FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- MIT researchers have captured specific memories in mice, altered them, and shown that the mice behave in accord with these new, false, implanted memories.
- Can your Porsche, your “smart” home and your heart pacemaker be hacked? Apparently so.
- A Dutch student team has created the first ‘energy-positive’ solar powered car with room for four people, a trunk, intuitive steering and a range of 600 kilometers.
- Research shows that urine could be used as a source of stem cells.
by John L. Petersen
Frank DeMarco coming to Berkeley Springs
I have read two, if not three of Frank DeMarco’s extraordinary books and they have completely changed my understanding of how our reality works. As I’ve mentioned here before, Frank is in contact with an angelic group that he simply refers to as the “The Gentlemen Upstairs” which provide him with amazingly detailed information about how this human experience interfaces with other dimensions and the entities (who are really all a part of us and we of them) which actively engage with us in our everyday lives.
Where, for instance, do ideas come from? Do you really think that they just show up in the meat between your ears? DeMarco’s TGU source says rather clearly that it is their job to pitch certain ideas and suggestions into your mind at opportune times in order to provide you with the options necessary for your development. They say that you can cultivate an interactive relationship with these “guides” that will make your decision making process far more effective and successful.
They also say that their job is to actively manipulate the context in which we operate in order to shape the general direction of where each of us evolves, both individually and with humanity as a species. Ever wonder why something just happens . . . or a surprisingly appropriate person just shows up in your life? Jung called that serendipity. TGU says that they do it. It is their job.
In a real sense, they exist and function as parents do with small children – constantly moving them along in their development by showing and explaining things to them and putting them in situations where they will learn.
All of this is really quite fascinating and practical. Among other things, it begins to provide potential answers to some of the questions that show up all of the time, like “Why did that happen?”
So, I’m excited that Frank is coming to be our next speaker in our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series. He’ll be here on Saturday, the 24th of August (NOT THE 17th AS EARLIER MENTIONED) at 1:30 at the Star Theatre here in Berkeley Springs (NOTE TIME AND LOCATION CHANGE). You can find the complete information here. We hope that you can make it. You’ll find the information absolutely fascinating!
Here’s our lineup for the rest of the year:
August 24, 1:30 pm Star Theatre, 37 N Washington St
(NOTE TIME AND LOCATION CHANGE)
Frank DeMarco, author, The Sphere and Hologram, Explanations from the Other Side
September 7, 2pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Bethi Black, Human Design expert, ihdschool.com
September 8, 10am-4pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Human Design Workshop, Bethi Black
November 16, 2pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Leading expert on the paranormal, visionaryliving.com
If we can’t find anyone better, I may give a talk in October. I’ve been thinking about what it takes to produce a sustainable world, and could have something ready by then.
If you’d like to be on the mailing list for our Transition Talks, drop me a note and I’ll make sure that you get the announcements directly.
Changing Skies and Waters
A couple of weeks ago Diane and I were in our yard and I looked into the sky and, for the first time in this area, saw a plane at altitude heading west spewing out a big, solid trail that didn’t even start to look like a contrail. I mentioned to Diane that it was a plane laying chemtrails . . . and then it abruptly stopped, confirming my analysis.
For a long time I have seen pictures of these trails, weaving patterns across the sky, but never seen one “in operation”. This was in the back of my mind when a friend sent me the link to a presentation by Dane Wigington, the Lead Researcher and Administrator of the website www.geoengineering.org. Click on the link and you’ll find it on the front page with the title GeoEngineering Watch.
This is an informative presentation that builds a rather comprehensive case for the large-scale attempts that governments are undertaking to manipulate our climate and weather. I found it quite informative and provocative.
Their latest research suggests that we are not being told the truth about the amount of dangerous UV radiation that these chemtrails are allowing to reach the earth.
The magnitude of all of this is rather sobering and it had me saying to myself, “When do these governments quit messing around so fundamentally with our lives?” Every other day or so the NSA releases more information about the absolute totality of information on Americans that they are scooping up and saving. They haven’t said it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days they ‘fess up to collecting and storing all credit card transaction information on everyone. How, after all, could you build a complete picture of someone without knowing everything that they purchased throughout their life?
This stuff really boggles the mind and begs the question: Why are they doing all of this? Are they really collecting everything on everyone forever just to thwart some potential terrorists who might show up someday? Somehow it seems to be quite bigger than that.
