Volume 20, Number 05 – 03/01/17

Volume 20, Number 05 – 03/01/17       


A quantum equation predicts that the universe has no beginning.

Most smartphones include an FM radio that would be capable of receiving and streaming local stations. In the United States, the majority of these are disabled.

Researchers have engineered rhodium nanoparticles to harness the energy in ultraviolet light and use it to catalyze the conversion of carbon dioxide to methane, a key building block for many types of fuels.

The world’s largest indoor beach is housed in a repurposed aircraft hangar.

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.

The Coming Two Months

Starting couple of months ago, futurist and linguistic analysist Clif High started saying that his data was showing that the US would be in a period of great chaos from about the 8th of March through early May. His data showed that the issues driving the chaos would include, among other things, pedophilia. He subsequently said that the sweep to roundup the high profile pedophiles in the leadership of the US government and mainstream media would leave very large holes in both the congress and the press.

The pedophilia shoe has not dropped yet (although a leaker from the FBI has said that it is very much in the works), but the last few days have produced what appears to be a couple of major events that could reverberate through the country and the world, during the coming months.

Firstly, it has now become clear that the FBI under the Obama administration tried twice and finally got a court order to tap the communications of Donald Trump and his senior staff during the election, contrary to what President Obama and other members of his staff had previously stated. The request referenced possible collusion with the Russians, of which none was found. A number of Obama-era officials are now backpedaling, saying that there was no collusion found where, just two months ago, they were saying that there were clear transcripts showing collusion.

It goes without saying that the implications of an administration spying on the other party during an election raise significant concerns. Sounds a whole lot like Richard Nixon and some of the problems he had at Watergate.

The whole Trump/Russia thing is being shown to have been very much contrived and part of a sophisticated attempt to unseat Trump, but Ambassador Jack Matlock, our former ambassador to Moscow, posted a great piece suggesting that talking to Russia (and all of the other countries that are important to the US), is not only what high officials are supposed to do – and should be doing. Not talking is why things go wrong.

Then yesterday, WikiLeaks dumped 8700 classified documents on the web showing how the CIA has been spying on the American people through almost everything possible and figuring out how to take control of your car (while you are driving), and developing capabilities to plant computer evidence that implicates other countries (like Russia).

Analysts are just starting to work their way through this first of what is advertised to be a series of leaks coming in the coming weeks.

Here’s the overview from Wikileaks.

Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named “Vault 7” by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive. Finish reading summary.

All of this day-to-day activity fosters myopia and few observers effectively back away from all of the action enough to think about where this all is going. At its best, we would all hope that major disruption will result in the emergence of a new world that operates without many of the structural problems of the present system.

Paul Levy is a writer with a long view who sees the economic system as a disease that needs to be cured. His piece Healing Our Collective Sickness is provocative.

. . . Merely recognizing the disease isn’t enough, however; we have to activate our collective immune system response in the world. Seeing without action is a partial and incomplete response. These two avenues – recognizing the cancer (an inner process) and taking action (an outer process) are not separate, but rather, are complementary and necessary aspects of a whole systems response.
Read rest of article.

Finally, here’s an interesting, very tangible, example of how the revolution in manufacturing is working its way down to manufacturing houses. This Russian company built a beautiful little house in only one day with a portable 3-D printer. It’s really quite impressive.



The Post-Human World – (Atlantic – February 20, 2017)
This article tracks a conversation about the end of work, individualism, and the human species with the historian Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens and his new book, Homo Deus. At the end of the 19th century, France, Germany, and Japan offered free health care to their citizens. Their aim was not strictly to make people happy, but to strengthen their army and industrial potential. In other words, welfare was necessary because people were necessary. But here’s a scary question: What happens to welfare in a future where government no longer needs people? It’s not science fiction. It’s already happening. The problem is motivation: What if the government loses the motivation to help the masses? In Scandinavia the tradition of the welfare state is so entrenched that perhaps they’ll continue to provide welfare even for masses of useless people. But what about Nigeria, South Africa, and China? They have been encouraged to provide services mostly in the hope of advancing prosperity, [which requires] having a large basis of healthy and smart citizens. But take that away and you might be left with countries with elites who don’t care about the population. The U.S. is losing power compared to the rest of the world, and within the U.S., the Trump voters are losing their status. Even though they are experiencing better conditions, the narrative self which is dominant in most people tells a story of decline, which says that the future will be worse than the present. And most people’s happiness depends on their expectations, not their conditions. (Editor’s note: These observations are just the beginning in this article. We highly recommend reading the rest of it.)

