Volume 13, Number 6 – 3/31/10

Volume 13, Number 6 – 3/31/10FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

The White House has acknowledged the importance of Twitter correspondence – it recently announced that its tweets will be archived in accordance with the Presidential Records Act of 1978.The journey from London to Beijing by rail could take just two days under a Chinese plan to build an international network for trains that can travel almost as fast as aircraft.Once considered a hospital anomaly, community-acquired infections with drug-resistant strains of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus now turn up regularly among children who need to be hospitalized in an intensive-care unit.Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

Twitter – A Fundamental Force for the Spread of Democracy? – (Daily Galaxy – March 13, 2010)
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams said, “We have a fundamental belief, having worked on this type of thing for 10 years, that the open exchange of information has a positive impact on the world.” Social networks will become a fundamental way we communicate with our governments, businesses and loved ones,” Williams added. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs signed up for the service to give the world inside peeks from the White House and behind the scenes. The White House has acknowledged the importance of Twitter correspondence – it recently announced that its tweets will be archived in accordance with the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

The Future of Money: It’s Flexible, Frictionless and (Almost) Free – (Wired – February 22, 2010)
Moving money, once a function managed only by the biggest companies in the world, is now a feature available to any code jockey. As a result, hundreds of engineers and entrepreneurs are attacking the payment ecosystem, seeking out ways small and large to tear down the stronghold the banks and credit card companies have built. Twitpay links users’ Twitter accounts to their PayPal accounts and allows people to transfer funds directly. Today, the service has almost 15,000 users. Square, a new company founded by Twitter cocreator Jack Dorsey, lets anyone accept physical credit card payments through a smartphone or computer by plugging in a free sugar-cube-sized device – no expensive card reader required. A startup called Obopay, which has received funding from Nokia, allows phone owners to transfer money to one another with nothing more than a PIN. And this is just the beginning: the internet is about to change “money” as fundamentally as it changed communication.

Yelp, Other Online Review Sites Changing Consumer-merchant Dynamics – (Chicago Tribune – March 19, 2010)
There was a time when a business owner monitored satisfaction mainly by talking to customers. Online review communities started to change that dynamic between consumers and businesses. Now, a spate of lawsuits is putting the spotlight on the complicated relationship between businesses and the review sites. Some business owners have learned to adapt quickly and find success. Others chafe against what they see as unfair treatment by online review sites with outsized influence. The leader in the space is San Francisco-based Yelp, which has drawn 30 million unique visitors in the last month and has more than 10 million reviews to date. In the last month, three class-action lawsuits have been filed alleging that Yelp representatives offered to remove or modify placement of negative reviews in exchange for advertising dollars.


After Growth Spurt, Supermassive Black Holes Spend Half Their Lives Veiled in Dust – (Science Daily – March 26, 2010)
Supermassive black holes found at the centers of distant galaxies undergo huge growth spurts as a result of galactic collisions, according to a new study by astronomers at Yale University and the University of Hawaii. As massive, gas-rich galaxies in the distant universe collide, the central black hole feeds on gas that is funneled to the center of the merger. “As a result of the violent, messy collision, the black hole also remains obscured behind a ‘veil’ of dust for between 10 million and 100 million years,” said Priyamvada Natarajan, Yale professor of astronomy. After that time the dust is blown away to reveal a brightly shining quasar — the central region of a galaxy with an extremely energetic, supermassive black hole at its center — that lasts for another 100 million years, the team found.


Sticking Plaster Hailed as Skin Cancer Cure – (Sky News – March 12, 2010)
Doctors have unveiled the world’s first adhesive band-aid that can cure cancer. The high-tech device contains a small light that combines with a chemical cream to kill skin cancer cells. A cream containing a harmless chemical is rubbed into the skin where it is absorbed by skin cancer cells, but not healthy tissue. Three hours later the LED in the band-aid automatically switches on for a pre-programmed duration, converting the chemical into a lethal drug. It kills the cancer, but minimizes collateral damage to healthy cells. The Ambulight band-aid has already been used on 50 patients with a success rate of up to 90%. It is less painful than surgery and leaves no scar.

Scientists Uncover Cells that Mend a Broken Heart – (Science Daily – March 25, 2010)
Humans have very limited ability to regenerate heart muscle cells, which is a key reason why heart attacks that kill cells and scar heart tissue are so dangerous. But damaged heart muscles in the amazing, highly regenerative zebrafish have given Duke University Medical Center scientists a few ideas that may lead to new directions in clinical research and better therapy after heart attacks. Within two weeks of the injury, the new fish heart cells started to show normal electrical coupling needed to keep the heart beating in rhythm. A month later, the electric coupling was the same as in the uninjured heart.

