Volume 20, Number 04 – 02/15/17

Volume 20, Number 04 – 02/15/17       


Researchers say they can predict with a 90% accuracy whether some infants under the age of 1 will actually develop autism in their second year.

Facebook AI Lumos can find photos of you, even those you are not tagged in.

Researchers have developed a terahertz transmitter capable of transmitting digital data over a single channel at a speed of 105 gigabits per second, more than 100 times faster than the fastest public internet connection in the U.S.

Finland will become the first country in the world to get rid of all school subjects.

by John L. Petersen

Acclaimed Mentalist Alain Nu returning to Berkeley Springs

Last year, one of our most appreciated events at Berkeley Springs Transition Talks was metaphysical mentalist Alain Nu. The highlight, of course, was when he got a third of the crowd to bend spoons or forks with only their minds after just 10 minutes of instruction. People were talking about it for weeks afterwards.

So it’s exciting to announce: Alain is coming back! “The Man Who Knows” will be here on March the 11th at 2pm for a performance that we promise will be most memorable.

Nu, who has performed internationally before crowds at casinos, business conventions, exclusive private parties and educational groups believes that there are natural – although largely undeveloped – capabilities that all humans have that appear to be magic to most of us but really aren’t. Using scientific explanations gleaned from researchers like Rupert Sheldrake and Larry Dossey he demonstrates – in a highly entertaining way – a string of capabilities that seem impossible, leaving you knowing that some weren’t “magic” after all – but still wondering how he did it.

I met Alain at a scientific conference where, in the matter of 30 minutes he had a room full of PhD’s and academics who had never done so before bending spoons and forks. Then, after catching his act at a sold-out theatre in Baltimore it was clear that we needed to have him come and demonstrate his skills at a Transition Talk, where folks would particularly appreciate his unique mixture of the seemingly sacred and profane.

Come and bring a spoon or fork. Perhaps you’ll find out that you have powers that you didn’t think you did!

Click here for reservation information. Interview

I recently did an hour-long interview with Benjamin Butler of It was an interesting, wide-ranging conversation that started with the present political situation and then took off in a number of other directions. You can find it here.

Fake News

There’s a lot of talk about “fake news” these days. This is the Internet-world, after all, so you certainly need to be sensitive to the credibility of almost everything you read or see! But, from this vantage, it looks like the sources of the most influential fake news are the mainstream media under the influence of certain government actors. Various elements within the government sometimes lie, trying to gain political advantage in one way or another and these days, and the mainstream media unquestioningly carries their water to the public. For confirmation of that, see this video clip about Amber Lyon, a three-time Emmy award winning journalist, who said that CNN is routinely paid by the US government and foreign governments to selectively report on certain events and make up fake news stories.

In the following case, it appears that certain political groups and elements of the intelligence community have been using the moniker to try to suppress those alternative news sources who were telling the truth – to larger and larger audiences. What’s your understanding of recent political developments in Ukraine? If you believe that the Russians invaded the country and stole the Crimea, then you’ve been misled by official “fake news”. Here’s a review of a documentary on the subject that hews to the truth. (Keep this in mind when you hear on the news about how the Russians hacked our election,)

A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See: Ukraine On Fire by Oliver Stone

It is not very often that a documentary film can set a new paradigm about a recent event, let alone, one that is still in progress. But the new film Ukraine on Fire has the potential to do so – assuming that many people get to see it.

Usually, documentaries — even good ones — repackage familiar information in a different aesthetic form. If that form is skillfully done, then the information can move us in a different way than just reading about it.

A good example of this would be Peter Davis’s powerful documentary about U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Hearts and Minds. By 1974, most Americans understood just how bad the Vietnam War was, but through the combination of sounds and images, which could only have been done through film, that documentary created a sensation, which removed the last obstacles to America leaving Indochina.

Ukraine on Fire has the same potential and could make a contribution that even goes beyond what the Davis film did because there was very little new information in Hearts and Minds. Especially for American and Western European audiences, Ukraine on Fire could be revelatory in that it offers a historical explanation for the deep divisions within Ukraine and presents information about the current crisis that challenges the mainstream media’s paradigm, which blames the conflict almost exclusively on Russia. Read rest of article

When Real News Is Attacked by Government, the End is Near

If you’re really interested in seriously anticipating futures, you need to follow Martin Armstrong. This is a guy who developed a computer-based forecasting program some 20 years ago that was so good that the intelligence community told him they wanted it. When he refused to give or sell it to them they trumped up charges against him and had him thrown in prison.

Armstrong says that: Socrates is an advanced AI platform capable of observing every market around the world to track changes in international capital flows and concentration. Based on our trusted models and extensive database, Socrates provides users with access to unique analyses and proprietary market indicators that can assist in identifying market opportunities in advance.

When he got out they asked again for the code. Again he refused. Again he found himself in prison. He spent a total of about 12 years in prison because he wouldn’t give his property to the government. He’s out now and his Socrates program is better at straight forecasting than any other private capability in the world.

Martin Armstrong opines daily at and his usually brief perspectives are both unusually insightful and predictive. Take a look at When Real News Is Attacked by Government, The End Is Near.