Welcome to the Era of Transhumanism – (New Atlas – February 15, 2017)
Simply put, transhumanism is a broad intellectual movement that advocates for the transformation of humanity through embracing technology. Thinkers in the field opine that our intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities can, and should, be enhanced by any and all available emerging technologies. From genetic modification to make us smarter and live longer, to enhancing our physical capabilities through bioengineering and mechanical implants, transhumanists see our future as one where we transcend our physical bodies with the aid of technology. With the pace of technological advancement dramatically accelerating into the 21st century, transhumanist thinking began to manifest in more specific futurist visions. Cryonics and life extension technology was one focus of transhumanists, while others looked to body modification, gender transitioning and general biohacking as a way of transcending the limits of our physical bodies. Early in February 2017, innovative billionaire Elon Musk reiterated an idea he had floated several times over the past year: Humans need to merge with machines. Musk sees a direct brain/computer interface as an absolute necessity, not only in order for us to evolve as a species, but as a way of keeping up with the machines we are creating. According to Musk, if we don’t merge with the machines, we will become useless and irrelevant. While Elon Musk does not self-identify as a “transhumanist,” the idea of fusing man with machine is fundamental to this movement that arose over the course of the 20th century. And as we move into a tumultuous 21st century, transhumanism is quickly shifting from its sci-fi influenced philosophical and cultural niche into a more mainstream, and increasingly popular, movement.

How Social Media Has Synchronized Human Civilization – (PhysOrg – February 28, 2017)
Human activity, whether commercial or social, contains patterns and moments of synchronicity. In recent years, social media like Twitter has provided an unprecedented volume of data on the daily activities of humans all over the world. Observing this activity on the scale of a city, a continent, or the globe reveals the patterns. In a paper, Global Patterns of Synchronization in Human Communications, published by the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) have observed a new pattern of synchronized activity: a simultaneous peak of Twitter activity stretching across half the planet, from Europe and Africa to Asia and Oceania. Global patterns of human activity, as observed by NECSI through tweets, have synchronized across the entire Eurasian landmass. This pattern is formed of commercial as well as social behavior. It represents a global interchange of ideas and information, a new level of interconnectedness in our increasingly complex world.


No Big Bang? Quantum Equation Predicts Universe Has No Beginning – (PhysOrg – February 9, 2017)
The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once. The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a “Big Bang” did the universe officially begin. Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity. Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end. Their work is based on ideas by the theoretical physicist David Bohm, who is also known for his contributions to the philosophy of physics. Starting in the 1950s, Bohm explored replacing classical geodesics (the shortest path between two points on a curved surface) with quantum trajectories.


Prolonged Sleep May Predict Dementia Risk – (BU School of Medicine – February 23, 2017)
Data from the Framingham Heart Study has shown that people who consistently sleep more than nine hours each night had double the risk of developing dementia in 10 years as compared to participants who slept for 9 hours or less. The findings, which appear in the journal Neurology, also found those who slept longer had smaller brain volumes. A large group of adults enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, were asked to indicate how long they typically slept each night. Participants were then observed for 10 years to determine who developed dementia, including dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers then analyzed the sleep duration data and examined the risk of developing dementia. The results suggest that excessive sleep may be a symptom rather than a cause of the brain changes that occur with dementia. Therefore, interventions to restrict sleep duration are unlikely to reduce the risk of dementia. The researchers believe screening for sleeping problems may aid in the early detection of cognitive impairment and dementia. The early diagnosis of dementia has many important benefits, such as providing a patient the opportunity to more actively direct their future plans and health care decisions. By 2025 the number of people in the U.S. age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million.

Fecal Transplant Improves Autism Symptoms – (New Atlas – January 23, 2017)
While many people are aware of the behavioral symptoms associated with autism, probably not so many realize that autistics often also have gastrointestinal problems. With that in mind, scientists at the University of Arizona recently conducted a study in which a group of 18 autistic children received fecal transplants from donors with healthy gastrointestinal systems. Not only did the procedure help to “rebalance” their gut flora, but it also improved their behavior. A fecal transplant is just what it sounds like: feces from one person are screened for disease-causing organisms, and then introduced into the recipient’s digestive tract. Such transplants have worked in the past for other people with gastrointestinal problems, and they did so in this case, too. In the eight weeks following the end of the treatment, parents reported a substantial decrease in their children’s bouts of gut problems such as diarrhea and stomach pain. Interestingly, though, they also observed substantial improvements in their behavior. Using questionnaires designed to assess social skills, irritability, hyperactivity, communication and other factors, it was found that the average developmental age of the children (aged 7 to 16 years) increased by an average of 1.4 years. This was backed up by observations from the children’s doctors, who noted that their psychological autism symptoms had decreased 22% by the end of the treatment, and by 24% eight weeks later. Previous research has suggested that gut flora has an effect on how the brain works. The way in which it does so, though, is still not fully understood.


