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Volume 12, Number 7 – 11/15/09

Volume 12, Number 7 – 11/15/09

FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT…

A personal commuter airplane that converts to a street-legal car in 30 seconds is expected to be available for general purchase in 2011.A stem cell technique developed at Stanford raises the possibility of ‘male eggs’ made from men’s skin and ‘female sperm’ from women’s skin.Plant experts unveil DNA barcode that gives every plant on Earth a unique genetic fingerprint.On European freeways, “road trains” of independent vehicles linked electronically could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20%.
PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Thought I’d tell you a bit about what I have been reading lately, but first, let me remind you of our upcoming workshop here in Berkeley Springs on the Architecture of Transition.

If you haven’t thought about the possibility of something happening and all of a sudden it shows up – it is a surprise. Perhaps a really big surprise.

On the other hand, if you’ve actually considered the possibility of some otherwise surprise event – say, (just to get your attention), five major governments together stand up and say that a fleet of giant alien craft are inbound and will show up in twelve months. (I’m getting ready to see the movie 2012, so indulge me here for a minute.)

Well, in this situation you’d be sitting pretty, because you probably had systematically considered the spectrum of possibilities associated with this event, starting with cataloging the most fundamental aspects of who we are as humans. Then you would have laid out the alternative ways in which these visitors might interact with us, and what kind of responses might emerge. There could be any of a number of “transitional” paths, driven by the reactions, which in turn would present a series of potential futures. These futures would vary dramatically, and the implications on who we are and how life continues would be most interesting.

Obviously, you would have thought about contingency plans and what you should put in place to deal with such a possibility. Then, you would have started to look around to see what tools might be out there already that might be shaping how the whole thing plays out – and limits or constrains the likely possibilities.

So when your boss pulls you aside or the local television station comes by and sticks a mike in your face and asks, “What do you think is about to happen and what should we do?” You say with confidence: “Well, we’ve thought about this and have implemented the latest version of our Alien Arrival Plan.”

Or, something like that.

Well, on December 11-12 we’re not going to do aliens (I don’t think), but we are going to think like this about the big, global shift that is upon us. We’re going to build a framework – an architecture – of the full spectrum of possibilities covering the horizon and how they might play out, and how we might actively engage in the process of shaping the new world that evolves. So, if that interests you, you should join us. We’re three weeks out and have filled our quota already. But I can work with the Country Inn and squeeze in a couple more, so if you want to come, sign up now and I’ll do my best to get you a seat at the table (so to speak). We’ll have a very good time. I promise.

You can get full registration information here.

Have you noticed that Christmas comes earlier each year? It’s not even Thanksgiving and already Costco has loaded up on toys and other holiday stuff. Interesting that they think that if they start Christmas sooner, everyone will spend more. I would have guessed that everyone would be spending less – there being a recession and all that. Didn’t know that if you had more time you would spend more.

Of course, it could be that they’re just trying to assure that they get their fair share of the spending and if WalMart did Christmas early, consumers (what a nice thing to be), would spend their money there, or somewhere or somewhere else, and not have any left over for Costco. It’s probably just contingency planning.

So, since you’re already thinking about holiday giving, let me suggest a couple of good books.

In the last few weeks I’ve read, Penny Kelly’s, The Elves of Lily Hill Farm; Bill Gladstone’s, The TwelveThe Great Waves of Change by MV Summers; Saint Exupery’s classic, The Little PrinceVision, by Ken Carey; The Great Shift, edited by Martine Vallee; the 2008 State of the Future, by Jerry Glenn and Ted Gordon, Howard Bloom’s, The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism, and Larry Dossey’s, The Power of Premonition.

I particularly liked Penny Kelly’s book about her long term conversations and relationship with the elves that were responsible for her farm and how she worked out arrangements with them to systematically increase the yield of her vineyard over a number of years. Reminded me a lot of what went on at Findhorn and Michele Small Wright’s Peralandra farm in Virginia. There’s a very interesting, much more effective way to do agriculture waiting for us all, it seems.

