Volume 15, Number 12 – 6/30/12

 Volume 15, Number 12 – 6/30/12 Twitter  Facebook



  • Acxiom, a database marketing firm, maintains a database on about 190 million individuals and 126 million households in the United States. The company probably knows your shoe size.
  • A lithium-ion battery, which can be painted on to virtually every surface, works by ‘spraying on’ the chemical layers which form a battery.
  • There remain in Guant�namo 169 prisoners, some who have been there for more than 10 years without a trial, and they are left at this point with no apparent legal recourse.
  • The top contenders in Mexico’s presidential campaign are engaged in a Twitter spam war, with armies of “bots” programmed to cast aspersions on opposing candidates.

by John L. Petersen

Big Storm

Lee Carroll and Kryon came to Berkeley Springs last Saturday and about 85 hearty souls, most of whom had lost power, came from all over the East Coast. It was a great event with very insightful information which I�ll write about in my next column.

The power went out around 9PM on Friday and we sat in the dark and watched through the living room windows as one of the most violent storms I have ever experienced descended upon us. It was rather extraordinary being in the middle of something like 80 mph winds. I was keeping an eye on the barbeque grill in the front yard, expecting it to take flight any moment and come crashing through the front windows.

The weather folks called it a deracho, meaning that the winds, rather than swirling as in a tornado, were all going in the same direction. Three and a half million people were reportedly out of power and it shut down a goodly part of Washington, DC for a number of days. Here�s some extraordinary videos and information on the storm from a number of sources: Videos and images: Violent US storm of June 29, 2012.

This storm was just the latest example of the aberrant weather that has shown up on almost every continent this year. As I�ve said a number of times in this space, there is direct evidence that this unusual weather and the longer picture of global climate change are directly driven by the activity of the sun. The folks at WeatherAction track the solar activity and make very accurate prediction of global weather from monitoring that source. Their take is: “Terrible weather is coming the world over this July so WeatherAction has issued free summary long range forecasts for USA and for Europe… Here�s another forecast from them. WeatherAction also believes that we are on the way to a mini ice age when this solar cycle decreases in two years.

Higgs Boson Discovered

The other big news this week was the apparent discovery of the �god� particle, the Higgs Boson. This is relatively arcane particle physics, but happily the folks at PhD comics have developed a (relatively) easy to understand comic of the explanation. It�s really pretty great � if you�re interested in these things.

‘Britain’s Atlantis’ found at bottom of North sea – a huge undersea world swallowed by the sea in 6500BC

Finally, here�s something interesting. Researchers seem to have discovered that the British Islands were once part of the European continent. You can read more here.


On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels � (Wall St. Journal � June 25, 2012)
Orbitz Worldwide has begun experimenting with showing different search results on Macs vs. PCs after finding that Mac users spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels and are 40% more likely than PC users to book a 4-5 star hotel. The move demonstrates how even seemingly innocuous information – like what type of computer someone uses – can change the way companies target consumers. Orbitz said the company isn’t showing the same room to different users at different prices. See also: Why the Apple Demographic Is So Important to Orbitz and Retailers.

Kinect to Watch Your Emotions and Serve Up Ads – (New Scientist – June 11, 2012)
Online adverts are already tailored to your search and browsing history, but now Microsoft has plans to add emotions to the mix. In a recently revealed patent application the company suggests that using its Kinect sensor to analyze your face and body language for emotions could help companies better target their ads. Emotional analysis of emails, search terms and even your online gaming performance could also influence the ads you see. Just as advertisers currently bid on certain search terms, the patent suggests a company could choose which emotions would match to its adverts. For example, happy people are unlikely to click weight-loss ads, but they might be in the market for a new gadget. Meanwhile, sad people don’t want to hear about club nights and confused people may be looking for a technical support firm to help them out.

You for Sale, Mapping and Selling the Consumer Genome � (New York Times � June 16, 2012)
Acxiom is the quiet giant of a multibillion-dollar industry known as database marketing. Few consumers have ever heard of the company. But analysts say it has amassed the world�s largest commercial database on consumers � and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data �transactions� a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States. Acxiom has a proprietary classification system, PersonicX, which assigns consumers to one of 70 detailed socioeconomic clusters and markets to them accordingly. Acxiom maintains its own database on about 190 million individuals and 126 million households in the United States. Separately, it manages customer databases for or works with 47 of the Fortune 100 companies. It also worked with the government after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, providing information about 11 of the 19 hijackers.