Texas Turns to Chemical Warfare to Bring ‘Feral Hog Apocalypse’ – (GizModo – February 22, 2017)
Texas’s 2.5 million feral pigs may soon fall victim to chemical warfare because the state’s Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has changed the rules of the Texas Administrative Code to permit the legal poisoning of these unsuspecting hogs. Before feeling too bad for the poor piggies, know that feral hogs are a national problem that cost around $1.5 billion annually. They wreak at least $52 million in damages to Texas agriculture each year by ruining crops and livestock tanks. On solving the problem of the pigs, Miller said, “They’re so prolific, you can’t hardly keep them in check. This is going to be the hog apocalypse, if you like: If you want them gone, this will get them gone.” The agent of this impending apocalypse? Kaput Feral Hog Lure is a bait food laced with warfarin, a colorless and flavorless rodenticide. In smaller doses, warfarin is also used as a blood thinner in humans. While Richard Poché, the president of the company that makes Kaput, assured Texans that the risk of using warfarin is minimal, local hunters are concerned. A petition opposing the use of warfarin has more than 12,000 signatures. Eydin Hansen, Vice President of the Texas Hog Hunters Association said, “We don’t think poison is the way to go.” As Hansen explained, “If a hog dies, what eats it? Coyotes, buzzards… We’re gonna affect possibly the whole ecosystem.”

Plastic from Tires Major Source of Ocean Pollution – (BBC News – February 22, 2017)
Particles of debris from car tires are ending up in the ocean as “plastic soup”, conservationists warn. Microplastics from tires and textiles are a bigger source of marine pollution than the breakdown of larger plastic waste in some areas, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Up to 30% of plastic released into the oceans each year comes from primary microplastics, not the disintegration of larger pieces, a report found. Debris from tire abrasion and synthetic fabrics are the main sources, they say. The IUCN reviewed data from seven global regions to look at how much of the estimated 9.5 million tons of new plastic waste released into the oceans each year comes from primary microplastics. These are tiny plastic particles from the likes of consumer products rather than the degradation of larger bits of plastic in the oceans. The report found between 15% and 31% of plastic pollution came from primary microplastics, of which the biggest contributors (almost two-thirds) were abrasion of synthetic textiles, while washing, and abrasion of tires, while driving. Synthetic rubber, made from a variant of plastic, makes up around 60% of the rubber used in tires.

Disappearing Seagrass Protects Against Pathogens, Even Climate Change, Scientists Find (New York Times – February 16, 2017)
Every continent save Antarctica is ringed by vast stretches of seagrass, underwater prairies that together cover an area roughly equal to California. Seagrass meadows, among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth, shelter important fish species, filter pollutants from seawater, and lock up huge amounts of atmosphere-warming carbon. The plants also fight disease, it turns out. A team of scientists reported on Thursday that seagrasses can purge pathogens from the ocean that threaten humans and coral reefs alike. (The first hint came when the scientists were struck with dysentery after diving to coral reefs without neighboring seagrass.) But the meadows are vanishing at a rate of a football field every 30 minutes. Many of the species harvested in commercial fisheries begin life in seagrass meadows. Without them, fishermen would catch far less, and make less money. In 2014, University of Cambridge researchers studied seagrass meadows in southern Australia to estimate the value they bring to the fisheries industry. They estimate that each acre of seagrass adds about $87,000 per year. The plants also draw fertilizer runoff and other pollutants out of the water, locking them safely away in meadow soil. Scientists have estimated that an acre of seagrass provides more than $11,000 worth of filtering every year. These services alone would make seagrass meadows among the most economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. But now Dr. Harvell, Dr. Lamb, and their colleagues at Cornell University have found that these plants may help us in another way: by wiping out pathogens.

A “Mini Ice Age” Is Coming Soon Says Math Professor’s Solar Cycle Model That’s 97% Accurate – (Collective Evolution – February 4, 2017)
(Editor’s note: This is not a climate change denial article.) A few months ago, NASA published a study showing that Antarctica is actually gaining more ice than it is losing. They made the announcement after using satellites to examine the heights of the region’s ice sheet. The findings contradict the prevailing theory that Antarctica has actually been shrinking, however. The paper is titled “Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses” and was published in the Journal of Glaciology. The authors of this study are from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the cause of this ice gain isn’t entirely known, but a number of theories are mentioned in the paper. It is worth mentioning, however that NASA was blasted by dozens of their own scientists regarding their global warming stance, even though a number of the world’s top scientists have questioned just how much an impact greenhouse gases have on climate change. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here. Perhaps there are numerous factors contributing to climate change? Fluctuations in the solar cycle impact earth’s global temperature, as do other massive bodies flying in and around our solar system. The most recent research to examine this topic comes from the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, where Valentina Zharkova, a mathematics professor from Northumbria University (UK), presented a model that can predict what solar cycles will look like far more accurately than was previously possible. She states that the model can predict their influence with an accuracy of 97%, and says it is showing that Earth is heading for a “mini ice age” in approximately fifteen years.