Much of the news is not only manipulated but is, as Martin Armstrong said, very biased. As a result, there are many well-meaning people who are caught up in a variety of efforts to unseat our president (who has only been in office for four weeks), who clearly are not aware of the true nature of the underlying struggle that is taking place between factions within our government who want to protect the status quo and an undeniably flawed, but significant attempt by a new administration to disrupt the “deep state”.

This is a very big deal that has the distinct possibility of exposing deep and pervasive networks within the leadership of our government and economy that are clearly evil. At the least, it would be wise to back away, wait a little, and see how this all plays out.

This has all of the indications of being very surprising.

by: John Burroughs (1837-1921)

ERENE, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For, lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me

“Waiting” is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

Universal Basic Income

As mentioned above, the very structures of our present system are under assault on a number of fronts. As a result, there are interesting and good byproducts of the structural change. For example, the idea of giving everyone a basic living income, no matter what they do (or not), flies in the face of some of the most basic notions of value and society that the developed world embraces. Nevertheless, emerging technology – like 3D printers, and ultimately, artificial general intelligence – are clearly threatening the principles of capitalism that suggest that you should only really get paid for what you earn. The changing job environment is moving rapidly toward increasingly fewer jobs and hence, now people like Elon Musk are speaking out about the inevitability of Universal Basic Income. Read article here

Vaccines and Autism

Robert Kennedy Jr. has been tapped by Donald Trump to head a commission to look into the reported negative effects of some vaccines. If you are convinced that vaccines are necessarily safe, please read this summary of a 7 minute talk that Kennedy gave about the Centers for Disease Control and the pharmaceutical industry that generates the vaccines. You may also be interested in a recent study done by a team researchers from Yale University and Penn State College. They found a disturbing association between the timing of vaccines and the onset of certain brain disorders in a subset of children. Analyzing five years’ worth of private health insurance data on children ages 6-15, these scientists found that young people vaccinated in the previous three to 12 months were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with certain neuropsychiatric disorders than their non-vaccinated counterparts. This new study, which raises important questions about whether over-vaccination may be triggering immune and neurological damage in a subset of vulnerable children (something parents of children with autism have been saying for years), was published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, Jan. 19. More than 95,000 children in the database that were analyzed had one of seven neuropsychiatric disorders: anorexia nervosa, anxiety disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorder. Of particular concern is the influenza vaccine. In this study, influenza vaccination was strongly correlated with both anorexia and OCD. At the same time, new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists has shown the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal to be as toxic and as brain damaging as other forms of mercury. Here is the original research article: Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study, in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.



Elon Musk: Automation Will Force Governments to Introduce Universal Basic Income – (Futurism – February 14, 2017)
Recently, Elon Musk had the chance to share his thoughts on universal basic income (UBI) at the World Government Summit in Dubai. Musk noted that we will likely have intelligent, massive-scale automation for transportation relatively soon—within the next few decades, in fact: “Twenty years is a short period of time to have something like 12-15% of the workforce be unemployed,” he said, pointing out the extent of how automation will disrupt car-based transportation specifically. However, displacement due to automation isn’t just limited to transportation, it will sweep across a number of industries, and Musk argues that the government must introduce a UBI program in order to compensate for this. “I don’t think we’re going to have a choice,” he said. “I think it’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”


Monkeys Learn to Pass a Classic Test for Self-Awareness – (GizModo – February 13, 2017)
The ability to look into a mirror and recognize oneself is a cognitive skill we all take for granted, but very few animals outside of humans are able to do it. However, in a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team from the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences claims that, with the right training, it’s possible to get rhesus monkeys to suddenly recognize themselves in a mirror—an ability that’s normally absent in this species. This suggests that monkeys possess a certain degree of bodily self-awareness, even though they lack the innate ability to spontaneously recognize themselves in a reflection. The new research also points to the inadequacy of the classic mirror test as a measure of self-awareness in certain species, and that self-awareness may be more common in animals than previously assumed. It’s a fascinating result, and one that shows how far we are from being able to accurately gauge consciousness in another animal.

Astronomers Spot a Strange, Supersonic Space Cloud Screeching Through Our Galaxy – (Science Alert – February 4, 2017)
While focusing on the remains of an exploded star roughly 10,000 light-years away, a team of Japanese astronomers have stumbled across a mysterious cloud of molecules tearing through the Milky Way. So quickly, in fact, they’ve nick-named it the unknown phenomenon the ‘Bullet’. The cause of this cloud’s ridiculous speed isn’t clear, but so far all signs suggest it’s been sent hurtling through space thanks to a rogue black hole. Black holes aren’t known for being all that easy to spot. They sometimes reveal themselves by stealing material from a nearby star, heating it up and forcing it to emit X-rays. If they’re wandering alone in interstellar space, however, they tend to remain hidden. Yet in this case, the shadowy influence of a black hole could explain why a cloud of molecules 2 light-years in size was moving forward at 75 miles per second, and expanding at 31 miles per second. Weirder still, it was moving against the direction of the Milky Way’s spin. The astronomers from Keio University in Japan have proposed two scenarios to explain their observations, both of which require a black hole.


