| Volume 17, Number 19 – 10/30/14 |
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
A Gates Foundation/MIT project is working to create an implantable female “compu-contraceptive”, controlled by an external remote control.
Lockheed Martin Corp. says it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion.
The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell by 52% between 1970 and 2010.
Meet the inventors, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs at the forefront of the flying-robot (drone) revolution.
by John L. Petersen
John Petersen Presentation: 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 that 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.
John L. PetersenOthers 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. Larry DosseyDr. 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.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Nine Real Technologies That Will Soon Be Inside You – (Australia News – October 19, 2014)
You might think wearables will be the next really important shift in technology. Not so. Wearables will have their moment in the sun, but they’re simply a transition technology. Technology will move from existing outside our bodies to residing inside us. That’s the next big frontier. Here are nine signs that implantable tech is here now, growing rapidly, and that it will be part of your life (and your body) in the near future. For example, the Gates Foundation is supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by an external remote control. The tiny chip generates small amounts of contraceptive hormone from within the woman’s body for up to 16 years. Implantation is no more invasive than a tattoo. And, “The ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience factor for those who are planning their family.”, said Dr Robert Farra of MIT.
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.
Can Video Games Fend Off Mental Decline? – (New York Times – October 23, 2014)
“Brain training” games have become big business, with Americans spending an estimated $1.3 billion a year on them. They are also a source of controversy. Industry observers warn that snake-oil salesmen abound, and nearly all neuroscientists agree there’s very little evidence yet that these games counter the mental deficits that come with getting older. Adam Gazzaley, however, is something of an outlier. His work commands respect from even the harshest critics. He spent five years designing and testing games such as his Project: Evo game, and he found that it does indeed appear to prompt older brains to perform like ones decades younger. Now Project: Evo is on its own twisty path. The Boston company that is developing it, Akili, which Gazzaley advises, is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the game. If it gets that government stamp, it might become a sort of cognitive Lipitor or Viagra, a game that your doctor can prescribe for your aging mind.
Need A New Bone? Grow It From Your Own Cells – (Fast Company – October 28, 2014)
With over 900,000 U.S. patients undergoing bone-related surgeries each year, a New-York-based startup called EpiBone wants to simplify how we construct new bone. Its technology, while still being tested, is a revolutionary procedure that utilizes a patients’ own stem cells to engineer a personalized bone graft, giving surgeons simplified procedures and patients highly accurate bone formation and regeneration without the complication of synthetic implants. Article includes video clip with more details.
Google Is Developing a Cancer and Heart Attack Detector – (BBC News – October 28, 2014)
Google is aiming to diagnose cancers, impending heart attacks or strokes and other diseases, at a much earlier stage than is currently possible. Early diagnosis is the key to treating disease. Many cancers, such as pancreatic, are detected only after they have become untreatable and fatal. The company is working on technology that combines disease-detecting nanoparticles, which would enter a patient’s bloodstream via a swallowed pill, with a wrist-worn sensor. The idea is to identify slight changes in the person’s biochemistry that could act as an early warning system. There are marked differences between cancerous and healthy tissues. Google’s ambition is to constantly monitor the blood for the unique traces of cancer, allowing diagnosis long before any physical symptoms appear. The work is still at an early stage. See also: Google unveils ‘smart contact lens’ to measure glucose levels.
Some Nanoparticles Commonly Added to Consumer Products Can Significantly Damage DNA – (PhysOrg – April 9, 2014)
Thousands of consumer products—including cosmetics, sunscreens, and clothing—contain nanoparticles added by manufacturers to improve texture, kill microbes, or enhance shelf life, among other purposes. The Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to test nanoscale additives for a given material if the bulk material has already been shown to be safe. However, there is evidence that the nanoparticle form of some of these materials may be unsafe: Due to their immensely small size, these materials may exhibit different physical, chemical, and biological properties, and penetrate cells more easily. However, several studies have shown that some of these engineered nanoparticles can be toxic to cells. A study from MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that certain nanoparticles can also harm DNA. The researchers found that zinc oxide nanoparticles, often used in sunscreen to block ultraviolet rays, significantly damage DNA. Nanoscale silver, which has been added to toys, toothpaste, clothing, and other products for its antimicrobial properties, also produces substantial DNA damage, they found.
