Volume 19, Number 17 – 09/15/16

Volume 19, Number 17 – 09/15/16



  • A University of Vermont-led team has successfully used social media images to measure the use and value of outdoor recreation on public lands.
  • The universe is both homogeneous and directionless (isotropic).
  • An exhausted gold mine is becoming a storage site for hydroelectric energy.
  • The latest pastime to become a full-fledged sports phenomenon is drone racing.

by John L. Petersen

Explaining the Paradigm Shift: Steve McDonald coming to Berkeley Springs

Steve McDonald, an extraordinary Australian thinker and researcher who arguably knows as much about the structure of the global planetary transition that we are experiencing as anyone on the planet is coming to Berkeley Springs on the 24th of September.

Few people can draw the coherent pictures he does from the deep insights of Clair W. Graves and then paint clear, explanatory images of not only how humanity has evolved to this point, but what is inevitably on our horizon . . . and how this epic transition will continue to play out.

Steve’s operating structure and framework is an integrated, multidimensional one that synthesizes and explains what is happening now (in science, politics, geopolitics, attitude shifts, consciousness, values and perspectives) and what it is evolving into. This is inherently predictive and very enlightening, making clear why US politics is in disarray and the Middle East is chaotic . . . and science and technology are exploding, for example. This is a story about the very interworkings of the evolution of a new world and a new human.

The result? One of the clearest outlines of the emerging new world that you will find anywhere.

Come hear this message of hope that will help you make sense of all of the swirling change that is everywhere that we look. This will be a very powerful presentation that will pull away the curtains from the window that looks out onto the path ahead.

Steve will be speaking on Saturday, the 24th of September at the Ice House Theatre starting at 2PM. For complete information go to

Gregg Braden Returns in October

Internationally acclaimed author, Gregg Braden, returns again to Transition Talks on Saturday, the 29th of October. This will be a whole new presentation that Gregg has prepared that shows how the cycles and patterns of the past point directly at what is now coming our way.

What would it mean to discover that life events—everything from our success and abundance to our betrayals and hurts—are based upon natural rhythms that can be known and predicted? Does an artifact from our ancient past hold the key to understanding nature’s cycles in our lives today? The recent discovery of Fractal Time now gives us everything we need to answer these questions, and more. Doing so, however, opens the door to even deeper mysteries!

We always have a great crowd when Gregg is with us, so plan for this now and register as soon as possible to assure yourself of a seat at this transformational day.

Full information is at

Rapidly Moving Targets

I’m impressed by the fact that everything is increasingly up for grabs . . . in ways that are, well, kind of amazing.

The recent news starts, unsurprisingly enough, with good, solid evidence that the Libya war, like the Iraq one, was based on lies . . . and that we supported Gaddafi first against his terrorist rebels – and then changed our minds and backed the al Qaeda terrorists against him. The headline says it all:

British Parliament Confirms Libya War Was Based On Lies … Turned Nation Into a “Shit Show” … Spread Terrorism

The UK Parliament just confirmed what the alternative media has been saying for years.

Specifically, a new report from the bipartisan House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – based on interviews with all of the key British decision-makers, review of documents, and on-the-ground investigations in Africa – found that the Libyan war was based on lies, that it destroyed the country, and that it spread terrorism far and wide.

Then, in the run-up to September 11th and the anticipated commemoration of the attacks of that day, Paul Craig Roberts, one of the most extraordinary truth-tellers of our time, took his readers through the litany of events that have followed 9/11 and persuasively argued that the whole thing has been contrived. None of it was what “they” have told us it was.

Are You a Mind-Controlled CIA Stooge?

Do you smirk when you hear someone question the official stories of Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris or Nice? Do you feel superior to 2,500 architects and engineers, to firefighters, commercial and military pilots, physicists and chemists, and former high government officials who have raised doubts about 9/11? If so, you reflect the profile of a mind-controlled CIA stooge.

The term “conspiracy theory” was invented and put into public discourse by the CIA in 1964 in order to discredit the many skeptics who challenged the Warren Commission’s conclusion that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself was assassinated while in police custody before he could be questioned. The CIA used its friends in the media to launch a campaign to make suspicion of the Warren Commission report a target of ridicule and hostility. This campaign was “one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.” . . . read more

It gets weirder . . . and worse.

Hillary Clinton collapsed the other day and was carried off, only to surface again a couple of hours later all chipper, with her doctor saying that she only had pneumonia. The questions began. How did she get healthy so fast? Was that really her?

Robert David Steele immediately questioned whether the 30-pound lighter Hillary look-alike was a body double. Clif High, who uses sophisticated web-based collection and analysis technology to anticipate futures put up a video that address the issue: Body doubles? CGIHillary? Is Hillary dead?

“This is crazy”, you say. “They wouldn’t do that!” Well, look at this analysis and tell me if you’re absolutely convinced that someone else is not masquerading as the former first-lady.

In any case, there are some good laughs that can be had around this possibility. Here’s a nice go at it.

So let’s say Hillary is quite well and ends up in the general election against Donald Trump. How would you know who really won? Turns out, that might be much harder to figure out than you think. Fred Burks at PEERS offered up this insightful piece from Truth-Out.

