| FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS|
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- The first wearable translator of its kind in the world (the size of a memory stick) will do English, Japanese and Chinese conversations when it goes on sale later this year.
- The U.S. military is beginning work on a new “implantable neural interface” that it hopes will allow wearers to transmit data back and forth from their brains to external digital devices.
- In what could form the basis of petroleum-free plastics that are both entirely recyclable and biodegradable, chemists have found a polymer that can be synthesized into useful materials and then broken down into its original building blocks to be given a new life.
- Corn ethanol, the most common form of biofuel, is at least as carbon-intensive as gasoline from oil.
by John L. Petersen
Master Mentalist Alain Nu Heads Spring Lineup for Transition Talks
Mind over matter expert Alain Nu is coming to Berkeley Springs on the 27th of February to teach a workshop on how you can use your mental abilities to change your life and the things around you. When he was here in October, Alain had almost 20 in the audience of 70 bending spoons with only their minds within ten minutes, much to the excitement of all who attended.
This time he comes not just to demonstrate, but to show you, step-by-step how that you can use your mind to affect your health, your life . . . and even your tableware.
He’ll share with you, more intimately, how YOU can learn to interact with YOUR OWN psychokinetic energy. You’ll explore how to:
- Tap into a Conscious Field
- Seemingly Affect the Laws of Chance
- Experiment on Your own Reality
- Heal yourself and others of Physical Pain and Stress
- Bend your own Spoon (!)
Come! It will be a great event. More information and reservations are at www.transitiontalks.org
In March, Joey Korn one of the world’s most extraordinary dowsers will be with us to also demonstrate, from another perspective, how tuning into the subtle messages that your body knows, you can learn things that seem impossible to know and change almost anything that is energetically based . . . which is everything!
In this jam-packed half-day seminar on the 19th of March, you’ll learn:
- How to dowse for detrimental energy fields related to underground water and energy fields that radiate from electronic appliances
- How to change these energies to be beneficial, using Joey’s Simple Blessing Process. You can even make EMFs beneficial to you!
- How to create ideal energy environments, within and around you, to help attract what you most desire into your life Joey will guide everyone through a blessing to balance each person’s Human Energy Pattern, and true magic will happen in the room. Joey’s work is not just about dowsing and energy; it’s about life.
Change your energies and change your life! More information and reservations are at www.transitiontalks.org
Lee Carroll and KRYON return to Berkeley Springs the 2nd of April for the fourth time. This always capacity crowd event features Lee’s latest assessment of what the future will hold and, of course, the latest communications from KRYON.
Over the past two decades, Kryon has given a great deal of profound insight about so many things! The profundity of the past information is still there, and amazingly current in this new energy. However, the news since 2012 is really new, and spans many subjects. This seminar is filled with “The Best of Kryon,” or from Lee’s standpoint, the most profound information from both past and present… and the future!
A summary such as this has never been given before. The subjects are still relevant, helpful and fascinating with varied topics like…
- New information about DNA
- The energy of the Akash and “Innate”
- How to create Synchronicity
- New paradigms for the Old Soul
You’ll hear “The Story of Easter Island,” which details Lee’s journey with the KRYON team to RAPA NUI (as the Indigenous call it). Lee reveals what Kryon said when he gave the details about how they moved the stones – complete with illustrations!
Register for KRYON here
Announcement: I’ve just received a confirmation that Penny Kelly will be with us on the 25th of June, and Gregg Braden will be returning again on the 29th of October. We’re working on an alternative date for Robert Coxon to make up for the cancellation of his date here last month . . . which just happened to collide with about 41” of snow that really shut down everything around here.
It will be a great Transition Talks year!
Researchers Uncover the Genetic Roots Behind Rare Vibration Allergy
Here’s something interesting. I had never heard of this, but some people are subject to significant short-term physical problems associated with vibration. Scientists now think that they have found the genetic roots of the issue. When I first read this it occurred to me, “Of course. Everything is energy. Everything vibrates, and when you vibrate someone at a frequency that is sympathetic to a significant frequency within the organism you generate resonance at a higher amplitude which messes with the underlying system.”
My guess: they’ll figure out that there is a very specific frequency that produces this effect, which they’ll be able to map to specific characteristics of the nervous system.
BTW, I don’t get the “towel drying” bit. Maybe they should get a softer towel or something!
A team of National Health Institute researchers has for the first time uncovered the genetic roots of one of the strangest allergies: vibrations. The vibration allergy, which is just as it sounds, may be quite rare, but understanding it more completely may yield important insights into the fundamental malfunctioning of immune cells in the presence of allergens. The group’s findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In addition to being uncommon, the vibration allergy is not very dangerous. In most cases, the allergic response is limited to hives—the pale, prickly rash most often associated with allergic and autoimmune reactions. Other less common symptoms include headaches, blurry vision, fatigue, and flushing. The triggering vibrations are everyday things: jogging, jackhammering, riding a motorcycle, towel drying. Symptoms appear within a few minutes of exposure and are gone usually within an hour.
Read more . . .
So, I clicked twice on my computer (I don’t remember specifically what I was looking for), and boom!, this was right in front of me. From Walter Russell:
9.8 – Law of Attraction: “Juxtaposed coherent aggregates vibrating in unison, or harmonic ratio, are mutually attracted.”
Bodies or aggregates vibrating in unison or simple multiples of unison are said to be harmonic or sympathetic to one another. Bodies vibrating or oscillating in harmony will aggregate thus forming larger bodies. This mutual aggregation, accumulation or gathering together is caused by action of Keely’s law of sympathetic association (qv) or simply the Law of Affinity(ies). The greater the degree of harmony the greater will be the attraction (affinity) between bodies or aggregates.
In a complex molecular structure and its vibration signature are many diverse discrete frequencies (aliquot parts) originating from its constituent atoms and their subatomic components. Each discrete entity will have its own fundamental frequency and signature. The more of these discrete signature frequencies harmonize with those of another molecule and its constituent parts the stronger will be the attraction and bonds between molecules and their constituent parts.
