FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Studies published in the last two years have reported direct transmission of brain activity between two animals, between two humans and even between a human and a rat.
- A 10th century recipe for an antibiotic has been found to kill the MRSA superbug.
- Your used cellphone can help save the rainforests.
- Monetizing medical data is becoming the next revenue stream for hackers.
by John L. Petersen
Gregg Braden and Joe Dispenza coming to Berkeley Springs
Two of the most provocative and insightful thinkers, writers and speakers about the leading edge of the global and personal shifts that are reconfiguring the world are coming to the Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 8th and 9th of May. Templeton Prize nominee Gregg Braden (www.greggbraden.com) and NYT best-selling author, Dr. Joe Dispenza (www.drjoedispenza.com) will be together in an extraordinary, Friday night and all day Saturday event that clearly could change your life.
Individually, both of these extraordinary communicators have helped thousands of people understand how they could better engage the present and prepare for the future. Together, they present an opportunity for personal enlightenment that shouldn’t be missed.
Dr. Joe Dispenza
Last year Gregg filled the Star Theatre for a wonderful three-hour event that finally spilled out onto the sidewalk. This year, with both Gregg and Dr. Joe with us, we’re moving to the high school auditorium, the largest room in the county. We expect a sell-out, so if you can come, make your reservations as soon as possible.
Come for the whole weekend and experience small-town West Virginia. It’s almost heaven!
You can get complete information at www.transitiontalks.org. Come be with us!
Big Changes in the U.S.
When you think of a global shift, you’re obviously talking about change. But it’s one thing to think about it in the abstract and quite another to watch it happen – in almost every sector of life – all around you.
Here in the US, we’re watching marijuana being rapidly legalized in more and more states, and same-sex marriage has fought off all attempts by conservative states to outlaw it. Now, we’re just waiting for the Supreme Court to finally rule on this rather amazing social revolution that has swept the country. Now there are open gays in the military and women are being trained for active combat roles in our military ground forces. It’s not the Navy that I was in!
There are other, less positive indications of large-scale change. In only about ten years, suddenly our police forces have transformed themselves into military-like organizations and are increasingly abusing citizens.
Want an amazing data point? Try this:
U.S. Police Kill More Civilians in March than UK Police Killed in 100 Years Michael Krieger | Tuesday Apr 7, 2015
The following statistics seem impossible to believe. While I wonder how accurately the UK has been tracking these numbers historically, the enormous spread seems much too large to ignore, and is a national embarrassment that should be dealt with immediately.
From the Free Thought Project:
A new report by ThinkProgress.com unearthed disturbing figures when it came to the number of police-related deaths that occurred in America in the month of March alone.
Just last month, in the 31 days of March, police in the United States killed more people than the UK did in the entire 20th century. In fact, it was twice as many; police in the UK only killed 52 people during that 100 year period.
According to the report by ThinkProgess, in March alone, 111 people died during police encounters — 36 more than the previous month.
This high number in March increased the average for police killings from every 8.5 hours, to nearly 1 police killing every 6.5 hours in the US.
China, whose population is 4 and 1/2 times the size of the United States, recorded 12 killings by law enforcement officers in 2014.
On average, US police kill people at a rate 70 times higher than any of the other first world countries as they “protect and serve” the American citizens.This is not what freedom looks like.
Why are the police acting like this all of a sudden? The answer obviously isn’t simple, but I’ll bet a good bit has to do with who they’re working for. Increasingly, that means the interests of business.
How America Became an Oligarchy
April 7, 2015 by Ellen Brown
The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. . . . You have owners.
— George Carlin, The American Dream
According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.
“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?
The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that “all men are created equal” – that all people have “certain inalienable rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters’ collective will no longer prevails.
In Greece, the left-wing populist Syriza Party came out of nowhere to take the presidential election by storm; and in Spain, the populist Podemos Party appears poised to do the same. But for over a century, no third-party candidate has had any chance of winning a US presidential election. We have a two-party winner-take-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.
In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.
When governments of any size need to borrow money, the megabanks in a position to supply it can generally dictate the terms. Even in Greece, where the populist Syriza Party managed to prevail in January, the anti-austerity platform of the new government is being throttled by the moneylenders who have the government in a chokehold.
How did we lose our democracy? Were the Founding Fathers remiss in leaving something out of the Constitution? Or have we simply gotten too big to be governed by majority vote? Read more.
Bill Moyers angles in at the issue from a different direction.
Bill Moyers: ‘We Are This Close to Losing Our Democracy to the Mercenary Class’ The great journalist sounds the alarm about the rise of the plutocracy and the shredding of the social contract.
By Bill Moyers / Tom Dispatch | January 19, 2015
I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document. By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and — in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular — the defense of a free press.
Those decisions brought a storm of protest from across the country. He claimed that he never took personally the resentment and anger directed at him. He did, however, subsequently reveal that his own mother told him she had always liked his opinions when he was on the New Jersey court, but wondered now that he was on the Supreme Court, “Why can’t you do it the same way?” His answer: “We have to discharge our responsibility to enforce the rights in favor of minorities, whatever the majority reaction may be.”
Although a liberal, he worried about the looming size of government. When he mentioned that modern science might be creating “a Frankenstein,” I asked, “How so?” He looked around his chambers and replied, “The very conversation we’re now having can be overheard. Science has done things that, as I understand it, makes it possible through these drapes and those windows to get something in here that takes down what we’re talking about.” That was long before the era of cyberspace and the maximum surveillance state that grows topsy-turvy with every administration. How I wish he were here now — and still on the Court!
My interview with him was one of 12 episodes in that series on the Constitution. Another concerned a case he had heard back in 1967. It involved a teacher named Harry Keyishian who had been fired because he would not sign a New York State loyalty oath. Justice Brennan ruled that the loyalty oath and other anti-subversive state statutes of that era violated First Amendment protections of academic freedom.
I tracked Keyishian down and interviewed him. Justice Brennan watched that program and was fascinated to see the actual person behind the name on his decision. The journalist Nat Hentoff, who followed Brennan’s work closely, wrote, “He may have seen hardly any of the litigants before him, but he searched for a sense of them in the cases that reached him.” Watching the interview with Keyishian, he said, “It was the first time I had seen him. Until then, I had no idea that he and the other teachers would have lost everything if the case had gone the other way.”
Toward the end of his tenure, when he was writing an increasing number of dissents on the Rehnquist Court, Brennan was asked if he was getting discouraged. He smiled and said, “Look, pal, we’ve always known — the Framers knew — that liberty is a fragile thing. You can’t give up.” And he didn’t.
The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money
The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”
We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class.
Read more . . .
So, if you want to bundle all this up (with a bunch of other issues), you might come up with these 15 topics that underpin everything else.