The ‘Shocking’ Truth About Election Rigging in the United States September 5, 2016,

If there is anything positive to say about the 2016 elections, it’s that they have finally forced an end to the official denial of computerized election rigging. In the past month, the fact that our voting technology is a hacker’s paradise has been validated by no less than all the major TV news networks. Of course, the corporate media and political parties are now professing “shock” at the very prospect that US elections can be manipulated, and yes, even stolen. Yet it has long been an open secret that game-changing races have been decided not by voters, but by insiders; from the presidential race of 1960, appropriated for John Kennedy by Democratic muscle in Chicago, to the two victories secured for George W. Bush by GOP fixers in Florida and hackers in Ohio. Among other suspect elections in recent years are key Congressional races hijacked by combinations of voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money and the ugly little secret of American elections: rigged voting machines. How is this possible? Because over many decades, our public elections have been privatized and outsourced to a handful of corporations and dozens of private service vendors. Some have even been convicted of crimes, including bribery, bid rigging, kickback schemes, lying to voting officials and computer fraud. In turn, these shady corporations have sold us billions in “proprietary” computerized voting systems, [while] election laws have slowly been altered to facilitate this quiet transition to more “expedient” private control.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections corruption news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Elections Information Center.

If that is not enough, now one of the major financial institutions in the world is predicting that China’s financial situation is critical.

The Bank For International Settlements Warns That A Major Debt Meltdown In China Is Imminent

Posted on September 19, 2016 by WashingtonsBlog
By Michael Snyder, the Economic Collapse Blog.

The pinnacle of the global financial system is warning that conditions are right for a “full-blown banking crisis” in China. Since the last financial crisis, there has been a credit boom in China that is really unprecedented in world history. At this point the total value of all outstanding loans in China has hit a grand total of more than 28 trillion dollars. That is essentially equivalent to the commercial banking systems of the United States and Japan combined. While it is true that government debt is under control in China, corporate debt is now 171 percent of GDP, and it is only a matter of time before that debt bubble horribly bursts. The situation in China has already grown so dire that the Bank for International Settlements is sounding the alarm…

We’re participating in the most significant global transition in human history.



Say Goodbye to DNA Testing: US Researchers Tout Revolutionary Hair-protein Identification Method – (RT – September 8, 2016)
A potential forensic game-changer is emerging, as US government scientists have found a substitute for DNA testing for identification purposes. The new technique identifies genetic protein mutations in human hair, offering a striking level of precision. Researchers with the US Department of Energy at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California tested samples of hair that belonged to six separate individuals that had lived in London in the 1750s. Though the test subjects’ remains had long turned to bones, their hair was intact. The scientists then took 76 living individuals – 66 of European-American ancestry, as well as 5 Kenyans and 5 African-Americans – and performed the same tests on them. The technique, dubbed “proteomics,” worked equally well on both sets of individuals. The technique zeroes in on the 1,000 genetic markers inherent in hair’s protein mutations that make us separate individuals. Researchers also describe proteins in other tissues, such as bones, skin follicles, and teeth, and they’re now moving to identify their usefulness as well – particularly bones and teeth. “We are in a very similar place with protein-based identification to where DNA profiling was during the early days of its development,” Brad Hart, director of the national laboratory’s Forensic Science Centre and co-author of the study. “This method will be a game-changer for forensics, and while we’ve made a lot of progress toward proving it, there are steps to go before this new technique will be able to reach its full potential,” he explained.

What’s Nature Worth? Count the Selfies – (Science Daily – September 9, 2016)
A University of Vermont-led team has successfully used social media images to measure the use and value of outdoor recreation on public lands. The study analyzed more than 7,000 geotagged photos on Flickr to calculate that conserved lands contributed $1.8 billion to Vermont’s tourism industry between 2007-2014. The research is the first to measure of the value of outdoor recreation in Vermont public parks and other conserved lands during these years. Social media can be used to explain why some protected lands get more use than others, the findings suggest. Analyzing photo locations, the researchers identified eight key factors that drive the use of conserved lands, including forest cover, trail density, and opportunities for snow sports. These factors can inform investment decisions, researchers say. The study found key differences between outdoor enthusiasts from Vermont and out-of-state. For example, forest loss significantly reduced the number of Vermonters visiting conserved lands, but had less of an effect on out-of-state tourists, who preferred locations with easy access to clean water and swimming.

NY Settles with 4 Companies to Stop Tracking Children Online – (Stamford Advocate – September 13, 2016)
The state attorney general announced settlements Tuesday with Viacom, Mattel, Hasbro and JumpStart Games to stop them from using or allowing tracking technology on their popular children’s websites. All four companies allowed tracking technology such as cookies on their websites in violation of the law, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Such technology can be used by marketers and advertisers to target potential customers.The settlements require Viacom, Mattel and JumpStart to pay penalties totaling $835,000 following a two-year investigation into violations of the 1998 federal law that prohibits unauthorized collection of children’s personal information on websites directed at users under 13. Hasbro won’t pay a penalty because it was enrolled in a Federal Trade Commission-approved online-privacy program that had some problems, according to the attorney general’s office. “Now children live online and we have to police the internet as we seek to police our streets,” Schneiderman said. “You track people so you can sell things to them. I don’t want there to be a dossier on any child that can be used later to scam them.”


It’s Official: You’re Lost in a Directionless Universe – (Science – September 7, 2016)
Ever peer into the night sky and wonder whether space is really the same in all directions or whether the cosmos might be whirling about like a vast top? Now, one team of cosmologists has used the oldest radiation there is, the afterglow of the big bang, or the cosmic microwave background (CMB), to show that the universe is “isotropic,” or the same no matter which way you look: There is no spin axis or any other special direction in space. In fact, they estimate that there is only a one-in-121,000 chance of a preferred direction—the best evidence yet for an isotropic universe. That finding should provide some comfort for cosmologists, whose standard model of the evolution of the universe rests on an assumption of such uniformity. Anthony Challinor, a cosmologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the work, notes, “The question of how isotropic is the universe is of fundamental importance.” With the advent of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and the observation that the universe is expanding in all directions, an idea arrived that evolved into the cosmological principle: an assumption that the universe is the same everywhere and in every direction. In fancier terms, the universe is both homogeneous and isotropic. (Editor’s note: Interesting: the universe homogeneous and isotropic. But who says we’re lost?)


