this concept, please visit chapters 7 & 8 of my free, on-line Crash Course at chrismartenson.com/crashcourse.
 I gained a much deeper appreciation for the power of exponential functions from transcripts of speeches given by the mathematician Dr. Albert Bartlett. This link goes to an exceptional example of his ability to make this complex subject startlingly clear.
If you still need an indication of the proximity of the coming disruption, Mayan scholar Carl Calleman wrote first in February of this year that it would come in early November – a date that is now being confirmed by the Web Bot folks at HalfPastHuman.com. Although some of my thoughtful friends discount the significance of the whole Mayan calendar business, Calleman makes an interesting case that it ends on October 28th of 2011 and not December 2012, and that the underlying energetic change for the next “night” will start on the 7th of November and result in the failure of the dollar. You can check it out here.
We’ll see. It will be interesting, I’m sure.
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
A short laser pulse ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminum atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure, creating a completely new state of matter.Scientists estimate there are about 1,000 different species of microbes living in the human gut and about as many more separate species on human skin.E.Coli bacteria can be used to clean up nuclear waste cheaply and efficiently.In the distant past, levels of carbon dioxide similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 80-130 feet higher than today.
Internet Addiction: a 21st Century Epidemic with Some More at Risk than Others? – (Los Angeles Times – October 5, 2009)
Psychiatrists struggling to draft a new manual to diagnose mental illness haven’t agreed it’s a mental illness yet. But mental health professionals are already gauging, parsing and analyzing Internet addiction, which bears all the hallmarks of addictive behavior. A two-year study tracked more than 2,000 young teens in 10 middle schools across southern Taiwan, and found that 233 subjects–10.8%–could be classified as having an addiction to the Internet. If there were a medication for it, this process of declaring Internet addiction a true illness would probably go faster. But for now, there’s little more by way of treatment than pulling the plug. And pulling the plug isn’t much of an answer.
Stephen Hawking: “Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution”
Transparent Aluminum is New State of Matter
New Research Shows Life Hardwired in the Universe
Stephen Hawking: “Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution” – (Daily Galaxy – July 3, 2009)
In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, “an external transmission phase,” where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. “But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage,” Hawking says, “has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.”
Transparent Aluminum is New State of Matter – (Phys Org – July 27, 2009)
An international team reports that a short pulse from the FLASH laser ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminum atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminum nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation. ”What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University, one of the authors of the paper. ‘The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.’
New Research Shows Life Hardwired in the Universe – (Daily Galaxy – July 9, 2009)
DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids – the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can. The first ten amino acids are likely to form at relatively low temperatures and pressures, and the calculated odds of formation match the concentrations of these life-chemicals found in meteorite samples. They also match those in simulations of early Earth. The implications are good news for anyone worried about how we’re alone, and bad news for anyone who demands some kind of “Designer” to put life together. It seems that physics can assemble the organic jigsaw all by itself, and has probably done so throughout space since the beginning of everything.
By 2040 You Will Be Able to Upload Your Brain
Brighter Future for Retinal Implants
Think Memory Worsens with Age? Then Yours Probably Will
Scientists Develop Nasal Spray that Improves Memory
By 2040 You Will Be Able to Upload Your Brain – (Independent – September 27, 2009)
Or at least that’s what Ray Kurzweil thinks. Kurzweil, 61, sincerely believes that his own immortality is a realistic proposition and that using a combination of grave-site DNA and future technologies, he will be able to reclaim his father, Fredric Kurzweil (the victim of a fatal heart attack in 1970), from death. In Kurzweil’s estimation, we will be able to upload the human brain to a computer, capturing “a person’s entire personality, memory, skills and history”, by the end of the 2030s; humans and non-biological machines will then merge so effectively that the differences between them will no longer matter; and, after that, human intelligence, transformed for the better, will start to expand outward into the universe, around about 2045. With this last prediction, Kurzweil is referring not to any recognizable type of space travel, but to a kind of space infusion. “Intelligence,” he writes, “will begin to saturate the matter and energy in its midst [and] spread out from its origin on Earth.”
Brighter Future for Retinal Implants – (Technology Review – September 29, 2009)
The latest generation of retinal implants has shown striking promise in tests involving a handful of blind patients. The implants have enabled many subjects to recognize objects and obstacles and given one person the ability to read large print. Such advances mark a turning point after decades of slow progress. And experts now say that commercial devices may be just a couple of years away.