Fifteen Core Issues the Country Must Face
These are fifteen core issues that are in crisis in the United States. This list was developed during the organizing process for the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. There are solutions to each of these crises and many of them are supported by a majority of the population, but instead of considering these solutions, the government is headed in the opposite direction placing corporate greed before the needs of people and the planet.
Corporatism – Firmly establish that money is not speech, corporations are not people and only people have Constitutional rights. End corporate influence over the political process. End corporate welfare that enriches the few and instead treat government investment as something that all profit from, ensure corporations pay their fair share by ending corporate loopholes and tax subsidies and put in place a global tax so that off-shoring of money does not avoid taxes. Protect people and the environment from damage by corporations and end corporate trade agreements and partnerships that undermine consumer, labor and environmental protections.
Wars and Militarism – End wars and occupations, end private for-profit military contractors and end the weapons export industry. War crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace must be addressed and those responsible held accountable under international law. Reduce the national security state and demilitarize the police.
Human Rights – End exploitation of people in the US and abroad. End discrimination in all forms (race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity), guarantee equal civil rights, and the right of people to travel across borders to work and live. Make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a reality.
Worker Rights and Jobs – Guarantee that all working-age people have the right to safe, just, non-discriminatory and dignified working conditions, a sustainable living wage, paid leave and economic protection. Put in place policies that allow worker owned and managed businesses, e.g. worker-owned cooperatives, so workers can build wealth and have greater control over their economic lives.
Government – Guarantee that all processes of the three branches of government are be accountable to international law, transparent and follow the rule of law. Respect the civil rights of government employees. Create a work environment in government that empowers service to people, participation, honesty and integrity and that protects whistleblowers. Build policies and infrastructure that allow people to participate in decision making.
Elections – Guarantee that all citizens 18 and older have the right to vote without barriers and establish universal voter registration. Guarantee that all candidates have the right to be heard in open debates and to run with low-threshold ballot access laws. Count all votes in a transparent method open to the public. Institute new voting systems so that more than majority views are represented, e.g. proportional representation; and voting systems that avoid voting based on fear of the greater evil, e.g. instant run-off or ranked choice voting. Create a level playing field by funding public elections with public dollars and clean election laws. Require that all donations directly and indirectly to elections should be transparent, i.e. no anonymous funding of elections.
Criminal Justice and Prisons – end stop and frisk and other racial profiling police practices that lead to police harassment, brutality and even killings of civilians; respect constitutional rights against search and seizure, right to counsel and against self-incrimination. End the drug war and adopt a public health, evidence-based drug policy that respects individual rights and does not rely on law enforcement. End private for-profit prisons, end mandatory sentencing, recognize prisoners have the right to humane and just conditions with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society and abolish the death penalty. Police need to protect the right to peaceably assemble to redress grievances and the right to Freedom of Speech without infiltration or other police practices that undermine those rights.
Healthcare – Create a national, universal and publicly financed comprehensive health system, i.e. improved Medicare for All, which provides full health coverage throughout life with no out-of-pocket costs. Promote wellness in public policy. Recognize that health is a human right not a commodity.
Education – Guarantee that all people have the right to a high quality, publicly-funded and broad education from pre-school through vocational training or university.
Housing – Guarantee that all people have the right to affordable and safe housing. End predatory mortgage and foreclosure practices. Environment – Adopt policies which effectively create a carbon-free and nuclear free energy economy and that respect the rights of nature. Confront climate change with a rapid and comprehensive transition to an energy efficient, wind, solar and other renewable source-based economy that ends the wasteful use of energy. End the extractive economy and move toward a circular system where there is no waste and everything is re-used. Remake land use planning to support a healthy environment.
Finance and the Economy – Break up the too big to fail banks, develop public banks in every state and major city, encourage community banks and credit unions, create local stock exchanges to allow investment in local communities and create microfinance loans to encourage entrepreneurship and support local businesses. Re-make the Federal Reserve into a transparent, democratic institution that responds to the needs of the economy and not to the needs of big banks. Put limits on the discrepancy between worker and executive pay. End policies which foster a wealth divide and move to a localized and democratic financial system. Guarantee that people’s deposits are protected and that the public does not pay for financial institutions that fail. Reform taxes so that they are progressive and provide goods, monetary gain and services for the people including creating a guaranteed national income.
Media – End the concentration of media by a small number of corporations. Democratize the media by recognizing that the airwaves and the internet are public goods and recognize independent and citizen’s media as legitimate media outlets. Require that media be accurate and accountable to the people and that the internet be accessible to all people, respect people’s privacy and promote the sharing of information.
Food and Water – Create systems that protect the land and water, create local, affordable and sustainable food networks, encourage community supported agriculture and farmer’s markets and diversify local food supplies so that food does not depend on transit over long distances. Encourage organic food production free of chemicals and end genetically modified foods. Guarantee the right to produce and harvest seeds. Stop commodification of water and guarantee access to water as a public good.
Transportation – Provide affordable, clean and convenient public transportation and safe spaces for pedestrian and non-automobile travel. Develop land use planning that creates walkable and bikeable communities, with mass transit so that people do not depend on automobiles. Improve travel by train, rapid transit and commuter rails, so people are not dependent on air travel and automobiles.
And we’ll end this missive with an international – indeed, global – issue: Fukushima. We’re in trouble here. They’ve been lying to us. There’s no obvious solution.
“The Chief Of The Fukushima Nuclear Power Station Has Admitted That The Technology Needed To Decommission Three Melted-Down Reactors Does Not Exist, And He Has No Idea How It Will Be Developed” Posted on April 7, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog
Containing Fukushima Is Beyond Current Technology
We reported in 2012 that top nuclear experts say that the technology doesn’t yet even exist to clean up Fukushima.
Now, the head of the Fukushima nuclear plant and the head of decommissioning at Fukushima both say that the technology doesn’t exist to clean up Fukushima, and it may not exist for hundreds of years … if ever.
The Times of London reported last month:
The chief of the Fukushima nuclear power station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission three melted-down reactors does not exist, and he has no idea how it will be developed.
In a stark reminder of the challenge facing the Japanese authorities, Akira Ono conceded that the stated goal of decommissioning the plant by 2051 may be impossible without a giant technological leap. “There are so many uncertainties involved. We need to develop many, many technologies,” Mr. Ono said.EneNews notes:
NHK ‘Nuclear Watch’ transcript, Mar 31, 2015 (emphasis added):
• NHK: The people trying to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been hit by setback after setback… and faced accusations of misconduct. It’s lost them a lot of public trust… [Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco’s decommissioning company] revealed he’s not sure if he can comply with the government set plan [for] removing the fuel…
• Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Company: We have no idea about the debris. We don’t know its shape or strength. We have to remove it remotely from 30 meters above, but we don’t have that kind of technology, it simply doesn’t exist… We still don’t know whether it’s possible to fill the reactor containers with water. We’ve found some cracks and holes in the three damaged container vessels, but we don’t know if we found them all. If it turns out there are other holes, we might have to look for some other way to remove the debris.
