FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- A satellite mishap is letting physicists test Einstein’s theory of relativity.
- For the first time, a weather system on a planet outside of Earth’s solar system has been directly measured and mapped.
- For too long, the connection between globalism and terrorism has gone unseen or been ignored.
- Using brain scanning techniques, a biological basis for apathy has been discovered.
by John L. Petersen
Fall In West Virginia
It’s been a beautiful fall in our part of the world. The beauty of this season is sometimes rather breathtaking when you’re surrounded by hardwoods that explode into brilliant colors when the conditions are right.
My wife, Diane, took a bunch of wonderful pictures and put them together in this collage. Enjoy.
To Scale: The Solar System
It is almost impossible to effectively understand the scale of the larger world in which we live. We know what we see around us, but after that essentially everything is based on drawings and images that almost never effectively relate the scale to things that are familiar. There have been a number of visual attempts to communicate scale, the best known, perhaps, being the video Powers of Ten. Now comes a more practical and intuitive effort to provide an image of how relatively small we are and how big the distances are in our solar system. This is really great! I recommend it.
Alain Nu’s New Book
On the 17th of October, mentalist Alain Nu came to Berkeley Springs to talk to those who came out to hear his Transition Talks presentation. We had encouraged attendees to bring a spoon or fork as Alain would teach a session on spoon bending after his presentation. About a third of the people brought their own silverware and we handed out spoons to the rest of the crowd.
After the break, Alain took the 70 people through a short, 10-minute training routine on how to bend the spoons with their minds.
At the end of that brief tutorial 17-20 in the audience held up spoons that were at least folded 90 degrees and some had wrapped the handles of the spoons through 360 degrees!
We then took Alain to a local restaurant where the proprietors brought a big spoon which Alain held vertically in his fist. By just concentrating on it, the owners and all of the wait staff watched in awe as the top of the spoon slowly twisted 180 degrees as Alain focused on it.
I mention this for two reasons. First, Alain has agreed to come back to Berkeley Springs on February 13th to hold an extended workshop on spoon-bending and telekinesis. Check www.transitiontalks.org for upcoming details.
Secondly, Alain has a new book out, State of Mind: The Man Who Knows Reveals The Secrets of Mind Over Matter, that is fascinating reading. You can learn more about it here.
Revolution in Energy?
There is another thing that has happened in the last couple of weeks that bears mentioning. If this turns out to be what it is purported to be, then it clearly represents the beginning of a new era. Iranian-born nuclear engineer Mehran T. Keshe has announced that this foundation, the Keshe Foundation has developed, commercialized and is delivering a small device that, among other things, produces far more usable energy out than is consumed by the device. Called the Magrav-Power Universal System, it is advertised as a product with which “. . . you are able to support the main outlets in your house. This allows the system to increase the supply that you are receiving and meet the demand that you are using at that point.”
In other words, you get more power out than you put in – for something like USD 900.
Keshe says that he has manufacturing plaints up and running in Italy and the Philippines and will have hundreds of thousands of the devices distributed in a matter of 60-90 days.
This is described as much more than an energy generating device. Based upon the manipulation of the underlying plasma field that exists everywhere, the principles underpinning the Magrav system are said to be applicable to most any other area – agriculture, healthcare, and space travel, in particular.
It is unclear yet whether Keshe’s devices fully produce what he says, but if they do, then everything from now on will begin to rapidly become quite different from what we have found familiar.
The Keshe Foundation describes Keshe’s background thus:
Born in Iran in 1958,Born in Iran in 1958, son of an X-ray engineer, he was introduced to the world of radiation and nuclear science at a very young age.
In 1981 he graduated from Queen Mary College, University of London, as a nuclear engineer specializing in reactor technology system control.
He has spent the years since then completing a system for the production of gravity and energy using a radioactive hydrogen-fueled reactor that is clean and safe.
He has covered all aspects of the design of a new plasma nuclear system from the very beginning to its present stage. This has included the design, the fuel, the testing and practical applications.
Stay tuned on this one. We may be observing the emergence of a major driving force that catapults the world into a new era.
A Watershed Time?
Keshe’s new device is only one of a number of a number of indicators that raise the distinct possibility that we are on the edge of a rapid change in direction. The increasingly shrill response to the bombing in Paris is another one. Like a wedge being driven into a piece of firewood, the events of the day are exacerbating the differences between those who want a world of peace and accommodation and those who see increased war and violence as the best path to the future. It is almost as though humanity is being forced into a corner by the rapidly increasing tempo of events, designed (by whom?) to compel humanity to make fundamental decisions about how we as individuals and as a species should respond to dramatically different potential futures.
The differences are becoming stark and clear, particularly in terms of the proposals by political leaders about how to receive (or not) the millions of refugees that have been directly produced by the policies and efforts of the major western powers. Bigotry and racism are animating blocs of politicians to shut off the ingress of these poor disenfranchised and displaced souls, characterizing them as potential terrorists. U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has proposed a national registry of Muslims (giving them ID cards with their religion on them), and Ben Carson, the Republican front-runner in the U.S. presidential primaries, compared the risk of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. to having “a rabid dog running around your neighborhood”. Dozens of Republican state governors are trying to prevent the arrival of Syrian refugees in their states.
There are a growing number of this world’s denizens who understand, in one way or another, that we are all connected to each other – we are part of the same organism – and how we treat each other always reverberates back upon us in a myriad of ways. Their outlook is increasingly characterized by a notion of abundance – there is more than enough for everyone, so we should find ways to get along.
