FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Google and Uber alums have created a doctor’s office that’s like an Apple Store meets ‘Westworld’.
- Physicists have found a metal that conducts electricity but not heat.
- Patagonia wants to refurbish your old (Patagonia) clothes and sell them to someone else.
- A major new search for extraterrestrial life is being backed by billionaire Yuri Milner and supported by Stephen Hawking.
by John L. Petersen
The Change Accelerates
It’s rather interesting, to say the least, to sit here in the middle of this swirling, accelerating global change and try to figure out both what is really going on and what to do about it. I’m both surprised – and not surprised – about what I am seeing.
For fifteen years I’ve run around the world giving talks suggesting that large-scale change was inbound, so it’s not like I didn’t see this coming. But it’s another thing to be surrounded with growing structural disruption and watch how those around me and the larger systems that support us all respond to the change. It’s really quite interesting.
All of my adult life I’ve been essentially a liberal. I’ve been involved in liberal politics, engaged in social welfare activities and seen reality through the lens of an emergent new world that was largely described in somewhat conventional “progressive” terms. I presumed that the fundamental ideas of justice, equity, and even love were some of the organizing principles of the emergent new world.
Then something interesting happened. As I worked my way through state and then presidential politics and watched the leaders of the country and the military change through different administrations it became clear to me that there were systemic, structural issues that were not going to allow significant change for the better. Quite the contrary, the major problems of the world were direct derivatives of the architecture of the present system – there were structural issues that were producing all of the negative byproducts that we all abhorred.
That realization made it clear that almost all of my and my friends’ well-meaning efforts to change the world, successful as they might appear to be, by themselves would make no fundamental change in the big picture. Certainly not in the amount of time that appeared to be available to us.
It was all at the margins. As long as the financial system, economic system, political system, agricultural system, energy system etc., etc. were the same, big change was not in the cards. There were very large numbers of very powerful individuals and institutions who were doing very well with the present system(s), thank you, and they were very seriously committed to sustaining the global funding mechanism.
We were going to keep doing what we had been doing . . . and getting what we had been getting.
Seeing the world in those terms fueled the writing of my second book, Out Of The Blue: Wildcards And Other Big Surprises. In addition to developing a process to anticipate and deal with big surprises, it was a personal exploration of the alternative scenarios and events that could drive major change from outside of the usual operations of the global system. What could be the shocks that effectively pushed the train off the tracks into a new direction? I was particularly interested in trying to find those scenarios that would result in major change without a great deal of fear and bloodshed. There aren’t many of them, by the way.
One of my scenarios posited the emergence of a strongman who came into leadership in the US as the result of widespread disenfranchisement within the populace. It certainly wasn’t the same as the emergence of Donald Trump, but it was the same general idea. I was right about the growth of disenchantment: both Trump and Sanders clearly appealed to the basic sense of social inequity and economic marginalization by a very large percentage of the American populace.
The underlying point that I want to make is that if you don’t think this country (and the world, for that matter), is going in a positive direction, then the only way to redirect things is by facilitating very deep, structural and rapid change.
You must change things in order to realize change. And it cannot be marginal change. It requires disrupting the system in such a way that it cannot reconfigure itself as it was before. How it gets disrupted may not be as important as the fact that it is disorganized enough that new thinking has a place to be nurtured.
For a lot of people, that’s a nice idea . . . as long as the change is something that they like – which seems to be the position of large numbers of Americans who are not happy with the result of the presidential election. They’re missing the point, I think, that the important thing is that the old system is being assaulted in profound ways and how this all ends is very unclear.
That’s another important issue. There is an extremely high probability that if you think that a) you actually know what is going on, b) you know who really is behind all of the forces in play, c) it is obvious what the objectives are of the main players, d) that this is primarily a political fight over the presidency of the US, and e) you know what the outcome is likely to be (and that you won’t – or will – like it), then you are at best uninformed.
No one knows for sure where this is heading. There are interesting and intelligent arguments on both sides. Yonatan Zunger recently wrote a piece “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” opening up the possibility that President Trump’s recent immigration ban was something more than what it seemed. His follow-up piece, “When Villains Aren’t Super” continued in the same direction, unpacking the underlying reality of the social and political systems that we operate within. He raises interesting questions, like: What happens if the police or federal government don’t follow court orders?
What we forget is just how fragile democracy really is. To take a very relevant example: if you or I were to ignore a court order, we would quickly be reminded by the police that court orders aren’t optional. But what happens when the court orders the police themselves to do something, or the executive branch to which the police answers? The police aren’t forcing themselves to do anything at gunpoint; their obedience to the law is ultimately a matter of custom, that deeply-ingrained American belief that nobody is above the law. Often (as an important check and balance) there are multiple police agencies in a jurisdiction, so that if (God forbid!) one of them were to declare itself above the law, another could step in; we occasionally see this when federal agents take over a corrupt police department.
But at the end of the day, every federal police agency, and every federal prosecutor, answers to the Executive Branch and the President. If the President were to order agencies to do something illegal or ignore the courts, and order the police and prosecutors not to stop them, we are trusting not in the system but in those people’s willingness to do the right thing — even if this means being fired (as people were in Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”), or engaging in an armed standoff with police who have decided otherwise. Read rest of article
This situation is a titanic struggle at many different levels and very few people have the access, information and breadth of perspective to begin to paint the big picture. Most of what passes for analysis is myopic, short-term, junior high school-level Twitter reactions that are fixated on personalities and emotions. What many hold as opinion is polluted by the mainstream media, which is the major source of “fake news” and which functions these days as the principal outlet for messaging from the government, in general, and the intelligence services, in particular.
Let me point you to some world-class analysis about what is emerging in this country and the world. Here are three people that I am familiar with whose thinking is very large, integrated, and strategic . Their perspectives are unique and profound. All of these analyses are compatible in their assessment of what has happened and what appears to be inbound in the coming years.
First of all watch this from David Icke. If you already know of Icke’s work and have, for some reason, come to a negative conclusion about him, do me a favor and carefully listen to the facts and logic of what he says here. Everything he mentions, by the way, is supported by a great deal of research and will certainly stand the scrutiny of intelligent, objective searchers. In this rather short video, David primarily focuses on current issues.
For the longer term, bigger picture, take the time to listen to this interview with Catherine Austin Fitts. You’ll have to slog through the rather inane comments of Jeff Rense, but Catherine’s analysis is nothing short of brilliant – and very illuminating. She outlines the big game – and that will certainly get your attention.
Thirdly, there’s this clear, logical assessment of not only what has happened but what appears to be on our horizon from Clif High of HalfPastHuman.com. Stay with it to the end when he talks about Antarctica and hidden truths – very interesting.
So, the stage is set for you to better understand the context of what we all are reading and listening to these days. Now you might have a different perspective of what is behind George Soros vowing to “take down President Trump”.
George Soros Vows To ‘Take Down President Trump’
Notorious globalist billionaire George Soros has gone on the record threatening to “take down President Trump” and promising an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the New World Order are making the necessary preparations to completely and utterly obliterate every single Trump plan.