4 People with Locked-In Syndrome ‘Talk’ Using Their Minds – (Live Science – January 31, 2017)
Patients with complete locked-in syndrome experience paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body. They cannot move, speak, make facial expressions or even move their eyes to communicate. For years, doctors and researchers believed that these people were unhappy with their quality of life and did not have the goal-directed thinking necessary to communicate. Now, a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland, has overturned those two common misconceptions. Patients with complete locked-in syndrome do obtain the goal-oriented thinking necessary to express their thoughts to others, and they say they’re “happy,” despite their condition. In the study, four individuals with complete locked-in syndrome due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, were each fitted with a non-invasive brain-computer interface. The interface is a cap packed with sensors and some intertwined wires. It uses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure blood oxygenation and electrical activity in the brain, as these are distinctly different when the patient thinks “yes” or “no.” After calibration, the patients were able to respond questions with a “yes” or “no” using their thoughts.

Enzyme Found to Limit Collateral Damage from Immune System – (New Atlas – January 23, 2017)
When unwanted microbes enter your body, your white blood cells rush to the scene to begin fighting them off. But much like a battalion of soldiers, the process by which the cells fight off the invaders needs to be extremely precise, otherwise healthy parts of the body could be damaged by a kind of biological friendly fire. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland (UB), have just uncovered the role of a key enzyme in the process that allows white blood cells to attack with sniper-like precision. The enzyme is called MPO, or myeloperoxidase, and is actually the compound responsible for giving a green hue to pus at infection sites. When a white blood cell approaches an invading bacterium, it releases hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). MPO converts that substance into HOCL, or hypochloric acid (better known as bleach), which acts like a tiny detonation that wipes out invaders in a radius measuring less than .1 micrometers by burning holes in them. “Bacteria are helpless against this acid bomb,” explains UB professor Dirk Bumann who co-headed the research. “As hypochloric acid is so highly reactive, the bomb reacts immediately with the closest biomolecules. It is ignited locally and does not spread to the wider surroundings. The bacteria die and the surrounding tissue is spared.” The researchers say the findings could help lead to new treatment strategies to fight bacterial infections through the bolstering of MPO.

Experimental Test Can Spot Autism in Infancy (Health Day – February 15, 2017)
In what they call a first, researchers say they can predict whether some infants under the age of 1 will actually develop autism in their second year. The new experimental technique, using standard brain screening, is designed to focus solely on newborns known to be at high risk for autism because they have an older sibling who has it. But the diagnostic breakthrough addresses a key problem that has confounded efforts to effectively screen for autism as quickly as possible: Babies typically don’t show clear outward signs of the disorder until nearly the end of their second year of life. By using scans to peek into the shifting size, surface area and thickness of certain parts of a baby’s cerebral cortex as a baby hits the 6-month and 12-month mark, investigators found that they could forecast autism risk with 90% accuracy. “These findings suggest a cascade of brain changes across the first two years of life that result in the emergence of autism at the end of the second year,” explained study senior author Dr. Joseph Piven, director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “This finding,” said Piven, “suggests that in the future, early brain imaging may be able to predict later autism risk and identify those infants who might benefit the most from intensive interventions before the symptoms emerge, and during a time when the brain is most malleable.” Still, Piven cautioned that the findings are “experimental,” and need to be replicated with more research.


Radiation Levels in the Fukushima Reactor Are Soaring Unexpectedly – (Science Alert – February 4, 2017)
The radiation levels inside Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor No. 2 have soared in recent weeks, reaching a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, a number experts have called “unimaginable”. Radiation is now by far the highest it has been since the reactor was struck by a tsunami in March 2011 – and scientists are struggling to explain what’s going on. To get an idea of the radiation levels inside, the team used a remote-operated camera to take photos of the area – the deepest point in the reactor to date – and then analyzed the electronic noise in the images to measure radiation levels. The technique has an error margin of plus or minus 30 percent, which means that it’s not highly accurate. But even at the lowest end of the measurements, the levels would still be 370 sieverts per hour – and could be as high as 690 sieverts per hour. The fact that these readings were so high in this particular location suggests that maybe melted reactor fuel escaped the pressure vessel, and is located somewhere nearby. Adding to that hypothesis is the fact that the images reveal a gaping 3.2-foot hole in the metal grate underneath the pressure vessel – which could indicate that nuclear fuel had melted out of it. If confirmed, this would be a huge deal, because in the six years since the three Fukushima reactors went into meltdown, no one has ever been able to find any trace of the nuclear fuel rods. Swimming robots were sent into the reactors last year to search for the fuel rods and hopefully remove them, but their wiring was destroyed by the high levels of radiation.

