FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- New research suggests that it may be possible to change the amount of information the brain can store.
- Researchers have discovered that a virus native to algae can make mammals (including humans) its home.
- The “internet of things” comes to police departments with “smart” police guns – and potentially meaningful benefits to both police officers and the public.
- Researchers have invented a battery made up of billions of nanoscale batteries — the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage.
by John L. Petersen
Transition Talks Video
I received quite a few emails (more than I could respond to), asking if we were going to tape my talk on Saturday on the emerging new world. I’m happy to say that we did get a video of the presentation made and as soon as we are able to edit in the slides we’ll make it available. We’ll send out a notice just as soon as it is up and running.
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 Dossey
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 at 2PM at the Cacapon State Park lodge to hear Dr. Larry Dossey.
Click here for complete information on when and where.
Help Us Keep FUTUREdition Coming
As we approach Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and then Christmas (and all of the other seasonal holidays), each year we appeal to you to help support this free e-newsletter that you are reading. The truth of the matter is that without your help we would not be able to publish FE. As I’ve mentioned before, it costs something more than $15,000 a year (not counting any of my time) to gather up, organize and get it out to you twice month.
Throughout the year I receive a great number of positive comments from FE readers recounting why they value the unique articles and perspectives that they find here. Most say something like they don’t know where else they could go to get the broad coverage of many different – and important – trends and events, all of which have the potential of significantly influencing our lives in the coming months and years. And, “How in the world do you collect so many interesting articles each issue. It must take you all month just to gather them up.”
For me, FE is an extraordinary resource for taking the temperature of the unprecedented change that is happening on this planet. I try to select items that are out on the leading edge of change . . . and I particularly look for those things that won’t show up in the mainstream media. I’m interested in things that are provocative and encourage us all to think more broadly and open ourselves to new possibilities. Our ability to navigate the change that is on the horizon will largely be determined by the new ideas – the innovation – that we, as a species, are able to come up with for dealing with the unfamiliar new terrain spread as far as we can see.
You’ll have to admit that there are a lot of new and novel ideas in each issue of FE that help to push you into thinking about things in a different way than you have in the past.
I think it’s clear that familiar legacy systems like politics, foreign affairs, climate, energy, and the financial system (to name a few) are all imploding. They are not structurally able to deal with the magnitude and rate of change that we are experiencing.
The situation will only become exacerbated as the underlying exponential compounding moves us rapidly into situations for which there are no precedents. Even more reason to be aware, as soon as possible, of what might be headed this way. That’s our goal here – anticipating the emergence of a new era — and I hope that you will support us this holiday season.
We publish twice a month – 24 issues a year. If you think what you learn each issue is worth a buck and a half (that’s about half the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks!) then please click here and send us $35 to help keep FE coming.
Not everyone will want to, or be able to contribute, so you may choose to be even more generous to help us cover the direct costs. Every year some readers send along $100 or even $500. A couple of years ago one very generous friend clicked on the link and sent $5,000 – which was really wonderfully appreciated.
Even then, with all of the kindness of folks like you, we have never been able to cover all of the costs of publishing this newsletter.
So, help us if you can. Click here. It’s easy and fast . . . and we’ll be very appreciative.
Warm holiday wishes.
Why Net Neutrality Is the Most Important Issue for the Future of the Human Race
Let’s start with the proposition that the evolution of the human species is a critically important thing. If you presume that at some level the purpose of life on this planet is to progress toward increasingly more sophisticated and aware levels of capability and operation, then supporting that evolutionary impulse is critically important.
If you stand in the way of those trends, then you’re not just “hindering progress”. You’re literally slowing down the whole human race in its efforts to develop the capability to effectively adapt to the rest of the reality – technology, knowledge, the environment, biology – that is moving inexorably toward the next stage of development. The Gaian theory persuasively argues that the earth and all of its component parts are alive and sentient . . . and an incomprehensively integrated, highly nonlinear system that is going through its own evolutionary process. Humans are just a part of that much larger system, it is said, and are a subordinated and directed variable that is actively influenced and shaped to support the evolution of the planet.
If you think about that – that there may well be “external” influences that affect why we, as humans, do the things we do – then it could well explain some things that seem inextricable. How do you make sense out of wild political swings? Where did same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana issues come from? (I mean, they just seemed to rise to dominance in a matter of years from being non-issues for decades). There are all kinds of big issues and events that appear counter to commonsense and expert opinion.
And . . . why the Internet now?
If you buy the directed evolution idea, then for something as important and profound as the Internet you would have to say that it is here for a reason – a reason related to the emergence and evolution of the species. There are a number of indicators that suggest that that is really the case.
When you look into a number of analogues from other domains of how complex systems change from one state to another . . . and then project those principles over into the area of global human behavior, you find out some interesting things. First of all, a shift could happen very rapidly – in fact, the rate of change from the old (present) world to a new one that operates in rather different terms, varies with the number of moving parts – in this case, humans. Smaller numbers produce a transformation more slowly than large numbers.
We presently have something like 8 billion people on this earth. That sounds like a pretty big number, but in the big scheme of things, it’s pretty small compared, for example, to the number of water molecules in a puddle that is about to freeze. So, it may be a big number or maybe it’s not so big.
But there’s another variable that shapes the state change rate: it’s how the parts interface or communicate with adjacent others. The more avenues for connection that exist, the faster the evolutionary impulse proliferates throughout the system.
That makes sense. If you live out in the country, like I do, and all there was other than face-to-face communication was a telephone – and perhaps radio – the whole metabolism of the system would be (and was) much slower than it is today. The difference, of course, is the Internet.
The Internet is our era’s equivalent of Gutenberg’s movable type and the printing press that followed: it is a technology that generates a quantum jump in how humans share ideas and information. It greatly accelerates the internal metabolism of the system. It provides the communications infrastructure (think “global nervous system”), that allows the human race to generate and share the new ideas that support the exponential increase in knowledge that is being generated. At the same time, it hurries the rapid obsolescence of the legacy systems and institutions . . . and they fight back.
