FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- The earth’s ozone layer is slowly repairing itself.
- 64 Countries require some degree of GMO labeling; the US is not one of them.
- Check out a gorgeous sports car that runs on saltwater. Seriously.
- Read an article that follows the path of the stolen credit card data from big box stores.
by John L. Petersen
John Petersen: The Emerging New World
I’m giving a Transition Talk here in Berkeley Springs on the 15th of November on the underlying dynamics that are shaping the new world that is emerging. I hope you can come.
For many years now I have been thinking that there must be some indications within the character of the system within which we live that point toward the likely (or possible) ways in which this whole paradigm shift plays out. It’s an interesting idea that, it turns out, has some surprising substance to it.
Others have described the transition/emergence process as being holonic – including aspects of the past while transcending into new space. Even there one finds clues about the prospective future: some of it will seem familiar with the past we have experienced. Although possible, a dramatic, asteroid strike-like event that changes everything overnight is neither likely nor something for which we can effectively plan, so we’re left with considering somewhat manageable shifts.
With that in mind, there are a number of substantial indicators of how large social systems effect state changes that cast a rather bright light on the pathway ahead. I’ll give you a hint: think “as below, so above” and focus on the behavior of microorganisms. There are, as well, other models that describe social system emergence that are very interesting in this context.
So, for this talk we’ll look at a number of these frameworks and try to paint the outlines of a picture of where we are headed in this “largest in the history of the planet” shift into a really different operating space.
If you can make it happen, come to our town for a pretty fall weekend and we’ll consider together the future of all of us.
Click here for complete information on when and where.
Larry Dossey in December
New York Times best-selling author Dr. Larry Dossey will be with us for our December Transition Talk. Larry is one of those authors who always ends up on Oprah and those other big TV and radio shows when he writes a new book because the subjects are so interesting and important.
He’ll talk to us about ONE MIND: How Our Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters. The current view of consciousness is that it is produced by the brain and is confined to it. In contrast, the great wisdom traditions affirm that there is a collective, universal mind, of which all individual minds are a part. This image of consciousness has been affirmed by recent scientific evidence suggesting that conscious is nonlocal – that it is infinite in space and time, therefore immortal, united, and one.
Dr. Dossey will examine the implications of this emerging view of the mind for health, healing, and human welfare. He will show that we are arriving at a view of consciousness that transcends death and annihilation, and that portends a majestic, new view of what it means to be human.
I promise you that you will find his presentation extraordinarily provocative. Larry always looks at the deep, rich character of the essential nature of our consciousness and our experience on this planet. His powerful books in the past have shown, from a scientific basis, how prayer works, what dreams are about, how thoughts effect situations at a distance and how everything is connected.
Plan to be with us Saturday, December 6th to hear Larry Dossey.
Click here for complete information on when and where.
The Coming Magnetic Pole Shift is Accelerating
A recent scientific study reported that the decrease in the earth’s magnetic field is progressing ten times faster than anticipated. This video from Ben Davidson of Suspicious 0bservers gives a good background on what’s happening and what the implications could be. You should watch it.
Siri’s Inventors Are Building a Radical New AI That Does Anything You Ask
The biggest technological breakthrough idling out on our horizon – and necessarily getting closer each day – is strong artificial intelligence (AI). Strong AI is such a disruptive capability because it produces computer capabilities that begin to act like humans. These agents (you could have an unlimited number of them), could run around like a human researcher (or assistant), finding information, communicating with others, making decisions, etc., all to accomplish a particular job that they had been given. You could assign 100 (or 1000), of them to a specific job and they would all cooperate together in ways that are impossible to imagine within today’s world.
One of the big issues is developing an effective agent/human interface. You really should be able to talk to your agents like you talk to anyone else, don’t you think? Well, they’re getting closer to that, and the mother of that potential capability is Siri – the iPhone app that answers questions and does some things for you.
When Apple announced the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011, the headlines were not about its speedy A5 chip or improved camera. Instead they focused on an unusual new feature: an intelligent assistant, dubbed Siri. At first Siri, endowed with a female voice, seemed almost human in the way she understood what you said to her and responded, an advance in artificial intelligence that seemed to place us on a fast track to the Singularity. She was brilliant at fulfilling certain requests, like “Can you set the alarm for 6:30?” or “Call Diane’s mobile phone.” And she had a personality: If you asked her if there was a God, she would demur with deft wisdom. “My policy is the separation of spirit and silicon,” she’d say.
Over the next few months, however, Siri’s limitations became apparent. Ask her to book a plane trip and she would point to travel websites—but she wouldn’t give flight options, let alone secure you a seat. Ask her to buy a copy of Lee Child’s new book and she would draw a blank, despite the fact that Apple sells it. Though Apple has since extended Siri’s powers—to make an OpenTable restaurant reservation, for example—she still can’t do something as simple as booking a table on the next available night in your schedule. She knows how to check your calendar and she knows how to use Open¬Table. But putting those things together is, at the moment, beyond her.
Now a small team of engineers at a stealth startup called Viv Labs claims to be on the verge of realizing an advanced form of AI that removes those limitations. Whereas Siri can only perform tasks that Apple engineers explicitly implement, this new program, they say, will be able to teach itself, giving it almost limitless capabilities. In time, they assert, their creation will be able to use your personal preferences and a near-infinite web of connections to answer almost any query and perform almost any function. Read the whole article.
Scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA
While we’re speaking of the capability to learn and remember, I’m reminded of this piece from earlier this year where scientists found that DNA can transmit memories generationally. That’s interesting at face value, but I was wondering what the other messages here might be.
