Volume 12, Number 6 – 10/30/09

Volume 12, Number 6 – 10/30/09



A camera you can wear as a pendant to record every moment of your life will soon be launched by a UK-based firm.A new mobile phone charger that will work with any handset has been approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations body.Designated JKCS041, the galaxy is located 10.2 billion light-years from Earth, beating the previous distance record by a billion light-years.Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists.
by John L. Petersen

New Human – New World

We need to start the discussion about how a new world might operate. We need to get going. We’re already late. One of the most profound historical transitions defining how humans will live on this planet is fully underway and it’s about time that those of us who intend to shape the emergence of the new world start seriously thinking about how things might work after the dust of change settles.

This extraordinary shift gives every indication that it is going to produce both a new human and a new world. The new humans will see themselves differently, both in terms of who they are and how they relate to the rest of reality. The essential defining characteristic appears to be understanding that we do not exist apart from or independently of anything else around us. We’re all part of the same experience. Many call it oneness.

This is distinctly unlike the way almost all of us were raised. We were taught (both directly and implicitly) that humans stood apart from the planet, the environment and of course, other people. We were separate.

Now, it is quickly coming clear in very tangible terms, that we are all interconnected and interdependent. The behavior of the environment and climate, the global financial system, geopolitical groups, and certainly the Internet show us daily that human behavior in one isolated place affects significant change in other, very unanticipated locations. These initial, physical indicators are harbingers of a much more broadly defined paradigm that is already flowering all over the world.

Many good individuals and groups are working on the new human issue – the elevation of the human spirit and consciousness. Call it what you’d like – enlightenment, awakening, ascension – the idea is a rising new level of awareness and being.

The world we’ll live in after this transition is a different issue.

If the new human has different perspectives, values, and objectives, then all of the world’s institutions, concepts, and processes – governments, corporations, the idea of national security, education, the economic system – will fundamentally change as well. They will be structured differently around new purposes using a fresh set of incentives. People will be seen and valued differently by and within organizations. The role of money will probably shift. Maybe the whole definition of work will evolve to something new. It’s really big, multidimensional change . . . all happening at the same time.

The whole system, which was designed around and for old ideas and principles that have existed for centuries, will need to be re-imagined.

Designing the New World – Two Initiatives

So, the question is, should we wait until the old system fails and the necessity for designing the new world is pressing in all around us? Or, should we begin thinking about how this new world might work now – while we have the time and space to fully consider the many possible options?

I vote for starting the design process now. Not only do we have the time, but as the new model starts to come together we can hold it up for millions to see as an alternative to the world that will be eroding around them. It will provide much needed hope. It will show a way to a new world.

I don’t know if there’s anyone else trying to comprehensively evolve a model of a new world, but here at The Arlington Institute we are smartly moving in that direction.

December Workshop

The workshop that Don Beck and I are holding on December 11-12 is the first concrete step toward summoning up the thinking that will support a larger global design initiative. If being a creator of this new world appeals to you, then you should consider being with us next month. If you plan to come, you should register now. Participants are signing up fast. Half of the places are already taken, and we only announced it two weeks ago.

Also, if you’re in the Washington area and want to hear more about some of these ideas, come spend the day with us at Unity of Fairfax on the 14th of November. You’ll find more info here.

New World Project

The larger initiative is a project that we’ve been calling the New World Project – a six-month process to bring together a relatively small group of extraordinary thinkers to rapidly build an initial, tentative model of the essential framework of a possible new world . We want to come up with something that when it is held up for all to see, people say, “Yeah, that could work!”

The model will be designed only to function as a discussion/debate starter. I call it a “logical seed” that can be put on the table in a virtual environment in front of many thousands of people as a straw man concept that they can begin to shoot at and modify. We’d like to start – and encourage – a global, evolutionary and emergence process. This is about planting the clear idea of a tangible, reasonable, achievable, new world in the collective consciousness of those who know that they are here to contribute to, design, and help build such a place.

Our plan then, is to provide a novel environment where very large numbers of people from across the world can come together to systematically design the beginnings of this new world. Imagine many thousands of “transitioneers” collaborating together in a very fun and highly incentivized environment. That’s the idea, and we have a very well thought out approach to making it happen. This is an initiative that can literally change the world.

We’re looking for funding for this project – the first priority being to build the discussion-starting model, which is something less than $400,000. If you think the time is right to start a global movement to design a new world and you would like to learn more about the New World project and how you might get involved in supporting it, send me a note at with your name and email address (and telephone number, if you’d like to talk) and I’ll get back to you directly.

