FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- A quadruple-stranded DNA helix has been found in human cells; its discovery could strengthen the fight against cancer.
- Previously, scientists have been able to interpret a rat’s thoughts and intentions by downloading those brain waves into a computer, but now another rat has been able to understand the signals transmitted directly brain-to-brain.
- A report finds that U.S. conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20%, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.
- In July, a pilot will attempt the 10,500-mile trip from Sydney to London using a fuel that has never before been tested in aircraft – and is produced entirely from plastic waste.
by John L. Petersen
Psychic Spy Joe McMoneagle coming to Berkeley Springs on the 30th
If you can make it, you shouldn’t miss Joe McMoneagle’s presentation on Saturday afternoon the 30th of March here in Berkeley Springs, WV. Joe was the longest operational psychic spy in the US government’s very highly classified Stargate program where they used psychics and intuitives to look into installations and people around the world that were of interest to government intelligence agencies. They called the process remote viewing.
As it turned out, the remote viewers discovered that they were – not limited by either time or space and produced drawings and assessments that could not have been obtained in any other way. The Soviets had an active remote viewing program at the same time and it is rumored that Russia, China and the U.S. still have initiatives of this kind that are operational.
Joe’s stories are fascinating, like the time he mentally got inside a Chinese nuclear weapon and saw how the triggering mechanism worked . . . and then went out and bought the parts at Radio Shack to show the scientists in the intelligence agency exactly how it was done. The remote viewers could find submarines at the bottom of the ocean and crashed aircraft in the middle of African jungles.
Come learn about Joe’s very interesting experience and how he is now using his capabilities to assess the future that is coming our way. You can see the details here.
A couple of faithful contributors to FE piled on today with three articles that had a common theme: the trend toward a workerless society . . . or at least far fewer of the type that we would recognize. The twin technologies of 3D printing and the proliferation of manufacturing robots clearly have the potential of not only changing how things are made, but also how we live and, by extension, who we are.
Writer Michael Ventura has been thinking about these things a lot. His piece, The Revolution Will Be Printed: Digital fabrication will change the course of the future is a great summary of where things are going with 3D printing.
“Three-dimensional manufacturing is the making of something out of practically nothing. This technology accelerates as we speak. Bjerklie reports that there is only one retail outlet that sells 3-D printers, MakerBot in New York City. Only one, but it had sold 15,000 3-D printers by late 2012.
“Every new article on the subject reports something you never dreamed of. A week ago, I didn’t know that 3-D printers could make food.” Read more . . .
Ventura isn’t finished. He keeps thinking about these things and asks: What Are Human Beings For? “Terry Gou is chairman of Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer of iPhones. Foxconn employs more than a million people worldwide. Gou says, “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.” Gou plans to avoid headaches by replacing his employees with more than one million robots (The New York Times, Aug. 18, 2012).
“That Times report also describes a Dutch electronics factory staffed almost entirely by robots: “[T]hey do it all without a coffee break – three shifts a day, 365 days a year.” No coffee breaks, no sick days, no health care, and no unions. “‘With these machines,'” said engineer Binne Visser, “‘we can make any consumer device in the world.'” Read more . . .
We’re not only duplicating mechanical workers, but there’s been a recent breakthrough in duplicating animal life. A Japanese researcher has produced a record 20 generations of the same genetic mouse – a total of 580 cookie-cutter mice. He solved a basic problem that had produced abnormalities in past attempts at cloning animals and now . . . it starts to get weird. In 2008, Wakayama’s team produced clones from dead mice that had been frozen for 16 years. “My lab is now trying to make cloned mice from fur, stuffed bodies, and excrement,” says Wakayama.” Wow!
Where is this all going? What’s it like when they port these techniques over to duplicating humans?
There are no rules from our past that tell us how we’re supposed to handle change of this type. We’re going to have to do some very creative, original thinking, pretty quick.
Speaking of robots (and drones), they’re not just for the government and big corporations any more. Check out this interesting website where you can put together your own copter or land vehicle that can carry its own TV or camera and explore places where you can’t go yourself. Be careful how you use these things . . .
Oh, by the way, here’s the first 3D printed aircraft/drone.
You can see a nice video of it here.
The direction is obvious. That may be the first fully printed aircraft, but the aerospace giant EADS already has plans to print the whole wing of an airliner.