I just finished giving a talk with Penny at the World Future Society’s chapter in Austin. She talked about her experiences with some little men in robes that showed her a large number of pictures of what the future might be – including very accurate predictions about the current economic problems. Her book ROBES, sold out at the meeting. It is most interesting.

Larry Dossey’s wonderfully readable tour through all of the ins and outs of premonition is really fun. Larry strings story after story together to make the case, over and over, for the widespread natural existence of premonition in dreams, visions, and intuitions by all kinds of people. There’s a lot about the hundreds of people who had dreams about 9/11 before the fact. It’s hard to read all of these profound and incidental stories from ancient history to the present and not be encouraged about the ability of humans to deal with increasing uncertainty.

The annual State of the Future is always provocative, and this year’s edition is no different. Jerry and Ted have an international network of futurists who contribute yearly to a comprehensive assessment of what might be coming our way and what we should be doing to deal with the possibilities. Particularly valuable is the companion CD which includes the most comprehensive collection of future-oriented tools that exist. They even included a bit that I contributed to on wild cards.

Howard Bloom continues his always provocative questioning of present systems and proposes an innovative approach to a new economy in his Genius of the Beast. Howard is one of the most original thinkers around; every time I read something of his, I find a concept that fundamentally changes the way I think about things. This book will be out very soon. I commend it.

Off to catch an airplane. More in a few days.


INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

The Social Media Revolution
Terrefugia Transition
Track Those Tax Dollars in an Augmented Reality


The Social Media Revolution – (You Tube – July 30, 2009)
Is social media a fad or the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution? This video details out social media facts and figures that are hard to ignore. For example, there are over 200 million blogs; 58% of bloggers post content or Tweet daily. 25% of Americans say they watched a short video in the last month on their phone. Social media has created a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

Terrefugia Transition – (Terrefugia – 2008)
When you land your personal commuter airplane at the airport, just fold up the wings and drive home. Conversion from plane to street-legal auto takes less than 30 seconds. Uses regular gasoline. Anticipated price around $200,000; ready for delivery in 2011.

Track Those Tax Dollars in an Augmented Reality – (NPR – October 31, 2009)
Want to know where those stimulus dollars were spent? Consider turning your smart phone into a government watchdog – then all you’ll have to do is take it for a walk. The Layar application taps into stimulus data released by Recovery.gov. Aim a Layar-enabled phone at a building, and a spread of blue dots will tell you how much stimulus money went to the organization inside. It lets you relate to paying taxes in an entirely different way.


NEW REALITIES

Psychic Computer Shows Your Thoughts on Screen
Tweak Gravity: What If There Is No Dark Matter?
Ancient Human Metropolis Found in Africa


Physicists Measure Elusive Persistent Psychic Computer Shows Your Thoughts on Screen – (The Times – November 1, 2009)
Scientists have discovered how to “read” minds by scanning brain activity and reproducing images of what people are seeing – or even remembering. Researchers have been able to convert into crude video footage the brain activity stimulated by what a person is watching or recalling. Jack Gallant and Shinji Nishimoto, two neurologists from UC, Berkeley, last year managed to correlate activity in the brain’s visual cortex with static images seen by the person. Now they have gone one step further by demonstrating that it is possible to “decode” signals generated in the brain and generate moving scenes.

Tweak Gravity: What If There Is No Dark Matter? – (Scientific American – November 5, 2009)
Dark matter was theorized into existence to account for the missing mass. The prevailing view holds that dark matter contributes five times as much to the mass of the universe as ordinary matter does. But some researchers have taken to approaching the problem from the other direction: What if the discrepancy arises from a flaw in our theory of gravity rather than from some provider of mass that we cannot see?

