FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Europe’s growing army of robot workers could be classed as “electronic persons” with their owners liable to pay social security for them.
- Capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone tools for over 700 years.
- Regenerative dental fillings that allow teeth to heal themselves have been developed by researchers, which may eventually eliminate the need for root canals.
- An experimental airplane being built by NASA could help electric-powered aviation become commercially viable for small aircraft.
by John L. Petersen
What In the World is Really Going On?
One of the clearest, most reasonable, and insightful analysts of our present world is Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts was the author of Reaganomics but nowadays holds forth about world events such that in most cases you’d never know what his political leanings were. But what is clear is that he is dedicated to truth, no matter what the potential implications might be to those who benefit from the status quo.
He’s a marvelous writer, so let me commend to you this piece, about deception by governments. Read this carefully and think about it. In particular, think about this statement:
James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counterintelligence for three decades, long ago explained to me that: intelligence services create stories inside stories, each with its carefully constructed trail of evidence, in order to create false trails as diversions.
Such painstaking work can serve a variety of purposes. It can be used to embarrass or discredit an innocent person or organization that has an unhelpful position on an important issue and is in the way of an agenda.
It can be used as a red herring to draw attention away from a failing explanation of an event by producing an alternative false explanation.
I forget what Angleton called them, but the strategy is to have within a false story other stories that are there but withheld because of “national security” or “politically sensitive issues” or some such.
Then if the official story gets into trouble, the backup story can be released in order to deflect attention into a new false story or to support the original story.
Angleton said that intelligence services protect their necessary misdeeds by burying the misdeed in competing explanations.
Read the complete article here.
Now, think about this article: Nice Attacks, Destroying Evidence at Crime Scene: French Government Orders Destruction of CCTV Video Footage What in the world is going on? Was this contrived . . . like the rest of them?
It’s hard to tell.
But, with all that in mind, consider that the U.S. Director of Central Intelligence recently said that chemtrails are real and that he is personally interested in them because they are used to decrease the trends of global warming.
Now wait. Why would the Director of Central Intelligence confirm the existence of chemtrails by parroting the party line about mitigating global warming? He’s the big intelligence guy, right? The big spy. That just didn’t smell right. Wouldn’t the EPA director, or the White House or someone like that be talking about climate mitigation, not the spy chief?
Then a friend sent along the following piece. By Clifford Carnicom, a scientist who concludes that aerosol spraying/ chemtrails/geoengineering/solar radiation management, etc., has absolutely nothing to do with curtaining or mitigating solar warming; and he sates why he has reached those conclusions, at least, in part.
The author’s background is available at: http://carnicominstitute.org/wp/about/, you can read the article here: A Clash of Evidence: The Realities of Solar Radiation Management (SRM)
So what’s really going on?
It’s hard to tell.
Europe’s Robots to Become ‘Electronic Persons’ under Draft Plan – (Reuters – June 21, 2016)
Europe’s growing army of robot workers could be classed as “electronic persons” and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution. Robots are being deployed in ever-greater numbers in factories and also taking on tasks such as personal care or surgery, raising fears over unemployment, wealth inequality and alienation. Their growing intelligence, pervasiveness and autonomy requires rethinking everything from taxation to legal liability, a draft European Parliament motion, dated May 31, suggests. The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider “that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations”. It also suggested the creation of a register for smart autonomous robots, which would link each one to funds established to cover its legal liabilities. However, Germany’s VDMA, which represents companies such as automation giant Siemens and robot maker Kuka, says the proposals are too complicated and too early. Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA’s robotic and automation department, said: “That we would create a legal framework with electronic persons – that’s something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years.” (Editor’s note: We think 10 years doesn’t sound so unlikely.)
This Teen’s Lawyer-Bot Is Busting Thousands of Parking Tickets – (Forbes – June 28, 2016)
College freshman Joshua Browder thinks chatbots can be pretty cool, but the ones showing up on Facebook Messenger lately, to a great deal of hype, are not. A better idea is public service bots, and he’s built a few himself. Browder’s web-based bot DoNotPay has appealed 250,000 parking tickets in London since last September, and in New York since March 2016. It has successfully overturned 160,000 of them. Browder thought it would fun to build an automated bot — essentially software that understands human language well enough to hold a basic conversation — that could talk his friends and family through the process of appealing a ticket. The bot even sent the appeal to a parking-management agency on their behalf. It took three months to pull together the software, and Browder made it his 2015 summer project between high school and college. Browder said he’d received help from a handful of top-rated lawyers, experts that he wasn’t a liberty to name. His apps for human rights organizations, include Freedom House, the oldest human rights organization in the U.S. which publishes reports on press freedom. His network of human rights and civil lawyers give him advice on new bots in return for the apps he’s built for their causes. Browder, who is originally from Hendon, North London, and is starting a degree at Stanford University this September in economics and computer science.
Nonstop Flight: How the Frigatebird Can Soar for Weeks without Stopping – (NPR – June 30, 2016)
Frigatebirds, seagoing fliers with a 6-foot wingspan, can stay aloft for weeks at a time, a new study has found. The results paint an astonishing picture of the bird’s life, much of which is spent soaring inside the clouds. Frigatebirds are unique among aquatic birds. Their feathers are not waterproof, so they can’t rest on the waves. Ornithologist Henri Weimerskirch put satellite tags on a couple of dozen frigatebirds, as well as instruments that measured body functions such as heart rate. When the data started to come in, he could hardly believe how high the birds flew. They can fly at altitudes of more than 12,000 feet, or as high as parts of the Rocky Mountains. “There is no other bird flying so high relative to the sea surface,” he says. One of the tagged birds soared 40 miles without a wing-flap. Several covered more than 300 miles a day on average, and flew continuously for weeks. In one case, a bird was recorded as continuously aloft — for two months.