While we’re looking at printed airplanes, take a look at this airplane model.
It is essentially one piece. This excellent article expands on some of the other things that are happening in 3D printing and aircraft. Check out the graphic of the airliner with a sun roof!
The model aircraft above is printed from three different colored plastics. Think about a revolution that combines computational chemistry – the coming ability to determine the characteristics that one wants in a material (light, transparent, strong, etc.) and then produce a custom designed material – with these 3D printing techniques.
Quadruple DNA Helix Discovered in Human Cells – (New Scientist – January 20, 2013)
Sixty years after James Watson and Francis Crick established that DNA forms a double helix, a quadruple-stranded DNA helix has turned up, and it could strengthen the fight against cancer. Quadruple helices that intertwine four, rather than two, DNA strands have been researched for decades. They have been made synthetically in the lab, but were seen only as curiosities as there was no evidence that they formed naturally. Now they have been identified in human cancer cells. The four-stranded packages of DNA, called G-quadruplexes, are formed by the interaction of four guanine bases that together make a square. They appear to be transitory structures, and are most abundant when cells are poised to divide. Because cancer cells divide so rapidly, and often have defects in their telomeres, the quadruple helix might be a feature unique to cancer cells. If so, any treatments that target them will not harm healthy cells. “I expect they will also exist in normal cells, but I predict that there will be differences with cancer cells,” says lead researcher Shankar Balasubramanian of the University of Cambridge. His hunch is that the formation of G-quadruplexes is triggered by the chaotic genomic mutations and reorganizations typical of cancerous or precancerous cells.
NASA Finds New Radiation Belt Circling Earth – (Wunderground – March 1, 2013)
Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. A pair of NASA probes has discovered a previously unknown ring of radiation blanketing the Earth, upending a long-standing scientific theory about how charged particles coalesce around the planet. Just four days after the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes were launched in August, NASA scientists looked on in amazement as instruments revealed a third belt of high-energy particles between the planet’s inner and outer radiation belts, known as the Van Allen belts. The new belt held steady for four weeks before a solar flare blasted it to pieces. It has not been seen since.
Rats Communicate through Brain Link – (Fox News – February 28, 2013)
Researchers from Duke University have allowed rats to communicate with each through brain signals. Placed in separate cages, the rats were able to solve puzzles with the aid of microelectrodes 1/100th the width of a hair implanted into their brains. One rat was able to interpret the other’s actions and intentions even when they couldn’t see or hear each other. The same experiment worked when the rats were thousands of miles apart with one in Brazil and another in North Carolina. Scientists have so far been able to interpret a rat’s thoughts and intentions by downloading those brain waves into a computer, but this is the first time another rat has been able to understand the signals directly. In the experiment, the “encoder” rat had to respond to a visual cue and press a lever to receive its reward. While it’s doing this, its brain would send a signal to the “decoder” rat, who then has to interprets this information and also press the right lever to get its prize. If the decoder rat gets it right, the encoder gets an extra reward, creating a feedback loop that encourage cleaner brain signaling. It took a month and a half of training before the rats “got it.” The team is already developing a version of the experiment that would combine the thoughts of more than one animal. Eventually—and Miguel Nicolelis of Duke’s Medical Center admits this is many decades away—we may be able to crowdsource our brainpower.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Chemotherapy Can Backfire, Make Cancer Worse by Triggering Tumor Growth – (New York Daily News – August 6, 2013)
Long considered the most effective cancer-fighting treatment, chemotherapy may actually make cancer worse, according to a new study. The extremely aggressive therapy, which kills both cancerous and healthy cells indiscriminately, can cause healthy cells to secrete a protein that sustains tumor growth and resistance to further treatment. Researchers completely unexpected finding while seeking to explain why cancer cells are so resilient inside the human body when they are easy to kill in the lab. The scientists found that healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy secreted more of a protein called WNT16B which boosts cancer cell survival. “The increase in WNT16B was completely unexpected,” study co-author Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The protein was taken up by tumor cells neighboring the damaged cells. “WNT16B, when secreted, would interact with nearby tumor cells and cause them to grow, invade, and importantly, resist subsequent therapy,” said Nelson.