• NHK: Asked [about the gov’t target to begin by 2020], his answer was surprisingly candid.
• Masuda: It’s a very big challenge. Honestly speaking, I cannot say it’s possible.
Dale Klein, Tepco Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee chair, Mar 31, 2015 (at 24:00 in):
• Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times: I was at the plant last week on the tour and we talked Mr. Ono, the boss. He made no bones about the fact that the technology… to remove the molten or semi-molten fuel doesn’t exist yet… I asked him how can you be sure that it will be, and he said, “Well, 200 years ago people would never have dreamed of bullet trains or mobile phones, but they exist.” That seems to be the scale of the leap… that’s going to be required. So there must be immense uncertainties around that… There must surely be a chance that it won’t work out, and that the eventual solution will be something like the Chernobyl solution… a sarcophagus of some kind sealing in the 3 plants…
• Klein: This is something that has never been done… Units 1, 2, and 3… molten fuel penetrated the bottom of the vessel… We don’t know… how much and where it moved. ***Akira Ono, chief of Fukushima Daiichi, Mar 28, 2015: “There are so many uncertainties… For removal of the debris, we don’t have accurate information… or any viable methodology… I believe human beings have the capability to develop technologies… It may take 200 years.”
Watch: NHK ‘Nuclear Watch’ | Klein Press Conference
In related news, Fukushima radiation just arrived on the West Coast of North America.
We explained in 2012:
[Airborne] radiation from Japan’s nuclear accident has turned up in seaweed on the coasts of California, Washington and other parts of the West Coast of North America.
A 1955 U.S. government report concluded that the ocean may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents.
MIT says that seawater which is itself radioactive may begin hitting the West Coast within 5 years.
Barbie the Spy! – (CounterPunch – March 16, 2015)
Toy-maker Mattel Inc. is introducing a new version of Barbie this Fall. Barbie, the girl you can never be (and shouldn’t ever want to be), is now a spy. The company introduced its new doll, called “Hello Barbie,” at a February trade fair in New York and…well, you can’t make this stuff up. This doll can converse with your child (or with you if you play with dolls) and record the answers. It then transmits these answers to a data-bank at the company’s headquarters and stores them under the child’s name and other personal information, then analyzes this data and responds to it…immediately or months later. Given a little time, it will have profiled your child and turned her into an information gathering source. For example, during the demonstration at the toy fair, the Washington Post’s Sarah Halzak reports, “…the Mattel representative chatting with Hello Barbie mentioned that she liked being onstage. Later in the conversation, when the Mattel representative asked Hello Barbie what she should be when she grew up, the doll responded, ‘Well, you told me you like being onstage. So maybe a dancer? Or a politician? Or how about a dancing politician?’” While being a “dancing politician” might land someone in the Congress these days, the possibilities for more serious abuse abound. Children talk about their lives and the lives of their families. They often lack the boundaries about what is personal or private. In fact, if the doll’s owner happens to belong to an activist family, she and her siblings and friends could become a potential source of information about activities, movements, meetings…all the stuff the National Security Agency captures email, texts and phone conversations to find out. Mattel insists that protective measures will be in place. It claims it will turn the data-gathering capability on only after parents have signed some kind of, probably on-line, agreement and it will never use the data for marketing purposes or anything intrusive. The company says that it’s only seeking this information to improve its product — kind of like turning its entire customer base into a focus group.
Brain-To-Brain Interfaces: The Science of Telepathy – (IFL Science – March 10, 2015)
Recent advances in brain-computer interfaces are turning the science fantasy of transmitting thoughts directly from one brain to another into reality. Studies published in the last two years have reported direct transmission of brain activity between two animals, between two humans and even between a human and a rat. These “brain-to-brain interfaces” (BBIs) allow for direct transmission of brain activity in real time by coupling the brains of two individuals. So what is the science behind this? Brain-to-brain interface is made possible because of the way brain cells communicate with each other. Synaptic transmission forms the basis of all brain activity, including motor control, memory, perception and emotion. Because cells are connected in a network, brain activity produces a synchronized pulse of electrical activity: a “brain wave”. The electrical nature of the brain allows not only for sending of signals, but also for the receiving of electrical pulses. These can be delivered in a non-invasive way using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation. The first demonstration of this was in a 2013 study where a pair of rats were connected through a BBI to perform a behavioral task. The connection was reinforced by giving both rats a reward when the receiver rat performed the task correctly. Hot on the heels of this study was a demonstration that a human could control the tail movements of a rat via BBI. The latest advance in human BBIs represents another leap forward. This is where transmission of conscious thought was achieved between two human beings in August last year. (Editor’s note: As far as demonstrating what is possible in terms of telepathy, these experiments are fairly primitive; what’s valuable about them is that they are beginning to establish a scientific basis for brain to brain transmission.)
Roundup Weed Killer Has Probable Carcinogen, U.N. Says – (US News – March 20, 2015)
One of the world’s most popular weed-killers — and the most widely used kind in the U.S. — has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The decision was made by IARC, the France-based cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, which considered the status of five insect and weed killers including glyphosate, which is used globally in industrial farming. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which makes its own determinations, said it would consider the French agency’s evaluation. The French agency has four levels of risks for possible cancer-causing agents: known carcinogens, probable or possible carcinogens, not classifiable, and probably not carcinogenic. Glyphosate now falls in the second level of concern. Experts said there was “limited evidence” in humans that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice. IARC’s panel said glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the body. Monsanto, which produces the glyphosate-containing herbicide, Roundup, strongly disagreed with the decision.
Lessons of the World’s Most Unique Supercentenarians – (BBC News – March 31, 2015)
In 2012 the United Nations estimated that there were about 316,600 people over 100 living around the world. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to over three million. A much more exclusive club, therefore, are the supercentenarians, or people who live to 110 or older. The Gerontology Research Group, a global team headquartered in Los Angeles, maintains the go-to database for keeping track of the oldest among us. They know of just 53 people living today who fit the supercentenarian bill, the oldest of whom, Misao Okawa of Japan, is 117. Supercentenarians often “seem to be born with slower clocks than the rest of us,” says Stuart Kim, a developmental biologist at Stanford University. When supercentenarians are 60, they appear to be 40; when they are 90, they seem about 70. “When you meet them,” Kim says, “they all look and act 20 years younger than they actually are.” Researchers are attempting to reveal the genetic and environmental cornerstones that form the basis of their extreme, healthy longevity. So far, they know that heredity – whether a person has long-lived relatives – is one of the main predictors. “There’s no way to make it to 110 unless you win the genetic lottery at birth,” says Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois. But he and others have not been able to pin down the particular genes responsible for extreme longevity, partly because it’s difficult to get an adequate sample size for studying supercentenarians. According to Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, such research “will yield clues not so much about how to get more people to extreme ages, but how to help them avoid or delay diseases like Alzheimer’s, strokes, heart disease and cancer.” In other words, there will likely never come a time when the majority will make it to 110, but insights gleaned from those who do might help the rest of us increase our odds of living full, healthy lives to 85 or 90.