Molecules may not at times have unison or multiples of unison relations between fundamentals but may have harmony between frequencies of their constituent atoms. In such a case there will be atomic attraction and perhaps bonding but not molecular attraction and bonding. This same interstitial bonding may occur on other levels of the molecule’s atoms and sub-components. In this event the attraction will be between atoms (atomic attraction) and/or between subatomic particles being a quantum attraction or as Keely called it – “interatomic attraction”. This same principle holds for sub-quantum centers which Keely called etheric attraction or etheric sympathy.
During the contraction and attraction phase energy increases, range of orbital motion decreases, spin decreases and density of the medium increases, among other attributes. See left-hand column in Polar States Table.
So, there you have it – some big words that suggest the same basic idea.
Exclusive: Hard Numbers Reveal Scale of America’s Trophy-Hunting Habit
A new analysis from the Humane Society finds American hunters import more than 126,000 animal trophies a year.
As some of you know, I chair the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, which, through our Air Shepherd program, is heavily involved in providing small drone aircraft that fly at night with thermal cameras to spot the poachers that are decimating the rhino and elephant populations in southern Africa. Some 40,000 elephants were killed last year by poachers and almost 1200 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa alone – all for tusks and horns. At this rate of killing, both species will become extinct in about 10 years. Our approach works closely with rangers on the ground, vectoring them to the location of poachers. It has proven to be extraordinarily effective. Currently we are flying two teams in South Africa and will soon be operating in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and probably Zambia.
This effort has made me significantly more sensitive than I was before about the significance of these majestic animals and their contribution to the larger ecosystem in Africa.
I’m not a hunter, but I know a lot of hunters who live all around us here in West Virginia. All the ones that I know, eat the deer that they kill, and considering that we have seen herds of three dozen or more deer in our fields multiple times in the past, and they eat about everything that we plant around the house, I’m not too bothered by my friends who thin out these animals that have no natural predators.
Trophy hunting, though, is another issue. Killing anything, just to kill it, doesn’t seem right. I know that big game hunters are serious and real conservationists, but personally, I don’t know how to hold both of those concepts as equal at the same time.
It was in this context that that I found this article from the National Geographic of interest that gives a sense of the size of the trophy hunting market. It was surprising. Perhaps you will find it of interest as well.
Sport hunters, those who kill animals for recreation rather than out of necessity, imported more than 1.26 million trophies to the U.S. in the decade from 2005 through 2014, according to a new analysis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s import data by Humane Society International and the Humane Society of United States. That’s an average of 126,000 trophy imports a year, or 345 a day.
Texas oilman and hunter Kerry Krottinger, seen here with his wife Libby and some of the animals he’s hunted, has drawn ire over his trophy hunting. Photograph by Robert Clark, National Geographic
“What we hope the report accomplishes is that we shed light on the scale of the role we play in killing some of the world’s vulnerable and endangered species,” said Masha Kalinina, an international trade policy specialist at Humane Society International.
Read rest of article
Rise of the Robots Will Eliminate More Than 5 Million Jobs – (Bloomberg – January 18, 2016)
Over five million jobs will be lost by 2020 (only 4-5 years from now) as a result of developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological change, according to World Economic Forum (WEF) research. About 7 million jobs will be lost and 2 million gained as a result of technological change in 15 major developed and emerging economies, WEF founder Klaus Schwab and managing board member Richard Samans said in “The Future of Jobs.” The findings are taken from a survey of 15 economies covering about 1.9 billion workers, or about 65% of the world’s total workforce. The blurred lines between physical, digital and biological spheres amount to a Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to the WEF. Administrative and office jobs will account for two-thirds of the losses, with “routine white-collar office functions at risk of being decimated,” and there will be gains in computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering-related fields. Women will be disproportionately hit by the changes because of their low participation in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
ili Is First Wearable Translator in the World – (Uber Gizmo – January 4, 2016)
The ili is said to be the first wearable translator of its kind in the world, where it breaks the language barrier while making communication happen. Using it is as simple as pushing the button on the ili (which in turn, resembles the fingerprint sensor design on the iPhone), before you say what you have in our mind, and let it perform the necessary translation while playing it back so that the other party can hear what you’re saying. You don’t need Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or other Internet connection – as there is a built-in translation engine within that does all the hard work, working in tandem with the speech synthesis chipset as well. There is also a library of travel lexicon pre-loaded, making it ideal for globe-trotters. Right now, it does English, Japanese and Chinese conversations, but the second generation model will see it handle French, Thai and Korean, before the third version will deliver Spanish, Italian and Arabic options. The final pricing details have yet to be determined, but it is said to be “affordable” as it opens up for pre-order sometime this March or April.
New Evidence Suggests a Ninth Planet Lurking at the Edge of the Solar System – (Washington Post – January 20, 2016)
Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.” They estimate the planet’s mass as five to 10 times that of the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly. Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn. Telescopes on at least two continents are searching for the object, which on average is 20 times farther away than the eighth planet, Neptune.
Proton Beam Cancer Therapy Effective with Fewer Side Effects – (BBC News – January 29, 2016)
A study, published in The Lancet Oncology, suggests proton beam therapy is as effective as other treatments. Researchers looked at 59 patients aged between three and 21 from 2003 to 2009. All the patients who took part in the study, led by Dr Torunn Yock from the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US, had the most common kind of malignant brain tumor in children, known as medulloblastoma. After five years, their survival rate was similar to that of patients treated with conventional X-ray radiotherapy, but there were fewer side effects to the heart and lungs, the study found. Photon therapy uses charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver radiotherapy for cancer patients. The treatment allows high-energy protons to be targeted directly at a tumor, reducing the dose to surrounding tissues and organs. In general, it gives fewer side effects compared with high-energy X-ray treatments. It can be used to treat spinal cord tumors, sarcomas near the spine or brain, prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and some children’s cancers. Independent expert Prof. Gillies McKenna, who is the head of the department of oncology at the University of Oxford, said, “There were no side effects seen in the heart and lungs and gastrointestinal tract, which are almost always seen with X-rays, and no secondary cancers were seen at a time when we would have expected to see them in X-ray treated patients.”
