|Volume 13, Number 8 – 4/30/10FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS|
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
Eventually Google is likely to become a regulated quasi-utility.Some 700 feet deep in the waters off California’s Santa Barbara, sits a group of football-field-sized asphalt domes unlike any other underwater features known to exist.Stem cells extracted from surgery leftovers could repair damaged hearts.A small generator embedded in the sole of a hiking shoe could power portable devices.
by John L. Petersen
Well, this has certainly been a big couple of weeks for change. Rather amazing wild cards.
LEE CARROLL and KRYON
I want to say a couple of words about them, but first would like to invite you to come be with us in Berkeley Springs on the 17th of July when Lee Carroll, the spokesperson for the amazing wisdom of KRYON again comes to be with us. Lee was here two years ago and over 80 people enjoyed an extraordinarily stimulating Sunday afternoon listening to the two of them.
This will be a very special event that will certainly give you a new and valuable perspective on the major change that has and may transpire this year. Click here or on the banner on the right for more information. Hope to see you with us.
Apparently a paper will be published in the esteemed scientific journal NATURE in June that suggests CO2 is only responsible for 10-15% of the global warming – casting increasing question about what the net effect of the climate change that we are really experiencing will be. Although I’m not a fan of the polarization and politicizing that has accompanied this debate, it is important that we understand where truth lies in all of this because the change could be quite profound. Burt Rutan has done another great presentation summarizing his take on things that you can find here. Canadian and economist Jeff Rubin has a great speech on the economics of climate change here. It’s a wonderfully informative way to spend a half hour.
My take on this, as I’ve said here before, is that we are on the cusp of rapid cooling with the possibility of a mini Ice age and that we should start getting ready for it. This opinion is growing in the scientific community: the minimal solar activity that we have been seeing will result in significant cooling.
John Mauldin’s Outside the Box this week gave some indication of the potential domino-effect that the financial failure of Greece might be to the financial situation in Europe. I heard a similar assessment on NPR today. This is a really big deal.
The global situation is aggravated by the growing disfunctionality of our government and financial systems. This piece is an illuminating look at the problem.
Speaking of really big deals, we’ve had a couple of them in the last two weeks. When the last issue was published the Iceland volcano was spouting forth, shutting down air travel in Europe. I had a number of friends suggest that The Arlington Institute initiate a project around wild cards using the volcano as a case. I was going to put a bunch of volcano stories in this edition . . . and then the oil drilling platform off New Orleans blew up and is now spewing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. The Washington Post had this rather nice piece of reporting on an event that has the potential of becoming the worst environmental disaster ever. It will be interesting to see what the effect this might have on future deep drilling for oil. There’s a chance, I suspect, that it might do to the oil industry what Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did for the nuclear power business.
Unconventional sources like Half Past Human and George Ury believe that we are in for a whole string of big events like this throughout this year. If they are right, it could be quite memorable.
All of this argues for getting one’s personal house in order to be able to deal with this shift. The requirement, it seems, is to learn how to transcend all of the dysfunction and not get sucked down emotionally or otherwise by it all. I believe that a new world is aborning and becoming a new human – both in terms of how one sees one’s self and the rest of reality — will be required to both navigate the transition and to be a contributor to the new world. There may be nothing else as important as this.
Google and Library of Congress Archive Tweets – (CNN – April 14, 2010)
Every single public tweet, dating back to the very first missive posted on March 21, 2006, will now be housed in the government’s Library of Congress. Plus, Google is making the Twitter archive searchable. The Library of Congress — which boasts millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections — announced on Wednesday (via Twitter) that is has acquired all public tweets in the Twitter archive. “Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data,” wrote a Library of Congress representative in a Facebook note.
Google vs. Governments – (Wired – April 24, 2010)
In the end, Google will become a regulated quasi-utility. It’s easy to suggest why this should happen, but profoundly difficult to imagine how. Yet where there’s a will, the political elites will eventually find a way. The key challenge for Google involves slowing down the process. Arguably, this now matters more to shareholders than new product development. Regulated companies make smaller profits than you’d otherwise expect.