New Copper Molecule Halts Cancer Cells – (Health Aim – March 5, 2015)
A team of chemists, biochemists and physicists from Bielefeld University in Germany has developed a molecule containing copper that can bind with the DNA in such a way that it stops the further spread of cancer cells. The lead author, Thorsten Glaser, professor in inorganic chemistry, has explained that this new molecule with copper is more effective in killing the cancer cells and even faster than cisplatin, a widely used chemotherapeutic agent used for treating cancer that targets the DNA but in a different way. He further elaborates that most of the past research done on anticancer drugs had their main focus on variants of cisplatin, but what they have designed is a completely new copper compound. This new finding is the first step towards development of a new medical compound that the research team hopes will help in forming new drugs as well which can work more effectively in treating carcinogenic tumors than the current chemotherapy options. However, he also said that their research is still on a very initial stage though the lab results did show promise. He added “How and whether the copper complex will actually be given to cancer patients is something that medical research will have to determine in the years to come.”
Thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon Potion Kills MRSA Superbug – (CNN – March 31, 2015)
It might sound like a really old wives’ tale, but a thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon potion for eye infections may hold the key to wiping out the modern-day superbug MRSA, according to new research. The 10th-century “eyesalve” remedy was discovered at the British Library in a leather-bound volume of Bald’s Leechbook, widely considered to be one of the earliest known medical textbooks. Christina Lee, an expert on Anglo-Saxon society from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, translated the ancient manuscript despite some ambiguities in the text. “We chose this recipe in Bald’s Leechbook because it contains ingredients such as garlic that are currently investigated by other researchers on their potential antibiotic effectiveness,” Lee said. Lee enlisted the help of the university’s microbiologists to see if the remedy actually worked. The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine and oxgall (bile from a cow’s stomach) to be brewed in a brass vessel. “We recreated the recipe as faithfully as we could.” The researchers then tested their recipe on cultures of MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacterium that does not respond to commonly used antibiotic treatments. The scientists weren’t holding out much hope that it would work — but they were astonished by the lab results. The team also asked collaborators in the U.S. to test the recipe using an “in vivo” wound model — meaning it’s in a live organism — “and basically the big surprise was that it seems to be more effective than conventional antibiotic treatment.” The scientists were also worried they wouldn’t be able to repeat the feat. But three more batches, made from scratch each time, have yielded the same results.
World Faces Severe Water Shortage If Changes Are Not Made, UN Warns – (Vice News – March 20, 2015)
With the world’s population expected to grow to 9.1 billion by mid-century, already depleted groundwater supplies will continue to be gobbled up by agriculture, industry, power generation and personal use, according to the UN’s annual World Water Development Report. The report says that around 20% of groundwater sources are already “overexploited” – a problem that will only grow more dire by 2050, when demand for water is expected to have risen by more than half. As early as 2030, the planet could have only 60% of the water required to sustain itself. Most alarmingly, the planet will face a 40% shortfall in its fresh water supply in just 15 years if substantial changes are not made to improve management of the resource, according the report. Richard Connor, lead author of the UN report and an independent water expert, said, “The two major problems have to do with salt water intrusion in aquifers due to sea level rise, as well as the impact in the variability of distribution of rain.” Coastal cities like Kolkata, Shanghai, Dhaka and Jakarta already face a rise in salinization of their fresh water supplies in part due to uncontrolled groundwater extraction. As salt water mixes with longstanding aquifers, both licit and illegal wells are dug deeper, furthering the problem.
New US Patents Could Signal the End of Pesticides & GMOs – (Collective Evolution – February 27, 2015)
Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologist, filed a patent in 2001 that was intentionally given little attention. In the words of one pesticide industry executive, this patent represents “The most disruptive technology that we have ever witnessed.” The biopesticides described in the patent reveals a near permanent, safe solution for over 200,000 species of insects, and it all comes from a mushroom. After what is called “sporulation” of a select entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that kill insects), the area becomes unsuitable for whatever insect(s) the fungi are coded for. Additionally, extracts of the entomopathogenic fungi can steer insects in different directions. This is literally a complete paradigm shift away from the entire idea of pesticides. Instead of aiming to kill all problematic insects, a farmer could simply disperse a solution of pre-sporulation fungi among his or her crops. The insects would then simply live their lives around the crops, paying no attention to them. This simple idea flies in the face of the current, poorly thought out practice of spraying ever-increasing amounts of pesticides on resistant bugs. Going further, this biopesticide would also eliminate the need for round-up ready GMO seeds and BT seeds that grow the pesticides in the crop and which needlessly endanger us, the consumer, in the process. Perhaps the most enticing element of this biopesticide fungi is that it’s essentially free. According to the patent, it can be “cultivated on agricultural waste. The matrix of pre-sporulating fungi can optionally be dried, freeze-dried, cooled and/or pelletized and packaged and reactivated for use as an effective insect attractant and/or biopesticide.” (Editor’s note: This article is a little short on information, but for those who could make use of it, the article includes further links and, of course, one could contact Stamets.)
What Can Save the Rainforest? Your Used Cell Phone – (TED – September, 2014)
The sounds of the rainforest include: the chirps of birds, the buzz of cicadas, and the banter of gibbons. But in the background is the almost-always present sound of a chainsaw, from illegal loggers. Engineer Topher White shares a simple, scalable way to stop this illegal deforestation — that starts with your old cell phone.
Google’s New System for Recognizing Faces – (Fortune – March 17, 2015)
A trio of Google researchers has developed a new artificial intelligence system dubbed FaceNet that it claims represents the most-accurate approach yet to recognizing human faces. FaceNet achieved nearly 100 % accuracy on a popular facial-recognition dataset called “Labeled Faces in the Wild”, which includes more than 13,000 pictures of faces from across the web. Trained on a massive 260-million-image dataset, FaceNet performed with better than 86% accuracy. Researchers benchmarking their facial-recognition systems against Labeled Faces in the Wild are testing for what they call “verification.” Essentially, they’re measuring how good the algorithms are at determining whether two images are of the same person. In December, a team of Chinese researchers claimed better than 99% accuracy on the dataset. Last year, Facebook researchers published a paper boasting better than 97% accuracy. The Facebook paper points to research showing that humans analyzing images in the Labeled Faces dataset only achieve 97.5% accuracy. However, the approach Google’s researchers took goes beyond simply verifying whether two faces are the same. Its system can also put a name to a face—classic facial recognition—and even present collections of faces that look the most similar or the most distinct. This is all just research, but it points to a near future where the types of crime-fighting, or surveillance-enhancing, computers we often see on network television and blockbuster movies will be much more attainable.