Ancient Human Metropolis Found in Africa – (Viewzone – 2009)
In an area of South Africa, about 150 miles inland, west of the port of Maputo lie the remains of a huge metropolis that measures, in conservative estimates, about 1500 square miles. It’s part of an even larger community that is about 10,000 square miles and appears to have been constructed from 160,000 to 200,000 BCE! The area is significant for one striking thing – gold. “The thousands of ancient gold mines discovered over the past 500 years, points to a vanished civilization that lived and dug for gold in this part of the world for thousands of years,” says researcher and author, Michael Tellinger. Article gives Google Earth coordinates.


GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY

Scientists Decode DNA of Pig
Acoustic Hyperlens Could Sharpen Ultrasound Imaging
Scientists Create Sperm and Eggs from Stem Cells
How Terahertz Waves Tear Apart DNA
Memory Test Spots Pre-dementia


Scientists Decode DNA of Pig – (Associated Press – November 2, 2009)
An international group of scientists has decoded the DNA of the domestic pig, research that may one day prove useful in finding new treatments for both pigs and people, and perhaps aid in efforts for a new swine flu vaccine for pigs. The U.S. Agriculture Department has announced that six pigs from the Minnesota State Fair contracted the new H1N1 virus over the summer, the first report of pigs catching the virus in the United States. The hogs likely got it from fairgoers, officials said. Researchers have now unraveled the DNA of about two dozen mammals, including dogs, chimps, rats, mice, cows and people.

Acoustic Hyperlens Could Sharpen Ultrasound Imaging – (Spectrum – October 26, 2009)
In the past few years, researchers have created artificial materials known as metamaterials, which bend and focus light in unnatural ways. While a microscope’s glass lens can detect only objects larger than half a wavelength of light, metamaterials could enable ultrahigh-resolution imaging of much tinier features. A new device made by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, does a similar trick with sound waves.

Scientists Create Sperm and Eggs from Stem Cells – (Daily Mail – October 29, 2009)
No men or women needed: Scientists at Stanford University have found the right cocktail of chemicals and vitamins to coax stem cells into becoming eggs and sperm. The team used stem cells taken from embryos in the first days of life but hope to repeat the process with slivers of skin. The skin cells would first be exposed to a mixture which wound back their biological clocks to embryonic stem cell state, before being transformed into sperm or eggs. The technique raises the possibility of ‘male eggs’ made from men’s skin and ‘female sperm’ from women’s skin.

How Terahertz Waves Tear Apart DNA – (Technology Review – October 30, 2009)
Great things are expected of terahertz waves, the radiation that fills the slot in the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and the infrared. Terahertz waves pass through non-conducting materials such as clothes , paper, wood and brick and so cameras sensitive to them can peer inside envelopes, into living rooms and “frisk” people at distance. Up until now, the evidence that terahertz radiation also damages biological systems has been mixed. Now researchers think they know why.

Memory Test Spots Pre-dementia – (BBC News – November 3, 2009)
Doctors from Oxford found they were able to spot very early warning signs when they looked closely enough. The findings could help doctors diagnose dementia sooner, which is crucial since treatment is most effective when given early. Over a span of 20 years, the researchers studied a group of 241 healthy elderly volunteers, giving them regular tests designed to measure their thinking or cognitive powers. When they scrutinized the test results, the doctors found subtle clues that, in retrospect, hinted at ensuing impairment.


DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY

Do Jupiter’s Red Storms Signal Massive Climate Change?
Frozen Antarctic Lakes Yield New Viruses
Signature of Antimatter Detected in Lightning


Do Jupiter’s Red Storms Signal Massive Climate Change? – (Daily Galaxy – October 28, 2009)
The Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory images may support the idea that Jupiter is in the midst of violent global climate change. This theory was first proposed in 2004 by Phil Marcus, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The planet’s temperatures may be changing by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with the giant planet getting warmer near the equator and cooler near the South Pole. Marcus predicted that large changes would start in the southern hemisphere around 2006, causing the jet streams to become unstable and spawn new vortices as has been proven out by the emergence of new swirling red storms.

