Volume 13, Number 5 – 3/15/10

Volume 13, Number 5 – 3/15/10FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

A radar experiment aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar spacecraft has identified thick deposits of water-ice near the Moon’s north pole.A simple DNA test may predict whether someone is more likely to lose weight on a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet.Humans were once an endangered species and remained so for roughly one million years.Members of the Obama Administration consider an end to inevitable aging to be one of the major global destabilizing forces of the next 25 years.

Internet Access Is a Fundamental Right – (BBC News – March 8, 2010)
Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests. The survey of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide. Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens. International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access. Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that governments must “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water”.


Ice Deposits Found at Moon’s Pole
Earth Knocked for a Loop
A Theory Set in Stone: An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs, After All

Ice Deposits Found at Moon’s Pole – (BBC News – March 2, 2010)
A radar experiment aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar spacecraft has identified thick deposits of water-ice near the Moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-Sar experiment found more than 40 small craters containing water-ice. But other compounds – such as hydrocarbons – are mixed up in lunar ice, according to new results from another Moon mission. NASA says the ice must be at least a couple of meters thick to give the signature seen by Chandrayaan-1.

Earth Knocked for a Loop – (Science News – March 3, 2010)
The magnitude 8.8 quake that slammed central Chile February 27 knocked the entire planet for a loop – literally. The sudden, large-scale movement of tectonic plates that triggered the quake shifted immense masses of rock a few meters closer to Earth’s core, tilting the planet’s axis a few centimeters and imperceptibly shortening the day, analyses indicate.

A Theory Set in Stone: An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs, After All – (Scientific American – March 4, 2010)
Scientists have always regarded the asteroid impact theory as a hypothesis subject to revision based on further evidence gathered from around the globe. Other possible causes, such as volcanism and smaller, multiple asteroid strikes, never actually went away, and over the years researchers raised important points that did not fully jibe with a history-changing celestial impact near the Yucatan peninsula one awful day some 65.5 million years ago. A group of 41 researchers have pored over the evidence and decided that-in accordance with the original postulate put forth 30 years ago by a team led by father and son researchers Luis and Walter Alvarez-it was, indeed, a massive asteroid that slammed into Earth, creating Chicxulub Crater on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, that killed off many of the species on the planet, including the non-avian dinosaurs.


The Manhattan Beach Project to End Aging by 2029
Human Brains Grow, Change and Can Heal Themselves
DNA Test Could Predict Most Effective Diet
Parents Give Kids Fewer Gene Mutations Than Was Thought

The Manhattan Beach Project to End Aging by 2029 – (H+ Magazine – December 3, 2009)
An end to aging could be just as explosive as the atomic blast that occurred at Alamogordo, New Mexico during the predawn hours of July 16, 1945. It’s serious enough that members of the Obama Administration consider it to be one of the major global destabilizing forces of the next 25 years. There is some evidence that humans are approaching something Aubrey De Grey calls “longevity escape velocity”. This is the point at which the yearly advances in procedures for extending human life expectancy result in adding one year to the human lifespan — potentially making death-by-aging a choice rather than a date with destiny. Ray Kurzweil predicts, “We are about 15 years away from adding more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy.”

Human Brains Grow, Change and Can Heal Themselves – (Life Extension Daily News – March 3, 2010)
Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and change through life, is gaining increased traction in medical circles. Formerly, doctors assumed they could do little to help those with mental limitations or brain damage — because a machine, the previous paradigm of the brain – doesn’t grow new parts. The new thinking changes that: “It means that many disorders that we thought can’t be treated have to be revisited.” The Center for BrainHealth is exploring ways to help those with brain damage and everyone else, including those with aging brains, middle-schoolers who need a brain boost and autistic children who need help rewiring the brain to improve their social cognition.

DNA Test Could Predict Most Effective Diet – (BBC News – March 5, 2010)
A simple DNA test may predict whether someone is more likely to lose weight on a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet. The results from the small preliminary study of 101 women showed those on the best diet for their genes lost two to three times more weight than the rest. Stanford University researchers analyzed data from 101 white Caucasian women who provided DNA from a swab of their cheek cells. The women had different diets for a year. The diets were very low carbohydrate, low carbohydrate/high protein, and low or very low fat.