In particular, it caught my attention again because I have recently read an extraordinary book, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature, by Stephen Harrod Buhner that was talking about a similar activity in a much smaller context. Buhner (who writes like an angel), made an amazing case for the intelligence of plants, starting at microbial level.
Did you know that bacteria can pass memories down through generations . . . and thereby learn about changing situations in order to change their responses and then communicate that knowledge to other plants (of all species)? Did you know that they can generate hallucinogens when they need to innovate? You probably didn’t. Neither did I.
So, if microbes can do it, it is not that surprising that humans can as well.
But, (and this is a bit of a reach), maybe we’re also seeing here some of the mechanism of reincarnation peeking through. If little kids remember previous life situations (that can be literally confirmed) – how does that happen? DNA? Probably.
We’ll explore this further in my Transition Talk on the 15th of November. Come if you can.
Read the whole article here.
Tomorrow’s Cities: The Zoo Where the Humans are Enclosed – (BBC News – October 15, 2014)
The 21st Century is going to be marked by global urbanization – by 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. New buildings will help define our future cities, but what do people want from them? A recent survey from design company Sasaki asked people from six different US cities what they loved and hated about their urban environment. It revealed a passion for old buildings – 57% of those surveyed looked at old buildings when walking down the street, compared with 15% who admired skyscrapers. Only 17% wanted more shiny, iconic buildings. The BBC spoke to a series of architects and technologists about some of the more unusual buildings that might populate our future cities. None are quite what you might expect. For example, a zoo in Denmark, still at the concept stage, based on a philosophy of having only social animals. A lot of people associate zoos with a lonesome tiger encaged in a small box, going nuts from boredom and claustrophobia. But when you have a social zoo, you can actually have a big group of animals living together in a habitat that resembles their normal habitat. That sounded like an interesting starting point because it means that as a visitor you’d find yourself way outnumbered by the animals and not the other way around.
Health Tech: When Does an App Need Regulating? – (BBC News – October 13, 2014)
These days you’ve got more computing power in your pocket than was available to astronauts on the Apollo 8 as it headed for the moon in 1969. Among the many things your phone can do, apparently, is look after your health. Apple’s new Healthkit has punctuated the fact that this tech has gone mainstream. You can measure steps, calories, and heart rate, and this is just for starters. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are filled with devices that note’this is not intended to be used as a medical device’. But is that enough? Where does the line between glorified pedometer and healthcare technology lie? If you found yourself pressing your smartphone to your face in the belief that the light waves from the app would cure your acne you’re probably already familiar with the problem. The makers of those (absolutely useless) apps were subsequently fined. So here are three lawyers who offer their take on what makes something a medical device – and what you should be doing if your brand new app is one – whether using the CE mark in the EU, or complying with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines in the US.
NASA Confirms ‘Impossible’ Thruster Actually Works, Could Revolutionize Space Travel – (Digital Trends – August 1, 2014)
When Roger Shawyer first unveiled his EmDrive thruster back around 2003, the scientific community laughed at him. They said it was impossible, that it was based on a flawed concept, and couldn’t work because it goes against the laws of conservation of momentum. But despite all of the reasons it shouldn’t work, it does. Scientists at NASA just confirmed it. Shawyer’s engine provides thrust by “bouncing microwaves around in a closed chamber.” That’s it. There’s no need for a propellant of any kind like rocket fuel. When filled with resonating microwaves, the conical chamber of the thruster experiences a net thrust toward the wide end. These microwaves can be generated using electricity, which can be provided by solar energy. In theory, this means that the thruster can work forever, or at least until its hardware fails. Initially, the idea was met with criticism because it flies in the face of Newtonian physics, which dictate that no closed system can have this kind of net thrust. Shawyer, however, says that net thrust occurs because the microwaves have a group velocity that’s greater in one direction when Einstein’s relativity comes into play. The idea was first confirmed by a group of Chinese scientists back in 2009. They built their own version of Shawyer’s thruster and were able to produce 720 milinewtons of force — but even then, nobody really believed it. Now, American scientists at NASA have given the EmDrive a go, and once again confirmed that it actually works. The team behind the drive still doesn’t know why it works, just that it does.
Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More Than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered – (Live Science – September 23, 2014)
More than 50 geoglyphs with various shapes and sizes, including a massive swastika, have been discovered across northern Kazakhstan in Central Asia, say archaeologists. These sprawling structures, mostly earthen mounds, create the type of landscape art most famously seen in the Nazca region of Peru. Discovered using Google Earth, the geoglyphs are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, rings, crosses and swastikas (the swastika is a design that was used in ancient times). Ranging from 90 to 400 meters (295 to 1,312 feet) in diameter, some of them are longer than a modern-day aircraft carrier. Researchers say that the geoglyphs are difficult to see on the ground, but can easily be seen from the sky. Over the past year, an archaeological expedition from Kazakhstan’s Kostanay University, working in collaboration with Vilnius University in Lithuania, has been examining the geoglyphs. The team, which is conducting archaeological excavations, ground-penetrating radar surveys, aerial photography and dating, recently presented its initial results at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual meeting in Istanbul. Many of the geoglyphs were made of earthen mounds, although one example, a swastika, was made using timber. Archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of structures and hearths at the geoglyphs, suggesting that rituals took place there, said archaeologists Irina Shevnina and Andrew Logvin, of Kostanay University. “As of today, we can say only one thing — the geoglyphs were built by ancient people. By whom and for what purpose, remains a mystery,” said Shevnina and Logvin. See more photos here.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Found to Boost Memory – (GizMag – September 1, 2014)
In a breakthrough that opens up the potential for new treatments for memory impairments in the young and old, researchers at Northwestern University in the US have shown that electrical stimulation of the brain can improve memory, with the benefits lasting long after treatment. Unlike Deep Brain Stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted into the brain and which has also shown promise for enhancing memory as well as for the treatment of depression, the Northwestern study involves a non-invasive method called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This uses magnetic pulses to induce electrical activity in particular regions of the brain and has previously been shown to enhance the learning ability of rats and shown promise in the treatment of migraines. Although TMS has previously been used to temporarily change brain function and improve performance in a test as the brain is being stimulated, the Northwestern team says their study is the first to show that TMS improves memory for events for at least 24 hours after the subject receives brain stimulation. The team says their study is also the first to show that the recall of events involves many different brain regions working together with the hippocampus. The MRIs showed that the TMS caused the brain regions to become more synchronized with each other and the hippocampus, with the greater the improvement in the synchronicity or connectivity, the better the subject’s performance in the memory test.