Scientists Use Nanoparticles to Attack Chronic Bacterial Infections – (GizMag – December 18, 2015)
Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) have come up with a new way of tackling harmful biofilms. The non-toxic method, which combines targeted nanoparticles with heat, could have a wide range of applications. When bacteria exist as single, independent cells they’re usually easy to treat using antibiotics. However, given enough time, bacteria will often band together to form a biofilm, growing into a matrix that’s much more difficult to treat. As many as 80% of infections are linked to biofilms (referenced again in the next link below), and they can also infect equipment such as dialysis catheters, making them a persistent and growing problem in hospitals across the globe. In order to attack the biofilm, the team attempted to recreate what happens to the cells when they move to colonize a new site. When this occurs, the structure breaks up into individual cells, making them more susceptible to attack. To do so, the team injected iron oxide nanoparticles and heated them with an applied magnetic field. This raised the temperature by 5 °C, inducing local hyperthermia and, as hoped, caused the biofilm cells to disperse. Once the matrix of cell was broken up, the bacteria became much easier to treat.
Medicine Turns to Bacteriophage Therapy to Beat Superbugs – (Sydney Morning Herald – January 24,2016)
An arcane therapy for bacterial infections is making a comeback in Western medicine as a potential white knight against superbugs. Phage therapy involves infecting patients with viruses known as bacteriophages, which are the natural predators of bacteria, to kill the germs that antibiotics cannot. Scientists hope these harmless viruses will cure patients who have been infected by bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, causing chronic ear, nose and throat infections as well as life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis. Phage therapy was discovered 100 years ago, but in the 1940s it disappeared behind the Iron Curtain while the Western world shifted to antibiotics. But interest in the therapy has been reanimated by the growing phenomenon of “superbugs”, which have developed a resistance to the antibiotics that once killed them and now threaten the lives of their victims. One of the best sources of bacteriophages was in feces, which researchers would access by raiding the fecal specimens of patients in the Westmead Hospital intensive care unit to build up a library of phages. Sinus surgeon Peter-John Wormald said phages would potentially be a good solution for the 15% of chronic sinusitis patients who did not respond to antibiotics after surgery. “Most of our patients do really well without any problems but we’ve got a small cohort of patients who we think have got bacterial infections that have either got into the cells themselves where they can’t be reached by antibiotics, or they have biofilms, which are thousands of times more resistant to standard bacteria,” Professor Wormald said. Following positive results in the laboratory, his current trial of nine patients was the first of its kind in the world, he said.
Groundbreaking Robotic Prosthetic Attaches to Implant in Patient’s Bone – (Futurism – January 18, 2016)
A new method that offers a wide range of motion and comfort for amputees is now available, thanks to a pioneering surgical technique developed by researchers from Johns Hopkins Applies Physics Laboratory (APL). This is a first in the field of prosthetics, which has always faced problems when dealing with the socket, which is the part where the prosthesis attaches to the body. Typically, this area experiences a lot of pain—sores and blisters are common. Even the most well designed sockets will experience major discomfort due to heat, sweating and chafing. In addition to this, the joint area will often feel heavy and the prosthetic cumbersome. “Osseointegration” is the first stage of the procedure that uses custom-made compressive device (called Compress) in which a threaded titanium implant is inserted into the marrow space of the bone. It serves as a bone-anchoring device that induces a biological response from the bone, thus creating a strong, long-lasting connection between the implant and the bone. Quite simply, the implant becomes a part of the bone. Later on, for the second stage of the process, an adapter brought through the skin will be connected to the compress implant on the bone side, allowing a direct connection to the external prosthetic limb. See video clip embedded in article.
Are Fitbands the Future of Genetic Research? – (BBC News – January 28, 2016)
Thanks to advances in DNA sequencing technology, researchers around the world are now faced with a deluge of genetic data gathered from hundreds of thousands of people. The challenge now is to marry up all this genetic data with living, breathing reality, figuring out how variations in each person’s genome contribute to their health and wellbeing. At Stanford University in California, Stephen Montgomery and his team are using the latest DNA-reading technology and sophisticated algorithms to work out how tiny variations across our genomes affect when and where genes are turned on. As Stephen notes, seemingly minor variations in our DNA code can have a big impact on our health and well-being. “We want to be able to describe those benefits so that they might be able to help us understand what makes each of us unique, but also to understand how we might use that to tailor any particular treatments for any individual.” To do this properly, we need more data – not just about each person’s individual genetic makeup, but information about how their body is changing over time and responding to their environment, diet and lifestyle. Luckily, technology seems to have provided us with a solution. The recent rise of the “measured self” movement, dominated mainly by wearers of personal bio-monitoring devices such as fitbands and smart watches, could provide the vital statistics that this new generation of geneticists need. And developers are busy working on wearable technology to track blood pressure, blood sugar levels and all sorts of other parameters. They may be giving geeks everywhere a whole new set of graphs to play with, but combined with genetic information, the data from these wristbands could prove life-saving.
Seattle Sues Monsanto Over PCB Chemicals Fouling the Duwamish River – (The Stranger – January 26, 2016)
The city of Seattle is suing agrochemical giant Monsanto over the contamination of the Lower Duwamish and city drainage pipes with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The complaint, filed Monday in federal court, alleges that Monsanto knew how toxic PCBs were to humans and the environment, but continued to produce and sell the chemicals for decades anyway. Seattle is now the sixth city to sue Monsanto over PCB contamination, following San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, San Diego, and Spokane. “Long after the dangers of PCBs were widely known, Monsanto continued its practice of protecting its business interests at our expense,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “The City intends to hold Monsanto accountable for the damage its product wreaked on our environment.” The Lower Duwamish is now considered a federal Superfund site, ranking as one of the most toxic waterways in the United States. The EPA estimates that the full cleanup of the waterway will cost $342 million.
New York City Will Replace Pay Phones With Wi-Fi Hotspots – (Huffington Post – January 4, 2016)
A 9-foot-tall, narrow structure installed on a Manhattan sidewalk is signaling a plan to turn pay phones into what’s billed as the world’s biggest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network. The first of at least 7,500 planned hot spots are due to go online early next year, promising superfast and free Wi-Fi service, new street phones with free calling, ports to charge personal phones and a no-cost windfall for the city. With some cities nationwide making renewed pushes for public Wi-Fi after an earlier wave of enthusiasm faded, New York officials say their project is democratizing data access while modernizing outmoded street phones. Pay phones may seem like telecom relics when 68% of Americans own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center. But about 8,200 pay phones still dot New York streets. Some were pressed into service amid outages after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, but their numbers and usage have declined overall, and 37% of those inspected last year were inoperable. The city experimented with providing Wi-Fi from a few pay phones in 2012, then hatched the current, eight-year “LinkNYC” plan. A consortium of companies, including wireless technology player Qualcomm Inc., is to pay the estimated $200 million installation cost and take half the revenue from the kiosks’ digital advertising, projected at $1 billion over 12 years. The city gets the other half, more than doubling the $17 million a year it gets from pay phones now.