That’s what is happening now. Many of the major commercial Internet players want to sustain the centralized, highly profitable model of operation that has characterized the past centuries. This open, unregulated communications/nervous system that allows everyone equal access to the Internet has destroyed the need for middle-men (like editors, publishers, agents, and printers) and instead empowered individuals – anywhere – to play the roles that these centralized control points played in maintaining the hierarchical, dominating system for hundreds of years. Now there’s a significant effort afoot to reestablish these control points by allowing the big players that control the big pipes to put valves in the lines so that they can control who gets effective access to the Net by slowing down the data transfer rate for small players and opening it up for the big, high-paying producers.
The big operators generate entertainment. The small players produce the new ideas. The big operators maintain the status quo; the little guys threaten all parts of the system with the innovations and fresh perspectives that fuel the global mind shift. Throttle the ideas and you slow the evolution of the species.
A good part of the perceived problem is the rate-of-change that the open system enables. As more and more people become a part of this global brain and the bandwidth increases between them all, then the whole system accelerates toward the inevitable state change that will produce the new world that is headed this way.
The further along in the process we get, the faster the transition gets . . . and the harder it is for big organizations and governments to maintain their position of superiority and control. Whether they articulate it in these terms or not, they clearly sense the possibility of the rate of change getting out of control and the need to do everything that they can now to maintain their current level of influence . . . or to slow down the system enough to tamp down the rate of change.
To most players, all this is jockeying for positions of dominance – it’s all business or politics. But the need to keep the web open equally to everyone is the biggest issue on the planet today, because slowing down the net slows down the ability of humanity to generate the creativity and innovation that is required – in almost every sector – to contribute to and stay ahead of the change that we can’t directly influence.
Take climate change, for example. The weather in the northern hemisphere this week certainly supports my contention that the climate change that we will experience in the coming years will be a significant shift toward it becoming much colder.
If that is what happens, then our species will need to be agile and resilient more than ever before. We will need to come up with new ideas, implement them quickly, and adjust the way we live as fast as we can. If food doesn’t grow where it always has (to mention one implication), there won’t be much time to switch gears and embrace some really rapid reorganizing.
That (and many other equally important, concurrent issues) will require the global neural system to operate as effectively as possible in order for us to come up with the needed solutions. Necessity may well be the mother of invention, but that creativity will arise as a function of the operating efficiency of the underlying system. If the system is biased towards entertainment, the species loses.
This example, of course, says nothing about the evolution of a whole new mindset that will allow us to see the way to the future in fresh new ways. It doesn’t allude to the enlightenment – the awakening – of the human race that has begun and will be central to the formation of the framework for the new world. The success and effectiveness of those processes depend heavily upon new thoughts and ideas easily finding those with receptive minds. Slow that down and you slow down the biggest evolution in the history of the planet.
Everything going forward will vary with the efficiency of the global brain. The stakes are larger than anything else in history and we must recognize what this attempt to dumb down the brain would do. We can’t afford to close down the creative side of that brain – in order to entertain the other side. We must have net neutrality.
MoMA Acquires DIY Electronics Products to Reflect Technology’s “Significance” for Design – (Dezeen – November 5, 2014)
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has acquired a kit for building and programming a simple games console and four other DIY electronics products for the museum’s collection of “humble masterpieces”. Each relies on a degree of user interaction or input to function, such as assembling or programming the devices to perform various tasks or create sounds, with a strong focus on teaching simple electronics and programming at the same time. “While all five might be small in scale, their significance for contemporary design – and the world at large – knows little bounds,” said Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of architecture and design. “These objects reflect the deep and central role technology and interface design now play in education, production, and our everyday lives. In their own unique ways they allow audiences – artists, designers, and active maker-culture enthusiasts, pros, children, and amateurs – to engage with the processes and final products that are usually the preserve of electronic engineers.” The acquisition is unusual because none of the items are finished products – the process of making and adapting them is a fundamental part of their design.
The Very Intelligent Ebola Virus – (Jon Lieff, MD – November 2, 2014)
Herpes has a very complex life style with more than 70 genes—traveling up and down the neuron and in and out of the skin cell. HIV has an extraordinary set of complex behaviors with only 9 genes—travelling with critical proteins in its capsid, evading immune cells with multiple techniques and manipulating the cell’s complex nuclear machinery. How all of this can be accomplished with only 9 genes is not clear. But now the very intelligent Ebola virus takes front and center, with a complex, very deadly lifestyle and only 7 genes. Recent research has found that the Filo family of viruses (Filo because they look like threads or filaments) is very ancient—at least 20 million years old. Ebola has several related viruses—Marburg and Cuevavirus—and five subtypes—Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Tai Forest and Reston (monkeys in Virginia). Ebola virus does an incredible amount with its 7 genes. Unlike other viruses that rapidly mutate, such as HIV, the genetic material from each of Ebola’s five subtypes has been extremely stable over 40 years. This article describes what Ebola can do with 7 genes.
Griffith Scientists Propose Existence and Interaction of Parallel Worlds – (Space Daily – October 31, 2014)
In a paper published in the prestigious journal Physical Review X, Professor Howard Wiseman and Dr. Michael Hall from Griffith University’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics (Australia), and Dr. Dirk-Andre Deckert from the University of California, take interacting parallel worlds out of the realm of science fiction and into that of hard science. The team proposes that parallel universes really exist, and that they interact. That is, rather than evolving independently, nearby worlds influence one another by a subtle force of repulsion. They show that such an interaction could explain everything that is bizarre about quantum mechanics The “Many-Interacting Worlds” approach developed at Griffith University provides a new and daring perspective on this baffling field. Professor Wiseman notes, “In the well-known “Many-Worlds Interpretation”, each universe branches into a bunch of new universes every time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realized. But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all. On this score, our “Many Interacting Worlds” approach is completely different, as its name implies.” Professor Wiseman and his colleagues propose that: The universe we experience is just one of a gigantic number of worlds. Some are almost identical to ours while most are very different; All of these worlds are equally real, exist continuously through time, and possess precisely defined properties; and All quantum phenomena arise from a universal force of repulsion between ‘nearby’ (i.e. similar) worlds which tends to make them more dissimilar. Dr. Hall says the “Many-Interacting Worlds” theory may even create the extraordinary possibility of testing for the existence of other worlds.