Maybe the angels can tell us. Come hear Frank DeMarco and we’ll ask them.
Attention, Shoppers: This Store Is Tracking Your Cell – (New York Times – July 15, 2013)
Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. But when Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, shoppers were unnerved. Nordstrom ended the experiment in May, in part because of the comments. Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their gender, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it. For example, if a shopper’s phone is set to look for Wi-Fi networks, a store that offers Wi-Fi can pinpoint where the shopper is in the store, within a 10-foot radius, even if the shopper does not connect to the network, said Tim Callan, RetailNext’s chief marketing officer. The store can also recognize returning shoppers, because mobile devices send unique identification codes when they search for networks. That means stores can now tell how repeat customers behave and the average time between visits.
Mars Meteorite Reveals Its Age – (Science News – July 24, 2013)
Providing a tool for unlocking secrets of the early solar system, a new technique accurately determines the age of meteorites. UCLA geochronologist Axel Schmitt and colleagues began by examining the structure of a meteorite’s mineral crystals, which differs depending on whether the crystals solidified gradually within a lava flow or rapidly after the intense heat and pressure of an impact. Then they determined the age of the crystals by measuring the ratio of uranium to lead. Uranium has two isotopes, each of which decays into its own lead isotope, providing researchers with multiple radioactive-dating measurements to cross-check for consistency. The team analyzed the Martian meteorite Northwest Africa 5298 and found large, interlocking crystals about 187 million years old, which suggests that the rock formed during a volcanic eruption back then. The researchers also found zircon crystals that likely formed from an impact no more than 22 million years ago.
The Era of Memory Engineering Has Arrived – (Scientific American – July 30, 2013)
Memory seems inviolable, or at least, we desperately hope that it is. We allow that our memories may fade and fail a bit, but otherwise, we go on the sanity-preserving assumption that there is one reason why we remember a particular thing: because we were there, and it actually happened. Now, a new set of experiments, led by MIT neuroscientists Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu, shows that this needn’t be the case. Using a stunning set of molecular neuroscience techniques (no electrode caps involved), these scientists have captured specific memories in mice, altered them, and shown that the mice behave in accord with these new, false, implanted memories. The era of memory engineering is upon us, and naturally, there are big implications for basic science and, perhaps someday, human health and society. Although the techniques these investigators used to manipulate memory involved a jaw-dropping sampling from modern neuroscience’s bag of tricks, the essential strategy is easy to understand. Basically, you need a way of labeling neurons that were active during a specific experience, and a switch to operate them.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Neural Dust is a Step Towards Nexus – (io9 – July 16, 2013)
The team that created the first neurally remote controlled beetle is proposing a huge step forward in brain-computer interfaces. Dongjin Seo, Michael Maharbiz, and colleagues from UC Berkeley propose a system they call ‘Neural Dust’. Brain-computer interfaces today generally work by sticking electrodes into the brain. That runs into severe problems – all those electrodes cause trauma as they penetrate the brain, and leave wires that wind through and between the brain’s neurons, potentially attracting scar tissue or driving the brain to reject the implant. The proposed ‘Neural Dust’ system (and it’s just a proposal for now) would work differently. The authors propose sprinkling tiny dust-sized passive silicon sensors, about 100 microns across, throughout the human cortex. These sensors would be about as big around as the thickness of a human hair, and fabricated via a CMOS process, the same as used for many conventional computer chips. They’d be sprinkled through the cortex. Just outside the cortex but underneath the skull would be a larger chip, still only millimeters across, that would communicate with them via ultrasound. The use of ultrasound would let the neural dust particles send information pulses without disrupting the activity of neurons around them, and without needing to have any wires or electrodes getting in the way. Outside the skull entirely would be the external transceiver. This chip would provide wireless power for the chips inside the skull, and would read the data out from the brain, allowing scientists and engineers to see what’s going on inside.