In 2016, Intel’s Entire Supply Chain Will Be Conflict-Free – (Fast Company – January 5, 2016)
Seven years ago, if you bought a new iPhone or a laptop, you were probably also inadvertently supporting warlords and mass rapists in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has some of the world’s largest deposits of many of the tiny bits of metal, like tin and tungsten, that make up electronics, and they often came from mines whose profits were used to fund the country’s ongoing, devastating civil war. Luckily, that’s starting to change. This year, Intel expects its entire supply chain to be conflict-free. It’s taken time: the company first set the goal in 2009, and with a massive list of suppliers, it was an overwhelming challenge at first. “We said, we don’t want to support conflict, period,” says Carolyn Duran, a director at Intel who oversees supply chain sustainability. “How to do that? Nothing was determined.” It started with its own factories, and worked with a handful of other electronic manufacturers to figure out a way to track materials. Metals mined in Africa might first end up in China or Russia, and before companies like Intel started asking questions, it was hard—or impossible—to say where the metals had originated or whether the proceeds had ended up in the hands of warlords. Since Intel and other manufacturers began the program, the profits from mines have started flowing to miners themselves rather than to war. In the last study of three of the major materials—tungsten, tantalum, and tin—a nonprofit called the Enough Project found that the amount of money going to conflict had dropped 65%, and it continues to fall. There are still challenges. For now, Intel has to buy gold from other parts of the world, or recycled gold, in order to know that the materials are responsibly sourced. But it’s also still working on a process to help the Democratic Republic of Congo track its own supply. Just stopping buying from the country isn’t that great a solution: Duran points out that mining is one of the country’s only legitimate sources of income, and an important step in development.
This Mexican Company Is Converting Plastic Into Affordable (and Eco-Friendly) Housing – (Nation of Change – January 25, 2016)
The company took off in 2013 when González, who has been dismayed by the problem of plastic pollution since a child, figured out a way to turn plastic into a resource for those who can afford little. Reportedly, the process is quite simple. First, the company collects various kinds of plastic – from soda bottles to old toys – then separates it to find the types that melt without emitting harmful fumes. Next, the workers put the plastic into a machine to chop it up. Then, the pieces are placed in an oven that heats it up to 350 degrees Celsius (over 600 degrees Fahrenheit) taking approximately half an hour to melt of the materials. Finally, the liquid goes through a hydraulic press, which simultaneously compresses and crystallizes the plastic into the shape of the panels. Once cooled, these panels are then used to construct 430-460 square-foot house. Each panel is nearly eight feet long, four feet wide, and approximately one inch thick; a repurposed house requires 80 panels to construct. This isn’t a problem for the sole EcoDomum plant, however, which transforms and repurposes 5.5 tons of what was once plastic waste into 120 panels each day. Each house has two rooms plus one bathroom, one living room and a kitchen. Certain plastic varieties can take up to 1,000 years to decompose and are incredibly durable; therefore, these houses have an advantage over traditional homes, as they are expected to last a very long time. Because EcoDomum partnered with a subsidized housing program which underwrites some of the building costs, families can obtain one of the houses for around 5,000 pesos (roughly $280 USD).
Couple Builds Greenhouse AROUND House to Grow Food and Keep Warm – (Real Farmacy – December 7, 2015)
With unfavorable winter temperatures of a 27 degree January average, living in Stockholm, Sweden let alone growing food in the wintertime would be unimaginable without some form of heat. Well, what better way than to harness the free energy of the sun without having to worry about solar panels and high voltage electronics. Marie Granmar, Charles Sacilotto and their young son, live in an environmentally-friendly house built within a functioning greenhouse. The result? Absolute comfortably sustainable brilliance. They call it Naturhus and it was inspired by Swedish eco-architect Bengt Warne, who was also Sacilotto’s mentor. Imagine sunbathing and reading a book in the dead of a frigid winter surrounded by fresh fruits and vegetables. Here’s how it works in a nutshell: Sunlight warms the home and growing area during the day. Residual heat is then stored in the bedrock below the house. The roof deck is open for lounging year-round. See embedded video for more details. So just how safe is it to live in a greenhouse? “It’s security glass,” Sacilotto says “So in principal this can’t break. If it ever does, it will break in tiny pieces to not harm anyone.”
The Problem with Biofuels – (Technology Review – January 27, 2016)
The U.S. Navy, with its accustomed pomp and fanfare, has just launched its first carrier strike group powered partly by biofuel—in this case, a blend made primarily from beef fat. The biofueled warships form a central element of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet program to draw half of its power from clean energy sources, rather than petroleum, by 2020. Attended by secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, the ceremony masked what has been nearly a decade of problems for biofuels—an energy source once touted as capable of virtually eliminating the use of petroleum in the transportation sector. Today biofuels production and consumption stand at a fraction of the levels foreseen under the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate signed by President George W. Bush that requires fuels made from corn, sugarcane, and other biological sources to be mixed into the nation’s gasoline supply. That’s just the beginning of the issues with biofuels, though. When President Bush’s Renewable Fuel Standard was just getting off the ground, we wrote about the steep cost of biofuels. The mandates outlined in the legislation created an industry whose size wouldn’t make sense unless oil went north of $120 a barrel (it’s hovering around $30 a barrel today). Worse, corn ethanol, the most common form of biofuel, is actually at least as carbon-intensive as gasoline from oil. Robert Bryce, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a longtime critic of government-backed efforts to make biofuels a key part of a clean transportation future, calls the biofuels program a “scam” that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and is unlikely to ever make a significant dent in the consumption of conventional oil. He’s got a point—but politicians on both sides of the aisle are mostly keeping their mouths shut on the issue.