Scientists Create New Ear Using 3D Printing and Living Cell Injections – (Huffington Post – February 24, 2013)
Cornell University researchers show it’s possible to print out body parts by creating a replacement ear using a 3-D printer and injections of living cells. The work is a first step toward one day growing customized new ears for children born with malformed ones, or people who lose one to accident or disease. It’s part of the hot field of tissue regeneration, trying to regrow all kinds of body parts. Scientists hope using 3-D printing technology might offer a speedier method with more lifelike results. This first-step work crafted a human-shaped ear that grew with cartilage from a cow, easier to obtain than human cartilage, especially the uniquely flexible kind that makes up ears. The next step is cultivating enough of a child’s remaining ear cartilage in the lab to grow an entirely new ear that could be implanted in the right spot.
New Cancer Study on Graviola Shows Promise as a Possible Treatment – (Natural News – January 10, 2013)
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat. A new study, performed by a cancer research team at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, shows that graviola, a tropical fruit, kills pancreatic cancer cells by inhibiting cellular metabolism. This cancer tumor-fighting ability has been confirmed both in test tubes and in live subjects. Graviola works by inhibiting numerous signaling pathways that manage how pancreatic cancer cells grow, how long they live, and how the cancer tumors spread within the host. By altering these parameters, the rate of new cancer cell growth and spread of the disease slowed significantly.
Global Average Temperatures Are Close to 11,000-Year Peak – (Scientific American – March 8, 2013)
Global average temperatures are now higher than they have been for about 75% of the past 11,300 years, a study suggests. If climate models are any indication, by the end of this century they will be the highest ever since the end of the most recent ice age. Shaun Marcott, a climate scientist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues set about reconstructing global climate trends back to 11,300 years ago, when the Northern Hemisphere was emerging from the most recent ice age. To do so, they collected and analyzed 73 overlapping climate records gathered by other teams, including sediment cores drilled from lake bottoms and sea floors around the world, along with a handful of ice cores collected in Antarctica and Greenland. After the ice age, they found, global average temperatures rose until they reached a plateau between 7550 and 3550 BC. Then a long-term cooling trend set in, reaching its lowest temperature extreme between ad 1450 and 1850. Since then, temperatures have been increasing at a dramatic clip: from the first decade of the twentieth century to now, global average temperatures rose from near their coldest point since the ice age to nearly their warmest, Marcott and his team found.
Fish Become Bolder and More Gluttonous from Drug Residue – (Umea University – February 14, 2013)
Low concentrations of prescription drugs are often found downstream from sewage treatment plants. Currently we test how dangerous drugs are to humans, but our knowledge of the environmental impacts of drugs is limited. For the first time, scientists have now been able to show how the behavior of fish is affected by involuntary medication. Researchers have examined how perch behave when they are exposed to the anxiety-moderating drug Oxazepam. The changes were obvious in drug concentrations corresponding to those found in waters in densely populated areas in Sweden. The drug made the fish braver and less social. This means that they left their schools to look for food on their own, a behavior that can be risky, as school formation is a key defense against being eaten by predatory fish. The fish also ate more quickly. Since fish fulfill an important function in many aquatic environments, changes in eating behavior can seriously disturb the ecological balance.
A Chinese Hacker’s Identity Unmasked – (Business Week – February 14, 2013)
Joe Stewart, 42, is the director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks, a unit of Dell. He spends his days hunting for Internet spies. His job is to sort through the roughly 50,000 or so pieces of malware that arrive in his e-mail in-box daily and isolate anything he hasn’t seen before: He looks for things like software that can let hackers break into databases, control security cameras, and monitor e-mail. Within the industry, Stewart is well-known. In 2003 he unraveled one of the first spam botnets, which let hackers commandeer tens of thousands of computers at once and order them to stuff in-boxes with millions of unwanted e-mails. He spent a decade helping to keep online criminals from breaking into bank accounts and such. In 2011, Stewart turned his sights on China. “I thought I’d have this figured out in two months,” he says. Two years later, trying to identify Chinese malware and develop countermeasures is pretty much all he does. This article details one of his successes. See also: Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking against U.S.
