Volume 13, Number 20 – 10/31/10

Volume 13, Number 20 – 10/31/10


  • Since late last month, the world supply of Viagra ads and other e-mail spam has dropped by an estimated one-fifth.
  • A molecule called fulvalene diruthenium can store and release heat on demand, in effect making it possible to produce a “rechargeable heat battery” that can repeatedly store and release heat gathered from sunlight or other sources.
  • A new type of device utilizing nanowire transistors could ultimately hold more data than flash memory.
  • Mark Boyle, living in the UK, experimented with money-free living for a year and now, hooked on the idea, he’s starting a money-free community.

by John L. Petersen

Just received this from Chas Freeman and thought I’d pass it along.

Nine months after it was published in the Wall Street Journal, this article has lost none of its cogency.

Undressing the Terror Threat 1/9/10


I’m not much of a basketball player. Middle-age, with a shaky set shot and a bad knee, I can’t hold my own in a YMCA pickup game, let alone against more organized competition. But I could definitely beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one. The game just needs to feature two special rules: It lasts until I score, and when I score, I win.

We might have to play for a few days, and Mr. James’s point total could well be creeping toward five figures before the contest ended, but eventually the gritty gutty competitor with a lunch-bucket work ethic (me) would subject the world’s greatest basketball player to a humiliating defeat.

The world’s greatest nation seems bent on subjecting itself to a similarly humiliating defeat, by playing a game that could be called Terrorball. The first two rules of Terrorball are:

(1) The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans; and

(2) If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.

Photo illustration by John Kuczala

These rules help explain the otherwise inexplicable wave of hysteria that has swept over our government in the wake of the failed attempt by a rather pathetic aspiring terrorist to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. For two weeks now, this mildly troubling but essentially minor incident has dominated headlines and airwaves, and sent politicians from the president on down scurrying to outdo each other with statements that such incidents are “unacceptable,” and that all sorts of new and better procedures will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Meanwhile, millions of travelers are being subjected to increasingly pointless and invasive searches and the resultant delays, such as the one that practically shut down Newark Liberty International Airport last week, after a man accidentally walked through the wrong gate, or Tuesday’s incident at a California airport, which closed for hours after a “potentially explosive substance” was found in a traveler’s luggage. (It turned out to be honey.)

As to the question of what the government should do rather than keep playing Terrorball, the answer is simple: stop treating Americans like idiots and cowards.

It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:

(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and

(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you’re subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.

Consider that on this very day about 6,700 Americans will die. When confronted with this statistic almost everyone reverts to the mindset of the title character’s acquaintances in Tolstoy’s great novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” and indulges in the complacent thought that “it is he who is dead and not I.”

Consider then that around 1,900 of the Americans who die today will be less than 65, and that indeed about 140 will be children. Approximately 50 Americans will be murdered today, including several women killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and several children who will die from abuse and neglect. Around 85 of us will commit suicide, and another 120 will die in traffic accidents.

No amount of statistical evidence, however, will make any difference to those who give themselves over to almost completely irrational fears. Such people, and there are apparently a lot of them in America right now, are in fact real victims of terrorism. They also make possible the current ascendancy of the politics of cowardice—the cynical exploitation of fear for political gain.

Unfortunately, the politics of cowardice can also make it rational to spend otherwise irrational amounts of resources on further minimizing already minimal risks. Given the current climate of fear, any terrorist incident involving Islamic radicals generates huge social costs, so it may make more economic sense, in the short term, to spend X dollars to avoid 10 deaths caused by terrorism than it does to spend X dollars to avoid 1,000 ordinary homicides. Any long-term acceptance of such trade-offs hands terrorists the only real victory they can ever achieve.

It’s a remarkable fact that a nation founded, fought for, built by, and transformed through the extraordinary courage of figures such as George Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. now often seems reduced to a pitiful whimpering giant by a handful of mostly incompetent criminals, whose main weapons consist of scary-sounding Web sites and shoe- and underwear-concealed bombs that fail to detonate.