Blind Man Navigates Obstacle Course Using ‘Blindsight’ – (Telegraph – December 22, 2008)
A man who was left completely blind by multiple strokes has been able to navigate an obstacle course using only his “sense” of where hazards lie. Scientists already knew that the man, known only as TN, reacted to facial expressions that he could not see. Brain scans showed that he could recognize expressions including fear, anger and joy in other people. To test the extent of his blindsight, scientists constructed an obstacle course made up of boxes and chairs arranged in a random pattern. Not only was TN able to safely maneuver the course he did not bump into a single box or chair.


First Ever Southern Tyrannosaur Dinosaur Discovered – (Science Daily – March 26, 2010)
Scientists from Cambridge, London and Melbourne have found the first ever evidence that tyrannosaur dinosaurs existed in the southern continents. They identified a hip bone found at Dinosaur Cove in Victoria, Australia as belonging to an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex. The find sheds new light on the evolutionary history of this group of dinosaurs. It also raises the crucial question of why it was only in the north that tyrannosaurs evolved into the giant predators like T. rex.


Climate Fix Could Poison Sea Life – (BBC News – March 16, 2010)
Fertilizing the oceans with iron to absorb carbon dioxide could increase concentrations of a chemical that can kill marine mammals, a study has found. Iron stimulates growth of marine algae that absorb CO2 from the air, and has been touted as a “climate fix”. Now researchers have shown that the algae increase production of a nerve poison that can kill mammals and birds.

Forest Loss Slows, as China Plants and Brazil Preserves – (BBC News – March 25, 2010)
The world’s net rate of forest loss has slowed markedly in the last decade, with less logging in the Amazon and China planting trees on a grand scale. Its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 finds the loss of tree cover is most acute in Africa and South America. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “This is the first time we’ve been able to say that the deforestation rate is going down across the world, and certainly when you look at the net rate that is certainly down. But the situation in some countries is still alarming.”

What to Say to a Global Warming Alarmist – (Orange County Register – February 02, 2010)
It has been tough to keep up with all the bad news for global warming alarmists. At your next dinner party, here are some of the latest talking points to bring up when someone reminds you that Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won Nobel prizes for their work on global warming. Here are 19 instances of questionable if not intentionally misleading conclusions that have been drawn from faulty, skewed or truncated data.

Rapid Rise in Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny – (New York Times – March 11, 2010)
Price increases for seeds – the most important purchase a farmer makes each year – are part of an unprecedented climb that began more than a decade ago, stemming from the advent of genetically engineered crops and the rapid concentration in the seed industry that accompanied it. In a seed market that Monsanto dominates, the jump in prices has been nothing short of stunning. Including the sharp increases last year, Agriculture Department figures show that corn seed prices have risen 135% since 2001. Soybean prices went up 108% over that period. By contrast, the Consumer Price Index rose only 20% in that period. All of which underscores why the US Justice Department has begun an antitrust investigation of the seed industry last year, with an apparent focus on Monsanto.

Monsanto Admits Their Technology Doesn’t Work! – (Datensatz – March 9, 2010)
For years Monsanto has been shouting that the main – read only – benefit of Bt cotton in India (the only genetically engineered crop planted here) was the reduction in pesticide use. Well, it seems they have just admitted this is not true. Pink bollworm, a serious pest for cotton farmers in India, is now resistant to the toxin in Bt cotton. Meaning that this bug is now sort of a super-pest that farmers will have to work harder and harder to avoid. What is Monsanto’s solution to this? Use Monsanto’s next weapon – same technology – Bt cotton 2.0. With double the amount of toxins (and almost double the price of non-Bt seeds).


Skinput Turns Your Arm into a Touchscreen – (PhysOrg – March 1, 2010)
If you find yourself getting annoyed at the tiny touchscreens on today’s mobile devices, you might be interested in a “new” yet overlooked input surface: yourself. A new skin-based interface called Skinput allows users to use their own hands and arms as touchscreens by detecting the various ultralow-frequency sounds produced when tapping different parts of the skin.

The Man Who Was Allergic to Radio Waves – (PopSci – March 4, 2010)
Per Segerbäck lives in a modest cottage in a nature reserve some 75 miles northeast of Stockholm. Segerbäck suffers from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), which means he has severe physical reactions to the electromagnetic radiation produced by common consumer technologies, such as computers, televisions and cellphones. Symptoms range from burning or tingling sensations on the skin to dizziness, nausea, headaches, sleep disturbance and memory loss. In extreme cases like Segerbäck’s, breathing problems, heart palpitations and loss of consciousness can result. Sweden is the only country in the world to recognize EHS as a functional impairment, and Segerbäck’s experience has been important in creating policy to address the condition. Swedish EHS sufferers — about 3% of the population, or some 250,000 people, according to government statistics — are entitled to similar rights and social services as those given to people who are blind or deaf. Today, local governments will pay to have the home of someone diagnosed with EHS electronically “sanitized,” if necessary, through the installation of metal shielding.