The Painkillers That Could End the Opioid Crisis – (Technology Review – August 11, 2016)
Researchers have been trying for decades to “separate the addictive properties of opiates from the pain-reducing properties,” says David Thomas, an administrator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a founding member of the NIH Pain Consortium. “They kind of go together.” But James Zadina, a researcher at the Tulane School of Medicine and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, believes he is getting close to decoupling them. Just this past winter, he and his team reported that they had treated pain in rats without causing the five most common side effects associated with opioids, including increased tolerance, motor impairment, and respiratory depression, which leads to most opioid-related deaths. The next step is to test it in humans. Up to 8% of patients prescribed narcotic painkillers for chronic pain will become addicted, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. In 2014, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States topped 18,000, about 50 a day—more than three times the number in 2001. Stephen Waxman, a professor of neurology at Yale University who directs the Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Connecticut, is part of a cadre of researchers hunting for ways to target just one key sodium channel. He discovered its importance by studying people who have a rare genetic mutation that prevents them from making this particular channel and who essentially go through life feeling no pain. Conversely, people born with a hyperactive version of it feel as though “lava has been poured into their bodies,” Waxman says. A drug developed by Pfizer, based on Waxman’s discoveries, has been tested on five patients, and similar painkillers are in development. Theoretically at least, these would not have major side effects.

‘Super Agers’ Offer Clue to Keeping a Sharp Memory – (BBC News – September 14, 2016)
Memory loss is not an inevitable part of ageing, say US scientists who are studying a unique group of adults in their 60s and 70s with minds as sharp as people in their 20s. These “super agers” performed just as well on memory tests as “youngsters” a third of their age, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found. Brain scans appeared to reveal why. Regions involved with learning and retaining new information showed no sign of typical age-related shrinkage. What’s more, memory test scores correlated with brain size – those who performed best in the tests also had greater thickness in the key brain regions the researchers measured on MRI scans. As we age beyond our 50s, our brains tend to shrink in volume. Memory also begins to decline. These widespread brain changes are considered entirely normal, but mounting evidence suggests they may not be universal. Lead researcher Dr Brad Dickenson said his findings built on those of colleagues from Northwestern University in Illinois, who coined the term super agers. He says the million-dollar question now is: “Can you make a person a super ager or are you born with it, and does it really make a difference in real life? “We hope that there might be not just genetic factors that make people resilient but also things that people can do themselves, such as physical fitness and diet.” He said experts already know that certain factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol, age the brain faster.

‘Motherless Babies!’ How to Create a Tabloid Science Headline in Five Easy Steps – (Science – September 14, 2016)
“Step 1: Take one jargon-filled paper title. Step 2: Distill its research into more accessible language. Step 3: Invite London writers to a press briefing with paper’s authors. Step 4: Have same group distribute a laudatory quote from a well-known and respected scientist. Step 5: Bake for 24 hours and present without additional reporting.” With tongue-in-cheek humor, these are the “instructions” which describe the genesis of science headlines all too often. Using a little more science and a little less tabloid, this article deconstructs just such a recent example.


3,477,403 Submarine Volcanoes Worldwide – (Ice Age Now – August 20, 2016)
In a study by Hillier and Watts that surveyed 201,055 submarine volcanoes, they estimated that a total of 3,477,403 submarine volcanoes exist worldwide. Of those 3,477,403 underwater volcanoes, 139,096 are estimated to be active. Lava contains a surprising amount of carbon dioxide, says consulting geologist Timothy Casey. In fact, CO2 is the second most abundantly emitted volcanic gas next to steam. Carbon dioxide emissions from volcanoes – especially from underwater volcanoes – dwarf anthropogenic (man-made) contributions sources, says Casey. Since seawater in the vicinity of hydrothermal vent systems is saturated with carbon dioxide, and since seawater elsewhere is not saturated with CO2, it stands to reason that this saturation came from the hydrothermal vent system. With more than 139,000 active underwater volcanoes, no wonder CO2 levels are rising.

Limits to Growth Was Right. New Research Shows We’re Nearing Collapse – (Guardian – September 1, 2016)
The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilization would probably collapse sometime this century, has been criticized as doomsday fantasy since it was published. However, research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon. Researchers working out of the MIT, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. They modeled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario. So were they right? Dr. Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organization, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios. The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios. (Editor’s note: This is worth reading both for what it says and for noting what it doesn’t say. What it says is that things are on course for collapse. What it doesn’t say is that there is one thing that would rapidly change the whole picture: radical new developments in the generation of energy – see the article on China’s advanced nuclear R&D program below – or even just a hugely increased use of renewable energy.)

What the ‘Sixth Extinction’ Will Look Like in the Oceans: The Largest Species Die Off First – (Washington Post – September 14, 2016)
Scientists are increasingly convinced that the world is barreling towards what has been called a “sixth mass extinction” event. Simply put, species are going extinct at a rate that far exceeds what you would expect to see naturally, as a result of a major perturbation to the system. In this case, the perturbation is us, rather than, say, an asteroid. As such, you might expect to see some patterns to extinctions that reflect our particular way of causing ecological destruction. And indeed, a new study published Wednesday in Science magazine confirms this. For the world’s oceans, it finds, threats of extinction aren’t apportioned equally among all species — rather, the larger ones, in terms of body size and mass, are uniquely imperiled right now. From sharks to whales, giant clams, sea turtles, and tuna, the disproportionate threat to larger marine organisms reflects the “unique human propensity to cull the largest members of a population,” the authors write. “What to us was surprising was that we did not see a similar kind of pattern in any of the previous mass extinction events that we studied,” said geoscientist Jonathan Payne of Stanford University, the study’s lead author. “So that indicated that there really is no good ecological analogue…this pattern has not happened before in the half billion years of the animal fossil record.”