Think Memory Worsens with Age? Then Yours Probably Will – (Science Blog – April 21, 2009)
Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that senior citizens who think older people should perform poorly on tests of memory actually score much worse than seniors who do not buy in to negative stereotypes about aging and memory loss. Older adults’ ability to remember suffers when negative stereotypes are “activated” in a given situation. “For example, older adults will perform more poorly on a memory test if they are told that older folks do poorly on that particular type of memory test,” psychology professor Dr. Tom Hess says. Memory also suffers if senior citizens believe they are being “stigmatized,” meaning that others are looking down on them because of their age.
Scientists Develop Nasal Spray that Improves Memory – (Science Daily – October 9, 2009)
Good news for procrastinating students: a nasal spray developed by a team of German scientists promises to give late night cram sessions a major boost, if a good night’s sleep follows. A molecule from the body’s immune system (interleukin-6) when administered through the nose helps the brain retain emotional and procedural memories during REM sleep.
DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY
We’re One-tenth Human
Humans Glow in Visible Light
We’re One-tenth Human – (Winnipeg Free Press – September 13, 2009)
Scientists are beginning a large-scale effort to identify and analyze the vast majority of cells in or on your body that aren’t of human origin. Only about 10% of the trillions of cells that make up a person are truly human, researchers say. The other 90% are bacteria, viruses and other microbes swarming in your gut and on your skin. “We really are a superorganism,” according to Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Scientists estimate there are about 1,000 different species of microbes living in the human gut and about as many more separate species on human skin.
Humans Glow in Visible Light – (Live Science – July 22, 2009)
The human body literally glows, emitting a visible light in extremely small quantities at levels that rise and fall with the day, scientists now reveal. Past research has shown that the body emits visible light, 1,000 times less intense than the levels to which our naked eyes are sensitive. In fact, virtually all living creatures emit very weak light, which is thought to be a byproduct of biochemical reactions involving free radicals.
E.Coli Cleans up Nuclear Waste Cheaply, Efficiently
Partial Response to “The Global Warming Swindle”
New Technique Extracts Water From Air Humidity Using
What Happened to Global Warming?
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Feels the Heat
‘Scary’ Climate Message from Past
E.Coli Cleans up Nuclear Waste Cheaply, Efficiently – (Inhabitat – September 22, 2009)
Researchers at Birmingham University (UK) found that E. Coli bacteria effectively breaks down phytic acid (a phosphate storage material found in seeds) and releases the phosphate molecules, which bind to uranium to create a uranium phosphate precipitate. The precipitate can be harvested to recover uranium, and voila – no more nuclear waste. In addition to cleaning up nuclear waste sites, uranium recovered with the phytic acid process can be reused for nuclear energy.
Partial Response to “The Global Warming Swindle” – (Real Climate – March 11, 2007)
The article, a letter from Carl Wunsch, is intended to clarify his views on global warming in general, and the The Great Global Warming Swindle which misrepresented them. “I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the `climate wars’ because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. The science of climate change remains incomplete. [Some] elements remain more uncertain, but we as scientists in our roles as informed citizens believe society should be deeply concerned about their possibility: failure of US midwestern precipitation in 100 years in a mega-drought; melting of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet, among many other examples.
New Technique Extracts Water From Air Humidity Using Renewable Energy – (Scientific Blogging – June 5, 2009)
Even in deserts the air contains water. In the Negev desert in Israel, for example, annual average relative air humidity is 64 percent – in every cubic meter of air there are 11.5 milliliters of water. Research scientists have found a way of obtaining drinking water from air humidity. The process is based exclusively on renewable energy sources such as thermal solar collectors and photovoltaic cells, which means it will function in regions where there is no electrical infrastructure.
What Happened to Global Warming? – (BBC News – October 9, 2009)
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but the fact is that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise. So what on Earth is going on? This article examines a number of possibilities. Clearly the scientific community is not entirely of one mind in this matter.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Feels the Heat – (San Francisco Chronicle – October 7, 2009)
Companies are fleeing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as though the association had the plague. PG&E, Exelon, PNM Resources, Apple – and this is all within the past two weeks. If the chamber keeps up its fierce opposition to climate change legislation, the defections should continue. the chamber vociferously opposes the Waxman-Markey climate change bill and it’s challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The chamber is woefully, even cynically, undercutting its rhetoric with its actions. And a handful of high-profile businesses have had enough of it. They figure that new legislation and regulation is coming, and it would be best to be cooperative, not contrary.