Apparently, Plants Know How to ‘Gamble’ – (10News, July 4, 2016)
Researchers from universities in the United Kingdom and Israel found pea plants show sensitivity to risk and they even “gamble.” They claim this is the first study to show an organism without a nervous system can have an adaptive response to risk. The experiment involved growing pea plants with their roots split between two pots. Researchers found the plants grew more roots in the pot that had more nutrients. They hypothesized the same plants would “gamble” in the next series of experiments – and they did. Researchers again grew those plants with their roots split between two pots. Both had the same average nutrient concentrations in their fertilizers. However, one level varied while the other stayed the same. The pea plants “gambled” when the average nutrient concentration was low and didn’t when it was high. Why? According to researchers, if the average nutrient concentration isn’t enough for the plant, the plant would rather gamble that the pot with varying nutrient levels was running high. And when the average nutrient concentration is high, the plants would play it safe with the pot that remained the same.
Personalized Treatment May Reverse Alzheimer’s Memory Loss – (UPI – June 16, 2016)
A comprehensive, personalized therapeutic program reversed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in patients in a small study, suggesting the condition is more treatable than previously thought. “The magnitude of improvement in these ten patients is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective,” Dr. Dale Bredesen, a professor at the Buck Institute and the University of California Los Angeles, said. “Even though we see the far-reaching implications of this success, we also realize that this is a very small study that needs to be replicated in larger numbers at various sites.” Researchers recruited 10 people with mild cognitive impairment, subjective cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the study. Based on each individual participant’s condition, the researchers designed a personalized 36-point program involving changes to diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins and other therapies to alter brain chemistry, using it to treat them for between five and 24 months. In all ten cases, the researchers report, improvements were seen in memory and cognitive function, with some participants able to go back to work and complete tasks that had slowly become impossible for them as their cognitive conditions worsened. “Even though we see the far-reaching implications of this success, we also realize that this is a very small study that needs to be replicated in larger numbers at various sites,” Bredesen adds. By targeting the degeneration of the brain as a whole, rather than using specific medicines for specific areas of the brain, the study was able to produce concrete results unlike which have ever been seen before. The idea to combine multiple treatment methods is rooted in some of the recent successes treating cardiovascular disease, cancer and HIV, all of which have involved combination therapies.
A Simple Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease – (U.S. News – July 12, 2016)
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered early signs of Alzheimer’s in the retinas of mice, and they’re hopeful the same could be found in humans. The simple, noninvasive test involves examining retinas, the light-sensitive tissue that coats the back of eyes, through a camera. The retina and brain undergo similar changes due to Alzheimer’s, but the retina is much easier to see since it’s more accessible. Indeed, researchers detected patterns in the retinas – through changes in light reflection as early stages of amyloid plaque gathered – that signified the disease’s progression. Amyloid plaque is a key marker for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can currently only be identified after it’s already formed, Dr. Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design, said in a post on the University of Minnesota’s website. There’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s – it’s diagnosed based on symptoms – so the ability to see progression of the disease before symptoms appear could help experts test new preventive and treatment drugs. The eye test will enter human trials this month, and it will be tested in both patients with and without Alzheimer’s disease.
Dental Fillings Heal Teeth With Stem Cells – (Newsweek – July 4, 2016)
Regenerative dental fillings that allow teeth to heal themselves have been developed by researchers, potentially eliminating the need for root canals. The treatment, developed by scientists from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University, earned a prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry after judges described it as a “new paradigm for dental treatments.” The tooth filling works by stimulating stem cells to encourage the growth of dentin—the bony material that makes up the majority of the tooth—allowing patients to effectively regrow teeth that are damaged through dental disease. “Existing dental fillings are toxic to cells and are therefore incompatible with pulp tissue inside the tooth,” said Adam Celiz, a Marie Curie research fellow at the University of Nottingham. “In cases of dental pulp disease and injury a root canal is typically performed to remove the infected tissues. “We have designed synthetic biomaterials that can be used similarly to dental fillings but can be placed in direct contact with pulp tissue to stimulate the native stem cell population for repair and regeneration of pulp tissue and the surrounding dentin.” The scientists are now hoping to develop the technique with industry partners in order to make it available for dental patients as an alternative to traditional fillings. (Editor’s note: While waiting for this technology to hit the mass market, consider laser dentistry for the next time you need to have a dental filling. Since the equipment runs around $100,000, it is just now becoming more widely available. See this YouTube clip: Laser Dentistry – No shots, no drugs, no pain!)
Artificial Pancreas Likely to Be Available by 2018 – (EurekAlert – June 30, 2016)
The artificial pancreas — a device which monitors blood glucose in patients with type 1 diabetes and then automatically adjusts levels of insulin entering the body — is likely to be available by 2018. Issues such as speed of action of the forms of insulin used, reliability, convenience and accuracy of glucose monitors plus cybersecurity to protect devices from hacking, are among the issues that are being addressed. Currently available technology allows insulin pumps to deliver insulin to people with diabetes after taking a reading or readings from glucose meters, but these two components are separate. It is the joining together of both parts into a ‘closed loop’ that makes an artificial pancreas, explain authors Dr Roman Hovorka and Dr Hood Thabit of the University of Cambridge, UK. “In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them ‘time off’ or a ‘holiday’ from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user,” they say. There are alternatives to the artificial pancreas, with improvements in technology in both whole pancreas transplantation and also transplants of just the beta cells from the pancreas which produce insulin. However, recipients of these transplants require drugs to suppress their immune systems just as in other organ transplants. In the case of whole pancreas transplantation, major surgery is required; and in beta cell islet transplantation, the body’s immune system can still attack the transplanted cells and kill off a large proportion of them (80% in some cases).