FCC Chief Wants Smartphones’ Hidden FM Radios Turned on, But Won’t Do Anything about It – (The Verge – February 16, 2017)
FCC chairman Ajit Pai says he’d love to see more smartphone makers activate the hidden FM radio inside their devices, but he doesn’t think the commission should step in to do anything about it. Though it’s not well known, most smartphones include an FM radio that would be capable of receiving and streaming local stations. In the United States, the majority of these are disabled — Pai says that as of last fall, only 44% of the “top-selling smartphones” in the US had activated FM radios, compared to 80% in Mexico. In a recent speech, he even says “you could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone,” since radio could enable phones to receive emergency alerts even when wireless networks are down. But though he now has the power to do something about it, the new FCC chairman doesn’t plan to. “As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips,” Pai said. As he noted, “most consumers would love to access some of their favorite content over-the-air, while using one-sixth of the battery life and less data.” And therein also lies the problem. While FM radio would be a benefit for consumers, it’s also a big drawback for carriers and some phone manufacturers. Every minute someone is streaming FM radio is a minute they’re not using data to stream music — and that cuts into carriers’ data sales.

Pay What You Want for the 2017 Complete Learn to Code Bundle – (Science Alert – February 4, 2017)
You may have been thinking about learning the basics of computer programming for years. Coding is becoming crucial across a whole range of industries, and there’s no better way to expand your job prospects. Science Alert now has the perfect excuse for you to stop procrastinating and start learning – it has partnered with Stack Commerce to bring you the Pay What You Want: Learn to Code 2017 Bundle on ScienceAlert Academy. If you pay above the average (around US$21.41), you’ll pick up 10 different courses, with over 100 hours of content to teach you the basics of coding. These courses teach you a number of programming languages, include Go (Google’s coding language), Python, Java, Ruby, and a bunch more. Seriously: pay what you want.

Everything You Need to Know About Cloudbleed, the Latest Internet Security Disaster – (GizModo – February 24, 2017)
A tiny bug in Cloudflare’s code has led an unknown quantity of data—including passwords, personal information, messages, cookies, and more—to leak all over the internet. Cloudflare is one of the world’s largest internet security companies. Cloudflare describes itself as a “web performance and security company.” Originally an app for tracking down the source of spam, the company now offers a whole menu of products to websites, including performance-based services like content delivery services; reliability-focused offerings like domain name server (DNS) services; and security services like protection against direct denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Its clients include huge companies like Uber, OKCupid, 1Password (Update: 1Password claims its user data is safe), and FitBit. As with any major security vulnerability, it will take some time before we can fully comprehend the level of destruction caused by Cloudbleed. For now, you should change your passwords—all of them—and implement two-factor authentication everywhere you can. You’ll understand why this is a good idea when you read about how this nasty little security disaster unfolded. See also: It’s Time to Enable Two-Step Authentication on Everything. Here’s How.


Under the Dome: The World’s Largest Indoor Beach – in the Middle of the German Countryside – (Daily Mail – November 23, 2012)
Talk about “architectural repurposing” – this is it, writ large. Very large. A Malaysian company saw potential in an old aircraft hangar, which happened to be the world’s largest freestanding building, and repurposed it into the world’s largest indoor beach. The Tropical Island Resort in Krausnick, south of Berlin boasts the largest indoor pool, a 50,000-plant rain forest, and enough space to fly a hot air balloon inside. On the site of a former Soviet Military Air Base, the hangar was built originally to house airships designed to haul long-distance cargo. The former hangar is now a tropical escape – even when it’s snowing outside. It contains a beach, a lagoon, and a water slide and adventure park, along with numerous restaurants, evening shows, and overnight accommodations. In addition to flamingos, the theme park hosts free-flying canaries. Article includes numerous photos.


Nanoparticles of Rare Metal and Light Convert Carbon Dioxide into Fuel – (New Atlas – February 26, 2017)
Using just light and tiny nanoparticles of the rare metal rhodium, researchers at Duke University have found a way to help turn carbon dioxide into one of the building blocks of many fuels. The newly discovered chemical reaction could use natural sunlight to reduce growing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and lead to the development of alternative energies without the creation of unwanted byproducts like toxic carbon monoxide. Ultraviolet light fuels the reaction using the nanoparticles of the silvery element rhodium, which is related to platinum. Using light instead of heat is not only more efficient, but critically it more heavily favors the formation of methane over other undesirable byproducts. This is potentially good news for space travelers, since methane is one of SpaceX’s fuels of choice for getting to Mars.

Heating Homes with Energy from Data Centers? Stockholm Will Try It – (Curbed – February 22, 2017)
Unless they’re built on an ice desert, data centers can take enormous amounts of energy to cool. But over in Stockholm, the Swedish capital is trying to turn this energy burden into an asset. Teaming up with the local heating company, power grid operator, and fiber provider, Stockholm has crafted a plan to not only lure a number of large data centers to the city, but to also harvest their heat for Swedish homes. The Stockholm Data Parks initiative has identified three greenfield and brownfield sites within the city for potential data center development. The centers would be powered with renewable energy and outfitted with a heat recovery system plugged directly into the city’s existing heating network. A 10MW data center will be capable of heating roughly 20,000 Swedish homes. By producing heat that would otherwise be generated from fossil fuel sources, the data centers could one day create a net-positive environmental impact.