‘Scary’ Climate Message from Past – (BBC News – October 10, 2009)
A new historical record of carbon dioxide levels suggests current political targets on climate may be “playing with fire”, scientists say. Researchers used ocean sediments to plot CO2 levels back 20 million years. Levels similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 80-130 feet higher than today.
50 Great Examples of Data Visualization
The Quantum Advantage
‘Time Telescope’ Could Boost Fiber-Optic Communication
RepRap Version II “Mendel” prints its first 3D part
Augmented Google Earth Gets Real-Time People, Cars, Clouds
50 Great Examples of Data Visualization – (Website Designer Depot – June 1, 2009)
Wrapping your brain around data online can be challenging, especially when dealing with huge volumes of information. And trying to find related content can also be difficult, depending on what data you’re looking for. But data visualizations can make all of that much easier, allowing you to see the concepts that you’re learning about in a more interesting, and often more useful manner. Here are 50 of the best data visualizations and tools for creating your own visualizations out there, covering everything from Digg activity to network connectivity to what’s currently happening on Twitter.
The Quantum Advantage – (Baseline – September 24, 2009)
Silicon-based computers will never be able to solve certain problems. This is true even if the number of transistors on a chip doubles every year or two for many years-with corresponding gains in performance. However, quantum computers work with the state of a single electron, and harness unique, strange characteristics of subatomic particles, namely: superposition, entanglement and interference. And Nature is full of quantum computers, although we are just beginning to figure out how to control them. When we do, we’ll be able to solve once-intractable problems.
‘Time Telescope’ Could Boost Fiber-Optic Communication – (New Scientist – September 28, 2009)
A “telescope” that can magnify time could dramatically increase the amount of data that can be sent through fiber optic cables, speeding up broadband internet and other long-distance communications. It isn’t possible to speed up the flashes of light that stream through the global network of optical fibres at around 200 million metres per second. But more information can be squeezed into each burst of light, says Mark Foster at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, using what he and his colleague Alexander Gaeta call a “time telescope” fitted with “time lenses”.
RepRap Version II “Mendel” prints its first 3D part – (RepRap – October 3, 2009)
RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. Instead of printing on bits of paper this 3D printer makes real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust, think Lego bricks and you’re in the right area. You could make lots of useful stuff, but interestingly you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer. That would be a machine that could copy itself. An advanced fabrication technology that can copy itself has truly far reaching implications.
Augmented Google Earth Gets Real-Time People, Cars, Clouds – (Pop Sci – September 25, 2009)
Researchers from Georgia Tech have devised methods to take real-time, real-world information and layer it onto Google Earth, adding dynamic information to the previously sterile Googlescape. They use live video feeds (sometimes from many angles) to find the position and motion of various objects, which they then combine with behavioral simulations to produce real-time animations for Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth.
AUGMENTED/ ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Robot Security: the Next Threat
The Reality of Robot Surrogates
Robot Security: the Next Threat – (TG Daily – October 9, 2009)
Researchers at the University of Washington warn that most robotic software is not secure. People forget that robots are little computers and as such can be hacked. Some robots operate as wireless access points, and Kohno’s team found that a nearby attacker could connect to someone else’s robot. Robots such as the Rovio can also be controlled over the Internet and turn the machine into a remote-controlled spy machine. Additionally, robot vandalism could be a problem as even weak robots can push something down a flight of stairs.
The Reality of Robot Surrogates – (Telepresence – September 25, 2009)
Telepresence is action at a distance, or the projection of presence where you physically aren’t. Technically, phoning in to your weekly staff meeting is a form of telepresence. So is joysticking a robot up to a suspected IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq so a soldier can investigate the scene while sitting in the (relative) safety of an armored vehicle. A recent study by NextGen Research, a market research firm, projects that in the next five years, telepresence will become a significant feature of the US $1.16 billion personal robotics market, meaning robots for you or your home.
Tiny Nuclear Batteries Unveiled – (BBC News – October 8, 2009)
Researchers have demonstrated a penny-sized “nuclear battery” that produces energy from the decay of radioisotopes. The University of Missouri team says that the batteries hold a million times as much charge as standard batteries. They have developed it in an attempt to scale down power sources for the tiny devices that fall under the category of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (Mems and Nems).