Scientists Unveil Magnetic Device for Extracting Bacteria, Toxins from Blood – (Agence France-Presse, September 14, 2014)
Scientists have invented a device that uses a magnet to extract bacteria, fungi and toxins from blood, potentially throwing a lifeline to patients with sepsis and other infections. The external gadget — tested so far in rats but not yet humans — could be adapted one day for stripping Ebola and other viruses from blood, they hoped. Acting rather like a spleen, the invention uses magnetic nanobeads coated with a genetically-engineered human blood protein called MBL. The MBL binds to pathogens and toxins, which can then be “pulled out” with a magnet. The “bio-spleen” was developed to treat sepsis, or blood infection, which affects 18 million people in the world every year, with a 30-50% mortality rate. The microbes that cause it are often resistant to antibiotics, and spread fast. If the invention is shown to be safe for humans, “patients could be treated with our bio-spleen and this will physically clean up their blood, rapidly removing a wide spectrum of live pathogens as well as dead fragments and toxins from the blood,” according to study co-author Donald Ingber. The cleansed blood is then returned to the circulatory system. “This treatment could be carried out even before the pathogen has been formally identified and the optimal antibiotic treatment has been chosen,” said Ingber, of Harvard University. The MBL protein is known to bind to the Ebola virus “and so it potentially might be useful for treatment of these patients,” said Ingber.
12-Year-Old Cancer Patient Gets First-Ever Vertebra Made On A 3-D Printer – (Huffington Post – September 12, 2014)
When 12-year-old Minghao of China was diagnosed a couple of months ago with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer typically found in children, his doctors opted for an alternative to the standard treatment. They discovered a tumor on the second vertebra of his spine, and, in lieu of the common titanium tube bone replacement, they decided to put their 3-D printing research and technology to work. The team at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing created a perfect replica of the piece of the boy’s spine, which did not require surgical cement or screws upon implantation. Simplifying the procedure in this way means Minghao will not only be able to recover more quickly from the procedure, but also maintain a greater range of motion in his neck. The vertebra was printed out of titanium powder and with small pores throughout so that his future bone growth will bond with the device.
Three-quarters of the Trash Found off Australian Beaches is Plastic – (Agence France-Presse – September 15, 2014)
Researchers surveyed the vast Australian coastline at intervals of about 100 kilometres (62 miles), compiling the world’s largest collection of marine debris data, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) said. “We found about three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic,” CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty said. “Most is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities.” It warned that litter impacted wildlife through entanglement and ingestion but also indirectly via the chemicals it introduces into marine ecosystems. Smaller turtle species in particular ingest the debris, possibly because soft, clear plastic resembles its natural prey jellyfish, it said. “Birds, meanwhile, eat everything from balloons to string, with the survey finding 43% of seabirds had plastic in their gut, with the Tasman Sea between Australia, New Zealand and the Southern Ocean pinpointed as a high risk region. Our analyses predict that plastics ingestion in seabirds may reach 95% of all species by 2050, given the steady increase of plastics production,” it said.