Safety Last: Russian Hoverbike Is Equally Amazing and Horrifying – (New Atlas – February 20, 2017)
Those from the health and safety brigade might want to click away now, but aspiring amputees should check out this latest manned multirotor out of Russia. The Hoversurf Scorpion is a motorcycle-styled hoverbike with four high-speed props mounted right at leg-amputation level. And it’s already flying high enough to bang the pilot’s head on the rafters. As soon as multirotor drones hit the market somewhere around five years ago, it was obvious: one day these clever, self-stabilizing airframes would carry people around. They offered the vertical takeoff and hover advantages of a helicopter, but without the mechanical complexity, high maintenance requirements, difficult four-limbed control scheme or the huge, noisy top rotor. What wasn’t immediately obvious was just how easy it would be to build one. Today, powerful, responsive electric motors and large lithium-ion battery packs are easily available off the shelf. Accelerometers, inertial measurement units and GPS chips have become incredibly cheap and plentiful. Flight control hardware and software has matured incredibly quickly in a few short years. So while established aviation companies are most definitely getting on board with a new wave of electric VTOL aircraft development, there’s also a maverick fringe of crazy inventors making these things in their back yards and factory spaces.

First Toyota Fuel Cell Bus Rolls into Tokyo – (New Atlas – February 25, 2017)
Toyota has delivered the first of its Fuel Cell (FC) buses to the Bureau of Transportation of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government that will run on a regular route starting in March, with a second bus delivery that month. The 76-passenger green bus uses two solid polymer electrolyte Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS) units cranking out 114 kW each and is the first of an anticipated fleet of 100 such vehicles being deployed in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The FC Bus’ fuel cell system has 10 high-pressure tanks holding 132 gal. of hydrogen at around 700 bar (690 ATM) of pressure that feed the fuel cell, which, in turn, charge the nickel-metal hydride batteries. These power two electric motors making a combined 226 kW (303 bhp) of power and 670 Nm (494 lb.ft) of torque. In addition to carry passengers along a Toei route in Tokyo, Toyota says that the bus can provide 235 kWh of electricity to run equipment in the event of a natural disaster. The new bus is also claimed to be more efficient than internal combustion engines, has no carbon dioxide or Substances of Concern (SoC) emissions during operation and complies with non-step standards for easy boarding and exiting by the elderly and young children.


Solar-powered Floating Farm Could Produce 20 Tons of Vegetables Daily – (Nation of Change – February 24, 2017)
The future of agriculture is here with what’s being called a Smart Floating Farm, designed by Forward Thinking Architecture, that could produce 8,000 tons of vegetables annually. The concept was selected as one of the Winners of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award 2016 (SEA) in the category of Lifestyle and Culture. The modular floating farms are not a reality yet but the concept behind it is sustainable and highly necessary with the rapidly growing human population and the equally declining access to natural resources. As the move away from traditional farming on land, there have been a number of farm concepts, such as vertical hydroponic gardening, that have taken off in urban settings to create a more sustainable future. The Smart Floating Farm is joining the ranks in replacing land farms and its high crop yield could make it a serious contender for what comes next in food production. Inspired by Chinese floating fish farms, these vegetable farms take food to the next level connecting 200×350 meters units that are rectangular and can attach to other modules via walkways. The farms harvest sunlight and rainwater to care for the crops and even desalinate the ocean water underneath it to be as independently viable as possible. The units are composed of three levels, the first of which is a rooftop photovoltaic power plant that features skylights, solar panels, rainwater collectors, wind turbines and wave energy converter systems. The middle level is where the greenhouse would exist, which would be complete with automated hydroponics and microclimate control for crop cultivation. The bottom level would house fish farms, a slaughterhouse, wave barriers and protection, a desalination plant and a package facility.


Born Killers: French Army Grooms Eagles to Down Drones – (Agence France-Presse – February 20, 2017)
Mont-de-Marsan is one of five air bases in France to boast a falconry. Usually, the birds of prey — generally falcons or northern goshawks — are kept to scare birds away from the runway to reduce the risk of accidents during takeoff or landing. But with France on high alert after a string of jihadist assaults since January 2015, they are now sinking their beaks into national security. At around 11 pounds, a golden eagle happens to weigh about the same as most of the drones that could be used for nefarious purposes — or that simply go astray. And an eagle is devastatingly fast, clocking 80 kilometers an hour as it swoops in for the kill. The birds, hatched in captivity, have their food served atop wrecked drones from the age of three weeks. Thanks to this technique, the birds very quickly began to seize remotely piloted aircraft for food. So when drones buzz above, their hunting instinct kicks in, with falconer Gerald Machoukow rewarding every successful interception with a hunk of meat. To prevent the birds from harming themselves on the job, the military is designing mittens of leather and Kevlar, an anti-blast material, to protect their talons.