Stanford Scientists Find ‘Water Windfall’ beneath California’s Central Valley – (Stanford University – June 27, 2016)
“It’s not often that you find a ‘water windfall,’ but we just did,” said study co-author Robert Jackson, a professor at Stanford. Previous estimates of groundwater in California are based on data that are decades old and only extend to a maximum depth of 1,000 feet, and often less. Until now, little was known about the amount and quality of water in deeper aquifers. “Water a thousand feet down used to be too expensive to use,” said Jackson, who is also a senior fellow at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and at the Precourt Institute for Energy. “Today it’s used widely.” While this is good news for California, the findings also raise some concerns. First, much of the water is 1,000 to 3,000 feet underground, so pumping it will be more expensive. Without proper studies, tapping these deeper aquifers might also exacerbate the ground subsidence – the gradual sinking of the land – that is already happening throughout the Central Valley. Groundwater pumping from shallow aquifers has already caused some regions to drop by tens of feet. Furthermore, some of the deep aquifer water is also brinier – higher in salt concentration – than shallower water, so desalination or other treatment will be required before it can be used for agriculture or for drinking. Another concern the Stanford scientists uncovered is that oil and gas drilling activities are occurring directly into as much as 30% of the sites where the deep groundwater resources are located.
Drones Will Deliver Vaccine-laden M&M-like Baits in a Bid to Save Endangered Ferrets – (Quartz – July 13, 2016)
The Sylvatic plague, a bacterial disease transmitted by fleas, is threatening to wipe out prairie dogs, the primary prey of the black-footed ferret, itself an endangered species. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wants to use drones to vaccinate thousands of prairie dogs so ferrets have ample food to survive. North America’s only native ferret species has been endangered since 1967, according to the USFWS. Prairie dogs can make up almost 90% of the mammal’s diet. Since 2008, all captive-born ferrets have been reintroduced to the wild after being injected with the vaccine, according to the National Wildlife Health Center. With only 300 ferrets left remaining in the US at the end of 2015, protecting the animal at risk isn’t worthwhile if its food source is jeopardized: Once it spreads in an area, the plague can wipeout close to 98% of the prairie dog population within a matter of weeks. To fight the spread of the disease among prairie dogs, the US government is planning to use drones to scatter vaccine-laced M&M-like medicine at a ferret habitat in Montana. Park officials at Montana’s UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, expect that the drone delivery of the Sylvatic Plague Vaccine (SPV) will “eventually be the most efficient, effective, cost-conscious, and environmentally friendly method of application,” according to an environmental assessment from March 2016. The system will be operational by Sept. 1 if the US Fish and Wildlife Service approves it.
Google, Facebook Quietly Move Toward Automatic Blocking of Extremist Videos – (Reuters – June 25, 2016)
Some of the web’s biggest destinations for watching videos have quietly started using automation to remove extremist content from their sites, according to two people familiar with the process. The issue underscores the central but difficult role some of the world’s most influential companies now play in addressing issues such as terrorism, free speech and the lines between government and corporate authority. The move is a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States. YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said. The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for “hashes,” a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly. Such a system would catch attempts to repost content already identified as unacceptable, but would not automatically block videos that have not been seen before. The companies would not confirm that they are using the method or talk about how it might be employed, but numerous people familiar with the technology said that posted videos could be checked against a database of banned content to identify new postings of, say, a beheading or a lecture inciting violence. The two sources would not discuss how much human work goes into reviewing videos identified as matches or near-matches by the technology. They also would not say how videos in the databases were initially identified as extremist.
The First Big Internet of Things Security Breach Is Just Around the Corner – (ZD Net – July 1, 2016)
Gartner estimates that currently 5.5 million new ‘things’ — devices from toasters and kettles to cars and hospital equipment — are being connected to the internet every single day, and they will total 6.4 billion by the end of the year. That figure is up from 3.8 billion in 2014, and 5 billion in 2015 and is expected to rise to over 20 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices being connected to the web in 2020. “IoT devices are coming in with security flaws which were out-of-date ten years ago,” says James Lyne, global head of security research at Sophos. The only reason these flaws aren’t being exploited right now is that hackers currently have little interest, even though these devices are “trivial” to attack, he said. But don’t get too comfortable. Lyne isn’t the only one who believes a big IoT security breach is coming: cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier also fears that one is coming sooner rather than later — and that connected cars could be a particularly dangerous target. It would be bad if someone used the systems in a connected car to carry out surveillance on the driver or passengers he said: “But it’d be really bad if they could disable the brakes. It’d be really bad — and it’ll happen in a year or two — when someone figures out how to apply ransomware to the CPUs of cars. Schneier argues that the fact everything is getting connected to the internet adds additional danger to society as a whole. “There’s a numbers game going on here, as the effectiveness of the criminal gets greater, society can afford fewer and fewer of them until it gets so dangerous you just need more security than you can afford,” he argued, adding that soon this will reach a “tipping point” of no return.
