Volume 17, Number 10 – 5/31/14

 Volume 17, Number 10 – 5/31/14 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog



  • Scientists report that they have taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — by creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA.
  • After decades of searching, researchers may have finally identified a chemical compound that could be used to study and treat diabetes.
  • Sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. The Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere, and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along.
  • Lab mice fear men but not women – and that’s a big problem for science.

by John L. Petersen


Even though the world’s great literature (both secular and religious) is littered with references to the existence of angels and a myriad of other nonhuman but very sentient entities, and stories abound about their active interaction with humans, the notion that someone can communicate information directly from such a source is still taboo in most of the modern West.

Many of those who dismiss channeling outright won’t even take the time to determine whether the information supposedly communicated from another “dimension” even makes sense or is useful. That position is somewhat like saying, “I’ve never been to China nor met a Chinese person, therefore, even though there are many people who make a pretty strong case that the country and people exist, I refuse to read anything that purports to have come from China – and after all, they are advertised as being communists, and I think communism is bad.”

That is a good way to wind up both uninformed and surprised.

Reading channeled material is even more like our Chinese metaphor. In the same way that you would need to evaluate the missives from Beijing with a good deal of discernment (remember they say there are “good” and “bad” Chinese), so it is with this otherworldly material from a place where we’ve never been – there are good channels . . . and there are charlatans. But the way you decide is to read the stuff and see if it makes sense and holds up. The potential value, of course, is in learning something valuable that originates from a place and perspective that is impossible for you to access (or so it seems).

Take the area of science, for example. If there was a source – any source – that could accurately explain to you two years before anyone else published the same descriptions in the mainline scientific journals the as yet unknown inner workings of physics, biology, astronomy and many other scientific disciplines, , would that be valuable? If that source delivered up these explanations year after year for twenty years . . . and was always right, would you call that source credible? Well, I would.

Lee Carroll

What I’ve just described to you is an angelic being called KRYON whose spokesperson for two decades has been Lee Carroll. There are now thirteen books that describe these extraordinary messages.

KRYON not only talks about science, he describes what is happening to humanity and our planet now. He talks about high probability futures and how, for example, peace in the Middle East will come about. Almost ten years ago KRYON started warning about the coming change in our climate – repeatedly explaining that we needed to begin to prepare for it to get much colder while we had the time. He explained that the changes were part of a regular, cyclical cleansing process that was known as a “water cycle”.

Lee Carroll carries the message of KRYON all over the world, speaking to audiences as large as 5,000 people . . . and fortunately, he’s coming to Berkeley Springs again. Lee has been here twice before and we’re very much looking forward to having KRYON and him with us again.

If you can make it for Sunday, the 29th of June, you should come. KRYON’s message is always substantive, useful and encouraging.

Get complete information here.

Melting Ice

There is a lot a talk about the melting that is being observed at certain places in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Of course there are a number of explanations for this effect but one that is seldom mentioned is the likelihood that a major force driving the melting is undersea volcanos and hydrothermal vents. I looked into this a bit and the estimates of the planet’s submarine volcanos vary from 1 to 3 million. It’s hard to tell how many are expelling super hot gases, magma and heated water because less than one percent of them have been identified. But in any case, big undersea heat sources could well be the source of weather events like El Nino in the Pacific as well as ice melting. One article that I saw theorized that some of the Antarctic melting was from on land volcanos under the ice sheet.

The same can be said for hydrothermal vents. Here’s an article from six years ago that described the discovery of vents found between Greenland and Norway that are spewing jets of pressurized, superheated water at twice the boiling point of water. These kinds of sources would put far more heat into the water than anything transferred from the air.

Boiling Hot Water Found in Frigid Arctic Sea

The top three feet of a chimney nearly 40 feet tall are visible as the arm of a remotely operated vehicle reaches in to sample fluids. The vent is part of the northernmost hydrothermal vent field yet seen and sampled. Credit: Center for Geobiology/U. of Bergen

Many miles inside the Arctic Circle, scientists have found elusive vents of scalding liquid rising out of the seafloor at temperatures that are more than twice the boiling point of water.

The cluster of five hydrothermal vents, also called black smokers, were discovered farther north than any others previously identified. The vents, one of which towers four stories high, are located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Greenland and Norway, more than 120 miles farther north than other known vents.

Remotely operated vehicles photographed the scene as part of an expedition led by Rolf Pedersen, a geologist at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Black smokers have been found in (read more)



Perfect Match: Brazilian Kids Learn English by Video Chatting with Lonely Elderly Americans – (AdFreak – May 7, 2014)
It’s such a great, simple idea: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them? FCB Brazil did just that with its “Speaking Exchange” project for CNA language schools. As seen in the touching case study below, the young Brazilians and older Americans connect via Web chats, and they not only begin to share a language—they develop relationships that enrich both sides culturally and emotionally. The differences in age and background combine to make the interactions remarkable to watch and the participants clearly grow close to one another, to the point where they end up speaking from the heart in a more universal language than English. Article includes video clip.


Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fear – (New York Times – May 7, 2014)
Scientists report that they have taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA. The accomplishment might eventually lead to organisms that can make medicines or industrial products that cells with only the natural genetic code cannot. The scientists behind the work at the Scripps Research Institute have already formed a company to try to use the technique to develop new antibiotics, vaccines and other products, though a lot more work needs to be done before this is practical. The work also gives some support to the concept that life can exist elsewhere in the universe using genetics different from those on Earth. Despite the great diversity of life on Earth, all species use the same genetic code. It consists of four chemical units in DNA, sometimes called nucleotides or bases, that are usually represented by the letters A, C, G and T. The Scripps researchers chemically created two new nucleotides, which they called X and Y. They inserted an X-Y pair into the common bacterium E. coli. The bacteria were able to reproduce normally, though a bit more slowly than usual, replicating the X and Y along with the natural nucleotides.In effect, the bacteria have a genetic code of six letters rather than four, perhaps allowing them to make novel proteins that could function in a completely different way from those created naturally.

Matter Will Be Created from Light within a Year, Claim Scientists – (Guardian – May 18, 2014)
Researchers have worked out how to make matter from pure light and are drawing up plans to demonstrate the feat within the next 12 months. The original idea was written down by two US physicists, Gregory Breit and John Wheeler, in 1934. They worked out that – very rarely – two particles of light, or photons, could combine to produce an electron and its antimatter equivalent, a positron. Electrons are particles of matter that form the outer shells of atoms in the everyday objects around us. At the time they considered the conversion of light into matter impossible in a laboratory. But physicists at Imperial College London claim to have cracked the problem using high-powered lasers and other equipment now available to scientists. “We have shown in principle how you can make matter from light,” said Steven Rose at Imperial. “If you do this experiment, you will be taking light and turning it into matter.” The scientists are not on the verge of a machine that can create everyday objects from a sudden blast of laser energy. The kind of matter they aim to make comes in the form of subatomic particles invisible to the naked eye. For more technical details, see: UK discovery ‘starts race’ to turn light into matter.

Steve Crothers on Failures of Big Bang Cosmology – (Thunderbolts – May 6, 2014)
Scientists using the BICEP2 telescope recently pronounced that they had discovered direct evidence of Einstein gravitational waves and cosmic inflation. The team describes having detected polarizations in the so-called Cosmic Microwave Background, which is described as the afterglow of the theoretical Big Bang explosion. Science media declared the discovery a victory for Big Bang cosmology. However, omitted from the science press releases are countless foundational problems for the Big Bang theory. Stephen Crothers weighs in on the topic. Suffice it to say that Crothers’ views are not aligned with the mainstream thought of current physicists. But that doesn’t address the question of whether they may be accurate, inaccurate or partially accurate and partially inaccurate. For a further discussion of the matter, see Are Stephen Crothers’ claims legitimate? in the Physics Stack Exchange, a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics.


Canines’ Cancer-Sniffing Snouts Showing 90%-Plus Accuracy – (Bloomberg – May 19, 2014)
Which is better at detecting cancer, a laboratory or a Labrador retriever? Consider the talents of Tsunami, a regal-looking dog with attentive eyes and an enthusiastic tail wag for her trainer friends. University of Pennsylvania researchers say she is more than 90% successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples, opening a new window on a disease with no effective test for early detection that kills 14,000 Americans a year. When dogs sniff for cancer, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by a tumor. These chemicals are referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs have been found in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients, as well as in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The most recent findings have spurred increased interest in dog cancer-detection research, including efforts to develop devices that can mimic the animal’s exquisite olfactory system. Dina Zaphiris, a nationally recognized dog trainer who works with canines on federally funded studies in detecting early cancer in humans, is leading the charge for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance of a system that would use the unique olfactory talents of dogs in medical care. A further step in the research process will be to develop an electronic nose that follows nature’s lead in how a canine snout works.

Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death Tied to Protein Overproduction – (EurekAlert – May 27, 2014)
A genetic variant linked to sudden cardiac death leads to protein overproduction in heart cells, Johns Hopkins scientists report. Unlike many known disease-linked variants, this one lies not in a gene but in so-called noncoding DNA, a growing focus of disease research. The discovery also adds to scientific understanding of the causes of sudden cardiac death and of possible ways to prevent it, the researchers say. “Traditionally, geneticists have studied gene variants that cause disease by producing an abnormal protein,” says Aravinda Chakravarti, Ph.D., a professor of medicine, pediatrics, molecular biology and genetics, and biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We think there will turn out to be many DNA variants that, like this one, cause disease by making too much or too little of a normal protein.”