2,048 Physical Qubits Quantum Computer Chip – (DK Matia – October 15, 2014)
How far away are we from running 2,048 Qubit calculations? Researchers who work with D-Wave are just starting to provide some advance results on D-Wave’s 1,152 Qubit system. D-Wave redesigns and rebuilds each of the chips several times over the 12-24 months where they test and refine chips of a particular Qubit size scale. The next generation of chips are the 1,152 qubit versions and are called the Washington generation. These are very early days for the Washington generation. Will things get a lot better on this one before it’s released? (Please keep in mind that Mt. Rainier and Mt. Vesuvius both took 7 generations of iteration before they stabilized.) See also: Advance Results on the 1152 Qubit DWave Quantum Systems up to 933 Qubits and application to cryptology.
Conceptual High-rise Containing 11 Landscapes wins eVolo Skyscraper Competition – (Dezeen – April 1, 2015)
A vision for a skyscraper containing swamps, mountains, glaciers and a jungle has been named the winner in a competition to come up with futuristic ideas for high-rise living. The Polish architectural designers, collectively known as BOMP, proposed a towering structure containing eleven different kinds of natural landscape, from rivers and waterfalls to deserts, grasslands and caves. Their aim was to bring the natural landscape into the everyday lives of city dwellers, and create opportunities for adventure. Second prize was awarded to Suraksha Bhatla and Sharan Sundar of India for a project entitled Shanty-Scaper, which imagines a building made from construction debris including pipes, reinforcement bars and corrugated metal sheets. (Editor’s note: These designs are not intended to be built; they are meant to explore and advance architectural ideas. Take a look at the drawings.)
Costa Rica Has Been Running on 100% Renewable Energy for the Past 75 Days – (Nation of Change – March 27, 2015)
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute announced that the country has been using nothing but renewable energy for 75 consecutive days. For an area this large to go this long running on strictly renewable energy is truly unprecedented, although Costa Rica is a small country. This year, Costa Rica saw heavy rainfalls, which were harnessed by a number of hydroelectric plants that have been built in the country. According the government agency, there have been no fossil fuels used to generate electricity since December of last year. In addition to the hydroelectric plants, the country also has a number of geothermal energy sites, which account for 10% of the region’s energy reserves. New geothermal projects are expected to develop in the coming year as well. See also: Caribbean Island Says Goodbye Fossil Fuels, Hello 100% Renewable Electricity And see: Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74% of Power Needs from Renewable Energy.
A Fully Transparent Solar Cell That Could Make Every Window and Screen a Power Source – (Extreme Tech – August 26, 2014)
Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any window or sheet of glass (like your smartphone’s screen) into a photovoltaic solar cell. Unlike other “transparent” solar cells, this one really is transparent, as you can see in the photos throughout this story. According to Richard Lunt, who led the research, the team is confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.” If a material is transparent, however, by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent — and they usually they cast a colorful shadow too. To get around this limitation, the Michigan State researchers use a slightly different technique for gathering sunlight. Instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell (which is nigh impossible), they use a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC). The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of the plastic surface, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity.
Elon Wants to Make Your Tesla Drive Itself. Is That Legal? – (Wired – March 19, 2015)
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says the next big software update for the Model S will roll out in 90 days with an auto-steering function that will make the cars largely autonomous on the highway. The feature will be pretty basic—keeping the car within its lane at an appropriate speed—so it’s no big leap. Every Model S built since October has the radar, sonar and other hardware needed to pull this off, and the ability to combine all that data with navigation, GPS, and real-time traffic systems. All that’s missing is the software needed to tie it all together. And possibly permission to actually do it. And that’s where things get murky. Wired asked a few experts if any of this is legal. And the general consensus was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The rules regulating self-driving cars are a mess. Only California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Washington, D.C. govern how the vehicles can be tested. Those laws largely apply to testing, so the legality of taking a car straight to market there may be flexible: Nevada requires a special license and registration, but that only applies to cars sold in the state. Florida basically legalized it, saying it “does not prohibit or specifically regulate the testing or operation of autonomous technology.” In California, the technology can only be tested, and is not allowed for consumer use until further notice. According to Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, 14 more states are working on regulations, and a dozen have voted them down. Because this is America, whatever’s not illegal is legal. Aside from those states (and Washington DC) that have regulated autonomous vehicles, and New York (which requires drivers keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times) there’s no law against Tesla flipping a switch making it possible for the Model S to chauffeur itself down the highway. That leaves 45 states of freedom, and maybe New York, if you’re super literal and keep a hand on the wheel without actually doing anything.
A Legendary Airplane Designer Hints at His Next Creation – (Wired – March 12, 2015)
When Burt Rutan retired to Idaho in 2011 after a lifetime designing revolutionary airplanes, he dreamed of flying around the world with his wife, Tonya—but soon realized that if he wanted an airplane capable of making the trip the way he imagined it, he’d have to design it himself. He’s spent the past few years in his garage, creating an airplane capable of landing on rough seas, calm lakes, snow, or grass. It also runs on gasoline instead of aviation fuel. His design if for an amphibious plane which he calls the SkiGull. The SkiGull, with its skis extended, will be able to land in rough seas or on calm lakes and rivers. The skis also incorporate small wheels that will enable it to land on runways and fields. With the skis retracted, the airplane can perform belly landings on smooth water, like other seaplanes. Although seating will be limited to Rutan and his wife, the plane will have cavernous fuel capacity — Rutan wants to be able to fly from California to Hawaii without carrying supplemental ferry tanks. He’s aiming for a cruise speed of 170 knots (195 mph).
Certified Naturally Grown: An Alternative to Certified Organic – (Mother Earth News – April/May, 2015)
Known as the grass-roots alternative to Certified Organic agriculture, Certified Naturally Grown is a national certification organization that assures that food labeled as such was produced without synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “Certified Naturally Grown is like the USDA’s National Organic Program in that our certified producers must follow similar standards, farm without the use of synthetic chemical inputs or GMOs, and farm to support biological diversity and ecological balance,” says Alice Varon, CNG executive director. CNG certification, however, isn’t as expensive or time-consuming as securing certification from the USDA’s program. In some states, USDA organic certification can cost thousands of dollars. CNG charges $200 or less, and the paperwork load is much lighter, too. All certification and inspection documentation is available online for every participating farm.