Google Unveils New Project Glass Features, Announces Contest to Find Prototype Testers – (E-Wallstreeter – February 21, 2013)
Google just released a new video for Project Glass that shows the augmented reality glasses being used in real-world situations. Compared to the original concept video released last April, the new interface shows radical improvements, with all the information displayed through a single pane in the top right corner and a fully integrated voice command system. These Web-connected high-tech specs will feature a number of functions, including a translator, calendar reminders weather alerts, Google image search and Google Now integration. Google is yet to announce when general consumers will be able to buy the product. The company will be accepting applications for an elite set of users who will get early access to Google Glass and offer feedback for how to better develop the hardware, its features and the overall experience. Those selected will have to pay the Glass Explorer Edition’s $1,500 price tag and personally attend a “special pick-up experience” in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles to collect their glasses.
Exxon at Least 25 Years Away from Making Fuel from Algae – (Bloomberg – March 8, 2013)
Exxon’s $600 million foray into creating motor fuels from algae may not succeed for at least another 25 years because of technical hurdles, CEO Rex Tillerson said. So far, scientists haven’t been able to develop a strain of algae that reproduces quickly enough and behaves in a manner that would produce enough raw material to supply a refinery. “We’ve come to understand some limits of that technology, or limits as we understand it today, which doesn’t mean it’s limited forever,” Tillerson said.
Global Wind Energy Capacity Grows 19% in 2012 – (Wind Daily – February 15, 2013)
The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its 2012 market statistics, showing continued expansion of the market, with global installed wind energy capacity increasing by 19% in 2012 to 282,000 MW. “While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind.” Mexico more than doubled its installed capacity. Robert Hornung, president of Canadian Wind Energy Association noted, “Less well known is the fact that wind energy is also now cost-competitive with virtually every option for new electricity generation. It is for these reasons that wind energy continues to be the fastest growing mainstream source of electricity in the world.”
Sign of the Times: Saudis Go Solar – (Solar Daily – February 14, 2013)
Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer, has completed its biggest solar power plant as the Persian Gulf petro-powers increasingly turn to solar energy and other renewables. Riyadh wants to generate one-third of the kingdom’s electricity needs by 2032 to save 523,000 barrels of oil per day, currently used to fuel power stations, for export.
Just Spray-Paint On Your Solar Panels – (Fast Company – February 20, 2013)
New techniques in making a sprayable liquid that works like a solar panel are currently in development at the University of Sheffield in the UK. “The goal is to reduce the amount of energy and money required to make a solar cell,” David Lidzey, a physicist collaborating on the project, explains in a statement. “This means that we need solar cell materials that have low embodied energy but we also need manufacturing processes that are efficient, reliable and consume less energy.” Getting the price of solar cell manufacturing down could make it possible to spread solar power throughout the developing world more easily. And it could help get solar cells on a wider variety of surfaces, like car roofs, and even surfaces that aren’t perfectly flat.
German Student Builds Electromagnetic Harvester to Recharge a Battery – (Phys Org – February 12, 2013)
Dennis Siegel, a student at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany has built what he calls an electromagnetic harvester—it converts electromagnetic fields in the immediate environment into electricity to recharge a common AA battery. Siegel (and many others) have noted that the electromagnetism around us all could be converted to electricity and used for some purpose. The problem of course, is that the comparatively small amount of it in the air around us isn’t enough to make much electricity—Siegel’s device takes up to a day to charge a single AA battery. But it highlights not only the fact that we live our lives in a constant state of bombardment of electromagnetism, but also that all of the energy from all of the collective devices in use in the world today, is currently going to waste. Because of small devices like Siegel’s, it becomes possible to envision banks of such devices sitting on roofs (or other places) making use of that electromagnetism to add to the electricity generated by other renewable sources.
Jet Engine to Pull Massive Fuel Savings from Hot Air – (GE – February 26, 2013)
GE engineers working on a revolutionary new jet engine have achieved the highest combination of temperatures ever recorded in aviation history inside the compressor and the turbine, the engine’s core. The higher the temperature inside the engine core, the more efficiently the engine runs. GE engineers figure that the new core in combination with other design changes could improve fuel efficiency by as much 25%, extend flying ranges by 30%, and boost thrust up to 10%, compared to current engines. But jet fuel burns at temperatures higher than the melting point of even the most advanced aviation alloys. As a result, jet engine designers have come up with elaborate ways to prevent melting and cool off the hot section of the engine. The result has been a cooler engine, but also less a efficient one. Looking for a better way, GE scientists have developed new lightweight and heat-resistant materials called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) that remain strong at temperatures as high as 2,400 F, well above any advanced alloy. Since the new jet engine core has CMC parts inside, it can get hotter and extract more power from the intense heat.