Frozen Antarctic Lakes Yield New Viruses – (Scientific American – November 5, 2009)
In the depths of one of Antarctica’s freshwater lakes, a surprising number of novel viruses thrive. Researchers braved frigid temperatures to collect water samples from Lake Limnopolar, located on Livingston Island near the Antarctic Peninsula, and sequenced the genomes of the collected species. The new genetic study reveals some 10,000 species of viruses from a dozen families. Most aquatic environments typically are home to viral species from only three to six families. The authors attribute the “unprecedented taxonomic diversity and high genetic richness” to the low diversity of other organisms at the site.

Signature of Antimatter Detected in Lightning – (Wired – November 5, 2009)
Designed to scan the heavens thousands to billions of light-years beyond the solar system, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has now recorded some more down-to-Earth signals. The flying observatory has detected 17 gamma-ray flashes associated with terrestrial lightning storms. During two recent lightning storms, Fermi recorded gamma-ray emissions of a particular energy that could only have been produced by the decay of energetic positrons, the antimatter equivalent of electrons. The observations are the first of their kind for lightning storms.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

W Australia Sea Level Rising Fast
Reindeer Herds in Global Decline
Antarctica Glacier Retreat Has Beneficial Impact on Climate Change
Plant Experts Unveil DNA Barcode


W Australia Sea Level Rising Fast – (BBC News – November 9, 2009)
New figures have revealed that sea levels along the coast of Western Australia are rising at a rate double that of the world average. Statistics from Australia’s National Tidal Centre show levels have increased by 8.6mm a year off the coast of the state capital Perth. That compares to a global average of just over 3mm. Scientists have said that man-made climate change has played a significant role in the rise.

Reindeer Herds in Global Decline – (BBC News – June 11, 2009)
Reindeer and caribou numbers are plummeting around the world. The first global review of their status has found that populations are declining almost everywhere they live, from Alaska and Canada, to Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia. The iconic deer is vital to indigenous peoples around the circumpolar north. Yet it is increasingly difficult for the deer to survive in a world warmed by climate change and altered by industrial development, say scientists.

Antarctica Glacier Retreat Has Beneficial Impact on Climate Change – (Science Daily – November 9, 2009)
Large blooms of tiny marine plants called phytoplankton are flourishing in areas of open water left exposed by the recent and rapid melting of ice shelves and glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula. This remarkable colonization is having a beneficial impact on climate change. As the blooms die back phytoplankton sinks to the sea-bed where it can store carbon for thousands or millions of years. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey estimate that this new natural ‘sink’ is taking an estimated 3.5 million tons of carbon from the ocean and atmosphere each year.

Plant Experts Unveil DNA Barcode – (BBC News – November 10, 2009)
Hundreds of experts from 50 nations are set to agree on a “DNA barcode” system that gives every plant on Earth a unique genetic fingerprint. The technology will be used in a number of ways, including identifying the illegal trade in endangered species. The data will be stored on a global database that will be available to scientists around the world.


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

New iPhone App Translates English into Spanish as You Speak
Hot Spot Hot Rod: The Internet Invades the Automobile


New iPhone App Translates English into Spanish as You Speak – (Mac World – October 29, 2009)
Jibbigo is a new iPhone application that can translate English speech into Spanish-and the reverse. The application handles all its translation duties on the iPhone itself and doesn’t need an Internet connection. According to the developers, the Jibbigo app isn’t limited to certain phrases and expressions; it’s armed with a dictionary of 40000 words, and performs well if you limit yourself to one or two sentences at a time.

Hot Spot Hot Rod: The Internet Invades the Automobile – (Scientific American – November 6, 2009)
With U.S. commuters spending an estimated 500 million hours per week in their vehicles, carmakers, software companies and content providers are trying to figure out how to take advantage of new high-speed wireless network technologies to help drivers have better Internet access during this often idle time. A Prius with 4G connectivity turns the automobile itself into a conduit for the Internet, giving drivers and passengers access to navigational help, streaming movies, video games and other online services via touch screens embedded into the dashboard and seats.