Ageing: The Girls Who Never Grow Older – (BBC News – May 20, 2014)
A handful of girls seem to defy one of the biggest certainties in life: ageing. Here’s a report on the families wrestling with a condition they can’t explain, and the scientist who believes that these children could hold the key to immortality. Scientists have published several hundred theories of ageing, and have tied it to a wide variety of biological processes. But no one yet understands how to integrate all of this disparate information. Richard Walker, a researcher specializing in aging, now 74, believes that the key to ending ageing may lie in a rare disease that doesn’t even have a real name, “Syndrome X”. He has identified four girls with this condition, marked by what seems to be a permanent state of infancy, a dramatic developmental arrest. He suspects that the disease is caused by a glitch somewhere in the girls’ DNA.

Transistors That Wrap around Tissues and Morph with Them – (Kurzweil AI – May 14, 2014)
Electronic devices that become soft when implanted inside the body and can deploy to grip 3-D objects, such as large tissues, nerves and blood vessels have been created by researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Tokyo. These biologically adaptive, flexible transistors might one day help doctors learn more about what is happening inside the body, and also could be used to stimulate the body for treatments. The research is one of the first demonstrations of transistors that can change shape and maintain their electronic properties after they are implanted in the body, said Jonathan Reeder, a graduate student in materials science and engineering and lead author of the work.

DNA-based Research May Have Unveiled the Long-sought Diabetes Treatment – (Technology Review – May 23, 2014)
After decades of searching, researchers may have finally identified a chemical compound that could be used to study and treat diabetes. Researchers have long known that the body carries an enzyme that breaks down insulin inside cells and helps regulate the body’s response to sugars—a process that goes awry in type 2 diabetes. Genetic studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have mutations in the gene that encodes a protein called insulin-degrading enzyme, or IDE. David Liu and his team at Harvard have identified a chemical compound that can inhibit IDE, and they have shown that the compound increases the amount of insulin in the bloodstreams of both normal mice and ones made obese by an unhealthy diet. Liu and his team developed the new compound using a novel method called DNA-templated synthesis which allows researchers without a lot of expensive equipment to more quickly evaluate all the potential small molecule interactions that could occur from a library of building blocks. “A single student with only minimal equipment and infrastructure can evaluate millions of potential small molecule-protein interactions in one to two weeks,” says Liu. Furthermore, DNA-templated synthesis can produce structures that are often not found in chemical libraries used by many pharmaceutical companies, which may be why the Harvard team was able to identify an IDE-controlling drug when so many had failed in the past. The newly identified IDE inhibitor could be the starting point for developing a powerful new drug for type 2 diabetes. Another compound was previously known to inhibit IDE, but it had unwanted side effects, and it survived for only a few minutes in the body. The new inhibitor lasts for hours, says Liu.


Kalte Sonne (Cold Sun) – Many Scientists Now Forecast Cooling, Perhaps an Ice Age – (Ice Age Now – May 20, 2014)
Many parts of the world are still relatively warm because 2014-2015 is a new El Niño period, says Professor Fritz Vahrenholt, author of the German book “Kalte Sonn.”  But by the end of the present solar cycle (around 2020) the cooling will increase. Rarely has the sun been as strong as during the past five decades, says Professor Vahrenholt. However, a few years ago the tide turned and the sun ended its hyperactive phase. Hardly anyone had expected the sudden turn-around. Solar physicist Leif Svalgaard of the Stanford University expressed his surprise in 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting thusly: “None of us alive have ever seen seeking a weak cycle. So we will learn something.” Several studies make it increasingly clear that this is only the beginning! says Vahrenholt. The sun will lose in the coming decades in strength. In fact, this is now almost consensus among solar physicists. The article notes some of those studies.

Honeybees Abandoning Hives and Dying Due to Insecticide Use – (Guardian – May 9, 2014)
The mysterious vanishing of honeybees from hives can be directly linked to insecticide use, according to new research from Harvard University. The scientists showed that exposure to two neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used class of insecticide, lead to half the colonies studied dying, while none of the untreated colonies saw their bees disappear. “We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering ‘colony collapse disorder’ [CCD] in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said Chensheng Lu, an expert on environmental exposure biology at Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study. The loss of honeybees in many countries in the last decade has caused widespread concern because about three-quarters of the world’s food crops require pollination.

Scientists Discover How Events in Space Effect Climate on Earth – (Washington’s Blog – May 22, 2014)
Our understanding how much the sun and other things occurring in space effect Earth’s climate is still in its infancy because – as NASA explains – interactions between the sun, sources of cosmic radiation and the Earth are very complicated, and takes an interdisciplinary team of solar physicists, chemists and others to quantify what is really going on. Indeed, scientists have been stunned in recent years by the following  discoveries (among others): Flares from the sun change the rate of radioactive decay of elements on Earth. Sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. The Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along. And there is even some evidence that can solar activity cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on Earth.