Terrorball, in short, is made possible by a loss of the sense that cowardice is among the most disgusting and shameful of vices. I shudder to think what Washington, who as commander in chief of the Continental Army intentionally exposed himself to enemy fire to rally his poorly armed and badly outnumbered troops, would think of the spectacle of millions of Americans not merely tolerating but actually demanding that their government subject them to various indignities, in the false hope that the rituals of what has been called “security theater” will reduce the already infinitesimal risks we face from terrorism.

Indeed, if one does not utter the magic word “terrorism,” the notion that it is actually in the best interests of the country for the government to do everything possible to keep its citizens safe becomes self-evident nonsense. Consider again some of the things that will kill 6,700 Americans today. The country’s homicide rate is approximately six times higher than that of most other developed nations; we have 15,000 more murders per year than we would if the rate were comparable to that of otherwise similar countries. Americans own around 200 million firearms, which is to say there are nearly as many privately owned guns as there are adults in the country. In addition, there are about 200,000 convicted murderers walking free in America today (there have been more than 600,000 murders in America over the past 30 years, and the average time served for the crime is about 12 years).

Given these statistics, there is little doubt that banning private gun ownership and making life without parole mandatory for anyone convicted of murder would reduce the homicide rate in America significantly. It would almost surely make a major dent in the suicide rate as well: Half of the nation’s 31,000 suicides involve a handgun. How many people would support taking both these steps, which together would save exponentially more lives than even a—obviously hypothetical—perfect terrorist-prevention system? Fortunately, very few. (Although I admit a depressingly large number might support automatic life without parole.)

Or consider traffic accidents. All sorts of measures could be taken to reduce the current rate of automotive carnage from 120 fatalities a day—from lowering speed limits, to requiring mechanisms that make it impossible to start a car while drunk, to even more restrictive measures. Some of these measures may well be worth taking. But the point is that at present we seem to consider 43,000 traffic deaths per year an acceptable cost to pay for driving big fast cars.

For obvious reasons, politicians and other policy makers generally avoid discussing what ought to be considered an “acceptable” number of traffic deaths, or murders, or suicides, let alone what constitutes an acceptable level of terrorism. Even alluding to such concepts would require treating voters as adults—something which at present seems to be considered little short of political suicide.

Yet not treating Americans as adults has costs. For instance, it became the official policy of our federal government to try to make America “a drug-free nation” 25 years ago.

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars and imprisoning millions of people, it’s slowly beginning to become possible for some politicians to admit that fighting a necessarily endless drug war in pursuit of an impossible goal might be a bad idea. How long will it take to admit that an endless war on terror, dedicated to making America a terror-free nation, is equally nonsensical?

What then is to be done? A little intelligence and a few drops of courage remind us that life is full of risk, and that of all the risks we confront in America every day, terrorism is a very minor one. Taking prudent steps to reasonably minimize the tiny threat we face from a few fanatic criminals need not grant them the attention they crave. Continuing to play Terrorball, on the other hand, guarantees that the terrorists will always win, since it places the bar for what counts as success for them practically on the ground.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado.
Excerpted from Undressing the Terror Threat –

Not much else to report this issue except for a possible antidote for insomnia. Monday night, Nov 8th I’m scheduled to hold forth for three hours on the many potential implications of 2012 on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. There are 300-some stations in the network for this all-night show, so there’s probably one near you if sleep is not an option about that time. You can get info at

You’ll either find it somewhat interesting or sleep inducing, so I guess you can’t lose on this one. Last time I did this I was only marginally coherent when the end of the show arrived at 5AM my time, so, fair warning, the earlier segments may be somewhat more internally consistent. Call in a question if you’d like.