Engineers Teach Machines to Recognize Tree Species – (Phys Org – September 14, 2016)
Engineers from Caltech have developed a method that uses data from satellite and street-level images, such as the ones that you can see in Google maps, to create automatically an inventory of street trees that cities may use to better manage urban forests. “Cities have been surveying their tree populations for decades, but the process is very labor intensive. It usually involves hiring arborists to go out with GPS units to mark the location of each individual tree and identify its species,” says senior author Pietro Perona, Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. “For this reason, tree surveys are usually only done every 20 to 30 years, and a lot can change in that time.” Perona and his team are leaders in the field of computer vision: they specialize in creating visual recognition algorithms—computer programs capable of “learning” to recognize objects in images—that can see and understand images much like a human would. These algorithms, by replicating the abilities of experts, can sometimes even understand images better than the average person.


Why Future Microprocessors May Ditch Silicon for Carbon – (Motherboard – September 3, 2016)
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have finally created what nanotechnologists have only been able to dream of for decades: a carbon nanotube transistor which is almost two times faster than its silicon counterparts. According to the researchers, these carbon nanotube transistors will likely lead to phones and computers which have longer battery life and significantly faster processing power than those running on silicon chips today. Carbon nanotubes are one of the most conductive materials ever discovered, which makes them ideal for applications where a lot of electrical current is moving across a small area such as in the transistors (electrical switches) that make up a computer’s central processing unit. However, developing them has been slow going. The problem has been the inability to isolate pure carbon nanotubes—most that were being produced had small metallic impurities which negatively affected their semiconducting ability. A new carbon nanotube production technique works by leveraging the self-assembling properties of carbon nanotubes in a polymer solution, which also allows the researchers to manipulate the proper spacing of the ultrapure nanotubes on a wafer. The end result are nanotubes with less than .01 percent metallic impurities integrated on a transistor that was able to achieve a current that was 1.9 times higher than the most state-of-the-art silicon transistors in use today. The researchers estimate that future transistors which make use of this nanotechnology should be able perform five times faster and use five times less energy than their silicon equivalents.

What to Do with Your Old iPhone – (Wired – September 10, 2016)
Did you just preorder a new iPhone? Planning to upgrade in the near future? Give some thought to how you can make the best use of that old device you’re leaving behind. You may have more options than you were aware of. This is a useful article; check it out.

NYC to Pull Plug on Sidewalk Internet after Porn Complaints – (Phys Org – September 14, 2016)
The web-browsing feature of New York City’s sidewalk Wi-Fi kiosks will be disabled after critics complained that homeless people were monopolizing them and using them to watch porn. The consortium that installed 400 LinkNYC kiosks across the city said it will remove web browsing from the kiosks while it works with city officials to explore potential solutions to their abuse. “The kiosks were never intended for anyone’s extended, personal use and we want to ensure that Links are accessible and a welcome addition to New York City neighborhoods,” LinkNYC said in a statement. The kiosks will still provide free domestic calls, phone charging and fast Wi-Fi with the user’s own device. Homeless people and panhandlers have been among the most avid users of the kiosks since LinkNYC began installing them eight months ago, charging their phones if they have them and watching music videos on the tablets.


Plastic Clothing Inspired by Kitchen Wrap Releases Body’s Infrared Radiation to Cool the Skin – (Tech Times – September 1, 2016)
Material scientist Yi Cui and colleagues have modified the clear and clingy kitchen wrap commonly used to keep food fresh to develop a fabric that can cool the skin. Although the plastic wrap-inspired textile is not yet ready for use in the apparel market, it could pave way to clothes that can help save energy and cost that would be otherwise spent on air conditioning. Like many existing fabrics currently used today, the material cools down the body by permitting the evaporation of perspiration. But it has another cooling mechanism that could potentially revolutionize the clothing industry: the plastic textile allows body heat in the form of infrared radiation to pass and escape the fabric as well. To develop the cooling fabric, the researchers used photonics, nanotechnology and chemistry so polyethylene, the plastic used in kitchen wrap, would not be transparent in visible light and would allow air, water vapor and thermal radiation to escape through it. This particularly plastic has a specific nanostructure that makes it opaque to visible light but transparent to infrared radiation, allowing body heat to escape. They also treated it with chemicals that enable the evaporation of water vapor molecules through the nanopores in the plastic, which makes the textile breathable like a natural fiber. compared with cotton fabric, the cooling textile makes the skin surface cooler by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the plastic wrap-inspired textile is not yet ready for use in the apparel market, it could potentially pave way to clothes that can help save energy and cost that would be otherwise spent on air conditioning.


For $71,000, You Can Have a Tiny House Delivered to Your Doorstep – (Washington Post – September 3, 2016)
Minor correction: $71,000 plus shipping. Brian Levy, a tiny house owner, and other local urbanists have lobbied the District of Columbia to loosen its zoning restrictions, and new laws that they say are friendlier to the tiny-house movement are now on the books. Micro houses — or tiny homes — are part of an architectural movement encouraging simple and sustainable living. The movement has gained steam in recent years as urbanists and hobbyists alike pitch the structures as a cheap solution to the expensive housing crisis plaguing many fast-gentrifying cities. The District’s new zoning laws would allow micro homes to essentially function as carriage houses in the city, provided the structures are not on wheels. Under the new regulations, it will be easier for homeowners to purchase a micro house for their back yard and rent it out. The old rules required owners seeking to rent out units to argue their case before the Board of Zoning Adjustment to receive an exception. Under the new regulations, the structures will be automatically permitted in some neighborhoods — such as Brookland and Chevy Chase, where there are larger single-family homes — as soon as homeowners acquire building permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Eric D. Shaw, director of the D.C. Office of Planning, wrote in an email that with these new zoning laws, the city wanted to give homeowners more opportunities to have accessory dwellings on their properties. “Accessory units can provide additional and often more affordable housing options, can facilitate aging in place, and can help homeowners afford their homes,” Shaw wrote.