Speaking to a packed audience at his annual dinner at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros warned large multinational corporations to hold off from doing any business in the United States until he’s ended Trump’s presidency – or else face the consequences.
Asked what advice he would give to businesses preparing for the impact of the new presidency, he said “I’d keep as far away from it as I can“.
The hedge fund manager and convicted felon, who initially became famous for having made $1bn by betting on the devaluation of the pound in 1992, is reported to have lost close to a $1bn after the stock market rallied following Trump’s win. Read more . . .
The CIA and other intelligence agencies have been contributing to the news, promoting the idea that Russia significantly influenced the presidential election. Before you buy that line, let me remind you briefly of what the last investigation of the CIA found in 1975. There is little reason to believe that they have changed in the last 42 years except that they are far more advanced in their methods and capabilities. They still lie for a living.
”A bipartisan Senate investigation of activities by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is launched by a special congressional committee headed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. On November 20, the committee released its report, charging both U.S. government agencies with illegal activities. The committee reported that the FBI and the CIA had conducted illegal surveillance of several hundred thousand U.S. citizens. The CIA was also charged with illegally plotting to assassinate foreign leaders, such as Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile. In 1973, Allende was killed in a coup that the CIA secretly helped organize. The Senate committee also reported that the CIA had maintained a secret stockpile of poisons despite a specific presidential order to destroy the substances.” From This Day in History
I don’t think that all approaches to affecting systemic change are acceptable. When the press was running around saying that Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had said that his objective was to make Obama a one-term president, I was bothered by the fact that a political leader would have a goal of making the president ineffective and in the process cause the country to languish. Destroying the effectiveness of the presidency or the government (such as it is), is very painful to large numbers of people, and for me raises ethical and moral issues.
Similarly, trying to destroy Donald Trump as the way to facilitate positive change presumes both an understanding of the real situation (that has been manipulated by multiple groups) and that an individual’s efforts are consistent with those who are really funding and leading the revolt. These kinds of initiatives are always funded and led by those with hidden agendas. They don’t start by themselves. They are not self-funding. I’d guess that if most of the people who are actively trying to marginalize President Trump really understood who was behind the effort and what their objectives were, those who truly want a better world would run as far away from further organized activities to bring down the president as they could.
I’m also with David Icke in believing that negative energy and behavior draws negative, unwanted responses and does not contribute to the positive, new world we all purport to desire. We need to start with the assumption that we really don’t know what is actually going on (which is true) and that we believe that the evolutionary process that we are experiencing is not random – there is some intelligent, benevolent, high-level (spiritual) influence that is giving a degree of direction to the whole process. Do you really think that we are the first planet in the universe that has produced intelligent life and that there aren’t others who have preceded us and now have the responsibility for assuring that our evolution is successful?
Neither you nor I may particularly like Trump as a man, but that doesn’t mean that in the cosmic chess game that is necessarily being played, he could well be the king that effectively upsets the old order that has been holding humans back for many decades. Maybe it takes a personally unsavory – but very gutsy – guy to dismantle the present machine and generate the space that will allow us to begin to rebuild around a whole new set of principles and ideas. Just remember, we all lived through the administrations of George W. Bush. So far, Trump doesn’t even approach the antics of Bush/Cheney.
Almost any change that is substantive enough to reconfigure the system – regardless of where it comes from – is going to be disconcerting to most people. In addition to the uncertainty that is inherent in mega-disruption, effectively adjusting to the as yet unclear new, emerging future requires the personal and institutional skills of agility and resilience, which most have never had the need to acquire. The result is growing apprehension. (The solution, by the way, is to begin the design process now for a new world, so that we can begin to promote and stand up the new framework when it becomes obvious that the old world is irrecoverable.)
Apprehension about the future now dominates the leadership of the world. BREXIT, Trump/Sanders and the growing reaction to refugee immigrants in Europe represent an emerging sea change in the perspectives and reactions of significant sectors of the global population. (Maybe this signals the nascent emergence of the new world.) This “populism” and its uncertain shift away from the previous trends toward globalism framed the most significant discussions at the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The big guys are becoming concerned.
Davos Elites See an ‘Abyss’: The Populist Surge Upending the Status Quo
For the investors and market-movers at the annual World Economic Forum here, a threat lurks.
At cocktail parties where the Champagne flows, financiers have expressed bewilderment over the rise of populist groups that are feeding a backlash against globalization. In the halls of the Davos Congress Center, where many of the meetings this week are taking place, investors have tried to make sense of the political upheaval.
The world order has been upended. As the United States retreats from the promise of free trade, China is taking up the mantle. The stark shift leaves investors trying to assess the new risk and opportunities in the global economy.
“This is the first time there is absolutely no consensus,” said William F. Browder, a co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management who has been coming to Davos for 21 years. “Everyone is looking into the abyss.”
The religion of the global elite — free trade and open markets — is under attack, and there has been a lot of hand-wringing over what Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund has declared a “middle-class crisis.”
But while all attendees in Davos have a view on the state of the world, there is little agreement on how to deal with it.
The biggest concern? Finding a way to make the people who are driving populist movements feel like they are part of the global economic pie that Davos participants have created and largely own. Continue reading the main story
Trump to Look Into CDC and Vaccination Questions
One of the arguably good things that President Trump has done is appoint Robert Kennedy Jr. to head up a panel to assess some of the issues that have been raised about the safety of vaccines. Questions abound about the motivation of the companies that produce the 70-some shots that states like California require be given to all children.
Extraordinary Science and Technology Advancements
The capabilities of sophisticated programing to replace professionals continues. One, a deep learning algorithm outperforms some board-certified dermatologists in diagnosis of skin cancer. A similar application of a sophisticated expert system has shown that computers can compete successfully with most lawyers. Computers can also write articles better than most people.
Scientists turn hydrogen into metal in breakthrough that could revolutionise the planet
For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal. Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of what is the rarest, and possibly most valuable, material on the planet, they reported in the journal Science.
Read more and see short video
But what might this really mean? Read this interesting speculation by Joseph Farrell about the potential of this “new” discovery to point toward the capability of space warp drive.
Metallic Hydrogen, Time Crystals, And Hyper-Dimensional Speculation
Joseph P Farrell – First off, a caveat: by hyper-dimensional speculation I mean something far beyond our usual “high octane” speculation, and perhaps bordering on “sheer fantasy”, but falling just short of it. In any case, this has been one of those weeks where I truly do wish I had a staff that could blog about all the stories I wanted to blog about, because there are so many. Alas, I am only one person, and have to make my selections, but these two stories were at the very top of my list, not only for what they say, but also for their implications, and the context in which they occurred.
Let’s look at the first article that began to flood my email in box about a new type of matter which has just been confirmed: time crystals:
Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals
So, in addition to the usual states of matter – solid, liquid, gas, plasma – we may now add a fifth, the time crystal, or to be more precise: non-equilibrium matter, a form of matter which in its ground state, oscillates, in other words, a regular lattice structure repeated not only in space such as an ordinary crystal like carborundum or diamond, but also in time as well, and this structure apparently exists without the consumption of energy to create motion:
First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.
Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.
But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.
Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.
But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.
Read more . . .
Winter 2017 – Colder and Snowier
Although you won’t read much about it in the mainstream media, the climate is turning colder. More scientists are suggesting that we are entering a mini-ice age and even NASA is starting to agree with that conclusion.
NASA Finally Admits It’s Going to Get Colder
NASA has actually admitted that there may be a link between the solar climate and the earth climate. “[In] recent years, researchers have considered the possibility that the sun plays a role in global warming. After all, the sun is the main source of heat for our planet,” Nasa confirmed. Despite the constant stories of how recent years have been the hottest, historically, NASA has estimated that four of the 10 hottest years in the U.S. were actually during the 1930s, with 1934 the hottest of all. This was the Dust Bowl; the combination of vast dust storms created by drought and hot weather.
Bone Chilling Cold – NASA Knew it was Coming
It was bone chilling cold between 1645 through until 1715 and it was called the Maunder Minimum. SC 24, our present solar cycle, is the weakest since SCs 5, 6 and 7, a time known as the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830). NASA tells us that during these time periods temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere plunged when the Sun entered quiet phases.
During these periods, very few sunspots appeared on the surface of the Sun, and the overall brightness of the Sun decreased slightly, which is exactly what is happening today. Weak solar activity, the weakest in two-hundred years, has already been shown in climate history to have a cooling impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live.
James A. Marusek, Retired U.S. Navy Physicist, tells us that, “The sun changes over time. There are decadal periods when the sun is very active magnetically, producing many sunspots. These periods are referred to as Solar Grand Maxima. And then there are periods when the sun is very weak producing few sunspot. These periods are called Solar Grand Minima. Solar Grand Minima correspond to dark cold glooming periods called Little Ice Ages. And there are states in-between. During most of the 20th century, the sun was in a Solar Grand Maxima. But that came to an abrupt end beginning in July 2000.” Read more
If you don’t believe that it’s really getting colder, check out these videos on the extreme cold weather in Europe here and Japan and Asia here.
We’ll close with a great Danish example of a rather moving attempt to make explicit the obvious connections that each of us has with each other. Everyone should watch this.
The Data That Turned the World Upside Down – (Motherboard – January 28, 2017)
Based on models from Big Data analysis, it is possible to evaluate a person and know them better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook “likes.” Seventy “likes” are enough to outdo what a person’s friends know, 150 what their parents know, and 300 “likes” what their partner knows. More “likes” could even surpass what a person thinks they know about themselves. On the morning of November 10th, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well. The Cambridge Analytica team, apparently only a dozen people, received $100,000 from Trump in July, $250,000 in August, and $5 million in September. According to Nix, the company earned over $15 million overall. (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one article here, read this one. It will change what you know about how the world works.)
Fishing for Clues to Solve Namibia’s Fairy Circle Mystery – (New York Times – January 19, 2017)
Fairy Circles are what scientists call the mysterious bald spots speckled across Namibia’s grasslands. The rings are six feet to 115 feet wide and are regularly spaced out in a hexagon or honeycomb pattern. As their ethereal name would imply, fairy circles have long bewildered researchers as to their origins. But a new study published in the journal Nature seeks to offer some insights into how the enchanting landscapes may have formed. Although the name fairy circles sounds sweet and peaceful, there is passionate scientific disagreement over how they arise. One side suggests that termites, locked in never-ending competition with neighboring colonies, create the circles as they fight for dominance and resources. The other says that perpetually thirsty plants simultaneously assist and compete with their neighbors’ roots, causing the vegetation to “self-organize” into the patterns. “Everyone was focusing on the circles and not what was happening in between them,” said Robert M. Pringle, an ecologist at Princeton and another author on the paper. The next step for the team was to confirm that this second vegetation pattern existed in nature. So they sent Ms. Guyton and Mr. Coverdale, both Princeton graduate students, to Namibia in 2015 with their camera and fishing pole. Ms. Guyton said that each of the grassy patterns was as different as fingerprints, but were mathematically similar. By comparing the photos with their model, the team verified that the second pattern did exist in the grass surrounding the Namibian fairy circles. That finding, they said, confirmed that their mathematics reflected reality and suggested that only by interacting together could insects and plants create the landscape that characterizes Namibian fairy circles.
Lasers Activate Killer Instinct in Mice – (Scientific American – January 12, 2017)
Researchers have found a switch that seems to turn on a mouse’s predatory instincts. When certain parts of the rodents’ brains were stimulated with light, mice displayed a complex array of hunting activities. Predatory behaviors such as grabbing and biting are familiar to fans of nature documentaries, but the brain circuits involved remain a mystery. Previous research found that the central amygdala, an almond-shaped area of the brain involved in producing emotions including fear, was activated when rats hunt. Researchers wanted to know whether the amygdala itself controls hunting behaviors, and a study published on 12 January in Cell suggests that it does. To activate the central amygdala in mice, Ivan de Araujo, a neurobiologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and his colleagues used a technique called optogenetics. First, they infected the mice with a virus that made the neurons in their brains sensitive to blue light. Then, the researchers used a tiny optic fiber to shine a blue laser on the amygdala. This prompted the animals to tense their jaw and neck muscles. The behavior didn’t occur when the researchers stimulated other parts of the brain. When the laser was on, the mice hunted just about everything placed in their paths, from edible treats such as crickets to non-food items like bottle caps. Scientists once thought that the central amygdala’s role in behavior was limited to fear. But research has now shown that this area of the brain is implicated in a number of complex behaviors such as grooming. Predation may be one more example of the many things it can trigger.
This Might Be How Stress and Heart Attacks Are Linked – (CNN – January 11, 2017)
Scientists have long known that stress can influence your heart health, but exactly how this relationship takes place has been something of a mystery — until now. Activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear and stress, can predict your risk for heart disease and stroke, according to a study published in the journal The Lancet. “The study produced several novel findings. It showed, for the first time in animal models or humans, the part of the brain — the amygdala — that links to the risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the cardiac PET/CT program at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was lead author of the study. “The amygdala is a critical component of the brain’s stress network and becomes metabolically active during times of stress,” Tawakol said. The study involved 293 adults who underwent PET and CT scans at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston between 2005 and 2008. The researchers also found that amygdalar activity was associated with increased bone marrow activity and inflammation in the arteries.