Be well. I’m off to carve pumpkins.


New Camera Promises to Capture Your Whole Life – (New Scientist – October 16, 2009)
A camera you can wear as a pendant to record every moment of your life will soon be launched by a UK-based firm. Originally invented to help jog the memories of people with Alzheimer’s disease, it might one day be used by consumers to create “lifelogs” that archive their entire lives. Worn on a cord around the neck, the camera takes pictures automatically as often as once every 30 seconds. Eventually, a SenseCam-like device could be part of an artificial memory used by ordinary people, just as they use notebooks and planners as memory aids today.


Physicists Measure Elusive ‘Persistent Current’ That Flows Forever
The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate
Physicists Calculate Number of Universes in the Multiverse

Physicists Measure Elusive ‘Persistent Current’ That Flows Forever – (Science Daily – October 12, 2009)
Physicists at Yale University have made the first definitive measurements of “persistent current,” a small but perpetual electric current first theorized decades ago, but so faint and sensitive to its environment that physicists were unable to accurately measure. It flows naturally through tiny rings of metal wire even without an external power source due to a quantum mechanical effect that influences how electrons travel through metals, and arises from the same kind of motion that allows the electrons inside an atom to orbit the nucleus forever.

The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate – (New York Times – October 12, 2009)
The Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang. Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science: the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Physicists Calculate Number of Universes in the Multiverse – (Technology Review – October 15, 2009)
One of the curious developments in cosmology in recent years has been the emergence of the multiverse as a mainstream idea. Instead of the Big Bang producing a single uniform universe, the latest thinking is that it produced many different universes that appear locally uniform. One question that then arises is how many universes are there. That may sound like the sort of quantity that is inherently unknowable but Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin at Stanford University have worked out an answer, of sorts. Of course, the actual number depends critically on how you define the difference between universes.


Green Genes
Imaging Breakthrough Heralds Snapshots of
   Individual Biomolecules
Placebo Effect Caught in the Act in Spinal Nerves
Junk Food Turns Rats into Addicts
The Young and the Neuro
Algae and Light Help Injured Mice Walk Again

Green Genes – (Technology Review – November/December, 2009)
The first transgenic primates able to pass on their foreign genes are both a stunning medical advance and a troubling peek into the future. If the genes associated with some cases of human illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease were introduced into primates, colonies of the genetically altered animals could be used to test therapies for these disorders. This would probably be far more effective than studying the effects of the genes in mice or rats. But the concern is that researchers might challenge the boundaries between humans and other species by inadvertently creating an animal with cognitive abilities such as rational thinking or moral reflection–a creature that would necessarily deserve a greater degree of respect than a typical lab animal, says Robert Streiffer, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin.

Imaging Breakthrough Heralds Snapshots of Individual Biomolecules – (Technology Review – October 12, 2009)
Taking snapshots of biomolecules such as proteins and DNA is fraught with difficulty. The approach made famous by Bragg, Franklin, Watson and Crick and others is to create a crystal of the molecule in question and bombard it with x-rays or high energy electrons. The trouble for molecular biologists is that many biomolecules, membrane proteins in particular, won’t form into crystals. Now Matthias Germann and colleagues at the University of Zurich have a different approach: they’ve created holograms of DNA strands using a coherent beam of low energy electrons.

Placebo Effect Caught in the Act in Spinal Nerves – (New Scientist – October 16, 2009)
The placebo effect is not only real; its ability to deaden pain has been pinpointed to cells in the spinal cord. The first step was inducing a belief in subjects that the placebo treatment was effective. That raises hopes for new ways of treating conditions such as chronic pain. Falk Eippert, a neuroscientist at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, who led the study speculates that higher brain areas involved in buying into the bogus treatment trigger the release of endogenous opioids – chemicals our brain produces that work like opiates and may temper spinal cord activity. Now that researchers know the neural hallmark of placebo pain relief, they could use it to develop treatments, cognitive or chemical, that take better advantage of belief, Eippert says.

Junk Food Turns Rats into Addicts – (Science News – October 21, 2009)
Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food. The results may help explain the changes in the brain that lead people to overeat. “This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings,” says study coauthor Paul Johnson of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla.