Why This Chinese Electric Vehicle Startup Hired a Leader with No Auto Experience
The news that Padmasree Warrior, a former technology chief at Cisco and Motorola, has been hired as CEO of the U.S. division of the Chinese company NextEV raised an obvious question: what exactly is NextEV? The simple answer is that it’s an early stage electric car company based in Shanghai, China, with locations in San Jose, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and Munich. What it plans to become remains something of a mystery. Founded this year, NextEV has not yet revealed specific product plans. Bloomberg reported in September that the company was about halfway toward its goal of raising $1 billion. Warrior has no prior experience in the auto industry. “What I bring is access to advanced technology,” says Warrior, who left Cisco in June. “And how to apply that to the automotive experience.” The list of new electric car companies, many of them backed by Chinese tech entrepreneurs, now includes Faraday Future, Atieva, NextEV, and Karma (formerly Fisker). Several of them, like NextEV, are planning to launch in the highly competitive U.S. market—and are attempting to distinguish themselves not just by offering a battery-powered electric vehicle, but by using technology like wireless connectivity, car sharing, and autonomous driving as a hook. Warrior, who will be based in NextEV’s California office, plans to work closely with NextEV president Martin Leach, the former chief executive of Maserati and former president of Ford Europe.
‘De-Icing’ Concrete Could Help Make Roads Safer In The Next Big Blizzard – (Huffington Post – January 25, 2016)
A new form of concrete created by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a fascinating superpower that could potentially save lives. The concrete can melt away ice and snow on its own, making roadways much safer. What’s its secret? Steel shavings and carbon particles, which make up about 20 percent of the concrete mixture, can conduct electricity to melt away dangerous ice, Dr. Chris Tuan, a professor of civil engineering at the university who designed the material, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “De-icing concrete is intended for icy bridges, street intersections, interstate exit ramps, and where accidents are prone to take place,” Tuan said. The de-icing concrete mixture is not only safe for commuters and pedestrians, but also could potentially help the environment, Tuan said, by reducing the amount of salt and chemicals used to combat ice on the roads. The concrete works by connecting the de-icing concrete slabs to a power source, since the material itself is electrically conductive. “When connected to a power source, the electrical resistance in the concrete will generate heat and propagate to the concrete surface to melt the snow and ice,” Tuan explained, adding that the concrete costs about $300 per cubic yard compared to $120 per cubic yard of regular concrete.
Cage-free Eggs Cracked These Corporate Shells – (Concho Valley – December 24, 2015)
Life on the farm is getting a little easier for hens supplying the U.S.’s $10 billion egg market. In 2015, companies that buy hundreds of millions of eggs a year promised to switch over to cage-free eggs. The USDA defines “cage-free” as birds that have unlimited access to food and fresh water and can roam in an enclosed area, but it does not require outdoor access. It’s important to note that labels like “cage-free” and “free-range” are self-policed. The only animal welfare label for eggs that is monitored and enforced is “organic.” About 95% of America’s shell eggs come from caged chickens, the Humane Society estimates. Some suppliers — including Rembrandt, the nation’s third-largest egg producer — are stepping up to respond to the public’s growing demand that producers keep animal welfare in mind. The article goes on to give a snapshot of the big brands (McDonald’s, Walmart, General Mills, Kellogg, etc.) newly committed to phasing out eggs from “conventionally” raised chickens.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
The Pentagon Wants to Put This in Your Brain – (Daily Beast – January 23, 2016)
The U.S. military is beginning work on a new “implantable neural interface” that it hopes will allow wearers to transmit data back and forth from their brains to external digital devices. That’s right—a brain modem. One that can connect to a staggering one million neurons at a time, up from the mere thousands that are possible today. The implications are profound for the armed forces and civilians. Imagine controlling your tank, car or microwave oven with your mind. Or steering a drone with your thoughts and “seeing” what the drone’s sensors see—in real time. Imagine making a hands-free phone call by simply willing it… then talking out loud. But don’t hold your breath. While the Pentagon’s brain modem is far from science fiction—cochlear implants, for example, represent a very basic form of one-way neural interface—it’s equally far from science fact. announced the “Neural Engineering System Design” initiative on Jan. 19. “The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) stated. “The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size.” The agency anticipates spending $60 million on project over the next four years. But despite all this planning and funding, the agency hasn’t answered some basic questions that could determine whether the brain modem is even possible. A cochlear implant that tickles auditory nerves is one thing. A tiny device that encodes thoughts and senses into useful data is quite another thing.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
In Maine, Local Control Is a Luxury Fewer Towns Can Afford – (New York Times – January 16, 2016)
CARY PLANTATION, Me. — Up here, near the end of Interstate 95, a single main road ridged with stately conifers runs past the odd house that at night casts an orange glow over the snow. There is no school. No police department. Not even a stoplight. But there are property taxes. And some residents say the taxes’ growth has pushed this community of about 200 to the brink. To save Cary Plantation, they say, they want to dismantle it. “What do you do, what does the town do, when they can’t pay their bills? Do we go bankrupt? Do we lose our homes?” asked Diane Cassidy, a former nursing assistant. “There was no answer, other than deorganization.” Ms. Cassidy is leading an effort to dissolve the local government and join the Unorganized Territory, a vast swath of forest and townships in north, central and eastern Maine run by a partnership between the state and the counties. Last month, residents here voted, 64 to 0, to continue the process. At a time of rising municipal costs, local governments around the country are looking for ways to rein in tax bills, pursuing privatization, the consolidation of services, mergers and even bankruptcy. But in northern Maine, as operating costs have increased, the economy has stagnated and the population has aged and dwindled, a handful of struggling towns have pursued the unusual process of eliminating local government entirely. These communities are handing their governing power over to the state and the county. Under state law, dismantling a local government takes 12 complex steps, often over at least two years, including legislative approval and a series of local votes. When a town deorganizes, state agencies and the county administer its services, like snow removal, policing and firefighting. Children are assigned to appropriate schools, often in a nearby district. Town-owned buildings and land are sold or held in trust by the state or the county. And every local government job is eliminated.