The Recovery of the Earth’s Ozone Layer – (Global Research – September 15, 2014)
A decade or so ago the world was woken up rudely to the fact that the earth’s protective ozone layer had developed a huge hole through which harmful cancer causing UV rays were being emitted. Scientists sent alarm bells ringing and countries took steps to help reduce the problem and try to recover or repair the hole. Currently, the Assessment for Decision-Makers, a summary document of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, a new assessment by 300 scientists, is being published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and is the first comprehensive update in four years on the issue. The document says that the ozone layer is well on track to recovery in the next few decades thanks to concerted international action against ozone depleting substances. The stratospheric ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Without the Montreal Protocol and associated agreements, atmospheric levels of ozone depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050. According to global models, the Protocol will have prevented 2 million cases of skin cancer annually by 2030, averted damage to human eyes and immune systems, and protected wildlife and agriculture, according to UNEP. “There are positive indications that the ozone layer is on track to recovery towards the middle of the century. The Montreal Protocol – one of the world’s most successful environmental treaties – has protected the stratospheric ozone layer and avoided enhanced UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Researchers Find Major West Antarctic Glacier Melting from Geothermal Sources – (University of Texas – June 10, 2014)
Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it’s being melted from below by geothermal heat, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where accurate information has previously been unobtainable. The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts. Using radar techniques to map how water flows under ice sheets, UTIG researchers were able to estimate ice melting rates and thus identify significant sources of geothermal heat under Thwaites Glacier. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed. The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise. The cause of the variable distribution of heat beneath the glacier is thought to be the movement of magma and associated volcanic activity arising from the rifting of the Earth’s crust beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Denmark’s Transition from Incineration to Zero Waste – (Zerowaste Europe – January, 2014)
Denmark is perceived to be one of the world’s greenest countries. But apart from the Danish windmills and bike lanes there is a not-so-well-hidden secret of this otherwise rather environmentally friendly country; their passion for burning garbage! Contrary to best practices in the sector, in Denmark most household waste is not separately collected this means that recycling rates are as low as 22%. Most organic waste, which is 90% water, ends up in the oven. In fact, among EU countries, Denmark is near the top of the list in terms of the amount of waste generated per capita, and is world leader in incineration of household waste, burning 80% of it. For comparison this means that after discounting recycling Denmark burns more waste than what is generated in countries such as Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria or Poland. It might look like a contradiction but in Denmark the system is set up in a way that the worst thing you can do is reduce the size of your waste bin. Why? Because every city in Denmark has its own incinerator and they are mostly publicly owned. This means that the citizens are actually the owners of the burners and hence if less waste is sent for burning – because it is being avoided, reused or recycled – the incinerator will function under less than full capacity. Yet the incinerator has to meet the capital and operating costs with less income which will result in an increase in the waste management fees. In other words: the more waste you generate, the better for your pocket. With the current system of incentives in Denmark getting to Zero Waste would be a financial catastrophe. It is therefore unsurprising that the country that burns the most also generates more waste than any other. Denmark is the perfect example of the linkage between waste burning and waste generation. (Editor’s note: This article, clearly a translation into English, is insightful in laying out the crossed-purposed incentives and some measure of corruption that have led to environmentally wasteful waste disposal methods and is a good study of the less-than-well-considered consequences of public policy.)
Aral Sea’s Eastern Basin Has Gone Dry – (Weather.com – September 29, 2014)
In a landmark moment that will go without celebration, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried for the first time in modern history. According to NASA, the Central Asian lake has been shrinking since the 1960s, when the Soviet government began diverting water in the area for agriculture. However, the lake hasn’t dried to such an extent until this summer. “This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University and an Aral Sea expert, told NASA. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.” Researchers attribute the area’s desiccation to mass irrigation. More than 60 million people now live in the Aral Region, and inflows to the lake have dropped likely due to climate change. This most recent desiccation is a result of dwindling snow and rain that typically feeds the lake, Micklin said. In addition to dwindling inflows, massive irrigation efforts of the regions two major rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, depleted nearby water levels, according to New Scientist. What was once the world’s fourth-largest lake is now split into several pieces: the Northern and Southern Aral Seas, and further, the eastern and western lobes of the larger Southern Aral Sea.
When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange – (Independent – August 28, 2014)
This article is a book review of Assange’s recent book, When Google Met Wikileaks. In it, Assange makes a case for the dark net by suggesting that the open web site we all know best has sinister intentions. “Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has,” he says. The book focuses on an interview Assange did with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt in June 2011 while Assange was under house arrest fighting extradition to Sweden. The conversation coincided with Arab Spring uprisings, anti-capitalist protests and Wikileaks continuing to anger the United States by releasing diplomatic cables online. The book is something of a settling of scores. Schmidt and Google colleague Jared Cohen used the interview in their co-authored book The New Digital Age, which Assange claims “misrepresented my words”. So here Assange has set out a transcript of the exchange, alongside an account of what he has since learned of Google and its intentions.
Leading German Journalist Admits CIA ‘Bribed’ Him and Other Leaders of the Western ‘Press’ – (Washington’s Blog – October 2, 2014)
Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (one of Germany’s largest newspapers), has decided to go public about the corruption of himself and the rest of the Western ‘news’ media, because he finds that this corruption is bringing Europe too close to a nuclear war against Russia, which he concludes the U.S. aristocracy that controls the CIA wants to bring about, or else to bring closer to the brink. In the video clip included in the article, Ulkfotte says, “I was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. Why? Because I am pro-American. I am fed up with it; I don’t want to do it anymore; and so I have just written a book, not to earn money, no, it will cause a lot of trouble for me. [I wrote it instead] to give the people in this country, Germany, in Europe, and all over the world, just a glimpse of … what goes on behind the closed doors. … [4:40 on the video] Most of the journalists you see in foreign countries … European or American journalists …, like me in the past, are so-called non-official cover. … Non-official cover means what? You do work for an intelligence agency, … but … when they [the public] find out that you are not only a journalist but a spy too, they [the CIA] will never say this was one of our guys. … So, I have helped them in several situations, and I feel ashamed for that. … I feel ashamed that I … was bribed by billionaires, I was bribed by the Americans, not to report exactly the truth. ” Extensive other, independent, evidence, backs up Ulfkotte’s claim that the CIA recruited especially anti-Russian nazis, throughout eastern Europe, and it directed European governments to work for Russia’s destruction. The article provides links to numerous examples of such evidence.