AUGMENTED/ ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The SmartHand: Human-machine Interface is Essential Link – (Science Daily – November 5, 2009)
Prof. Yosi Shacham-Diamand of Tel Aviv University, working with a team of European Union scientists, has successfully wired a state-of-the-art artificial hand to existing nerve endings in the stump of a severed arm. The device, called “SmartHand,” resembles – in function, sensitivity and appearance — a real hand. Robin af Ekenstam of Sweden, the project’s first human subject, has not only been able to complete extremely complicated tasks like eating and writing, he reports he is also able to “feel” his fingers once again. In short, Ekenstam’s SmartHand has been seamlessly wired to his mind.


ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Fracture Critical
Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by US Pressure, Says Whistleblower
Solar Power Generation around the Clock
Plant Experts Unveil DNA Barcode


Fracture Critical – (Design Observer – October 26, 2009)
A fracture-critical design has four key characteristics. The first is lack of redundancy, which makes a structure susceptible to collapse should any individual component fail. Other weaknesses of fracture-critical design are interconnectedness and efficiency. The final characteristic of fracture-critical systems is sensitivity to stress. We recognize fracture-critical designs after their failures, whether caused by inadequate steel or sub-prime mortgages. What about systems yet to fail? Most fracture-critical systems send warning signs before they fail. The U.S. electrical grid has already sent an unmistakable signal.

Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by US Pressure, Says Whistleblower – (Guardian – November 9, 2009)
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying. The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves. The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organization’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

Solar Power Generation around the Clock – (Phys Org – November 5, 2009)
A Californian company, SolarReserve, is developing a solar power system that can store seven hours’ worth of solar energy by focusing mirrors onto millions of gallons of molten salt, allowing the plant to provide electricity 24 hours a day. The solar energy is stored using a massive circular array of up to 17,500 mirrors (heliostats), each measuring 24 by 28 feet and attached to a 12-foot pedestal. The heliostat field encircles a concrete Solar Power Tower 538 feet high, with a 100-foot high receiver on top, which holds 4.4 million gallons of molten salt. When the heliostats focus the sunlight onto the receiver the salt is heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

‘Road Trains’ Get Ready to Roll – (BBC News – November 9, 2009)
An EU-financed research project is looking at inexpensive ways of getting vehicles to travel in a ‘platoon’ on Europe’s motorways. Each road train could include up to eight separate vehicles – cars, buses and trucks will be mixed in each one. The EU hopes to cut fuel consumption, journey times and congestion by linking vehicles together. Fuel consumption could be cut by 20% among those cars and trucks traveling behind the lead vehicle. The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver. Those in following vehicles could take their hands off the wheel, read a book or watch TV. Their vehicle would be controlled by the lead vehicle.


GLOBAL EPIDEMIC

Gary Null Speaks Out at the NYS Assembly Hearing
H1N1’s Links to Pneumonia Appear Clearer
WHO: Nearly 5,000 Swine Flu Deaths Worldwide
Swine Flu Outbreak Sparks Mutation Fears
Swine Flu Outbreak In Ukraine Claims 144 Lives


Gary Null Speaks Out at the NYS Assembly Hearing – (YouTube – October 13, 2009)
An award-winning journalist and best-selling author, Dr. Gary Null has written over 70 books on nutrition, self-empowerment and public health issues. In this video clip (part 1 of 3 – parts 2 and 3 can be accessed from the side bar of part 1), he addresses the New York State Assembly detailing the seriously and persistent lack of adequate studies for the safety of vaccines – and the reasons behind that shortcoming.