Parents Give Kids Fewer Gene Mutations Than Was Thought – (PhysOrg – March 10, 2010)
Researchers at the University of Utah and other institutions have sequenced for the first time the entire genome of a family, enabling them to accurately estimate the average rate at which parents pass genetic mutations to their offspring and also identify precise locations where parental chromosomes exchange information that creates new combinations of genetic traits in their children. By comparing the parents’ DNA sequences to those of their children, the researchers estimated with a high degree of certainty that each parent passes 30 mutations-for a total of 60, or less than half of what had been predicted-to their offspring. Most mutations, as far as medical researchers know, have no consequence for a child’s health. But the rate at which parents send on mutations to their offspring is critical information, according to Lynn B. Jorde, Ph.D. at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “The mutation rate is our clock, and every time it ticks we have a new genetic variant,” he said. “We need to know how fast the clock ticks.”


Humans Were Once an Endangered Species
Chimps Talk with Their Hands

Humans Were Once an Endangered Species – (PhysOrg – January 29, 2010)
Scientists from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in the U.S. have calculated that 1.2 million years ago, at a time when our ancestors were spreading through Africa, Europe and Asia, there were probably only around 18,500 individuals capable of breeding (and no more than 26,000). This made them an endangered species with a smaller population than today’s species such as gorillas (approximately 25,000 breeding individuals) and chimpanzees (an estimated 21,000). They remained an endangered species for around one million years.

Chimps Talk with Their Hands – (Scientific American – March, 2010)
The origins of language have long been a mystery, but mounting evidence hints that our unique linguistic abilities could have evolved from gestural communication in our ancestors. Such gesturing may also explain why most people are right-handed. Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center recently examined captive chimpanzees and found that most of them predominantly used their right hand when communicating with one another-for example, when greeting another chimp by extending an arm. The animals did not show this hand preference for noncommunicative actions, such as wiping their noses. Such lateralized hand use suggests that chimpanzees have a system in their left brain hemisphere that is coupled to the production of communicative gestures, says study author William Hopkins. The same cerebral hemisphere is host to most language functions in humans, which hints that an ancestral gestural system could have been the precursor for language, he says.


Methane Releases from Arctic Shelf May Be Larger and
   Faster Than Anticipated
Whaling Worsens Carbon Release, Scientists Warn
Europe Approves the Growth of Genetically Modified Potatoes
Carbon Emissions ‘Outsourced’ to Developing Countries
Green-ish Pesticides Bee-devil Honey Makers

Methane Releases from Arctic Shelf May Be Larger and Faster Than Anticipated – (EurekAlert – March 4, 2010)
A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov. The research results show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming. “The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova.

Whaling Worsens Carbon Release, Scientists Warn – (BBC News – February 26, 2010)
A century of whaling may have released more than 100 million tons – or a large forest’s worth – of carbon into the atmosphere, scientists say. Whales store carbon within their huge bodies and when they are killed, much of this carbon can be released. Dr Pershing from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute said, “When you kill and remove a whale from the ocean, that’s removing carbon from this storage system and possibly sending it into the atmosphere. When whales die [naturally], their bodies sink, so they take that carbon down to the bottom of the ocean. If they die where it’s deep enough, it will be [stored] out of the atmosphere perhaps for hundreds of years.”

Europe Approves the Growth of Genetically Modified Potatoes – (AlterNet – March 10, 2010)
After a 13-year battle, the largest chemical company in the world, BASF won approval from the European Commission to begin commercially growing Amflora, a genetically modified potato, which is currently approved only for starch production, not human consumption, but the leftover skins will be fed to cattle. It will used for industrial purposes like paper and yarn production and making spray concrete. General fear of the potato’s growth stems from a gene contained in the potato that is resistant to antibiotics including kanamycin, neomycin, butirosin, and gentamicin. Critics fear that this could further the problems associated with antibiotic resistance.