Mood Sweater by Sensoree Indicates Emotions with LEDs – (Dezeen – October 16, 2014)
The collar of a sweater designed by San Francisco studio Sensoree changes color depending on the wearer’s excitement levels. Sensors that the studio calls galvanic extimacy responders (GER) are placed on the hands to read and interpret electric currents produced by chemical action in the skin. These are connected along translucent wires to a node inside the garment, which translates the readings into specific colors created by the lights. The white sweater glows red when the wearer feels nervous or in love, turns blue to show calm and can change to purple to represent excitement and yellow for contentment. The technology presents an opportunity for individuals who are unable to communicate their mood to show others how they’re feeling. “This concept holds exciting promise for the future, as wearable clothing could be adapted for the personal healthcare arena,” said Sensoree founder Kristin Neidlinger. “For those who struggle to communicate their emotional state – in Alzheimer’s disease for instance – a person may easily become aggressive and agitated, often without warning and for no apparent reason. Wearable technology, like the Mood Sweater, could be the first step in helping families and caregivers to better anticipate and understand the moods of people, so they can better support and care for them.” See also: Fashion studio The Unseen has created a gemstone-encrusted headdress that changes color in response to varying energy levels in the brain.
Los Angeles Just Opened an Apartment Complex for the Homeless – (Nation of Change – October 12, 2014)
Los Angeles’ Skid Row has been home to thousands of homeless Angelenos for decades, but downtown development has started to squeeze the area one longtime resident described as “a giant outside insane asylum.” The city is hoping that a new 102-unit housing complex for the homeless that has just opened can help alleviate the resulting tension between the area’s destitute outsiders and the new-money lofts and restaurants popping up nearby. At ground level, the Star Apartments building holds the new headquarters of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services agency that works on homelessness issues, called the Housing for Health division. The building also holds a gym with a track, a library, a garden, and art studios for residents, according to the Los Angeles Times. Residents pay 30% of their income — meaning they pay nothing if they have no income — with city housing funds subsidizing the remainder of the rent cost. 102 prefabricated apartment units are stacked atop the Housing for Health headquarters like children’s blocks. The final product is a modern, eye-catching structure. Seen from the street, the apartments jut out at improbable-looking angles from the ground floor facilities. The interior facing views from the apartments look over a concrete valley strung with cable-edged staircases. More important than the aesthetics is the good the facility will do for its residents and for Skid Row as a whole. It is three times more expensive to leave homeless people on the street than it is to simply give them housing. The stability that a home provides makes it far easier for homeless people to regain their footing socially, economically, and often medically or psychologically. This approach to ameliorating homelessness is known among advocates as “permanent supportive housing.” See more photos.
World’s First ‘Solar Battery’ Runs on Light and Air – (PhysOrg – October 3, 2014)
Researchers at Ohio State University report that they’ve succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device. Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery. The invention solves a longstanding problem in solar energy efficiency, by eliminating the loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery. Typically, only 80% of electrons emerging from a solar cell make it into a battery. With this new design, light is converted to electrons inside the battery, so nearly 100% of the electrons are saved.
Japan Conducts First Public Test of New 311 MPH ‘L-Zero’ Maglev Train – (Inhabitat – September 29, 2014)
Japan invented the high speed rail (HSR) in 1964 with the Shinkansen bullet train. Now Japan is leading the way with the next generation of fast trains with its new magnetic levitation (maglev) train. Whereas traditional HSR trains run on conventional track, limiting speeds to around 200 mph, the new maglev train can hit 311 mph using “L-Zero” technology and can zip passengers from Tokyo to Nagoya (178 miles) in 40 minutes. The system is expected to be operational by 2027. Using the new technology, the Central Japan Railway Company brings the train up to a speed of 100 mph (160km/hr) before engaging the maglev system and slowly accelerating to 311 mph (500 km/hr).
The Sports Car That Runs on Saltwater – (Daily Mail – September 1, 2014)
Sports cars may not have the best reputation for being environmentally-friendly, but this sleek machine has been designed to reach 217.5 mph (350 km/h) – using nothing but saltwater. Its radical drive system allows the 5,070lbs (2,300kg) Quant e-Sportlimousine to reach 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds, making it as fast as the McLaren P1. After making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March, the saltwater technology has now been certified for use on European roads. The 920 horsepower (680 kW) Quant e-Sportlimousine uses something known as an electrolyte flow cell power system to power four electric motors within the car. It works in a similar way to a hydrogen fuel cell, however, the liquid used for storing energy is saltwater. The liquid passes through a membrane in between the two tanks, creating an electric charge. This electricity is then stored and distributed by super capacitors. The car carries the water in two 200-litre tanks, which in one sitting will allow drivers to travel up to 373 miles (600km). NanoFlowcell AG, a Lichtenstein-based company behind the drive, is now planning to test the car on public roads in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as the company prepares for series production. It claims the technology offers five times the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries of the same weight. ‘We’ve got major plans, and not just within the automobile industry,’ says NanoFlowcell AG Chairman of the Board Professor Jens-Peter Ellermann. ‘The potential of the NanoFlowcell is much greater, especially in terms of domestic energy supplies as well as in maritime, rail and aviation technology.’ See photos and videos in the article: this car is a sleek masterpiece. For more, see its website and this with more on how the car has received approval to run on European roads.
Why Waste Coffee Grounds When Delicious Mushrooms Love to Grow on Them? – (Nation of Change – October 11, 2014)
People in the United Kingdom drink 18 million cups of coffee every day—but only 1% of the coffee biomass ends up in their cups. The rest of the nutrient-rich grounds are discarded, usually in the garbage. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and a gourmet mushroom farm called GroCycle is demonstrating an alternative. This mushroom farm, based in the southern English county of Devon, is transforming coffee waste into profit. Their method of growing, they explain in this video, is perfect for urban farmers because it requires little space, runs on waste that’s already being created, and generates a product that urban locavores crave. Article includes video clip of mushroom growing facility.