Fail-Safe Nuclear Power – (Technology Review – August 2, 2016)
Cheaper and cleaner nuclear plants could finally become reality—but perhaps not in the United States, where the technology was invented more than 50 years ago. Over the next two decades China hopes to build the world’s largest nuclear power industry. Plans include as many as 30 new conventional nuclear plants (in addition to the 34 reactors operating today) as well as a variety of next-generation reactors, including thorium molten-salt reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (which, like molten-salt reactors, are both highly efficient and inherently safe), and sodium-cooled fast reactors (which can consume spent fuel from conventional reactors to make electricity). Chinese planners want not only to dramatically expand the country’s domestic nuclear capacity but also to become the world’s leading supplier of nuclear reactors and components, a prospect that many Western observers find alarming. The first experiments with molten-salt reactors were carried out at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, under its director Alvin Weinberg in the late 1950s. Today’s Chinese program, in fact, is the fruit of a unique and somewhat controversial partnership between Oak Ridge and the Shanghai Institute. The U.S. research program went on for more than a decade but was eventually shut down in favor of the technology used in the vast majority of nuclear power plants today. In retrospect, that decision contributed not only to the demise of a promising nuclear technology but also to the long stagnation of the industry. Today molten salt is enjoying a renaissance. Research programs on various forms of the technology are under way at universities and institutes in Japan, France, Russia, and the United States, in addition to the one at the Shanghai Institute.

What Do You Do When a Gold Mine Runs Out? Turn It into a Power Plant – (Technology Review – September 14, 2016)
In northern Queensland, Australia, two giant holes in the earth are about to be put to good use. What were the twin pits of the Kidston gold mine will soon become a place to store a tremendous amount of energy. Hydroelectric facilities are nothing new, of course, but this one comes with a twist: water will flow from one pit downhill to the other, generating electricity in the process. When demand for electricity is low, the water will be pumped back uphill to store for later use. Even this so-called pumped hydro setup is pretty common, but the Kidston complex is unique in that it will use the same water over and over again (though it has a license to dip into a nearby dam for a top-up if needed). Genex, the company behind the project, figures there will be enough water to generate 300 megawatts of power for seven hours at a stretch. The electricity for pumping will come either from the grid or from a 50-megawatt solar farm being built nearby. A broader aim is for the Kidston facility to become a case study in how to store energy from wind or solar farms to help smooth out energy supply to the grid when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.


Justice Department Group Studying National Security Threats of Self-driving Vehicles – (Automotive News – September 9, 2016)
The U.S. Justice Department has formed a threat analysis team to study potential national security challenges posed by self-driving cars, medical devices and other Internet-connected tools, a senior official said. The impetus for the team, which has been informally active for about six months, was an understanding that the internet is vulnerable to cyber attacks partly because it was not designed with security in mind, according to Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, head of the Justice Department’s national security division. He cited the July truck attack in Nice, France, in which 86 people were killed, as an example of how automated driving systems could present a national security threat if they were remotely hijacked. “The internet on wheels … clearly is going to present national security risks as this transformation takes place,” Carlin said. Transportation and public health experts say that self-driving cars could dramatically reduce auto fatalities and injuries, most of which are due to human error. But car hacking has grown as a cyber security concern in recent years. Carlin said he has been to Detroit twice in the past six months on trips that included visits with auto industry executives to discuss national security issues surrounding smart cars.


50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists to Point Blame at Fat – (NPR – September 13, 2016)
In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine. The article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to “refute” concerns about sugar’s possible role in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research by Harvard scientists that did just that. The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding. The sugar-funded project in question was a literature review, examining a variety of studies and experiments. It suggested there were major problems with all the studies that implicated sugar, and concluded that cutting fat out of American diets was the best way to address coronary heart disease. The authors of the new article say that for the past five decades, the sugar industry has been attempting to influence the scientific debate over the relative risks of sugar and fat. “It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion,” said co-author Stanton Glantz.


Our Connected World and the Unseen Legacies of 9/11- (Wired – September 11, 2016)
American surveillance was reborn on September 11, and no single government agency embodies that change better than the National Security Agency. After the Cold War, the NSA had been reduced to a kind of backwater within the Pentagon, says James Bamford, the author of a trilogy of books on the agency. By the mid-1990s, it began to position itself as the go-to agency for preventing terrorism. But to do so required a fundamental shift in mission, from targeted eavesdropping on government satellite channels to eavesdropping on the far more diverse forms of communication used by terrorists, like cell phones and the nascent Internet. So the agency needed money. After 9/11, it got it—coupled with the legal authority and the political mandate to take on that immense spying task. The Patriot Act, rushed through Congress within a month, allowed the NSA to suck up data from telecom and tech firms like never before (leading to the warrantless wiretapping scandal revealed by the New York Times in 2005). A provision of the law—Section 215—allowed the agency to continue collecting the metadata of every American phone call for well over a decade, until Edward Snowden’s leaks exposed the program in 2013 and led to its suspension. “National security has become our state religion.” This article goes on to detail what it calls “Changes You Can See” such as the fact that airlines handed over screening duties at airports to a dedicated government workforce, and airport security changed forever. Today the TSA is a $7.5 billion bureaucratic behemoth that employs 46,000 screeners. And a future where attendance at concerts and sporting events is monitored ever more closely but less obviously, with drones, stingrays, and biometric systems paired with watchlist databases (in many cases—like the Super Bowl—this is already happening). The article then goes on to discuss “Invisible Redesign”. (Editor’s note: Much of the changes in our world happen slowly enough that we hardly notice them, but they are worth noticing. We recommend this article.)