Cup of Joe Could Fight Age-Related Inflammation – (Live Science – January 16, 2017)
Caffeine could counteract the inflammation that comes with aging, a new study finds. The difference could come down to just a few cups of coffee a day, according to study co-author and Stanford University professor of microbiology and immunology Mark Davis. The study’s findings may explain why coffee drinkers tend to live longer than those who do not drink coffee. The results showed that the older participants had higher levels of an inflammatory protein, called IL-1-beta, compared with the younger participants. What’s more, among the older participants, those with higher levels of IL-1-beta had a greater risk of stiff arteries, high blood pressure and mortality during the study period, compared with those who had lower levels of this inflammatory protein. The scientists found that injecting mice with substances that increased the production of IL-1-beta triggered large amounts of inflammation and hypertension, supporting the idea of a cause-effect relationship, said Davis. Next, researchers investigated why some older adults showed lower activation of the genes that encode IL-1-beta, and found an interesting correlation: The older participants who reported that they consumed more caffeinated beverages generally showed a lower activation of these inflammation-causing genes. When researchers looked again at the blood samples of the older participants, they found that those whose blood had higher levels of caffeine and its breakdown products showed lower activation of these genes than participants whose blood had lower levels of caffeine and its breakdown products. The researchers noted in their study that lowering chronic inflammation in older people may prevent a number of age-associated diseases, including high blood pressure, stiff arteries and other cardiovascular problems, although more research is needed to confirm this.
Google and Uber Alums Have Created a Doctor’s Office That’s Like an Apple Store Meets ‘Westworld’ – (Business Insider – January 17, 2017)
Somewhere between stepping into a full-body scanner that measures the elasticity of my veins and watching a cup used for urine samples disappear into the bathroom wall, I realize Forward is not your average doctor’s office. It’s like an Apple Store meets “Westworld.” Forward emerged from stealth mode on January 17 to announce the opening of its first doctor’s office in San Francisco. The company offers a futuristic take on the popular concierge medical practice model, complete with state-of-the-art diagnostics tools, an AI system that listens and takes notes for physicians, and a pricey $149 monthly membership. It’s what you get when several dozen former employees of Google, Facebook, Uber, and Palantir put their heads together to reinvent the doctor’s office. Take a look.
Robotic Sleeve ‘Hugs’ Failing Hearts – (BBC News – January 17, 2017)
Scientists based at Harvard and the Boston Children’s Hospital say their soft sleeve is designed to treat people with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly – most commonly because cardiac muscle has been damaged, after a heart attack, for example. It was inspired by the actions and structure of real heart muscle. The silicon-based device stiffens or relaxes when inflated with pressurized air. Fixing it around six pig hearts, scientists found they were able to synchronize the sleeve with each heart’s shape and movements. The study shows the robotic sleeve helped boost the amount of blood being pumped around the body. And when the hearts stopped beating, the sleeves helped restore blood flow. Currently, mechanical devices can be implanted in the heart to help it pump. But because they are in direct contact with heart tissue, the body can react to them – leading to the risk of dangerous blood clots. Researchers argue their sleeve could help cut this risk by “hugging” the outside of the heart rather than being implanted inside it. But they acknowledge their research is still at an early stage and much longer-term animal studies and then human studies would need to be carried out before it could be used in patients.
Sitting Too Long Makes You Fat, Age Faster – (Times of India – January 21, 2017)
New research has found that sitting down for 10 or more hours a day without regular exercise can make a person’s cells age prematurely. The UC San Diego study looked at nearly 1,500 women aged between 64 and 95. It found the cells of women who sit for over 10 hours and do less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day are biologically eight years older than women who are less sedentary. The women with biologically older cells had shorter telomeres which are found at the end of DNA strands and help to protect chromosomes from deterioration. The shortening of telomeres is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers. “Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said Dr Aladdin Shadyab, lead author, at the department of family medicine and public health at the university’s school of medicine. “We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” he added.
Extra Letters Added to Life’s Genetic Code – (BBC News – January 24, 2017)
The blueprint for all life forms on Earth is written in a code consisting of four “letters”: A, T, C and G, which pair up in the DNA double helix. But now a lab organism has been modified to use an additional two, giving it a genetic code of six letters. Researchers hope the work could lead to bugs that can help manufacture new classes of drugs to treat disease. The team from the US, China and France have published their work in PNAS journal. Previous research had shown that an “unnatural base pair” (UBP), consisting of two synthetic letters called X and Y, could be incorporated into the DNA of Escherichia coli bacteria. But the resulting bugs grew slowly, and the UBP was expunged after several rounds of cell division. Now, Prof Floyd Romesberg, from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues, have shown that their single-celled organism can hold on indefinitely to the synthetic base pair as it divides. “We’ve made this semisynthetic organism more life-like. We can now get the light of life to stay on,” said Prof. Romesberg. “That suggests that all of life’s processes can be subject to manipulation.”
‘Automated Dermatologist’ Detects Skin Cancer with Expert Accuracy – (CNN – January 26, 2017)
Even though the phrase “image recognition technologies” conjures visions of high-tech surveillance, these tools may soon be used in medicine more than in spycraft. A team of Stanford researchers has trained a computer to identify images of skin cancer moles and lesions as accurately as a dermatologist. In the future, this new research suggests, a simple cell phone app may help patients diagnose a skin cancer — the most common of all cancers in the United States — for themselves. Sebastian Thrun, senior author of the new study, began by coaching a computer to develop pattern recognition skills. The method they used is an algorithm-based technique known as “deep learning.” Specifically, the research team employed a convolutional neural network. Cancerous and noncancerous skin aberrations vary greatly in appearance from patient to patient. To overcome this difficulty, the researchers presented the now-trained — or “artificially intelligent” — computer with an extensive dataset of 129,450 images representing more than 2,000 skin diseases. The images came from 18 doctor-curated online repositories as well as the Stanford University Medical Center. Since each image of a mole or abrasion had been diagnosed, the computer was fed this information as well. After training, the computer was able to diagnose multiple different kinds of skin cancer, not just melanoma, and do this with regular clinical images, rather than with specialized dermoscopic images. Its performance equaled the accuracy of 21 dermatologists.
First Human-pig Embryos Made, Then Destroyed – (CNN – January 26, 2017)
To grow human organs within animal bodies has long been the dream of scientists wanting to provide transplantable hearts, lungs, kidneys and other organs for patients in need. And a glimpse of possible success in this elusive goal has been recently seen. Using stem cell technologies, researchers generated human cells and human tissues in the embryos of pigs and cattle. Their research appeared in the journal Cell. Despite this milestone, integrating cells from human and animal species is proving difficult, and developing human organs remains at a considerable distance, said Dr. Jun Wu, a staff scientist in the gene expression laboratory at the Salk Institute and first author of the research. In the current study, Belmonte, Wu and their colleagues used gene-editing techniques known as CRISPR/Cas9 to generate mice embryos lacking a pancreas. Then they inserted rat stem cells that contained a gene for the pancreas into these mutant embryos. Once implanted, the stem cells developed into a rat pancreas within a mouse embryo that ultimately (and importantly) grew into a healthy mouse with a normal lifespan. Taking their idea a few steps further, the researchers used the same method to develop rat eyes and rat hearts within mice embryos. After the rat-mice experiments, the team turned its focus to human stem cells. They began by generating different types of human induced pluripotent stem cells — when adult cells are turned back into stem cells — and inserting them into pig embryos. Though the experiment with human stem cells was interrupted at 28 days, it remains the first reported case in which human stem cells have begun to grow within another species. The primary funding came from private Spanish sources because the U.S. National Institutes of Health has suspended funding for some research over ethical concerns.