Unhealthy Eating Habits Outpacing Healthy Eating Patterns in Most World Regions – (Science Daily – February 18, 2015)
A study, originally published in The Lancet Global Health Journal, demonstrates that unhealthy eating patterns are the norm in most world regions. Worldwide, consumption of healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables has improved during the past two decades, but has been outpaced by the increased intake of unhealthy foods including processed meat and sweetened drinks in most world regions, according to the first study to assess diet quality in 187 countries covering almost 4.5 billion adults. Taking a closer look, it’s actually the world’s wealthiest countries that have the poorest diets because they also have the highest consumption of unhealthy food.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
How Do You Dismantle a Nuclear Submarine? – (BBC News – March 30, 2015)
At the end of their useful lives, nuclear submarines essentially become floating nuclear hazards, fizzing with lethal, spent nuclear fuel that’s extremely hard to get out. Nuclear navies have had to go to extraordinary lengths to cope with their bloated and ageing Cold War fleets of hunter-killer and ballistic missile nuclear subs. As a result, some of the strangest industrial graveyards on the planet have been created – stretching from the US Pacific Northwest, via the Arctic Circle to Russia’s Pacific Fleet home of Vladivostok. These submarine cemeteries take many forms. Russia has so far decommissioned 120 nuclear submarines of the Northern Fleet and 75 subs from its Pacific Fleet. In the US, meanwhile, 125 Cold War-era subs have been dismantled. France, too, has used the same procedure. However Britain’s plans to decommission 12 defunct submarines stored at Devonport in the south of England and seven at Rosyth in Scotland won’t happen any time soon as the government still has to decide which of five possible UK sites will eventually store those pressure vessels and spent fuel.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
US Sets New Record for Denying Federal Files under Freedom of Information Act – (Guardian – March 18, 2015)
The US has set a new record for denying and censoring federal files under the Freedom of Information Act, analysis by the Associated Press reveals. For the second consecutive year, the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them under the open-government legislation. The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. It also acknowledged in nearly one in three cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law – but only when it was challenged. Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55% to more than 200,000. Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information. The US spent a record $434m trying to keep up. The government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4% decrease over the previous year. “What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years,” [The Associated Press’s chief executive, Gary] Pruitt wrote in a column published this week. “The systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time.”
The Uncounted: Why the US Can’t Keep Track of People Killed by Police – (Guardian – March 18, 2015)
A year ago, in a bureaucratic shift that went unremarked in the somnolent days before Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, the US government admitted a disturbing failure. The top crime-data experts in Washington had determined that they could not properly count how many Americans die each year at the hands of police. For the better part of a decade, a specialized team of statisticians within the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)… had been collecting data [on] any death, of anyone, that happened in the presence of a local or state law enforcement officer. In March of last year, the bureau pulled the plug on the project. As revelations about patterns of abuse in Ferguson and beyond rattle the US criminal justice system from bottom to top, calls for a national police-killings database have once again gained urgency. But an awareness of what has been tried – and failed – remains elusive. A detailed look at what went wrong with the arrest-related deaths count reveals challenges that run deeper than the unwillingness of local police departments to file a report. From 2003 to 2009, plus 2011, the FBI counted an average of 383 “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” each year. The actual number, as estimated by the BJS study, was closer to 928.
China: With Friends Like These – (Financial Times – March 17, 2015)
Beijing has lent billions to spread its influence, but as defaults loom its approach is shifting. Beijing has used its status as the world’s biggest provider of development finance to burnish claims of leadership in the developing world, deploying funds from its $3.8tn in foreign currency reserves to boost relations with countries that sometimes have an anti-US agenda. But this model now looks compromised, analysts say. Bilateral deals stitched together in secret with countries afflicted with poor credit ratings, insecure governments and ailing resource sectors have shown a propensity to unravel. Ukraine is heavily in arrears in its Chinese lending, while Zimbabwe has failed to repay a much smaller amount. Other recipients of Chinese policy-driven finance — such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina — are suffering varying degrees of economic distress, casting doubt on their ability to repay. The change in China’s financial diplomacy model has implications for the wider world. There are signs that Beijing is growing less tolerant of the more egregious risks, a trend that could deprive some of the world’s most fragile economies of crucial lines of credit. Beijing also appears intent on spreading its risk, embracing a more institutional and multilateral approach — as demonstrated by its plans for an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank. Even minor changes in the way that China deploys development finance could have a significant impact, given the scale of its operations and the speed of its growth since the 2008 crisis. The opacity of its disbursements and the lack of comprehensive official data make it difficult to calculate how much Chinese state institutions actually lend. The key motivation behind its lending programme also appears to be in flux; over the last decade the main purpose was to seek access to resources but this is now giving way to an imperative to open up overseas markets for China’s engineering giants.
NSA Trying to Map Rogers, RBC Communications Traffic, Leak Shows – (Globe and Mail – March 17, 2015)
The U.S. National Security Agency has been trying to map the communications traffic of corporations around the world, and a classified document reveals that at least two of Canada’s largest companies are included. A 2012 presentation by a U.S. intelligence analyst, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, includes a list of corporate networks that names Royal Bank of Canada and Rogers Communications Inc. The presentation, titled “Private Networks: Analysis, Contextualization and Setting the Vision,” is among the NSA documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden. Canada’s biggest bank and its largest wireless carrier are on a list of 15 entities that are visible in a drop-down menu on one of the presentation’s 40 pages. It shows part of an alphabetical list of entries beginning with the letter “R” that also includes two U.K.-headquartered companies – Rolls Royce Marine and Rio Tinto – and U.S.-based RigNet, among other global firms involved in telecom, finance, oil and manufacturing. The document does not say what data the NSA has collected about these firms, or spell out the agency’s objective. A comparison of this document with previous Snowden leaks suggests it may be a preliminary step in broad efforts to identify, study and, if deemed necessary, “exploit” organizations’ internal communication networks. Markings on the document, which is labelled “top secret,” indicate it was shared with the NSA’s Canadian counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment. The Canadian companies named in the document say they have no reason to believe their computer systems or customer records were compromised and insist their networks are secure.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
A Student-Debt Revolt Begins – (New Yorker – February 23, 2015)
Corinthian was one of the world’s largest for-profit operators of colleges; at its height, in 2010, more than a hundred thousand students were enrolled in its schools throughout the U.S. and part of Canada. These days, the company can hardly be said to exist. Over the past few years, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the attorney general of California, and the attorney general of Massachusetts have brought separate lawsuits accusing the company of all kinds of bad behavior: pressuring students into signing up for huge loans, misleading them about their prospects after graduation, and strong-arming them into beginning to repay their private loans before they had even graduated. Students and graduates of Corinthian-owned colleges are finding that their degrees are all but worthless; when they try to transfer, they discover that other colleges won’t recognize their course credits and, when they try to get work, they learn that employers are not at all impressed by Corinthian coursework. In December, a group of Democrats in the Senate, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, wrote to the Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, calling on the Department of Education to “immediately discharge” the federal loans of at least some students who attended Corinthian. The department, the senators noted, has the power to cancel federal loans for students who attended institutions that violated their rights. In fact, they pointed out, the department’s federal-loan agreements with students go as far as to spell this out. Corinthian’s students have taken out more than a billion dollars in federal loans annually. Kevin Carey, a fellow at the New America foundation who studies higher education, predicts that the Education Department will likely be wary of setting a precedent that could inspire students who attended other troubled institutions also to seek loan forgiveness. “Drawing legally and logically defensible lines around this situation will be tricky for them,” he told me. Still, Carey said, “In this particular case, I think there’s a pretty strong argument that they ought to forgive a lot of the debt.”