Algal Virus Found in Humans, Slows Brain Activity – (Science Mag – October 27, 2041)
It’s not such a stretch to think that humans can catch the Ebola virus from monkeys and the flu virus from pigs. After all, they are all mammals with fundamentally similar physiologies. But now researchers have discovered that a virus found in algae can make mammals its home. The invader doesn’t make people or mice sick, but it does slow specific brain activities. The virus, called ATCV-1, showed up in human brain tissue several years ago, but at the time researchers could not be sure whether it had entered the tissue before or after the people died. Then, it showed up again in a survey of microbes and viruses in the throats of people with psychiatric disease. Pediatric infectious disease expert Robert Yolken from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues were trying to see if pathogens play a role in these conditions. At first, they didn’t know what ATCV-1 was, but a database search revealed its identity as a virus that typically infects a species of green algae found in lakes and rivers. The virus, called ATCV-1, showed up in human brain tissue several years ago, but at the time researchers could not be sure whether it had entered the tissue before or after the people died. Then, it showed up again in a survey of microbes and viruses in the throats of people with psychiatric disease. Pediatric infectious disease expert Robert Yolken from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues were trying to see if pathogens play a role in these conditions. The researchers wanted to find out if the virus was in healthy people as well as sick people. They checked for it in 92 healthy people participating in a study of cognitive function and found it in 43% of them. What’s more, those infected with the virus performed 10% worse than uninfected people on tests requiring visual processing. Specific tests for causality were positive. See also: Virus that makes humans more stupid. Dr. Yolken, the virologist who led the study, said: “This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behavior and cognition.
Could Liposomes Be the Answer to Our Antibiotic Crisis? – (GizMag – November 3, 2014)
Overuse has caused widespread antibiotic resistance, leading the World Health Organization to declare we are “headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” Scientists from the University of Bern have developed a new non-antibiotic compound that treats severe bacterial infections and avoids the problem of bacterial resistance. Although there have been many developments over the years, such as antibiotic “smart bombs”, the difficulty has been eliminating bacteria without also promoting bacterial resistance. This has created a need to strive for non-antibiotic approaches, including “ninja polymers” and more natural treatments like raw honey and natural proteins. This latest non-antibiotic compound developed by Eduard Babiychuk and Annette Draeger from the Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, and tested by a team of international scientists, was created by engineering artificial nanoparticles made of lipids, “liposomes” that closely resemble the membrane of host cells. In clinical medicine, liposomes are used to deliver specific medication into the body of patients. The scientists in Bern have created liposomes that act as bait, attracting bacterial toxins so they can be isolated and neutralized, thereby protecting host cells from a dangerous toxin attack. Without toxins, the bacteria are rendered defenseless and can be eliminated by the host’s own immune system. Mice which were treated with the liposomes after experimental, fatal septicemia survived without additional antibiotic therapy. Since the bacteria are not targeted directly, the liposomes do not promote the development of bacterial resistance.
Molecular Breakthrough Could Halt the Spread of Prostate Cancer – (Univ. of Bristol – November 10, 2014)
Pioneering research, by academics at three UK universities, shows that a specific compound can inhibit the activity of a molecule which is key to how tumors form new blood vessels. The vessels are essential for the cancer cells to survive and multiply. The findings, show that targeting a molecule called SRPK1 could stop progression of prostate cancer. SRPK1 plays a vital role in ‘angiogenesis’ – an essential process through which tumors are able to form blood vessels and obtain necessary nutrients to fuel their growth. This process is mainly regulated by VEGF – vascular endothelial growth factor – which can activate or inhibit vessel formation depending on how the gene is controlled by a cellular process called ‘alternative splicing’. Researchers observed that SRPK1 increases as the cancer gets more aggressive. Dr. Sebastian Oltean, the study’s co-author from the University of Bristol’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said: “We reasoned that inhibition of SRPK1 activity could stop cancer progression. Indeed, we show that if we decrease SRPK1 levels in prostate cancer cells, or in tumors grafted into mice, we are able to inhibit tumor vasculature and growth.” David Bates, co-author from the University of Nottingham’s Division of Cancer and Stem Cells, said: “Our results point to a novel way of treating prostate cancer patients and may have wider implications to be used in several types of cancers.”
A New—and Reversible—Cause of Aging – (Harvard University – December 19, 2013)
Researchers have discovered a cause of aging in mammals that may be reversible. The essence of this finding is a series of molecular events that enable communication inside cells between the nucleus and mitochondria. As communication breaks down, aging accelerates. By administering a molecule naturally produced by the human body, scientists restored the communication network in older mice. Subsequent tissue samples showed key biological hallmarks that were comparable to those of much younger animals. “The aging process we discovered is like a married couple—when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down,” said Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics David Sinclair, senior author on the study. “And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.” Mitochondria are often referred to as the cell’s “powerhouse,” generating chemical energy to carry out essential biological functions. These self-contained organelles, which live inside our cells and house their own small genomes, have long been identified as key biological players in aging. As they become increasingly dysfunctional overtime, many age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes gradually set in. Researchers have generally been skeptical of the idea that aging can be reversed, due mainly to the prevailing theory that age-related ills are the result of mutations in mitochondrial DNA—and mutations cannot be reversed. However this study suggests that if communications can be restored prior to excessive mutation accumulation—within days, some aspects of the aging process could be reversed in mice.