Mem Fox on Being Detained by US Immigration: ‘In That Moment I Loathed America’ – (Guardian – February 27, 2017) Mem Fox, the celebrated Australian children’s author tells how, on her 117th visit to the US, she was suddenly at the mercy of the new DHS visa regime. “I was receiving an honorarium for delivering an opening keynote at a literacy conference, and because my expenses were being paid, they said: ‘You need to answer further questions.’ So I was taken into this holding room with about 20 other people and kept there for an hour and 40 minutes, and for 15 minutes I was interrogated. The belligerence and violence of it was really terrifying. Everything was yelled, and everything was public, and this was the most awful thing: I heard things happening in that room happening to other people that made me ashamed to be human. There was a woman from Taiwan, being yelled at about at about how she made her money, but she didn’t understand the question. The officer was yelling at her: ‘Where does your money come from, does it grow on trees? Does it fall from the sky?’ There was no toilet, no water, and there was this woman with a baby. If I had been holed up in that room with a pouch on my chest, and a baby crying, or needing to be fed, oh God … the agony I was surrounded by in that room was like a razor blade across my heart.”

3 Bills Inspired by Dakota Access Protests Pass ND Senate – (West Fargo Pioneer – February 16, 2017) The North Dakota Senate approved three bills, already approved by House lawmakers and “fast-tracked” for consideration, that relate to penalties for riot offenses, wearing a mask while committing a crime and criminal trespass citations. House Bill 1426, which passed with a 35-10 vote, increases penalties for riot offenses. Crimes such as inciting a riot involving 100 or more people or providing weapons for a riot will increase from a Class C felony to a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. Engaging in a riot or failing to disperse when ordered by police would increase from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. About 700 arrests have been made during Dakota Access protests since August, including some individuals who were arrested more than once. The charge of engaging in a riot has been used more than 360 times during the pipeline protests, according to information provided by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. Senators also voted 43-2 in favor of House Bill 1293, which gives law enforcement the option of issuing a noncriminal citation and $250 fine for some trespassing offenses. Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, opposed the bill, calling it “extremely subjective.” “Sometimes you get bills that your gut just says, ‘I don’t like this bill, this is not a fair bill, we don’t need this bill,'” Nelson said. The Senate has not yet considered House Bill 1193, which would make it a Class C felony to cause economic harm of more than $1,000 while committing a misdemeanor offense. The bill was introduced in response to protesters who attached themselves to equipment to stall construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Editor’s note: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, in part: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” At issue are the definitions of “peaceful assembly” and “rioting”.)


Discord in Angela Merkel’s Government after Environment Ministry Bans Meat at Official Functions – (Telegraph – February 21, 2017)
A row has broken out in Angela Merkel’s government after the environment minister banned meat at official functions. Environmental Minister, Barbara Hendricks claims eating meat is damaging to the environment and has ordered only vegetarian food to be served. A rival minister has accused her of “nanny-statism” and trying to force vegetarianism on people “by the back door”. With elections only months away and Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lagging behind their junior coalition partner in the polls, it was only a matter of time before tempers started to fray. But no one expected the first falling-out to be over vegetarian vol-au-vents. Ms. Hendricks has been accused of hypocrisy after it emerged that the ban only applies to official functions, and that meat and fish are still available to ministry officials in the staff canteen. “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat,” the environment ministry said in a statement. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.” (Editor’s note: Like some bans on this side of the pond, this one may – or may not – last very long.)


This Video Celebrates All Types of Love – in the Most Romantic Place: A Football Stadium – (Fast Company – February 14, 2017)
As the kiss cam swung through the crowd at the 2017 Pro Bowl in Orlando, it zoomed in on a man and a woman, sitting next to each other and smiling at the game. When they caught themselves on the jumbotron, they laughed in the awkward way of people thrown suddenly into the spotlight, but the man went for it: He leaned over, and kissed not the woman, but the man next to him. That’s the opening scene of “Fans of Love,” an extension of the Love Has No Labels campaign, which launched nationally in 2015 with a video of skeletons dancing and embracing behind a screen, then emerging to reveal themselves as a diverse array of couples: gay, straight, elderly, young, differently abled, different races. The video racked up 164 million views and an Emmy for best commercial-the first for a Public Service Announcement. As the video closes in a voiceover: “Love is about who you are, not what you are.”