Giving Homes to the Homeless is Cheaper Than Leaving Them on the Street – (Nation of Change – March 13, 2015)
There are between 580,000 and 800,000 people around the country who are considered homeless. Roughly 84,000 of those are considered “chronically homeless,” meaning that they’ve been homeless for more than a year, and are struggling with mental health conditions, disease, injury, and addiction. The repeated emergency room visits and nights in jail that the chronically homeless endure costs around $30,000 to $50,000 per person, per year – approximately $3 billion annually. Salt Lake City’s program to end chronic homelessness has had enormous success, housing almost 2,000 chronically homeless people in a new apartment complex. The city learned that while it cost $20,000 per person, per year to leave them on the streets, taxpayers saved $8,000 per person when they were moved into the new apartments. Added benefits of homeless people getting a home accumulating over the long term also mean that taxpayers save more money on fewer emergency room visits (as well as time saved while waiting for treatment at the ER), and that police are able to respond faster without having to enforce anti-homelessness laws. Several hundred more temporary housing units are slated to be built throughout Salt Lake City for the local homeless population. So how did ultra-conservative Utah agree to pay for this? They didn’t – existing federal government programs fronted almost all of the cost. Doing the math, it isn’t hard to see how much more cost-effective it is to build public, low-income housing for the homeless than it is to leave them on the street. Phoenix, Arizona became the first city to officially eradicate veteran homelessness. New Orleans did the same thing earlier this year. 300 mayors and six governors around the country have pledged to find homes for all homeless veterans by the end of 2015. The only thing we’re lacking is the political leadership willing to abolish homelessness for everyone, nationwide.
His or Hers: Will Androgynous Fashion Catch On? – (BBC News – March 31, 2015)
‘The girlfriend look’ is all the rage on the catwalk and a new exhibition of work by the gender-bending designer Jean Paul Gaultier is opening in Paris. At a recent Gucci show in Milan, louche, long-haired male models sauntered down the runway in chiffon and lace, pussy-bow blouses and high-waisted flares. It was gender blurring as never seen before at the venerable Italian fashion house, courtesy of the label’s new creative director Alessandro Michele. And that wasn’t the only surprise. The Gucci girls, meanwhile, walked the runway in boyish, geeky styles. Gucci is not alone. JW Anderson and Meadham Kirchoff have also shown an interest in gender-fluid fashion, and Saint Laurent, Prada and Givenchy are just some of the names whose recent menswear collections have proffered skirts, high-heeled boots, chiffon blouses and a general prevalence of pink. Boundaries are coming down in other ways too, with transgender models becoming more and more popular on the catwalk. We’ve seen ‘boyfriend dressing’ before – outsized, mannish jeans, sweaters, jackets and coats worn by women that are seemingly purloined from their male partner’s wardrobes. But now the moment of ‘girlfriend dressing’ has arrived too – at least in the rarefied circles of the fashion world. For the devotedly fashion-conscious man it is currently all about feminization. (Editor’s note: Even if you don’t want to wear the clothes, don’t miss the photos.)
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Japan Takes a Step Towards Beaming Solar Power to Earth from Space – (GizMag – March 13, 2015)
A successful ground test of a system designed to ultimately collect solar power from orbit and beam it back down to Earth has been announced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The wireless power demonstration saw 10 kilowatts sent over microwaves from a transmitting unit to a receiver 1,640 feet away. Mitsubishi says the reception of the power sent through the air was confirmed through the illumination of lights using part of the power transmitted. The company did not confirm what percentage of the power sent actually made it to the receiver, however, which is a key question as the ultimate goal is to relay power from orbit thousands of miles above Earth. Mitsubishi says that the successful test has verified the viability of the concept, and that the transmission distance and power load mark new milestones for the technology. Perhaps just as important, the testing confirmed the performance of the control system that will regulate the microwave beam itself. This is a big deal, because if the proposed microwave connection between an orbiting power station and large receiver units on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay were ever fired up at full power, it would be strong enough that workers would need to wear protective clothing. (Editor’s note: It sounds as though the development of this technology would be a likely precursor to using solar power on the moon, where it might be far more practical than “importing” other types of fuel.)
The Solar Eruptions That Caused Spectacular St. Patrick’s Day Auroras – (Discover – March 17, 2015)
Curtains of hyper-luminous green, white, purple and red light glittered in the skies around the world on March 17th as a result of a severe geomagnetic storm caused by two massive explosions on the Sun. The video embedded in the article, from the SOHO spacecraft, shows the two coronal mass ejections from the Sun, or CMEs, responsible for the auroral fireworks. These massive explosions of material occurred a few days earlier. (The black circle is called an “occulting disk.” It blocks out the extremely bright, obscuring light of Sun and its inner atmosphere so that CMEs can be seen more clearly.) CMEs are gargantuan bubbles of gas many times larger than the Earth that explode from the Sun. Threaded with magnetic field lines, these CMEs traveled across the 92,960,000 miles separating us from the Sun and seriously jostled the Earth’s protective magnetic field, triggering the geomagnetic storm responsible for the auroral displays. The resulting geomagnetic storm was recorded at the G4 level. The scale goes from G1 to G5, making this the most powerful one in the last two years.
New State Rankings Reveal Top 10 Highest and Lowest Well-Being States – (Well Being Index – February 18, 2015)
New state rankings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® show that, over the seven years that they have been measuring and analyzing well-being, a number of U.S. states have made repeat appearances in the top ten list. Hawaii, which is ranked second this year, and Colorado, which is ranked sixth this year, have made consistent appearances in the top ten list all seven years. Marking its fourth appearance since 2008 on the top ten list, Alaska secured the number one spot for the very first time. Familiar states also appear among the lowest well-being states. For the sixth consecutive year, West Virginia and Kentucky have the lowest well-being in the United States, ranking 50th and 49th, respectively. Other states that have appeared in the bottom ten all seven years are Arkansas, Ohio and Mississippi.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Radical New 3-D Printer Grows Objects from Goo – (Discover – March 17, 2015)
It seems hard to believe, but we may already need to start differentiating between “old-fashioned” and modern 3-D printing methods. Silicon Valley startup Carbon3D has emerged from two years of strategic hiding to blow our minds: Engineers there designed a 3-D printer that makes intricate objects, like a miniature Eiffel Tower, rise from a primordial pool of resin. Apart from looking awesome, Carbon3D’s technique also prints smoother objects and does it 25 to 100 times faster than 3-D printers currently on the market. Most 3-D printers build objects by depositing thin sheets of material layer-by-layer — basically 2-D printing over and over again. Each layer of an object is typically 50 to 100 microns thick, so it takes a few hours to print something that’s just several centimeters tall. Furthermore, the end product usually has distinct ridges, like layers in the Earth’s crust, demarcating every deposit from the printer. Carbon3D’s new 3-D printing technique is called “continuous liquid interface production technology,” or CLIP. The CLIP machine features a pool of specialized resin that hardens when ultraviolet light hits it, but remains liquefied if in contact with oxygen. The pool of resin sits atop a permeable window that lets both light and oxygen through and into the pool. To print an object, specially engineered software projects a specific pattern of light though an oxygen-permeable window. The resin exposed to light hardens, but the resin exposed to oxygen remains liquefied. The projection system works in tandem with a mechanical arm that slowly pulls the object out of the resin, creating the illusion that it grew from the oozy pool. In this way, shapes and lattices can be made through a continuous process, rather than layer-by-layer.