Arctic Sea Ice Littered with Tiny Bits of Marine Trash, Plastics – (AND – May 25, 2014)
Dartmouth scientist Rachel Obbard was looking at samples of Arctic sea ice for small organisms when something else caught her eye: tiny, bright-colored bits and pieces and miniature string-like objects that did not seem to belong. Those small specks turned out to be a type of pollution known as microplastics. Their presence in sea ice collected from the central Arctic Ocean showed that some of the vast quantities of garbage and pollution floating in the world’s seas has traveled to the northernmost waters. “I was kind of shocked. I said, ‘This shouldn’t be here in such a remote place,’ ” Obbard said. Worse yet, that sea ice holding the small bits of trash is thinning and likely to shed them back into the water, where they can be ingested by fish, birds and mammals, said a study by Obbard and fellow scientists that was published online in the scientific journal Earth’s Future. Extrapolating the findings from the examined cores and factoring in the ongoing transformation of thick multiyear ice to thinner, single-year ice, Obbard and her colleagues found that a staggering amount of plastic and synthetic trash could be released in coming years into Arctic waters.


Glasses-free 3D Projector – (Kurzweil AI – May 20, 2014)
Over the past three years, researchers in the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab have steadily refined a design for a glasses-free, multiperspective, 3D video screen, which they hope could provide a cheaper, more practical alternative to holographic video in the short term. Now they’ve designed a projector that exploits this technology, which they’ll unveil at this year’s Siggraph, the major conference in computer graphics. The projector can also improve the resolution and contrast of conventional video, which could make it an attractive transitional technology as content producers gradually learn to harness the potential of multiperspective 3D. Multiperspective 3D differs from the stereoscopic 3D now common in movie theaters in that the depicted objects disclose new perspectives as the viewer moves about them, just as real objects would. This means it might have applications in areas like collaborative design and medical imaging, as well as entertainment — an alternative to head-mounted virtual-reality devices.

Google Glass Adaptation Opens the Universe to Deaf Students – (Brigham Young University – May 27, 2014)
Ordinarily, deaf students are left in the dark when they visit a planetarium. With the lights off, they can’t see the ASL interpreter who narrates their tour of outer space. With the lights on, they can’t see the constellations of stars projected overhead. That’s why a group at Brigham Young University launched the “Signglasses” project. Professor Mike Jones and his students have developed a system to project the sign language narration onto several types of glasses – including Google Glass. By sheer coincidence, the only two deaf students to ever take Professor Jones’ computer science class – Kei Ikeda and David Hampton – signed up just as the National Science Foundation funded Jones’ signglasses research. Soon after the Sorenson Impact Foundation provided funding to expand the scope of the project. The BYU team tests the system during field trip visits by high school students at Jean Messieu School for the Deaf. One finding from the tests is that the signer should be displayed in the center of one lens. That surprised the researchers, who assumed there would be a preference to have video displayed at the top, the way Google Glass normally does it. Deaf participants preferred to look straight through the signer when they returned their focus to the planetarium show. The team is also working with researchers at Georgia Tech to explore signglasses as a literacy tool.


This Sustainable Furniture Is Made By a Veteran-Only Workforce – (Fast Company – May 27, 2014)
EcoVet repurposes old trailers into high-design tables. The people doing the repurposing are all veterans. To date, 28 vets work the factory floor in Springdale, Arkansas. There, they receive training for a new mission: saving old semi trailers, primarily from Walmart, that are slated to be decommissioned, crushed, and dropped in a landfill. The trailer floor, usually oak or maple, is reclaimed for high-end, custom-made furniture, such as a mod Adirondack chair that sells for $850. Some pieces range up to $12,000. The trailer’s steel and aluminum are recycled, or sold to be used as skirting–a modification that increases the efficiency of trucks still on the road. Plywood walls go to Habitat for Humanity. The tires find a new life as patches at tire shops. No waste. But the work force is EcoVet’s primary reclamation project. College-aged veterans, especially males, are looking for work, but suffer an unemployment rate of 24%, almost 10 points higher than their civilian counterparts. That’s ironic, says to the company’s co-founder, Drake Vanhooser, because veterans are invaluable. “They’ve been taught how to get things done,” he says. “They all have the skill of being adaptable.” When EcoVet first started in 2011, none of the workers knew how to make furniture. They learned.


A New Solution for Storing Hydrogen Fuel for Alternative Energy – (EurekAlert – May 21, 2014)
Although a promising alternative to conventional energy sources, hydrogen has posed a number of technological challenges that scientists are still overcoming. One of those issues has to do with storage. Previously, researchers were focused on developing hydrogen-containing liquids or compressing it in gas form. Now, solid storage is showing potential for holding hydrogen in a safe, stable and efficient way. In the latest development on this front, Demirci’s team looked to a new kind of material. Umit B. Demirci and his French colleagues have figured out a way to make a novel crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and with only traces of unwanted by-products.