U.S. Government Has Long Used Propaganda Against the American People – (Washington’s Blog – January 18, 2016)
This article opens with a well-documented entry in Wikipedia, “After 1953, the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA. By this time, Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. The usual methodology was placing reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA to witting or unwitting reporters. Those reports would then be repeated or cited by the preceding reporters which in turn would then be cited throughout the media wire services. The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning off funds intended for the Marshall Plan [i.e. the rebuilding of Europe by the U.S. after WWII]. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers.” It then goes on to trace the history of CIA and other government involvement in “news” reporting. For example, the Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency” alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own “psyop” element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department’s campaign of “public diplomacy” which includes funding radio stations and news websites. In 2013, the American Congress repealed the formal ban against the deployment of propaganda against U.S. citizens living on American soil. So there’s even less to constrain propaganda than before.
GLOBAL RELATIONS/FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Spies in the Sky – (Intercept – January 28, 2016)
American and British intelligence agencies secretly tapped into live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets, monitoring military operations in Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on the drone technology Israel exports around the world. Under a classified program code-named “Anarchist,” the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, working with the National Security Agency, systematically targeted Israeli drones from a mountaintop on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. GCHQ files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include a series of “Anarchist snapshots” — thumbnail images from videos recorded by drone cameras. The files also show location data mapping the flight paths of the aircraft. In essence, U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view from the drones. Several of the snapshots, a subset collected in 2009 and 2010, appear to show drones carrying missiles. Although they are not clear enough to be conclusive, the images offer rare visual evidence to support reports that Israel flies attack drones — an open secret that the Israeli government won’t acknowledge. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that, although President Obama had pledged to stop spying on friendly heads of state, the White House carved out an exception for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, said that the intelligence relationship with Israel was “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Adultery Arms Race – (Atlantic – November, 2014)
Spouses now have easy access to an array of sophisticated spy software that would give Edward Snowden night sweats: programs that record every keystroke; that compile detailed logs of our calls, texts, and video chats; that track a phone’s location in real time; that recover deleted messages from all manner of devices (without having to touch said devices); that turn phones into wiretapping equipment; and on and on. One might assume that the proliferation of such spyware would have a chilling effect on extramarital activities. Aspiring cheaters, however, need not despair: software developers are also rolling out ever stealthier technology to help people conceal their affairs. Married folk who enjoy a little side action can choose from such specialized tools as Vaulty Stocks, which hides photos and videos inside a virtual vault within one’s phone that’s disguised to look like a stock-market app, and Nosy Trap, which displays a fake iPhone home screen and takes a picture of anyone who tries to snoop on the phone. CATE (the Call and Text Eraser) hides texts and calls from certain contacts and boasts tricky features such as the ability to “quick clean” incriminating evidence by shaking your smartphone. CoverMe does much of the above, plus offers “military-grade encrypted phone calls.” And in the event of an emergency, there’s the nuclear option: apps that let users remotely wipe a phone completely clean, removing all traces of infidelity. But every new app that promises to make playing around safer and easier just increases the appetite for a cleverer way to expose such deception. Some products even court both sides: a partner at CATE walked the author through how a wife could install the app on her husband’s phone to create a secret record of calls and texts to be perused at her leisure. Which may be great from a market-demand standpoint, but is probably not so healthy for the broader culture, as an accelerating spiral of paranoia drives an arms race of infidelity-themed weapons aimed straight at the consumer’s heart. In a recent survey conducted in the United Kingdom, 62% of men in relationships admitted to poking around in a current or ex-partner’s mobile phone. Among women, the proportion was only 34%.
Facebook Bans Private Gun Sales – (USA Today – January 29, 2016)
Facebook has said it will ban users from coordinating private sales of firearms on the social network and on mobile app Instagram. The ban does not apply to licensed gun dealers for purchases completed off Facebook. President Obama and state attorneys general have increased pressure on Facebook to tighten restrictions on firearms because of the proliferation of posts that offer guns for sale, often without background checks. Facebook and Instagram users will no longer be able to offer or coordinate the private sale of firearms, gun parts and ammunition, the company said. That brings firearms in line with Facebook’s ban on the private sales of marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs. Federal law enforcement sources have said that Facebook, Instagram and other social media services were “emerging threats for unlawful gun transactions in the United States.”
The Top 10 Insights from the “Science of a Meaningful Life” in 2015 – (Greater Good – December 29, 2015)
More than a decade after Greater Good first started reporting on the science of compassion, generosity, happiness—what it calls “the science of a meaningful life”—the research in the field is acquiring ever more nuance and sophistication. These nuances are clearly reflected in this year’s list of our Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life—the fourth such list compiled by Greater Good’s editors. Indeed, many of this year’s entries could be described as “Yes, but” insights: Yes, as prior findings suggest, being wealthy seems to make people less generous, but only when they reside in places with high inequality. Yes, pursuing happiness makes you unhappy, but only if you live in an individualistic culture. Yes, Americans are less happy than they used to be, but only if they’re over the age of 30. The caveats and qualifications abound. These are not just signs of academic hair splitting. Instead, they demonstrate that researchers are sharpening their understanding of the actual causes, consequences, and current state of humans’ social and emotional well-being. Check out the editors’ Top 10. For example: In an analysis of more than 68,000 Americans and Europeans over nine years, researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany found that cynicism isn’t the path to financial success. If you are wary of trusting others, worry about being taken advantage of, and see others as self-interested and deceitful, you’re likely to have a lower income now (and in the future) than people with a rosier view of humanity.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
China’s Dark Side of the Moon Mission — Will It Lead to Construction of a Radio Telescope? – (Daily Galaxy – January 1, 2016)
China’s increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon’s far side, a leading engineer said. The Chang’e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020, Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ moon exploration department told state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast this past September. Zou said the mission’s objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon’s far side, also known as the dark side. That could eventually lead to the placement of a radio telescope for use by astronomers, something that would help “fill a void” in man’s knowledge of the universe, Zou said. Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the moon’s far side, making it an excellent location for sensitive instruments. It seems that the two sides of the moon have evolved differently since their formation, with the far side forming at cooler temperatures and remaining stiffer while the Earth side has been modified at higher temperatures and for longer. This information is extremely important for theories on the formation of the moon, of which the current favorite is the “Giant Impact” hypothesis. The Giant Impact idea is that four and a half billion years ago a planet the size of Mars rammed Earth, kicking enough debris into orbit to accrete into an entirely new body.