The Young and the Neuro – (New York Times – October 12, 2009)
In 2001, an Internet search of the phrase “social cognitive neuroscience” yielded 53 hits. Now you get more than a million on Google. These people study the way biology, in the form of genes, influences behavior. But they’re also trying to understand the complementary process of how social behavior changes biology. Eventually their work could give us a clearer picture of what we mean by fuzzy words like ‘culture.’ It could also fill a hole in our understanding of ourselves. Economists, political scientists and policy makers treat humans as ultrarational creatures because they can’t define and systematize the emotions. This work is getting us closer to that.

Algae and Light Help Injured Mice Walk Again – (Wired – October 19, 2009)
In the summer of 2007, a team of Stanford graduate students demonstrated that a beam of light could control brain activity in a mouse with great precision. In 1979, Francis Crick, codiscoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, lamented the blunderbuss nature of existing technologies. What was needed, he wrote in Scientific American, was a way to control neurons of only one cell type in one specific location. Which, nearly 30 years later, was precisely what these students had achieved. But how could they be using light? Neurons don’t respond to light any more than muscles do. The secret is that the mouse’s neurons weren’t normal. New genes had been inserted into them – genes from plants, which do respond to light, and the new genes were making the neurons behave in planty ways.


Scientists Give Flies False Memories
Male Humpback Whales Sing Duets

Scientists Give Flies False Memories – (EurekAlert – October 15, 2009)
By directly manipulating the activity of individual neurons, scientists have given flies memories of a bad experience they never really had. “Flies have the ability to learn, but the circuits that instruct memory formation were unknown,” said Gero Miesenböck of the University of Oxford. “We were able to pin the essential component down to 12 cells. It’s really remarkable resolution.” Miesenböck adds that the simple brain of a fly likely can tell us much about how more complex brains work. “As a general rule, biology tends to be conservative,” he said. “It’s rare that evolution ‘invents’ the same process several times.” And, he says, even simple organisms may turn out to have a “surprisingly rich mental life.”

Male Humpback Whales Sing Duets – (Wired – October 23, 2009)
Studying humpbacks with methods adapted from bird research has uncovered the first known instances of what look like whales responding musically to each other’s songs, says Danielle Cholewiak, a researcher for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary based in Scituate, Massachusetts. Cholewiak and colleagues detected melodic adjustments when a solo singer encountered another singer nearby and when researchers played their song remixes for whales.


Freezer Plan Bid to Save Coral
Stewart Brand Proclaims 4 Environmental ‘Heresies’
Secrets of Frog Killer Laid Bare
Glacial Melting May Release Pollutants into The Environment

Freezer Plan Bid to Save Coral – (BBC News – October 25, 2009)
The prospects of saving the world’s coral reefs now appear so bleak that plans are being made to freeze samples to preserve them for the future. A meeting in Denmark took evidence from researchers that most coral reefs will not survive even if tough regulations on greenhouse gases are put in place. Scientists proposed storing samples of coral species in liquid nitrogen. That will allow them to be reintroduced to the seas in the future if global temperatures can be stabilized.

Stewart Brand Proclaims 4 Environmental ‘Heresies’ – (TED – July, 2009)
Since the counterculture Sixties, Stewart Brand has been a critical thinker and innovator who helped lay the foundations of our internetworked world. He also helped usher in the environmental movement in the 1960s and ’70s. Currently, Brand has been rethinking his positions on cities, nuclear power, genetic modification and geo-engineering. This talk given at the US State Department highlights the reasons behind his shifting stance on these issues.

Secrets of Frog Killer Laid Bare – (BBC News – October 22, 2009)
A fungal disease chytridiomycosis is steadily spreading through populations of frogs and other amphibians worldwide, and has sent some species extinct in just a few years. Researchers now report that the fungus kills by changing the animals’ electrolyte balance, resulting in cardiac arrest. The finding is described as a key step in understanding the epidemic. Various research teams are exploring the potential of bacteria that occur naturally on the skin of some amphibians, and may play a protective role.