Could Robots and Smart Devices Help Older People Look After Themselves? – (Science Daily – March 26, 2010)
Researchers at the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) are taking part in a European project aimed at creating an intelligent system comprising a robot and smart sensors that can support independent living for elderly people. The project aims to produce three key systems of caring for older people. A wearable health status monitor with smart sensors woven into undergarments; a secure tele-alarm and health reporting system; and a nutrition support system, which might consist for example of reminders for when meals and drinks should be taken. All these systems will be linked to a robotic platform, which will also facilitate communications.


Gribbles Studied for Biofuel – (BBC News – January 27, 2010)
Video clip of gribbles, microscopic crustaceans, which were once the scourge of seafarers because they bore through wood in marine use and digest it. Now researchers from York and Portsmouth Universities say the gribble has a unique knack for turning wood cellulose into sugars – meaning they may be useful as natural biofuel producers.

Stealing the Heat – (Economist – March 4, 2010)
With the spread of computers, which generate vast amounts of heat and need to be kept cool, tactics for recycling heat are getting ever more creative. Power and cooling demands grow in tandem and, as machines get more powerful, the world is paying dearly to keep them cool enough to run properly. From 2006 to 2011 the cost of powering and cooling servers in America alone is expected to grow from $4.5 billion to $7.4 billion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One pilot project placed a bank of servers in a greenhouse and provided enough heat to cut its gas bills by $15,600 a year-while simultaneously saving Notre Dame University $38,000 in cooling costs.

China to Build High Speed Rail Link to Europe – (Sidney Morning Herald – March 10, 2010)
THE journey from London to Beijing by rail could take just two days under a Chinese plan to build an international network for trains that can travel almost as fast as aircraft. Three networks are planned, with the Britain to China route to be extended to Singapore, and built within a decade. Passengers on a second route would travel to the north of China and through Russia and on to Germany, where the network would join the European railway system. Last year China unveiled the world’s fastest train, the Harmony Express, which can reach 350 km/h.


Community-Acquired MRSA Becoming More Common in Pediatric ICU Patients – (Science Daily – March 25, 2010)
Once considered a hospital anomaly, community-acquired infections with drug-resistant strains of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus now turn up regularly among children hospitalized in the intensive-care unit, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “MRSA has become so widespread in the community, that it’s become nearly impossible to predict which patients harbor MRSA on their body,” says lead investigator Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Hopkins Children’s.

1918 and 2009 Pandemic Influenza Viruses Lack a Sugar Topping – (Science Daily – March 26, 2010)
Although they emerged more than 90 years apart, the influenza viruses responsible for the pandemics of 1918 and 2009 share a structural detail that makes both susceptible to neutralization by the same antibodies. Scientists this shared vulnerability and suggest how it might be exploited to design vaccines matched to future pandemic influenza virus strains.


MIT Researchers Discover New Energy Source – (CNN – March 16, 2010)
Researchers have devised a process for generating electricity using nanotechnology. They plan to refine the process in hopes of creating a new environmentally friendly battery, among other products. The MIT team used carbon nanotubes coated with a layer of fuel, to generaate a thermopower wave and stumbled across a reaction that may eventually be used to power electronics, computers and cell phones. This could lead to batteries that are up to 10 times smaller and still have the same power output.

Amid Nanotech’s Dazzling Promise, Health Risks Grow – (AOL News – March 24, 2010)
For almost two years, molecular biologist Benedicte Trouiller doused the drinking water of scores of lab mice with nano titanium-dioxide, the most common nano particle used in consumer products today. She knew that earlier studies in test tubes and Petri dishes showed the same particle could cause disease, but her tests at UCLA’s School of Public Health were in vivo and thus regarded by some scientists as more relevant in assessing potential human harm. Half way through, Trouiller became alarmed: the titanium-dioxide was damaging or destroying the animals’ DNA and chromosomes. The findings were repeatedly confirmed as she repeated the tests again and again.


Final Destination Iran? – (Herald Scotland – March 14, 2010)
Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran. The US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures. Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. “They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London. “US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he added.