Congress Gives Us – (Lowell Sun – March 2, 2013)
A mysterious omission in a 2011 U.S. Congress appropriations bill has opened the door to the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the United States. A federal ban prohibiting the slaughter of horses had existed since 2007. It was tied to a rider in an appropriations bill that cut off the U.S. Department of Agriculture from financing inspections of horsemeat. The rider was renewed in subsequent appropriations bills until it disappeared in the 2011 version. Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, NM has been slaughtering cattle for 20 years. Prior to the horsemeat ban, it had been cited for the inhumane destruction of animals, including horses, and was fined. It has also been the target of several high-profile animal-rights groups. Seizing upon Congress’ 2011 reversal, Valley Meat sued the USDA because the agency was allegedly dragging its feet on reimplementing a horsemeat-inspection program. No inspectors, no slaughter. A federal judge recently sided with Valley Meat. According to government officials, the plant is likely to receive USDA approval by May for horsemeat production. President Obama is in favor of reinstating the congressional ban, but he can’t get enough members of the Democrat party to act. Why should the American public be concerned? Many U.S. horses that would be eligible for slaughter are older working farm animals and racehorses who’ve been treated by veterinarians for minor ailments with the drug phenylbutuzone, or “bute.” Bute is not allowed in the food chain because it can cause rare cases of a serious blood disorder, aplastic anemia.
Hungary Destroys GMO Cornfields – (True Activist – February 10, 2013)
Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods. The free movement of goods within the EU means that authorities will not investigate how the seeds arrived in Hungary, but they will check where the goods can be found, Bognar said. Regional public radio reported that the two biggest international seed producing companies are affected in the matter and GMO seeds could have been sown on up to the thousands of hectares in the country. Most of the local farmers have complained since they just discovered they were using GMO seeds. With season already under way, it is too late to sow new seeds, so this year’s harvest has been lost.
India’s Rice Revolution – (Guardian – February 16, 2013)
In a village in India’s poorest state, Bihar, farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the “super yields” is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them. While the “green revolution” that averted Indian famine in the 1970s relied on improved crop varieties, expensive pesticides and chemical fertilizers, SRI appears to offer a long-term, sustainable future for no extra cost. With more than one in seven of the global population going hungry and demand for rice expected to outstrip supply within 20 years, it appears to offer real hope. Even a 30% increase in the yields of the world’s small farmers would go a long way to alleviating poverty. “Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more.”
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Why Is DHS Buying More Than a Billion Bullets Plus Thousands of Guns and Mine-Resistant Armored Vehicles? – (Forbes – March 10, 2013)
DHS is in the process of stockpiling more than 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, along with 7,000 fully-automatic 5.56x45mm NATO “personal defense weapons” plus a huge stash of 30-round high-capacity magazines. By some estimates, that’s enough firepower to fight the equivalent of a 24-year Iraq war. Further, DHS, through the U.S. Army Forces Command, recently purchased and retrofitted 2,717 Mine-Resistant Armored Protection (MRAP) vehicles formerly used for counterinsurgency in Iraq. Okay, let’s take a deep breath and realize that all this speculation about DHS armament purchases being earmarked for an Orwellian national security force probably rises to a few floors over the top of rational alarm. We should also understand that other government agencies began purchasing large amounts of ammo at the same time as DHS. A big difference, however, is that they have offered reasons for doing so, while DHS has made a point not to. Despite active public inquiry, DHS has not only remained silent, but has gone so far as to literally black out information regarding its purchases. Such redactions are only supposed to be allowed when authorized by Congress or for national security reasons. In at least one solicitation, the DHS asserted that its contract to purchase ammunition on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not subject to “full and open competition”, claiming that the waver was justified by an “unusual and compelling urgency” to acquire bullets. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what constitutes the nature of that unusual and compelling urgency? One that additionally warranted the purchase of nearly three thousand armored mine-resistant vehicles with multiple gun ports to accommodate 50-caliber weapons?
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
An Unrepresentative Democracy – (Nation of Change – March 8, 2013)
A new study marshaling reams of data offers some interesting insights. Conducted by the University of California’s David Broockman and University of Michigan’s Christopher Skovron, the survey of nearly 2,000 legislators from across America documents politicians’ perceptions of their constituents’ views on hot-button issues like universal health care and same-sex marriage. It then compares those perceptions with constituents’ actual views. The juxtaposition reveals a jarring truth: Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers hugely overestimate the conservatism of the very people they are supposed to represent. In all, the report finds that “conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20%, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.” Ultimately, that has resulted in a political system inherently hostile to mainstream proposals and utterly unrepresentative of public opinion.