Mers: New Virus Not Following Sars Path – (BBC News – July 26, 2013)
Mers is from the same group of viruses as the common cold and Sars, which killed 774 people. However, a detailed analysis of the Saudi cases did warn of “major gaps” in understanding of the virus. The Middle East respiratory-syndrome coronavirus (Mers) emerged in 2012 and has infected 90 people worldwide, 45 of them have died. Cases have been centred on the Middle East – with patients in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Additional cases in France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the UK have all been linked to travel to the Middle East. Lead researcher and Deputy Minister for Public Health, Professor Ziad Memish, said: “Despite sharing some clinical similarities with Sars, there are also some important differences. In contrast to Sars, which was much more infectious especially in healthcare settings and affected the healthier and the younger age group, Mers appears to be more deadly, with 60% of patients with co-existing chronic illnesses dying, compared with the 1% toll of Sars. Although this high mortality rate with Mers is probably spurious due to the fact that we are only picking up severe cases and missing a significant number of milder or asymptomatic cases.”
‘Intelligent’ Scalpel Can Identify Cancerous Tissue for Surgeons – (UPI – July 17, 2013)
In a first operating room test, the iKnife diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100% accuracy, instantly providing information that normally requires laboratory tests that can take up to a half hour, researchers at Imperial College London have reported. The iKnife is based on electrosurgery, in which surgical knives use an electrical current to rapidly heat tissue, cutting through it while minimizing blood loss. As they cut they vaporize the tissue, creating smoke that is normally sucked away by extraction systems. The iKnife system analyzes the smoke, using mass spectrometry to determine in seconds whether tissues were cancerous. Lipid components in the smoke created from different types of tissues have characteristic signatures, the researchers said. A surgeon using an intelligent knife could know what kind of tissue he or she was dealing with almost instantaneously, they said, and make decisions on the spot about how to proceed.
New Teeth Grown from Urine – (BBC News – July 29, 2013)
Teams of researchers around the world are looking for ways of growing new teeth to replace those lost with age and poor dental hygiene. Chinese scientists have now grown rudimentary teeth out of stem cells harvested from human urine. This research is not immediately going to lead to new options for the dentist, but the researchers say it could lead to further studies towards “the final dream of total regeneration of human teeth for clinical therapy”. On the other hand, Professor Chris Mason, a stem cell scientist at University College London, said urine was a poor starting point. “It is probably one of the worst sources, there are very few cells in the first place and the efficiency of turning them into stem cells is very low.
China’s Bad Earth – (Wall St. Journal – July 27, 2013)
A series of recent cases have highlighted the spread of pollution outside of China’s urban areas, now encompassing vast swaths of countryside. Estimates from state-affiliated researchers say that anywhere between 8% and 20% of China’s arable land, some 25 to 60 million acres, may now be contaminated with heavy metals. A loss of even 5% could be disastrous, taking China below the “red line” of 296 million acres of arable land that are currently needed, according to the government, to feed the country’s 1.35 billion people. Rural China’s toxic turn is largely a consequence of two trends, say environmental researchers: the expansion of polluting industries into remote areas a safe distance from population centers, and heavy use of chemical fertilizers to meet the country’s mounting food needs. Both changes have been driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in a country that in 2012, for the first time in its long history, had more people living in cities than outside of them. In February, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection refused to release the results of a multiyear nationwide soil-pollution survey, calling the data a “state secret.” The decision sparked an outcry online and in the traditional media. Criticism even came from the Communist Party’s flagship paper, People’s Daily, which posted a message to its microblog that read: “Covering this up only makes people think: I’m being lied to.” In January, China’s official Xinhua news agency highlighted the dangers of hazardous chemical waste in rural areas by profiling Zekou, described by environmentalists as a “cancer village” in the central province of Hubei. Residents blame a nearby industrial park for more than 60 recent cancer-related deaths, most of them of people under the age of 50. The Ministry of Environmental Protection publicly acknowledged the existence of such “cancer villages”—which have unusually high rates of cancer and, according to nongovernmental organizations and researchers, number in the hundreds—for the first time a month later.
Radio Waves: Surprising Tool to Measure Our Changing Climate – (Science Daily – July 30, 2013)
The ionosphere, one of the regions of the upper atmosphere, plays an important role in global communications. Ionized by solar radiation, this electricity-rich region is used for the transmission of long wave communications, such as radio waves. Now Colin Price and Israel Silber of Tel Aviv University have discovered that the radio waves reflecting back to Earth from the ionosphere offer valuable news on climate change as well. Their research shows that the strength of radio signals on the ground is a reliable indicator of temperature change above: as the upper atmosphere gets colder, radio signals lose their strength. While the sun is the driving force behind changes in temperature in this region, it accounts for only 60% to 70% of temperature variations, says Prof. Price. The remaining variability could not be systematically measured until now. By adding measurements of radio waves taken on the ground to solar radiation estimates, researchers can now explain approximately 95% of temperature changes in the upper atmosphere. According to Prof. Price, this new technique will be a valuable addition to current methods of monitoring climate change, such as the measurement of ground temperatures. Without the need for expensive equipment like satellites, monitoring the upper atmosphere can be done inexpensively and continuously.