Nearby Earthquakes Are Opening up Africa’s ‘Gateway to Hell’ Volcano – (Science Alert – February 4, 2017)
NASA satellite imagery has spotted new cracks opening up near Africa’s ‘Gateway to Hell’ – more officially known as the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia. According to eyewitness reports, the lava lake levels have risen significantly over the past few weeks, producing “massive overflows” and “intense spattering” on top of the new fissures captured by NASA’s satellites on the southeastern flank of the volcano, 4.3 miles from the summit. The ‘Gateway to Hell’ and ‘Smoking Mountain’ nicknames which locals use for Erta Ale are well deserved. Set 2,011 feet above sea level, it’s one of just five known volcanoes with molten lava lakes, and is the only one on record with two. The site is part of the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, where three tectonic plates are sliding away from each other as Africa and Asia move apart. In terms of average temperatures across the year, it’s one of the hottest places on the planet. Previous visitors include Portuguese travel photographer Joel Santos, who made a dramatic video of his trip. “Erta Ale is probably the most overwhelming, unreal and mesmerizing sight one could see in a lifetime,” he said.

Banned Chemicals Persist in Deep Ocean – (BBC News – February 13, 2017)
Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows. Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment. The team led by Dr Alan Jamieson at the University of Newcastle sampled levels of pollutants in the fatty tissue of amphipods (a type of crustacean) from deep below the Pacific Ocean surface. Released into the environment through industrial accidents and discharges from landfills, these pollutants are resistant to being broken down naturally, and so persist in the environment. But they add that, in the Mariana trench, 6 miles below sea level, the highest levels of PCBs were 50 times greater than in crabs from paddy fields fed by the Liaohe River, one of the most polluted rivers in China. The researchers suggest that the PCBs and PBDEs made their way to Pacific Ocean trenches through contaminated plastic debris and via dead animals sinking to the sea floor. These are then consumed by amphipods and other deep sea creatures.

The Surprising Link Between Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s Disease – (LA Times – January 31, 2017)
New research offers powerful evidence of a link between air pollution and dementia risk. For older women, breathing air that is heavily polluted by vehicle exhaust and other sources of fine particulates nearly doubles the likelihood of developing dementia. And the cognitive effects of air pollution are dramatically more pronounced in women who carry a genetic variant, known as APOE-e4, which puts them at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a nationwide study that tracked the cognitive health of women between the ages of 65 and 79 for 10 years, those who had the APOE-e4 variant were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia if they were exposed to high levels of air pollution than APOE-e4 carriers who were not. While scientists have long tallied the health costs of air pollution in asthma, lung disease and cardiovascular disease, the impact of air pollutants on brain health has only begun to come to light. This study gleans new insights into how, and how powerfully, a key component of urban smog scrambles the aging brain. Published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the research looks at a large population of American women, at lab mice, and at brain tissue in petri dishes to establish a link between serious cognitive decline and the very fine particles of pollution emitted by motor vehicles, power plants and the burning of biomass products such as wood. All three of these biomedical research methods suggest that exposure to high levels of fine air pollutants increases both dementia’s classic behavioral signs of disorientation and memory loss as well as its less obvious hallmarks. Air pollution has been declining steadily since the EPA promulgated new standards in 2012. But Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen, an environmental health specialist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and the study’s senior author, said it’s not clear that even current standards are safe for aging brains, or for brains that are genetically vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.


Smart TV Tracking You? Here’s How To Stop It From Spying On You – (Tech Times – February 8, 2017)
Your smart TV is spying on you. Sounds like a bad tagline from a B-movie, but it’s real — for most TVs, at least. Recently, Vizio got caught tracking their customers on more than 11 million sets without their consent, and as a result, it had agreed to cough up $2.2 million to settle the charges. Not only that, but it can no longer keep tabs on users unless it gets clear permission from them. That pretty much straightens things out, right? Well, for Vizio TV owners, it sort of does, but for the others, there’s still a ways to go. This article outlines ways to avoid being tracked by your television.

Here’s Why Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone Will Likely Cost More Than $1,000 – (Fast Company – February 8, 2017)
A special 10th-anniversary edition of the iPhone is expected to be the ultimate iPhone, and it’ll come with a price tag to match—very likely north of $1,000, says a source with knowledge of Apple’s plans. The price tag isn’t very surprising considering that the 256GB version of the iPhone 7 Plus sells for $969, and the new iPhone 8 is expected to be packed with many more features—including a new OLED display, which is said to look great and stretch across the whole front of the phone, according to our source, but will probably cost Apple roughly twice as much as the LCD display used in current iPhones. The new phone is also likely to get a memory upgrade from the current iPhone 7 line and, our source points out, memory is relatively expensive now due to the strong dollar. The new 5.8-inch phone will probably be called the iPhone 8, but some believe Apple will call it the (far cooler-sounding) “iPhone X.” The new phone will look something like a smooth black monolith, with few visual interruptions to its sleek design. (It’s not hard to imagine the promo video: The mysterious black monolith floats slowly through space—a single letter “X” above it.) Only the anniversary iPhone is likely to have an OLED screen. Several sources tell Fast Company that Apple has been tying up much of the available OLED display manufacturing capacity in the marketplace at the expense of smaller phone makers. That marketplace is very small. Only Samsung and a couple of Asian upstarts make the OLED displays, our source says, and only Samsung’s displays meet Apple’s quality requirements.