Scientists Have Discovered How to Determine if Water Contamination Comes from Fracking – (Nation of Change – October 22, 2014)
In peer-reviewed research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a team of U.S. and French researchers say their new forensic tool can distinguish fracking wastewater pollution from other contamination that results from other industrial processes — such as conventional oil and gas drilling. Fracking is a controversial oil and gas well stimulation technique that uses a great deal of water, mixed with chemicals, to extract oil and gas from miles deep underground. Once the rock is fractured by the high pressure fluid, fossil fuels follow the fracking fluid to the surface. The disposal of this often-radioactive water mixture, known as “fracking fluid,” is widely considered to be one of the biggest environmental threats that fracking poses, along with the emissions of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. There have been many claims of water contamination since the technique gained popularity in 2008, but it’s been difficult to determine if fracking was really the cause — mainly because fracking companies are not required to disclose what chemicals they use in the process (the mixture is often considered a trade secret). With the new tool, though, scientists no longer need to know the chemical make-up of the fracking fluid to determine whether it’s getting into the environment, according to Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh. See also: 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater has been injected illegally into California Aquifers. The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.
World Has Lost Half Its Wildlife in the Past 40 Years – (CNN – October 30, 2014)
The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell by 52% between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The world’s animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns. The World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Planet Index revealed the dramatic decline in animal species, and said the trend could cost the world billions in economic losses. Humans need one and a half Earths to sustain their current demands, it said. The fund notes that it’s relying on a never-before-used methodology in this year’s report, “which aims to be more representative of global biodiversity.” The index showed shows a 52% decline in wildlife between 1970 and 2010, far more than earlier estimates of 30%. “We are eating into our natural capital, making it more difficult to sustain the needs of future generations,” the report said. The decline in animals living in rivers, lakes and wetlands is the worst — 76% of freshwater wildlife disappeared in just 40 years. Marine species and animals living on land suffered 39% decline in their populations. Animals living in tropics are the worst hit by what WWF calls “the biggest recorded threats to our planet’s wildlife” as 63% of wildlife living in tropics has vanished. Central and South America shows the most dramatic regional decline, with a fall of 83%.
Meanwhile, Back At Fukushima … (Washington’s Blog – October 18, 2014)
Nothing has been fixed at Fukushima. After typhoon Phanfone dumped a bunch of water on Fukushima earlier this month, radioactive tritium levels jumped tenfold. After typhoon Vongfong dumped a bunch more water on the plant, radioactive cesium and strontium levels soared. Radiation levels in the water are at all-time highs. Officials said there’s nothing they can do to stop it, and they have no idea how much radiation is running into the ocean. The reactors didn’t just suffer a melt down, or even a China syndrome type melt-through, but a series of melt outs. Scientists have no idea where the cores of the nuclear reactors are. Well actually, maybe they have found them … scattered all over kingdom come. The Japanese have dumped their plan to build an “ice wall” around the plant to contain the radiation. Indeed, they don’t have much of a plan to stabilize the reactors or contain the radiation. Their plan seems to be to dump it all in the ocean. And Fukushima radiation is approaching the West Coast of North America … As the Statesman Journal reports: No state or federal agency is testing Pacific waters for radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear plant.
Reversing Course on Beavers – (New York Times – October 27, 2014)
Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil. And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away. “People realize that if we don’t have a way to store water that’s not so expensive, we’re going to be up a creek, a dry creek,” said Jeff Burrell, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Mont. “We’ve lost a lot with beavers not on the landscape.”
Climate Change in 12 Minutes – The Skeptic’s Case – (You Tube – February 20, 2014)
“We check the main predictions of the climate models against the best and latest data. Fortunately the climate models got all their major predictions wrong. Why? Every serious skeptical scientist has been consistently saying essentially the same thing for over 20 years, yet most people have never heard the message. Here it is, put simply enough for any lay reader willing to pay attention…”
A Cybersecurity Threat That Could Be Lurking On Your Phone – (You Tube – October 1, 2014)
Gary Miliefsky, SnoopWall CEO, and founding member of the US Department of Homeland Security announces a privacy breach posed by smartphone flashlight apps. Miliefsky has advised two White House Administrations on Cybersecurity. The top 10 flashlight apps that you can download from the Google Playstore are all malware. The smart phones of roughly 500 million people have been infected. The malware includes a satellite attachment that sends an astonishing array of personal information back to the malware developers, variously (depending on the flashlight app), in China, Russia, and India.
Google’s DoubleClick Ad Network Abused Once Again in Malvertising Attacks – (Malwarebytes – September 30, 2014)
Recently a large-scale malvertising attack occurred involving Google’s DoubleClick and Zedo that affected many high-profile sites. Upon discovery, Google was immediately notified so they could shut this down. Although DoubleClick is not directly responsible, the publisher is trusting them to only allow ‘clean’ ads. Many popular sites were caught in the cross-fire. The power of malvertising attacks is that they can be widespread in an instant by leveraging the advertising networks’ infrastructure. Malicious ads are displayed to millions of visitors who do not actually need to click them to get infected. This article walks you through the steps by which this can happen.