‘Crazy Ants’ Invade Southern States, Altering Ecosystem – (USA Today – June 30, 2013)
If you’re in Texas, Florida or other Southern states this summer, watch out for “crazy ants,” warns Edward LeBrun, a University of Texas research associate who studies the species. Also known as Nylanderia fulva, they’re called crazy because of their unpredictable movements and swarming populations. The bug is reddish-brown, about an eighth of an inch long and has a hankering for honey dew — with a side of electronics. The insects nest anywhere and are easily transported, but so far have mostly infested Texas and several Southern states after being inadvertently transported from South America by humans. They’ve spread to 24 counties in Texas, 20 in Florida and a few in Mississippi and Louisiana. They cause about $146.5 million in electrical damage a year because millions of ants are electrocuted in small circuits or wires, where they seek warmth, according to a Texas A&M University study published in April. LeBrun’s study says the ants aren’t just a costly nuisance because they’re displacing other aggressive species, such as fire ants — crazy ants never seem to stop eating almost everything they encounter and end up devouring so many insects in a neighborhood that birds have to leave to find new food. That means crazy ants are driving out not only fire ants, but bird populations. And that means crazy ants are changing entire ecosystems. See also: Why ‘Crazy Ants’ Swarm Inside Electronics
Never Again Enough – (Nation of Change – July 30, 2013)
Until now, the ever-more-complex water delivery systems of the Colorado River basin have managed to meet the escalating needs of their users. This is true in part because the states of the Upper Basin (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico) were slower to develop than their downstream cousins. Under the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the Upper and Lower Basins divided the river with the Upper Basin assuring the Lower of an average of 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) of water per year delivered to Lees Ferry Arizona, the dividing point between the two. The Upper Basin would use the rest. Until recently, however, it left a large share of its water in the river, which California, and secondarily Arizona and Nevada, happily put to use. Those days are gone. The Lower Basin states now get only their annual entitlement and no more. Unfortunately for them, it’s not enough, and never will be. Currently, the Lower Basin lives beyond its means—to the tune of about 1.3 maf per year, essentially consuming 117% of its allocation.The Lower Basin funds its deficit by drawing on the accumulated water surplus held in the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, which backs up behind Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, the surplus there can’t last forever, and maybe not for long. There is, however, a consolation—of sorts. The Colorado is nowhere near as badly off as New Mexico and the Rio Grande.
Feds Tell Web Firms to Turn Over User Account Passwords – (CNET – July 25, 2013)
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed. If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused. “I’ve certainly seen them ask for passwords,” said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We push back.” Some of the government orders demand not only a user’s password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts. Even if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user’s original password is hardly guaranteed. The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password. But modern computers, especially ones equipped with high-performance video cards, can test passwords scrambled with MD5 and other well-known hash algorithms at the rate of billions a second. One system using 25 Radeon-powered GPUs that was demonstrated at a conference last December tested 348 billion hashes per second, meaning it would crack a 14-character Windows XP password in six minutes.
Is Your PIC MetaData Giving You Away? – (Ed[ucation] That Matters – July 23, 2013)
When you take a photo with your phone and upload it to the internet, the photographs carries important information known as metadata. Metadata can include: copyright Information, text comments/ descriptions, GPS location, original image thumbnail, serial numbers, image software (i.e. Photoshop), date and time and camera model. If you take a picture with your smartphone, edit it with some other software, and then upload it to the internet, it could still include a thumbnail of the original pic and your GPS location. In a recently published novel, one of the main characters and his family are found because metadata taken from an old blog post included their geo-location. For a real life example of this, recently, John McAfee, who was on the run from Belize police was found because of a photo that was uploaded to the internet. However, there are some things you can do about this. There is software that will strip the meta data from your pics. One that you can use is Metability Quick Fix. The cool thing is that it’s free! Also, using a free online website, Metapicz, you can upload photos to check what you are revealing.