New Alzheimer’s-related Memory Disorder Identified – (EurkAlert – November 13, 2014)
A multi-institutional study has defined and established criteria for a new neurological disease closely resembling Alzheimer’s disease called primary age-related tauopathy (PART). Patients with PART develop cognitive impairment that can be indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s disease, but they lack amyloid plaques. Awareness of this neurological disease will help doctors diagnose and develop more effective treatments for patients with different types of memory impairment. “To make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis you need to see two things together in a patient’s brain: amyloid plaques and structures called neurofibrillary tangles composed of a protein called tau,” said Dr. Nelson, a professor of neuropathology at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. “However, autopsy studies have demonstrated that some patients have tangles but no plaques and we’ve long wondered what condition these patients had.” Plaques in the brain, formed from the accumulation of amyloid protein, are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Until now, researchers have considered cases with only tangles to be either very early-stage Alzheimer’s or a variant of the disease in which the plaques are harder to detect. However, previous in-depth biochemical and genetic studies have failed to reveal the presence of any abnormal amyloid in these patients. Although tangle-only patients can have memory complaints, the presence of plaques is a key requirement for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In the current study, investigators from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan came together to formalize criteria for diagnosing this new neurological disorder. The study establishes that PART is a primary tauopathy, a disease directly caused by the tau protein in tangles. Many of the neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer’s brain, in contrast, are thought to arise secondarily to amyloid or some other stimuli. The researchers propose that individuals who have tangles resembling those found in Alzheimer’s but have no detectable amyloid plaques should now be classified as PART.
The Science Behind Total Recall: New Player in Brain Function and Memory – (Science Daily – November 13, 2014)
Is it possible to change the amount of information the brain can store? Maybe, according to a new international study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). Their research has identified a molecule that puts a brake on brain processing and when removed, brain function and memory recall is improved. “Previous research has shown that production of new molecules is necessary for storing memories in the brain; if you block the production of these molecules, new memory formation does not take place,” says RI-MUHC neuroscientist, Dr. Keith Murai, the study’s senior author. “Our findings show that the brain has a key protein that limits the production of molecules necessary for memory formation. When this brake-protein is suppressed, the brain is able to store more information.” Dr. Murai and his colleagues used a mouse model to study how changes in brain cell connections produce new memories. They demonstrated that a protein, FXR1P (Fragile X Related Protein 1), was responsible for suppressing the production of molecules required for building new memories. When FXR1P was selectively removed from certain parts of the brain, these new molecules were produced that strengthened connections between brain cells and this correlated with improved memory and recall in the mice.”The role of FXR1P was a surprising result,” says Dr. Murai. “Future research in this area could be very interesting,” he adds. “If we can identify compounds that control the braking potential of FXR1P, we may be able to alter the amount of brain activity or plasticity. For example, in autism, one may want to decrease certain brain activity and in Alzheimer’s disease, we may want to enhance the activity.”
If You Think These Are Just “Contrails” Think Again – (Collective Evolution – October 27, 2014)
One factor in climate change that’s commonly overlooked is geoengineering and Solar Radiation Management (SRM), dubbed by many as “chemtrails.” The name seems to come from the fact that various geoengineering and SRM programs use stratospheric aerosols like barium, nano aluminum-coated fiberglass [known as CHAFF], radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, polymer fibers and more. And according to the World Meteorological Association, “In recent years there has been a decline in the support for weather modification research, and a tendency to move directly into operational projects.” As a US Government publication notes, “Weather modification is generally considered to be the deliberate effort to improve atmospheric conditions for beneficial human purposes. Not all weather modification activities, however, have been designed to benefit everyone, and have been used for purposes of war.”
Plants Have Little Wiggle Room to Survive Drought – (EurekAlert – November 13, 2014)
Plants all over the world are more sensitive to drought than many experts realized, according to a new study by scientists at UCLA and China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. The research will improve predictions of which plant species will survive the increasingly intense droughts associated with global climate change. Predicting how plants will respond to climate change is crucial for their conservation. But good predictions require an understanding of plants’ ability to acclimate to environmental changes, or their “plasticity.” All organisms show some degree of plasticity, but because they’re stationary, plants are especially dependent on this ability. “Plants are masters of plasticity, changing their size, branching patterns, leaf colors and even their internal biochemistry to adjust to changes in climate,” said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the UCLA College and the study’s senior author. Little has been known about the degree to which plastic changes might allow plants to endure worsening droughts. “Plants have evolved this amazing ability to sync with their environment, but they are facing their limits,” said Megan Bartlett, a UCLA doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s lead author. Compiling and analyzing data for numerous species from various ecosystems around the world, Bartlett found that most species accumulate salts in their cell sap to fine-tune their tolerance to seasonal changes in rainfall. But that adjustment only provides a relatively narrow degree of additional drought tolerance.
Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine – (Wired – October 27, 2014)
Verizon Wireless has been subtly altering the web traffic of its wireless customers for the past two years, inserting a string of about 50 letters, numbers, and characters into data flowing between these customers and the websites they visit. The company calls this a Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH. It’s a kind of short-term serial number that advertisers can use to identify you on the web, and it’s the lynchpin of the company’s internet advertising program. But critics say that it’s also a reckless misuse of Verizon’s power as an internet service provider—something that could be used as a trump card to obviate established privacy tools such as private browsing sessions or “do not track” features. Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wants Verizon to stop using the UIDH. “ISPs are trusted connectors of users and they shouldn’t be modifying our traffic on its way to the Internet,” he says. He calls the UIDH a “perma-cookie,” because it can be read by any web server that you visit and used to build a profile of your internet habits. According to Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis, there’s no way to turn it off. She says that Verizon doesn’t use the UIDH to create customer profiles, and if you opt out of the company’s Relevant Mobile Advertising program (you can do this by logging into your Verizon account here), then Verizon and its advertising partners won’t be using it to create targeted ads. But that’s beside the point, says Hoffman-Andrews. Because Verizon is broadcasting this unique identifier to every website, ad networks could start using it to build a profile of your web activity, even without your consent. Unfortunately, it’s not just Verizon. See also: Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’.