Google Chairman: ‘We’re Going to End Up Breaking the Internet’ – (National Journal – October 8, 2014)
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt warns that the Internet will soon undergo massive upheaval if governments refuse to alter the way they spy on other countries. Speaking at an event in California hosted by Sen. Ron Wyden, Schmidt said the Internet will splinter into walled-off fragments unless digital surveillance practices of the National Security Agency and foreign intelligence agencies are reformed. “The simplest outcome is that we’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” Schmidt said. “Because what’s going to happen is, governments will do bad laws of one kind or another, and they are eventually going to say, ‘We want our own Internet in our country because we want it to work our way, right? And we don’t want these NSA and other people in it.’ The cost of that is huge,” Schmidt added. “The impact … is severe and getting worse.” As an example of the potential for digital fragmentation across borders, Schmidt highlighted Germany’s decision this summer to end a contract with Verizon because of revelations regarding the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of phone records. “The notion that you would have to place data centers that serve communities within [that] region is fundamentally at odds” with the design of the Internet, said Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch. In such a scenario, countries would elect to store data on local servers, where it would be inaccessible to the international Internet community.
Why Facebook Just Launched Its Own ‘Dark Web’ Site – (Wired – October 31, 2014)
Facebook has never had much of a reputation for letting users hide their identities online. But now the world’s least anonymous website has just joined the Web’s most anonymous network. In a first-of-its-kind move for a Silicon Valley giant, Facebook has launched a Tor hidden service, a version of its website that runs the anonymity software Tor. That new site, which can only be accessed by users running the Tor software, bounces users’ connections through three extra encrypted hops to random computers around the Internet, making it far harder for any network spy observing that traffic to trace their origin. Inviting users to connect to Facebook over Tor may seem like a strange move; given that Facebook still requires you to log in and doesn’t allow pseudonyms (in most cases), even Tor users on the site are hardly anonymous to Facebook itself. But even so, Tor users on Facebook can now protect their identities from every other online snoop that would want to unmask them. “No, you’re not anonymous to Facebook when you log in, but this provides a huge benefit for users who want security and privacy,” says Runa Sandvik, a former Tor developer who Facebook credits with advising the project in a blog post. “You get around the censorship and local adversarial surveillance, and it adds another layer of security on top of your connection.” Tor, after all, doesn’t just let users hide their identities from the sites they visit, anonymously buying drugs on the Silk Road or uploading leaked documents to news sites through the leak platform SecureDrop. It’s also designed to circumvent censorship and surveillance that occurs much closer to the user’s own connection. And since Facebook uses SSL encryption, no surveillance system watching either Facebook’s connection or the user’s local traffic should be able to match up a user’s identity with their Facebook activity.
Pop-up Restaurant Will Be Built Over a Frozen River – (Dezeen – October 22, 2014)
British design studio OS31 has won a competition to design a pop-up restaurant on the surface of a frozen river in Winnipeg, Canada. OS31, specializing in lightweight, flexible architecture, has designed an X-shaped structure intended to symbolize the crossing of the two rivers. Spaces inside the restaurant will be framed by faceted white walls, described as being “sculptural like drifts of snow”. This will be the third iteration of the RAW:almond restaurant, which claims to be the “first ever outdoor fine dining restaurant on a frozen body of water”. It will open to the public on 22 January. (Editor’s note: it’s not clear from the architect’s renderings how much of the restaurant will be heated.)
Lockheed Makes Breakthrough on Fusion Energy Project – (Reuters – October 15, 2014)
Lockheed Martin Corp. says it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade. Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work. Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire said. Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years. Lockheed’s work on fusion energy could help in developing new power sources amid increasing global conflicts over energy, and as projections show there will be a 40 – 50% increase in energy use over the next generation, McGuire said. Compact nuclear fusion would produce far less waste than coal-powered plants since it would use deuterium-tritium fuel, which can generate nearly 10 million times more energy than the same amount of fossil fuels, the company said. Ultra-dense deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, is found in the earth’s oceans, and tritium is made from natural lithium deposits. It said future reactors could use a different fuel and eliminate radioactive waste completely.
Fossil Fuel Generator Industry Will Be Hit Hardest By Energy Storage – (Clean Technica – October 4, 2014)
A major new analysis from global investment bank HSBC, Energy Storage, Power to the People, says the boom days for the fossil fuel generation are over. “There is no prospect of any return to anywhere near the level of profitability seen in the latter part of the last decade in generation,” it writes. The HSBC analysis looks at a range of storage technologies and how that will impact the conventional energy systems. Its major conclusion is that affordable battery storage will increase distributed generation – solar panels on household and business rooftops – and further reduce demand from the grid. On top of that, grid operators are also likely to use large-scale battery storage to balance demand and supply and for smart grid enhancements. That’s more bad news for conventional power generators. Once again, it says, the revolution will be led by Germany, notwithstanding the major initiatives in California and China. But this is just the start, large-scale energy storage is on the horizon and conventional generation is at a disadvantage: the major utilities could lose out unless they leverage their client base and their level of integration by becoming full-service providers. HSBC looks at the experience of RWE and E.ON, the two largest generation companies in Germany, which in the past 12 months have committed to joining, rather than fighting, the energy revolution in the country. At least, that’s what they say, but the reality is that they have no choice.