Glacial Melting May Release Pollutants into The Environment – (Science Daily – October 21, 2009)
Those pristine-looking Alpine glaciers now melting as global warming sets in may explain the mysterious increase in persistent organic pollutants in sediment from certain lakes since the 1990s, despite decreased use of those compounds in pesticides, electric equipment, paints and other products. while contamination decreased to low levels in the 1980s and 1990s due to tougher regulations and improvements in products, since the late 1990s flow of all of these pollutants into the lake has increased sharply. Currently, the flow of organochlorines into the lake is similar to or even higher than in the 1960s and 1970s


Wi-Fi Making a Leap Forward
Universal Phone Charger Approved

Wi-Fi Making a Leap Forward – (eWeek – October 14, 2009)
The Wi-Fi Alliance is nearing completion of a new specification to allow Wi-Fi devices to connect to one another without joining a traditional home, office or hotspot network. The Wi-Fi Alliance expects to begin certification for the new specification in mid-2010 and is currently called Wi-Fi Direct. In its early stages of development it was known as Wi-Fi Peer-to-Peer. The new specification can be implemented in any Wi-Fi device, including mobile phones, cameras, printers, notebook computers, keyboards and headphones. Certified devices will also be able to create connections with Wi-Fi certified legacy devices already in use. Devices will be able to make a one-to-one connection or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously.

Universal Phone Charger Approved – (BBC News – October 23, 2009)
A new mobile phone charger that will work with any handset has been approved by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations body. Currently most chargers are product or brand specific, so people tend to change them when they upgrade to a new phone generating 51,000 tons of redundant chargers each year. However, the new energy-efficient chargers can be kept for much longer. The estimate is that they will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 13.6m tons.


New Robotic Hand Can Feel
Hydrogen Muscle Silences the Domestic Robot
Thought Translator Knows Vowels from Consonants

New Robotic Hand Can Feel – (BBC News – October 18, 2009)
A team of scientists from Italy and Sweden has developed what is believed to be the first artificial hand that has feeling. It has been attached to the arm of a 22-year-old man who lost his own hand through cancer. Researchers say it works by connecting human nerve endings with tiny electronic sensors.

Hydrogen Muscle Silences the Domestic Robot – (New Scientist – October 20, 2009)
If robots are ever going to be welcome in the home they will need to become a lot quieter. Building them with artificial muscles that run on hydrogen, instead of noisy compressed-air pumps or electric motors, could be the answer. Kwang Kim, a materials engineer at the University of Nevada in Reno, came up with the idea after realizing that hydrogen can be supplied silently by metal hydride compounds. Metal hydrides can undergo a process called reversible chemisorption, allowing them to store and release extra hydrogen held by weak chemical bonds. This is the property that has led to the motor industry investigating metal hydrides as hydrogen “tanks” for fuel cells.

Thought Translator Knows Vowels from Consonants – (Technology Review – October 21, 2009)
Technology-assisted mind-reading is inching closer to reality, with advances that could help those unable to communicate on their own. Scientists can now determine what vowel and consonants a person is thinking of by recording activity from the surface of the brain. The system, which has about a 50-to-70% accuracy rate, could one day be used as a neural prosthesis for people with severe paralysis, translating their thoughts into actions on a computer or prosthetic limb.


Five Technologies that Could Change Everything
World-first Sustainable Racing Car Runs on Chocolate
A Better Bug for Biofuels
Shifting the World To 100% Clean, Renewable Energy as Early
   as 2030

Five Technologies that Could Change Everything – (Wall St. Journal – October 19, 2009)
Over the next few decades, the world will need to wean itself from dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gases. Current technology will take us only so far; major breakthroughs are required. What might those breakthroughs be? Here’s a look at five technologies that, if successful, could radically change the world energy picture. Thsee technologies still present difficult engineering challenges, and some require big scientific leaps in lab-created materials or genetically modified plants. And innovations have to be delivered at a cost that doesn’t make energy much more expensive. But if all of that can be done, any one of these technologies could be a game-changer.

World-first Sustainable Racing Car Runs on Chocolate – (Science Daily – October 8, 2009)
The world’s first fully sustainable Formula 3 racing car is made from woven flax, recycled carbon fiber, recycled resin and carrot pulp for the steering wheel. It runs on biofuel made from chocolate and animal fats and is lubricated with plant oils. But it’s not just an environmentally friendly car, it is also fast. The car has a top speed of 135 mph, can achieve 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and is turbo charged to give it more torque.

A Better Bug for Biofuels – (Technology Review – October 25, 2009)
As part of a larger effort to develop biofuels that, unlike ethanol made from corn or sugarcane, do not rely on food sources or agricultural land, most attempts to engineer biofuel-producing microbes have focused on well-known organisms such as yeasts and E. coli, scientists also hope to co-opt the unique metabolic functions of some of the microbial world’s less-studied creatures. Anthony Sinskey and his team at MIT have been cataloguing the genomic secrets of Rhodococcus bacteria, soil-dwelling microbes known to eat a variety of toxic compounds.