New “Dual Carbon” Battery Charges 20 Times Faster Than Li-ion – (GizMag – May 19, 2014)
Japanese company Power Japan Plus has announced the development and planned mass-production of “Ryden,” a disruptive carbon battery that can be charged 20 times faster than an ordinary lithium-ion cell. The battery, which is cheap to manufacture, safe, and environmentally friendly, could be ideal to improve the range and charging times of electric cars. According to the company, their technology would allow you to charge the battery of a Nissan Leaf in 12 minutes instead of four hours or charge a top of the line Tesla Model S 85 kWh battery in about 42 minutes. Power Japan also claims that their battery has energy density comparable to state of the art lithium-ion, with manufacturing costs that are equal or lower. This is because carbon, which is widely available in nature, is the only active ingredient, and the batteries can fit into a standard 18650 cell (the one used in laptops and electric cars), requiring no significant change to existing manufacturing lines. Further characteristics that make it particularly suitable for electric cars are a long lifetime of 3,000 charge/discharge cycles (Li-ion’s life is closer to 1,000 cycles) and the ability to discharge fully without the risk of short-circuiting and damaging the battery. Moreover, the battery doesn’t heat up, so it wouldn’t require the extensive cooling systems that appear in current electric cars.

When Will Self-driving Cars Become the Norm? – (SmartPlanet
Self-driving cars will be an estimated $87 billion market by 2030, but even then fully autonomous vehicles that shuttle around passengers as they read the news or take a nap will remain elusive, according to a report by Lux Research. The opportunity will be in lower level technology that, while still advanced, won’t quite be at the fully autonomous stage. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and collision avoidance braking will be the mainstay, accounting for 92% of autonomous vehicles in 2030, Lux says. The more advanced cars – like those demonstrated by Google and Mercedes-Benz – using high-resolution special maps will only have an 8% share by 2030. Lux Research predicts the fully autonomous “level 4” car will not yet be on the market. As the technology advances closer to unmanned cars, questions we’ve never had to think about will emerge. For example, who is responsible for a driverless car that is speeding or runs a red light? Google has argued that the ticket, which to date has not occurred, should go to Google because the decisions are not being made by the individual.


Seed Industry Structure – (Cornucopia – September, 2013)
Dr. Phil Howard, the creator of the popular Who Owns Organics infographic, has developed an updated set of graphics detailing corporate consolidation in the global seed industry. Since the 2008 economic downturn, Dr. Howard notes that “there have been more than 70 seed company acquisitions by the top eight firms, as well as a number of biotech company acquisitions and joint ventures.” Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta now control over half the global market – a dramatic shift since 1996 when the top three corporations in the global seed industry controlled 22% of the industry. Dr. Phil Howard is an Associate Professor at Michigan State in the University’s Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies program. Dr. Howard provides additional interesting information on the structure of the organic and food industry at his site.

Total Ban on GM Corn in France Follows Popular Opposition – (Common Dreams – May 5, 2014)
The French government has officially banned any strain of genetically modified corn from growing in its soil. The prohibition is effective immediately and comes as France’s top court upheld and the Senate confirmed an existing ban on all current and future varieties. Within parliament, the political push for the ban came from the Socialist, Green, and Communist parties, who invoked concerns over the environmental impacts of genetically modified crops. However, the real pressure emerged from widespread protests against GMOs in France, Europe’s largest grain producer, where a majority of people have long opposed the introduction of GMO agriculture.

Turns Out Your “Hormone-Free” Milk Is Full of Sex Hormones – (Mother Jones – April 10, 2014)
Remember the backlash against the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH)? Many commercial dairies now market their milk as free of this synthetic hormone, but that label may not tell you everything you need to know. Thanks to the way it is produced nowadays, milk from a commercial dairy is likely to contain much higher levels of natural sex hormones than you’d find in milk from a traditional (pre-industrial) dairy herd. And that could pose an rbGH-type problem. Some research suggests that elevated levels of these hormones may affect childhood development and raise a person’s cancer risk. “The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking,” according to Harvard researcher Ganmaa Davaasambuu, an expert on milk-related illnesses. Davaasambu found that milk consumption strongly correlated with the rates of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers in 40 countries. But if milk does increase the risk of developing certain cancers, Davaasambuu wondered, then why aren’t those cancers more common in traditional cow herding societies? Searching for answers, Sato, her Japanese colleague, took his team to Mongolia, where breast and prostate cancer rates are low. They discovered that whole milk from Japanese Holsteins contains far more estrogen and progesterone (67% and 650%, respectively) than whole milk from Mongolian cows. The reason for that is simple.

Would You Eat ‘Eco-friendly’ Meat Created from Stem Cells? – (Kurzweil AI – May 23, 2014)
Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands and coauthor Johannes Tramper describe a potential meat manufacturing process, starting with a vial of cells taken from a cell bank and ending with a pressed cake of minced meat. The rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, in addition to animal suffering associated with factory farming. Fortunately, it’s already possible to make meat from stem cells, as demonstrated by  Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht University who created the first lab-grown hamburger in 2013. There will be challenges when it comes to maintaining a continuous stem cell line and producing cultured meat that’s cheaper than meat obtained in the usual way, they say. However, “cultured meat has great moral promise,” write van der Weele and Tramper. “Worries about its unnaturalness might be met through small-scale production methods that allow close contact with cell-donor animals, thereby reversing feelings of alienation. From a technological perspective, ‘village-scale’ production is also a promising option.”