Hubble Data Used to Look 10,000 Years into the Future – (Science Daily – October 26, 2010)
The stars in the globular star cluster Omega Centauri are so tightly crammed together that astronomers had to wait for the powerful vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to peer deep into the core of the “beehive” and resolve individual stars. Hubble’s vision is so sharp it can even measure the motion of many of these stars, and over a relatively short span of time. In three or four years the Hubble can detect the motions of the stars more accurately than using data collected over a 50 year period using a ground-based telescope. Using Hubble images taken in 2002 and 2006 to make a movie simulation of the frenzied motion of the cluster’s stars, astronomers can show the stars’ projected migration over the next 10,000 years.


Scorpion Sting Aids Heart Bypass – (BBC News – October 22, 2010)
A common complication of heart bypass is neointimal hyperplasia, which is the blood vessel’s response to injury. It triggers the growth of new cells, causing an obstruction on the inside of the vessel. When a vein is grafted onto the heart during a bypass procedure, the injury response kicks in as the vein tries to adapt to the new environment and different circulatory pressures. The growth of new cells helps to strengthen the vein, but internal cell growth restricts blood flow and ultimately leads to the graft failing. In a recent study, researchers found the Central American bark scorpion toxin was “staggeringly potent” at preventing vein narrowing.

Gene Therapy for Treating Depression – (Technology Review – October 26, 2010)
For decades, medications for depression have acted pretty much the same way–by manipulating levels of serotonin and other chemical messengers in the brain. New drugs have offered only modest changes from the old ones. Now a team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have proposed a different way to attack depression: by using gene therapy to boost levels of a protein called p11 in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The gene responsible for normal levels of p11 has previously been linked to clinical depression. The study shows that altering levels of this protein in the nucleus accumbens via gene therapy can ameliorate symptoms of depression in mice. A second experiment described in the same paper shows that people diagnosed with depression have lower levels of the protein in this part of the brain.

Why Does Lack of Sleep Affect Us Differently? It May Be in Our Genes – (Science Daily – October 25, 2010)
A recent study looked at people who have a gene variant closely associated with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. However, having the gene variant, called DQB1*0602, does not mean that a person will develop narcolepsy; depending on the population, 12 to 38% of those with the variant do not have the sleep disorder and are considered healthy sleepers. “This gene may be a biomarker for predicting how people will respond to sleep deprivation, which has significant health consequences and affects millions of people around the world. It may be particularly important to those who work on the night shift, travel frequently across multiple time zones, or just lose sleep due to their multiple work and family obligations,” said lead study author Namni Goel, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Following the Trail of Missing AIDS Patients in Africa – (New York Times – October 25, 2010)
Several years ago, during the rapid international expansion of H.I.V. drug distribution, researchers reported very high rates of adherence to treatment in sub-Saharan Africa — as high as or higher than in the United States. More recently, however, studies have found that 15% to 40% of those who start treatment are lost to follow-up within one to three years. Interruptions in treatment lead to viral strains that are resistant to the cheapest medications, and to higher rates of illness and death. This unsettling trend has emerged at a difficult time; financing for treatment from the United States and other donors is not keeping pace with the rate of new infections, which has generated waiting lists for the lifesaving medications in some parts of Africa.

Sensor Detects Emotions through the Skin – (Technology Review – October 26, 2010)
A new device developed by Affectiva, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, detects and records physiological signs of stress and excitement by measuring slight electrical changes in the skin. While researchers, doctors, and psychologists have long used this measurement–called skin conductance–in the lab or clinical setting, Affectiva’s Q Sensor is worn on a wristband and lets people keep track of stress during everyday activities. The Q Sensor stores or transmits a wearer’s stress levels throughout the day, giving doctors, caregivers, and patients themselves a new tool for observing reactions.


Massive Oil Plume Confirmed in Gulf of Mexico – (Scientific American – October 19, 2010)
Contrary to expectations, a plume of oil formed in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Scientists have presented definitive evidence that a significant amount of hydrocarbons well above normal concentrations for Gulf of Mexico waters formed an at least 35-kilometer-long plume at a depth of 1,100 meters that followed the contours of the seafloor to flow at 6.5 kilometers per day in a west-southwesterly direction away from the Macondo well. “What we found is that a subsurface hydrocarbon plume existed,” says ocean physicist Richard Camilli of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “It was created by the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well.” Biological and/or seafood impacts remain unknown at this point.