William Kamkwamba: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – (Nation of Change – October 8, 2014)
When he was just 14 years old, Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba built his family an electricity-generating windmill from spare parts, working from rough plans he found in a library book. In the short documentary Moving Windmills, (see the trailer for the documentary), William tells of his life in his poor village of Mastala, Malawi, where 60 families depended on farming for their livelihoods. Being too poor to remain in school, William spent his spare time (when he wasn’t helping with the crops) trying to educate himself by reading library books. One of those books was to change his life, and that of his whole village. William had noticed that there was a lot of wind where he lived and thought “What can I do to use that wind so that we can have something?” So, he decided to read books which contained information about windmills. A book called Using Energy caught his attention. Consisting mostly of pictures, the one of a windmill drew William to it. Having no real instructions as to how to build one, William worked out, by trial and error and by referring to the picture, how to make one himself! William recalls the first thing he powered with the windmill was a radio… and that local Malawian Reggae music was playing at the time. He then moved on to powering lights for his home. On returning the library book, the librarian expressed great interest in his project, and arranged to come and see what he had done… bringing some journalists from a Malawian newspaper along too, who then, in 2006, wrote an article which was to have far reaching effects. In 2007 William was invited to the USA as a guest at a TED conference.
We Are on the Verge of an Electric Car Battery Breakthrough – (Oil Price – September 1, 2014)
Electric vehicles are cool. They’re inexpensive to operate, can make our air cleaner, and help reduce the amount of climate change-causing gases released into the atmosphere. But right now, the initial cost of buying the car is just too much for most people to justify making the switch. That could soon change, though, because investment pundits think that Tesla Motors is on the verge of achieving something big: A battery cheap enough to make electric vehicles cost-competitive with conventional cars. Daniel Sparks at Motley Fool is reporting that the company is on the right track towards developing a battery that costs only $100 per kilowatt-hour — a cost widely believed to be the threshold where electric vehicles can finally be cost-competitive. The central one is that the company plans to build something called the “Gigafactory,”a giant $5 billion battery manufacturing plant with 6,500 workers. The second is CEO Elon Musk’s own admission that he would be “disappointed” if it took his company 10 years to make a $100 per kilowatt battery pack, and suggested it might happen before 2020. CEOs make overzealous predictions all the time. But increasing the possibility that Tesla will be able to achieve the cost reductions necessary to make the battery pack is that Panasonic — a company “arguably more knowledgeable and experienced regarding lithium-ion production than any company in the world” — apparently admitted that Tesla has been making “conservative predictions” about how quickly it will be able to reduce costs. (Panasonic isn’t a disinterested party, though; it’s helping Tesla build the Gigafactory.)
Latest AeroMobil Flying Car Prototype Set For Europe’s Roads and Skies – (Dezeen – October 30, 2014)
A “fully functional” new prototype of a vehicle that is both an aircraft and a car, called the AeroMobil, was made public after a development and build time of just 10 months. AeroMobil 3.0 was displayed at Vienna’s technology-focused Pioneers Festival and is “very close” to a final product that could be sold to the public, according to the company, which is also called AeroMobil. Composite materials found in the chassis, wings and its wheels are all expected to make it to the final model, as are the avionics equipment, autopilot, and a parachute deployment system. In-flight testing has been underway since early October. According to the designers, the main purpose of this prototype is to have the vehicle certified for use on roads and airspace in the European Union, according to M1 requirements for cars and Light Sport Aircraft regulations. See also this article with details of an earlier “pre-prototype” and history of development process. Here is a link to the official AeroMobil video. All you need in order to own an AeroMobil 3.0 is $200,000-$300,000. If you also have a pilot’s license, you can fly it; otherwise you can have your pilot fly it for you and catch a ride in the passenger seat. (Editor’s note: Either way, it really does look like a sweet machine.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
A Military-Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere – (Wired – September 16, 2014)
We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense. In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak for a new mission, another one can be printed out in a little more than a day, for just $2,500. It’s made with off-the-shelf parts and has an Android phone for a brain. David Sheffler, who led the project is a former engineer for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce who now teaches at the university. After he created a 3-D printed jet engine in one of his classes, the MITRE Corporation, a DoD contractor, asked him to create a 3-D printed UAV that could be easily modified and built with readily available parts. The first prototype, the orange and blue model seen in an attached video clip, was based on a conventional radio-controlled (RC) aircraft made of balsa wood, which is much lighter and stronger than the ABS plastic used in the university’s 3-D printers. The same plane made of plastic would have weighed five times as much as the wood version. “You’re printing out of a material that’s really not well-suited to making an airplane,” Sheffler explains. On top of that, the way 3-D printing works—building things in layers—led to structural weaknesses in the aircraft. To account for those downsides, Sheffler’s team reworked the design. The latest prototype is made of nine printed parts that click together like LEGO. The center of the plane is all one piece, with a removable hatch that offers access the inner cargo bay. All of the electronics live in there, including a Google Nexus 5 smartphone running a custom-designed avionics app that controls the plane.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Leon Panetta, Head of Pentagon and C.I.A. under Obama, Says Brace for 30 Year War with ISIS – (Global Research – October 7, 2014)