Ancient Asphalt Domes Discovered off California Coast – (Science Daily – April 25, 2010)
Some 700 feet deep in the waters off California’s jewel of a coastal resort, Santa Barbara, sits a group of football-field-sized asphalt domes unlike any other underwater features known to exist. About 35,000 years ago, a series of apparent undersea volcanoes deposited massive flows of petroleum 10 miles offshore. The deposits hardened into domes that were discovered recently by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and UC Santa Barbara. the dome structures contain about 100,000 tons of residual asphalt and compares them to an underwater version of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, complete with the fossils of ancient animals. Essentially, this is what oil looks like after 35,000 years.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY
Cows on Drugs – (New York Times – April 17, 2010)
Agribusiness argues – as it has for 30 years – that livestock need to be given antibiotics to help them grow properly and keep them free of disease. But consider what has happened in Denmark since the late 1990s, when that country banned the use of antibiotics in farm animals except for therapeutic purposes. The reservoir of resistant bacteria in Danish livestock shrank considerably, a World Health Organization report found. And although some animals lost weight and some developed infections that needed to be treated with antimicrobial drugs, the benefits of the rule exceeded those costs.
Stem Cells from Surgery Leftovers Could Repair Damaged Hearts – (EurekAlert – April 26, 2010)
Scientists have for the first time succeeded in extracting vital stem cells from sections of vein removed for heart bypass surgery. Researchers funded by the British Heart Foundation found that these stem cells can stimulate new blood vessels to grow, which could potentially help repair damaged heart muscle after a heart attack. Heart bypass surgery involves taking a piece of vein from the person’s leg and grafting it onto a diseased coronary artery to divert blood around a blockage or narrowing. Professor Madeddu said. “These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body’s own stem cells.
Silicon Shrinkwrap Melts Smoothly Onto Cat Brain to Monitor Activity in Real Time – (Popular Science – April 19, 2010)
Implanting clunky electrodes or other devices inside people’s heads could someday give way to smoother, silkier neuromedicine. Scientists say that they have successfully measured the electrical activity of cat brains by using a silk-silicon surface mesh. Silk films can easily be rolled up and slipped through a small hole made in the skull. When wetted with saline, the film helps the silicon circuits conform directly to the brain’s surface and even slip inside crevices. There are also no biocompatibility issues, because the silk eventually dissolves over time and leaves behind a network of silicon circuits too thin to cause any harm.
New Discovery Prevents Spread Of Cancer – (News Room America – April 21, 2010)
Like microscopic inchworms, cancer cells slink away from tumors to travel and settle elsewhere in the body. Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College report that new anti-cancer agents break down the looping gait these cells use to migrate, stopping them in their tracks. Mice implanted with cancer cells and treated with the small molecule macroketone lived a full life without any cancer spread, compared with control animals, which all died of metastasis.
Son’s Autism Leads to Innovation – (BBC News – April 24, 2010)
Stephen Lodge said the idea for his Speaks4Me system came to him years ago but has been waiting for technology to catch up in order to make it a reality. His eleven-year-old son, Callum, is non-verbal and uses his father’s invention to speak. Speaks4Me runs on any device that can run the Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 operating system and uses drag-and-drop to move images from one area of the screen to another to form sentences. The user then presses a speech button to “verbalize” the sentence. It takes half an hour or less to learn to use the system. Lodge is also hoping that it will prove useful to stroke survivors – about a third of whom lose the ability to speak, either temporarily or permanently.
DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY
Particulate Matter from Fires in the Amazon Affects Lightning Patterns – (Science Daily – April 25, 2010)
Scientists researched data on lightning patterns in the Amazon to show how clouds are affected by particulate matter emitted by the fires used for slash-and-burn foresting practices. Researchers found that while low levels of particulate matter actually help the development of thunderstorms, the reverse is true once a certain concentration is reached – the particles then inhibit the formation of clouds and thunderstorms. “The clouds just dry up.” Exactly how man-made pollution impacts clouds, rainfall and weather patterns remains poorly understood, and natural particulates, such as those generated by Iceland’s recent volcano eruptions may add to this effect.
Classic Maya History is Embedded in Commoners’ Homes – (EurekAlert – April 15, 2010)
Maya commoners found a way to record their own history – by burying it within their homes. A new study of the objects embedded in the floors of homes occupied more than 1,000 years ago in central Belize begins to decode their story. Maya in the Classic period (A.D. 250-900) regularly “terminated” their homes, razing the walls, burning the floors and placing artifacts and (sometimes) human remains on top before burning them again. Evidence suggests these rituals occurred every 40 or 50 years and likely marked important dates in the Maya calendar. After termination, the family built a new home on the old foundation, using broken and whole vessels, colorful fragments, animal bones and rocks to mark important areas and to provide ballast for a new plaster floor.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Arctic Sea Ice Is Highest for This Date in 8 Years – (Watt’s Up with That? – April 22, 2010)
As of today, JAXA shows that we have more ice than any time on this date for the past 8 years of Aqua satellite measurement for this AMSRE dataset. What can be said about the short term trend in Arctic sea ice is that for the past two years, it has recovered from the historic low of 2007. It recovered in 2008, and more in 2009. It appears that it is on track now for a third year of recovery in 2010. See also: IARC-JAXA Information System
Rewiring Plants Could Supersize Crops – (Wired – April 19, 2010)
With a bit of biomathematical wizardry, researchers have found a new way for plants to breathe. The newly discovered chemical reactions would allow plants to process carbon dioxide more efficiently. Crops could grow to enormous size. “We wondered if we could take parts designed by nature, and rewire them together in a mix-and-match approach to get something that’s more efficient for human needs,” said synthetic biologist Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute.