Scientists Discover Way to Measure Gravity of Distant Stars – (Modern Readers – January 2, 2016)
A new study details a fascinating way to determine the pull of gravity at a distant star’s surface. And it might even prove to be a way for scientists to determine whether those stars can host life. “If you don’t know the star, you don’t know the planet,” explained UBC Professor Jaymie Matthews, study co-author. “The size of an exoplanet is measured relative to the size of its parent star. If you find a planet around a star that you think is Sun-like but is actually a giant, you may have fooled yourself into thinking you’ve found a habitable Earth-sized world. Our technique can tell you how big and bright is the star, and if a planet around it is the right size and temperature to have water oceans, and maybe life.” Matthews and her co-study lead Thomas Kallinger of the University of Vienna came up with a technique known as autocorrelation function timescale, or timescale technique, which utilizes slight variations in distant stars’ brightness, as documented by NASA’s Kepler mission and others. The timescale technique is capable of measuring surface gravity with a 4% accuracy rate for stars that are too far away and faint for conventional methodologies. The researchers believe that their technique would add a lot to the study of stars and planets beyond our solar system, including many that are way too far away for standard methods to determine their basic properties.
The One Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter – (Politico – January 17, 2016)
If you were asked what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated? You’d be wrong. In fact, the single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump is not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism. Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow. The finding is the result of a national poll conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter. Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. And in the 2008 Democratic primary, the political scientist Marc Hetherington found that authoritarianism mattered more than income, ideology, gender, age and education in predicting whether voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. But Hetherington has also found, based on 14 years of polling, that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time.
The 62 Richest People on Earth Now Hold as Much Wealth as the Poorest 3.5 Billion – (Huffington Post – January 19, 2016)
Just 62 ultra-rich individuals — a list that is primarily made up of men and includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the Koch Brothers and the Walmart heirs — have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. Five years ago, it took 388 rich guys to achieve that status. The wealth of the richest 62 has increased an astonishing 44% since 2010, to $1.76 trillion. Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half of the world dropped by 41%. “This is terrible,” said Gawain Kripke, Oxfam’s Policy Director. “No one credible will say this is good for the world or good for the economy.” Kripke also points out that wide inequality is no longer seen as an unfortunate consequence of economic growth. Now many economists – most famously Thomas Piketty – contend that gross inequality actually slows down growth, as fewer people can afford to buy stuff, and creates economic and political instability. Indeed, Piketty says extreme wealth inequality helps fuel instability in the Middle East. Much of the astonishing rise of wealth at the top is tied up with the booming stock market, as Credit Suisse noted in its Global Wealth Report last year. That report, which Oxfam used in its analysis along with a list of the richest people in the world from Forbes, determined that global inequality had reached a new milestone: The richest 1% of the world’s population now own half the world’s wealth.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Google’s Go Triumph Is a Milestone for Artificial Intelligence Research – (PhysOrg – January 28, 2016)
There are more possibilities in a game of Go than we would get by considering a separate chess game played on every atom in the universe. AI researchers have therefore long regarded Go as a “grand challenge”. Whereas even the best human chess players had fallen to computers by the 1990s, Go remained unbeaten. But now researchers from Google DeepMind have developed the first computer able to defeat a human champion at the board game Go. But why has the online giant invested millions of dollars and some of the finest minds in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research to create a computer board game player? Because games are the ‘lab rats’ of AI research. The big question is whether Google just helped us towards the next generation of Artificial General Intelligence, where machines learn to truly think like – and beyond – humans. Whether we’ll see AlphaGo as a step towards Hollywood’s dreams (and nightmares) of AI agents with self-awareness, emotion and motivation remains to be seen.
100% Recyclable Polymer Points to a Future of Pollution-free Plastics – (GizMag – December 20, 2015)
Though some of the plastic society churns through every day makes it to recycling facilities and can be re-cast as useful items, much of it also ends up in landfill and the ocean. Plastics that can biodegrade in certain environments, such as polylactic acid (PLA), have come to offer a more eco-friendly alternative, but these too have their downside. Though recycling is an option as a means of prolonging the material’s lifecycle, it cannot be broken down into its original molecular state without producing other unwanted byproducts. In search of a plastic that is completely recyclable and biodegradable, researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) were eyeing off a molecule derived from a biomass compound, which the US Department of Energy had rated as one of the 12 most suited to replace petrochemicals. Known as gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), earlier scientific literature had ruled the molecule out as a potential building block for advanced plastics because it was apparently unable to polymerize (combine into a chain of repeating monomers to form a plastic) due to its thermal stability. But professor of chemistry at CSU, Eugene Chen, and postdoctoral fellow Miao Hong discovered a way to not only build a polymer using GBL, but to do so in a way that the polymer could form different shapes, such as linear and cyclic. The team says that poly(GBL) is chemically equivalent to a commercial bioplastic called P4HB. But because P4HB is derived from bacteria it is more expensive and complicated than most plastics to produce. The team therefore hopes that its cheaper version could come to offer a more practical path forward.
3D-Printed Wonder Ceramics Are Flawless and Super-Strong – (Popular Mechanics – December 31, 2015)
There’s a reason they’re used in everything from jet engines to Formula 1 race car brakes: Ceramics are tough. They can withstand an absurd amount of heat and pressure without warping or breaking, all while brushing off many of the physical and chemical assaults that would rust metals and wear away plastics. “The problem is that ceramics are just notoriously difficult to process,” says Zak Eckel, an engineer at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California. Heat-resistant ceramics require crazy-high temperatures to melt, so it’s been a struggle to develop methods to 3D-print them. Today, there are just a few 3D printing techniques on the market that use any ceramics, but the approaches are severely limited in the types of ceramics they can print, as well as the end quality of their materials. Eckel and his team have just developed an altogether new way to 3D print practically flawless ceramics—including fantastically heat-resistant varieties that’ve so far been beyond our reach. Eckel’s team uses a $3,000 printer to print 100 micron thick layers of a plastic-like material out of a resin. Once the plastic-like pre-ceramic part is printed, it’s forged in an oven, where it’s slowly cooked to 1,000 degrees Celsius in the presence of argon gas. That heating basically tears away all the unnecessary chemical groups attached to the plastic-like material, leaving nothing behind but the strong ceramic framework underneath.