Barnaby Jack: The Hacker Who Wanted to Save Your Life – (Washington Post – July 29, 2013)
Security researcher Barnaby Jack was recently found dead by a loved one in San Francisco. The San Francisco police have not released details about the death other than it was “not foul play.” Jack, 36, had been scheduled to make a presentation at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 1 showing how he was able to remotely shock a pacemaker. Jack’s recent research on embedded medical devices illuminated a new frontier for penetration testing as more and more electronic devices are becoming able to communicate wirelessly with the outside world. When Jack worked at McAfee, he turned his attention to insulin pumps, eventually figuring out how to cause the devices to erroneously dispense potentially lethal doses of insulin from up to 300 feet away. His most recent work at security firm IOActive Inc focused on embedded devices, including the pacemaker hack he was to present at the conference. as our cars, our houses and, yes, our medical devices are getting shifted into Internet mode, the security stakes are raised. Especially when talking about connecting devices that consumers are literally trusting their lives with to a network. Barnaby Jack’s research spurred companies that built embedded devices to take security more seriously.
Suburban Sprawl to Power Cities of the Future – (Science News – July 30, 2013)
It is commonly assumed that compact cities, with built-up central business districts and densely-populated residential areas, are more energy efficient than the low-density suburban sprawl that surrounds them, which are dependent on oil for high levels of private transport use. In a future with photovoltaic solar panels on suburban roofs and increasing use of electric vehicles however, experts have predicted that suburbia will adopt a valuable new role — transforming from a high energy consumer into a vital power provider for the city. Research conducted by Professor Hugh Byrd from the University of Lincoln, UK, and collaborators challenges the conventional theory that compact urban form offers the best solution for a sustainable city. Instead, the team of researchers highlight the potential of suburbs for harnessing solar energy, with detached suburban houses capable of producing ten times the amount of energy created by skyscrapers and other commercial buildings. The findings also reveal that lower density housing in suburbia not only has the greatest capacity for collecting solar energy, but also the greatest surplus after its own energy uses have been taken into account to help out city center peak electricity loads.
‘Smart’ Homes Open Doors to Hackers – (PhysOrg – July 30, 2013)
Smart homes that let residents control alarms, locks and more over the internet are opening doors for crooks with hacker skills, according to computer security specialists. “The smart home trend is growing, and it evolves quickly into a story of security,” said Trustwave managing consultant Daniel Crowley. “Connecting things to a network opens up a whole range of vectors of attack, and when you are talking door locks, garage doors, and alarm controls it gets scary.” A vulnerability of particular concern to the researchers was that once hackers joined local home networks, perhaps through poorly protected wireless routers or using malware slipped onto computers, they could control devices with no password or other authentication required. “The fact that you need to be on someone’s local network to exploit these things is not as big a hurdle as you’d imagine,” Crowley said. And the trend of providing people with smartphone applications for controlling smart home devices while away means that crooks who hack into handsets could potentially grab the reins, according to the researchers. There are also ways to use computer “IP” numbers to figure out real-world addresses, and some smart home applications, themselves, reveal location information, according to Trustwave.
Independent Testing of Rossi’s E-Cat Cold Fusion Device: Maybe the World Will Change – (Forbes – May 20, 2013)
Italian engineer, Andrea Rossi, has developed something he calls an E-Cat, a device that produces heat through a process called a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). Very briefly, LENR, otherwise called cold fusion, is a technique that generates energy through low temperature (far lower than hot fusion temperatures which are in the range of tens of thousands of degrees) reactions that are not chemical. Most importantly, LENR is, theoretically, much safer, much simpler, and many orders of magnitude cheaper than hot fusion. What the scientific community wanted was something that Rossi has been promising for months: an independent test by third parties who were credible. Finally such a report was published on May 16, 2013. The paper titled “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device” was authored by Giuseppe Levi of Bologna University, Bologna, Italy; Evelyn Foschi, Bologna, Italy; Torbjörn Hartman, Bo Höistad, Roland Pettersson and Lars Tegnér of Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden; and Hanno Essén, of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. While some of these people have previously been public in their support of Rossi and the E-Cat, they are all serious academics with reputations to lose and the paper is detailed and thorough.