Scientist Discovers Earth�s Oldest Meteor Crater � (Mashable � June 29, 2012)
A scientist has found the world�s oldest meteorite crater in Greenland. The giant impact zone is more than 62 miles wide. The crater was formed 3 billion years ago by a meteorite 19 miles wide � which, if it hit Earth today, would wipe out all higher life. Copenhagen-based scientist Adam Garde �discovered� the crater as he pored over maps showing nickel and platinum abundance in the target region of West Greenland. Garde, a senior research scientist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, saw a both simple and extreme explanation for several strange geological features in this region: an impact from a meteorite that may have contained valuable metals. A team following up on Garde�s research collected samples in 2011 that support his hypothesis.


Dirtying Up Our Diets � (New York Times � June 20, 2012)
Over 7,000 strong and growing, community farmers� markets are being heralded as a panacea for what ails our sick nation. Increasing evidence suggests that the alarming rise in allergic and autoimmune disorders during the past few decades is at least partly attributable to our lack of exposure to microorganisms that once covered our food and us. As nature�s blanket, the potentially pathogenic and benign microorganisms associated with the dirt that once covered every aspect of our preindustrial day guaranteed a time-honored co-evolutionary process that established �normal� background levels and kept our bodies from overreacting to foreign bodies. As we move deeper into a �postmodern� era of squeaky-clean food and hand sanitizers at every turn, we should probably hug our local farmers� markets a little tighter. They may represent our only connection with some �old friends� we cannot afford to ignore.

New Vaccine Could Provide Lifetime Immunity to Nicotine Addiction � (GizMag � June 28, 2012)
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed a vaccine that could help current smokers quit for good and prevent those yet to try cigarettes from ever becoming addicted. The vaccine turns the recipient�s kidney into a factory continuously churning out antibodies that clear the bloodstream of nicotine before it has a chance to reach the brain and deliver it�s addictive rush. Unlike previously tested nicotine vaccines that only last a few weeks, the effects of a single dose of this new vaccine should last a lifetime. The research team took the genetic sequence of an engineered nicotine antibody and put it into an adeno-associated virus (AAV), which is a virus engineered not to be harmful. They also included information that directed the vaccine to go to hepatocytes, which are liver cells. The antibody’s genetic sequence then inserts itself into the nucleus of hepatocytes, and these cells start to churn out a steady stream of the antibodies, which neutralize the nicotine as soon as it enters the bloodstream.

Microspheres Could Save Patients Whose Lungs Have Stopped Working � (Technology Review � June 27, 2012)
Researchers have developed a way to deliver oxygen to the body’s organs safely�via gas-filled microparticles�even when the patient’s lungs have stopped working. Doctors could one day use the method to quickly reverse oxygen deprivation in patients with acute loss of lung function while longer-term fixes such as heart-lung bypass support are put in place. Oxygen-filled microspheres, as reported in Science Translational Medicine, are around three micrometers in diameter and are diluted in a solution commonly used in transfusions so that the particles can flow through even small capillaries in the body. In test tubes, the researchers found the oxygen transferred from the microspheres to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, within four seconds. They then tested the microspheres in anesthetized rabbits with blocked windpipes. Although the rabbits were asphyxiated, their bodies were oxygenated and did not show signs of major injury to organs.


Fighting Climate Change with Carbon Capture May Cause Quakes � (Bloomberg � June 15, 2012)
The process in which liquefied carbon dioxide is stored in caverns, �may have the potential for causing significant induced seismicity,� according to the National Research Council. Injecting wastewater underground from natural-gas fracking may also trigger earthquakes, while using hydraulic fracturing to get trapped gas doesn�t pose a �high risk,� the report found. Burying carbon may pose a higher risk of quakes than wastewater disposal because it involves the continuous injection of high volumes of liquefied gas at high pressure, said Murray Hitzman, professor of economic geology at the Colorado School of Mines and chairman of the committee that produced the report. �Those larger volumes then will increase the pressure in the subsurface over very large areas,� Hitzman said on a conference call. �The bigger the area of the high pressure, the more chance of seeing a fault. The more distance that it moves, the bigger the earthquake.�

Waste Expert: It�s Madness That Waste Isn�t a Bigger International Prioity � (Nation of Change � June 24, 2012)
The World Bank issued a report on urban waste in March, finding that waste in cities around the world would grow by 100% by 2025, with growth mostly in developing countries that do not have the capabilities to manage that waste. Less than half the world�s population has access to proper waste disposal, causing mountains of hazardous trash � including a growing amount of e-waste � to pile up. By 2020, e-waste from consumer electronics will jump 500% in some countries. Waste disposal is responsible for 12% of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. With global waste streams set to double � more than two thirds of which will not be recycled � the global environmental consequences are stark.

Sea Rise Faster on East Coast Than Elsewhere � (ABC News � June 24, 2012)
From Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe, putting one of the world’s most costly coasts in danger of flooding, government researchers report. U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath a “hot spot” for climbing sea levels caused by global warming. Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990. Since then, sea levels have gone up globally about 2 inches. But in Norfolk, Va., where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea level has jumped a total of 4.8 inches. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches, and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches. Computer models long have projected higher levels along parts of the East Coast because of changes in ocean currents from global warming, but this is the first study to show that’s already happened.

Antarctic Ice Shelves Not Melting At All, New Field Data Show � (UK Register � June 25, 2012)
Twenty-year-old models which have suggested serious ice loss in the eastern Antarctic have been compared with reality for the first time – and found to be wrong, so much so that it now appears that no ice is being lost at all. “Previous ocean models have predicted temperatures and melt rates that are too high, suggesting a significant mass loss in this region that is actually not taking place,” says Tore Hattermann of the Norwegian Polar Institute, member of a team which has obtained two years’ worth of direct measurements below the massive Fimbul Ice Shelf in eastern Antarctica – the first ever to be taken. Overall, according to the team, their field data shows “steady state mass balance” on the eastern Antarctic coasts – ie, that no ice is being lost from the massive shelves there. The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


The New Republic of Porn � (Business Week � June 21, 2012)
ICM is a 12-person business in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. that operates the top-level domain name �.xxx,� an alternative to �.com.� The domain is designed specifically to showcase pornography. Assume you want to charge customers for videos and live webcam conversation featuring male-to-female transvestites. You could come up with a catchy name and buy an address ending in .com from GoDaddy or another website retailer. If you did, VeriSign, a separate company based in Reston, Va., that operates the digital infrastructure for .com sites, would get a cut of your fee. In online argot, VeriSign is a �registry.� ICM is also a registry, and its .xxx sites are available via GoDaddy, too. Within the virtual realm made up of �top-level domains� –.com, .net, .org, .gov, .edu, and so forth–ICM portrays .xxx as a responsibly run red-light district. Next year, ICM plans to introduce a proprietary micropayment system. �We�re going to do for adult what Apple did for the music business with the iTunes store.� Consumers will be able to spend 99� apiece for short clips of niche material (akin to buying a favorite song, not the whole album). Perhaps more compelling, people seeking porn on their mobile devices will have a convenient way to purchase a quickie on the run. (Editor�s note: The neighborhood is changing.)

Google Maps Reinvented as Employee Tracker � (Wired � June 24, 2012)
Google uncloaked a new service dubbed Google Maps Coordinate that lets businesses track the activities of remote workers � such as traveling sales staff and field technicians � by tapping into GPS devices on their cell phones. For instance, says Google, a cable TV company could follow the progress of their field techs as they move from home to home repairing cable connections. Tools for overseeing remote workforces have long been available from companies such as Trimble, IBM, and AT&T. Google says the Coordinate is different not only because it�s simple, but because it lets businesses customize how it works on their own. Typically, Google says, customization is handled by the software vendor. The common complaint with Google services that in moving company data to the web, they pose problems of security and privacy. But according to Google, all Coordinate data is encrypted not only when it�s on the wire, but when it�s stored on Google�s servers. Google has also tried to counter concerns that such a service could be used to track employees when they�re not on the job. A phone can be set to drop its connection to Coordinate at certain times, for example, when employees get off work. The service requires an local application that�s installed on phones. Initially, this app will only available for Google�s own Android operating system, but a version is on the way for Apple�s iPhones and iPads.