Obama’s Parting Gift to Hillary Clinton – (Business Week – January 28, 2013)
Campaign disclosure reports have revealed that Hillary Clinton had finally retired the debt from her 2008 presidential campaign—with a little help from the guy who beat her, Barack Obama. Clinton’s debt once totaled more than $20 million, although it had dwindled to about $250,000 by last year. That’s when a team of top Obama donors decided to surprise Clinton, and thank her for her loyal service, by raising enough money to pay off her bills. As secretary of state, she was forbidden from political fundraising. The challenge was tougher than it may appear, since it required a particular kind of donor. In order not to run afoul of campaign finance laws, the Obama team had to find people who had not already given Clinton the 2008 maximum primary donation of $2,300 or maxed out their total federal candidate donations during the 2012 cycle ($46,200). And of course, those people also had to be warmly disposed toward Clinton and still have plenty of free cash on hand. The team found them by assigning an intern to comb through the records at OpenSecrets.org and see who still had room to give. In the end, it took the checkbooks of about 120 people. And as it turned out, the Obama folks substantially overshot the mark. Clinton’s campaign, which has not yet formally been shut down, now shows a surplus of about $205,000.
A History of Misunderstanding – (Slate – February 4, 2013)
In the Israeli-Palestinian public relations wars, it’s conventional wisdom that the textbooks used in schools in the West Bank and Gaza breed hatred for Israel. But what if it’s a lot more complicated—and less one-sided—than the vehement criticism suggests? There’s been some evidence of this for years. In the largest study ever conducted, Israeli and Palestinian researchers reveal that both sides need to take a closer look at the books they teach. Most of the experts who sat on an advisory panel for the study said that it set “a new worldwide standard for textbook analysis.” Funded with $500,000 from the U.S. State Department and commissioned by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a Jerusalem-based group of senior Islamic, Jewish, and Christian religious figures, the study was conducted by a team of Palestinian and Israeli researchers and designed by Yale psychiatrist Bruce Wexler. The results are telling as much as for the good news they bring as for the bad.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Billboard Generates Clean Water Straight from Air – (Fast Company – March 4, 2013)
Universities usually try to attract students with successful alumni, traditional advertisements, and in the case of elite schools, a positive track record. UTEC, the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, decided to pull off a clever engineering stunt to attract a new class of techie do-gooder students: create a billboard on the Pan-American Highway that generates potable water out of thin air. Lima is the ideal place for a water-creating billboard–it almost never rains in the desert environment, so there is a lack of fresh water. And yet atmospheric humidity can climb up to 98%, so the air is thick with potential droplets. The billboard contains five generators that churn out purified water through a reverse osmosis system. The system sends water to a tank that can store up to 100 liters per day. As you can see in the video clip attached to the article, people are actually using the billboard to get fresh water. In three months of operation, the billboard has produced thousands of liters. (Editor’s note: This is not new technology, per se—but it is a brilliant way to attract the type of students the school was looking for and a sorely needed service in a very poor area of Lima.)
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
UFO Sightings: The 10 Most Documented – (Weather.com – February 26, 2013)
Here is a list of the top 10 most documented UFO sightings of all time. For example, radar recorded strange blips over Washington, D.C., in July 1952, while witnesses who were later contacted reported seeing dazzling orange lights in the sky. Once the “flying saucers” reportedly swarmed the White House, President Harry Truman is reported to have given the go-ahead to a shoot-down order. He quickly backtracked, after it was explained that the UFOs could have been mirages caused by temperature inversions. Eventually, the government-appointed Robertson Panel suggested that more time be spent on debunking UFO reports altogether rather than investigating them. (Editor’s note: Temperature inversions show up on radar??? But in any case, “spin” certainly shows up in the media. Giving Truman the benefit of presuming that he did an about-face for a better reason, one can only assume that he received a satisfactory explanation from the military or someone suggested that trying to shoot down objects far beyond the current technological capabilities of the military might be poor choice.)