How Did Humans React to Climate Change 6000 Years Ago? – (Daily Galaxy – October 22, 2010)
Since 2004, University of Buffalo anthropologist Ezra Zubrow has worked with teams of scientists at prehistoric sites in the Arctic regions of St. James Bay, Quebec, northern Finland and Kamchatka to understand how humans living 4,000 to 6,000 years ago reacted to climate changes. Despite our more sophisticated prediction technology, and technologies overall, many of the world’s people have residences and lifestyles that are just as vulnerable to climatic shift as those of our prehistoric ancestors. They, too, live along estuaries and coastlines subject to marked alteration as oceans rise.

Noise Reduces Ocean Habitat for Whales – (Scientific American – October 22, 2010)
In recent decades, anthropogenic ocean noise levels have risen markedly—doubling every decade for the past 50 years, according to research by scientists at Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab. Today, due to the volume of shipping as well as offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration, the din underwater—where sounds can travel long distances—is constant. In fact, some scientists say virtually no marine environment is now without noise pollution. Whales rely heavily on the integrity of their acoustic habitat. If ocean noise continues to increase as a result of human activities, whales may soon have nowhere to go. In Cape Cod Bay, man-made noise has reduced right whales’ acoustic habitat by as much as 80%.

Global Warming: a Rise in River Flows Raises Alarm – (Los Angeles Times – October 5, 2010)
The volume of fresh water pouring from the world’s rivers has risen rapidly since 1994, in what  researchers say is further evidence of global warming. The study found that the 13-year increase in fresh-water discharge of 540 cubic kilometers was mostly due to rapid evaporation from the oceans, which led to more rainfall on land. Only 10% of the increase in discharge could be attributed to melting ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic, although those sources are expected to be a growing proportion as earth’s temperatures rise. Other causes for the rise in river flows include melting glaciers and permafrost on land, and practices such as groundwater pumping for irrigation. The study, led by a team at UC Irvine, is the first to estimate global fresh-water flow into the world’s oceans using observations from new satellite technology rather than through computer or hydrological models. The UC Irvine study “is additional clear evidence that the hydrological cycle is accelerating,” Gleick said.

Genetic Modification Could Amply Boost Plants’ Carbon-Capture and Bioenergy Capacity – (Scientific American – October 18, 2010)
Human activities currently add about nine gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere yearly. Photosynthetic organisms on land and in the ocean absorb about five of those gigatons through the natural uptake of CO2, leaving to humans the task of dealing with the rest. However, by 2050 humans could offset between five and eight gigatons of the carbon emitted annually by growing plants and trees optimized via genetic engineering both for fuel production and carbon sequestration. Bioenergy crops represent an opportunity to mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide in two separate ways.


‘What Technology Wants’ Tracks the Tech Evolution – (NPR – October 18, 2010)
A provocative new book by Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants, claims that technology is an extension of the human body — not “of our genes, but of our minds.” Everything that humans have thought of and produced over time — which Kelly dubs “the technium” — has followed, shaped and become integrated into human evolution — so much so, in fact, that it’s now a part of evolution itself.

See the Future with a Search – (Technology Review – October 4, 2010)
A startup called Recorded Future has developed a tool that scrapes real-time data from the Internet to find hints of what will happen in the future. For example, a search for information about drug company Merck generates a timeline showing not only recent news on earnings but also when various drug trials registered with the website will end in coming years. The company’s search tool spits out results on a timeline that stretches into the future as well as the past. The 18-month-old company gained attention earlier this year after receiving money from the venture capital arms of both Google and the CIA. Now the company has offered a glimpse of how its technology works. Conventional search engines like Google use links to rank and connect different Web pages. Recorded Future’s software goes a level deeper by analyzing the content of pages to track the “invisible” connections between people, places, and events described online.