The other (probably larger) group sees everything as being separate and essentially independent – humans are not directly connected to plants, animals and the planet. Countries and ethnic groups exist as definable, freestanding entities. This translates into responses that justify violence, force and coercion as the main tools for accomplishing their ends, with the implicit notion being that the effects of these actions are localized and isolated. This outlook presumes scarcity – there’s not enough for everyone – so the objective should be to get as much for yourself as possible.
So, what it looks like from here, is that — in ways we have not needed to do before — we are each going to be forced to make more of a stand than we have in the past about what kind of future we want and what we are prepared to do to assure our desired world.
I’d guess that what we’re experiencing is the last throes of the old world and its ideas, with every attempt being made to drive as much fear into the system as possible in order to sustain the status quo and maintain control by those who have benefited in the past.
That said, history tells us that things change and that eras end . . . and emerge, regardless of how much effort is put into sustaining the old. The old becomes history and the new inevitably emerges. That presents all of us who see the possibilities of a new world with a significant amount of hope. All of this change is pushing toward a new world.
All we have to do is make the right decisions.
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View App – Pick Up Car Vending Machine – (USA Today – November 12, 2015)
You’ve tried classified ads, visiting dealers and the like for buying a used car–now how about a vending machine? Carvana, an app for folks to buy and sell used cars, opened what it calls the “world’s first, fully automated, coin-operated Car Vending Machine,” in Nashville, TN. The company compares it to buying a can of soda or candy bar – albeit on a much larger scale. The machine holds 20 cars at one time, and cars range from $10,000 to $20,000. Customers visit Carvana and either arrange financing or exchange payment and get a big custom coin to insert into the machine for the car. Like other apps Beepi and Vroom, Carvana has an app and website where folks can shop for used cars, or sell their used vehicle directly, usually for more money than dealers would pay. The company operates in a handful of U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Raleigh, Birmingham and Dallas, and hopes to bring vending machines to more cities in 2016. Customers have seven days to return cars if they don’t like it, Carvana says.
Physicists Discover a New Phase of Matter – (Futurism – November 7, 2015)
David Hsieh and his team of physicists at Caltech have discovered a new form of matter characterized by an unusual ordering of electrons. Unlike most phases in matter, this one is not a conventional metal, insulator, or magnet. The new phase was discovered while the team was testing a laser-based measurement technique in search of a multipolar order. Hsieh says that “the discovery of this phase was completely unexpected and not based on any prior theoretical prediction. The whole field of electronic materials is driven by the discovery of new phases, which provide the playgrounds in which to search for new macroscopic physical properties.” The discovery offers new insight into its potential applications for electronic devices.
A Satellite Mishap Is Letting Physicists Test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – (GizModo – November 14, 2015)
Last year, a Russian Soyuz rocket accidentally placed two ESA-operated GPS satellites into elliptical, rather than circular, orbits. The faulty launch leaves the satellites unfit to perform their intended duties as part of a global Galileo GPS system. It would have been a huge waste of money and resources, but there’s a silver lining. To wit, physicists now have a unique opportunity to test one of the key predictions of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity: That clocks run more slowly when they’re close to heavy objects, because of how gravity warps the fabric of spacetime. As the two Galileo satellites swing toward and away from the Earth in their oblong orbits, German and French physicists will track the speeding and slowing of time using the spacecrafts’ on-board atomic clocks. To date, our best measurements of the so-called time dilation effect were made in 1976, in an experiment that lasted a mere two hours. The Galileo satellites will be tracked for a year, enabling physicists to make measurements up to four times more accurate. By this time next year, we’ll have a better idea of exactly how much gravity causes time to dilate.
Gene Editing Could Make Pig-to-Human Organ Transplants a Reality – (Washington Post – October 13)
According to a newly published study, we may be one step closer to using animals as organ donors for humans in need. While the study did not go so far as to demonstrate that these organs would be safe for humans, it showcased a new gene editing technique that removes some of the potential hurdles to such a transplant. A team led by Harvard University’s George Church — one of the pioneers of the CRISPR technique — used gene editing to remove all the copies of porcine endogenous retroviruses (or PERVs) from their pig cells’ DNA. These PERVs could potentially infect a human who received a pig organ transplant, so getting rid of them is essential, but they can’t be bred out of a pig’s genome using more traditional tactics. That’s why doctors have some success transplanting pieces of pig organs — like skin and heart valves — into humans, but have yet to attempt entire organs. The next step for pig transplants is to create actual embryos with the edited genomes. See also: Genetically engineered pig hearts survived more than a year in baboon hosts.
Uniform 3D Printed Embryonic Stem Cells Could Be Used As ‘Building Blocks’ of Life – (3ders – November 4, 2015)
Scientists have discovered a new 3D bioprinting method for producing highly uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which have the capacity to differentiate into any cell type in the body. These blocks could be used as ‘lego bricks’ to build large-scale tissue structures for stem cell regulation and expansion, regenerative medicine, drug screening studies, and potentially even for the construction of micro-organs. The study, carried out by researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Drexel University in Philadelphia, represents the first time ESCs have been 3D printed into a 3D cell-laden hydrogel construct, producing uniform, pluripotent (able to generate almost any cell in the body), high-throughput and size-controllable embryoid bodies, with a 90% survival rate. Previous methods for printing these cells, either via 2D creation in a petri-dish, or via a ‘suspension’ method, resulted in non-uniform ESCs. They found that reconstructing a 3D cell micro-environment, much like that found in vivo, would be critical to directing stem cell fate and generating uniform cell sources with high levels of proliferation for tissue engineering and other biomedical applications.