Antivirus Software Is ‘Increasingly Useless’ and May Make Your Computer Less Safe – (CBC – July 8, 2016)
Internet security experts are warning that anti-malware technology is becoming less and less effective at protecting your data and devices, and there’s evidence that security software can sometimes even make your computer more vulnerable to security breaches. Concordia University professor Mohammad Mannan and his PhD student Xavier de Carné de Carnavalet recently presented research on antivirus and parental control software packages, including popular brands like AVG, Kaspersky and BitDefender, that bypass some security features built into internet browsers to verify whether sites are safe or not in order to be able to scan encrypted connections for potential threats. In theory, they should make up for it with their own content verification systems. But Mannan’s research found they didn’t do a very good job. “We were surprised at how bad they were,” he said in an interview. Mannan doesn’t use antivirus protection on his primary machines and hasn’t for years, he said. “I don’t see any clear advantage of using them,” he wrote in a followup email, noting that they can slow your machine down and introduce new vulnerabilities. “Antivirus is getting increasingly useless these days,” wrote Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, which trains employees of other companies to be smarter about internet security. “The bad guys … just attack organizations at the weakest link in IT security, which is the user.'” Increasingly, attacks focus on social engineering or phishing that lures users onto compromised websites that can steal information or serve ransomware. J. Paul Haynes, CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based cybersecurity firm eSentire, said that while antivirus software used to protect against 80% – 90% cent of threats, but it’s now thought to protect against less than 10% because of the cybercriminal tactics cited by Sjouwerman. See also: Google is already fighting hackers from the future with post-quantum cryptography.
China Builds World’s Fastest Supercomputer without U.S. Chips – (Computer World – June 20, 2016)
China has unveiled its latest supercomputer, a monolithic system with 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors. This follows a U.S. government decision last year to deny China access to Intel’s fastest microprocessors. There is no U.S.-made system that comes close to the performance of China’s new system, the Sunway TaihuLight. Its theoretical peak performance is 124.5 petaflops, according to the latest biannual release today of the world’s Top500 supercomputers. It is the first system to exceed 100 petaflops. A petaflop equals one thousand trillion (one quadrillion) sustained floating-point operations per second. The most important thing about Sunway TaihuLight may be its microprocessors. In the past, China has relied heavily on U.S. microprocessors in building its supercomputing capacity. The world’s next fastest system, China’s Tianhe-2, which has a peak performance of 54.9 petaflops, uses Intel Xeon processors. TaihuLight is running “sizeable applications,” which include advanced manufacturing, earth systems modeling, life science and big data applications, said Jack Dongarra, a professor of computer science at the University of Tennessee and one of the academic leaders of the Top500 supercomputing list, in a report about the new system. This “shows that the system is capable of running real applications and [is] not just a stunt machine,” Dongarra said. It has been long known that China was developing a 100-plus petaflop system, and it was believed that China would turn to U.S. chip technology to reach this performance level. But just over a year ago, in a surprising move, the U.S. banned Intel from supplying Xeon chips to four of China’s top supercomputing research centers. The U.S. initiated this ban because China, it claimed, was using its Tianhe-2 system for nuclear explosive testing activities. The U.S. stopped live nuclear testing in 1992 and now relies on computer simulations. Critics in China suspected the U.S. was acting to slow that nation’s supercomputing development efforts.
Harvard Students Create Tiny Vacation Houses for Stressed-out City Dwellers – (Dezeen – July 12, 2016)
Graduate students from Harvard University have launched a company that designs, builds and rents out wilderness micro cabins to urban residents “looking to escape the digital grind and test drive tiny-house living”. The company, called Getaway, is based within the Harvard Innovation Lab – a multidisciplinary program that supports entrepreneurship and innovation. The startup was founded in April 2015 by business student Jon Staff and law student Pete Davis, with the help of design students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The company currently operates six mobile, wooden cabins ranging from 160 to 220 square feet. “Getaway builds tiny houses, places them on beautiful rural land and rents them by the night to city dwellers looking to escape the digital grind and test-drive tiny house living,” the team said. The company finds land owners willing to lease a portion of their property. “The cabins are able to move, although we will leave them in the same place for extended durations,” Staff told Dezeen. The units contain the same plumbing, electrical and propane heating systems. Each has a sink, a stove, a cooler, an electric toilet and a shower with hot water. While all of the portable cabins are long and skinny due to roadway sizes, the elevations and floor plans vary. All the cabins are within two hours of Boston or New York and rent for as low as $99 per night. Article includes enticing photos.
NASA Unveils Plans for Electric-Powered Plane – (New York Times – June 17, 2016)
An experimental airplane being built by NASA could help push electric-powered aviation from a technical curiosity and pipe dream into something that might become commercially viable for small aircraft. Charles F. Bolden Jr., the NASA administrator, has announced plans for an all-electric airplane designated as X-57, part of the agency’s efforts to make aviation more efficient and less of a polluter. The steps taken by NASA will not translate into all-electric cross-country jetliners. But the agency hopes the technology can be incorporated into smaller, general aviation and commuter aircraft some years from now. The X-57 will look generally like a Cessna and its cruising speed might hit 175 miles per hour. Its wings, however, will be unique — far skinnier than usual and embedded with 14 motors. “The problem with traditional aircraft design is you have to size the wings so that you have safe takeoff and landing speeds, and so the wing tends to end up bigger than you need for cruise flight,” said Sean Clarke, co-principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. For the X-57, the NASA researchers are designing narrower wings that are efficient during cruise flight, powered by two 60-kilowatt electric motors at the wingtips that spin five-foot-wide propellers. For takeoff and landing, 12 smaller 9-kilowatt motors powering two-foot-wide propellers will kick in to blow extra air over the skinny wings to generate the necessary lift. In flight, the smaller propellers are folded away.