10 Ways Hackers have Punked Corporations and Oppressive Governments – (Alternet – October 19, 2010)
WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been much in the news lately, but hacktivism — the nontraditional use of computing technology to advance political causes — has been around for a long time. This link offers a primer on 10 of the most significant hacktivist actions of all time.

E-Mail Spam Falls after Russian Crackdown – (New York Times – October 25, 2010)
Since late last month, the world supply of Viagra ads and other e-mail spam has dropped by an estimated one-fifth. But with 200 billion spam messages in circulation each day, there is still plenty to go around. Moscow police authorities said Mr. Igor Gusev, 31, a suspected spam kingpin, was a central figure in the operations of, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly. suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.

Improving Phones through Surveillance – (Technology Review – October 14, 2010)
A cell-phone application that logs everything the phone’s user does–from sending e-mail to playing games–may not sound so desirable. But researchers are deploying the software to see if they can determine the best ways to improve the battery life of phones and uncover network dead spots. For example, the tracking application uncovered data suggesting that a tweak to the hardware of two phones made by the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC could save approximately 40% of the power consumed by their radios.


Solar Shield–Protecting the North American Power Grid – (NASA – October 26, 2010)
Every hundred years or so, a solar storm comes along so potent it fills the skies of Earth with blood-red auroras, makes compass needles point in the wrong direction, and sends electric currents coursing through the planet’s topsoil. A 2008 report by the National Academy of Sciences warns that if such a storm occurred today, we could experience widespread power blackouts with permanent damage to many key transformers. That is why a node-by-node forecast of geomagnetic currents would be valuable. During extreme storms, engineers could safeguard the most endangered transformers by disconnecting them from the grid. “Solar Shield” is an experimental NASA forecasting system with the ability to deliver transformer-level predictions.

Clearing the Way for Cheap, Flexible Solar Panels – (Technology Review – October 13, 2010)
For years solar companies have wanted to make lightweight, flexible panels that are cheap to ship and easy to install (by unrolling them over large areas). But they’ve been held up by a lack of good and affordable glass substitutes. Now 3M thinks it’s found a solution: a plastic film that it says can rival glass in its ability to protect the active materials in solar cells from the elements and save money for manufacturers and their customers. The protective film is a multilayer, fluoropolymer-based sheet that can replace glass as the protective front cover of solar panels.

Stable Way to Store the Sun’s Heat – (Science Daily – October 25, 2010)
Researchers at MIT have revealed exactly how a molecule called fulvalene diruthenium, which was discovered in 1996, works to store and release heat on demand. The molecule undergoes a structural transformation when it absorbs sunlight, putting it into a higher-energy state where it can remain stable indefinitely. Then, triggered by a small addition of heat or a catalyst, it snaps back to its original shape, releasing heat in the process. In effect, explained Grossman, this process makes it possible to produce a “rechargeable heat battery” that can repeatedly store and release heat gathered from sunlight or other sources.


NSA’s Newest Recruiters: Cartoon-Leopard Twins – (Wired – October 19, 2010)
The NSA’s website has a kids page. The CIA offers a world-explorer videogame starring Carmen Sandiego–esque junior officer Ava Shoephone, a trenchcoated operative who throws out trivia questions from the agency’s World Factbook. The National Counterterrorism Center introduces kids to “your NCTC friends,” Becker the Eagle and Little Lady Liberty. And the FBI has games — represented by an icon of the old Nintendo cartridges — like Special Agent Undercover, in which grade-school kids disguise themselves with mustaches to fool people. All this is a reminder that one of the most informative elements of any spy agency’s website is its Kiddie Korner, where spycraft meets the schoolyard for an awkward, barely appropriate encounter.