Unlock Your Computer and Websites with a Glance – (Technology Review – November 13, 2014)
A company called EyeLock will soon release a $280 device for home and work PCs that lets you glance into a camera to log in to websites and desktop software or to unlock your computer. The device, called Myris, uses the unique pattern of your irises to verify your identity. Its record of what your irises look like is stored in encrypted form in secure hardware inside the device, which can store credentials for up to five people. At first the Myris will be sold as a stand-alone device in retail stores, but the technology will also be built into future laptops through a deal with a Taiwanese company that manufactures PCs for HP, Acer, and other major brands. The Myris is a squat, palm-sized cylinder that connects to your PC with a USB cable. Its underside has a small mirror in the center with a small camera lens next to it. Any time you meet a login screen after the device has been set up, you hold up the Myris in front of your face so that both eyes are visible in its mirror. A few seconds later, a green ring lights up to signal that you’ve been recognized, and the device’s companion software will log you in without your having to touch a key. You can do that for websites, for desktop applications, or to log in to your user account on a computer. EyeLock uses infrared LEDs to illuminate your face with invisible light, by which an infrared-sensitive camera captures video to inspect the texture of your irises. The company says its technology reduces false positives by a factor of 30 relative to the fingerprint reader in Apple’s mobile devices, and that it can distinguish a real eyeball from an image of one. EyeLock already sells iris recognition devices for access control to buildings; its customers include Bank of America. Testing out the Myris suggests that the underlying technology works well but is unlikely to catch on until it is built into our devices.
Wireless Phone Use Increases Malignant Brain Tumor Up to Four-Fold – (Inst. of Science in Society – November 12, 2014)
The latest analysis includes pooled data from two case-control studies of malignant brain tumors in Sweden diagnosed during 1997-2003 and 2007-2009 compared with controls matched on age and gender. Mobile phone use increased the risk of glioma (the most common form of malignant brain tumor) up to 3 fold with a latency period of > 25 years from first exposure. Cordless phone use increased the risk of glioma up to 1.4 fold in the >15-25 year latency group. The highest risks were found for tumors on the same side of the brain that the phone is used and on the temporal lobe next to the phone. In addition, 3G phones appear more damaging in increasing the risk more than 4-fold with latency period >5-10 years. And people who began using mobile phones before the age of 20 are at higher risk than older age groups. These findings confirm a string of previous studies. The principal investigator Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology at University of Örebro in Sweden first warned of the link between mobile phones and brain tumors in a paper published in 1999.
Austrians Protest Government Spending with Concrete Model City – (Dezeen – November 13, 2014)
A team of Austrian students installed a model city in the center of Vienna to show how much housing and infrastructure could be built with the €19 billion ($23.7 billion) that the government is paying to bail out a local bank. The government bought the Hypo Alpe Adria bank in 2009 following a series of financial scandals that led to its bankruptcy, and has already spent over €5 billion ($6.2 billion) paying off its debts. Further spending to rescue the bank was projected to amount up to €14 billion ($17.4 billion). Two students, Lukas Zeilbauer and Diana Contiu, decided that the public wasn’t doing enough to voice concerns over the government’s spending. Their team calculated how many single-family houses could be built with the money, then planned and built a 1:100-scale city in Vienna’s Karlsplatz square, to help members of the public visualize the government’s spending. “You can build over 70,000 houses with €19 billion,” said Zeilbauer. “So the main idea was born: to build an entire city with housing and infrastructure for over 100,000 people!” The installation remained in place for 19 days, before protesters marched the concrete blocks – by carrying or transporting them in wheelbarrows and shopping carts – to the city’s parliament building, where they deposited more than 25 tons of concrete. “Our main goal with the project is to make this incredibly big amount of money understandable, tangible and visible for everyone,” Zeilbauer explained. Article includes photographs of the model city in the middle of the Karlsplatz square.
Wind Power Blows Away Coal and Gas in Nordic Countries – (Scientific American – October 17, 2014)
Wind power is blowing gas and coal-fired turbines out of business in the Nordic countries, and the effects will be felt across the Baltic region as the renewable glut erodes utility margins for thermal power stations. Fossil power plants in Finland and Denmark act as swing-producers, helping to meet demand when hydropower production in Norway and Sweden falls due to dry weather. The arrival of wind power on a large scale has made this role less relevant and has pushed electricity prices down, eroding profitability of fossil power stations. “Demand for coal condensing power in the Nordic power market has decreased as a result of the economic recession and the drop in the wholesale price for electricity,” state-controlled Finnish utility Fortum said. Nordic wholesale forward power prices have almost halved since 2010 to little over 30 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) as capacity increases while demand stalls on the back of stagnant populations, low economic growth and lower energy use due to improved efficiency. “The Nordic system price will likely more often clear well below the production cost for coal fired power production,” said Marius Holm Rennesund Oslo-based consultancy THEMA. “This will, in our view, result in mothballing of 2,000 MW of coal condensing capacity in Denmark and Finland towards 2030,” he added. Adding further wind power capacity at current market conditions could lead to power prices dropping towards as low as 20 euros per MWh, the marginal cost for nuclear reactors, Rennesund said.
Nanoparticle-based Material Turns Up the Heat on Concentrated Solar Power – (Giz Mag – November 2, 2014)
The key factor when it comes to solar power plant efficiency – be they of the photovoltaic or concentrated solar power (CSP) variety – is the amount of light that can be captured by the light-absorbing material and converted into electricity or heat. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have developed a new nanoparticle-based material that promises to improve the efficiency of CSP plants with its ability to absorb and convert over 90% of the sunlight it captures into heat. Unlike photovoltaic (PV)-based solar power plants, which convert light directly into electricity, CSP plants generally use sunlight, concentrated onto a small area, to generate heat and drive a steam turbine to generate electricity. Because this is similar to the process used by fossil fuel power plants, CSP technology has the potential to be retrofitted to existing power plants to make them more environmentally friendly. The technology also has advantages over PV plants with its ability to generate electricity 24 hours a day by storing heat captured during the day in thermal tanks. CSP plants commonly uses large numbers of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a tower spray painted with a black paint material that is designed to maximize sunlight absorption. However, being subjected to such high temperatures day after day degrades the material, meaning such plants usually need to be shut down once a year or so to allow the degraded light-absorbing material to be chipped off and a new coating applied and cured. To overcome this problem, a multidisciplinary team at UCSD developed a material using particles ranging in size from 10 nanometers to 10 micrometers.