Shifting the World To 100% Clean, Renewable Energy as Early as 2030 – (Science Daily – October 19, 2009)
Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi. They present new research mapping out and evaluating a quantitative plan for powering the entire world on wind, water and solar energy, including an assessment of the materials needed and costs. And it will ultimately be cheaper than sticking with fossil fuel or going nuclear, they say.


New Cholera Epidemic in Zimbabwe – (UPI – October 21, 2009)
UNICEF said Tuesday there have been at least five deaths in the current outbreak, The Times of London reported. The national Health Ministry said 117 cases of the disease have been reported around the country in the past month. Cholera, caused by a waterborne bacterium, spread in Zimbabwe as a result of the country’s economic meltdown. Both water supplies and sewage disposal in large townships around the capital, Harare, and other poor areas, had ceased to function.


Self-Propelling Bacteria Harnessed to Turn Gears
Nano-Agriculture: Tiny Stuff Has Huge Effect on Plant Growth

Self-Propelling Bacteria Harnessed to Turn Gears – (Technology Review – October 19, 2009)
Luca Angelani and colleagues from the University of Rome say there is in important difference between Brownian and bacterial motion: the former is in equilibrium but the latter is an open system with a net income of energy provided by nutrients. This breaks the time symmetry allowing energy to be extracted in the form of directed motion. Now Angelani et al. have placed a cog with asymmetric teeth into a bath of moving bacteria and persuaded E. Coli to push it round at a of 1rpm.

Nano-Agriculture: Tiny Stuff Has Huge Effect on Plant Growth – (Science Daily – October 22, 2009)
Scientists in Arkansas are reporting that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their study, scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, found that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products. Those effects may occur because nanotubes penetrate the seed coat and boost water uptake, the researchers state.


The Pocket Spy: Will Your Smartphone Rat You Out?
U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets
Who’s in Big Brother’s Database?
Rajaratnam Alert: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid?

The Pocket Spy: Will Your Smartphone Rat You Out? – (New Scientist – October 14, 2009)
Just how secure is the data we store on our phones? If we are starting to use them as combined diaries and wallets, what happens if we lose them or they are stolen? Or simply trade them in for recycling? According to a UK government study, 80% of us carry information on our handsets that could be used to commit fraud – and about 16% of us keep our bank details on our phones. Indeed, some phone-related scams are already emerging, including one that uses reprogrammed cell phones to intercept passwords for other people’s online bank accounts.

U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets – (Wired – October 19, 2009)
America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates – even check out your book reviews on Amazon. In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using “open source intelligence” – information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Who’s in Big Brother’s Database? – (New York Times – November 5, 2009)
On a remote edge of Utah’s dry and arid high desert, construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America’s equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges’ “Library of Babel,” a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined. This library expects few visitors: it’s being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency-which is primarily responsible for “signals intelligence,” the collection and analysis of various forms of communication-to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital “pocket litter.”

Rajaratnam Alert: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid? – (Financial Times – October 19, 2009)
Most of this article retraces ground that has already been pretty well covered concerning the alleged insider trading by the co-founder of the hedge fund Galleon, Raj Rajaratnam. However, buried in it are two very interesting sentences, the second one in particular: “Some probes, like the one that focused on Rajaratnam, rely on wiretaps. Others stem from a secret Securities and Exchange Commission data-mining project set up to pinpoint clusters of people who make similar well-timed stock investments.” Data-mining as a means of detecting crime is coming of age across law enforcement agencies of just about every type.


Our Three Bombs – (New York Times – October 6, 2009)
Today’s youth are growing up in the shadow of three bombs – any one of which could go off at any time and set in motion a truly nonlinear, radical change in the trajectory of their lives. The first, of course, is still the nuclear threat. But there are now two other bombs our children have hanging over them: the debt bomb and the climate bomb. Unfortunately, too many conservatives, who would never risk emitting so much debt that it would tank the dollar, will blithely tell you on carbon: “Emit all you want. Don’t worry. It’s all a hoax.” And too many liberals, who would never risk emitting too much carbon, will tell you on emitting more debt: “Spend away. We’ve got plenty of room to stimulate without risking the dollar.”