How ‘Smart City’ Columbus Plans to Tackle Inequality with Technology – (Christian Science Monitor – June 23, 2016)
Columbus, a city of around 825,000 located in the middle of Ohio, has beat out seven competing finalists across the nation from San Francisco to Austin to Pittsburgh, to win the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The award, which comes with $40 million from the DOT and an additional $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company Vulcan, is given to a city with plans to “fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network.” Columbus won out with a proposal that includes numerous concepts for integrating technology with city infrastructure. Some of the plans on the drawing board include autonomous shuttles, electric vehicle charging stations, and traffic signals that communicate with cars, as well as an app that advises truck drivers on the best routes to navigate city streets. In the initial proposal, officials noted that Linden (neighborhood) has “a high proportion of carless households, unreliable access to employment and health services, a lack of access to digital information, and a high portion of cash-based households.” Each of those is a barrier to moving the neighborhood out of a decline that was augmented by numerous foreclosures of investor-owned properties during the financial crisis 10 years ago, says donna Hicho (who spells her name with a lower-case “d”), executive director of the nonprofit Greater Linden Development Corporation.
Bombardier Launches Airplane Catering to Overweight Passengers – (Dezeen – July 13, 2016)
Canadian company Bombardier’s CS100 aircraft features middle seats that are 19 inches wide – making them broader than both the Boeing 737 seats (17.3 inches) and Airbus A319 (18 inches). Window and aisle seats will measure 18.5 inches. Ross Mitchell, Bombardier’s vice-president of commercial operations, said, “We went to airlines and asked them what the appropriate sizes were. They said 18-19 inches because it gives people more room in the seat. Airlines were looking to have an option with more comfort.” The larger seats cater to contemporary passengers, who on average are both taller and heavier than those of previous decades. They may also alleviate the extreme discomfort and embarrassment reported by some overweight fliers. As well as wider seats, the CS100 offers wider aisles, larger luggage bins and the “largest windows in the single-aisle [aircraft] market”, said the company in a statement. The CS100 is a single-aisle aircraft with 100-150 passenger capacity.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Military Robotics Makers See a Future for Armed Police Robots – (Defense One – July 6, 2016)
Robot-maker Sean Bielat says he’s fine with the Dallas Police Department’s apparently unprecedented use of a police bomb-disposal robot to kill a gunman on Thursday. “A robot was used to keep people out of harm’s way in an extreme situation,” said Bielat, the CEO of Endeavor Robotics, a spinoff of iRobot’s military division. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings blessed the operation saying, “The chief had two options and he went with this one. I supported him completely because it was the safest way to approach it.” But some ethicists are worried. “My initial reaction was that we have just got onto the slippery slope,” said Heather Roff, a senior research fellow at Oxford and a research scientist at Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative. “The militarization of police capabilities means that they may now feel that it is reasonable to use robotics in this way to ensure compliance…If one doesn’t have to talk to a subject and can demand compliance, then this may mean more forceful or coercive demands are made.” As military research pushes robotics prices down and Pentagon policies push battlefield gear to domestic law enforcement agencies, expect to see more armed robots on American streets. Bielat believes that incidents like the one in Dallas, in which police used a Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros F5 to carry explosives close enough to a gunman to kill him, won’t become “a common occurrence,” in part because the Andros F5 costs upwards of $100,000 apiece. But he also believes that military-grade robots are on the cusp of getting a lot cheaper and more capable, due to decreases in the cost of processing power, advances in 3D printing, and other factors. See also this article from the BBC News: Death robots: Where next after Dallas?
Mutant Mice Become Super Sniffers – (BBC News – July 8, 2016)
U.S. scientists have mutated mice to turn them into “super sniffers”. The aim is to create a new generation of rodents that can sniff out drugs or explosives, with the scientists saying the experiment is a proof of concept. In the future, rats, mice, and perhaps dogs, could be genetically altered to track down certain scents. “What we think we can do is make ‘super sniffers’ for particular odors. We trick the animals to want to pay attention to one odor over many others,” said Dr Feinstein, an associate professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. The scientists used genetic modification to make mice better at detecting certain scents. The experiments were carried out with two known odors – a chemical that has a sweet smell similar to jasmine and another that smells like peppermint. The mutated mice could detect lower doses of these odors than non-mutated mice. The next step is to apply this research to detecting drugs or explosives. Rats are already being used in Africa to seek out landmines. “We want to create an explosive-detecting rat or mouse – and we could also do this for narcotics such as cocaine, for example,” said lead researcher Dr Charlotte D’Hulst of Hunter College. “If we can find the receptor that is activated by cocaine, we could create ‘super-sniffing’ cocaine rodents.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Sotomayor’s Fierce Dissent Slams High Court’s Ruling on Evidence from Illegal Stops – (Washington Post – June 20, 2016)
The Supreme Court has ruled that courts need not throw out evidence of a crime even if the arresting police officer used unlawful tactics to obtain it. But the low-profile case more likely will be remembered for a fierce and personal dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the decision would exacerbate illegal stops of minorities. Her 12-page opinion explained “the talk” that black and brown parents have with their children about police interactions, invoked Ferguson, Mo., and, without direct acknowledgment, referenced the sentiments of the Black Lives Matter movement. The ruling was unusual in one way because it was the first time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that one of the court’s consistent liberals — Justice Stephen G. Breyer — joined colleagues on the right to create a conservative majority. But more memorable will be the blistering dissents written by Breyer’s fellow liberal justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, joined at least in part by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sotomayor — “writing only for myself, and drawing on my professional experiences” — produced the kind of personal essay that has made the court’s only Hispanic member a hero to liberals and caused conservatives to label her an activist. She and Kagan both noted that outstanding warrants are now a common feature in American life. A Justice Department report in the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson found that there were 16,000 outstanding warrants in the city of 21,000 residents.