Banned in Germany: Kids’ Doll Is Labeled an Espionage Device – (NPR – February 17, 2017)
It’s nice to have a friend who’s a good listener, but a doll called My Friend Cayla listens a little too well, according to German regulators who say the toy is essentially a stealthy espionage device that shares what it hears and is also vulnerable to takeover by third parties. Germany’s Federal Network Agency oversees electronic privacy as part of its telecommunications mandate. The head of the Agency, Jochen Homann, cites a special obligation to protect the privacy of children, calling them the most vulnerable members of society. The heart of the problem, Homann says, is that Cayla looks like an everyday doll and gives no notice that it collects and transmits everything it hears — in this case, to a voice-recognition company in the U.S. whose other customers include intelligence agencies. Nuance, the U.S. company in question, has said in response to similar criticisms that it “does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers.” Much of what the German agency says echoes the concerns of privacy and consumer advocates in the U.S., who filed a complaint against Cayla during the recent Christmas shopping season. They criticized the scope of what the Internet-connected toy captures, as well as the vulnerabilities it poses for users who link the doll with their smartphones via an unsecured Bluetooth pairing.


Why NASA Is Sending a Superbug to the Space Station – (CNN – February 18, 2017)
An antibiotic-resistant superbug will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Sunday from the same Kennedy Space Center launch complex where the first manned mission to the moon lifted off and then the bug will be studied by astronauts on the International Space Station. Working in conjunction with NASA, lead researcher Dr. Anita Goel hopes that by sending MRSA bacteria to a zero-gravity environment, we can better understand how superbugs mutate to become resistant to available antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, sometimes called a staph, is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin and many others. It can cause a variety of health problems including sepsis, pneumonia and skin and bloodstream infections. Goel is a medical doctor and a physicist. She’s also chairwoman and CEO of her lab and company, Nanobiosym which seeks out breakthroughs and technologies that span and combine physics, biomedicine and nanotechnology. Goel said at a NASA news conference last week, “I have this hypothesis that microgravity will accelerate the mutation patterns. If we can use microgravity as an accelerator to fast-forward and get a sneak preview of what these mutations will look like, then we can essentially build smarter drugs on Earth.”

NASA to Send Solar Probe to the Sun in 2018 – (Tech Times – February 26, 2017)
In 2018, NASA plans to launch the Solar Probe Plus mission, which aims to get within 4 million miles from the sun. Astronomers explained that this first mission to fly to the sun could not get to the very surface of the blazing star, but they hope to get the spacecraft close enough to gather data that can answer crucial questions regarding the host star of the solar system. Scientists hope that the mission will reveal why the solar surface known as the photosphere is not as hot as the sun’s atmosphere known as corona. The surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but the atmosphere above it is far hotter at 3.5 million Fahrenheit. “You’d think the farther away you get from a heat source, you’d get colder,” said Eric Christian, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Why the atmosphere is hotter than the surface is a big puzzle.” Researchers also want to know how the solar wind get its speed as well as why the sun occasionally produces high-energy particles known as solar energetic particles. Scientists likewise hope that the mission would provide new data on solar activities that will be critical in humanity’s ability to forecast space-weather events that can impact life on Earth.


South Korea Will Take Lead in Life Expectancy by 2030, Study Predicts – (CNN – February 22, 2017)
Average life expectancy will increase globally by 2030, both at birth and at the age of 65, according to a new study. The two time points help define when lifespans in a population are extending due to improvements in maternal and child health as well as improved adult health. The average for women at birth will exceed 85 years in many countries, but South Korea is projected to lead the way with a life expectancy of 90.8 years. In 2015, global average life expectancy at birth was 71.4 years, according to the World Health Organization. Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London led the study and noted that many experts had believed the average would never exceed 90. “This shows that even if there is a limit to longevity, we are nowhere near it,” he said. Among predictions for high-income countries, the lowest life expectancy at birth is likely to be in the US, with an average of 83.3 years for women and 79.5 years for men — similar to Mexico and Croatia. “People [in the U.S.] have a relatively high risk of dying in their 40s or 50s.” There are many reasons for deaths in this age range, Ezzati said, including greater obesity rates and their associated health risks as well as homicides and road accidents. Lack of universal health care in countries like the US is also thought to play a role, the study says.

How Big Is the Average American’s Tax Refund? – (Motley Fool – February 26, 2017)
For the 2015 tax year (returns filed in 2016), the average American who got a tax refund received $2,860 from the IRS. More than 70% of tax returns resulted in a refund, which translates to about 111 million refunds totaling more than $317 billion. Here’s how American taxpayers plan to use their refunds in 2017: Put the money in savings – 41%; Pay off debt – 38%; Put the money toward a vacation – 11%; Splurge on a purchase – 5%; Make a major purchase (car, home, etc.) – 5%.