Getting GPS Out of a Jam – (Scientific American – October 15, 2010)
GPS, the Global Positioning System we rely on for guiding nuclear missiles and steering tourists to Mount Rushmore, has become a ripe target for enemy attack. During the past decade, China and other countries have put satellites for their own regional navigation systems into orbit that work on different frequencies, which means that on a battlefield they could block U.S. signals without disrupting their own. To get around this potential risk, U.S. scientists are developing gadgets that can track an object’s position in the event GPS signals are cut off. These inertial measurement units, or IMUs, determine a target’s location by measuring changes in acceleration since the last GPS reading.

Thin Displays as Wristbands – (Technology Review – October 15, 2010)
The U.S. Army is testing a prototype “watch” that’s lightweight and thin and has a full-color display. This display is built on flexible materials encased in a rugged plastic case and can be worn on a wristband to display streaming video and other information. It uses newly developed phosphorescent materials that are efficient at converting electricity into red, blue, and green light, which means the display needs less power to work.


China’s Rare-Earth Monopoly – (Technology Review – October 15, 2010)
China now produces nearly all of the world’s supply of rare earths, which are crucial for a wide range of technologies, including hard drives, solar panels, and motors for hybrid vehicles. But it has cut rare earth exports by 5 -10% a year since 2006 as demand and prices soar. In response to China’s dominance in rare-earths production, researchers are developing new materials that could either replace rare-earth minerals or decrease the need for them. But materials and technologies will likely take years to develop, and existing alternatives come with trade-offs. But alternatives to rare earths exist for some technologies. For example, the induction motor used by Tesla Motors in its all-electric Roadster uses electromagnets rather than permanent rare-earth magnets. See also: here


Wake Up – Looking for Meaning – (Huffington Post – September 28, 2010)
In an interview, Jonas Elrod, the director of the film “Wake Up” starts by revealing that “I woke up one day six years ago to discover that I had inexplicably gained the ability to see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. This was not something I was chasing or even really believed in. I was in my early 30s, living in New York City and working the daily grind. I had a string of unsuccessful relationships and was just kind of treading water. As far as any kind of spiritual life — I hadn’t stepped in a church in over 20 years and truthfully, the mere mention of God kind of annoyed me.” About the film Elrod says, “Making Wake Up was no joy ride. It was incredibly difficult to put myself out there but it was also an incredibly profound experience.”


Runway Opens at World’s First Spaceport – (BBC News – October 22, 2010)
Commercial space travel took a step closer with the opening of the runway at the world’s first spaceport in New Mexico. The event was marked with a flypast of an aircraft carrying SpaceShip Two. The vehicle has been designed to take fee-paying tourists on trips to the edge of space and back. British billionaire Sir Richard Branson – whose Virgin group has backed the venture – said the first passenger trip should take place within 18 months.

From the X File Dept: The NASA Files – (Daily Galaxy – October 23, 2010)
“At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs.”– NASA astronaut, Scott Carpenter

Moon’s Water is Useful Resource Says NASA – (BBC News – October 22, 2010)
There are oases of water-rich soil that could sustain astronauts on the Moon, according to NASA. Scientists studied the full results of an experiment that smashed a rocket and a probe into a lunar crater last year. The impacts kicked up large amounts of rock and dust, revealing a suite of fascinating chemical compounds and far more water than anyone had imagined: about 155kg of water vapor and water-ice were blown out of the crater. The analysis suggests the lunar regolith, or soil, at the impact site contains 5.6% by weight of water-ice. “That’s a significant amount of water,” said Anthony Colaprete, from the US space agency’s Ames research centre.


Testing a Bar Code Technology for Smartphones – (New York Times – October 25, 2010)
Albany, New York’s transit system has been blanketed with the bar codes — also called quick response or QR bar codes — which consumers can scan with their smartphone and, within seconds, connect to a Web site, photo or video. Bar code campaigns are cropping up in other transit hubs, as well. In Denver International Airport, for example, Colorado-based FirstBank began to offer this month a free download of an e-book to passengers scanning the bar code on posters mounted in terminal corridors. The posters say “free books,” and mobile phone users scanning the code — a scattering of black-and-white boxes inside a larger square — are linked to a Web page with several e-book choices that can be downloaded at no cost. Airline passengers looking to fill their waiting time can also download free crosswords starting Nov. 1, and free Sudoku games beginning Dec. 1.