Experimental Drug Targeting Alzheimer’s Disease Shows Anti-aging Effects – (Science Daily – November 13, 2015)
Salk Institute researchers have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer’s disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals. “While most drugs developed in the past 20 years target the amyloid plaque deposits in the brain (which are a hallmark of the disease), none have proven effective in the clinic,” says Schubert, senior author of the study. Several years ago, Schubert and his colleagues began to approach the treatment of the disease from a new angle. Rather than target amyloid, the lab decided to zero in on the major risk factor for the disease–old age. Using cell-based screens against old age-associated brain toxicities, they synthesized J147. Previously, the team found that J147 could prevent and even reverse memory loss and Alzheimer’s pathology in mice that have a version of the inherited form of Alzheimer’s, the most commonly used mouse model. However, this form of the disease comprises only about 1% of Alzheimer’s cases. For everyone else, old age is the primary risk factor, says Schubert. The team wanted to explore the effects of the drug candidate on a breed of mice that age rapidly and experience a version of dementia that more closely resembles the age-related human disorder. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features.
No, Mount St. Helens Doesn’t Have New Magma Chambers – (Wired – November 10, 2015)
There have been a lot of rumbling in the science media recently over a study presented at the Geological Society of America meeting concerning the state of things underneath Mount St. Helens. Many of those articles declared that “new magma chambers were discovered under St. Helens!” and “magma is on the move!” and “the volcano may erupt again!“—all of it said breathlessly and based on a brief talk (less than 15 minutes) at the meeting. All of this static comes from the iMUSH study at the Washington volcano. Geologists are examining the structure of the crust under St. Helens to try to image—using seismic waves from distant earthquakes, man-made vibrations, and magnetic surveys—the elusive magma body underneath the volcano. The presentation at GSA included some of their preliminary findings—namely that, yes, under St. Helens and the region around it in the Cascades, there are parts of the crust that contain more “melt” (magma) than others and the melt appears to follow pathways to the volcanic centers like St. Helens or Mount Adams. But the study hasn’t added new bodies of magma, or increased the likelihood of another eruption; it has just helped us to understand the architecture of the crust better now. The article goes on to explain, in clear laymen’s language, a great deal about how magma functions and what can be learned from the new information.
NASA Study Claims Antarctica Gains Ice, Not Contributing to Sea Level Rise – (The Watchers – November 2, 2015)
A new study led by NASA’s glaciologists Jay Zwally, says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers. The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice. While Zwally confirms the new study is essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica, he points out that their main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica. “There, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas,” Zwally said, “The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away. But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for,” Zwally said. According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008. For a possible answer to Zwally’s question, see this article in Aviation Week.
Data Science Machine May Replace Human’s Intuition – (Pulse – October 17, 2015)
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed a new system called Data Science Machine that aims to search different patterns in databases faster and more efficient than human beings by using at least two types of algorithms. This new prototype acts as a natural complement to human intelligence and it beat more than 600 teams in finding predictive patterns that were buried within unfamiliar data sets. The prototype eliminates human intuitions and it makes the searching process at just a fraction of the time it took humans, meaning that humans may become obsolete in big data analysis. Although, the system not only searches for patterns, it also designs the feature set. Big-data searching process, which consists in searching for hidden patterns and choosing features of the data to analyze, usually requires some little of human intuition. Now the machine is capable of making determinations when it goes to search patterns. In fact, in two of the three competitions, the predictions made by the Data Science Machine were 94% and 96% as accurate as the winning submissions. In the third, it was a more modest 87%. But while the human teams labored over their prediction algorithms for months, the Data Science machine took between two and 12 hours to produce each of its entries.
To Evade NSA, Microsoft Begins Building Data Centers in Germany – (Common Dreams – November 12, 2015)
In an attempt to evade the long arm of U.S. intelligence that could mark a sea change in internet privacy, Microsoft has announced plans to build two new data centers in Germany that will store user information in a secure network and not allow access to anyone—including the U.S. government and Microsoft staff themselves—without explicit approval by the user or a “data trustee.” If permission is granted by the user or the trustee, Microsoft would still be required to operate under their supervision. In this case, the trustee is T-Systems, a subsidiary of German conglomerate Deutsche Telekom. By stationing its data servers in Frankfurt am Main and Magdeburg, Microsoft will be placing user data under German privacy protections, which are some of the strictest in Europe. Microsoft’s decision could end up affecting more than just its own users. If the German trustee model becomes a recognized standard for data security, then customers of other cloud computing firms like Google and Amazon could demand similar arrangements. EU officials might also be emboldened by the move. Last month, the EU Court of Justice invalidated the longstanding Safe Harbor treaty allowing US companies to send data on European citizens back to America. The treaty is currently being renegotiated, and Microsoft’s support for the data trustee model could feed into these debates.