Gadget Mountain Rising in Asia Threatens Health, Environment – (U.S. News – January 15, 2017)
The waste from discarded electronic gadgets and electrical appliances has reached severe levels in East Asia, posing a growing threat to health and the environment unless safe disposal becomes the norm. China was the biggest culprit with its electronic waste more than doubling, according to a new study by the United Nations University. On average, electronic waste in the 12 countries in the study had increased by nearly two thirds in the five years, totaling 12.3 million tons in 2015 alone. Rising incomes in Asia, burgeoning populations of young adults, rapid obsolescence of products due to technological innovation and changes in fashion, on top of illegal global trade in waste, are among factors driving the increases. Asia as a whole is the biggest market for electronics and appliances, accounting for nearly half of global sales by volume, and produces the most waste. (Editor’s note: Asia as a whole is the world’s biggest market, period.) Only South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have long established recycling systems based on laws introduced in the 1990s. Open dumping of lead- and mercury-laden components, open burning of plastics to release encased copper and unsafe backyard operations to extract precious metals are the norm in most countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia, which also lack laws governing the treatment of electronic and electrical waste. Backyard recyclers are after gold, silver, palladium and copper, mainly from printed circuit boards, but the crude acid bath extraction process releases toxic fumes and is also inefficient, recovering only a portion of the valuable material. A smartphone, for example, uses more than half the elements in the periodic table, some of which are very rare, and in the longer-run will be exhausted without recycling.
IKEA Flat-pack Refugee Shelter Wins Design of the Year 2016 – (January 26, 2017)
Selected as the winner of the architecture category, IKEA’s Better Shelter beat five other category winners to claim the overall prize for its “outstanding contribution towards the global issue of population displacement”. The IKEA Foundation launched its flat-pack emergency shelter back in 2013 to offer an alternative to the tents often used to house refugees and displaced people, of which there are now more than 65 million worldwide. Designed to last three years, the shed-like structure is made of lightweight polymer panels laminated with thermal insulation, each of which clip onto a steel frame. “Better Shelter tackles one of the defining issues of the moment: providing shelter in an exceptional situation whether caused by violence and disaster,” said jury member Jana Scholze of Kingston University. See here for more details about the flat-pack shelter.
The Colossal African Solar Farm That Could Power Europe – (BBC News – November 23, 2016)
In the Moroccan desert, hundreds of curved mirrors, each as big as a bus, are ranked in rows covering 15 million square feet of desert, an area the size of 200 football fields. The massive complex sits on a sun-blasted site at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, 6 miles from Ouarzazate – a city nicknamed the door to the desert. With around 330 days of sunshine a year, it’s an ideal location. As well as meeting domestic needs, Morocco hopes one day to export solar energy to Europe. This is a plant that could help define Africa’s – and the world’s – energy future. The Moroccan site is one of several across Africa and similar plants are being built in the Middle East – in Jordan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The falling cost of solar power has made it a viable alternative to oil even in the most oil-rich parts of the world. Noor 1, the first phase of the Moroccan plant, has already surpassed expectations in terms of the amount of energy it has produced. It is an encouraging result in line with Morocco’s goal to reduce its fossil fuel bill by focusing on renewables while still meeting growing energy needs that are increasing by about 7% per year. On sunny days, the reflectors can be heard as they move together to follow the Sun like a giant field of sunflowers. The mirrors focus the Sun’s energy onto a synthetic oil that flows through a network of pipes. Reaching temperatures up to 350C (662F), the hot oil is used to produce high-pressure water vapor that drives a turbine-powered generator. “It’s the same classic process used with fossil fuels, except that we are using the Sun’s heat as the source,” says Rachid Bayed at the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy.
World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind – (Bloomberg – December 15, 2016)
A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity. This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This year has seen a remarkable run for solar power. Auctions, where private companies compete for massive contracts to provide electricity, established record after record for cheap solar power. It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. That’s record-cheap electricity—roughly half the price of competing coal power. When all the 2016 completions are tallied in coming months, it’s likely that the total amount of solar photovoltaics added globally will exceed that of wind for the first time.
China Air Pollution Update: Government Halts Construction of 104 Coal Plants for Green Alternatives – (IB Times – January 17, 2017)
The Chinese government ordered the suspension of 104 new coal power plants from being built, signifying the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gasses commitment to curbing air pollution in the country, according to Reuters. The country’s National Energy Administration said it would invest $365 billion into renewable energy alternatives. Government officials said the alternatives energy generators would be made up of hydro, solar and nuclear plants. They predicted these sources would eventually comprise 50% of the country’s energy by 2020. The fuel from the burning of coal currently accounts for the majority of China’s power supply. This shift in energy sources would reportedly create 13 million jobs for people living in the 13 regions where the construction of these factories was halted. See also: Beijing Spending $2.7 Billion to Clean Up Air Pollution. More than 2,000 factories will be upgraded or closed while 300,000 high-polluting vehicles will be phased out as the Chinese capital looks for visible improvements in its air quality.
Let’s Face It: The American Way of Driving Is Over – (Wired – January 5, 2017)
For decades, the car has been the all-American signifier of who you are, a declaration of independence, a place where you are master. Now American innovation is leaving this tradition in the dust. Ride hailing, self driving, data mining: Technology is taking the wheel. Enjoy the ride. This article outlines 5 upcoming trends. 1. Self-driving cars will be everywhere. There are honest-to-goodness self-driving Ubers ferrying passengers in Pittsburgh; Baidu’s fleet of autonomous electric taxis is zipping around Wuzhen, China; and commuters in England and Sweden will start whizzing along the highways in Volvo carbots. 2. You will be tracked Insurance companies will use smart dashcams and tracking devices to adjust your rates. And now that electric vehicles pose an existential threat to gas taxes, state governments will experiment with mileage-based taxation. See three other trends in the article.
The Country Where Unwanted Food Is Selling Out – (BBC News – January 24, 2017)
On a chilly summer’s night in the centre of Copenhagen, a crowd gathers around the entrance of a restaurant called Dalle Valle. It’s 10:30pm and the dinner buffet is winding up and the kitchens are about to close. But these people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, are here for the food that the diners inside didn’t want. Dalle Valle is one of hundreds of restaurants and cafes listed in an app called Too Good To Go, which lets you order takeaway food that would otherwise be thrown away, for knock-down prices. It’s an example of many social initiatives set up in the last few years to address the growing problem of food waste. And in Denmark, they are leading the world. Across Europe, 100m tons of food a year ends up in landfills. And it’s not just a problem in rich countries. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that roughly the same amount of food goes to waste in developing nations as industrialized ones: around 630 and 670m tons respectively. In all, a third of the food produced for human consumption each year – a trillion dollar’s worth – goes in the bin. Now Denmark is showing other countries what can be done. It has reduced its food waste by 25% in the last five years. Its success is largely down to changing shoppers’ habits. Last year two branches of a supermarket called WeFood opened in Copenhagen. The shops only sell food that has passed its sell-by date. And smartphone apps that direct hungry people to surplus food have been set up in several countries. “An increasing number of social enterprises are popping up all over Europe,” says Tania Burnham at Too Good To Go. “With the average mobile phone user checking their phone every six seconds, it’s never been easier to interact with their target market.”