Beware the NSA’s Geek-Spy Complex – (Wired – March 22, 2010)
Early this year, the big brains at Google admitted that they had been outsmarted. Along with 33 other companies, the search giant had been the victim of a major hack – an infiltration of international computer networks that even Google couldn’t do a thing about. So the company has reportedly turned to the only place on Earth with a deeper team of geeks than the Googleplex: the National Security Agency. NSA headquarters – the “Puzzle Palace” – in Fort Meade, Maryland, is actually home to two different agencies under one roof. There’s the signals-intelligence directorate, the Big Brothers who, it is said, can tap into any electronic communication. And there’s the information-assurance directorate, the cybersecurity nerds who make sure our government’s computers and telecommunications systems are hacker- and eavesdropper-free. In other words, there’s a locked-down spy division and a relatively open geek division. The problem is, their goals are often in opposition.


It’s China’s World. We’re Just Living in It. – (Newsweek – March 12, 2010)
The middle kingdom is rewriting the rules on trade, technology, currency, climate-you name it. A $120 billion regional reserve fund, an Asia-only version of the International Monetary Fund is due to be launched this month, bankrolled in part by China’s massive foreign-exchange reserves. Asia’s key economic and political issues are no longer being hashed out between individual nations and the United States-but at summits that include only China, Japan, South Korea, and the Southeast Asian countries. Similarly, Beijing’s efforts to push the yuan as a rival to the dollar are now making tentative progress. In the last few months, China has inked $100 billion in currency-swap agreements with six countries, including Argentina, Indonesia, and South Korea.

Campaign Stunt Launches a Corporate Candidate for Congress – (Washington Post – March 13, 2010)
After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, Murray Hill Inc., a small, five-year-old Silver Spring, MD public relations company and self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office. “Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington,” the candidate, unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. “But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.” The candidate’s on-line ad concludes with a rousing call to action: “Vote for Murray Hill Incorporated for Congress – for the best democracy money can buy.” What if the candidate wins?


German Archbishop in Vatican Meeting – (Irish Times – March 13, 2010)
The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, yesterday said the German bishops had looked closely at the Irish experience of clerical child abuse as they try to come to terms with the burgeoning German clerical sex abuse crisis. The archbishop said: “In my talks with the Holy Father, we didn’t talk about Ireland but in the context of the German Bishops’ Conference we have talked about the Irish church’s problems . . . and the forthcoming Round Table is to a certain extent based on the Irish experience because from the Irish we’ve learned that you have got to involve as many different social groups as possible.”

French Polemic over Fake Game Show Electrocutions – (Examiner – March 17, 2010)
A French state-run TV channel is stirring controversy with a documentary about a fake game show in which credulous participants obey orders to deliver increasingly powerful electric shocks to a man, who is really an actor, until he appears to die. “Television is a power. We know it, but it’s theoretical,” producer Christophe Nick told the daily Le Parisien. “I wondered: Is it so important that it can turn us into potential executioners?” In the final tally, 81% of the contestants turned up the alleged juice to the maximum – said to be potentially deadly – level. Only 16 people among the 80 who took part backed out.

TV Presenter Gets Death Sentence for ‘Sorcery’ – (CNN – March 19, 2010)
Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese man sentenced to death for “sorcery.” Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on a Beirut based satellite TV channel, was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s religious police (known as the Mutawa’een) and charged with sorcery (for predicting the future on his program) while visiting the country in May 2008. Sibat was in Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic religious pilgrimage known as Umra.


Earth under Attack from Death Star – (Sun – March 12, 2010)
An invisible star may be circling the Sun and causing deadly comets to bombard the Earth. The brown dwarf – up to five times the size of Jupiter – could be to blame for mass extinctions that occur here every 26 million years. The star – nicknamed Nemesis by NASA scientists – is believed to orbit our solar system at 25,000 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun. Now NASA researchers believe they will be able to find Nemesis using a new heat-seeking telescope that began scanning the skies in January.

Getting WISE about Nemesis – (NASA – March 11, 2010)
And here’s the NASA version of that story – less sensational but also a little less forthcoming – however the possibility is the same: Is our Sun part of a binary star system? An unseen companion star, nicknamed “Nemesis,” may be sending comets towards Earth. Throughout history, such impacts could have had a profound effect on the evolution of the biosphere by causing regular mass extinctions. If Nemesis exists, NASA’s new WISE telescope should be able to spot it.


A Planetary Mood Ring – (Kurzweil AI – March 15, 2010)
What if there was a central place for all of humanity to text, tweet, email, blog and click in the essence of their mood in the moment – a gigantic feelings aggregator that would provide an emotional pulse check on the planet? “These aggregated feelings would be represented in a color wheel inspired by the mood rings of the 1970s, a “Planetary Mood Ring” that could track the collective emotional shifts triggered by reports of natural disasters like earthquakes or human made crises like financial meltdowns or celebrity breakups. Planetary Mood Ring submissions, called ‘moodies,’ could be sorted out by geospatial location and show moods of entire countries, cities or towns, highways, your own neighborhood, office or household.