A Battery Made Up of Billions of Nanoscale Batteries – (KurzweilAI – November 11, 2014)
Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have invented a battery made up of billions of nanoscale batteries — the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage — using a structure based on a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end. Such a design would provide the maximum power and energy from a given battery chemistry because the internal resistances for ion transfer and the volume of electrochemically inactive components would be minimized. That means smaller, more powerful batteries that operate longer without a recharge, i.e. significantly higher energy density and power density. Chanyuan Liu, a Ph.D. student in materials science & engineering, says that it can be fully charged in 12 minutes and can be recharged thousands of time. Many millions of these nanobatteries can be crammed into one larger battery the size of a postage stamp. Each nanopore is shaped just like the others, which allows them to pack the tiny thin batteries together efficiently. They are all connected in parallel, each composed of an anode, a cathode, and a liquid electrolyte confined within the nanopores of anodic aluminium oxide. Now that the scientists have the battery working and have demonstrated the concept, they have also identified improvements that could make the next version 10 times more powerful. The next step to commercialization: manufacturing the battery in large batches.
3D-Printed Car from Start to Finish in Less Than Two Days – (Motley Fool – October 18, 2014)
If Jay Rogers had his way, car buyers would be able to order a vehicle at a dealership, choose the design and accessories, and have it manufactured to their personal specifications pretty much on the spot. Rogers is the CEO of Local Motors of Phoenix, Ariz., which aims to manufacture cars based on open-source designs. To him, it’s a win-win situation: The customer gets a tailor-made car and the dealership doesn’t have the headache of inventory that it might never sell. All thanks to 3D printing. Rogers has already produced the world’s first 3D-printed car, the Strati, a small two-seater that was recently unveiled at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. In fact, Rogers, says he’s moved beyond Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk in the development of the electric car. Rogers acknowledges that Local Motors can’t take complete credit for the new car. The company encourages others to produce and share design ideas. These groups submit their finished designs to Local Motors, which then sells them both online and in retail stores. The design for the Strati – which means “layers” in Italian – was submitted by Michele Anoe in Italy, one of more than 200 auto designers who responded to Local Motor’s call in June 2013 for workable designs for 3D-printed cars.
Daan Roosegaarde’s Glowing Van Gogh Cycle Path in the Netherlands – (Dezeen – November 12, 2014)
Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s cycle path, illuminated with patterns based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night, has officially opened in Nuenen. The surface of the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path is coated with a special paint that uses energy gathered during the day to glow after dark. Forming part of the Van Gogh cycle route through the Dutch province of Noord Brabant, where the artist was born and raised, the kilometer-long section of path illuminates in swirling patterns that reference his 1889 painting of a night-time scene. “It’s a new total system that is self-sufficient and practical, and just incredibly poetic,” said Roosegaarde. (Editor’s note: It’s also incredibly beautiful. See attached video clip.) The project is the second manifestation of Roosegaarde’s Smart Highways research into creating safer and more energy efficient road networks. His pilot Smart Highway – named Glowing Lines – opened along a stretch of motorway in Oss where the same photo-luminescent paint is used to mark out the edges of the road. Future plans include road lanes that will automatically charge electric vehicles and alert drivers when their surfaces become icy.
USDA Approves GMO Potato – (New York Times – November 7, 2014)
A potato genetically engineered to reduce the amounts of a potentially harmful ingredient in French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture has announced. The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of causing cancer in people, is produced when the potato is fried. The new potato also resists bruising, a characteristic long sought by potato growers and processors for financial reasons. Potatoes bruised during harvesting, shipping or storage can lose value or become unusable. The potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers, as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do. The nonbruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered nonbrowning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval.
Land, Co-ops, Compost: A Local Food Economy Emerges in Boston’s Poorest Neighborhoods – (Yes – November 7, 2014)
Since 1994, Glynn Lloyd has run City Fresh Foods, a catering company based in Roxbury—one of Boston’s lowest-income neighborhoods. He wanted his business to use locally produced food, but at that time it was hard to come by. So in 2009 Lloyd helped found City Growers, one of Boston’s first for-profit farming ventures. City Growers is part of an emerging network of urban food enterprises in Roxbury and neighboring Dorchester. From a community land trust that preserves land for growing, to kitchens and retailers who buy and sell locally grown food, to a new waste management co-op that will return compost to the land, a crop of new businesses and nonprofits are building an integrated food economy. It’s about local people keeping the wealth of their land and labor in the community. Today, the Dudley neighborhood, which sits between Roxbury and Dorchester, has a 10,000-square-foot community greenhouse that has become a hub for the local food economy. Were it not for the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) which brought together residents to develop their own comprehensive plan to revitalize their community, the land that it sits on could have just as easily been occupied by a hotel or office building. (Editor’s note: This article showcases an excellent example of how community organizing can create neighborhood vitality and turn around the economic health of a local community.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Crypto Wars Redux: Why the FBI’s Desire to Unlock Your Private Life Must Be Resisted – (Guardian – October 9, 2014)
How strong is strong crypto? Really, really strong. When properly implemented and secured by relatively long keys, cryptographic algorithms can protect your data so thoroughly that all the computers now in existence, along with all the computers likely to ever be created, could labour until the sun went nova without uncovering the keys by “brute force” – ie trying every possible permutation of password. The “crypto wars” of the early 1990s were fuelled by this realization – that computers were changing the global realpolitik in an historically unprecedented way. Computational crypto made keeping secrets exponentially easier than breaking secrets, meaning that, for the first time in human history, the ability for people without social or political power to keep their private lives truly private from governments, police, and corporations was in our grasp. The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter. On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). The most shocking Snowden revelation wasn’t the mass spying (we already knew about that, thanks to whistleblowers like Mark Klein, who spilled the beans in 2005). It was the fact that the UK and US spy agencies were dumping $250,000,000/year into sabotaging operating systems, hardware, and standards, to ensure that they could always get inside them if they wanted to. But designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into. See also: Schneier on Security.