The Ad Blocking Kingpin Reshaping the Web as He Prefers It – (Technology Review – November 13, 2015)
The very foundation of the free Web is at risk. The problem, as Wladimir Palant sees it, is an “outright war” between online advertisers and the rest of us. As intrusive online advertising has proliferated—in banners, pop-ups, and videos that distract readers, cover up content, clog the Internet, and track your Web browsing—easy-to-install programs that block those ads have soared in popularity. Take away the ads, and so goes the revenue that makes huge parts of the Web possible. Palant is the creator of Adblock Plus, which has 60 million active users, making it the most popular of the ad blockers. That gives Palant, a shy, privacy-minded software developer from Moldova, and his company, Eyeo, an outsize role in determining the future of Internet advertising. His goal is to save the Web by making ads less annoying. In the process, Palant, 35, has made enemies, including publishers in Germany who have taken Eyeo to court, so far unsuccessfully. His opponents object to the fact that while Adblock Plus is open-source and free to download, Palant has figured out a clever way to profit from the détente he has forced with ad purveyors. Though one can choose to have Adblock Plus strip out all ads from Web pages, the application will, by default, let through ads that are part of Eyeo’s so-called Acceptable Ads program. To be in the program ads must be static, mainly text, and positioned in a way that doesn’t distract from the primary content on the page. Although small websites can apply for free to be included in the program, around 700 “larger properties,” including Google and Amazon, have to pay. If Adblock Plus has the impact he hopes it will, Palant says, even people who surf the Web “unprotected” will enjoy the benefits of advertisers tacking in the direction of the Acceptable Ads program. There are signs Palant might be on to something. In response to the rise of ad blockers, an ad-industry organization, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is now encouraging advertisers to post ads that have fewer bandwidth-hogging bells and whistles and behavior-tracking technologies.
Dorms for Grownups: A Solution for Lonely Millennials? – (Atlantic – November 6, 2015)
In a new model of living, residents will have their own “microunits” built around a shared living space for cooking, eating and hanging out. Troy Evans opened CoWorks, in a downtown building in Syracuse, NY in February. Now wants to take his idea a step further. On the top two floors of the building, he’s starting construction on a space he envisions as a dorm for Millennials, though he cringes at the word “dorm.” Commonspace, as he’s calling it, will feature 21 microunits, which each pack a tiny kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space into 300-square-feet. The microunits surround shared common areas including a chef’s kitchen, a game room, and a TV room. Worried about the complicated social dynamics of so many Millennials in one living unit? Fear not, Evans and partner John Talarico are hiring a “social engineer” who will facilitate group events and maintain harmony among roommates. Forget communes or co-ops. Millennials, Evans says, want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely (hence #FOMO, “fear of missing out”). Some parts of Commonspace are sure to appeal to twentysomethings looking for friends in the city. Residents will be able to communicate with each other through Facebook groups and Slack channels, and will come together through weekly dinners and pub crawls and will be able to garden together on the rooftop garden. Commonspace isn’t the only place trying out something like this. Pure House, which The New York Times called a “Millennial commune,”is a Williamsburg (Brooklyn) apartment building that also creates a networking and social community for its residents. Krash is a startup that invites entrepreneurs to live in a shared living space for three to 12 months in Boston, New York, or D.C. to jumpstart their connections.
Smartphones and Tablets Spell the End for Open-plan Living, say UK Architects – (Dezeen – November 12, 2015)
The trend for open-plan living may be over say architects, as families now favor “broken-plan” homes that offer more privacy for using mobile devices. For decades open-plan properties have been favored by homeowners for offering a greater sense of spaciousness. But walls are starting to come back into fashion, as residents seek more secluded spaces in their homes. “It is an extraordinary revolution that has taken place in the last five years,” said London-based architect Deborah Saunt. “People now want a kind of residence that can change to suit the needs of a family. It’s a kind of inherent adaptability over time.” The terms both describe a layout that might include snugs, studies and television rooms instead of large lounges. Split-level floors and sliding partitions are among the other features being used by architects to help divide more open spaces. The shift is due to the rise of smartphone and tablet use in family homes. “Broken-plan” layouts allow families to use their devices in private or watch different movies or TV shows at the same time. “Modern technology has consequences to our traditional living patterns and routines, and we are adapting to what is on offer,” said Mary Duggan of London-based Duggan Morris Architects. “Like it or not, there is greater independence between family members and more out-of-sequence operations. They need a suite of spaces to accommodate this, so our plans are starting to fragment.”
Steorn’s Orbo – (Dispatches from the Future – November 12, 2015)
Steorn is a small company based in a two level office hidden in a nondescript corporate park in Dublin, Ireland. They’re inventors of things useful if somewhat dreary, like security devices to prevent ATM fraud. But one way or another, that’s about to change. Their latest product is either a brash scam, an onerous mistake, or the single most important discovery – ever. Orbo is the name Steorn has given to the technology based on an effect that they’ve supposedly uncovered. We still don’t have many specifics about how it works, but here’s what we do know. It’s based on a specific arrangement of permanent magnets, and involves cyclical movement. Once one cycle is complete, more mechanical energy has been put out than was originally put in. Arrange this system so that it puts its energy back into the next cycle, and presto, you have the impossible – a perpetual motion machine. A wheel that will spin forever (or bob, or jitter – again we don’t know the details yet) and in the process seem to create energy from nothing. Energy that could run an iPod, or a car; a furnace, or a spaceship. All without batteries or any kind of fuel. The link above leads to their most recent project update. The story from the beginning (2007), can be found here. (Editor’s note: There are a number of inventors (we know of at least three, one in Italy, one in India, and this one in Ireland), that claim to have invented devices which generate free energy. All of them have credibility issues and yet, any or all of them may actually be onto something just as revolutionary as they claim. To date, we’re just “keeping our ears to the ground”.)