Big Food Push Urged to Avoid Global Hunger – (BBC News – March 25, 2010)
A big push to develop agriculture in the poorest countries is needed if the world is to feed itself in future decades, a report warns. With the world’s population soaring to nine billion by mid-century, crop yields must rise, say the authors – yet climate change threatens to slash them. Already the number of chronically hungry people is above one billion.


Forget Invisible Hands. What about Virtual Hands? – (The Big Money – March 11, 2010)
Economists are learning from cyber-economies. The proliferation of huge virtual worlds in gaming – like World of Warcraft and Second Life – has created virtual economies that behave like ours: supply and demand, diminishing returns, it’s all there, and with no sampling error, as every transaction is recorded. So it could be a great petri dish to test large-scale policies.

Premier Wen Jiabao Warns Chinese Economy is Unsustainable – (Smart Economy – March 14, 2010)
Smart Economy’s conclusion may be somewhat overdrawn. Bloomberg reports March 15th that the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said: China’s difficult task is to grow without stoking inflation and while adjusting an economic model that has led to an “‘unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable” expansion, Wen said. Officials will maintain “appropriate and sufficient” liquidity and keep interest rates at “reasonable” levels, he added. (Note: Wen said the “expansion” not the “economy” is unsustainable.) However, there are signs of cause for concern. Northwestern University p-Professor Victor Shih, who spent months researching borrowing by about 8,000 local government entities, predicted, “The most likely case is that the Chinese government will engineer a massive financial bailout of the financial sector.”

Corporate Debt Coming Due May Squeeze Credit – (Sign of the Times – March 15, 2010)
2012 is the beginning of a three-year period in which more than $700 billion in risky, high-yield corporate debt begins to come due, an extraordinary surge that some analysts fear could overload the debt markets. With huge bills about to hit corporations and the federal government around the same time, the worry is that some companies will have trouble getting new loans, spurring defaults and a wave of bankruptcies. The United States government alone will need to borrow nearly $2 trillion in 2012, to bridge the projected budget deficit for that year and to refinance existing debt. Even Moody’s, which is known for its sober public statements, is sounding the alarm. “An avalanche is brewing in 2012 and beyond if companies don’t get out in front of this,” said Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.

The Fed Is Responsible for the Crash in the Money Multiplier – (Washington’s Blog – March 16, 2010)
For every $1 increase in the monetary base – the money supply only increases by 79 cents. Why is M1 crashing? Because the banks continue to build up their excess reserves, instead of lending out money. Why are banks building up their excess reserves? As the Fed notes: The Federal Reserve Banks pay interest on required reserve balances–balances held at Reserve Banks to satisfy reserve requirements–and on excess balances–balances held in excess of required reserve balances and contractual clearing balances. Paying interest on reserves allows a central bank to maintain its influence over market interest rates independent of the quantity of reserves created by its liquidity facilities. The central bank can then let the size of these facilities be determined by conditions in the financial sector, while setting its target for the short-term interest rate based on macroeconomic conditions.

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

Your Virtual Turnpike – ( website – no date) provides Google street views of major thoroughfares, area photos, local traffic conditions, area webcams, local news and driving directions. Use vPike to acquaint yourself with an area before you go there or you can call up places from your past to see what they look like now. vPike also has a driving simulator that enables you to simulate a drive-by of an area while you watch the scenery.


Science Jokes – (You Tube – November 20, 2009)
OK Go – “This Too Shall Pass” – (You Tube – March 1, 2010)
In this delightful music video by the group OK Go, an extraordinary Rube Goldberg-like installation has been created to match the timing of the music. The video “went viral” almost immediately. If you enjoyed the video, you might also be interested in an article from Wired Magazine: How OK Go’s Amazing Rube Goldberg Machine Was Built.


“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


If you’d like to take part in an International Delphi Survey and Scenario development project about Latin America 2010 – 2030, please click here.

A special thanks to: Gary Bekkum, Thomas Burgin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Clark, Napier Collyns, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Robert Hoge, Deanna Korda, Diane Petersen, Jane Pratt, Tom Roberts, Joel Snell 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

PRIVACY POLICYWe don’t share your information with anyone.

A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen

Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”

e-Newsletter Services by eSenseMarketing

Volume 13, Number 5 – 3/15/10

Volume 13, Number 7 – 4/15/10