Navy LENR Patent Granted – Transmutes Radioactive Waste – (Cold Fusion Now – July 13, 2013)
A U.S. Navy patent transmutes radioactive elements into less harmful elements through a benign “cold fusion” low energy nuclear reaction process. The patent was granted April 16, 2013 for a device and method that shortens the half-life of radioactive materials by increasing their rate of emissions. The process creates high pressure steam for the turbines eliminating the need for refueling of existing nuclear reactor cores. Article includes more detailed description of some aspects of the patent as shown in the patent filing.
World’s First Solar-powered Family Car – (Eindhoven University of Technology – July 4, 2013)
The Solar Team Eindhoven of TU/e presented the world’s first solar-powered family car today. ‘Stella’ is the first ‘energy-positive car’ with room for four people, a trunk, intuitive steering and a range of 600 kilometers. This is the car being entered by the student team in the Cruiser class of the World Solar Challenge that starts in Australia in October 2013. The solar cells of ‘Stella’ – Latin for star – generate more electricity on average than the car uses and that means the surplus electricity can be returned to the power grid, thereby making the car ‘energy-positive’. By combining aerodynamic design with lightweight materials like carbon and aluminum, a very fuel-efficient car has been designed, which also has ingenious applications like a LED strip and touchscreen that make all the usual buttons and knobs superfluous. Intuitive driving is enabled by a steering wheel that expands or contracts when you are driving too fast or too slowly. STE will have the car officially certified for road use to prove that this really is a fully-fledged car. See here for a couple more photos of this dramatically non-car looking vehicle. (Editor’s note: Unfortunately the article does not explain the process by which the car returns energy to the grid.)
Volkswagen Stops Academics from Revealing Car Hack – (Associated Press – July 30, 2013)
A British university is delaying the release of an academic paper on how the anti-theft systems of millions of Volkswagen vehicles are at risk of being hacked after the German carmaker took legal action against it. In a statement, the University of Birmingham said it would “defer publication” of the paper after an interim injunction issued by England’s High Court. The paper – planned to be published next month – revealed three ways to bypass a brand of computer chip used by several auto manufacturers to fight vehicle theft. Often referred to as immobilizers, such chips use a secret algorithm to ensure that a car can only be started with the right key, and they’ve been a mandatory in all new vehicles sold in Britain over the past 15 years. Crucially, the researchers planned to reveal how they were able to reverse-engineer the algorithm – and publish a copy of it in their paper. Volkswagen said that publishing the formula would be “highly damaging” and “facilitate theft of cars”. Millions of Volkswagen vehicles were issued with the chip, including high-end cars such as Porsches, Audis, Bentleys, and Lamborghinis. The researchers countered that Volkswagen’s claim that the paper would be a boon to car thieves was overblown and that they had warned the chip’s manufacturer about the vulnerability six months ago.
Robo Hamster Balls Could Help Our Farms Flourish – (Care2 – June 30, 2013)
While facing the problem of how to monitor soil moisture levels in arable farms, Spanish scientists turned to the hamster for inspiration. Specifically, the Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid became intrigued by how hamsters shift their weight to get their spherical exercise devices in motion, and how it allows them to turn corners with ease. It is precisely this idea that scientists have incorporated to make Rosphere, which they categorize as “A robot without wheels or legs which has a single spherical form that, literally, scrolls by itself to conduct the missions [while] being inherently stable.” Rosphere could be fully autonomous in the field while being tele operated and its shape is particularly well suited to rolling between rows of crops and to monitor farming conditions like soil moisture and composition. The combination allows for precision environmental monitoring across large distances in a way that was previously unfeasible.
Size Matters – (Nation of Change – July 28, 2013)
Nanoparticles are found in M&Ms, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jell-O pudding, and even Pop-Tarts. Scientists don’t know if they’re safe to eat. The government doesn’t regulate these things. Often even the food manufacturers don’t know this technology is in the food they sell. If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, then a red blood cell would be the size of the field. They’re at the heart of a new $20 billion business. For example, they can cross the blood-brain barrier, can penetrate cells and can interfere with cellular functions. Just because a chemical is safe, that doesn’t mean it’s safe in a teensy, nano form. For example, titanium dioxide is a common food additive used as a white pigment. It’s found in M&M’s, Betty Crocker Whipped Cream Frosting, Jell-O Banana Cream Pudding, Mentos, Trident and Dentyne gums, Vanilla Milkshake Pop-Tarts, and Nestlé Original Coffee Creamer. It’s also in powdered sugar coated doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts and Hostess. And even though size matters in the real world, it doesn’t matter in our regulations. If a chemical is legal in food, then it’s legal in nano form. No labels needed!