Bendable Memory Made from Nanowire Transistors – (Technology Review – October 20, 2010)
A new type of device could ultimately hold more data than flash memory. Researchers in the U.K. have made a new kind of nanoscale memory component that stores bits of information using the conductance of nanoscale transistors made from zinc oxide. The nanowire device stores data electrically and is nonvolatile, meaning it retains data when the power is turned off, like the silicon-based flash memory found in smart phones and memory cards. The new memory cannot hold data for as long as flash, and it is slower and has fewer rewrite cycles, but it could potentially be made smaller and packed together more densely. And its main advantage is that it is made using simple processes at room temperature, which means it can be deposited on top of flexible plastic materials. It could, for instance, be built into a flexible display and could be packed into smaller spaces inside cell phones, MP3 players, plastic RFID tags, and credit cards.

Bouncing Water Droplet on a Superhydrophobic Carbon Nanotube Array – (Phys Org – October, 2010)
Two scientists from the California Institute of Technology, used a high-speed camera at different frame rates to capture the water droplets falling onto a carbon nanotubes array. The scientists controlled the exact size of the droplets with a syringe pump and released the droplets onto the surfaces using a flat-tipped needle. For this video clip, the droplets were illuminated from behind with a diffuse halogen light, demonstrating the artistic side of fluid dynamics.


When Will the Madness Stop? – (Wall St. Journal – October 22, 2010)
Recently investors were so eager to buy bonds they snapped up $5 billion worth of new Wal-Mart debt at pitifully low yields. Yet they are showing comparatively little interest in Wal-Mart stock whose dividend yield just keeps getting better and better. This isn’t an isolated instance. This article presents the side-by-side math for returns on purchasing a company’s bonds and its common stock – in this case Walmart’s – but the illustration is broadly applicable.


Could You Live a Year without Money? – (AlterNet – October 16, 2010)
Mark Boyle experimented with money-free living for a year and now, hooked on the idea, he’s starting a money-free community. This experiment in currency-free living started in 2008 after Boyle, an Irishman who worked in the organic food industry, saw Gandhi and was inspired by the Indian nationalist’s legendary asceticism. Boyle’s experience became the basis for his book, Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, which has just been released in the states. By the end of his year without dough, he’d decided that the life he’d gained by shedding currency was worth continuing. Boyle is now making plans to buy land with the royalties from the book—his only cash transaction in the last two years—to start a moneyless community. He talked about the insights that drove him to make his new lifestyle more permanent.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.

Newseum Front Pages – (Newseum website – no date)
On the website of the Newseum, a museum devoted to journalism, you can view the front pages from more than 800 newspapers from 77 countries. The daily newspaper front pages are displayed in their original, unedited form. The website notes: “Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised.”


Underwater Sculpture Park Set to Open Near Cancun – (Telegraph – October 11, 2010)
Jason de Caires Taylor, a British sculptor, has fused art and conservation to build an artificial reef using hundreds of life-sized statues of real people using materials that encourage coral growth to build an underwater installation on the sea bed off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. The sculptures will form a new home for a variety of aquatic creatures at the Cancun and Isla Mujeres National Marine Park and are designed to reduce the impact over half a million tourists have on the area’s natural reefs every year. One of the first statues submerged last November is showing promising signs of life. Named ‘Man on Fire’, the cast from Joachim, a local Mexican fisherman, was drilled with over 75 holes and planted with live cuttings of fire coral which have since bloomed and attracted other sea life.


“I’m looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” – Henry Ford

A special thanks to: Kevin Clark, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Phillip Nelson, Diane Petersen, Hal Puthoff, Carol Schwartz 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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