Jakarta Governor Points the Way for London Mayor Sadiq Khan – (Din Merican – June 2, 2016)
The election of Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim, as Mayor of London confirmed that openness and tolerance, hallmarks of western civilization, are alive and well. This spirit can also be found in parts of the Islamic world. Indonesia is the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Its capital city, Jakarta, is run by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Christian popularly known as “Ahok”. As recently as 1998, Jakarta saw anti-Chinese riots in which more than a thousand people were killed. Mr. Purnama and his family had to defend themselves with sticks, Molotov cocktails and machetes. After 17 months as Governor of Jakarta, Mr. Purnama remains immensely popular. He has made some bold changes: closing down trendy but disruptive nightclubs, cleaning up red-light districts, evicting people from slums (while providing them with better housing) and dredging clogged-up canals. Mr. Purnama also believes in transparency. The entire budget of the city of Jakarta is online. Citizens can scrutinize all spending. Even his mobile phone number is public, meaning that he receives a large number of text messages, many of which he responds to personally. The city’s inhabitants feel that their lives are improving. Indonesia’s social media penetration rates are among the highest in the world. There are more than 80m users of social networks in the country. In the new climate of transparency, there is increasing evidence for Mr. Purnama’s claim that conditions in Jakarta are improving. Corruption is also declining in what was a notoriously corrupt city. Despite the traditional Javanese preference for avoiding confrontation, he has adopted a brash, in-your-face style that has clearly angered many. He has acquired enemies. When the author of this article met him earlier this year, he asked him for his views on how to succeed politically. He replied: “Be prepared to die. I am ready to die”. (Editor’s note: Keep an eye on these two politicians. If they can stay alive, they may become very important global leaders.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Phone-Sick at Camp – (New York Times – June 7, 2016) Leaving for sleepaway camp is, for many children, a major step toward independence. Today, when cellphones keep parents and children in nearly constant contact, the fact that most camps have phone-free policies makes breaking away even more of a challenge. “Camp-age kids, by even 10 or 11, are used to texting and being in frequent contact with their parents,” said Christopher Thurber, a clinical psychologist who focuses on youth development and summer camp. “How we communicate has changed the nature of attachment, and it complicates the separation that kids and parents go through,” he said. According to a Pew Research Center study, teenagers send and receive an average of 67 texts per day. Kids are on their phones in school, in restaurants, on vacations and even in bed. For many, sleepaway camp remains one of the last oases, largely untouched by technology. Putting down the phone can be at least as hard for the parents, who are often anxious about separating from their children and are used to constant check-ins, whether they are in the next state or the next room. We may complain that our children are always on the phone but “the reality is that we want that instant access to our children,” said Dr. Yalda T. Uhls, author of “Media Moms & Digital Dads” and a child development expert with Common Sense Media. But many camps are using workarounds, sending a daily email blast and photos of children engaging in camp activities, for example. Some also allow parents to email campers daily – printing out the messages and distributing them to campers at mail time.
How 5 Different Cities Are Handling Homelessness – (Desert News – July 2, 2016)
As many as 564,708 people went without shelter on any given night in 2015, according to the latest report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The NAEH reported an overall decrease in homelessness since 2014, which can be attributed to the successes of programs like those used in Salt Lake City. But other cities, like San Francisco, are revisiting their policies after seeing a standstill in the number of people living on the street. Here is a look at how some cities around the country are — or aren’t — helping the homeless.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Scientists Detect the Most Distant, and Earliest, Signs of Oxygen in the Universe – (IB Times – June 17, 2016)
In the farthest reaches of the universe lies an ancient galaxy named SXDF-NB1006-2. Not only is this primordial galaxy one of the oldest ever detected, it is also one of the earliest and farthest sources of oxygen. The universe burst into existence nearly 13.8 billion years ago in an event we now know as the Big Bang. In the beginning, the cosmos was a hot soup of ionized gas — with electrons and ions of hydrogen and helium buzzing around. Then, roughly 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe entered an era of “recombination,” wherein it cooled down enough to allow ions to recombine into atoms. Although this era is believed to be the first time light shone in our universe, it didn’t last long. The universe was soon plunged into the “dark ages” — the time before the birth of the first stars. When the first generation of stars were born, they emitted strong radiation that ionized hydrogen once again, and also led to the synthesis of other heavier elements such as carbon and oxygen. Scientists believe that studying the heavy elements from this era would provide essential clues to what triggered reionization and what led to the birth of the first galaxies about 100 million years after the Big Bang. “Seeking heavy elements in the early Universe is an essential approach to explore the star formation activity in that period,” according to lead author Akio Inoue from the Osaka Sangyo University, Japan. “Studying heavy elements also gives us a hint to understand how the galaxies were formed and what caused the cosmic reionization.”
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Wal-Mart Says It Is 6-9 Months from Using Drones to Check Warehouse Inventory – (Reuters – June 2, 2016)
Walmart’s Vice President of Last Mile and Emerging Sciences Shekar Natarajan demonstrated the use of drones to reporters in one of the company’s regional distribution centers. “We are still in early phases of testing and understanding how drones can be better used in different types of business functions,” he said. The remotely controlled drone captured 30 frames per second of products on aisles and alerted the user when product ran out or was incorrectly stocked. Natarajan said drones can reduce the labor intensive process of checking stocks around the warehouse to one day. It currently takes a month to finish manually. Wal-Mart said the camera and technology on top of the drones have been custom-built for the retailer. (Editor’s question: How many jobs does that drone replace?)