Tidal Lagoon – Swansea Bay – (Corporate website – no date)
The Severn Estuary holds the second highest tidal range in the world and within this Swansea Bay benefits from an average tidal range during spring tides of 8.5m. The construction of a tidal lagoon to harness this natural resource would help the UK transition a low carbon future with greater energy security and lower electricity costs, while providing regenerative economic and recreational benefits to the local community. The company’s vision is to pioneer a large-scale source of indigenous, low carbon electricity that is both affordable and sustainable long-term. The proposal for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay establishes a scalable blueprint for our vision and delivers: the world’s first, man-made, energy-generating lagoon, with a 320MW installed capacity and 14 hours of reliable generation every day, clean, renewable and predictable power for over 155,000 homes (equivalent to 90% of Swansea Bay’s annual domestic electricity use) for 120 years via a large-scale tidal power connected to the National Grid, as other power stations are closed down. See here for a log on the project to date. It’s an ambitious project and the company is looking for investors. It is not yet clear whether or not the company will be able to overcome the regulatory hurdles and other permitting issues, but the project is an innovative approach to clean energy generation that bears watching.
All Electricity in Austria’s Largest State Now Produced from Renewables – (Guardian – November 5, 2015)
Austria’s largest state said that 100% of its electricity is now generated using renewable sources of energy. The state in northeastern Austria now gets 63% of its electricity from hydroelectric power, 26% from wind energy, nine percent from biomass and two percent from solar. In Austria as a whole, which voted against nuclear power in a 1978 referendum, 75% comes from renewables and the rest from fossil fuels.
Ford Is Now Testing Driverless Cars on the Streets of a Fake City – (Jalopnik – November 14, 2105)
Ford became the first manufacturer to test its driverless car in Fakecity, Michigan (OK, it’s not really called that—it’s called “Mcity,” which isn’t as fun), the company announced on Friday. The Mcity complex opened in July as a 32-acre faux town designed by the University of Michigan, and Ford took its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle out for a spin in town with cameras, radar, 3D-mapping technology and all the rest for tracking the drive. Even though there aren’t people in the city (except for the ones in the car, who appear to be optional at this point), it’s equipped with roads of different surfaces and sizes, ramps, roundabouts, tunnels, crosswalks, streetlights and all of the other stuff you’d see on your average drive. The good thing about the lack of an Mcity population is that cars can test scenarios such as running red lights—which wouldn’t be advised with other drivers on the road—on the streets. (Hopefully, it will also test scenarios in which other cars run right lights.) Article includes link to video clip of a test drive.
Germany Becomes the First Nation to Ban ‘Chick Shredding’ – (Nation of Change – October 21, 2015)
Every year, millions of tiny male chicks are ground up alive or suffocated because they don’t lay eggs. The little guys aren’t considered ‘commercially viable’ to even be raised for meat and, therefore, are brutally killed shortly after hatching. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the commercial egg industry which few producers are open to talking about. One can understand why, as half of all chicks born into the egg industry are male – creating an enormous ethical issue. If consumers were made aware of ‘chick grinding,’ which is commonplace in most egg factories, producers and egg companies would have a public relations catastrophe to deal with. Germany’s Agricultural Minister will phase out “chick shredding” by 2017, which will make Germany the first country in the world to stop the practice of grinding up or suffocating small male chicks. Instead, a newly developed technology will determine the sex of each fertilized egg before the chick inside develops – enabling the removal of all male-identified eggs from the hatchery. This will leave only the female eggs to hatch, which is much more ethically sound.
A Farm and Forage Dinner in the Northern Catskills – (Modern Farmer – September 29, 2015)
This article is a lovely photo-essay about a former Dutch fashion model who has created a fulfilling livelihood in the middle of rural nowhere – and done it with such style that Bon Appétit, Travel+Leisure, and Vogue have all taken notice, bringing national attention to what had essentially become a ghost town and which is now an obviously vibrant community. (Editor’s note: This clearly isn’t everyone’s idea of their dream future, but it is a glimpse of a future that is possible – and that more than fits some people’s dreams.) See also: Foraging and Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones – (Wired – February 5, 2015)
If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds a few months ago, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination. The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week. Attendee Daniel Herbert snapped a photo and posted it to his website along with detailed notes from the conference. The day after the White House incident, he says, DHS phoned him and politely asked him to remove the entire post. He complied. (Editor’s note: This makes suicide bombers technologically obsolete; drone assassination is now within the reach of any independent actor.)
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Only Three States Score Higher than D+ in State Integrity Investigation; 11 Flunk – (Nation of Change – November 11, 2015)
The State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists. For example, there’s the lobbyist who, despite a $50 cap on gifts to Idaho state lawmakers, legally spent $2,250 in 2013 to host a state senator and his wife at the annual Governors Cup charity golf tournament in Sun Valley because the prohibition does not apply to such lobbying largess as long as the money is not spent “in return for action” on a particular bill. Meanwhile, feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs. The results of the study are nothing short of stunning. The best grade in the nation, which went to Alaska, is just a C. Only two others earned better than a D+; 11 states received failing grades. The findings may be deflating to the two-thirds of Americans who, according to a recent poll, now look to the states for policy solutions as gridlock and partisanship have overtaken Washington D.C.