Patagonia Wants to Refurbish Your Old Clothes and Sell Them to Someone Else – (Fast Company – January 27, 2017)
If you have an old Patagonia jacket or sweater in your closet that you no longer wear, Patagonia now wants it back. In a new take-back program that will launch in April, the company will begin offering store credit for used (but still usable) clothing. At its repair facility in Reno, California—the largest garment repair center in North America—it will wash used clothes with a new waterless technology that helps restore the fabric, and then make any needed repairs. The refurbished garment will be sold on Patagonia’s website. Patagonia has long offered repairs—if a shirt you bought in 1983 tears in 2017, they’ll fix it (for a small fee). Promoting reuse between customers was a logical next step, in line with the company’s aim to limit environmental harm. It’s possible that the company might sell fewer new clothes if refurbished versions are available a click away. But Patagonia isn’t concerned about losing profit. When the company initially asked customers to buy less in 2011, it experimented with various programs, including a partnership to help people resell old Patagonia clothing on eBay. At the time, the company launched a new program called Common Threads, which promoted four “Rs”—recycling, reusing, repairing, and reducing consumption. In 2013, the program was rebranded as Worn Wear, and the company decided to focus on one “R” at a time, beginning with repair. The repair facility in Reno hired more staff, retail stores opened simple repair centers on site, and the Patagonia website added 45 videos teaching consumers how to fix zippers, sew buttons, and make other DIY repairs. In 2015, the company started sending a converted diesel truck around the country on a mobile repair tour. With the new take-back model, Patagonia will move into a phase of focusing on reuse as well. The repair and refurbish model would be unlikely to work if Patagonia didn’t also design clothing to last.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
For the Next Election, Don’t Recount the Vote. Encrypt It – (Wired – January 27, 2017)
The 2016 election wasn’t a sterling display of American democracy. For computer scientist Ben Adida, the most troubling part came afterward, when voting security experts and Green Party candidate Jill Stein called for a recount of the vote in three thin-margin swing states, raised millions of dollars to do it—and still mostly failed. While Stein successfully triggered a Wisconsin recount, federal judges in Pennsylvania and Michigan put an early stop to her efforts. In the latter case, a judge ruled that Stein had “not presented evidence of tampering or mistake” in the electronic voting machines. It was a vexing catch-22, says Adida, an engineer and applied cryptographer at the education startup Clever. If the Michigan vote was tainted, the paper backup ballots Stein wanted to recount were the evidence that could prove it. But Stein didn’t have any evidence to justify looking at the evidence. At the upcoming Enigma security conference in Oakland, Adida will make the case for a decade-old voting system that provides that inherent evidence, what Adida and other voting security experts call “end-to-end verification.” Since 2007, thousands of people, including organizations like the Association of Computing Machinery and Greenpeace, have used Adida’s election software, called Helios to solve that core problem. Helios encrypts every vote, and then publishes an online list of encrypted results by voter in a form that allows anyone from an election-monitoring organization to individual voters themselves to check the results. Now that same system will be put into practice for the first time in actual government: A voting scheme, known as STAR-Vote—for Secure, Transparent, Auditable, and Reliable—uses a similar cryptographic system to Helios, but with real, physical voting machines and ballots. One Texas county is even set to implement it before the 2020 presidential election.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Astoundingly Complex Visualization Untangles Trump’s Business Ties – (Wired – January 27, 2017) Before Donald Trump was the president, he was a businessman. He came to office leading a vast business enterprise that includes real estate, casinos, and a lucrative branding operation. “The network is huge,” says designer Kim Albrecht, whose riveting data visualization Trump Connections attempts to untangle it all. Albrecht used data from BuzzFeed’s TrumpWorld investigation into the president’s 1,500-odd business connections to create two visualizations. The first places Trump at the center of an enormous web. The other, which resembles a family tree, deconstructs that network person by person, business by business. “It’s a complete mess if you look at the entire dataset,” Albrecht says. Anyone with more than one connection is bolded and hyperlinked, dropping you into a rabbit hole of connections. Clicking on Josh Kushner (Jared’s brother), leads to page listing familiar tech companies he’s involved in. Click on Melania Trump and you’ll see all the way’s she’s connected to her husband’s businesses. Albrecht doesn’t offer any commentary on the data, only a means of making a massive dataset accessible to anyone interested in reaching their own conclusions.
All Aboard China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Express – (Foreign Policy – January 4, 2017)
China’s “New Silk Road” just got a glitzy new route: a freight train service from the Zheijang province in eastern China all the way to London. China Railway Corp. has announced the departure of the first train from Yiwu, a city of 1 million near Shanghai. It’s an impressive logistical feat, connecting 7,500 miles of rails to reach one of Europe’s largest capitals in 16 days. More importantly, the Yiwu-London line lays bare the geopolitical ambitions underpinning China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy that aims to re-create the ancient “Silk Road” trade route that connected China with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Until recently a U.S. ambition to help bring security to Central Asia, this “New Silk Road” could take on even more importance if the U.S.-China trade relationship goes south, as early and hawkish postures by President Donald Trump and his team have indicated. China’s goal of connecting Asia to Europe over the old Silk Road heartlands goes by many names, including the “Belt and Road Initiative.” The idea is to make it easier to trade with 65 countries that represent 60% of the world’s population. China, suffering from overcapacity in plenty of key sectors from steel to cement, is looking for new markets to keep its economy growing at a healthy clip. “What China is doing is exporting its own labor and construction equipment,” said Simeon Djankov, former Bulgarian finance minister and World Bank official.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich – (New Yorker – January 30, 2017)
How did a preoccupation with the apocalypse come to flourish in Silicon Valley, a place known, to the point of cliché, for unstinting confidence in its ability to change the world for the better? Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures, Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm, said. “When you do that, it’s pretty common that you take things ad infinitum, and that leads you to utopias and dystopias,” he said. Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort. In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, said, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” In considerable detail, this article explores the attitudes and actions taken by numerous tech moguls and fund managers, along with an occasional glimpse of the real estate involved, stretching from condos in renovated missile silos to spreads in New Zealand. It makes for interesting reading, but if you get bogged down part way through the article, skip to near the end and take in Steward Brand’s opinions. Here’s a taste of his thinking: “At seventy-seven, living on a tugboat in Sausalito, Brand is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience.”