64 Countries Require GMO Labeling: US Buckles Under Biotech Pressure – (Nation of Change – October 15, 2014)
Monsanto, Dow, Cargill, and many dozen food manufacturers are trying to fight the imminent passage of labeling bills in both Colorado and Oregon, claiming that GMOs’ are ‘safe,’ and that labeling will only lead to food hysteria. But the fact is, much of the modern world requires labeling of GMO foods, or downright bans them. What about the United States? No labeling here! Americans eat lots of processed food – food that is full of GMO corn, soy, rice, and sugar beets – four of the biggest GMO money-making crops on the planet. In the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Michael Moss exposes how the unregulated food industry has developed unhealthy ways to get consumers hooked on their brands. Article includes a list of the 64 countries. (Editor’s note: This article has an obvious slant, but a quick look through the list of 64 other countries that have not concluded that GMO is harmless does rather put the lie to the idea that a “food hysteria” based on labeling is just hysteria.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Police Want to Get Rid of Their Pentagon-Issued Combat Gear. Here’s Why They Can’t. – (Mother Jones – September 30, 2014)
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Department in central Washington would like to return three tanks Undersheriff John Wisemore says. “We’ve been trying to get the military to take them back since 2004.” The tanks came from a vast Defense Department program that has furnished American police arsenals, at no charge, with $4.3 billion worth of combat equipment leftover from two foreign wars. The tanks not remotely useful to Wisemore’s rural police department. But the county can’t seem to unload them. Back in June, Wisemore got an email from a Defense Department liaison promising to explain how Chelan County can get rid of the tanks. Then, nothing. Until further notice, Wisemore says, “they’re just going to sit there.” In the past eight years, the Pentagon program has loaned local law enforcement some 200,000 ammunition magazines, 94,000 machine guns, and thousands of armored vehicles, rifles, aircraft, land mine detectors, silencers, and grenade launchers—all at the request of the local agencies themselves. But images of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, of police in military gear cracking down on peaceful protesters, have turned many communities against a program critics say has eroded the line between police officers and soldiers. Even before police militarization made the news, hundreds of police departments were finding that grenade launchers, military firearms, and armored vehicles aren’t very useful to community policing. Law enforcement agencies across the country have quietly returned more than 6,000 unwanted or unusable items to the Pentagon in the last 10 years, according to Defense Department data. But some agencies have found the process of getting rid of unwanted military gear next to impossible. Agencies can’t return or trade large pieces of tactical equipment without Defense Department approval and, because the Pentagon technically still owns that equipment, they can’t sell it. According to interviews with state officials running point between the Pentagon and police, the Defense Department prefers to leave equipment in circulation whenever possible. “It’s a low-cost storage method for them,” says Robb Davis, the mayor pro tem of Davis. His town is trying to shake its MRAP. “They’re dumping these vehicles on us and saying, ‘Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.'”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
U.S. Forest Service Wants to Charge $1,500 to Take Photos on Federal Wild Lands – (Washington Post – September 24, 2014)
The U.S. Forest Service is finalizing plans to fine photographers who shoot on federal wild lands without a permit. Under the measure, still photography and commercial filming in Congress-designated wilderness areas would require a permit, and shoots would also have to be approved and meet certain criteria like not advertising any product or service and being educational. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement the directive has been in place for more than four years and “is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places.” Permits would cost up to $1,500, even if someone was taking photos or video with their phone, and fines for shooting without a permit could be as high as $1,000. Critics have characterized the rules as too vague and say it infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause. “I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press,” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell. “It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity.” Walden said he worried access might be granted “based on political calculations” and noted a majority of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government.
Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal – (New York Times – September 17, 2014)
Among Edward Snowden’s most shocking discoveries, he said, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom. Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way. Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society. The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” It should trouble the American public that some or much of the information in question — intended not for national security purposes but simply to pursue political agendas — may have come directly from the N.S.A.’s domestic dragnet. According to documents leaked by Mr. Snowden and reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, the N.S.A. has been sending intelligence to Israel since at least March 2009.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Germany to Consider Ban on Late-Night Work Emails – (Huffington Post – September 29, 2014)
Last month, German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles commissioned a study to assess the psychological and economic effects of work-related stress. The findings, slated to be released in 2016, are expected to generate legislation that would ban employers from contacting workers after office hours. Such a law, currently being pushed by a powerful multi-service trade union now seems more likely to reach fruition since it gained Nahles’ support. “There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness,” Nahles told the Rheinische Post. “We have commissioned the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to work out whether it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria.” If passed, such a law could serve as a model for preserving workers’ privacy and curbing the culture of being constantly on-call for work. Though some workers in France earlier this year adopted a so-called ban on emails after 6 p.m., the labor agreement was not cemented into law. Some large companies, such as Daimler and Volkswagen, have already adopted rules to limit work-related stress. Last month, Daimler allowed about 100,000 workers to delete emails they received while on vacation. In 2011, Volkswagen agreed to stop its BlackBerry servers from sending emails after working hours. See also: Germany May Ban After-Work Emails. Here’s Why the U.S. Should Follow Suit.