Leon Panetta, the long-time Democratic Party operative who served as Obama’s Defense Secretary and CIA Director, recently said of Obama’s new bombing campaign: “I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” Only in America are new 30-year wars spoken of so casually, the way other countries speak of weather changes. He added that the war “will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.” And elsewhere: not just a new decades-long war with no temporal limits, but no geographic ones either. He criticized Obama – who has bombed 7 predominantly Muslim countries plus the Muslim minority in the Philippines (almost double the number of countries Bush bombed) – for being insufficiently militaristic, despite the fact that Obama officials themselves have already instructed the public to think of The New War “in terms of years.” Then we have Hillary Clinton (whom Panetta gushed would make a “great” president). At an event in Ottawa, she proclaimed that the fight against these “militants” will “be a long-term struggle” that should entail an “information war” as “well as an air war.” The new war, she said, is “essential” and the U.S. shies away from fighting it “at our peril.” Like Panetta (and most establishment Republicans), Clinton made clear in her book that virtually all of her disagreements with Obama’s foreign policy were the by-product of her view of Obama as insufficiently hawkish, militaristic and confrontational. See also: Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War is Official U.S. Doctrine.
Vladimir Putin Meets with Members of the Valdai International Discussion Club. Transcript of the Final Plenary Session – (Valdai – October 25, 2014)
Vladimir Putin took part in the final plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s 11th meeting. The meeting’s theme is The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules. This year, 108 experts, historians and political analysts from 25 countries, including 62 foreign participants, took part in the club’s work. The transcript of President Putin’s address is valuable reading which is to say, among other things, that it can’t be summed up in 2 or 3 sound bites. But to give a taste of it, here is one excerpted section: “In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group’s ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case. The very notion of ‘national sovereignty’ became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power center, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy. The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.” (Editor’s note: President Putin is speaking a level a “plain speak” here that we seldom get in U.S. politics. Of course, there is an agenda – but it is well based on historical data, well reasoned and well stated. We highly recommend reading this transcript, including Putin’s off-the-cuff responses during the Q&A session.)
Russia, ISIL and the Diplomatic Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis – (European Leadership Network – October 22, 2014)
We are now at the 52nd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As Khrushchev remembered it, it was a time that hung heavy with the ‘smell of burning in the air.” The recent release of apparently complete White House Cuban Missile Crisis tapes does indeed reveal a triumph of presidential fortitude, but not of the customary hagiographies. Instead, it’s now clear that President Kennedy alone, against his advisors, had been determined from the start to strike a deal with Nikita Khrushchev. The denouement of the crisis stemmed from a private American pledge to remove American missiles from Turkey within six months in exchange for the Soviet Union’s withdrawal of its nuclear forces from Cuba and the public American promise not to invade the island. The U.S. concession to bring American missiles from Turkey as part of the package was kept secret for 17 years, not just from the public but from most members of Kennedy’s national security team as well. As a consequence, the Cuban Crisis accelerated the long depreciation of diplomacy in the eyes of Americans. Since then, Americans have come to believe force and the management of coercion could dictate events. And this is the “lesson” that remains. Somehow, Americans still believe that if they secure their reputation and capacity for the wedding of coercion to diplomacy, they can sculpt the world.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
What Happened When One City Gave Homeless People Shelter Instead of Throwing Them in Jail – (AlterNet – October 2, 2014)
For the last forty years, this country has continually ratcheted up the number of people behind bars and expanded the reasons we put them there. Social problems – like homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness – have been sucked into a criminal justice system ill equipped to handle them. The problems haven’t been solved. Instead, we’ve locked too many people away and wasted money that could have been spent on interventions that could actually change the course of people’s lives. And as has always been the case with excessive correctional control, communities of color have been hardest hit. Salt Lake City crunched the numbers. The city was spending $20,000 per homeless resident per year – funding for policing, arrests, jail time, shelter, and emergency services. Homelessness was not going down. Instead, for $7,800 a year through a new program called Housing First, the city could provide a person with an apartment and case management services. In 2005, the city was spending $40 million to address chronic homelessness. Several years after starting the Housing First program, in 2013, spending was down to $9.6 million. And more importantly, chronic homelessness has dropped 72%.