‘Cognitive Dance Party’ Brings AI to the Club – (CNN – January 25, 2017)
Daybreaker — the organization that holds morning dance parties, which start with a 6 a.m. workout — partnered with IBM for the first “cognitive dance party,” powered by artificial intelligence engine Watson. Watson is used in hospitals, banks and classrooms, but the company showed off its playful side for hundreds of early risers in the Bay Area. The system assigned workouts, powered the dance floor, created breakfast recipes, and pulled data from social media as an LED sun rose inside. Upon registering, participants used Watson’s Personality Insights service to analyze their strongest personality traits based on tweets or a short survey. Each personality received a color — purple for conscientious, red for outgoing and yellow for expressive. Dancers wore their colors to the event. Color groups also designated specialized fitness activities before the dance party. Yoga for the purple participants, capoeira for reds and high-intensity interval training for the yellow crew. Chef Watson, the company’s AI-powered cooking assistant, created color-coded recipes. The dance floor was illuminated by everyone’s “energy.” colors. Meanwhile, a “sun” rose on the dance floor and changed colors based on the sentiment of the morning’s tweets. Although it may sound strange to wake up early and go dancing, Daybreaker goers find it invigorating. Daybreakers are also gaining in popularity around the world, from Boston and New York to Shanghai.
What Finland’s Plan To Be Tobacco-free Can Teach the World – (CNN – January 26, 2017)
The Finnish government has set an ambitious goal for residents in a bid to benefit their health — and their bank balances. Officials plan to make the country tobacco-free by 2040, meaning they want less than 2% of their adults to consume tobacco — in any form — by that deadline. “The Finnish approach is revolutionary,” said Kaari Paaso, head of the unit on harm prevention at the country’s Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. “We want to get rid of all tobacco products.” “The evidence suggests increasing pricing is the single most effective way to reduce demand,” said Vaughan Rees, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So Finland has now introduced another giant financial barrier for users: It increased the costs for vendors selling tobacco products. What Finland’s plan to be tobacco-free can teach the world”There’s quite a high fee to license it and to sell it,” Paaso said. Any business wanting to sell tobacco must first apply and pay for a license, a one-off process, but an additional fee must be paid annually to cover the costs of surveillance officers in each municipality who will check that retailers are following the rules. The surveillance fee is the killer, as this is calculated per checkout or cashier in any business and can be as high as €500 ($536) annually per checkout.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Gaming Tech That May Help Find Alien Life – (BBC News – January 23, 2017)
The iconic Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia has witnessed the birth and death of star systems, unraveled cosmic mysteries and even relayed the first live TV pictures of astronauts on the Moon. Since its first observations in 1961, the technology has been continuously upgraded. Well, most of it. “We’ve recently upgraded the computer,” says operations scientist John Sarkissian from the Australian national science agency, Csiro (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization). “We’ve stuck an Apple sticker on it.” “It doesn’t have an operating system, so it doesn’t crash,” says Sarkissian. This beige box with three switches and ‘Digital’ printed helpfully on the front, has been running without incident since 1982. And it will soon be operating alongside the latest generation of processing technology. That technology is being used for a major new search for extraterrestrial life known as Breakthrough Listen. The global project, involving radio telescopes around the world, is backed by billionaire Yuri Milner and supported by Stephen Hawking. From early 2017, detecting possible alien signals from space will take up a quarter of the Parkes observation time. Ideally an alien race would transmit a pure tone or beacon across the cosmos to anyone who might be listening. But, if they are anything like us, a more likely scenario is that they will accidentally alert us to their presence. And that requires new hardware to make sense of the transmission. “If you’re looking for a signal from a distant planet that’s not intended to be received then you might look at the sort of signals that would be visible from Earth,” says Reynolds. “One might be the GPS signal – that’s a complex signal that doesn’t pop out in a simple display and requires a lot of processing.” What are the chances then of this project succeeding where others have drawn a blank? “One of the fundamental problems with being involved in this is the low probability of success,” admits Reynolds. “There’s not much question that we’re not alone in the universe. If we look hard enough we’ll find it… it’s just a question of when.”
China’s Birthrate Rises after One-child Policy Loosened – (Fox News – January 24, 2017)
The number of births in China has risen nearly 8% in the year after the government loosened its unpopular one-child policy. China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission said that 17.86 million children were born last year, an increase of 1.31 million from 2015. Nearly half of the children born were to couples who already had a child, the commission said. China enacted its one-child policy in 1979 to control population growth, enforced with fines and in some cases state-mandated abortions. But it now faces a rapidly aging workforce and the prospect of not having enough younger workers to support them. It has gradually allowed more exemptions to the policy, such as allowing rural couples to have a second child if their first was a girl, before moving to let all married couples to have two children beginning in 2016. The commission acknowledged that families remain reluctant to have a second child for financial reasons, with spiraling real estate costs and the intense demand for places in China’s best schools driving many parents to high-priced private institutions.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Bioprinting Shows Us Some More Skin – (New Atlas – January 23, 2017)
If a new bioprinter developed in Spain lives up to the hype, skin grafts taken from a person’s own body may become a thing of the past. Created by a team at Carlos III University of Madrid, the machine is reportedly capable of 3D-printing sheets of functional human skin for use in research … or for transplants. While the details of how it works are being kept under wraps, the bioprinter is claimed to use bio-inks made up of plasma, proteins, skin cells and other biological components. A computer is used to selectively deposit these bio-inks on a print bed, in a precise manner. If the skin is being made for research purposes (such as the testing of cosmetics or pharmaceuticals), any human skin cells can be used. If it’s being made for transplant, however, then the patient’s own cells will be required. A sufficient number of them have to first be grown in a lab, in a process that takes approximately two weeks. After that, the actual printing takes one to two days.
Hydrogen Turned into Metal in Stunning Act of Alchemy That Could Revolutionize Technology and Spaceflight – (Independent – January 27, 2017)
For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal. Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of what is the rarest, and possibly most valuable, material on the planet, they reported in the journal Science. Metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionize technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity. And it could also allow humanity to explore outer space as never before. But the prospect of this bright future could be at risk if the scientists’ next step – to establish whether the metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures – fails to go as hoped. At the moment the tiny piece of metal can only be seen through two diamonds that were used to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature far below freezing. The amount of pressure needed was immense – more than is found at the centre of the Earth. See also: Physicists Might Have Made a Mistake in Claiming to Have Turned Hydrogen into a Metal, Experts Say. (Editor’s note: We certainly do not have the ability to evaluate this research and do not know if the claim by Harvard researchers of having produced metallic hydrogen is accurate or not. However, we were interested to note that the claim is being vigorously contested in an article that questions the validity of the research based on the opinions of various “experts” – not one of whom is actually named in that article. )
Physicists Have Found a Metal That Conducts Electricity but Not Heat – (Science Alert – January 27, 2017)
Researchers have identified a metal that conducts electricity without conducting heat – an incredibly useful property that defies our current understanding of how conductors work. The metal contradicts something called the Wiedemann-Franz Law, which basically states that good conductors of electricity will also be proportionally good conductors of heat, which is why things like motors and appliances get so hot when you use them regularly. But a team in the US has shown that this isn’t the case for metallic vanadium dioxide (VO2) – a material that’s already well known for its strange ability to switch from a see-through insulator to a conductive metal at the temperature of 152 degrees Fahrenheit. “This was a totally unexpected finding,” said lead researcher Junqiao Wu, from Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “It shows a drastic breakdown of a textbook law that has been known to be robust for conventional conductors. This discovery is of fundamental importance for understanding the basic electronic behavior of novel conductors.” Not only does this unexpected property change what we know about conductors, it could also be incredibly useful – the metal could one day be used to convert wasted heat from engines and appliances back into electricity, or even create better window coverings that keep buildings cool.