The Free-Will Fix – (Aeon – October 1, 2014)
New brain implants can restore autonomy to damaged minds, but can they settle the question of whether free will exists? For millennia, philosophers have debated whether humans have free will, typically defined as the ability to choose between alternative possibilities. But free will might have nothing to do with the universe outside and everything to do with how the brain enables or disables our behaviour and thoughts. What if free will relies on the internal, on how successfully the brain generates and sustains the physiological, cognitive and emotional dimensions of our bodies and minds – and has nothing to do with the external at all? This thoughtful article by Walter Glannon, a professor of philosophy at the University of Calgary in Alberta, examines the issue of free will through neurological and psychiatric disorders resulting from dysfunction in neural circuits regulating movement, cognition and mood and a variety of neural prostheses – brain implants capable of modulating, replacing or bypassing damaged and dysfunctional neural circuits.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Much of Earth’s Water Is Older Than the Sun – (Live Science – September 26, 2014)
Much of the water on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system likely predates the birth of the sun, a new study reports. The finding suggests that water is commonly incorporated into newly forming planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, researchers said — good news for anyone hoping that Earth isn’t the only world to host life. “The implications of our study are that interstellar water-ice remarkably survived the incredibly violent process of stellar birth to then be incorporated into planetary bodies,” study lead author Ilse Cleeves, an astronomy Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan.
NASA Is Supposed to Spot 90% of Dangerous Asteroids by 2020. It’s at 10% Now. – (Vox – September 16, 2014)
In 2005, Congress assigned NASA the task of locating 90% of all near-Earth asteroids big enough to cause significant damage if they hit us by 2020. According to NASA inspector general Paul Martin, only about 10% of these asteroids have been spotted so far, despite a tenfold increase in funding since 2009 for the program responsible. For the audit, the agency confirmed it will not reach the 90 percent goal. Very recently, a relatively small asteroid passed extremely close to Earth — ten times as close as the moon, and as close as some of our communications satellites. We had about one week of warning between when astronomers spotted it and when it arrived. The good news is that scientists have located more than 90% of the huge near-Earth asteroids capable of causing a global catastrophe — those a kilometer wide or larger. None of them, thankfully, are on track to hit us. But the bad news is that mid-sized asteroids (those that are a few hundred meters wide) hit Earth much more regularly, can also cause significant damage, and we’ve still only spotted a small percentage of them. Specifically, NASA is tasked with locating 90% of those larger than 140 meters wide. The goal is 90%, not 100%, partly because the baseline total is an estimate to begin with.
Forty-Five Percent of Americans Seek Out Organic Foods – (Gallup – August 7, 2014)
A little less than half of Americans, 45%, actively try to include organic foods in their diets, while 15% actively avoid them. More than a third, 38%, say they “don’t think either way” about organic foods. This is the first year Gallup has asked about eating organic foods in the annual Consumption Habits survey. Forty-five percent actively try to include organic foods, putting such foods in the middle of the list of 12 others measured — trailing fruits and vegetables by a wide margin, but well ahead of fat, soda, and sugar. The 38% who say they “don’t think either way” about organic foods is higher than the percentage for any of the other food products. In the U.S., inclusion of organic foods is highest in the West (54%) and lowest in the East (39%). Americans who report living in a big or small city are more likely to eat organic foods than those who describe their location as a town or rural area, 50% versus 37%, respectively, while those who live in suburban areas fall between these two groups.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Ultrasensitive Biosensor Using Molybdenite Semiconductor Outshines Graphene – (KurzweilAI – September 9, 2014)
An atomically thin, two-dimensional, ultrasensitive semiconductor material for biosensing developed by UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers promises to push the boundaries of biosensing technology in many fields, from health care to environmental protection to forensic industries. It’s based on molybdenum disulfide, or molybdenite, an alternative to graphene. Molybdenum disulfide — commonly used as a dry lubricant — surpasses graphene’s already high sensitivity, offers better scalability, and lends itself to high-volume manufacturing, the researchers say. “This invention has established the foundation for a new generation of ultrasensitive and low-cost biosensors that can eventually allow single-molecule detection — the holy grail of diagnostics and bioengineering research,” said Samir Mitragotri, co-author and professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center for Bioengineering at UCSB.
Eruption at Bardarbunga Volcano – (You Tube – October 1, 2014)
This footage of a volcanic eruption in Iceland was filmed by a small $1,000 drone mounted with a camera. Phantom 2 quadcopters were used to capture viewpoints of an exploding magma caldera too dangerous to be approached by manned aircraft. Eventually the drone flew so close to the exploding magma that the camera face melted and ceased to function. The data storage chip however was still intact – and you can watch the footage. (Editor’s note: In essence, this is an advertisement for a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter – available on Amazon – but it is also an excellent display of what is now possible given the intersection of drone and video technologies).
Americans Are Starting to Actually *Like* Email Spam – (Business Insider – October 3, 2014)
Researchers at Forrester have found that attitudes to emails from brands are actually becoming more positive, despite the fact that most people tend to write them off as “spam.” So why the change of heart? One ad body thinks it has the answer: people’s obsession with their phones. In 2010, half (49%) of US online consumers said they received too many email offers and promotions. That’s now down to 39%. One in five (19%) of those polled even said they read every email newsletter they receive just to see if something’s on offer. Just 42% delete promo emails without looking, down from 59% four years ago. Tim Elkington, chief strategy officer at the Interactive Advertising Bureau UK branch, says: “The always-on culture of smartphone users means that people are more accepting and responsive to emails. Whether it’s filling 20 minutes on the train when commuting to work or checking emails quickly before meeting a friend for a coffee, people are using this dead time to read emails and interact with brands.” It might also be because the spam you’re receiving is probably more highly targeted and relevant than before, and you probably requested it from your favorite companies. Added to that, email services are becoming more sophisticated and filtering out the worst of the spam.