App Offers Safety in a Riot � (BBC News � June 28, 2012)
A smartphone application, enabling people in the middle of riots to find safety, has been shown off at the TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh. The software, not yet publicly released, takes data from a range of social networks and uses it to let people know what areas are least affected by trouble. The app grew out of the needs of activists movements around the world, developer Mr. Iaconesi said. We followed movements in the UK, Italy, Tunisia and Egypt and designed technologies to help them.” The platform captures everything on a range of social networks, from Flickr, Instagram, FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter and processes it using natural language analysis to understand what the messages are saying. The system counts the messages suggesting danger and those suggesting safety and “synthesizes it into an easy-to-read interface”. Users can point their phone in a certain direction. Areas suggested as dangerous show up in red, safe areas in green.


First Spray-on Battery Could Change Home Electronics Forever � (Daily Mail � June 28, 2012)
A spray-on battery could revolutionize technology – allowing for slimmer gadgets, and household gadgets with built-in power supplies. The lithium-ion battery, which can be painted on to virtually every surface, works by ‘spraying on’ the chemical layers which form a battery. The new battery could make solar gadgets practical by building up their storage, without hefty long-life batteries building up their bulk. It has already been tested on bathroom panels, producing a steady 2.4 volts and being recharged by a solar cell. The spray paint has five layered components – two current collectors, a cathode, an anode and a polymer separator in the middle.

Novel Power Plants Could Clean Up Coal � (Technology Review � June 22, 2012)
A pair of new technologies could reduce the cost of capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and help utilities comply with existing and proposed environmental regulations, including requirements to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Both involve burning coal in the presence of pure oxygen rather than air, which is mostly nitrogen. The basic idea of burning fossil fuels in pure oxygen isn’t new. The drawback is that it’s more expensive than conventional coal plant technology because it requires additional equipment to separate oxygen and nitrogen. The new technologies attempt to offset at least some of this cost by improving efficiency and reducing capital costs in other areas of a coal plant. Major companies including Toshiba, Shaw, and Itea have announced plans to build demonstration plants for the technologies in coming months.


New Ride-Sharing Service Turns Private Cars into Taxis � (New York Times � June 26, 2012)
Technology start-ups continue to chip away at the idea that everyone should own a car or two. The latest twist on car sharing comes from a company called SideCar, which introduced its service in San Francisco on Tuesday. The service allows people seeking a ride to use a smartphone app to find someone willing to give them one in their own car. When it works well, it takes about the same amount of time it takes to catch a cab. The company has been in a private testing period for several months and claims to have hundreds of drivers and thousands of riders already using the service. It has given 10,000 rides in total. The company has attracted investment from several venture capital firms and angel investors, as well as Mark Pincus, the co-founder of Zynga.

Renault Backs Electric Cars with Free Chargers � (Reuters � June 12, 2012)
French car company Renault isn�t happy with the slow pace of electric vehicle charger deployment in France, so it�s taken matters into its own hands — it is installing electric vehicle chargers around the country that are free to use. �It is not our job to install chargers, but somebody has to kickstart the market,� Thierry Koskas, head of Renault�s electric vehicle program said. �This cannot be a long-term policy.� Right now, the plan is for the company to install 1,000 fast chargers, at a price of about $6,300 each.


Smack! Was that a Mosquito You Killed, Or a Drone? � (Technica � February 7, 2012)
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University is helping to develop a micro aerial vehicle (MAV for short) that will be no bigger than a bug. An MAV would be used for military reconnaissance operations in urban areas, where densely packed buildings and unpredictable winds create unique challenges for a small flying device. As highly fuel efficient micro machines, MAV�s could become an essential part of the sustainable tech landscape, for example in wind turbine maintenance and other clean energy tasks, data collection, and environmental monitoring. They could also be useful in emergency response, especially as the �search� part of a search and rescue operation.