The Origami Revolution – (PBS – February 15, 2017)
The centuries-old tradition of folding two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional shapes is inspiring a scientific revolution. The rules of folding are at the heart of many natural phenomena, from how leaves blossom to how beetles fly. But now, engineers and designers are applying its principles to reshape the world around us—and even within us, designing new drugs, micro-robots, and future space missions. With this burgeoning field of origami-inspired-design, the question is: can the mathematics of origami be boiled down to one elegant algorithm—a fail-proof guidebook to make any object out of a flat surface, just by folding? And if so, what would that mean for the future of design? Explore the high-tech future of this age-old art on this 54 minute PBS offering (embedded in article).

Boston Dynamics’ Newest Robot Moves Like a Donkey on Rollerblades – (GizModo – February 27, 2017)
The centuries-old tradition of folding two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional shapes is inspiring a scientific revolution. The rules of folding are at the heart of many natural phenomena, from how leaves blossom to how beetles fly. But now, engineers and designers are applying its principles to reshape the world around us—and even within us, designing new drugs, micro-robots, and future space missions. With this burgeoning field of origami-inspired-design, the question is: can the mathematics of origami be boiled down to one elegant algorithm—a fail-proof guidebook to make any object out of a flat surface, just by folding? And if so, what would that mean for the future of design? Explore the high-tech future of this age-old art on this 54 minute PBS offering (embedded in article).


Texas Oil Fields Rebound from Price Lull, But Jobs Are Left Behind – (New York Times – February 19, 2017)
Oil and gas workers have traditionally had some of the highest-paying blue-collar jobs — just the type that President Trump has vowed to preserve and bring back. But the West Texas oil fields, where activity is gearing back up as prices rebound, illustrate how difficult it will be to meet that goal. As in other industries, automation is creating a new demand for high-tech workers — sometimes hundreds of miles away in a control center — but their numbers don’t offset the ranks of field hands no longer required to sling chains and lift iron. Roughly 163,000 oil jobs were lost nationally from the 2014 peak, or about 30% of the total, while oil prices plummeted, at one point by as much as 70%. The job losses just in Texas, the most productive oil-producing state, totaled 98,000. Several thousand workers have come back to work in recent months as the price of oil has begun to rise again, but energy experts say that between a third and a half of the workers who lost their jobs are not returning. Indeed, computers now direct drill bits that were once directed manually. The wireless technology taking hold across the oil patch allows a handful of geoscientists and engineers to monitor the drilling and completion of multiple wells at a time — onshore or miles out to sea — and supervise immediate fixes when something goes wrong, all without leaving their desks. All the big companies, and many smaller ones, have organized teams of technicians that collect well and tank data to develop complex algorithms enabling them to duplicate the design for the most productive wells over and over, and to repair valves and other parts before they break down. The result is improved production and safety, but also a far smaller work force, and one that is increasingly morphing from muscle to brain power.

Temasek Jumps into China’s Bike Rental Startup War with Investment in MoBike – (Tech Crunch – February 20, 2017)
Temasek, Singapore’s state-owned investment firm, has jumped into China’s on-demand cycle war after it backed MoBike. The new startup drama du jour is in bikes — services that let you find a rental in the city using a mobile app and GPS-enable cycles — and MoBike is the busiest startup out there. MoBike said it has served over 10 million unique users, who have completed over 200 million paid rides on the service. It began in tier-one cities, but has since expanded to cover 21 cities in China. Referencing a report from iResearch, MoBike claimed it has nearly six million weekly users which is four-times more than its nearest rival. Beyond just getting in on the latest trend in China, Temasek’s investment is also a boon for MoBike’s international expansion plans. The company earmarked Singapore for its first move outside of China and Temasek is as good as it gets for investor contacts. In a sign of the industry’s eagerness to expand, Ofo, a MoBike rival backed by ride-sharing giant Didi, expanded to Singapore today, according to a Straits Times report. oBike, another bike sharing startup, is already present in the city-state so there’s plenty of competition brewing.


Three Ways to Speak English – (TED talk – February, 2014)
Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

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

Should We Invest in a Backup Planet For Earth? – (Forbes – February 27, 2017)
The cost would only be a little over $20 trillion, and some nice real estate has just come on the market. The discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star has gotten everyone thinking about space colonization again. Found by NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based TRAPPIST Telescope, there seem to be at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1. The biggest surprise is that three or four of these planets are in the Goldilocks Zone – not too far from the star, not too close, not too big for a planet, not too small – a sweet spot where liquid water is stable on the right-sized planet with an atmosphere on which life could develop or survive if transplanted. (Editor’s note: The Brooklyn Bridge is also for sale – for a lot less.)


Strandbeest – (YouTube – June 4, 2013)
Theodorus Gerardus Jozef “Theo” Jansen is a Dutch artist. In 1990, he began building large mechanisms out of PVC that are able to move on their own (unmotorized, wind powered only), known only as Strandbeest. This video clip showcases some of his remarkable creatures. Here is a TED talk in which he talks about his work.


It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task. ~ Robert Francis Kennedy

A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Pray Nolava, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, 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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