Prized Singapore – (Unz Review – November 11, 2015)
At the time of its independence in 1965, Singapore had long been a leading seaport, thanks to its strategic location and the stewardship of Stamford Raffles in the early 19th century. Its GDP ranked third in Asia, behind only Japan and Hong Kong and five times greater than South Korea. No fetid fishing village, Singapore was the gateway between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It’s baffling that the Malaysians let it go. Maybe they thought they could snatch it back later? Anticipating this likelihood, Lee Kuan Yew got surreptitious help from the Israelis to build up his army. Since British troops didn’t leave town until 1971, it’s not too farfetched to speculate that the UK had a hand in this Jewish wedding. It needed to maintain a friendly government at this most crucial spot. The US has also trained Singaporean soldiers and, today, 374 GIs are based here. China’s expanding encroachment into the South China Sea is often explained only in terms of oil, natural gas and fishing rights, but it’s the sea lane next to Singapore that’s most at stake. Without its navy nearby to contest that choke point, China is most vulnerable to disruption of oil deliveries from the Middle East. Trying to bypass, partially at least, the Strait of Malacca, China arranged to build energy pipelines through Myanmar but, guess what, Uncle Sam has managed to cozy up to the Burmese, so it’s no coincidence that the Chinese oil pipeline, though completed, is still not functional. (Editor’s note: This article is an interesting analysis of Singapore’s current strengths and the large questions it will face as China continues to come into global prominence.)
Barcelona Threatens to “Print” Parallel Currency, Madrid Seethes – (Naked Capitalism – October 25, 2015)
Over the next six months, Barcelona’s left-wing city council plans to roll out a cash-less local currency that has the potential to become the largest of its kind in the world. The money will initially exist only in digital form and will support the regional economy, according to the incumbent mayor. The idea is for local stores and residents to be able to exchange euros for the new currency at a one-to-one parity, and use it to purchase products and services at a discount or with other kinds of incentives. But it doesn’t end there: the new parallel currency may also be used to pay certain subsidies, taxes and local services such as public transport. Municipal workers could also receive part of their salary in the new money. Barcelona will not be the first European city to launch such a scheme. Local currencies are all the rage these days. There could be as many as 3,000 forms of local money in use around the globe, says Community Currencies in Action, a global partnership promoting such schemes that is part-funded by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund. This article goes on to look at other local currencies now is use in Europe and the UK and raise questions as to why these alternative currencies are so popular with local governments.
US Spied on Israel in 2012 Fearing Iran Strike- (Wall Street Journal – October 23, 2015)
The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility. Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, “in case all hell broke loose.” The two countries, nursing a mutual distrust, each had something to hide. Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps. They employed deception, not only against Iran, but against each other. After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes. In 2010, the risk of covert action became clear. A computer virus dubbed Stuxnet, deployed jointly by the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iranian centrifuges … had inadvertently spread across the Internet. The Israelis wanted to launch cyberattacks against a range of Iranian institutions, according to U.S. officials. But the breach made Mr. Obama more cautious, officials said, for fear of triggering Iranian retaliation, or damaging the global economy if a virus spread uncontrollably. This article continues with a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the relationship between the two heads of state and the relationship between these two countries.
What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters – (The Nation – October 21, 2015)
At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.” This interview had been very familiar indeed to Doug Stone, the American general on the receiving end of this diatribe. “He fits the absolutely typical profile,” Stone said afterward. “The average age of all the prisoners in Iraq when I was here was 27; they were married; they had two children; had got to sixth to eighth grade. He has exactly the same profile as 80% of the prisoners then…and his number-one complaint about the security and against all American forces was the exact same complaint from every single detainee.” These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war. They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
First Alien-Planet Weather System Discovered and Mapped: “5400 MPH Winds!” – (Daily Galaxy – November 13, 2015)
New research provides first ever exoplanet weather map, with winds over 2 km per second observed flowing around the planet. The University of Warwick discovery is the first time that a weather system on a planet outside of Earth’s solar system has been directly measured and mapped. The wind speed recorded is 20x greater than the fastest ever known on earth, where it would be seven times the speed of sound. “This is the first ever weather map from outside of our solar system,” explains lead researcher Tom Louden, of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics group. “While we have previously known of wind on exoplanets, we have never before been able to directly measure and map a weather system.” Discovered on the exoplanet HD 189733b, the researchers measured the velocities on the two sides of HD 189733b and found a strong wing moving at over 5400mph blowing from its dayside to its night side. HD 189733b is one of the most studied of a class of planets known as ‘Hot Jupiters’. At over 10% larger than Jupiter, but 180x closer to its star, HD 189733b has a temperature of 1800’C. Its size and relatively closeness to our solar system make it a popular target for astronomers.