UK Water Use Worsening Global Crisis – (BBC News – April 19, 2010)
The amount of water used to produce food and goods imported by developed countries is worsening water shortages in the developing world, a report says. For example, two-thirds of the water used to make UK imports is used outside its borders. The Engineering the Future, an alliance of professional engineering bodies, says this is unsustainable, given population growth and climate change. Developed countries must help poorer nations curb water use. “We must take account of how our water footprint is impacting on the rest of the world,” said Professor Roger Falconer, a member of the report’s steering committee.
Can We Cool the Planet through Geoengineering? – (NPR – April 15, 2010)
To stop or slow down the effects of global warming, one approach that has recently gained popularity is what scientists call geoengineering, essentially retrofitting the Earth with technology to reduce global warming. The field includes proposals to cool the Earth by capturing carbon dioxide emissions, changing the reflectivity of the sun or even redirecting sunlight away from the Earth. The idea is controversial, fraught with scientific uncertainties and ethical issues, but there are also some very good reasons to take the idea seriously.
Networked Networks Are Prone to Epic Failure – (Wired – April 15, 2010)
Networks that are resilient on their own become fragile and prone to catastrophic failure when connected, suggests a new study with troubling implications for tightly linked modern infrastructures. Electrical grids, water supplies, computer networks, roads, hospitals, financial systems – all are tied to each other in ways that could make them vulnerable. Most theoretical research on network properties has focused on single networks in isolation. In reality, many important networks are tied to each other. Anecdotal evidence hints at their fragility, but the underlying mathematics are largely unexplored.
Car that Drives Itself Gets Closer to Reality – (BBC News – April 24, 2010)
Software developed by the researchers at North Carolina State University helps a computer keep a car within a lane on a highway while staying aware of other lanes and vehicles travelling alongside. It can even read road signs. The technology relies completely on computer vision programming, which allows a computer to understand what a video camera is looking at – whether it is a stop sign or a pedestrian. The program uses algorithms to sort visual data and make decisions related to finding the lanes of a road, detecting how those lanes change as a car is moving, and controlling the car to stay in the correct lane. It does this – while avoiding other vehicles and without becoming confused by multiple lanes.
Brain-like Computing on an Organic Molecular Layer – (EurekAlert – April 25, 2010)
In the brains, information processing circuits-neurons-evolve continuously to solve complex problems. Now, a research team from Japan and Michigan Technological University has created a similar process of circuit evolution in an organic molecular layer. This computer is massively parallel: The world’s fastest supercomputers can only process bits one at a time in each of their channels. Their circuit allows instantaneous changes of ~300 bits. Their processor can produce solutions to problems for which algorithms on computers are unknown, like predictions of natural calamities and outbreaks of disease. The molecular processor also heals itself if there is a defect.
AUGMENTED/ ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Car Steered with Eyes – (Science Daily – April 24, 2010)
The eyeDriver software is a prototype application for steering the research vehicle Spirit of Berlin using eye movements. The software was designed by computer scientists at Freie Universität Berlin in collaboration with the company, SMI (SensoMotoric Instruments). The eye movements of the driver are collected and converted into control signals for the steering wheel. The application uses a converted bicycle helmet equipped with two cameras and an infrared LED, as well as a laptop computer with special software. One of the cameras is pointed to the front in the same direction as the person wearing the helmet (scene camera), while the other camera films one eye of the wearer (eye camera).
Battery Breakthrough Promises Lighter Weight, More Power – (Wired – April 8, 2010)
A new kind of battery called lithium-air could replace existing lithium-ion batteries. They have a lithium anode that is electrochemically coupled to atmospheric oxygen through an air cathode. By contrast, current lithium-ion batteries have a carbon anode and a metal oxide-based cathode. Vishal Sapru, industry manager for power and energy system at research firm Frost & Sullivan, estimates that a typical lithium-air battery can offer an output of 1800 watts per kilogram compared to about 120 to 350 watts per kilogram seen in lithium-ion batteries.