Terrorism Arithmetic � ( � June 21, 2012)
Terrorism is clearly a dying profession, both literally and metaphorically. The U.S. government Report on Terrorism does not list how many terrorists were killed in 2011, perhaps fearing that the definitions and numbers could easily be challenged, but it does provide detailed breakdowns of the terrorism victims, a number around which there is considerably more consensus. Worldwide terrorist attacks in 2011 were down 12% from 2010 and 29% from 2007. Most attacks, and most victims, roughly 65%, came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia. Al-Qaeda, the gold-standard terrorist group, is in sharp decline, staging far fewer attacks worldwide except in one country, Somalia. Somalia�s al-Shabab claims to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, though that means little in practical terms. Engaged in what is essentially a civil war, it bombs and executes its opponents. Each shooting or bombing is therefore counted as a terrorist attack. Its ability to threaten the United States is close to nil.

U. S. Army Weapon Shoots Lightning Bolts Down Laser Beams � (GizMag � June 22, 2012)
Known as a Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC, the device being developed at the Picatinny Arsenal military research facility in New Jersey would fry targets that conduct electricity better that the air or ground that surrounds them by steering lightning bolts down a plasma pathway created by laser beams. The pathway takes the form of an electrically conductive plasma channel that is formed when a laser beam of enough intensity (a 50 billion watt pulse lasting two-trillionths of a second will do) forms an electro-magnetic field strong enough to ionize the surrounding air to form plasma. Because the plasma channel conducts electricity much better than the non-ionized air that surrounds it, electrical energy will travel down the channel. Then, when it hits its target � an enemy vehicle, person or unexploded ordnance, for example � the current will flow through the target as it follows the path of least resistance to the ground, potentially disabling the vehicle or person and detonating the ordnance. The lightning will also deviate from the channel when it gets close to the target and finds a lower-resistance path to the ground. After reporting “excellent results” in tests conducted in January, 2012, the development team says that work on the device is continuing.

Researchers Hack GPS-Based Drones � (PC Mag � June 29, 2012)
Researchers have reportedly crafted a way to hack into GPS-guided drones via a technique known as spoofing. Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory can take control of drones that could be flying over U.S. airspace in the years to come. They can then guide them to another location or crash the drones into the ground, a safety hazard for those below. Humphreys’s team demonstrated the hack to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in the New Mexico desert last week. Humphreys used a $1,000 machine that boasts “a signal more powerful than the one coming down from the satellites orbiting high above the earth.” The research is particularly troublesome because Congress in February ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to allow expanded public and private drone access to U.S. airspace by Sept. 30, 2015. Last year, there were reports that a malware attack that hit the U.S. Air Force had affected the military’s drones, but the USAF downplayed the impact of the attack.


The Ultimate No-Fly List � (TomDispatch � June 12, 2012)
Recently, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described reality as you seldom hear it in the confines of Washington and, while he was at it, put his stamp of approval on a new global doctrine for the United States. Expressing his frustration over U.S. relations with Pakistan, he spoke the �W-word� aloud for the first time. �We are,� he said, �fighting a war in the FATA [the Pakistani tribal areas].� How true. Washington has indeed long been involved in a complex, confusing, escalating, and undoubtedly self-defeating partial war with Pakistan, never until now officially called by that name, even as the intensity of the drone air campaign in that country�s borderlands continues to ratchet up. So give Panetta credit for rare bluntness. He also said something else previously unspoken, acknowledging a breathtaking new reality: “We have made it very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves. This is about our sovereignty as well.” In other words, he claimed that, while the sovereignty of other countries might be eternally violable, U.S. sovereignty extends inviolably over Pakistani territory.

Losing Interest � (National Law Journal � June 25, 2012)
The U.S. Supreme Court apparently has lost interest in the difficult and important issues raised by the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guant�namo Bay. On June 11, the Supreme Court denied review in seven cases posing unresolved questions presented by Guant�namo detainees seeking redress. There remain in Guant�namo 169 prisoners, some who have been there for more than 10 years without a trial, and they are left with no apparent legal recourse.