Facebook AI Lumos Can Find Your Photos, Even Those You Are Not Tagged In – (Tech Times – February 3, 2017)
Since Facebook is in the business of photos, it is not surprising to find it constantly developing products involving image recognition. This was recently demonstrated after the company announced that its artificial intelligence technology Lumos can now search for pictures not just based on dates, places, and tags. Rather, the technology can also find specific photos just because it understands what’s in them. – If you type your name, for example, to trigger a Facebook photo search, results will start pulling images that you are not tagged in but contain your face. The same is true for searched things such as food and even actions. Facebook is now able to do this by weaning itself away from text-driven technology. This means that the company is no longer relying solely on tags, labels, and descriptions that users enter into the system. The downside of the old method is that those photos that are not sufficiently tagged and captioned will not surface when searched. The AI technology draws from its deep-learning engine so it can attach more meaning to each photo in the Facebook system. The analogy is that Facebook’s new technology can “see” the images as opposed to merely crawl their descriptions so that users can quickly find images even if they forgot their details.

Terahertz Wireless Could Lead to Fiber-optics Speed In-flight and Mobile Metropolitan Internet – (Kurzweil AI – February 14, 2017)
Hiroshima University researchers and associates have developed a terahertz* (THz) transmitter capable of transmitting digital data over a single channel at a speed of 105 gigabits per second (Gbps). For perspective, that’s more than 100 times faster than the fastest public (1 Gbps) internet connection in the U.S. or more than 3,000 times faster than the 31 Mbps available to the average U.S. household in 2014, according to an FCC report. It’s also ten times or more faster than the fastest rate expected to be offered by fifth-generation mobile networks (5G) for metropolitan areas around 2020. Applications of this forthcoming THz technology include higher-speed in-flight network connection speeds via satellite, fast download of videos and other large files for mobile devices, and ultrafast wireless links between base stations, according to Hiroshima University professor Minoru Fujishima.


China Is Building a ‘Vertical Forest’ to Combat Increasing Pollution – (Your Story – February 8, 2017)
China is taking the ‘Green Environment, Clean Environment’ thought to a new level with the construction of the ‘Vertical Forest’. Two towers, called the Nanjing Green Towers, are being constructed next to each other with 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs. The trees, plants and shrubs will cover 65,000 square feet of the buildings’ area. The Green Towers are expected to absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide every year and produce approximately 60 kg of oxygen every day. The towers are expected to be built by 2018. The taller tower, with 35 floors, will host offices, a museum and a school for green architecture. The smaller of the two towers will be the Hyatt hotel, with 247 rooms. There will also be a club on the former’s rooftop and a swimming pool on the latter’s. Stefano Boeri, the architect behind the design of these buildings, had designed similar buildings earlier in Milan, Italy and Lausanne, Switzerland. The design, when first proposed, was considered to be something that just looked good on paper. However, with the ground-breaking success of Bosco Verticale in Italy, green towers were later constructed in Switzerland. China is now the third country to have this design implemented.


New Technique Stores Summer Heat Until It’s Needed in Winter – (New Atlas – January 11, 2017)
A group of Swiss researchers claim to have come up with a process that stores heat captured during summer for easy, flick-of-a-switch use in winter, with the added benefit that the captured energy can be physically transported anywhere it may be needed. Created by researchers working at EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research), the new system uses concentrated sodium hydroxide (NaOH) as the thermal storage medium, and a collection of largely off-the-shelf components to capture, convert, and release heat energy on demand. To achieve this, the researchers rely on the fact that when water is poured onto dry sodium hydroxide an exothermic reaction ensues, where the chemical energy contained in the NaOH is released as heat. As NaOH is also extremely hygroscopic (that is, having a great attraction for dragging in and holding water molecules from the surrounding environment), more heat is produced from water condensing from vapor in the air and the sodium hydroxide solution is heated even further. In this way, large amounts of heat may be liberated from NaOH simply by the addition of water. Conversely, if heat energy (collected from the sun, for example) is fed into a solution of sodium hydroxide diluted with water, the moisture readily evaporates and the NaOH solution becomes more concentrated and, therefore, effectively stores the supplied energy. This concentrated mixture may then be kept stored for many months (even years), until the heat is once again liberated when the NaOH is exposed to water again. The solution can also be easily transported in tanks to other areas where heat energy is needed. Article contains more detailed information on how the process actually works.

Long-lasting Flow Battery Uses Neutral Water to Keep Costs Low – (New Atlas – February 14, 2017)
As renewable but intermittent sources like wind and solar continue to account for a larger part of our energy needs, flow batteries shape up as a very promising storage solution. These devices hold energy in fluids inside external tanks, but one thing holding them back is the expensive metals used as electrolytes, which to make things worse, require expensive parts to deal with the aggressive chemistry inside. Harvard scientists are claiming to have found a solution to both, in the form of a non-toxic flow battery that keeps its energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral water. The team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have actually been chipping away at the flow battery problem for a while. “The batteries that our group designed previously used more corrosive solutions, either strong acids or strong bases,” Roy Gordon, leader of the research, explains. “The new design uses neutral water solutions that are neither acidic or alkaline.” The new battery relies on the molecule viologen as the negative electrolyte, and the molecule ferrocene for the positive electrolyte. Putting these molecules to work in the battery first required the researchers to make them water-soluble and more resistant to degradation by modifying their molecular structure. This left them with molecules that could be cycled safely, so much so that the battery loses just 1% of its capacity every 1,000 cycles.