Exoplanets Galore! 32 Alien Planets Discovered, Including
To Spot an Alien, Follow the Pollution Trail
Farthest Galaxy Cluster Ever Detected
Overheard Out in Space

Exoplanets Galore! 32 Alien Planets Discovered, Including Super-Earths – (Wired – October 19, 2009)
Thirty-two new alien orbs have just been added to the growing list of exoplanets, including several that qualify as “super-Earths,” meaning they have a mass only a few times that of our planet and could potentially harbor Earth-like environments. In the past five years, the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, a special exoplanet-hunting device attached to a 3.6-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile, has spotted more than 75 alien planets, including 24 of the 28 known exoplanets with a mass less than 20 times that of Earth.

To Spot an Alien, Follow the Pollution Trail – (New Scientist – October 19, 2009)
Do aliens pollute their planets? Let’s hope they do, as this would give us a promising way of spotting where they live. Radio noise may be too short-lived to help us find aliens, if our own activity is any guide. A team of astronomers from the Paris Observatory in France we might look for light pollution from cities on alien planets. Our presence on Earth also leaves other traces that could be observed from afar. The chemicals known as CFCs strongly absorb infrared light at characteristic wavelengths, making them detectable in the atmosphere even when present at concentrations of only parts per trillion. CFCs do not form naturally, so detecting them on a world orbiting another star would be good evidence of alien technology.

Farthest Galaxy Cluster Ever Detected – (Wired – October 22, 2009)
Captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, this article shows an image of the farthest galaxy cluster ever detected. Designated JKCS041, the cluster is located 10.2 billion light-years from Earth, beating the previous distance record by a billion light-years. Astronomers think JKCS041 formed just about as early as was feasible. Because JKCS041 is so old, it will help scientists understand what was happening at this critical time in the formation of the universe, when it was only about a fourth as old as it is today. But if more super-old clusters can be found, scientists can begin testing cosmological theories.

Overheard Out in Space: a couple tourists – alien life forms – returning from an eco-tour on Earth are chatting. One of them says, “The dominant life form on the planet has developed satellite-based weapons.” Excited by the possibility, the other one asks, “Do you think they are an emerging intelligence?” The first one responds, “I doubt it: they’ve aimed the weapons at themselves.”


Global Hunger Worsening, Warns UN – (BBC News – October 14, 2009)
The UN’s annual report on global food security confirms that more than one billion people – a sixth of the world’s population – are undernourished. It says the number of hungry people was growing before the economic crisis, which has made the situation worse. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.02 billion people are undernourished worldwide in 2009. It said, “This represents more hungry people than at any time since 1970 and a worsening of the unsatisfactory trends that were present even before the economic crisis.”


Does Economics Violate the Laws of Physics?
Hold the Champagne on China’s Economy

Does Economics Violate the Laws of Physics? – (Scientific American – October 23, 2009)
The financial crisis and subsequent global recession have led to much soul-searching among economists, the vast majority of whom never saw it coming. But were their assumptions and models wrong only because of minor errors or because today’s dominant economic thinking violates the laws of physics? A small but growing group of academics believe the latter is true. These thinkers say that the neoclassical model of constant economic growth is ignoring the world’s diminishing supply of energy at humanity’s peril, failing to take account of the principle of net energy return on investment. They hope that a set of theories they call “biophysical economics” will improve upon neoclassical theory, or even replace it altogether.

Hold the Champagne on China’s Economy – (The American – October 22, 2009)
This month in Hong Kong, a single bottle of Chateau Petrus Imperial was sold at auction for $93,000 in the world’s largest wine market, Hong Kong to a Chinese buyer.. No matter how good the vintage, that’s not something to pop a cork over and celebrate. Similarly, Chinese collectors fueled a nearly $24-million sale of “modest pieces” of Chinese art at Christie’s in New York in September, according to the New York Times, consistently paying between five and ten times the expected amounts. Those who witnessed Japan’s spectacular rise and fall in the 1980s should be getting a familiar feeling watching China these days. Unsettling questions about the social effects of this stunning climb are abundant.


35 Years of the World’s Best Microscope Photography
Piano Stairs – The FunTheory

35 Years of the World’s Best Microscope Photography – (Wired – October 9, 2009)
Extraordinary beauty comes in all sizes – including the ultra-small. See for yourself.

Piano Stairs – The FunTheory – (Rolighetsteorin – October 7, 2009)
The easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better, for example getting them to use stairs for exercise, is by making it fun. Watch it in action in Stockholm. Or try this one on recycling bottles:


Never confuse motion with action. — Benjamin Franklin

A special thanks to:Kevin Clark, Roger Daniel, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, Deanna Korda, Kurzweil AI, Stu Rose, Gary Sycalik, 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

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