Twitter Mischief Plagues Mexico�s Elections � (Technology Review � June 21, 2012)
The top contenders in Mexico’s presidential campaign are engaged in a Twitter spam war, with armies of “bots” programmed to cast aspersions on opposing candidates and disrupt their social-media efforts. One reason is that even before the election, Mexicans were frequently turning to the service as a source of information about events in northern areas of the country, where fear of violent retribution prevents news outlets from reporting about drug cartels. Another reason is that one party in particular has been unleashing tens of thousands of bots, or user accounts, programmed to automatically tweet particular words and phrases and organizing large groups of Twitter users to simultaneously publish the same exact message. The goal: to make it more likely for the message to land on Twitter�s list of �trending� topics. This large-scale political spamming could foreshadow online antics that campaigners may increasingly resort to in other countries.


Why Women Still Can�t Have It All � (Atlantic Monthly � July/August, 2012)
If a woman has a sterling r�sum�, a supportive husband who speaks fluent car pool and a nurturing boss who just happens to be one of the most powerful women in the world (Hilary Clinton), who or what is to blame if Ms. Supposed-to-Have-It-All still cannot balance work and family? The Atlantic Monthly article by a former Obama administration official has blown up into an instant debate about a new conundrum of female success: women have greater status than ever before in human history, even outpacing men in education, yet the lineup at the top of most fields is still stubbornly male. Is that new gender gap caused by women who give up too easily, unsympathetic employers or just nature itself? See also a New York Times follow-up article.

It�s Modern Parental Involvement � (New York Times � June 28, 2012)
The position of this op-ed piece is that parental use of all available resources, including electronic monitoring tools, should not be considered an invasion of privacy; it�s simply modern involvement. One cannot compare reading a child�s journal to accessing his or her conversations online or through text messages. The Internet is a different paradigm and should not be treated the same as a diary or private letters. Anything that parents would not condone or allow in the real world should be forbidden online. Setting rules may not be enough. A perceived lack of trust lies not necessarily with the children, but rather with the yet-to-be-navigated waters of new technology.


UFO Spotted at Chinese Space Rocket Launch � (Borneo Post � June 22, 2012)
UFO watchers believe that extra-terrestrial beings were tracking China�s first female astronaut as she rocketed into space last Saturday. The incident happened after the manned spacecraft, Shenzhou 9, lifted off and exited the atmosphere at an altitude of about 15,000m. Infrared video cameras captured two unidentified objects moving swiftly past the rocket at the four minutes and 11 seconds mark. This has sparked a heated debate between alien life supporters and non-believers. �What else can they be if not UFOs? They were faster than the rocket!� said one pro-ET expert. Observers at the launch didn�t report seeing the mysterious lights cross the rocket�s path as the craft headed for the Tiangong 1 space station orbiting 343km above the earth. But the lift-off was broadcast live on TV across China and viewers were quick to spot the split-second sighting�two shining objects flying horizontally in front of the rocket. More sceptically, Zhang Yunhua of Beijing UFO Research Society said, �But I remember the same thing happened at the launch of Shenzhou 5 and 6. They could just be insects flying in front of the ground cameras.�

Mars� Moon May Yield Alien Life � (Daily Galaxy � June 29, 2012)
A mission to Mars’ moon Phobos could return with alien life, experts at Purdue University have suggested. �A sample from Phobos, which is much easier to reach than the Red Planet itself, would almost surely contain Martian material blasted off from large asteroid impacts,� said Jay Melosh, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue. Melosh led a team chosen by NASA�s Planetary Protection Office to evaluate if a sample from Phobos could contain enough recent material from Mars to include viable Martian organisms. �If life on Mars exists or existed within the last 10 million years, a mission to Phobos could yield our first evidence of life beyond Earth.�


Small and Speedy: An F1 Car the Size of a Grain of Sand � (Wired � June 22, 2012)
This article features a photograph of a Formula 1 car that could fit inside the period at the end of this sentence. At 285 micrometers in length,it’s about the size of a grain of sand. Photographed with an electron microscope, the model was created using the latest version of two-photon lithography or 2PP, a 3D-printing technique in which highly focused laser beams manipulate liquid resin into detailed solid structures. “The complexity and accuracy of the structures that can be produced are particularly suitable for making scaffolds for tissue engineering,” says Jan Torgersen, 27, one of the Vienna University of Technology team that built the machine. “This is far more precise than commercial 3D printers and we’re not limited to layer-by-layer fabrication.” It’s fast, too. The car, made up of 100 layers, was printed in just four minutes. Drivers, start your 3D-printer’s engines.