Why U.S. Nuclear Missile Silos Rely on Decades-Old Technology – (Slate – April 28, 2014)
You’d probably expect to encounter all sorts of crazy technology in a U.S. Air Force nuclear silo. One you might not expect: floppy disks. The government built facilities for the Minuteman missiles in the 1960s and 1970s, and though the missiles have been upgraded numerous times to make them safer and more reliable, the bases themselves haven’t changed much. And there isn’t a lot of incentive to upgrade them. ICBM forces commander Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein told a CBS reporter that the bases have extremely tight IT and cyber security, because they’re not Internet-connected and they use such old hardware and software. Weinstein explained, “Those older systems provide us some, I will say, huge safety, when it comes to some cyber issues that we currently have in the world.”

Pentagon Considers Using Electricity to Stimulate Troops’ Brains – (Boston Globe – February 18, 2014)
For some modern soldiers, caffeine is just not enough to stay vigilant, especially for the growing ranks of digital warriors who must spend hours monitoring spy drone footage and other streams of surveillance data. So the Pentagon is exploring a novel way to extend troops’ attention spans and sharpen their reaction times: stimulate the brain with low levels of electricity. Commanders in search of more effective tools than the ubiquitous cups of coffee and energy drinks are testing medical treatments designed to treat such brain disorders as depression to determine whether they can also improve the attentiveness of sleep-deprived but otherwise healthy troops. Early experiments using “noninvasive” brain stimulation have been performed on several dozen volunteers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The results show the technique improves both alertness and acuity, researchers say. “We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently,” R. Andy McKinley, a biomedical engineer who oversees the research, said in an interview. Project officials want to study the effects further — especially to determine whether it is safe to stimulate the brain regularly — but said there have been few side effects, such as some skin irritation from the electrodes, as well as mild but brief headaches. They expressed confidence that the work could ultimately result in a pair of easy-to-apply electrodes becoming standard issue for some military personnel.


Colonel Wilkerson: Oligarchy Controls U.S. War-Making – (Washington’s Blog – May 13, 2014)
Consummate insider Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson – former chief of staff to Colin Powell, the guy who wrote Powell’s famous speech on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and now distinguished adjunct professor of Government and Public Policy at William & Mary – notes: “Who’s behind the White House, and who’s therefore behind U.S. foreign policy, more or less? I think the answer today is the oligarchs. Which would be the same answer, – incidentally, ironically, if you will – for Putin in Russia. The people who own the wealth, the people who therefore have the power and who more or less (and I’m not being too facetious here) buy the president and thus buy American foreign policy.” Wilkerson points out that war profiteers can make a financial killing simply by stirring up volatility. In some respects this shadow behind the power that makes money off war period – no matter who’s the belligerent – makes money off that volatility now. Especially with computers that are able to assist them in doing so. Like currency manipulation, for example, or just general speculation. With computers, you can do it at lightning speed. And you can do it in a nanosecond. And you can make billions in that nanosecond. And you don’t care about what you’re doing to the real economy because you’re raking in the dough. In other words, destabilizing countries and creating chaos can make modern war profiteers rich. Article includes video clip of original interview.

Jury Nullification – (TruthOut – May 25, 2014)
Did you know that, no matter the evidence, if a jury feels a law is unjust, it is permitted to “nullify” the law rather than finding someone guilty? Basically, jury nullification, according to the Cornell University Law School, is a jury’s way of saying, “By the letter of the law, the defendant is guilty, but we also disagree with that law, so we vote to not punish the accused.” Ultimately, the verdict serves as an acquittal. Haven’t heard of jury nullification? Don’t feel bad; you’re far from alone. If anything, your unfamiliarity is by design. Generally, defense lawyers are not allowed to even mention jury nullification as a possibility during a trial because judges prefer juries to follow the general protocols rather than delivering independent verdicts. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court has routinely agreed that judges have no obligation to inform juries about jury nullification. Paradoxically, jury nullification is permitted to exist as an option to all juries, yet this option cannot be discussed in most courtrooms. A few years ago, Julian Heicklen handed out pamphlets to passersby on jury nullification to people outside of a federal courthouse. While the former professor was merely attempting to educate people about how the jury system works, he was charged with jury tampering. The prosecution labeled Heicklen “a significant and important threat to our judicial system,” but the judge ultimately disagreed and dismissed the case. Nonetheless, the fact that this case went to court at all shows how those in the legal system are willing to intimidate those who vocalize this loophole. See also this New York Times article: Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No.