Technology Enables Crops to Take Nitrogen from the Air – (Nottingham University – July 25, 2013)
Only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. The vast majority of plants have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for most crops currently being grown across the world, this also means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has long recognized that there is a critical need to reduce nitrogen pollution caused by nitrogen based fertilizers. Nitrate pollution is a major problem as is also the pollution of the atmosphere by ammonia and oxides of nitrogen. In addition, nitrate pollution is a health hazard and also causes oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ in our waterways and oceans. A leading world expert in nitrogen and plant science, Professor Cocking has developed a unique method of putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots. His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. This development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The implications for agriculture are enormous as this new technology can provide much of the plant’s nitrogen needs.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Hacking the Drone War’s Secret History – (Wired – May 30, 2013)
In 2008 U.S. troops in Iraq discovered that Shi’ite insurgents had figured out how to tap and record video feeds from overhead American drones. Now you too can hack Washington’s globe-spanning fleet of silent, deadly armed robots — although legally, and only in an historical sense. Josh Begley, a 28-year-old NYU grad student, has just created an application programming interface — basically, a collection of building blocks for software development — that allows anyone with basic coding skills to organize, analyze and visualize drone-strike data from Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia dating back to 2002. Based on information collected by the U.K. Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the API can be used to create interactive Websites that add depth, context and even a little humanity to the sterile news reports of the latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle strike in some far-away conflict zone. With Pres. Barack Obama’s recent promise to rein in robotic attacks, the time is ripe to begin making sense of 12 years of drone warfare that has claimed thousands of lives. Begley’s API makes that vital self-reflection a whole lot easier.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Jimmy Carter Defends Edward Snowden, Says ‘America Has No Functioning Democracy’ – (Inquistr – July 17, 2013)
Jimmy Carter has come out in support of Edward Snowden, saying the invasion of privacy the NSA whistleblower uncovered has gone too far and had become a restriction on civil rights. Speaking at a closed-door event of the Atlantic Bridge in Atlanta, Carter railed against US intelligence services and said that the NSA domestic spying program uncovered by Snowden was “beneficial” for Americans to know about. “America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time,” the German newspaper Die Spiegel quoted the former U.S. president as saying. There was some question on the validity of the quotation, however, as no American media outlets reported on the event and it was not clear where Die Spiegel got its information.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Why Is the Rich US in Such Poor Health? – (New Scientist – July 15, 2013)
Americans die younger and experience more injury and illness than people in other rich nations, despite spending almost twice as much per person on healthcare. That was the startling conclusion of a major report released earlier this year by the US National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). What it revealed was the extent of the US’s large and growing “health disadvantage”, which shows up as higher rates of disease and injury from birth to age 75 for men and women, rich and poor across all races and ethnicities. Even those with health insurance, high incomes, college educations and healthy lifestyles appear to be sicker than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. The rate of premature births in the US is the highest among the comparison countries and more closely resembles those of sub-Saharan Africa and the cost to the healthcare system is estimated to top $26 billion a year. The obvious question is: Why is the US so unwell? The answer, it turns out, is simple and yet deceptively complex.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Quantum Romance: Wormhole Unites Star-crossed Lovers – (New Scientist – July 26, 2013)
Imagine Romeo and Juliet a hundred years into the future. A new theory of wormholes suggests that these tunnels in space-time emerge via quantum entanglement. Wormholes are a sci-fi staple, but until now there was no sure-fire way to make them using known materials. The theory offers a recipe. The resulting wormholes cannot be used for time-travelling, but there’s at least one way in which they might be used to reunite two star-crossed lovers. See also: Milky Way’s Black Hole Pulling in Gas Cloud.
Astronomer Uses Kepler Telescope’s Data in Hunt for Spacecraft from Other Worlds – (Washington Post – July 23, 2013)
Geoff Marcy is the astronomer at UC Berkeley who found nearly three-quarters of the first 100 planets discovered outside our solar system. But with the hobbled planet-hunting Kepler telescope having just about reached the end of its useful life and reams of data from the mission still left uninvestigated, Marcy began looking in June for more than just new planets. He’s sifting through the data to find alien spacecraft passing in front of distant stars. He’s not kidding — and now he has the funding to do it. Last fall, the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to investigating what it calls the “big questions” — which, unsurprisingly, include “Are we alone?” — awarded Marcy $200,000 to pursue his search for alien civilizations. As far as Marcy, an official NASA researcher for the Kepler mission, is concerned, that question has a clear answer: “The universe is simply too large for there not to be another intelligent civilization out there. Really, the proper question is: How far away is our nearest intelligent neighbor?”