Shoe Power Generator – (EurekAlert – April 25, 2010)
Dr. Ville Kaajakari, assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University, has developed a technology that harvests power from a small generator embedded in the sole of a shoe. Kaajakari’s innovative technology is based on new voltage regulation circuits that efficiently convert a piezoelectric charge into usable voltage for charging batteries or for directly powering electronics. “This technology could benefit, for example, hikers that need emergency location devices or beacons,” said Kaajakari. “For more general use, you can use it to power portable devices without wasteful batteries.”
Wireless Nano Sensors Could Save Bridges, Buildings – (Science Daily – April 12, 2010)
Civil structures are prone to continuous and uncontrollable damage processes during their designed service lifespan. These damaging processes might be due to weather, aging of materials, earth tremors, and a lack of maintenance. A continuous monitoring system is needed to improve safety. Unfortunately, the costs and required time expenditure often mean monitoring is not carried out in a timely manner and trivial problems, such as small cracks and fissures, ultimately become serious conditions that threaten the integrity of a structure. Nanotechnology and wireless systems could be the answer.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Air Force Launches Secretive Space Plane – (Wired – April 23, 2010)
The Air Force has fended off statements calling the X-37B a space weapon, or a space-based drone to be used for spying or delivering weapons from orbit. In a conference call with reporters, the most intriguing answer came when deputy undersecretary for the Air Force for space programs Gary Payton acknowledged, “In all honesty, we don’t know when it’s coming back for sure.” The military has been looking into the idea of an orbital space platform for decades. A vehicle such as the X-37 could be a valuable platform for intelligence gathering with the advantage of a satellite’s point of view, but the flexibility of an aircraft that can be launched relatively quickly and maneuvered in orbit much easier than a traditional satellite.
Expert Finds Security Holes in Passports and Smart Cards – (Science Daily – April 25, 2010)
Since 2007, every new U.S. passport has been outfitted with a computer chip. Embedded in the back cover of the passport, the “e-passport” contains biometric data, electronic fingerprints and pictures of the holder, and a wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitter. A new study from Prof. Avishai Wool of Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering finds serious security drawbacks in similar chips that are being embedded in credit, debit and “smart” cards. The vulnerabilities of this electronic approach — and the vulnerability of the private information contained in the chips — are becoming more acute. Using simple devices constructed from $20 disposable cameras and copper cooking-gas pipes, Prof. Wool and his students have demonstrated how easily the cards’ radio frequency signals can be disrupted.
The More You Use Google, the More Google Knows About You – (AlterNet – April 9, 2010)
From Google Search to Google Earth, every move you make can be tracked by some feature of Google — and intelligence agencies are drooling over the data. In June 2007, Privacy International, a U.K.-based privacy rights watch-dog, cited Google as the worst privacy offender among 23 online companies. According to the report, no other company was “coming close to achieving [Google’s] status as an endemic threat to privacy.” What most disturbed the authors was Google’s “increasing ability to deep-drill into the minutiae of a user’s life and lifestyle choices.” The result: “the most onerous privacy environment on the Internet.”
Security Brief: Cell Phones to ‘Smell’ Biochem Attack? – (CNN – April 21, 2010)
If you ever get caught up in a chemical or biological weapons attack, your cellphone may save your life. Or at least that’s the ambition of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department’s science and technology team has begun talks with four cell-phone manufacturers on designing ‘nextgen’ phones that would be able to sense a wide variety of noxious chemical compounds in the air – and alert the user. The director of the “Cell-All” program at the DHS, Stephen Dennis, tells CNN that within a year, “We expect up to 80 prototype cell phones to be developed that can be then tested against various agents.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT
The Price of Assassination – (New York Times – April 13, 2010)
President Obama, who during his first year in office oversaw more drone strikes in Pakistan, a country the USA is not at war with, than occurred during the entire Bush presidency, last week surpassed his predecessor in a second respect: he authorized the assassination of an American – Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Imam who after 9/11 moved from Virginia to Yemen, a base from which he inspires such people as the Fort Hood shooter and the would-be underwear bomber.
Celebrity Endorsements Do Not Help Political Candidates – (NCSU News – April 26, 2010)
Two new studies from North Carolina State University show that young voters are not swayed by celebrity endorsements of political candidates – and sometimes voters like the candidate less as a result of receiving a celebrity’s endorsement. “Celebrities have been involved in politics for a long time, but there is an increasing interest in the role celebrities play in presidential politics,” says Dr. Michael Cobb, associate professor of political science at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the studies. “We set out to determine if celebrity endorsements influence voting decisions, particularly among young people.”