5 Guilt-free Way to Make Sure You Use All Your Vacation – (Today – October 24, 2014)
A new Oxford Economics report shows that Americans are only using 77% of their paid time off. It’s gotten so bad that the number of unused vacation days has racked up to its highest level in 40 years. Workers say they’re worried about being seen as the office slacker. And in a world of layoffs, they’re also worried about keeping up with colleagues and bosses who don’t take all their vacation days. So here are some strategies for taking time off without guilt. At the other end of the curve, there are some people who not only take their vacation time, they also take some of their sick leave for somewhat questionable purposes. Here are 10 of their more interesting reasons. The article calls them all “unbelievable” reasons, however a couple of them caught our attention. They sounded merely honest, though not exactly “sick”. For example: Employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it. Or this one: Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with Monday morning.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Humans May Only Survive 68 Days on Mars – (Yahoo – October 15, 2014)
Space enthusiasts planning a move to Mars may have to wait to relocate: conditions on the Red Planet are such that humans would likely begin dying within 68 days, a new study says. Oxygen levels would start to deplete after about two months and scientists said new technologies are required before humans can permanently settle on Mars, according to the study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The five-person team used data from Mars One, a Dutch-based non-profit group behind an audacious project to permanently colonize the Red Planet starting in 2024. A shortlist of more than 1,000 people from an initial pool of 200,000 applicants will be whittled down to 24 for the mission — an irreversible move to Mars, which is to be partially funded by a reality television show about the Endeavor. But conditions on Mars — and the limits of human technology — could make the mission impossible, for now at least. “The first crew fatality would occur approximately 68 days into the mission,” according to the 35-page report, which analyzed mathematical formulas on oxygen, food and technology required for the project. Plants required to feed the space colony would produce “unsafe” amounts of oxygen, the authors said. “Some form of oxygen removal system is required, a technology that has not yet been developed for space flight,” the study concluded.
A Supersecret Spacecraft Comes Back to Earth after Two Years – (Business Week – October 14, 2014)
The U.S. Air Force has kept an unmanned space shuttle in orbit for the past two years, and it seems no one without security clearance knows what it’s been doing up there. The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which can enter orbit and land without human intervention, is scheduled to touch down sometime this week at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, Calif. The landing will mark completion of the program’s third and longest mission, which was launched on Dec. 11, 2012. The Air Force has two such spacecraft for these low-earth orbit missions, all of which are classified, as are the precise launch and landing times. Boeing’s description of the craft says the Air Force uses it to “explore reusable space vehicle technologies in support of long-term space objectives.” Hoyler described the X-37B as a test platform “to advance the state of the art” in areas such as “thermal protection systems, solar power systems, thermal control, environmental modeling, autonomous control and landing, and control algorithms.” Marco Caceres, a space analyst with Teal Group, says the Air Force is most likely interested in having a surveillance platform that can “maneuver in orbit faster” than satellites. Darpa is also working on a new hypersonic “spaceplane” called the XS-1 that could offer quick access to space and launch payloads into orbit for less than $5 million per flight. “Quick, affordable, and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations,” the agency said in its call for proposals for the spacecraft late last year. As with many top-secret Pentagon programs, speculation has flourished online about what the government is doing with the spacecraft. Theories range from surveillance to, well, more surveillance involving satellites that are so secretive they can only be released in space. Others have suggested the craft is the platform for a new generation of kinetic weapons that can be used from space. (Here’s a look at one theoretical space weapon at the center of speculation by defense and tech nerds for more than a decade.)
Dying Senior Scientist Shares Insider Truth About Area 51, Extraterrestrials, UFO’s & Anti-Gravity – (Collective Evolution – October 26, 2014)
Not long before Boyd Bushman passed away on August 7, 2014, he agreed to be video recorded for a short documentary where he openly spoke about his personal experiences with Area 51, UFOs, aliens and anti-gravity ideas. (Video link in article.) Boyd Bushman was a retired Senior Scientist for Lockheed Martin. He had an impressive forty year career where he was awarded many patents while working with defense contractors Hughes Aircraft, General Dynamics, Texas Instruments and Lockheed Martin. In the last video footage (ever) of him recorded right before his death, he shared some fascinating information and photos about Area 51, Aliens, UFO’s and anti-gravity. His images of aliens could perhaps be among the most fascinating evidence out there -and from a decorated and credible source. Former NASA astronaut and Princeton physics professor Brian O’Leary has also spoken out about UFO’s and aliens which could lend more substance to what Boyd is saying above. (Video link also in article.)