An AI Watched 600 Hours of TV and Started to Accurately Predict What Happens Next – (Futurism – July 12, 2016)
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory created an algorithm that utilizes deep learning, which enables artificial intelligence (AI) to use patterns of human interaction to predict what will happen next. Researchers fed the program with videos featuring human social interactions and tested it to see if it “learned” well enough to be able to predict them. They showed the computer videos of people who are one second away from doing one of these four actions: hugging, kissing, high-fiving and handshaking. The AI was able to guess correctly 43% of the time compared to humans, who were right 71% of the time. Giving AI the ability to understand visuals the way humans can could be a precursor to what would be efficient home assistants, as well as intelligent security cameras that could appropriately call an ambulance or the police. While this isn’t the first attempt at video prediction, it is the most accurate thus far. The reason is that, first, the new algorithm deviates from previous attempts at video predicting, wherein pixel-by-pixel representations were a priority. It predicts using abstract representation and focuses on the important signs: it learns on its own and uses “visual representations” to discriminate between visual cues that are important in social interactions from those that are not. It’s something that comes naturally to humans, but is far more complicated in AI.
Self-healing, Flexible Electronic Material Restores Functions after Many Breaks – (Science Daily – May 13, 2016)
One of the major hurdles in developing wearable electronics is the physical limitations of existing electronic materials. If the material gets damaged or breaks, either the functionality will decline or the device will cease to work altogether. Self-healable materials are those that, after withstanding physical deformation such as being cut in half, naturally repair themselves with little to no external influence. An international team of researchers led by Professor Qing Wang from Penn State University has developed a flexible electronic material capable of repairing itself after a break. In the past, researchers have been able to create self-healable materials that can restore one function after breaking, but restoring a suite of functions is critical for creating effective wearable electronics. For example, if a dielectric material retains its electrical resistivity after self-healing but not its thermal conductivity, that could put electronics at risk of overheating. The material that Wang and his team created restores all properties needed for use as a dielectric in wearable electronics — mechanical strength, breakdown strength to protect against surges, electrical resistivity, thermal conductivity and dielectric, or insulating, properties. Most self-healable materials are soft or “gum-like,” said Wang, but the material he and his colleagues created is very tough in comparison. His team added boron nitride nanosheets to a base material of plastic polymer. Like graphene, boron nitride nanosheets are two dimensional, but instead of conducting electricity like graphene they resist and insulate against it.
Light-Speed Camera Captures Split-Second Action – (Scientific American – July 5, 2016)
A new approach to high-speed photography could help capture the clearest-ever footage of light pulses, explosions or neurons firing in the brain, according to a team of ultrafast camera developers. The technique involves shooting 100 billion frames per second in a single exposure without an external light source. That means, for example, there would be no need to set off multiple explosions just to gather enough data to create a video reconstructing exactly how chemicals react to create the blast. A team of Washington University in Saint Louis researchers introduced their “single-shot compressed ultrafast photography” camera two years ago. Last week they described improvements to their original camera that allow it to reconstruct images with finer spatial resolution, higher contrast and a cleaner background—qualities crucial to detailed observations of high-speed events. The camera is three billion times faster than one on a typical iPhone, says Lihong Wang, a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University and a co-author of the study. One area where such a camera could someday prove useful is in capturing information about how the brain’s neural networks operate—not just how they are connected—Wang says. He uses the following analogy: If the neural network is represented as city streets, current imaging technology enables scientists to see only the layout of those streets. New technologies are needed to see the traffic coursing through the streets and understand how the whole system functions.
Microsoft Becomes the First Big Tech Company to Get into the Legal Weed Industry – (Washington Post – June 16, 2016)
Tech giant Microsoft is partnering with a cannabis industry-focused software company called Kind Financial. The company provides “seed to sale” services for cannabis growers, allowing them to track inventory, navigate laws and handle transactions all through Kind’s software systems. The partnership marks the first major tech company to attach its name to the burgeoning industry of legal marijuana. While most big tech companies have been shy to get involved, tech start-ups have been flocking to the up-and-coming pot trade, which is fully legal for both recreational and medical purposes in five states. The marijuana industry’s specific needs for data tracking to optimize plant growth and other logistics, as well as its booming market potential, make it well-suited for tech partnerships. Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of marijuana data company Green Wave Advisors, said, “It’s very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business.” Allen St. Pierre, executive director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), notes that the partnership could affect legislation. “Microsoft has a leviathan [lobbying] effort up here in Washington [D.C.]. One of the things that has been really interesting to see is how the focus is becoming not so much about legalization per say, that’s almost become a bugaboo word up on the Hill, but just focusing in on these commerce reforms, for example to allow banks to handle this trade … they lobby hard for that stuff on the Hill right now and to have a Microsoft weigh in saying, we want to be part of that commerce, can only buoy those efforts.”