CONTACT & THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Returns First Images – (BBC News – April 24, 2010)
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has provided an astonishing new vista on our turbulent star. The first public release of images from the satellite record huge explosions and great looping prominences of gas. SDO is equipped with three instruments to investigate the physics at work inside, on the surface and in the atmosphere of the Sun. The probe views the entire solar disc with a resolution 10 times better than the average high-definition television camera. This allows it to pick out features on the surface and in the atmosphere that are as small as 350km across. See article for remarkable photographs.
Something Not Quite Right in the Heavens – (Earth Changes Media – April 16, 2010)
Something seems unusual with the traditional cause and effect time-linked-means associated with plasma discharge. The article’s author suggests it is not geo-magnetic storms we have historically witnessed over the past few millennia (maybe 2000 – 3000 years), but a more galactic-driven form of charged particle discharge. “In other words, I believe the initial source comes from outside our solar system. I would suggest it comes from identified – and unidentified celestial orbs.”
The 47% That Doesn’t Pay Taxes – (Atlantic – April 14, 2010)
It’s important to understand why roughly half of Americans aren’t paying federal income taxes. Most of them receive generous tax credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child-care credits, subsidies for college and savings – worth more than their tax burden, according to the Tax Policy Center. Today this $50 billion program is one of the largest component of our welfare system. But rather than appear on the budget (or in the news) as a spending program, it appears as tax relief. America’s political/entertainment climate has scared politicians from announcing welfare programs as spending programs. So instead, many of them appear in the budget as tax relief. One inevitable result is that fewer Americans appear to be paying taxes.
Tax Day: Who Really Pays? – (Mother Jones – April 15, 2010)
Everyone in America pays some sort of taxes, which may take the form of income, sales or property taxes imposed by state and local governments, in addition to federal income, payroll and excise taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) estimates that the share of total taxes (federal state and local taxes) paid by taxpayers in each income group is quite similar to the share of total income received by each income group in 2009. For example, the share of total taxes paid by the richest one percent (22.1 percent) is not dramatically different from the share of total income received by this group (20.4 percent).
With Flights Grounded, Kenya’s Produce Wilts – (New York Times – April 20, 2010)
Truly, we are all connected. If farmers in Africa’s Great Rift Valley ever doubted that they were intricately tied into the global economy, they know now that they are. Because of a volcanic eruption more than 5,000 miles away, Kenyan horticulture, which as the top foreign exchange earner is a critical piece of the national economy, was losing $3 million a day and shedding jobs. The pickers were not picking. The washers were not washing. Temporary workers were told to go home because refrigerated warehouses at the airport were stuffed with ripening fruit, vegetables and flowers, and there was no room for more until planes could take away the produce. Already, millions of roses, lilies and carnations have wilted. The planes are back in the air, but the effects of a volcano continents away have not gone unfelt.
We Can Try to Inflate Away the Government’s Debt, But We’ll Go Broke First – (Fabius Maximum – April 16, 2010)
The Boomers expect inflation; many yearn for it. Not only will this fix the government’s excess debt, but it will provide another opportunity to get rich. We experienced inflation during the 1970?s and know how to benefit from it. Leverage up, buy real estate, gold, and commodities. Easy money. Too bad it’s probably a fantasy. Unexpected inflation is the magic pill of government finance. It played a major role in evaporating the massive WWII debt, from 108% of GDP in 1946 to 25% in 1975. Expected inflation is painful, perhaps fatal. As it might be for the US in the next decade.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
This Volcano Is About More Than Flights – (Business Insider – April 18, 2010)
When Eyjaflallajokull erupts, usually Kalta, which is right next door, does so too. But Katla is a larger system and the eruption is generally much more severe. What has also to be considered is that there are a whole line of craters between Katla and Vatnajokull, which are also a worry. Laki, an even greater threat than Katla, lies along this line. Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans.
Is Iceland’s Massive Katla Volcano Primed to Erupt? – (Daily Galaxy – April 19, 2010)
Eyjafjallajokull has served as the opening act or at the least a contributing trigger for Katla three times in succession in the past. The volcano Katla, if triggered, could pose a far more serious threat, as much as ten times stronger than what was just experienced with Eyjafjallajokull with stronger tremors and more lava of course, but also a much larger ash plume. The two volcanoes are only separated by approximately 12 miles above ground, but geologists believe that beneath the surface they are linked by a series of shared magma channels which is why they so often erupt in relative unison.
A FINAL QUOTE…
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” – Thomas Jefferson
A FINAL NOTE…
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: Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Stu Rose, 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
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.”
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