Homelessness in Tokyo Hits Record Low – (Wall St. Journal – October 17, 2014)
The number of homeless people in Tokyo, the world’s largest city, dropped to a record low of 1,697 this August, down from 1,877 last year, according to the latest statistics released by the metropolitan government. The number is the lowest since Tokyo began taking the survey in 2002, and is a fraction of the 6,731 homeless people reported in the city back in 2004. The population of Tokyo and its surrounding area is about 13.4 million. Hiroki Motoda, a metropolitan government official, said support for the homeless offered by the city, including temporary housing provision and employment advice, had contributed to lowering the figure over the years. The aging of the homeless population has also likely been a factor in the decline, he said. “Older homeless people tend to have health issues, and so they apply for social welfare. They stop living on the streets,” Mr. Motoda said. In 2014, the health, labor and welfare ministry survey found a total of 7,508 homeless people across the country living in parks, riverbeds and public places, down from 12,253 in 2010. The head of a non-profit organization offering support for homeless people in Tokyo noted a decline in the number of people seeking some of its services. “The number of homeless people at our food drive peaked in the 1990s. It’s probably about half that number now,” said Kozo Matsuzaki, the head of Sanyukai, noting an especially sharp decline in the past three to four years. In comparison, the number of homeless residents in New York City, the largest city in the U.S., reached a record high this month at more than 56,000 people.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Dudes With Drones – (Atlantic – November, 2014)
Chris Anderson, the longtime editor of Wired magazine who now heads a drone manufacturer called 3D Robotics, estimates that at least 500,000 have been sold in the United States alone. Though drones are fun to fly, the autopilot feature on newer models frees you up to, say, cheer at your kid’s soccer game while the drone records it from the air. On the horizon is facial-recognition software that will let drone users film themselves while catching a wave on a surfboard or navigating a mountain chute on skis. And although the Federal Aviation Administration maintains that flying drones for commercial purposes won’t be legal until next year at the earliest, drones have already proved useful in agriculture, search and rescue, architecture, and other fields. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, drones could generate more than 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in their first decade of legal commercial use. We’ll see. The skeptics have plenty of ammunition, including serious concerns about safety—last year, a drone fell out of the sky onto a busy sidewalk in Manhattan, narrowly missing a man walking home from work, and current models aren’t equipped to avoid one another in flight. But to drone enthusiasts—many of whom are clustered in San Diego, which has a large military-drone industry—these are just problems awaiting a technological solution. Drone manufacturing is an example of what Anderson has termed the “maker movement”: citizen inventors developing new technologies that once would have come only out of big corporations’ R&D departments. Many of these makers see a future in which drones could prove as transformational—and as popular—as the personal computer. This article goes on to introduce the inventors, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs at the forefront of the flying-robot revolution. See also: Ambulance Drone could deliver life-saving equipment within one minute.
Big Pharma Lobbies Hard to End India’s Distribution of Affordable Generic Drugs – (Truth Out – October 10, 2014)
In the last decade, India has updated its patent laws to meet international standards set by the World Trade Organization (WTO), but took advantage of flexibilities within the WTO framework to protect its domestic generic drug industry and keep drug prices low for its people, many of whom continue to live in poverty even as India emerges as a major world economy. But big drug manufacturers in the United States and Europe are not happy with these flexibilities. An aggressive lobbying effort by pharmaceutical interests pushed Congress and the White House to put mounting pressure on India to change its patent laws. “In the US you can get a patent for just about anything, but then if you change the drug a little bit, you can get a whole new patent,” said Matthew Kavanagh, a senior analyst for the Health Global Access Project (Health GAP). Kavanagh said that US drug companies could maintain a market monopoly on a drug for years after the original patent expires by patenting a “long-lasting” version, for example, or by simply changing the delivery method from a pill to a dissolvable capsule. Health GAP estimates that India produces about 40% of the generic drugs sold in the United States, and much of US-funded aid to HIV/AIDS efforts in Africa and across the developing world is spent on generic drugs from India. India, Kavanagh said, has prioritized public health and its generic drug producers over the profits of foreign companies. Drug manufacturers must prove that their products are innovative and provide new benefits to receive a patent, and India has angered Western companies by refusing to grant or revoking patents on lifesaving cancer medicines and other drugs that are simply new formulas of existing products. If the price of a much-needed drug is too high or in low supply, the Indian government can also give a “compulsory license” to a domestic firm to manufacture a generic version for a fee paid to the original patent-holder. Compulsory licenses are rare, but last year India angered the pharmaceutical industry and its supporters in Congress when a patent review board upheld a compulsory license for a generic version of a liver cancer drug originally produced by Bayer. See also: Hand in Hand With US Government, Big Pharma Pushes for More Profits in South Africa through intellectual property legislation.