Carbon Emissions ‘Outsourced’ to Developing Countries – (EurekAlert – March 8, 2010)
A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution finds that over a third of carbon dioxide emissions associated with consumption of goods and services in many developed countries are actually emitted outside their borders. The study finds that, per person, about 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide are consumed in the U.S. but produced somewhere else. For Europeans, the figure can exceed four tons per person. Most of these emissions are outsourced to developing countries, especially China. “Instead of looking at carbon dioxide emissions only in terms of what is released inside our borders, we also looked at the amount of carbon dioxide released during the production of the things that we consume,” says co-author Ken Caldeira.

Green-ish Pesticides Bee-devil Honey Makers – (Science News – March 4, 2010)
A new study from China finds that two widely used pyrethroid pesticides, synthetic chemicals fashioned after the natural pyrethrin bug deterrent in chrysanthemums – chemicals that are rather “green” as bug killers go – can significantly impair the pollinators’ reproduction. Both chemicals are widely used in North America and elsewhere, including China. And, the researchers point out, the concentration of each pesticide that produced adverse effects in the experiments was at or below those that bees could encounter while pollinating treated crop fields. The authors of the new study don’t argue that pyrethroids are a cause of colony collapse disorder, but they do argue that their findings suggest further investigation is warranted to confirm whether these immensely popular crop-protection chemicals might prove a previously unrecognized threat to pollinators.


New Google Public Data Explorer
Digital Leash

New Google Public Data Explorer – (Sun Sentinel – March 10, 2010)
The latest tool unwrapped by Google Labs makes it easier to analyze data from schools, governments, non-profits and more and also visualize those numbers in animated charts. Google Public Data Explorer covers 80 public data topic generated by the most popular searches made on Work with ready-made charts or create your own, anything from maps to and bubble charts which then can be shared online. The visualizations are dynamic, so you can watch them move over time, change topics, highlight different entries and change the scale.

Digital Leash – (Technology Review – March/April, 2010)
Anyone who has worried about leaving his/her phone recharging in a hotel room or airport might like this small Bluetooth device designed to be worn on a keychain. The Zomm monitors the signal strength of a Bluetooth connection to your phone and sounds an alert if you get more than a few yards away.


Tokyo Researchers Unveil Robotic Baby – (Red Orbit – March 10, 2010)
Japan may have one of the lowest birthrates in the world, but researchers at a Japanese university are hoping that a new bionic baby will help change all of that. The robotic infant is known as Yotaro. Kunimura calls Yotaro “a robot with which you can experience physical contact just like with a real baby and reproduce the same feelings.” It comes complete with a touch-sensitive face, artificial tear ducts that release warm water when the robot is “crying” and a built-in speaker that can replicate the giggles of a happy baby. It can also change its facial expressions, sleep, sneeze, wiggle its arms and legs, and run a fever — though it has an unrealistically large cranium and does not appear to simulate the waste elimination process that is such a common part of a normal human infant’s daily routine.


Preparing for 2014-15 “Oil Crunch” Forecast by UK Industry Group
Gobco Mining Coal Waste Piles, Turning Gob into Cash
Plumbing the Depths
Gasifying Biomass with Sunlight

Preparing for 2014-15 “Oil Crunch” Forecast by UK Industry Group – (Post Carbon Institute – February 25, 2010)
What can cities, businesses and individuals do to prepare for such energy price volatility, besides buying hybrids? Actually, this report asserts, “there is real danger that the focus on technological advances in cars is making consumers and government complacent.” With fast-growing demand for oil in developing economies such as China (which overtook the US in 2009 for total automobile sales), India and the Middle East, developed nations in North America and Europe need to consider wholescale industrial and societal shifts – some of which are suggested in this article.

Plumbing the Depths – (Economist – March 4, 2010)
A recent wave of advances is enabling oil companies to detect and recover offshore oil in ever more difficult places. In 2007 Petrobras, a Brazilian oil giant, announced that it had found as much as 8 billion barrels of oil at its Tupi field, 240km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The discovery, beneath 2,000 meters of water, 3,000 meters of sand and rocks and a 2,000-meter layer of salt, was touted at the time as potentially the largest offshore find ever made. Such discoveries were literally unfathomable just a few years ago. Software, as much as hardware, is changing the game.