Cameras Talk to Each Other to Identify, Track People – (KurzweilAI – November 13, 2014)
University of Washington electrical engineers have developed a way to automatically track people across moving and still cameras by using an algorithm that trains the networked cameras to learn one another’s differences. The cameras first identify a person in a video frame, then follow that same person across multiple camera views. “Tracking humans automatically across cameras in a three-dimensional space is new,” said lead researcher Jenq-Neng Hwang, a UW professor of electrical engineering. “As the cameras talk to each other, we are able to describe the real world in a more dynamic sense.” The problem with tracking a human across cameras of non-overlapping fields of view is that a person’s appearance can vary dramatically in each video because of different perspectives, angles and color hues produced by different cameras. The researchers overcame this by building a link between the cameras. Cameras first record for a couple of minutes to gather training data, systematically calculating the differences in color, texture and angle between a pair of cameras for a number of people who walk into the frames in a fully unsupervised manner without human intervention. After this calibration period, an algorithm automatically applies those differences between cameras and can pick out the same people across multiple frames, effectively tracking them without needing to see their faces. With the new technology, a car with a mounted GPS display could take video of a scene, then identify and track humans and overlay them on a virtual 3D map on the display. The UW researchers are developing this to work in real time, which could track a specific person who is dodging the police.
Police Test Networked Guns – (Technology Review – November 13, 2014)
When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup. YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone. Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers. “You have a social demand for smart gun technology, but not necessarily a market demand,” says Jim Schaff, YardArm’s vice president of marketing. “As a consumer product, it’s going to be a long road.” Gun owners didn’t flock to YardArm, but law enforcement remained interested. Technology that tracks officers’ action is slowly gaining acceptance as police chiefs and officers realize that the data can help clear them of wrongdoing and save litigation costs.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Why We Lost: Retired US General Calls for Public Inquiry Into Failures of Iraq, Afghan Wars – (Democracy Now – November 12, 2014)
Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, a retired three-star U.S. general who helped command troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, discusses his new book, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Bolger writes: “I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.” Bolger is now calling for a public inquiry along the lines of the 9/11 Commission to look into why the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone so poorly. “You’ve got to have a public debate before you commit American military forces. We did have that after 9/11, but it was very rushed. We had that again in 2002 before going into Iraq. We never continued the debate. The initial phases of both wars went successfully from a military standpoint, but we never followed it up by having a discussion: Is it appropriate to send thousands of young American men and women into foreign countries to go house to house and try to sort out who’s a terrorist, who’s a villager? That’s something we tried in Southeast Asia, and it didn’t work. And yet we repeated it once in Afghanistan and then again in Iraq. And that’s very disturbing, and I think that led directly to our failure in both campaigns.”
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative – (Mother Jones – July 15, 2014)
Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to. The journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics. That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics—upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calls into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway). The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) The study’s bottom line: It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”
Pangenerator Creates Jewelry with Projected Light – (Dezeen – November 13, 2014)
“If we’re having less and less in terms of physical goods, for example music streaming instead of CDs and e-books instead of paper copies, the same logic might be applied to other areas like jewelry,” the designers said. “Could we focus on abstract aesthetic values instead of physical form and economic worth? Are we willing to abandon atoms of gold for waves of light?” Warsaw design collective Pangenerator has designed a digital necklace formed using light patterns that are projected onto the wearer’s body via their phone. Pangenerator created a custom iPhone app to generate the illuminated patterns that form the Neclumi. The phone connects via a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable to a “picoprojector” – a type of small handheld projector – attached to the wearer’s chest, which shines the light onto their neck. Article includes video clip of the Neclumi.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Break-Off Effect – (Fast Company – November 5, 2014)
Fifty companies, several of them promising the space tourism opportunity of a lifetime, have joined the Commercial Spaceflight Federation since 2006, absorbing at least $2 billion in investments (but probably much more) from some of the tech world’s biggest venture capitalists. But several of the biggest backers of the so-called “NewSpace” movement are investing in more than just physical space parts; they also proselytize about something that can happen to the human mind when it breaches near space. Believers call it the “overview effect.” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, private space pioneer Anousheh Ansari, and X Prize Foundation trustee Rick Tumlinson are a just handful of the entrepreneurs and ex-NASA luminaries who belong to the Overview Institute, a sort of informal think tank dedicated to the notion that seeing the earth from space delivers a kind of spiritual epiphany that changes your perspective on humanity forever. The overview effect is “a highly emotional anomaly experienced upon entry into space and a cosmic sign of human progress”. Author and philosopher Frank White first came up with the idea in 1987, and today it’s become something of a spiritual backbone for the commercial space tourism industry. White made a case that the “overview effect,” drawn from his own musings while riding in a commercial airline flight over the National Mall and interviews he conducted with 30 astronauts, should serve as motivation to rally private industry and regular people around the push into space. The profound, almost religious experience of seeing the earth from space—at which point a person would see that our home planet is borderless, all of humanity is connected and destined for peace—should motivate us to colonize space and become “true citizens of the universe,” he theorized.
At Last, Scientists Identify Mysterious Object at Center of Galaxy – (Christian Science Monitor – November 4, 2014)
A mysterious object swinging around the supermassive black hole in the center our galaxy has surprised astronomers by actually surviving what many thought would be a devastating encounter. And with its survival, researchers have finally been able to solve the conundrum of what the object – known as G2 — actually is. Since G2 was discovered in 2011, there was a debate whether it was a huge cloud of hydrogen gas or a star surrounded by gas. Turns out, it was neither … or actually, all of the above, and more. Astronomers now say that G2 is most likely a pair of binary stars that had been orbiting the black hole in tandem and merged together into an extremely large star, cloaked in gas and dust. “G2 survived and continued happily on its orbit; a simple gas cloud would not have done that,” said Andrea Ghez from UCLA, who has led the observations of G2. “G2 was basically unaffected by the black hole. There were no fireworks.” Now, after watching the object the past few months, Ghez said G2 appears to be just one of an emerging class of stars near the black hole that are created because the black hole’s powerful gravity drives binary stars to merge into one. She also noted that, in our galaxy, massive stars primarily come in pairs. She says the star suffered an abrasion to its outer layer but otherwise will be fine.
NASA Rocket Redefines What Astronomers Think of as Galaxies – (NASA – November 6, 2014)
A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned stars flung out of galaxies. The findings redefine what scientists think of as galaxies. Galaxies may not have a set boundary of stars, but instead stretch out to great distances, forming a vast, interconnected sea of stars. Observations from the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, are helping settle a debate on whether this background infrared light in the universe, previously detected by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, comes from these streams of stripped stars too distant to be seen individually, or alternatively from the first galaxies to form in the universe. “We think stars are being scattered out into space during galaxy collisions,” said Michael Zemcov, lead researcher and an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “While we have previously observed cases where stars are flung from galaxies in a tidal stream, our new measurement implies this process is widespread.”