Dubai Announces Passenger Drone Plans – (BBC News – February 14, 2017)
A drone that can carry people will begin “regular operations” in Dubai starting in July, the head of the city’s Roads and Transportation Agency has announced. The Chinese model eHang 184 has already had test flights, said Matt al-Tayer. The drone can carry one passenger weighing up to 100 kg (220 pounds) and has a 30 minute flight time. The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft. It is “auto-piloted” by a command center, according to a video released by the government agency. It has reported speeds of up to 100 miles per hour and can fly 31 miles on a single battery charge. The device was also approved for testing in Nevada in June 2016. Last month Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics announced that its Cormorant passenger drone – designed for military use – could be in use by 2020.


Robo-Bees Could Aid Insects with Pollination Duties – (Scientific American – February 11, 2017)
Mini drones sporting horsehair coated in a sticky gel could one day take the pressure off beleaguered bee populations by transporting pollen from plant to plant, researchers said. Roughly three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animals to pollinate them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some of nature’s most prolific pollinators are bees, but bee populations are declining around the world, and last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed a native species as endangered for the first time. Now, researchers from Japan said they’ve taken the first steps toward creating robots that could help pick up the slack from insect pollinators. The scientists created a sticky gel that lets a $100 matchbox-size drone pick up pollen from one flower and deposit it onto another to help the plants reproduce. “This is a proof of concept — there’s nothing compared to this. It’s a totally first-time demonstration,” said study leader Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science in Tsukuba, Japan.

The Robin Hood Army: Fighting Food Waste in India and Pakistan – (Guardian – June 2, 2015)
In August, 2014, a group of six young Indians took to the streets of Delhi with one simple aim: to feed the homeless. Overnight, they drove to restaurants, collected unsold food, re-packaged it and gave it to around 100 people sleeping rough in the capital. Friends, colleagues and strangers soon joined them on drives and their numbers began to swell. In less than a few months, a nationwide volunteer movement known as the Robin Hood Army (RHA) had emerged, on a mission to curb food waste and stamp out hunger. Founders Ghose and Anand Sinha, also 27, were inspired by Refood International, an organization based in Portugal. “Using a hyperlocal model, they collect excess food and give it to those who need it. But every community has their own Refood chapter,” explains Ghose. “I realized it was something that can be very easily done in India, where the need would be much more.” The movement gained huge momentum after the launch of its social media campaign, and now boasts a 500-strong volunteer base spread out across 13 cities. In April, the group also began operations in neighboring Pakistan. The Robin Hood Army’s ideology revolves around decentralization. Small teams, mostly young professionals, become responsible for specific areas; they scout for local restaurants, convince them to donate surplus food, identify clusters of people in need – such as the homeless and orphanages – and carry out weekly distributions. (Editor’s note: This is an older article but we are including it because it shows dramatically that even in developing countries there is food, otherwise going to waste, that can be collected and given to people in need. Both the problem and the solution are global.)


CIA Releases 13m Pages of Declassified Documents Online – (BBC News – January 18, 2017)
About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. Among the more unusual records are documents from the Stargate Project, which dealt with psychic powers and extrasensory perception. Those include records of testing on celebrity psychic Uri Geller in 1973. Memos detail how Mr. Geller was able to partly replicate pictures drawn in another room with varying – but sometimes precise – accuracy, leading the researchers to write that he “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner”. Other unusual records include a collection of reports on flying saucers. While much of the information has been technically publicly available since the mid-1990s, it has been very difficult to access. The records were only available on four physical computers at the National Archives in Maryland. A non-profit freedom of information group, MuckRock, sued the CIA to force it to upload the collection. At the same time, journalist Mike Best crowd-funded more than $15,000 to visit the archives to print out and then publicly upload the records, one by one. “By printing out and scanning the documents at CIA expense, I was able to begin making them freely available to the public and to give the agency a financial incentive to simply put the database online,” Best wrote. See also his article, Coming Soon: 775,000 CIA Papers From CREST (CREST is the open-to-the-public CIA Records Search Tool).


Field of Fright – (Nation of Change – February 6, 2017) What kind of national security policy will the Trump administration pursue globally? On this issue, as on so many others, the incoming president has offered enough contradictory clues, tweets, and comments that the only definitive answer right now is: Who knows? Suppose, though, we judge the new president not by his own statements alone, but by the company he keeps – in this case, those he chooses to advise him on national security. Do that and a strange picture emerges. On one thing all of Trump’s major national security appointees seem crystal clear. We are, each one of them insists, in nothing less than a world war in which non-intervention simply isn’t an option. And in that they are hardly kowtowing to the president. Each of them took such a position before anyone knew that there would be a Donald Trump administration. There’s only one small catch: none of them can quite agree on just whom we’re fighting in this twenty-first-century global war of ours. So let’s take a look at this crew, one by one, and see what their records might tell us about intervention, Trump-style.