Gasifying Biomass with Sunlight – (Technology Review – March 10, 2010)
A solar-driven process could yield far more fuel than conventional biomass production. Gasification occurs when dry biomass or other carbon-based materials are heated to above 700 ºC in the presence of steam. At those temperatures, most of the biomass is converted to a synthetic gas. But the heat required for this process usually comes from a portion of the biomass being gasified. “You end up burning 30 to 35% of the biomass,” says Alan Weimer, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Instead, Weimer and his research team have developed ways of using concentrated solar heat to drive the gasification process.


AIDS Virus Can Hide in Bone Marrow
An End to Lice with a New Oral Treatment

AIDS Virus Can Hide in Bone Marrow – (Associated Press – March 7, 2010)
The virus that causes AIDS can hide in the bone marrow, avoiding drugs and later awakening to cause illness, according to new research that could point the way toward better treatments for the disease. One hide-out was found earlier in blood cells called macrophages. Another pool was discovered in memory T-cells. But those couldn’t account for all the HIV virus still circulating. Finding these sources of infection is important because eliminating them would allow AIDS patients to stop taking drugs after their infection was over. That’s critical in countries where the treatment is hard to afford and deliver.

An End to Lice with a New Oral Treatment – (EurekAlert – March 11, 2010)
Lice are parasites which infest more than 100 million people worldwide each year. Children between the ages of 3 and 11 years are particularly vulnerable because of their social behaviour (games etc.) which is favourable to the propagation of parasites. Although conventional anti-lice lotions are effective in a many cases, an ever increasing resistance to these treatments has been observed. Researchers have therefore performed a clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of a new oral treatment (oral Ivermectin) with that of a conventional anti-lice treatment. Ivermectin acts by blocking neurotransmissions in the brains of invertebrates. 95% of the 398 individuals who received Ivermectin were free from lice 15 days after the start of treatment, as compared to 85% of the 414 individuals treated with malathion. Ivermectin is already available on the market and commonly prescribed for treatment of scabies.


Designer Nano Luggage to Carry Drugs to Diseased Cells – (PhysOrg – March 9, 2010)
Scientists have succeeded in growing empty particles derived from the Cowpea mosaic virus and have made them carry useful chemicals. Scientists had previously tried to empty virus particles of their genetic material using irradiation or chemical treatment. Though successful in rendering the particles non-infectious, these methods have not fully emptied the particles. “But now we can load them too, creating fancy chemical containers,” says lead researcher Dr Dave Evans. One application could be in cancer treatment. These particles could seek out cancer cells to the exclusion of healthy cells. Once bound to the cancer cell, the virus particle would release an anti-cancer agent that has been carried as an internal cargo allowing the drug to be delivered in a more targeted way.


Why Availability of Freshwater Is a Huge Factor in the ‘War on Terror’ – (AlterNet – March 4, 2010)
The reality is that the unfolding global water crisis increasingly influences the outcome of America’s two wars, homeland defense against international terrorism, and other key U.S. national-security interests, including the transforming planetary environment and world geopolitical order. With world water use growing at twice the rate of human population over the last century, many of the Earth’s vital freshwater ecosystems are already critically depleted and being used unsustainably. Among the water Have-Nots are the 3.6 billion who will live in countries that won’t be able to feed themselves within 15 years due largely to scarcity of water-likely to include giant India.


As the Political System Melts Down, the Public Wants a “Change” – (Media Channel – February, 2010)
The American people are not pleased. According to “Today, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed. 71% of all voters now view the federal government as a special interest group, and 70% believe that the government and big business typically work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors. That helps explain why 75% of voters are angry at the policies of the federal government, and 63% say it would be better for the country if most members of Congress are defeated this November.”


Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D – ( – no date)
What happens when you point the Hubble Space Telescope to a seemingly blank patch of sky? It gives you a view of the edge of the universe.