3D Satellite, GPS Earthquake Maps Isolate Impacts in Real Time- (Iowa Now – March 23, 2015)
New research from the University of Iowa, along with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), shows that GPS and satellite data can be used in a real-time, coordinated effort to fully characterize a fault line within 24 hours of an earthquake, ensuring that aid is delivered faster and more accurately than ever before. University of Iowa assistant professor William Barnhart used GPS and satellite measurements from the magnitude 6.0 South Napa, California earthquake on August 24, 2014, to create a three-dimensional map of how the ground surface moved in response to the earthquake. The map was made without using traditional rapid response instruments, such as seismometers, which may not afford the same level of detail for similar events around the globe. “By having the 3D knowledge of the earthquake itself, we can make predictions of the ground shaking, without instruments to record that ground shaking, and then can make estimates of what the human and infrastructure impacts will be— in terms of both fatalities and dollars,” Barnhart says. The study is the first USGS example showing that GPS and satellite readings can be used as a tool to shorten earthquake response times.
IBM Looking at Adopting Bitcoin Technology for Major Currencies – (Reuters – March 12, 2015)
A modest bidding war has broken out among the retailers who hire from the bottom of the labor pool, buoyed in part by improving sales. Wal-Mart moved to raise the pay for its lowest-level workers to at least $9 an hour, a decision quickly matched by TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Gap, Starbucks, and IKEA had already joined the growing list of service sectors now committed to higher starting wages, with tens of thousands of low-paid workers affected by recent changes. These rising wages are sure to be costly for employers: Walmart, for example, warned that its mass raise would chew up an additional $1 billion a year. So why are these big employers forking over more money to their least-valuable employees? Better wages can be understood, in part, as an effort to keep workers from leaving—or at least leaving quite so soon. Turnover in the retail sector has been steadily rising and now stands 5% a month. At that rate, if Walmart’s workforce were to hold to the national average, over a full year it would be losing 60% of its sales staff. Employee churn at fast-food chains is even worse. That adds up quickly. Walmart has about 500,000 low-wage employees. The cost of training that many new hires comes to roughly $1 billion—the cost of the just-announced wage increase to $9 per hour.
Monetizing Medical Data Is Becoming the Next Revenue Stream for Hackers – (PC World – March 20, 2015)
The personal information found in health care records fetches hefty sums on underground markets, making any company that stores such data a very attractive target for attackers. “Hackers will go after anyone with health care information,” said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, adding that in recent years hackers have increasingly set their sights on EHRs (electronic health records). With medical data, “there’s a bunch of ways you can turn that into cash,” he said. For example, Social Security numbers and mailing addresses can be used to apply for credit cards or get around corporate antifraud measures. Recently Premera Blue Cross disclosed that the personal details of 11 million customers had been exposed in a hack that was discovered in January. Last month, Anthem, another health insurance provider, said that 78.8 million customer and employee records were accessed in an attack. Both attacks exposed similar data, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, telephone numbers, member identification numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses. In the Premera breach, medical claims information was also accessed. Credentials that include Social Security numbers can sell for a couple hundred dollars since the data’s lifetime is much longer compared to pilfered credit card numbers. If a government (rumored to be China) is behind the attacks, it may not be looking for financial gains or even be interested in health care data. For example, a government may indiscriminately collect data assuming that it will eventually find useful information. Governments could also use attacks against Western companies as training exercises to learn how IT systems work. Many businesses use the same technology so their IT infrastructures share similar setups.
Mass Government Surveillance Is No Joke – (Slate – March, 2015)
Mass surveillance is becoming a punch line. John Kerry jokes with the press that it’s “so nice to put faces to the metadata.” Former National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander appears on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and cheerfully describes the NSA as “the only agency in government that really listens.” Making it humorous makes mass surveillance seem easy and friendly and a normal part of life. It helps us forget about real opportunities to roll it back. Of course the government is listening in on everyone. Why should we ever think otherwise? But mass digital surveillance of Americans is a recent thing, not a way of life. It was legalized only in the panicky days after Sept. 11, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Like other provisions of what was intended to be “emergency” legislation, Congress built in a sunset, and for Section 215, that sunset is coming up on June 1. It could, and should, be allowed to expire. Section 215, one of three authorities underlying mass surveillance, authorized many previously illegal practices.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Meet the 91-Year-Old Who Is Finally Living Her Dream as a Tech Designer in Silicon Valley – (Entrepreneur – March 4, 2015)
In a technological era dominated by Ivy-bred wunderkinds, the unsuspecting career trajectory of 91-year-old Barbara Beskind capsizes Silicon Valley’s customary emphasis on youth. Beskind, who says she fantasized about being an inventor ever since she was a young girl growing up during the Great Depression, is now living her dream. Two years ago, Beskind joined IDEO — a design firm perhaps best known for developing the first mouse for Apple. Every Thursday, Beskind commutes from her retirement community to IDEO’s Palo Alto, Calif. offices, where she holds court on a couch surrounded by fellow designers who are old enough to be her grandchildren. Most of Beskind’s work aims to solve problems faced by the elderly. In addition to challenging the team to think in new ways, the mere fact of Beskind’s presence invigorates IDEO staffers. “People get very excited when she shows up,” IDEO associate partner Gretchen Addi said. “When she walks in, an email goes out to the whole office that just says, ‘She’s here!'” For more details, see this Wall St. Journal article.
JUST FOR FUN
The Beauty of Pollination – (YouTube – May 7, 2011)
Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film Wings of Life, inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee. Taken from Louie Schwartzberg TED talk.
A FINAL QUOTE–
An Equalizer – a poem by Robert Frost, from A Witness Tree (1942)
It is as true as Caesar’s name was Kaiser
That no economist was ever wiser
(Though prodigal himself and a despiser
Of capital and calling thrift a miser).
And when we get too far apart in wealth,
‘Twas his idea that for the public health,
So that the poor won’t have to steal by stealth,
We now and then should take an equalizer.
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Edited by John L. Petersen