The Nicotine Fix – (Atlantic – November, 2014)
It’s been 50 years since Surgeon General Luther Terry released Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. The 1964 report launched an era of tobacco control—a series of public- and private-sector interventions that, taken together, have averted an estimated 8 million premature American deaths. On average, each of these 8 million beneficiaries gained two full decades of life. The problem has not been solved, however. Forty-five percent of all Americans who completed a GED continue to puff away. The habit also persists for over 30% of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Perhaps most vexingly, smoking is rampant among the nearly 40% of the population with diagnosable psychiatric disorders; they smoke at a rate almost double the national average. Cigarettes continue to claim the lives of 480,000 Americans each year, accounting for one of every five deaths in America. To put these numbers in perspective, consider the Pink Ribbon campaign that has mobilized millions of Americans to contribute to the battle against breast cancer. It’s a worthy battle by any measure. Yet how many people, even highly educated people, realize that 82% more American women now die of lung cancer than die of breast cancer? Why is there no Brown Ribbon campaign to combat cigarette smoking? We fear that the answer lies in the fact that smoking is largely a low-income problem, and the resulting illnesses and deaths are often blamed on the victims. It took 40 years—from 1965 to 2005—to halve the rate of cigarette use. Today, somewhere in the range of 18 – 20% Americans smoke, depending on which national survey one reads. Will it take another 40 years for the rate to halve again? The article goes on to propose answers to that question.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
UW Study Shows Direct Brain Interface Between Humans – (University of Washington – November 5, 2014)
University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago. In the new study, which involved six people (instead of two), researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person’s brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal. In the 2013 study, the UW team was the first to demonstrate two human brains communicating in this way. The recent, more-comprehensive study was published on Nov. 5 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. “The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology,” said co-author Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Now we have replicated our methods and know that they can work reliably with walk-in participants.” The research team combined two kinds of noninvasive instruments and fine-tuned software to connect two human brains in real time. One participant is hooked to an electroencephalography machine that reads brain activity and sends electrical pulses via the Web to the second participant, who is wearing a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed near the part of the brain that controls hand movements. Using this setup, one person can send a command to move the hand of the other by simply thinking about that hand movement.
Google Buys Firm Behind Spoon for Parkinson’s Patients – (BBC News – September 11, 2014)
Google has bought a biotech company that has developed a spoon designed to make life easier for people with diseases such as Parkinson’s. It is part of its ambitious foray into health technology, spurred in part by the personal interest of co-founder Sergey Brin. The spoon developed by Lift Labs is equipped with sensors that detect tremors and cancels them out by as much as 70%, according to the firm. The technology it uses is similar to image stabilization features in cameras that compensate for shaky hands when taking a photo. For co-founder Sergey Brin the move into healthcare is a personal one. His mother developed Parkinson’s and, after gene testing, he found that he has a higher than average chance of getting the disease. Google is gradually increasing its health portfolio. In January it unveiled its smart contact lenses that measure glucose levels in tears to help monitor people with conditions such as diabetes. In July it announced an ambitious science project – Basline Study – to collect anonymous genetic and molecular information to create a picture of what a healthy human should be like. Co-founder Larry Page, who suffers from a rare vocal cords problem, is interested in how big data can help solve some of the world’s most problematic diseases. He has made public his hope that people would overcome privacy fears to make their medical records available to researchers.
The Waters of Heterodoxy: A Review of Gerald Pollack’s “The Fourth Phase of Water” – (Charles Eisenstein – no date)
Eisenstein writes: In The Fourth Phase of Water, Gerald Pollack offers an elegant new theory of water chemistry that has profound implications not only for chemistry and biology, but for the metaphoric foundation of our understanding of reality and our treatment of nature. Let me emphasize that this is not a New Age book by someone of questionable scientific credentials. This is a book on chemistry, albeit one easily accessible to lay people. Pollack is a highly decorated professor at the University of Washington, author of numerous peer-reviewed papers, recipient of the 2012 Prigogine Medal, and editor of the academic journal Water. I mention this because in a field fraught with what some call pseudo-science, but what I’ll politely call speculative inquiry unburdened by scientific rigor, paradigm-busting theories attract an inordinate degree of hostility.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Seed Money Sprouts Change For Tiny Non-profits – (CBS News – March 23, 2014)
Many a worthwhile project requires a little seed money to get started. Providing that money is one man’s passion. Ari Nessel made a fortune in Dallas real estate. Nessel’s unusual quest: giving away $1,000 a day, every day for the rest of his life, to someone trying to make a difference. Instead of writing a big check to an established charity, he chooses someone just getting started to receive his daily thousand-dollar donation. [He] created a foundation he calls the Pollination Project. He sent out his first check January 1st last year, and has selected a new recipient each day since. He gave away his 447th grant this morning — that’s $447,000 and counting. In the past year-and-a-half, he’s awarded grants in 42 different states and in 50 countries. “My experience is that transformation happens on the fringes and in the micro areas and the individuals, and doesn’t happen on the large scale. It happens through all these people coming together in communities, and those communities coming together in larger communities. And so it becomes a movement.” For example, In India, Raghu Makwan, paralyzed by polio, got $1,000 to deliver meals to people needier than he. Kazu Haga conducts weekly workshops at the San Bruno County Jail with the $1,000 he got from the Pollination Project. Haga trains prisoners and at-risk students to embrace nonviolence. Learn more about the Pollination Project.
JUST FOR FUN
The Work of Gilbert Legrand – (Artist’s website – no date)
Gilbert Legrand is a French artist who transforms simple, ordinary objects into whimsical characters. His work is gently humorous and charming. The link above goes to his photographs, but we also recommend checking out his sculptures section.
A FINAL QUOTE–
There is a theory which states that if ever for any reason anyone discovers what exactly the Universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened. – Douglas Adams
A special thanks to: Bob Cockrell, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Tom Hartman, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, 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