U.S. Enters Threshold of A/H1N1 Epidemic
Lawsuit Filed against FDA to Halt Swine Flu Vaccines
U.S. Enters Threshold of A/H1N1 Epidemic – (China View – October 10, 2009)
Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System reported that 99% of all subtypes of influenza A viruses being reported to CDC in recent weeks were 2009 influenza A/H1N1 viruses. All these figures indicate the country as a whole is entering the first stage of the second wave of the epidemic of A/H1N1 virus and the CDC and state officials and experts will accelerate the pace of vaccination around the country. A nationwide campaign to inoculate at least half of the U.S. population or perhaps the entire country against the A/H1N1 virus started earlier this week in some states.
Lawsuit Filed against FDA to Halt Swine Flu Vaccines – (Natural News – October 9, 2009)
Washington attorney Jim Turner has filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. in an urgent effort to halt the distribution of the swine flu vaccine in America. On behalf of plaintiffs Dr. Gary Null and other licensed health care workers of New York State, the lawsuit charges that the FDA violated the law in its hasty approval of four swine flu vaccines by failing to scientifically determine neither the safety nor efficacy of the vaccines. The suit seeks to not only nullify the FDA’s unlawful “approval” of the four H1N1 influenza vaccines, but to also ask the court to issue an injunction that would halt any mandatory vaccination requirements.
Step Forward: Controlled Movement of Molecules
IBM to Develop DNA Microchips
Step Forward: Controlled Movement of Molecules – (Phys Org – September 30, 2009)
Scientists in the UK are reporting an advance toward overcoming one of the key challenges in nanotechnology: Getting molecules to move quickly in a desired direction without help from outside forces. Their achievement has broad implications raising the possibility of coaxing cells to move and grow in specific directions to treat diseases. It also could speed development of some long-awaited nanotech innovations. They include self-healing structures that naturally repair tears in their surface and devices that deliver medication to diseased tissue while sparing healthy tissue.
IBM to Develop DNA Microchips – (Tech Fuels – September 16, 2009)
Researchers at IBM US-based laboratories and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a new method to use DNA to create next-gen microchips that are faster, cheaper and more energy efficient. Artificial DNA nanostructures, or “DNA origami” may provide a cheap framework on which to build tiny microchips, according to a paper published on Sunday in the journal Nature anotechnology. This means that such DNA molecules can be used as scaffolds (mini circuit boards) for carbon nanotubes, nanowires and nanoparticles to assemble themselves into precise patterns.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
EU Funding Plan to Monitor Public for “Abnormal Behavior”
Touchless 3-D Fingerprinting
EU Funding Plan to Monitor Public for “Abnormal Behavior” – (Telegraph – September 19, 2009)
A five-year research program, called Project Indect, aims to develop computer programs which act as “agents” to monitor and process information from web sites, discussion forums, file servers, peer-to-peer networks and even individual computers. Its main objectives include the “automatic detection of threats and abnormal behavior or violence”. The European Commission is calling for a “common culture” of law enforcement to be developed across the EU. According to the Open Europe think tank, the increased emphasis on co-operation and sharing intelligence means that European police forces are likely to gain access to sensitive information held by UK police, including the British DNA database.
Touchless 3-D Fingerprinting – (Technology Review – September 30, 2009)
By projecting patterns of light onto a finger and analyzing the image, researchers from the University of Kentucky are able to create a more accurate print than those made with ink or sensor plates. The researchers say the system is more efficient than traditional fingerprinting and significantly reduces the number of incorrect matches. The device works by projecting a series of striped lines onto a finger, in a process called structured light illumination. A 1.4 megapixel camera automatically captures images of the lines as they wrap around the finger, at roughly 1,000 pixels per inch. That’s twice as much as the resolution required for a fingerprint in the FBI’s Automatic Fingerprint Identification System.
TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT
U.S. Debt Crisis May Cause ‘Fall of Rome’ Scenario
Federal Reserve Admits Hiding Gold Swap Arrangements
Pentagon Spending Billions on PR to Sway World Opinion
U.S. Debt Crisis May Cause ‘Fall of Rome’ Scenario – (Bloomberg – September 23, 2009)
U.S. budget deficits will continue to pile up in the next decade, eventually reaching an unsustainable level that may result in an economic collapse, according to Richard Duncan, author of The Dollar Crisis. “As unemployment remains above 10% well into the foreseeable future, it won’t be long before Americans start voting for protectionism,” Duncan said. “That’s going to be bad because world trade will diminish and will overall reduce global prosperity.” Once the U.S. debt burden becomes too large and the government can no longer sell debt to the public the Federal Reserve will likely step in and monetize it, resulting in high levels of inflation, he said.