The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States – (Bloomberg – January 27, 2016)
Last September, Andrew Penney, a managing director at Rothschild & Co., gave a talk on how the world’s wealthy elite can avoid paying taxes. His message was clear: You can help your clients move their fortunes to the United States, free of taxes and hidden from their governments. Some are calling it the new Switzerland. After years of lambasting other countries for helping rich Americans hide their money offshore, the U.S. is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners. By resisting new global disclosure standards, the U.S. is creating a hot new market, becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth. Everyone from London lawyers to Swiss trust companies is getting in on the act, helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota. “How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour,” wrote Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at Anaford AG, a Zurich law firm, in a recent legal journal. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.” Rothschild, the centuries-old European financial institution, has opened a trust company in Reno, Nev., a few blocks from the Harrah’s and Eldorado casinos. It is now moving the fortunes of wealthy foreign clients out of offshore havens such as Bermuda, subject to the new international disclosure requirements, and into Rothschild-run trusts in Nevada, which are exempt.
World Faces Wave of Epic Debt Defaults, Fears Central Bank Veteran – (Telegraph – January 19, 2016)
This article discusses a presentation made at Davos by William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). White is a “central banker’s banker”; he is as knowledgeable and as authoritative as Janet Yellen, Christine Lagarde, or any other central banker in the world – and politically more able to speak plainly. For that reason, we are including this article despite its potentially extreme-sounding perspective. “Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief,” White said. “It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something. The only question is whether we are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion, or whether it will be disorderly. Debt jubilees have been going on for 5,000 years, as far back as the Sumerians. The next task awaiting the global authorities is how to manage debt write-offs – and therefore a massive reordering of winners and losers in society – without setting off a political storm.” Mr. White said Europe’s creditors are likely to face some of the biggest haircuts. European banks have already admitted to $1 trillion of non-performing loans: they are heavily exposed to emerging markets and are almost certainly rolling over further bad debts that have never been disclosed. The European banking system may have to be recapitalized on a scale yet unimagined, and new “bail-in” rules mean that any deposit holder above the guarantee of €100,000 will have to help pay for it.
Equation Shows That Large-scale Conspiracies Would Quickly Reveal Themselves – (PhysOrg – January 26, 2016)
A study by Oxford researcher, Dr. David Robert Grimes, suggests that large groups of people sharing in a conspiracy will very quickly give themselves away. Dr Grimes, a physicist working in cancer research, is also a science writer and broadcaster. Because of this, he receives many communications from people who believe in science-related conspiracies. Those messages prompted him to look at whether large-scale collusions were actually tenable. Dr. Grimes initially created an equation to express the probability of a conspiracy being either deliberately uncovered by a whistle-blower or inadvertently revealed by a bungler. This factors in the number of conspirators, the length of time, and even the effects of conspirators dying, whether of old age or more nefarious means, for those conspiracies that do not require active maintenance. However, the equation required a realistic estimation of the chances of any one individual revealing a conspiracy. Three genuine conspiracies were used to provide this – including the NSA Prism project revealed by Edward Snowden. In each case, the number of conspirators and the time before the conspiracy was revealed were over-estimated to ensure that the odds of a leak happening were a ‘best case scenario’ for the conspirators – around a four in one million chance of deliberate or accidental exposure. Dr. Grimes then looked at four alleged plots, estimating the maximum number of people required to be in on the conspiracy, in order to see how viable these conspiracies could be. These include: the theory that the US moon landings were a hoax (411,000 people); that Climate Change is a fraud (405,000 people); that unsafe vaccinations are being covered up (22,000 people assuming that only the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control are conspirators and that others involved in advocating, producing, distributing and using vaccines are dupes. 736,000 people if, as would be more likely, pharmaceutical companies were included); that the cure for cancer is being suppressed by the world’s leading pharmaceutical firms (714,000 people). (Editor’s note: We wondered how Dr. Grimes would account for the long term suppression of the dangers of smoking by cigarette companies or the mere existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Looking to Outperform the S&P 500 and Gold? Try This Item – (CBS News – January 15, 2016)
The object? The Hermès Birkin bag, a status symbol that’s hung from the arms of celebrities ranging from Victoria Beckham to Lady Gaga. According to retail site BagHunter, the average value of a Birkin bag has provided an annual average return of 14.2% since 1980, compared with the annual real return of 8.7% for the S&P 500 and -1.5% for gold. Whatever you think of the Birkin bag — the actress after whom it’s named complained that they were “bloody heavy” — the luxury item has another thing going for it: its value has fluctuated, but never into negative territory, unlike gold or stocks, according to BagHunter’s calculations. But before the average investor rushes out to try to secure a Birkin bag, it’s important to realize that the handbags are neither for the faint of bank account or biceps. The capacious bags aren’t all that easy to buy, at least directly from Hermès. The average cost of a new Birkin is $60,000, and they aren’t advertised on Hermès’ site. They often seem to be out of stock, so fans cultivate sales associates and purchase steady streams of Hermès products to demonstrate that their bank accounts are as hefty as the bag. Should that seem unappealing, there’s a second route: buying a used Birkin bag (er, sorry, “pre-loved.”) There’s no lack of such bags on the market, with prices that range from a measly $13,800 up to more than $100,000. Conveniently, BagHunter offers dozens of used Birkin bags for purchase on its site. On the other hand, such investments are purely speculative; the market for Birkin bags is illiquid, and unlike the S&P 500, handbags don’t provide dividends.
JUST FOR FUN
Fantastical Plants Bloom and Dance in Hideki Inaba’s Video for Beatsofreen – (Dezeen – November 11, 2015)
Japanese animator Hideki Inaba has designed an imaginary ocean world of plants and squid-like creatures for the video of Beatsofreen track Slowly Rising. The film opens with a single stem that transforms into a collection of wavering plants, surrounding by brightly colored slug-like creatures. As the video continues, an entire ocean floor of mushrooms and sea creatures can be seen swimming about, with more layers of animation gradually introduced on top of one another. It took the animator six months to complete the video using Photoshop and AfterEffects.
A FINAL QUOTE
NThe future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination. – John Schaar, scholar and political theorist
A special thanks to: A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Angela Smith, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Heidi Waltos, 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