U.S. Bombed Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia in 2016 – (NBC News – January 9, 2017) The U.S. dropped an average of 72 bombs every day – the equivalent of three an hour – in 2016, according to an analysis of American strikes around the world. The report from the Council of Foreign Relations ((CFR) comes as Barack Obama concludes a presidency that began with promises to withdraw from international conflicts. According to the New York City-based think tank, 26,171 bombs were dropped on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan during the year. CFR warned that its estimates were “undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.” Some 24,287 bombs were used in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, the U.S. dropped 22,110 bombs in Iraq and Syria, CFR reported. Last year saw a sharp uptick in strikes in Afghanistan, with 1,337 compared with 947 in 2015.


Social Bite Founder Josh Littlejohn Dedicates MBE to People ‘Marginalized’ from Society – (Independent – December 30, 2016)
Josh Littlejohn, an entrepreneur who set up a successful sandwich chain which helps the homeless said he is honored to receive an honorary MBE (UK version of MBA). The chain he helped found offers “suspended coffee and food”, which means customers can pay in advance for a coffee or any item of food from the menu and a local homeless person can go into the restaurant later to claim it. About a quarter of its staff have experienced homelessness. Mr. Littlejohn said: “I would like to dedicate it to the hundreds of homeless people Social Bite works with in Scotland who are marginalized from society and have no stake in the economic system. I’m relatively young but I hope to dedicate the rest of my working life to helping people who have been excluded from the system. By working alongside the amazing Social Bite team – and other charities – I hope I can play my part in eradicating homelessness from Scotland and spread the social enterprise business model further afield.” Social Bite also plans to provide a low-cost, supervised and safe living environment for up to 20 homeless people with 10 purpose-built homes in Granton, Edinburgh. Recently, Olympic cycling veteran Sir Chris Hoy and around 300 influential people in Scotland slept rough in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square to raise funds for the project. Here is a two-minute video about Social Bite.

Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subjects – (Bright Side – November 16, 2016)
Finland’s education system is considered one of the best in the world. In international ratings, it’s always in the top ten. However, the authorities there aren’t ready to rest on their laurels, and they’ve decided to carry through a real revolution in their school system. Finnish officials want to remove school subjects from the curriculum. There will no longer be any classes in physics, math, literature, history, or geography. Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math. And by taking the course ”Working in a Cafe,” students will absorb a whole body of knowledge about the English language, economics, and communication skills. The general idea is that the students ought to choose for themselves which topic or phenomenon they want to study, bearing in mind their ambitions for the future and their capabilities. In this way, no student will have to pass through an entire course on physics or chemistry while all the time thinking to themselves “What do I need to know this for?” Students will work together in small groups to discuss problems. The Finnish education system encourages collective work, which is why the changes will also affect teachers. The school reform will require a great deal of cooperation between teachers of different subjects. Around 70% of teachers in Helsinki have already undertaken preparatory work in line with the new system for presenting information, and, as a result, they’ll get a pay increase. The changes are expected to be complete by 2020.


How Astronauts’ Brains Are Changed By Spaceflight – (Gizmodo – February 1, 2017)
Spaceflight is not for the faint of heart—literally. The first results of NASA’s twin study, released just this week, revealed that space physically impacts astronauts on multiple levels, right down to shifts in gene expression. Now, a group of scientists at the University of Michigan have released research that suggests spaceflight alters astronauts’ brains. The team studied 26 astronauts who spent various amounts of time in space, between 2008 to 2012. Twelve of the astronauts spent two weeks as shuttle crew members, while the other 14 spent six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). After examining structural MRIs from all the astronauts taken before and after spaceflight, the researchers found that all subjects experienced both increases and decreases in the volume of gray matter in different regions of the brain. Gray matter is responsible for many key functions, including muscle control, emotions, memory and sensory perception. The losses in the areas of gray matter are coming from shifts in fluid in the brain that happen with flight. Specifically, the shifts in gray matter volume appear due microgravity, which describes the very slight presence of gravity aboard the ISS.

Cosmic Love: Star’s Heart Beats for Giant Alien Planet – ( – February 14, 2017)
A gigantic exoplanet and its host star have a very special relationship, a new study suggests. The gas-giant planet, known as HAT-P-2b, induces heartbeat-like pulsations in the star every time the two bodies get close, according to the study, which is based on observations by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. “Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we have discovered the first example of a planet that seems to be causing a heartbeat-like behavior in its host star,” said study lead author Julien de Wit, a postdoctoral associate at MIT. HAT-P-2b and its parent star lie about 370 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Hercules. The planet, which was discovered in 2007, is about eight times more massive than Jupiter. HAT-P-2b’s path is much more elliptical than the orbits of the eight officially recognized planets in our solar system, so it makes one close approach to the star every 5.6 Earth days. During each of these “flybys,” the alien planet’s powerful gravity pulls hard on the star, causing its outer shell to vibrate, the researchers found. Such interactions have been observed before, in binary “heartbeat stars.” But the new study, which was published today (Feb. 14) in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, marks the first time a planet has been implicated in the phenomenon, study team members said.