Federal Reserve Admits Hiding Gold Swap Arrangements – (Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee – September 23, 2009)
The Federal Reserve System has disclosed to the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc. that it has gold swap arrangements with foreign banks that it does not want the public to know about. The disclosure, GATA says, contradicts denials provided by the Fed to GATA in 2001 and suggests that the Fed is indeed very much involved in the surreptitious international central bank manipulation of the gold price particularly and the currency markets generally. The Fed’s disclosure came this week in a letter to GATA’s Washington-area lawyer, William J. Olson, denying GATA’s administrative appeal of a freedom-of-information request to the Fed for information about gold swaps, transactions in which monetary gold is temporarily exchanged between central banks or between central banks and bullion banks.
Pentagon Spending Billions on PR to Sway World Opinion – (Fox News – February 5, 2009)
An Associated Press investigation found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year, according to Department of Defense budgets and other documents. That’s almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
ISS Could Get its Own Electron-Beam Fabrication 3-D Printer – (Pop Sci – September 29, 2009)
NASA scientists have come many real-world steps closer to creating something from nothing, via a process called electron beam freeform fabrication, and a version of the technology will soon be going to the International Space Station for testing. Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, or EBF3, takes place in a vacuum chamber in which an electron beam is focused on a source of metal that is constantly fed into the beam. The electron beam melts the metal atop a rotating surface, applying the molten feedstock in layers as directed by a detailed 3-D drawing of the object being produced. The process continues until the object is done, rendered completely from drawing to usable metal part.
Vacant Homes Give Habitat a Leg Up – (Truth Out – September 25, 2009)
Across the country, Habitat chapters are doing the same – buying vacant, foreclosed-on homes at rock-bottom prices. For most, that’s a big departure from their longstanding model of using volunteer labor to build affordable housing from the ground up. But as thousands of homes sit vacant, Habitat officials say they can’t pass up this opportunity. With prices depressed, many Habitat chapters are finding they can buy and rehab cheaper than they can build. Rehab projects are often faster, so families can move in sooner. Additionally, Habitat officials say rehabbed, owner-occupied houses will ultimately boost home values in high-foreclosure neighborhoods.
Demise of Dollar
Tehran Dumps Dollar for Euro
The Shrinking of the Fantasy Gift
Demise of Dollar – (Korea Times – October 9, 2009)
Recent foreign reports on some countries’ move toward ending dollar dealings for oil trade come as quite a shock. Regardless of the authenticity of these reports, the fact that such stories are circulating points to the inevitable declines facing the U.S. monetary unit. It would still be too early, of course, to predict the “demise of the dollar,” as no other monetary units, including the euro, yen or yuan, have emerged to really replace it as the key currency. Actually, it would be the biggest holders of dollar-denominated debts, namely China and Japan that would suffer greatest from its too steep a plunge. Moreover, the sharp depreciation of the American money would deeply dent the Asian giants’ exports to the world’s largest market. However, none of this can deny that another round of the global currency war has just begun over the world’s economic hegemony, capitalizing on the faster-than-expected setback of the U.S. economic domination.
Tehran Dumps Dollar for Euro – (Arabian Business – September 21, 2009)
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered the replacement of the US dollar by the euro in calculating the value of the country’s Oil Stabilisation Fund. The move was taken because the government wishes to protect itself from the fragility of the US economy and the weak dollar. The OSF, which forms part of Iran’s foreign exchange reserves, is a contingency fund set aside to cushion the economy against fluctuating international oil prices.
The Shrinking of the Fantasy Gift – (Wall St. Journal – October 6, 2009)
The annual Neiman Marcus holiday catalog each year features over-the-top “fantasy” gifts. But for the first time in a decade, there isn’t a seven- or eight-figure price tag on the list. The most expensive fantasy item for 2009 is a $250,000 “his and hers” two-seater Icon aircraft, which comes with pilot training for two. That’s a far cry from the $10 million stable of racehorses of 2008. Such gifts aren’t really expected to sell-just one of the $1 million-plus fantasy gifts in the past decade actually found a buyer. But the publicity given to, say, a $20 million submarine (2000) had its own value. In 2006, Neiman Marcus, estimated that it would have had to spend at least $9 million to $12 million on advertising to get the television exposure it received from that year’s gift list, which included a $1.76 million spaceship ride.
A FINAL QUOTE…
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. — R. Buckminster Fuller
A special thanks to: Peter Adolfsson, Falk Beindorff, Kevin Clark, Ursula Freer, Diane C. Petersen, Stu Rose, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen
A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen
Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”
The Arlington Institute
World’s Biggest Problems
A Vision for 2012
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