Homeless in High Tech’s Shadow – (Bill Moyers – April 9, 2013)
California’s Silicon Valley is a microcosm of America’s new extremes of wealth and poverty. Business is better than it’s been in a decade, with companies like Facebook, Google and Apple minting hundreds of new tech millionaires. But not far away, the homeless are building tent cities along a creek in the city of San Jose. Homelessness has risen 20% in the past two years, food stamp participation is at a 10-year high, and the average income for Hispanics, who make up a quarter of the area’s population, fell to a new low of about $19,000 a year — in a place where the average rent is $2000 a month. See also 7 Myths About Homeless People Debunked from the Huffington Post on May 3, 2014.


A Habitable Environment on Martian Volcano? – (Brown University – May 27, 2014)
The slopes of a giant Martian volcano, once covered in glacial ice, may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on the Red Planet, according to new research led by Brown University geologists. Nearly twice as tall as Mount Everest, Arsia Mons is the third tallest volcano on Mars and one of the largest mountains in the solar system. This new analysis of the landforms surrounding Arsia Mons shows that eruptions along the volcano’s northwest flank happened at the same time that a glacier covered the region around 210 million years ago. The heat from those eruptions would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes — bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube. The ice-covered lakes of Arsia Mons would have held hundreds of cubic kilometers of meltwater, according to calculations by Kat Scanlon, a graduate student at Brown who led the work. And where there’s water, there’s the possibility of a habitable environment. “This is interesting because it’s a way to get a lot of liquid water very recently on Mars,” Scanlon said. While 210 million years ago might not sound terribly recent, the Arsia Mons site is much younger than the habitable environments turned up by Curiosity and other Mars rovers. Those sites are all likely older than 2.5 billion years.


Yanko Design – Form Beyond Function – (Yanko website – no date)
Here’s a website that showcases all sorts of innovative products. Just take a quick scroll-through and see what’s on the horizon. For example: The Stitch Pen – Imagine a pen that mends your clothing by printing fabric! The ripped portion gets a brand new printed patch of the same fabric and a quick-fix repair. With fabric pen you can select the type of fabric material by percentage of which your clothing is made of. Scan the fabric’s color with the pattern and print a patch of the exact material on the damaged area. The printed patch attaches itself to loose threads and masks itself into the pattern of your clothing. Or this one: New Hippiemobile – It’s hard not to compare Eduardo Galvani’s Nimbus concept to the iconic VW bus, but one look and you know it’s been designed to go a lot of places the VW couldn’t. Under that retro styling is a hybrid lithium-ion battery powered engine cranking out 180hp with selectable 4WD, as well as a gas generator and solar cells on the roof to provide supplemental energy and greater range. Panoramic windows, comfy stadium seats, climate control and top-of-the-line entertainment system make it the ultimate adventure van!

Solar Roadways Indiegogo Video – (YouTube – April 21, 2014)
This is an Indeigogo clip for solar road-paving panels. The capabilities embedded in this product are brilliant. The larger market may not be ready for this product yet, but it’s wonderful to see that it is fairly far along in development and will be there to meet other nascent technologies on the near horizon. (Editor’s note: I wish my driveway were paved with these panels!)


Brain-scanning Devices Will Revolutionize Advertising – (Dezeen – May 15, 2014)
Data collected via Google Glass could soon be used to deliver advertising tailored to the wearer’s taste, mood, and location, according to Tony Gaitatzis, a leading figure in the wearable technology sector. “The potential is incredible and hyper-targeted to the point where it is no longer advertising,” said Gaitatzis, who is chief technology officer at PND, a company developing wearable technology that monitors the human brain. PND is developing PND Wearable – a “personal neuro device” that gathers information on the wearer’s moods, emotions and health. This data could be used by advertisers to target wearers of Google Glass head-mounted computers. When combined with the geolocation features built into Glass, the devices could work out how wearers feel about brands they are engaging with, Gaitatzis explained. Google – which has made billions of dollars from contextual advertising on traditional web platforms – doesn’t allow staff or partners to mention the potential use of Glass for advertising. But he said the device could “absolutely” be used for that purpose. He said, “If you can get the individual’s personal taste coupled with all the other information you can get now with these sensors such as location, time, their social media – oh man, the potential is incredible.”


Secret Money – (Vox – May 9, 2014)
“Sunlight,” Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis famously argued, “is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” It’s a powerful metaphor: if the people know what people in government and industry are doing, they’ll be spurred to action. But when it’s been used to fight influence-peddling, sunlight has been losing for years. But maybe we’ve got this all wrong. Maybe the problem isn’t too little information about donors and donations, but too much. That’s the argument of Yale law professors Ian Ayres and Bruce Ackerman. They’ve been arguing for a decade that the key to fixing the campaign finance system isn’t to strengthen mandatory disclosure rules but to abandon them in favor of a system where all donations are secret — especially to the recipients. It sounds batty until you realize the authors’ key insight: for a quid pro quo to work, the paid-off party doesn’t just have to receive a kickback. They have to know they’ve received a kickback. In the current system, where you donate to campaigns by giving them your name and credit card number, or sending them a check with your name and signature, that’s trivially easy to figure out. It only takes a few keystrokes for Barack Obama to find out that Hollywood producer and Democratic super-donor Jeffrey Katzenberg maxed out to him in the 2012 primary and general elections. But if we were to make donations secret, that link would be broken. Katzenberg could tell Obama that he donated, but there’d be no way he could prove it. And next time Katzenberg needed an invite to an administration gathering to secure a business deal with Chinese officials, White House officials wouldn’t know if he’s actually someone they need to keep happy. Whatever special privileges he currently enjoys with the administration would greatly diminish in importance, if not vanish completely. “It’s harder to buy influence when the candidate doesn’t know who paid for it,” Ayres tells me. (Editor’s note: This is an interesting idea, but we are far from certain that the secrecy would be possible to enforce. There are easy ways to get around it and there would be substantial incentive for both the donor and the recipient to do so.)