As Politicians Debate Healthcare, Small Businesses Fix It – (Lubbock Avalanche Journal – June 17, 2016)
Major health insurers have already begun to propose significant premium increases for next year in an attempt to cover their higher than expected costs from health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. In Oregon and Virginia, the first two states to propose rate hikes for 2017, insurers are asking regulators for premium increases of 30% and 20%, respectively. This news comes on the heels of last month’s announcement by United Healthcare that it is essentially exiting the Affordable Care Act exchanges after losing more than $1 billion in 2015 and 2016. So what happens now? The debate over whether to repeal or reform the ACA, featuring politicians more interested in partisanship than improving healthcare, will surely rage on. But while Capitol Hill bickers, Main Street innovates. Health entrepreneurs around the country are quietly experimenting with ways to offer good care for a cheap price. They are tapping into the market created by the proliferation of ACA-induced, high-deductible healthcare plans, which have turned compliant patients into discerning shoppers trying to find the best price for their tests, X-rays, MRIs and doctor’s visits. This article showcases some of those entrepreneurial offerings.
The Social Dilemma of Autonomous Vehicles – (Science – June 24, 2016)
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) should reduce traffic accidents, but they will sometimes have to choose between two evils, such as running over pedestrians or sacrificing themselves and their passenger to save the pedestrians. Defining the algorithms that will help AVs make these moral decisions is a formidable challenge. We found that participants in six Amazon Mechanical Turk studies approved of utilitarian AVs (that is, AVs that sacrifice their passengers for the greater good) and would like others to buy them, but they would themselves prefer to ride in AVs that protect their passengers at all costs. The study participants disapprove of enforcing utilitarian regulations for AVs and would be less willing to buy such an AV. Accordingly, regulating for utilitarian algorithms may paradoxically increase casualties by postponing the adoption of a safer technology.
Did Google Manipulate the Search for Hillary? – (YouTube – June 9, 2016)
While researching for a wrap-up on the June 7 Presidential Primaries, the researchers discovered evidence that Google may be manipulating autocomplete recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton. If true, this would mean that Google Searches aren’t objectively reflecting what the majority of Internet searches are actually looking for, possibly violating Google’s algorithm. According to a research paper cited in this video, that kind of search result manipulation has the potential to substantially influence the outcome of actual elections.
Are the Media Complicit in Mass Shootings? – (Los Angeles Times – June 18, 2016)
Among the most chilling details to emerge in the Orlando massacre is that the killer paused during his three-hour rampage at the Pulse nightclub to search Facebook for news about it. “Pulse Orlando” and “shooting,” Omar Mateen typed into his smartphone, investigators found. His real-time search is a striking data point in what has become a pattern in mass shootings: Killers deeply attuned to their media coverage and in some cases engineering it. The 2007 Virginia Tech shooter interrupted his killing spree to mail a videotape to NBC to claim credit and explain his motives. The 2014 Isla Vista shooter posted a manifesto on YouTube. Others have discussed their plans in online forums. Media outlets have long taken the position that they simply report the news. But experts who study mass violence say they are also part of the story, because the intense coverage that such tragedies receive can inspire new shooters. The perpetrators of these attacks are often disillusioned young men, and they inhabit the same publicity-obsessed culture as everybody else. Dewey Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, noted, “We live in a world where people are really conscious of their social standing and audience.” See also: Fighting ISIS With an Algorithm, Physicists Try to Predict Attacks about a research project mining social media data to try to create a mathematical model to sift order from the chaotic pro-terrorism online universe.
JUST FOR FUN
Trump and Cruz Share a Kiss on Cleveland Billboard Ahead of GOP Convention (PHOTO) – (RT – July 16, 2016)
A billboard depicting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his former rival Ted Cruz in a passionate embrace has been unveiled in Cleveland just in time for the Republican National Convention. The billboard features the two sharing a smooch in a reimagining of the famous Berlin Wall mural of Leonid Brezhnev kissing Erich Honecker. Created by global non-profit Planting Peace, it reads, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia.” The group is calling for “immediate change in the Republican party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights.” The Republican party’s latest platform is anticipated to call for a reversal of the Supreme Court’s 2015 legalization of gay marriage, and could include references to endorsing conversion therapy. The platform is perceived as being so anti-LGBT that some Republicans feel it is not representative of the diverse views among the party’s voters. (Editor’s note: Just to be clear about this: We don’t think there’s anything humorous about homophobia – but that billboard did give us a chuckle.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Spy Town for Sale: $1M for 92 Homes Plus Dorms, Police and Fire Stations, Sport Facilities. Don’t Mind All Those Satellite Dishes – (National Post – June 8, 2016)
Entire towns sometimes go up for sale, but two unique factors in this listing hold more intrigue but less practicality than usual. For an auction reserve of US$1 million, the buyer will get a 120-acre former government spy station in Sugar Grove Station, W. Va. The giant satellite dishes are still there and still track the location and content of international telecommunications activity, but they’re not part of the deal, and anyway they’re hidden behind a thick forest a mile away. Then there’s the fact that the property sits within the U.S.’s 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone, where no cellphones, wi-fi or any equipment operating on radio frequencies are allowed. (The NRQZ also attempts to prevent radio interference to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory 30 miles away; they’re listening for sounds of space stations other than the ISS, we’d guess.) Sugar Grove and the NRAO have the tightest telecommunications restrictions within the zone. CB radio is 10-4, good buddy, but even microwave ovens are on the negatory list. (Editor’s note: we not so sure microwave ovens are a no-no; there is one pictured in the “typical kitchen” photo.) As the station can house 500 people, the listing suggests this would make a great resort area, which might put the whole no-cell thing in a plus column for those trying to disconnect, but we can’t see it operating as a conference center, as was also suggested. Government employees used to live in Sugar Grove, but last fall “it became unnecessary to house related analytical staff at the base.” Perhaps they’re all telecommuting now. Article includes numerous glossy estate-type photos.
A FINAL QUOTE
The mind of man is capable of anything – because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. – Joseph Conrad
A special thanks to: Kevin Clark, 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