Something Else Amazon Delivers – (Chicago Business – January 14, 2017)
Amazon is shouting from the rooftops that robots and drones aren’t taking over anytime soon. The e-commerce giant is embarking on a (human) hiring spree, both here and across the country, as it races to build out the network of warehouses that enable same-day and next-day deliveries to its tens of millions of Prime members. For example, i Illinois, where it had no warehouse presence as recently as 2015, Amazon is trying to make up for lost time. In the past two years, the company has opened five fulfillment centers and announced four more under construction. Once they’re complete later this year, Amazon says, the sites will employ 7,000 full-timers. That raises the question: Just how good are these Amazon jobs? They’re not the $20-an-hour manufacturing jobs that have been evaporating for years—but they’re also better than nothing, especially for a workforce that’s not college educated. Amazon pays between $11 and $13 an hour at its local fulfillment centers, whereas typical warehouse wages here span $10 to $14, according to industry sources and staffing professionals.
The Letter the World’s Largest Investor, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Just Sent to CEOs Everywhere – (Business Insider – January 24, 2017)
Larry Fink, the chief executive at BlackRock, which with $5.1 trillion is the world’s biggest investor, just sent his annual letter to chief executives at S&P 500 companies and large European corporations. Fink focused on how to think long-term in this “new world” that has negated all the assumptions investors had a year ago about, for example, who would be the US president. “Over the past 12 months, many of the assumptions on which those [corporate strategic] plans were based – including sustained low inflation and an expectation for continued globalization – have been upended. Brexit is reshaping Europe; upheaval in the Middle East is having global consequences; the U.S. is anticipating reflation, rising rates, and renewed growth; and President Trump’s fiscal, tax and trade policies will further impact the economic landscape. At the root of many of these changes is a growing backlash against the impact globalization and technological change are having on many workers and communities. I remain a firm believer that the overall benefits of globalization have been significant, and that global companies play a leading role in driving growth and prosperity for all. However, there is little doubt that globalization’s benefits have been shared unequally, disproportionately benefitting more highly skilled workers, especially those in urban areas.” Article includes complete text of letter.
How Does Your Favorite News Source Rate on the ‘Truthiness’ Scale? Consult This Chart – (MarketWatch – December 17, 2016)
Patent attorney Vanessa Otero recently fanned the flames of the fake news debate when she re-posted a chart on Facebook breaking down various sources by reliability and political viewpoint. Since then, her illustration has been shared thousands of times across social media and even landed on one of the “news” sites she labeled as “utter garbage.” See her chart in the article. Otero received plenty of kudos for her work but, as one might expect, she was also hammered with some criticism. Specifically Infowars didn’t take too kindly to its position on the chart. This is how the right-wing website responded: “We’ve created our own news chart depicting how most leftist mainstream media sites promote tyranny, while the conservative ‘garbage’ sites on the previous map actually promote liberty and freedom.” See their chart in the article. In the face of the backlash, Otero explained her thought process, and even offered a blank version that everybody could edit as they see fit. “I respectfully submit that if you make your own, you should be able to place at least one source in each of the vertical columns, because they exist, and at least one in each of the horizontal rows, because they also exist,” she wrote. “If you have just a couple sources that you think are in the middle but none exist either to the right or left of them, or up or down from them, you may be on the wrong track.” See also this article, An Extremely Helpful List of Fake and Misleading News Sites to Watch Out For. The extensive list of No-no-news-sites referred to in the article is here. (Editor’s note: You probably have never encountered most of these sites (the list is very long) – and some may be on your “top 10 must read” list. As the phrase goes: “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” One person’s truth is someone else’s nonsense. At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
How Being Bored Out of Your Mind Makes You More Creative – (Wired – January 25, 2017) What if it turns out that ennui is good for us? What if boredom is a meaningful experience—one that propels us to states of deeper thoughtfulness or creativity? That’s the conclusion of two fascinating recent studies. In one, researchers asked a group of subjects to do something boring, like copying out numbers from a phone book, and then take tests of creative thinking, such as devising uses for a pair of cups. The result? Bored subjects came up with more ideas than a nonbored control group, and their ideas were often more creative. In a second study, subjects who took an “associative thought” word test came up with more answers when they’d been forced to watch a dull screensaver. “Boredom becomes a seeking state,” says Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Lench. “What you’re doing now is not satisfying. So you’re seeking, you’re engaged.” The problem, the psychologists worry, is that these days we don’t wrestle with these slow moments. We eliminate them. “We try to extinguish every moment of boredom in our lives with mobile devices,” says Sandi Mann, the psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire who ran one of the experiments. This might relieve us temporarily, but it shuts down the deeper thinking that can come from staring down the doldrums. Noodling on your phone is “like eating junk food,” she says. So here’s an idea: Instead of always fleeing boredom, lean into it. Sometimes, anyway.
Study Finds That Kids Basically Like Their Pets More Than Their Siblings – (Refinery 29 – January 30, 2017) It’s nice when science confirms something we’ve kind of always felt all along. Specifically, research from Cambridge University found that kids get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than they do relationships with their siblings. (Does anyone who grew up with a dog disagree? Didn’t think so.) The study focused on 12-year-old children from 77 different households, each with one or more pets and one or more children. Relative to their siblings, these 12-year-olds reported having stronger relationships with their pets, and researchers aren’t surprised. ”Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” said leader of the study Matt Cassells, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry. “We wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties. Ultimately this may enable us to understand how animals contribute to healthy child development.”
JUST FOR FUN
One Photo, 126 Frames, 2 Billion Leaves, 247 Feet – (National Geographic – December 13, 2012)
Those numbers represent data points on “The President”, a giant sequoia. The tree is more than three millennia old, and contains about “54,000 cubic feet of wood and bark,” according to National Geographic magazine. To put that in perspective: The tree was already 700 years old during the height of ancient Greece’s civilization and 1200 years old when Jesus lived. It’s not quite the largest tree on Earth. It’s the second largest. Two other sequoias have wider trunks, but none has a larger crown. The photograph of this august tree is a composite of 126 frames and is first time that the tree can be seen at once in its glorious entirety.
A FINAL QUOTE
My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there – Charles F. Kettering (American engineer, inventor of the electric starter, 1876-1958)
A special thanks to: JoAnn Carpenter, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks. [email protected]
Edited by John L. Petersen