H1N1’s Links to Pneumonia Appear Clearer (Washington Post – October 17, 2009)
As swine flu virus can cause life-threatening viral pneumonia much more commonly than the typical flu, prompting the World Health Organization to warn hospitals to prepare for a possible wave of very sick patients and to urge doctors to treat suspected cases quickly with antiviral drugs. Experts stress that most people who get the H1N1 virus either never get sick or recover easily. But some young adults, possibly especially women, are falling seriously ill at an unexpectedly rapid pace and dying in unusually high numbers, they say. Although why a minority of patients become so sick remains a mystery, new research indicates that H1N1 is different from typical seasonal flu viruses in crucial ways — most notably in its ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and cause viral pneumonia.

WHO: Nearly 5,000 Swine Flu Deaths Worldwide – (Associated Press – October 23, 2009)
Nearly 5,000 people have reportedly died from swine flu since it emerged this year and developed into a global epidemic, according to the World Health Organization. Since most countries have stopped counting individual swine flu cases, the figure is considered an underestimate. WHO said there were 4,999 total deaths through Oct. 18, most of them in the Western Hemisphere. The figure was up 264 from a week earlier. Iceland, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago reported deaths from the virus for the first time this week.

Swine Flu Outbreak Sparks Mutation Fears – (Sky News – November 5, 2009)
British scientists are examining samples of a strain of swine flu behind a deadly Ukrainian outbreak to determine whether the virus has mutated. The World Health Organisation has sent an emergency team to monitor the epidemic and says it assumes most of the illness in the country has been caused by H1N1 swine flu. The Ukrainian government has closed schools and universities for three weeks, and many public events have been banned. President Viktor Yushchenko said experts fear the simultaneous existence of three types of flu viruses within the country “may lead to the emergence of an even more aggressive new virus”.

Swine Flu Outbreak In Ukraine Claims 144 Lives – (Business Insider – November 10, 2009)
Ukraine is becoming more and more like a post-apocalyptic movie of sorts by the minute. Reports say that over 1 million people in the country have H1N1 or swine flu and 144 people have died so far from the disease. Roughly every third citizen there wears a protective mask. At times home-made ones, as they’re also a rare commodity in drug-stores. Angry people are pointing fingers at everyone – from drug store owners to authorities – for the lack of medication.


NANOTECHNOLOGY

Nanomedicine Promising for Treating Spinal Cord Injuries – (Science Daily – November 9, 2009)
Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a new approach for repairing damaged nerve fibers in spinal cord injuries using nano-spheres that could be injected into the blood shortly after an accident. The synthetic “copolymer micelles” are drug-delivery spheres roughly 100 times smaller than the diameter of a red blood cell. The micelles themselves repaired damaged axons, fibers that transmit electrical impulses in the spinal cord. “That was a very surprising discovery,” said Ji-Xin Cheng, an associate professor. “Micelles have been used for 30 years as drug-delivery vehicles in research, but no one has ever used them directly as a medicine.”


TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Turmoil from Climate Change Poses Security Risks
‘Impossible’ Device Could Propel Flying Cars, Stealth Missiles
New ‘Smart’ Electrical Meters Raise Privacy Issues


Turmoil from Climate Change Poses Security Risks – (Associated Press – October 29, 2009)
An island in the Indian Ocean, vital to the U.S. military, disappears as the sea level rises. Rivers critical to India and Pakistan shrink, increasing military tensions in South Asia. Drought, famine and disease forces population shifts and political turmoil in the Middle East. U.S. defense and intelligence agencies, viewing these and other potential impacts of global warming, have concluded if they materialize it would become ever more likely global alliances will shift, the need to respond to massive relief efforts will increase and American forces will become entangled in more regional military conflicts.

‘Impossible’ Device Could Propel Flying Cars, Stealth Missiles – (Wired – October 29, 2009)
The Emdrive is an electromagnetic drive that would generate thrust from a closed system – “impossible” say some experts. To critics, it’s flat-out junk science, not even worth thinking about. But its inventor, Roger Shawyer, has doggedly continued his work. As Wired reported last year, Chinese scientists claimed to validate his math and were building their own version. While the argument over the drive’s impossibility continues, so does the engineering work. Shawyer asserts that work is also being carried out in France, Russia, the UK and in the US by a major aerospace company. The problem is that nobody wants to talk about it.