The Shape of Society is Determined by Farming Methods in Antiquity – (Forbes – May 9, 2014)
This is the conclusion from a research project recently done in China: that they way in which farming was done in antiquity, or at least in the past, has had an influence on how the society is today. Specifically the researchers looked at the difference in wheat farming and rice farming areas and measured the seeming willingness to be social, to cooperate, in each area. And they found a difference: wheat farming, being rain fed, required less cooperation than rice farming with its water management. The differing degrees of willingness to cooperate still persisted in the societies where each crop was prevalent, long after most people were no longer working on the land. To test their theory, the scientists assessed known measures of individualism and collectivism in 1,000 people from different regions of China where rice and wheat are grown. The article then goes on to point out that this is not really a new finding and it’s not really about the crops but about the water management. (Editor’s note: But despite not being a “new” discovery, it does provide food for consideration: Why is it that, across many centuries and many different cultures, people choose to behave in ways that are more independent than interdependent when interdependence is not forced upon them by external necessity?)

Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance – (Wired – June 13, 2013)
The programs of the past decade can be characterized as “proximate surveillance,” in which the government attempted to use technology to directly monitor communication themselves. The programs of this decade mark the transition to “oblique surveillance,” in which the government more often just goes to the places where information has been accumulating on its own, such as email providers, search engines, social networks, and telecoms. As James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney, notes: Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ”nearly 10,000”. As Supreme Court Justice Breyer elaborates: The complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.

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

The Women Living in Chernobyl’s Toxic Wasteland – (Telegraph – November 8, 2012)
Decades after Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster, despite the severely contaminated ground, government objections and the deaths of many fellow ‘self-settlers’, a community of determined babushkas remains. Some 1,200 returnees, called ‘self-settlers’, most over the age of 48, made their way back in the first few years after the 1986 accident, in defiance of the authorities’ legitimate concerns. For despite the self-settlers’ deep love of their ancestral homes, it’s a fact that the soil, air and water here in what is now known as the Exclusion Zone, or Zone of Alienation, are among the most heavily contaminated on earth. As of 2012, 230 or so self-settlers remain, scattered about in eerily silent villages that are ghostly but also somehow charming. About 80% of the surviving self-settlers are women in their seventies and eighties, creating a unique world of babushkas, to use a Russian word that means ‘grandmother’ but also refers to ‘old countrywomen’. Why would they choose to live on this deadly land? Are they unaware of the risks, crazy enough to ignore them, or both? These are reasonable questions for Westerners who might stand in a grocery-shop aisle debating whether to pay the extra £2 for organic almond butter. The babushkas see their lives, and the risks they run, decidedly differently. For them, it’s about home, the land that they belong to as much as it belongs to them and community. See also: info and trailer for a documentary film, The Babushkas of Chernobyl and see a recent New York Times article, “Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe” which details the construction project to encapsulate the exploded nuclear reactor.

Lab Mice Fear Men But Not Women, And That’s a Big Problem for Science – (The Verge – April 28, 2014)
Historically, biological and medical research has largely depended on rodents, which provide scientists with everything from cells and organs to behavioral data. That’s why a new study in which researchers found that mice actually fear men, but not women, has the potential to be so disruptive. It might mean that a number of researchers have published mouse studies in which their results reflect this male-induced stress effect — and they know nothing about it. For example, “If you’re doing a liver cell study, the cells came from a rat that was sacrificed either by a man or a woman,” says Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University and lead author of the study. As a result, “its stress levels would be in very different states.” This, he says, could have an effect on the functioning of the liver cell in that later experiment. Further experiments showed that the rodents also had increased body temperatures and levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, in response to the smell of men. And the effect wasn’t just prompted by human males, either. Rats and mice “are afraid of the smell of males of any species,” Mogil says, because the mice in this study reacted to the smell of male dogs, guinea pigs, and cats as well. See also: The Failing Animal Research Paradigm for Human Disease.


Squirrel and Eagle – (YouTube – March 15, 2014)
Superb cinematography. Brilliant editing. See for yourself.


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

A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, Diane Petersen, 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

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