Coda in the Key of F2654hD4 – (IEEE Explore – September, 2016)
As the US presidential election draws near, many of us can expect to find ourselves face to face with an electronic voting machine. It’s time to re-examine the integrity of these machines – which this article from journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers does with well researched, although very readable, professional exactitude. The details, well worth following, explore the “how and why”. The conclusion itself is simple: “The capacity of the manufacturers, vendors, and election officials to conceal, cover up, and deceive is as great today as it was 15 years ago. But more is at stake now because DRE voting machines are ubiquitous, and we’ve since developed a tolerance for chicanery in our elections.” (Editor’s note: If you vote, we highly recommend reading this article.)

5 Corporations Now Dominate Our Privatized Intelligence Industry – (The Nation – September 8, 2016)
The recent integration of two military contractors into a $10 billion behemoth is the latest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions that have transformed America’s privatized, high-tech intelligence system into what looks like an old-fashioned monopoly. In August, Leidos Holdings, a major contractor for the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, completed a long-planned merger with the Information Systems & Global Solutions division of Lockheed Martin, the global military giant. The 8,000 operatives employed by the new company do everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa. The sheer size of the new entity makes Leidos one of the most powerful companies in the intelligence-contracting industry, which is worth about $50 billion today. According to a comprehensive study just completed by the author of this article on public and private employment in intelligence, Leidos is now the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80% of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies. For the first time since spy agencies began outsourcing their core analytic and operational work in the late 1990s, the bulk of the contracted work goes to a handful of companies: Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, and CACI International. This concentration of “pure plays”—a Wall Street term for companies that makes one product for a single market—marks a fundamental shift in an industry that was once a highly diverse mix of large military contractors, small and medium technology companies, and tiny “Beltway Bandits” surrounding Washington, D.C. “The problem with just five companies providing the lion’s share of contractors is that the client, the U.S. government, won’t have much alternative when a company screws up,” says David Isenberg, the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq.

Pigeon Flock Members Can Overrule Incompetent Leaders – (Science Daily – September 14, 2016)
Flock leaders who attempt to give their fellow pigeons incorrect information about their direction of travel can be overruled by the collective wisdom of the group, according to new research from the University of Oxford. Recent modeling work had predicted that the mistakes of a misinformed leader would propagate down a hierarchical decision-making system such as a pigeon flock. However, using a method known as ‘clock-shifting’ that interferes with pigeons’ sense of direction, researchers have shown that bad leadership can be overcome, setting the flock back on the correct course. Lead author Isobel Watts, a doctoral candidate in the Oxford Navigation Group in the University’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘Previous research in homing pigeons has identified a navigational leadership hierarchy where an individual’s position in the hierarchy reflects its weight of contribution in the decision-making process. In this study, we were interested in how much control the “top” bird actually has over the flock’s decisions during homing. Do the top leader’s decisions simply cascade down the hierarchy, or are lower-ranked birds also able to influence the direction in which the flock flies? Research from the same group at Oxford has previously found that the fastest pigeons tend to become flock leaders, rather than the most competent. (Editor’s note: There is hope yet for human beings.)


Groups Worry about Impact of Police Moves to Block Social Media – (NPR – August 30, 2016)
When should police be able to deactivate your social media account? The question is becoming more urgent, as people use real-time connections in the middle of critical incidents involving law enforcement. In the case of Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County, Md., earlier this month, police said that a suspect actively using a social media connection makes a standoff worse. Gaines posted videos to Instagram of the unfolding standoff with police, who were outside her apartment trying to get her to surrender. Gaines was shot and killed by Baltimore County police, [who] got Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, to temporarily suspend her account. These days, police can use a special Web page provided by the social media company where they can make an emergency request to take down somebody’s account. For cops, this is no different than the old practice of cutting a phone line. But to Rashad Robinson, it is different. He runs Color of Change, an online racial justice organization. He says live social media are much more than just a line of communication. “As the movement around police accountability has grown, it’s been fueled by video evidence, the type of video that gives us a real insight into what’s happening and creates the narrative, builds the narrative, for people to understand,” he says. Robinson says imagine if police in Minnesota had blocked the Facebook Live video of the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile earlier this summer. There wouldn’t have been nearly the same kind of public reaction.

Universal Basic Income Wouldn’t Make People Lazy–It Would Change the Nature of Work – (Quartz – August 25, 2016)
Americans believe in the importance of a good day’s work. And so it’s understandable that the prospect of a universal basic income (UBI), in which the government would issue checks to cover the basic costs of living, rubs some people the wrong way. After all, the most successful anti-poverty programs in the US thus far, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, have been carefully designed to promote work–not enable people to avoid it. But based on the evidence we have so far, there’s little reason to believe that a UBI would lead people to abandon work in droves. And even if some people did indeed opt to give up their day jobs, society might wind up reaping untold rewards from their free time in the long run. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the US and Canada were seriously considering the possibility of instating a UBI. During that time, the US government commissioned a series of experiments across six states to study the effects of guaranteed income, particularly its effects on work. The Canadian government introduced a similar experiment in the town of Dauphin. This article includes the results of some of that research.