New ‘Smart’ Electrical Meters Raise Privacy Issues – (Phys Org – November 6, 2009)
The new “smart meters” utilities are installing in homes around the world to reduce energy use raise fresh privacy issues because of the wealth of information about consumer habits they reveal. The devices send data on household energy consumption directly to utilities on a regular basis, allowing the firms to manage demand more efficiently and advise households when it is cheaper to turn on appliances. But the meters can also reveal intimate details about customers’ habits such as when they eat, what time they go to sleep or how much television they watch. With cars expected to be fuelled increasingly by electricity in the coming years, the new meters could soon be used to gather information on consumer behavior beyond the home, according to privacy experts.


CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Space Elevators Climbing Towards Reality
Setting Sail into Space, Propelled by Sunshine


Space Elevators Climbing Towards Reality – (Wired – November 5, 2009)
The basic concept of a Space Elevator is rather simple. A satellite at geostationary orbit is anchored to the Earth at the equator by a long tether. This tether is then used to move payloads up and down the Elevator without the use of expensive chemical propellants or single-use launch vehicles. Simple in concept, difficult in execution. Now a competition at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in the desert in California is bringing the concept a Space Elevator closer to reality.

Setting Sail into Space, Propelled by Sunshine – (New York Times – November 8, 2009)
About a year from now, if all goes well, a box about the size of a loaf of bread will pop out of a rocket some 500 miles above the Earth. There in the vacuum it will unfurl four triangular sails as shiny as moonlight and only barely more substantial. Then it will slowly rise on a sunbeam and move across the stars. “Sailing on light is the only technology that can someday take us to the stars,” said Louis Friedman, director of the Planetary Society, the worldwide organization of space enthusiasts. Over the next three years, the society will build and fly a series of solar-sail spacecraft dubbed LightSails, first in orbit around the Earth and eventually into deeper space.


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure – (New York Times – November 5, 2009)
For months now, consumers have been hunkering down in an economic storm, buying only what they need to survive, like groceries, diapers, medicine – and shoes. Shoes? The American public, it would seem, cannot carry on without new shoes. Boots, booties, sneakers, pumps – for the last few months they have all been selling well as the broader economy struggles toward recovery. Shoe sales have been strong for three months now. They increased 7.9 percent in October compared with the period a year ago Retailing executives and analysts offer varying, occasionally wacky, explanations.


JUST FOR FUN

3,000 Images Combine for Stunning Milky Way Portrait
Ice Cream Researchers Making Sweet Strides with ‘Functional Foods’


3,000 Images Combine for Stunning Milky Way Portrait – (Space – October 30, 2009)
A new panoramic image of the full night sky – with the Milky Way as its centerpiece – has been made by piecing together 3,000 individual photographs. The panorama’s creator, Axel Mellinger of Central Michigan University, spent 22 months and traveled over 26,000 miles to take digital photographs at dark sky locations in South Africa, Texas and Michigan. “This panorama image shows stars 1,000 times fainter than the human eye can see, as well as hundreds of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae,” Mellinger said.

Ice Cream Researchers Making Sweet Strides with ‘Functional Foods’ – (EurekAlert – November 9, 2009)
A comfort food, a tasty treat, an indulgence – ice cream conjures feelings of happiness and satisfaction for millions. Ice cream researchers at the University of Missouri are working to make ice cream into a functional food, adding nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants and pro-biotics to premium ice cream. “The idea of putting a functional ingredient into a food instead of just using the nutrients found in the food naturally takes a multi-functional approach,” said Ingolf Gruen, MU professor of food chemistry. “Food provides calories and comfort – people want to indulge. We’re working on making ice cream satisfying and healthy.”


A FINAL QUOTE…

The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination. –John Schaar, scholar and political theorist


A special thanks to: Tom Burgin, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ellen Crockett, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Cory Shreckengost 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.
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Edited by John L. Petersen
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