Beijingers Get Back on Their Bikes
Azerbaijan’s Long Lifers a Dying Breed
‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off

Beijingers Get Back on Their Bikes – (BBC News – March 11, 2010)
In a matter of just a few years Beijing has gone from a city with few private cars to one where traffic jams are commonplace. But a growing cadre of Beijing residents are returning to two-wheeled transport – electric bicycles. These battery-powered and virtually silent machines have become increasingly common on the streets of the Chinese capital. With roads often clogged with cars – there are now four million vehicles in Beijing – they offer a speedy way to get around and, with a top price around $400, they are much less expensive. China used to be known as the “kingdom of bicycles”. In the 1980s, four out of five commuters pedaled to work on them in Beijing. Recent statistics suggest that only one in five city residents now use an ordinary bicycle to travel around.

Azerbaijan’s Long Lifers a Dying Breed – (BBC News – March 7, 2010)
The strains of modern life are already affecting the next generation of Talysh people. Experts say they are dying younger. At the Museum of Long Life, in the nearby town of Lerik, Dilara Fatullaeva, the museum director, said, “These days people watch so much television that they are less active than they used to be. Also people get more stressed because of work problems or because they have to travel more. A lot has changed. The long lifers, as we call them, are a dying breed.”

‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off – (EurekAlert – March 8, 2010)
For all those dismayed by scenes of looting in disaster-struck zones, whether Haiti or Chile or elsewhere, take heart: Good acts – acts of kindness, generosity and cooperation – spread just as easily as bad. And it takes only a handful of individuals to really make a difference. Researchers from UC, San Diego and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.


An Uneven Collapse – (Resource Insights – February 26, 2010)
Kurt Cobb believes that the collapse of the globalized society we now inhabit will be exceedingly uneven geographically and one that is spread over many years. He writes, “I believe that that collapse has already started to appear in places which might be considered the periphery of our global system. My index of collapse in this case will be reasonably objective: When population in a country or region declines persistently and the main cause is not a voluntary decline in birth rates, but a persistent rise in death rates, then collapse has been confirmed.”

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

Qatar: Move over Dubai
Singularity University

Qatar: Move over Dubai – (UPI – March 5, 2010)
This is a place to keep an eye on: Qatar with a population of 2.1 million is the wealthiest country in the world with a per capita income of $78,000. (With only 35,000 people, Liechtenstein claims $118,000 but is in a separate league of stamp-sized states.) The oil giants are pouring tens of billions of dollars into GTL — gas-to-liquid — ventures with Qatar Petroleum. Depending on different criteria, Qatar is the world’s first or second exporter of liquid natural gas. Fifteen years ago, Qatar’s Sandhurst-trained Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani concluded that his father the emir was squandering Qatar’s future, hidebound as it was by a religiously inspired status quo. He deposed his father, on vacation in Switzerland, in a bloodless transfer of power. The new emir lost no time opening the country to the rest of the world. At the same time, he funded the creation of al-Jazeera, a no-holds-barred radical Arab voice that sent shock waves through conservative, ruling families that kept their media on the straight and narrow.

Singularity University – (Singularity University – no date)
If you have wondered where you might find education worthy of the future, you might consider Singularity University. It is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley.


‘A Virus Walks Into a Bar…’ and Other Science Jokes
Finally My Jet Pack Is Here!

‘A Virus Walks Into a Bar…’ and Other Science Jokes – (You Tube – November 20, 2009)
Science comedian Brian Malow jokes that a virus is “the ultimate David and Goliath” when compared with humans. He then rattles off a series of science-related jokes, for example: “Schrodinger’s cat walks into a bar, and doesn’t.”

Finally My Jet Pack Is Here! – (Gizmag – March 7, 2010)
It’s been a long time coming. While Arthur C. Clarke’s satellites have taken to space, and James Bond’s futuristic mobile technology has become common place, still the dream of sustained personal flight has eluded us. But the future is here and finally we can all take flight as Martin Aircraft in New Zealand releases the first commercially-available jet pack. Cost estimated around $86,000. Training definitely required.


“It is vain to be always looking toward the future and never acting toward it.” – John Frederick Boyes, English essayist (1811 – 1879)

A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Kyle Pickford, Stu Rose, Sonia Tarrish 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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Volume 13, Number 4 – 2/28/10

Volume 13, Number 6 – 3/31/10