A New Crop of D.C. Churches Has Discovered the Secret to Appealing to Millennials – (Washington Post – September 10, 2016)
The District Church is the biggest new church most Washingtonians have never heard of, with upwards of 600 worshipers on Sundays. The vast majority of them are Millennials, the demographic group pollsters have described as significantly less religious than the rest of the population. That might have to do with the pastor’s intuitive sense of what young people in Washington are seeking, which has resulted in a potent combination of social justice, multiculturalism and unfiltered evangelicalism. Over the past five years or so, churches all over the District—and all over the country—have discovered the same thing. Religion, it turns out, can still appeal to young people: it simply needs to look a little different. That’s most obvious in cities, where new churches have sprung up to meet the needs of urban dwellers. All of them feature sleek websites, but they’re also designed to be participatory in a way that makes worshipers part of the process. And most of them are nondenominational. Many could technically be called evangelical—that is, they believe in the authority of the Bible and emphasize spreading its message—but the word has political baggage with conservative connotations, and many pastors shy away from it.

Is Drone Racing a Sport Yet? – (Technology Review – September 14, 2016)
Forget the football. The latest pastime to become a full-fledged sports phenomenon is drone racing. Competing for supremacy in the air at small scale isn’t a new phenomenon: people have been going head to head with remote-controlled aircraft in fields for a long old time. But in the last few years, technology has provided competitions with a huge shot of adrenaline, in the form of the first-person view. Nowadays, the small, nimble drones that zip through the air at speeds over 100 miles per hour are equipped with light, high-definition cameras, which wirelessly beam footage back to a pilot. A head-mounted display makes it feel as if that person controlling the drone is right on board. You can get a flavor for how exhilarating the perspective can be by watching videos like this and this.


NASA Tests ‘Impossible’ No-fuel Quantum Space Engine – and It Actually Works – (Extreme Tech – August 1, 2016)
A study conducted last year by NASA scientists has become the latest, and by far the highest profile, piece of evidence in favor of a seemingly impossible space thruster design that’s been evoking worldwide skepticism for some time now. The space agency finally agreed to test an American-made variant called the Cannae Drive. Seemingly in contravention of the law of conservation of momentum, the team confirmed that the device produces thrust by using electricity, and nothing else. Supporters call them microwave thrusters or quantum vacuum plasma thrusters (QVPT), while most others use the phrase “anomalous thrust device.” Seemingly wanting to avoid controversy about the nature of existence, NASA totally ignored the question of how the drive works in favor of simply reporting the data. With controls in place to avoid any confounding forces or variables, the NASA team recorded a reliable thrust between 30 and 50 micro-Newtons, less than a thousandth of the output of some relatively low-powered ion thrusters in use today. Still, the ion thrusters require fuel to operate, and the original QVPT inventor claims the version NASA tested is flawed, leading them to collect far lower thrust readings than his original can provide. The central insight here (assuming this isn’t all a big mistake) is that something called quantum vacuum fluctuations will occasionally spontaneously create particles all throughout the vacuum of space, and that these short-lived particles can be put to useful work. Thus, this thruster actually does use fuel — it just finds and uses that fuel as it goes. The thruster essentially turns these virtual particles into a plasma and expels them out the back of the ship, much like a conventional fuel source. The quantum fuel, though, spontaneously appears inside the thruster’s reaction area without even the need for collection or injection hardware.

World’s Astronomers –“Our 21st Century Technology Too Primitive to Detect an Advanced Alien Civilization” – (Daily Galaxy – August 21, 2016)
Some of the world’s leading astronomers — including Great Britain’s former astronomer royal, the Cambridge physicist Lord Martin Rees — believe aliens, rather than using different radio waves or visible light to signal, may be using an entirely different communication medium such as neutrinos or gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time) or using communication mechanisms we cannot even begin to fathom. “The fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life — much less intelligence — beyond this Earth,” said Arthur C. Clarke, “does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive, we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime.” Lord Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England believes the existence of extraterrestrial life may be beyond human understanding: “They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology. I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive.” Arizona State’s Paul Davies in “The Eerie Silence” wrote, “I think it very likely – in fact, inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon… If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is very likely to be postbiological in nature.”


Toxic Chemicals Are Hiding in Your House Dust – (CNN – September 14, 2016)
Researchers at George Washington University say 45 toxic chemicals are found commonly in your house dust, with 10 of them lurking in 90% of homes across the country. “We wanted to identify which chemicals were present at the highest exposure in homes,” said Dr. Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental occupational health who led the study. “Some chemicals were in virtually every dust sample.” Zota’s team analyzed all studies that have sampled indoor environments in the United States since 2000. They looked for the presence of potentially toxic chemicals and divided them into five classes of chemicals, two of which were found to be more common than the rest: phthalates and flame retardants. The chemicals found in dust samples came from a range of things typically found inside your home, including vinyl products — such as flooring — cosmetics, baby products, furniture and nail polish. Phthalates make plastic softer and more flexible, so they tend to be found in vinyl (PVC) materials such as flooring, blinds and food packaging. Flame retardants help products meet flammability standards that are built into building codes, insurance requirements and fire regulations. The other three classes of chemicals found in dust samples included environmental phenols, usually used as preservatives in personal care products like shampoo; fluorinated chemicals, used as stain- and water-repellent treatments for upholstery, carpets and clothes and in nonstick pans; and fragrances.