Tokyo Contaminated and Not Fit for Habitation – (Inst. of Science in Society – September 24, 2014)
In July 2014 Dr. Shigeru Mita wrote a letter to his fellow doctors to explain his decision to move his practice from Tokyo to Okayama city in the West of Japan. In it, he appeals to their sense of duty to answer the anxieties of parents in Japan who do not believe the information coming from the authorities. He says “I must state that the policies of the WHO, the IAEA or the Japanese government cannot be trusted.” and “if the power to save our citizens and future generations exists somewhere, it does not lie within the government or any academic association, but in the hands of individual clinical doctors ourselves.” Mita claims that all 23 districts of Tokyo are contaminated, with the eastern area worst affected – up to 4 000 Bq/kg. (The becquerel is a unit of radioactivity. One Bq is the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.) These findings confirm what the nuclear physicist Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Nuclear Education found in 2012, when he picked up five random soil samples in Tokyo from between paving stones, in parks and playgrounds. The levels of contamination were up to 7 000 Bq/kg; in the US, anything registering these levels would be considered nuclear waste. While practicing in Tokyo, Mita also discovered changes in the white blood cells of children under 10. In adults, he has found increased nosebleeds, hair loss, lack of energy, subcutaneous bleeding, visible urinary hemorrhage, skin inflammation, and coughs. He has found an increase in infectious diseases such as influenza, hand, foot and mouth diseases and shingles. “We also see more patients with diseases that had been rare before; for example, polymyalgia rheumatica is a disease common among those above age 50 and contracted by 1.7 people out of every 100,000. Before 3.11, [the date of the accident at Fukushima] we had one or less patient per year. Now, we treat more than 10 patients at the same time.” Dr. Mita wonders “Could these be the same symptoms of muscle rheumatism that were recorded in Chernobyl?”
Are Copyrighted Works Only by and for Humans? – (Duane Morris – August 18, 2014)
Why should humans own all the world’s copyrights? The question is prompted by a photograph that’s made worldwide news. In Indonesia, a female crested black macaque monkey picked up a camera owned by photographer David Slater. This article won’t focus much on the story of the monkey and her selfie because that topic has already been well-discussed in the media. Yet the story sets the table for more intriguing and ultimately more important issues. It is beyond doubt that artificial intelligence (“AI”) machines and systems already can and will create music, art, and literature. Some such works will be viable financially. If not valuable or even any good, protection is possible. Copyright protection for human-created works is not only for works of literary and artistic merit. Mediocrity is protected, too. So should copyright law protect such non-human copyrights? Inevitably copyright law will have to do so. Perhaps, given the Citizens United line of reasoning, corporations will and should own the copyright in works created entirely by machines. That may well be a sensible result. Animal-created copyrighted works might be a harder question to answer. See also: The Government Weighs In on the Great Monkey-Selfie Controversy.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Online, a Bazaar Bursting with Stolen Credit Card Information – (Fortune – September 21, 2014)
This article investigates the underground market for stolen credit card numbers after high-profile breaches like Home Depot and Target. What happens to all that personal information once it gets into the hands of cyber thieves? They take it to market, of course. Rescator.cc is one of several underground markets where black-hat hackers go to move product—”product” in this case being your personal information. According to Brian Krebs, a journalist-turned cyber security analyst, Rescator received two gigantic dumps of stolen card numbers on Sept. 2—including a significant score from Home Depot. (“USA and World Dumps update!” the update cheerily proclaimed.) In the next few days, more illicit shipments followed. If the site’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Rescator is the same place where the Target breach’s spoils first emerged last December. Both hacks exploited the same vulnerabilities using similar malware. Coincidence? In the latest case, the hackers’ reputation preceded them. “They were throwing out all different kinds of alerts on criminal forums that there’s a big, huge batch coming,” says Krebs, who first broke news of the Target and Home Depot breaches. “These guys have a brand. They got famous with Target.” “Credit cards are typically graded and packaged into large tranches by type, freshness, or other factors,” says Dan Guido, co-founder and CEO of the New York-based cyber security firm Trail of Bits. Cards with a later expiration date and higher credit limit may be worth more. A purchaser can also sort by country, state or city of origin, zip code, and issuing bank.
JUST FOR FUN
7 People Who Quit Their Jobs in the Most Unforgettable Ways – (Business Insider – September 26, 2014)
While quitting in public isn’t the best idea for people’s long term career prospects, these acts of defiance are certainly entertaining for the rest of us. We collected the stories of seven people who chose to give their bosses a little something extra when they resigned, using platforms ranging from a local radio broadcast to an op-ed in the New York Times. Our favorite is Marina Shifrin telling Next Media Animation she’s “gone” in an interpretive dance video. Ms. Shifrin was working in Taiwan as an editor for Next Media Animation, a company famous for its ridiculous cartoon spoofs of American news stories, when she decided she’d had enough of the long nights and the constant pressure to turn out more content. So she filmed herself in the Next Media Animation newsroom doing an interpretive dance set to Kanye West’s “Gone.” On the bottom, she placed scrolling text explaining her frustrations with her job and announcing to her bosses that she was quitting. The video struck a chord with overworked young people everywhere, and it spread like wildfire on the internet. In the year since it was posted, the video has collected 18 million YouTube views. Article includes a link to her sweet goodbye.
A FINAL QUOTE–
One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. – Henry Miller
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, 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