Toward a Post-Materialistic Science – (Huffington Post – October 1, 2014)
The latest issue of Explore – The Journal of Science and Healing contains a bombshell of an essay. It’s titled “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science,” and it could be to science what Luther’s 95 Theses were to religion. All eight co-authors are eminent; all but two hold PhDs. Their fields include biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and psychiatry. The authors of the manifesto are all scientific mavericks whose viewpoints are not mainstream. It’s worth noting, however, that neither were Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, or Einstein mainstream. All challenged the scientific status quo, and all were eventually vindicated by the canonization of their once-radical views. The manifesto is but two pages in length, well-reasoned, persuasive, and worth reading in its entirety. But here’s the gist: Major advances in science — revolutions, even — follow the collapse of outworn paradigms, whose overthrow is forced by the accumulation of empirical evidence that violates the paradigm. Scientists refer tongue-in-cheek to such misbehaving evidence as the “damned facts.” The newest frontier of science is the study of consciousness, for which a materialistic bias is particularly prejudicial. That is, investigations of consciousness reveal phenomena that appear to violate the existing materialistic paradigm. Materialistically oriented scientists typically reject these so-called “paranormal” phenomena out-of-hand because they fly in the face of cherished preconceptions. The refusal to accept the “damned facts” at face value and confront them head-on is, according to the authors, “antithetical to the true spirit of scientific inquiry.” The authors then propose a radical, post-materialistic paradigm: “Mind represents an aspect of reality as primordial as the physical world. Mind is fundamental in the universe; i.e., it cannot be derived from matter and reduced to anything more basic.”
A Different War-Is-Good-For-Us Argument – (David Swanson – October 16, 2014)
MIT political scientist Jonathan Caverley, author of Democratic Militarism Voting, Wealth, and War, and himself a US Navy veteran, argues that increasingly high-tech militaries, with all-volunteer armies that sustain fewer casualties in smaller conflicts, combine with rising economic inequality to create perverse incentives that turn the conventional view of war on its head. My argument is that in a heavily industrialized democracy like the United States, we have developed a very capital intensive form of warfare. We no longer send millions of combat troops overseas – or see massive numbers of casualties coming home. Once you start going to war with lots of airplanes, satellites, communications – and a few very highly trained special operations forces — going to war becomes a check writing exercise rather than a social mobilization. And once you turn war into a check writing exercise, the incentives for and against going to war change. “You can think of it as a redistribution exercise, where people who have less income generally pay a smaller share of the cost of war. This is especially important at the federal level. In the United States, the federal government tends to be funded largely from the top 20%. Most of the federal government, I’d say 60%, maybe even 65%, is financed by the wealthy. “For most people, war now costs very little in terms of both blood and treasure. And it has a redistributive effect.”
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
‘Why I Want to Die at 75’ – (BBC News – October 21, 2014)
At BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas summit in New York, Ezekiel Emanuel argued that we focus too much on racking up years, and it’s time for a new attitude to death. Emanuel, at 57 and in full health, is already planning the date of his death – at 75. The statement is all the more surprising, considering that Emanuel is an oncologist and the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the US National Institutes of Health. Yet he says it is important that we all consider the nature of our deaths, as hard as that may be. Is there an ideal time to die, and should we choose to end our lives at that point? The crucial point, according to Emanuel, is that although many therapies might prolong the years we live, they don’t necessarily preserve a functioning, active life: more people live with disability and chronic illness than ever before. As an example, he says that 20% more people survive stroke now than in the past – even though they are often seriously disabled as a result. “On one hand, it’s a triumph; on the other hand – maybe not.” Emanuel is not suggesting that people should take deliberate action to accelerate death; rather, once he reaches 75 he will simply refuse medical care – such as chemotherapy, a pacemaker or statins– that could prolong his life. Even antibiotics will be off the cards, he says. Even so, his point of view seems hard to reconcile with the fact that Emanuel has long opposed physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. “I’m challenging people to think about their personal philosophy,” he says. “I want to shift the focus to saying ‘you’ve got 75 years, what are you going to make of it?’” Here is Emanuel’s original essay in The Atlantic, Why I Hope to Die at 75.
JUST FOR FUN
Crazy Circle Illusion – (ShowYou – June 21, 2014)
Kevin Axtell is an accomplished juggler and most of his clips are on various aspects of juggling. But this one is simply a beautiful “unpacking” of one example in which the eyes and the mind work together to “make sense” of visual input – essentially how we construct reality. Credit for original creation of this illusion goes to: Arthur Shapiro and Alex Rose-Henig of American University, USA. (Editor’s note: If you are using an old browser and the link above doesn’t open for you, use this link. The difference is that the ShowYou link doesn’t open with an advertisement; the YouTube link does.)
A FINAL QUOTE–
Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better. ~ Ray Bradbury
A special thanks to: Nancy Christiano, Bruce Erickson, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Petra Pieterse, Diane Petersen, Burt Rutan, Gary Sycalik 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
A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen
Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”
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