Judge a Book Through Its Cover with This Terahertz Camera Setup – (Tech Crunch – September 9, 2016)
What do you do if you want to peek inside a book, but you’re pretty sure it’ll crumble into dust if you even crack the cover a little bit? Researchers at MIT have combined a couple of powerful techniques to make reading through the cover possible. Terahertz imaging passes through paper and cover but the radiation is also reflected differently by paper and ink, unlike longer wavelengths like x-rays. Then there’s femtophotography, a clever way of capturing certain types of imagery just trillionths of a second apart. This lets extremely fine distinctions be made, such as whether a reflected image comes from one page or the next one a fraction of a millimeter down. The result is terahertz femtophotography, and the researchers were able to make it determine the distance to the first 20 pages of a book, and it could pick out individual letters printed on the first 9. There was only one letter per page, but still, how well can you read through the cover? “The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch,” said Barmak Heshmat, one of the researchers.

Israeli Scientists Have Used the Human Mind to Control Nano Robots Inside a Living Creature – (Daily Galaxy – August 26, 2016)
Researchers at Bar Ilan University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, both in Israel, have developed new technology that allows tiny bots to release drugs into the body controlled by human thought alone. The test involved a man using his thoughts to activate nano robots inside a cockroach. The bots have been built using a DNA origami structure with hollow shell-like components, and they come with a “gate” that can be opened and shut with the help of iron oxide nanoparticles that act as a “lock” – which can be prized open using electromagnetic energy. The Israeli team believe the bots could help in controlled release of drugs over time. Led by Dr Ido Bachelet of Bar Ilan University, scientists demonstrated how to control this process with human brainwaves. Using a computer algorithm, they trained the system to detect when a person’s brain was under strain from doing mental arithmetic. The team then placed a fluorescent drug in the bots and injected them into various cockroaches that were placed inside an electromagnetic coil. Wearing an EEG cap (which measures brain activity, the human subject was then tasked with solving mental arithmetic puzzles. By looking at when the fluorescent was released in the cockroaches, scientists were able to conclude their experiment had worked. “As a proof of principle we demonstrate activation of DNA robots to cause a cellular effect inside the insect Blaberus discoidalis, by a cognitively straining task,” researchers noted.


Why the Latest Bitcoin Hack Should Make You Worried about Your Money – (Salon – September 13,2016)
The digital currency markets repeatedly remind us of a tired but true maxim: your money is only as secure as the bank that guards it. After a recent hack resulted in the theft of $70 million worth of bitcoin, Hong Kong-based Bitfinex caused a minor panic when it announced it would spread the losses equally among all its customers, even those whose holdings weren’t touched. In doing so, the exchange called our attention — yet again — to how vulnerable virtual currencies are to criminals who hack through the Internet-connected systems that handle money transactions. Proponents of the technology behind bitcoin say the problem isn’t with the blockchain technology that underpins the currency but rather with the way exchanges store the code that determines ownership. In other words, the banks’ security is to blame. Bitfinex’s decision to “socialize the loss” of nearly 120,000 bitcoins (each worth almost $600) is undermining consumer confidence in the exchanges, and with the digital currency itself. Instead, The usual procedures that companies take when there isn’t enough capital available to cover a loss: file for bankruptcy and renegotiate terms with creditors. Instead, Bitfinex announced last week that all of its account holders would lose 36% of the value of their deposits, arguing that if it were forced into bankruptcy its clients would lose out anyway. In Hong Kong, like almost everywhere else, virtual currency exchanges operate outside of existing regulatory frameworks.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.

Mark Zuckerberg Meets Pope Francis, Gives Him a Drone – (Tech Crunch – August 29, 2016)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan met with Pope Francis, as part of Zuckerberg’s trip of Italy, announced following the recent devastating earthquake that hit the country, killing hundreds. After discussing the importance of connecting people in the world without internet access, Zuckerberg presented the Pope with a drone – but, alas, not a working one. Instead, it was a model of Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila aircraft, designed to beam internet access to those areas of the world that are lacking connectivity. The Aquila drone, which has a wingspan of over 113 feet – bigger than a Boeing 737 – just completed its first official test flight this summer. The drone will fly for 90 days at a time, and can blanket a 60-mile wide area with internet access. Zuckerberg told the Pope how much he admired his message of mercy and tenderness, as well as how he’s found new ways to communicate with people of every faith around the world. (The current Pope uses social media, having both Twitter and Instagram accounts.) As part of the trip, Zuckerberg also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss the earthquake, the economy, and technology’s impact on job creation, among other things. Beyond getting face time with the Pope, it’s interesting to see Zuckerberg taking on the role that’s usually reserved for politicians – that is, touring a country after a natural disaster. While that wasn’t the primary purpose of the visit, it’s clear that Facebook has a larger role to play in the world economy these days, and is working to get key players to buy into its plans to bring the internet to the unconnected masses.


The Science of Laughter – (BBC News – September 11, 2016)
Laughter is weird – and we do it a lot. One study found that people laugh seven times for every 10 minutes of conversation. We don’t do it when we think we do. It’s been found that if you ask people what makes them laugh they’ll talk about jokes and humor, but we laugh most frequently when we are with other people – and hardly ever at jokes. It’s a social emotion and we use it to make and maintain social bonds. We also make very strange noises when we laugh – from wheezes and squeaks to gasps and snorts – and each sound simply reflects the muscles in the chest squeezing out air from our ribcages under very high pressures. Laughter is a non-verbal emotional expression and these sounds, which we typically make when in the grip of quite strong emotions, are more like animal calls than they are like our normal speech. We make them in very simple ways (unlike speech) and they are controlled by an evolutionarily “older” brain system, one that looks after vocalization in all mammals (unlike speech). Laughter has also been well described in other primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans – as shown in this video (embedded in article), where a zookeeper is talking about the slightly nerve-shredding activity of tickling a gorilla and how it makes her laugh. Laughter has even been described in rats.


Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet. – Victor Huge

A special thanks to: 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.


Edited by John L. Petersen

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A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
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Volume 19, Number 16 – 09/01/16

PostScript – Steve McDonald 2016 – Part 2