What If You Could Mine the Moon? – (BBC News – March 7, 2013)
Space exploration has long been about reaching far off destinations but now there’s a race to exploit new frontiers by mining their minerals. is the centre of a space race to mine rare minerals to fuel our future – smart phones, space-age solar panels and possibly even a future colony of Earthlings. “We know that there’s water on the Moon, which is a game-changer for the solar system. Water is rocket fuel. It also can support life and agriculture. So exploring the Moon commercially is a first step towards making the Moon part of our world, what humanity considers our world,” says Bob Richards, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Moon Express, one of 25 companies racing to win the $30m in Google Lunar X Prizes. Google’s $20m first prize will be awarded to the first privately funded company to land a robot on the Moon that successfully explores the surface by moving at least 500m and sends high-definition video back to Earth.
Commutes Are Not Getting Longer – (9 News – March 5, 2013)
About 8% of workers in the USA have commutes of an hour or longer, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers endure “megacommutes” of at least an hour-and-a-half and 50 miles, according to new U.S. Census data. The national average, one-way daily commute is 25.5 minutes, and 4.3% of the nation’s workers work from home. The data is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey for 2011. On average, it took no longer to get to work in 2011 than it did in 2000, said Alan Pisarski, author of the continuing series “Commuting in America,” who attributes the stagnancy to economic woes. Only 61% of workers with long commutes drove to work alone, compared with 80% for all workers who work outside the home. “The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes,” said Census Bureau statistician Brian McKenzie.
Hawaii Still the Happiest State – (New York Times – February 28, 2013)
The Gallup-Healthways well-being metric, akin to happiness, is intended to measure the elements of “the good life.” In daily surveys of at least 1,000 people each time, Gallup asks respondents about their health, work satisfaction, whether they worried or smiled the previous day, and so on. Hawaii, at the top of the list, actually got happier from 2011 to 2012, and,for the fourth year in a row, West Virginia, coming in last, got a little worse off. The country as a whole has not changed much over the last five years even as the economy has improved. Other traits besides geography correlate with higher levels of well-being, including: being male, Asian, tall, a religious Jew, self-employed, higher-income, married and a parent.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Building a Biochemistry Lab on a Chip – (Spacemart – February 15, 2013)
Miniaturized laboratory-on-chip systems promise rapid, sensitive, and multiplexed detection of biological samples for medical diagnostics, drug discovery, and high-throughput screening. Using micro-fabrication techniques and incorporating a unique design of transistor-based heating, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are further advancing the use of silicon transistor and electronics into chemistry and biology for point-of-care diagnostics. According to Eric Salm, lead researcher, approaches to perform localized heating of these individual subnanoliter droplets can allow for new applications that require parallel, time-, and space multiplex reactions on a single integrated circuit.
For Autodesk, a Step Into a Nanoscale World – (New York Times – February 25, 2013)
Autodesk, a quirky software start-up, rose to prominence in the early 1980s because of AutoCAD, its computer-aided design program that was intended for use on personal computers. Over the next decade, AutoCAD became the standard design tool for architects and engineers. For the last two years, a small group of software engineers and molecular biologists have been developing a software system for designing at the molecular level at the company’s research laboratory in downtown San Francisco. Autodesk’s “Project Cyborg” is a Web-based software platform for delivering a range of services like molecular modeling and simulation. The company has not announced when it will commercialize the technology, but it envisions that scientists, engineers and even students and “citizen scientists” will soon be able to use the system on individual projects. There are still many open questions that nanotechnology needs to surmount, ranging from viability to safety. Autodesk executives and the designers of Project Cyborg believe, however, that they can recreate the thriving commercial ecosystems that the company has now evolved in engineering design at a Lilliputian scale. They foresee nanorobots that will be able to attack cancers and other diseases and a new world of molecular materials, as well as a visualization system for an entire universe beyond the range of the unaided human eye.