From Corntassel to Peachtree: Which U.S. Megaregion Do You Belong To? – (Fast Company – February 13, 2017)
Many of America’s state lines were drawn centuries ago—whether because of King George’s whims, political compromises, or just for the sake of it. Some borders were even established before American colonists settled the area. But if you redraw them completely based on today’s economy, you get a very different picture of the United States. That’s the idea behind a recent map that lays out the “megaregions” of the United States. The map’s authors have now released an interactive version that lets anyone take a closer look at the new boundaries and place names. Based on a paper published in November 2016 by Garrett Nelson of Dartmouth College and Alasdair Rae of the University of Sheffield, the map is a graphical representation of American commuters. Using 2010 census data, Nelson and Rae created a visual representation of about 4 million of those commutes, then ran their findings through an algorithm from MIT that grouped the commutes by how interconnected they were. They believe these patterns serve as a good proxy for grouping the U.S.’s self-organized economic networks. One of the most striking parts of the map? The new names chosen for each megaregion, which Nelson says he “dreamed up” one morning while sitting at his desk. Instead of the common portmanteaus often used to describe metropolises, like “BosNyWash,” which is used to describe the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C., corridor, or Austonio, which is like Austin and San Antonio’s celebrity couple name, Nelson looked to each place’s historical roots and geographical features. For example, the L.A. area, appropriately, is called “El Asfalto”—the asphalt. Nelson finds the oft-cited urban-suburban-rural breakdown of the U.S. unhelpful. “It’s really these regional entities which make the most sense to think of in terms of our economic and social lives,” he says. “There’s really a deep interconnectedness that stitches people together.”


Anti-aging Drugs: From Basic Research to Clinical Practice – (Kurzweil AI – February 13, 2017)
Anti-aging Drugs is a new book by Alexander M Vaiserman et al. which provides an overview of current research aimed to search for life-extending medications and describes pharmacological aspects of anti-aging medicine. Readers are introduced to the fascinating historical background of geroprotection in the first chapter. In-depth information on models for investigating geroprotective drugs precedes a section covering anti-aging properties of pharmaceutical compounds, such as calorie restriction mimetics, autophagy inducers, senolytics and mitochondrial antioxidants. Finally, strategies to translate discoveries from aging research into drugs and healthcare policy perspectives on anti-ageing medicine are provided to give a complete picture of the field.


Davos Elites See an ‘Abyss’: The Populist Surge Upending the Status Quo – (New York Times – January 19, 2017)
For the investors and market-movers at the annual World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, a threat lurks. Financiers attending this year’s Forum have expressed bewilderment over the rise of populist groups that are feeding a backlash against globalization. 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, 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, [but] 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. Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a political-research firm, offered his advice: “Elites won’t be able to manage populism until they stop seeing it as a threat and start seeing it as a symptom.” If that is the case, Davos has, so far, made little progress. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba in China, offered his view of the problem in the United States: “Americans do not distribute the money properly.”


Study Reveals Substantial Evidence of Holographic Universe – (Phys Org – January 30, 2017)
Theoretical physicists and astrophysicists, investigating irregularities in the cosmic microwave background (the ‘afterglow’ of the Big Bang), have found there is substantial evidence supporting a holographic explanation of the universe—in fact, as much as there is for the traditional explanation of these irregularities using the theory of cosmic inflation. The researchers, from the University of Southampton (UK), University of Waterloo (Canada), Perimeter Institute (Canada), INFN, Lecce (Italy) and the University of Salento (Italy), have published findings in the journal Physical Review Letters. A holographic universe, an idea first suggested in the 1990s, is one where all the information that makes up our 3-D ‘reality’ (plus time) is contained in a 2-D surface on its boundaries. Professor Kostas Skenderis of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton explains: “Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded.”

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

How to Poop in Space: NASA Unveils Winners of Space Poop Challenge – (Space – February 15, 2017) Apparently it’s worth a total of $30,000. After NASA asked for solutions to let astronauts urinate and defecate inside a spacesuit for up to six days, more than 5,000 entries (representing 20,000 people) answered the call. The winner of the $15,000 Space Poop Challenge first prize was Thatcher Cardon, for a solution called “MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS).” Details on the system were not immediately available. Cardon explained how he devised the idea for the system. “I was really interested in the problem, though, and spent some time lying down, eyes closed, just visualizing different solutions and modelling them mentally,” said Cardon, a colonel and commander of the 47th Medical Group at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. “Over time, the winning system of ideas coalesced,” Cardon said. “Then, I packed up the family, and we drove around Del Rio, Texas, to dollar stores, thrift stores, craft stores, clothing and hardware stores to get materials for mock-ups.”


How Does Big Ben Keep Accurate Time? – (You Tube – August 30, 2016)
When parliament commissioned this clock in 1854, they insisted Big Ben be the biggest, most powerful clock in the world. Big Ben, the bell that names the tower weighs 14 tons, takes an hour and a half to wind, and is accurate to within 2 seconds/week. Check out this massive – and beautiful – engineering marvel.


The only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen furthest into it. – E. J. Hobsbawm, British historian

A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, David Townsend, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.


Edited by John L. Petersen

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A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen

Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”

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