Despair, American Style – (New York Times – November 9, 2015)
A new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, has shown that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation. Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause. We’ve seen this kind of thing in other times and places – for example, in the plunging life expectancy that afflicted Russia after the fall of Communism. But it’s a shock to see it, even in an attenuated form, in America. Yet the Deaton-Case findings fit into a well-established pattern. There have been a number of studies showing that life expectancy for less-educated whites is falling across much of the nation. Rising suicides and overuse of opioids are known problems. And while popular culture may focus more on meth than on prescription painkillers or good old alcohol, it’s not really news that there’s a drug problem in the heartland. Paul Krugman, the author of this editorial, goes on to examine possible reasons why this might be the case. Eventually he turns back to a comment by Deaton. In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” In other words, these people were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Scientists Develop ‘Nanopores’ That Inexpensively Filter the Salt Out of Seawater – (Science Alert – November 12, 2015)
Engineers in the US have been working on the latter, coming up with a new markedly more energy-efficient way of taking the salt out of seawater, which could deliver huge advantages in terms of providing people with access to drinking water and help combat problems like drought. The researchers have developed a material that allows high volumes of water to pass through extremely tiny holes called ‘nanopores’ while blocking salt and other contaminants. The material they’re using – a nanometer-thick sheet of molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) riddled with these nanopore holes – is the most efficient of a number of thin-film membranes that the engineers modeled, filtering up to 70% more water than graphene. Narayana Aluru, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois and leader of the study, said, “If we could find a low-cost, efficient way to purify sea water, we would be making good strides in solving the water crisis.” Conventional desalination relies on reverse osmosis to channel seawater through a thin plastic membrane, but the process suffers from a number of bottlenecks. While the membrane appears thin to the eye, from a microscopic perspective it’s more tube- or tunnel-like than a sheet that’s only a nanometer in thickness, which means it requires more pressure (and thus energy) to operate. They’re also susceptible to more clogging, which ramps up operational costs. In comparison, the extreme thinness of the molybdenum disulphide membrane allows water to pass through with much less resistance, lessening or negating many of the above drawbacks. But the ingenuity behind the system isn’t just in its engineering.
Super-Sticky Gecko Feet Inspire Strapless Bra Design – (GizModo – November 11, 2015)
Ladies, don’t say physics never did anything for you. Your days of awkwardly pulling up your slipping strapless bra during a night on the town—thereby ruining the illusion of glamorous savoir faire—may finally be over, thanks to the physics of tiny gecko feet. Meet the latest designs from Kellie K Apparel, a start-up company with a mission to reinvent the strapless bra. It’s the brainchild of Anthony Roy, a robotics engineer with a PhD form Caltech. He got the idea one night several years ago, when his then-girlfriend, Kellie (now his wife), wanted to wear a particular top with bared shoulders for an evening out, but lamented the lack of a dependable strapless bra. Being a devoted boyfriend (now husband), Roy decided to design a better bra for Kellie, drawing on his engineering and robotics background. There’s lots of ongoing scientific research into gecko feet, because the creatures can adhere to almost any kind of surface, making them fantastic climbers. That’s due to billions of tiny hair-like structures on the bottoms of their feet. In particular, Roy recalled a robotic design by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed around the gecko’s foot. Thus his own GeckTech was born: a small patch that sticks to the skin via that same physical mechanism. The patches form the lining of two different strapless bra designs offered by Kellie K Apparel. A Kickstarter campaign successfully came to a close, raising $26,921 (the goal was $26,250).
To Infinity and Beyond: Light Goes Infinitely Fast with New On-chip Material – (Science Daily – October 19, 2015)
Electrons are so 20th century. In the 21st century, photonic devices, which use light to transport large amounts of information quickly, will enhance or even replace the electronic devices that are ubiquitous in our lives today. But there’s a step needed before optical connections can be integrated into telecommunications systems and computers: researchers need to make it easier to manipulate light at the nanoscale. Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have done just that, designing the first on-chip metamaterial with a refractive index of zero, meaning that the phase of light can travel infinitely fast. Although this infinitely high velocity sounds like it breaks the rule of relativity, it doesn’t. Nothing in the universe travels faster than light carrying information — Einstein is still right about that. But light has another speed, measured by how fast the crests of a wavelength move, known as phase velocity. This speed of light increases or decreases depending on the material it’s moving through. When the refraction index is reduced to zero, really weird and interesting things start to happen. In a zero-index material, there is no phase advance, meaning light no longer behaves as a moving wave, traveling through space in a series of crests and troughs. Instead, the zero-index material creates a constant phase — all crests or all troughs — stretching out in infinitely long wavelengths. The crests and troughs oscillate only as a variable of time, not space. This uniform phase allows the light to be stretched or squished, twisted or turned, without losing energy. A zero-index material that fits on a chip could have exciting applications, especially in the world of quantum computing.
Remember the Guy Who Gave His Employees a $70,000 Minimum Wage? Here’s What Happened Next. – (Slate – October 23, 2015)
This spring, Dan Price spent two weeks running the numbers and battling insomnia before making a dramatic announcement to his 120-member staff on April 13, inviting NBC News and the New York Times to cover it: Over the next three years, he will phase in a minimum wage of $70,000 at Gravity and immediately cut his own salary from $1.1 million to $70,000 to help fund it. The reaction was tsunamic, with 500 million interactions on social media and NBC’s video becoming the most shared in network history. Price had not only struck a nerve; he had also turbocharged a debate now raging across the American landscape, from presidential forums to barrooms to fast-food restaurants. How much—indeed, how little—should workers be paid? While financiers and C-suite honchos have showered themselves in compensation, most Americans haven’t had a raise, in real dollars, since 2000. Especially in the wake of the recession, entrepreneurs and corporate bosses have tightly controlled costs, including wages. That boosts profits—and bonuses. But at what cost? In a U.S. economy that is more than two-thirds consumer spending, GDP growth is chained to income growth. Workers can’t spend what they don’t have, nor do they have the home equity to borrow and spend. Weak wage growth helps explain why this long economic expansion has been so tepid. Until Price dropped his wage bomb, much of that debate was punditry. He gave it a name and a face. Six months after Price’s announcement, Gravity has defied doubters. Revenue is growing at double the previous rate. Profits have also doubled. Gravity did lose a few customers: Some objected to what seemed like a political statement that put pressure on them to raise their own wages; others feared price hikes or service cutbacks. But media reports suggesting that panicked customers were fleeing have proved false. In fact, Gravity’s customer retention rate rose from 91% to 95% in the second quarter. Only two employees quit—a nonevent. What may destroy the company is the fact that shortly after Price announced his minimum, his brother Lucas sued him, claiming Dan had previously paid himself “excessive compensation” and asked the court to order Dan to buy Lucas’s 30% share of Gravity “at fair value” or dissolve the firm.