China and Brazil in $30B Currency Swap Deal � ( Market Watch � June 22, 2012)
China and Brazil have agreed a currency-swap arrangement that enables each country to access up to $30 billion as part of efforts to build a financial buffer to help guard against a freeze up in global markets, according to reports. The swap agreement was also seen as the first step to a wider pact that could also draw in the other Brics nations of Russia, India and South Africa to participate in the pooling of liquidity.

Apple�s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty, Short on Pay � (New York Times � June 24, 2012)
Within the retail world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues. Last year, the company�s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer � wireless or otherwise � and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list. But when it comes to its lowliest workers, the company�s pay rates are a reflection of the service sector as a whole. The Internet and advances in computing have created untold millionaires, but most of the jobs created by technology giants are service sector positions � sales employees and customer service representatives, repairmen and delivery drivers � that offer little of Silicon Valley�s riches or glamour. Apple�s success, it turns out, rests on a set of intangibles; foremost among them is a built-in fan base that ensures a steady supply of eager applicants and an employee culture that tries to turn every job into an exalted mission. This is why Apple can do something unique in the annals of retailing: pay a modest hourly wage, and no commission, to employees who typically have college degrees and who at the highest performing levels can move as much as $3 million in goods a year.


Voicemail Discovered in Nature: Insects Receive Soil Messages from the Past � (Science Daily � June 12, 2012)
A few years ago, scientists discovered that soil-dwelling and above-ground insects are able to communicate with each other using the plant as a medium. Insects eating plant roots change the chemical composition of the leaves, causing the plant to release volatile signals into the air. This can convince above-ground insects to select another food plant in order to avoid competition and to escape from poisonous defense compounds in the plant. But the impact doesn’t stop there. The new research shows that insects leave a specific legacy that remains in the soil after they have fed on a plant. And future plants growing on that same spot can pick up these signals from the soil and pass them on to other insects. Those messages are really specific: the new plant can tell whether the former one was suffering from leaf-eating caterpillars or from root-eating insects.

Plants Communicate with Each Other by Using Clicking Sounds � (io9 � June 20, 2012)
It’s been known for a while that some plants are able to communicate with each other through chemical signaling � but new research published in Trends in Plant Science now suggests that plants not only respond to sounds as well, they can also talk to each other, by making “clicking” sounds. Exeter University scientist Monica Gagliano, along with fellow researchers Stefano Mancuso and Daniel Robert, used powerful acoustic instrumentation which allowed them to hear clicking sounds coming from the roots of corn saplings. They also found that when they suspended the young roots in water and played a continuous noise at 200 Hz � a similar frequency to the clicks � the plants grew towards the source of the sound. Gagliano and her team concluded that plants are indeed communicating with each other by making clicking sounds that travel easily through soil. It’s thought that, like chemical communication, these signals are warning of incoming threats.

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

Famous Cave Paintings Might Not Be From Humans � (NPR � June 15, 2012)
The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture. But a new method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in England who used a novel technique to get new dates for some of those paintings, says they’re older than people thought, and they may just predate the arrival of humans in Europe. Pike says some of the paintings in Spain are at least 40,800 years old. “What we are saying is that we must entertain the possibility that these paintings were made by Neanderthals,” Pike says.

12,000 Year Old Stone Rings in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey � (EarthFiles, 2012)
12,000 year old circles of limestone columns weighing 7-15 tons have been excavated by archeologists in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey. They are older than the Egyptian monuments, Stonehenge and Sumeria. The photographs are fascinating and the means to produce and place the stones would be equally fascinating � if only we knew how it was done. Also: see close-up photographs of the carvings on the stones.


The Scale of the Universe � (Huang Twins � 2012)
Everything Is relative�at least in terms of size�and this is a fascinating demonstration of that. Wait until the document finishes loading, click on the �Start� button and then use the slider bar to change the scale.


The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create. � Leonard I. Sweet (theologian, author and futurist)

A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Ken Dabkowski, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Brad Hayden, Diane Petersen, Abby Porter, SchwartzReport, Steve Ujvarosy 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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