Wall Street’s Exposure to Hacking Laid Bare – (New York Times – July 25, 2013)
A report from the World Federation of Exchanges and an international group of regulators have warned about the vulnerability of stock, commodity and currency exchanges to cybercrime. The report said that hackers were shifting their focus away from stealing money and toward more “destabilizing aims.” In a survey conducted for the report, 89% of the world’s exchanges said that hacking posed a “systemic risk” to global financial markets and 53% of all exchanges said they had experienced a cyberattack during the last year. “A presumption of safety (despite the reach and size of the threat) could open securities markets to a cyber ‘black swan’ event,” the report said. Recently, Nasdaq said that hackers had gained access to the passwords of people using one of its online forums.
Open Course Work – (MIT website – no date)
Is there something you’d like to learn? Something you’ve always wanted to study? If the material is taught at MIT, here’s your chance. MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available (free) to the world and is a permanent MIT activity. View a list of MIT’s most visited courses.
A Chimp-pig Hybrid Origin for Humans? – (PhysOrg – July 3, 2013)
Dr. Eugene McCarthy is a geneticist who has made a career out of studying hybridization in animals. He now curates a biological information website called Macroevolution.net where he has amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that human origins can be best explained by hybridization between pigs and chimpanzees. Extraordinary theories require extraordinary evidence and McCarthy does not disappoint. Rather than relying on genetic sequence comparisons, he instead offers extensive anatomical comparisons, each of which may be individually assailable, but startling when taken together. Why weren’t these conclusions arrived at much sooner? McCarthy suggests it is because of an over-dependence on genetic data among biologists. He argues that humans are probably the result of multiple generations of backcrossing to chimpanzees, which in nucleotide sequence data comparisons would effectively mask any contribution from pig.
Human Hybrids: A Closer Look at the Theory and Evidence – (PhysOrg – July 25, 2013)
There was considerable fallout, both positive and negative, from an earlier PhysOrg story covering the radical pig-chimp hybrid theory put forth by Dr. Eugene McCarthy. As many critics noted, the advancement of scientific knowledge does not require disproving every radical theory that comes along. Lots of incorrect theories exist that cannot, for all practical purposes, be formally disproven. It seems, however, that decent arguments against the hybrid origins theory are surprisingly hard to find, and moreover, the established elders of the field, well, they know it. The editors at PhysOrg decided it would be worthwhile to take a closer look at the objections that were most commonly offered against the hybrid hypothesis. Item by item, the remainder of this article does just that.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Blowing off Steam in China – (New York Times – July 16, 2013)
Here is a 4 minute video showing the after-hours recreation of young, urban Chinese factory workers.
JUST FOR FUN
Home Covered in Beer Cans Morphs into Landmark – (ABC News – July 29, 2013)
A child of the Great Depression, John Milkovisch didn’t throw anything away — not even the empty cans of beer he enjoyed each afternoon with his wife. A lot of beer it was, too. The art center estimates Milkovisch had 50,000 cans that piled up by drinking a six-pack daily over a span of 20 years. So, in the early 1970s when aluminum siding on houses was all the rage, he lugged down the cans he had stored in his attic for years, painstakingly cut open and flattened each one and began to sheath the outside of his home. For 17 months, working from bottom to top, Milkovisch coated the home with cans of Budweiser, Texas Pride, Shiner — whatever brand was on sale. He created long, decorative garlands from beer can tops and hung them along the eaves at the front and sides of his home. Milkovisch passed away in the mid-1980s, but his wife, Mary, continued to live there until her death in the mid-1990s. In the meantime, the neighborhood went from a working middle-class area to today’s condo- and loft-lined upper-class sector. But the home remains a well-known entity. Determined to preserve this accidental piece of folk art, local nonprofit Orange Show Center for Visionary Art bought the property about 10 years ago, began a careful restoration of the house and opened it to the public. See also: Beer House museum brochure.
A FINAL QUOTE–
No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood. – Anonymous
A special thanks to: Kevin Clark, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Abby Porter, 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