Pilot Will Attempt First Flight Powered Only by Household Plastic – (Telegraph – February 23, 2013)
A pilot will attempt the 10,500-mile trip from Sydney to London using a fuel that has never before been tested in the air – and is produced entirely from plastic waste. Mr. Rowsell will be flying a single-engine Cessna 172 about 1,500 miles a day at a speed of about 115mph. His flight will be powered by five tons of discarded packaging and waste collected from rubbish dumps and – using a pioneering technique – melted down into 1,000 gallons of aviation-grade diesel. The 41-year-old plans to leave Sydney in July, fly over Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and arrive in London six days later. The fuel will come solely from so-called “end-of-life” plastic that cannot be recycled and would otherwise end up as landfill, including household waste such as packaging and wrapping. Recent advances mean that it is now possible to distil plastic – most of which is petroleum-based – into fuel, using a process known as pyrolysis that does not pollute the air. The company says its plastic waste diesel fuel is cleaner than that used by most planes, its production process is cleaner, and it estimates a lower cost per gallon. Although it has been tested in cars, it is in the very early stages of aero engine tests and has never been used in flight. Mr. Rowsell, a hobby pilot and insurance broker, decided to undertake the trip to raise awareness of new technologies that are creating viable, environmentally friendly ways to fly, while also cutting down the amount of plastic waste in landfills around the world.
Study Reveals Most At-Risk Retailers for Showrooming by Amazon Customers – (Placed – February 27, 2013)
The Amazon Effect quantified: A detailed study on the impact of Amazon on brick-and-mortar retailers yields some surprising results along with the expected casualties of the showrooming phenomenon. Though Best Buy and Target both rank in the top 8 by retail risk – it’s Bed Bath & Beyond and PetSmart which top the list. The Placed: Aisle to Amazon Study is based on 14,925 U.S. survey respondents combined with the direct measurement of nearly 1 billion U.S. location data points during January 2013. By directly measuring consumers’ paths in the physical world (i.e. tracking people’s paths through stores by the location of their smart phones), Placed provides an unprecedented look at the impact of the digital world on brick-and-mortar shopping behaviors. As the company, touting its services, says: the study highlights Placed’s ability to connect the digital and physical worlds through mobile devices.
300-million-year-old UFO Tooth-wheel Found in Russian City of Vladivostok – (Voice of Russia – January 19, 2013)
The first discovery of a strange artifact embedded in coal was made in 1851 when the workers in one of the Massachusetts mines extracted a zinc silver-incrusted vase from a block of unmined coal which dated all the way back to the Cambrian era which was approximately 500 million years ago. Sixty one years later, American scientists from Oklahoma discovered an iron pot which was pressed into a piece of coal aged 312 million years old. Then, in 1974, an aluminum assembly part of unknown origin was found in a sandstone quarry in Romania, however the piece dated back to the Jurassic era and could not have been manufactured by a human. All of these discoveries not only puzzled the experts but also undermined the most fundamental doctrines of modern science. The metal detail (apparently a toothed portion of a gear) which was recently found by a Vladivostok resident is yet another discovery which perplexed the scientists. The coal in which the metal object was pressed came from the Chernogorodskiy mines of Khakasia region. Knowing that the coal deposits of this region date back 300 million years, Russian experts inferred that the metal detail found in these deposits must be an age-mate of the coal. (Editor’s note: the zinc vase was reported in the June 1851 issue of Scientific American (volume 7, pages 298-299). See also: a list of other such anomalies.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Titanic II: Billionaire Launches Plans for Replica of Doomed Ship – (Christian Science Monitor – February 28, 2013)
Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, is getting ready to build a new version of the Titanic that could set sail in late 2016. Construction is scheduled to start soon in China. Mr. Palmer said 40,000 people have expressed interest in tickets for the maiden voyage, taking the original course from Southampton, England, to New York. He said people are inspired by his quest to replicate one of the most famous vessels in history. Palmer said an unknown when the original ship sailed – climate change – may play into a positive for the new ship’s fate. “One of the benefits of global warming is there hasn’t been as many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days,” Palmer said. Passengers on board the replica will dress in the fashion of that period and eat dishes from the original menu, in dining rooms copied from the ill-fated predecessor. In what some may consider a temptation of fate for a remake of a notoriously “unsinkable” ship that sank, a representative of the Finnish designer of the Titanic II said it will be the “safest cruise ship in the world.” See photos of the planned interior.
JUST FOR FUN
St. Luke’s Bottle Band – (You Tube – June 3, 2007)
What do Lutherans do with empty beer bottles? Hear the Peacherine Rag written by Scott Joplin in 1901 performed by the St. Luke’s Bottle Band of Park Ridge, Illinois.
A FINAL QUOTE–
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Sheila Cash, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Judy Gardiner, Dan Mape, Diane Petersen, Paul Saffo, Gary Sycalik, 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