How Globalization Fuels Terrorism and Fundamentalism – (Films for Action – November 12, 2015)
Because of the mainstream media’s narrow and often misplaced focus, it’s not surprising that most Westerners believe that religious extremism is primarily a problem of Islam. But the fighting in Syria and Iraq is not the only ethnic or religious conflict underway. There has been violence between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka, Buddhists and Hindus in Bhutan, Hindus and Sikhs in Punjab, Eritreans and Ethiopians in the Horn of Africa, Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in the former Soviet Union, and many more. The fact is, fanaticism, fundamentalism, and ethnic conflict have been growing for many decades—and not just in the Islamic world. Failure to recognize this trend can lead to the belief that terrorism is a product of nothing more than religious extremism and will end when secular market-based democracies are established throughout the world. Unfortunately the reality is far more complex, and unless we address the underlying causes of conflict and terrorism, a more peaceful and secure future will remain elusive. To really understand the rise of religious fundamentalism and ethnic conflict we need to look at the deep impacts of the global consumer culture on living cultures throughout the planet. Doing so allows us not only to better understand ISIS and similar groups, but also to see a way forward that lessens violence on all sides. (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one article in this entire issue of FUTUREdtion, we recommend this one.)
The Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of Western Support for Extremist Violence – (Counterpunch – November 13, 2015)
We, the West, overthrew Saddam by violence. We overthrew Gaddafi by violence. We are trying to overthrow Assad by violence. Harsh regimes all — but far less draconian than our Saudi allies, and other tyrannies around the world. What has been the result of these interventions? A hell on earth, one that grows wider and more virulent year after year.Without the American crime of aggressive war against Iraq — which, by the measurements used by Western governments themselves, left more than a million innocent people dead — there would be no ISIS, no “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Without the Saudi and Western funding and arming of an amalgam of extremist Sunni groups across the Middle East, used as proxies to strike at Iran and its allies, there would be no ISIS. Let’s go back further. Without the direct, extensive and deliberate creation by the United States and its Saudi ally of a world-wide movement of armed Sunni extremists during the Carter and Reagan administrations, there would have been no “War on Terror” — and no terrorist attacks in Paris. Again, let’s be as clear as possible: the hellish world we live in today is the result of deliberate policies and actions undertaken by the United States and its allies over the past decades. It was Washington that led and/or supported the quashing of secular political resistance across the Middle East, in order to bring recalcitrant leaders like Nasser to heel and to back corrupt and brutal dictators who would advance the US agenda of political domination and resource exploitation. (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one more article, read this one; it is, in a sense, the other half of the story being told in the article above.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Brain Structure May Be Root of Apathy – (Science Daily – November 13, 2015)
A team of neuroscientists at Oxford decided to study young people to see if there were any differences in the brains of those who were motivated compared to those who were apathetic. Masud Husain, Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, explained: ‘We know that in some cases people can become pathologically apathetic, for example after a stroke or with Alzheimer’s disease. Many such patients can be physically capable. Yet they can become so demotivated they won’t be bothered to care for themselves, even though they’re not depressed. By studying healthy people, we wanted to find out whether any differences in their brains might shed light on apathy.’ Forty healthy volunteers completed a questionnaire that scored them on how motivated they were. They were then asked to play a game in which they were made offers, each with a different level of reward and physical effort required to win the reward. When volunteers played the game in an MRI machine, so that researchers could study their brains, a surprising finding emerged. Although apathetic people were less likely to accept effortful offers, one area of their brains actually showed more activity than in motivated individuals. Masud Husain explained: ‘We expected to see less activity because they were less likely to accept effortful choices but we found the opposite. We thought that this might be because their brain structure is less efficient, so it’s more of an effort for apathetic people to turn decisions into actions. Using our brain scanning techniques we found that connections in the front part of the brains of apathetic people are less effective. The brain uses around a fifth of the energy you’re burning each day. If it takes more energy to plan an action, it becomes more costly for apathetic people to make actions. Their brains have to make more effort. As far as we know, this is the first time that anyone has found a biological basis for apathy in healthy people. It doesn’t account for apathy in everyone but by giving us more information about the brain processes underlying normal motivation, it helps us understand better how we might find a treatment for those pathological conditions of extreme apathy.’
JUST FOR FUN
Street Artist David Zinn – (On the North River – April 16, 2015)
Street artist, David Zinn, makes art in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His sidewalk chalk drawings have an innocence and delightful sense of play. His most famous creation was undoubtedly an endearing little monster called Sluggo who has a green body and long, round eyes. Sluggo and its friends have become an item in Ann Arbor’s unique street scene.
A FINAL QUOTE–
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. – Sydney J. Harris, American Journalist
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks. [email protected]
Edited by John L. Petersen