|Volume 20, Number 19 – 12/1/17 |
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
Every so often, the Earth’s rotation slows by a few milliseconds per day.Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside a living person.Twitter says it will judge verified users’ offline behavior.A Rotterdam-based studio is turning Amsterdam’s plastic waste into public street furniture.
by John L. Petersen
YES, I’LL HELP KEEP FUTUREDITION COMING!
I really think it is important that you have access to the information that we publish in FUTUREdition. Providing a unique window onto the most extraordinary period of change in history is our mission. That’s why we cover all of the unusual – but significant – happenings that we do.
Our objective is to touch a little on most of the likely shapers of the emerging new world . . . so that none of us are greatly surprised by what actually transpires. We’re trying to illuminate the path ahead to help you be able to anticipate what is inbound.
Right now, for example, I’m trying to finish up a solar electric system on our roof and put in place a vertical farming operation because I believe that the climate will change to being colder within the next 3-4 years. If you’ve been closely following FE over the last couple of years, then you know about the mini-ice age that many international indicators now point toward. There will likely be problems with agriculture and energy, they say.
There’s also a really good chance that we’re the first ones who told you about the former government officials who stood up in October and said that UFO’s are real . . . and that they’re starting a new initiative to make sure that secrets the government has been keeping will get public exposure.
Some of these things are controversial. But if they turn out to be what they look like they might, then the whole planet changes. And because you read about it in FUTUREdition, you will not be surprised.
FUTUREdition is pretty much a labor of love. I don’t get anything for my time, but I have to pay my dedicated associates who help with the editing and computer coding. And there are the costs for the service that sends out each issue twice a month.
It all totals up to about $15,000 a year and that’s why every holiday season we give our subscribers the opportunity to help support this work and offset these expenses.
Consider this. Do you think an issue of FE is worth a cup of coffee? If that sounded fair, then by Starbucks pricing, at least, you’d be saying that you receive about $72 of value during the year from what we send you with no obligation.
I’m not asking you to send a gift of $72 (unless you want to, of course), but how about consider making a tax-deductible contribution of $49? That would be less than a latte . . . and a great help to keeping FE coming your way.
Maybe you would like to give $100 or $500. Every year, some of our readers do that and more. They think this effort to illuminate the path ahead is particularly valuable and they get information from us that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
There are a lot of wonderful people who are doing amazing work to make this a better world . . . who are certainly also trying to get your attention at this time of year. I hope that you’ll help those that you think are doing a good job.
And I hope that you’ll include us in that group – so that we can continue to send FUTUREdition your way in 2018. I can promise you one thing: It’s going to be an extraordinarily interesting year. And we’ll do our best to make sure that you’ll have a front-row seat.
You can contribute $49 – or anything you’d like – by clicking here.
Thank you so very much.
My warmest holiday wishes,
John L. Petersen
Braden, Petersen in Berkeley Springs
Gregg Braden will be with us at Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 20th of January. Interest is very high for this event – almost 100 registrations already. Gregg has a new book out and this presentation is completely new. I heard it in New Mexico a couple of months ago. Very powerful!
And I’m happy to announce that Lee Carroll and Kryon will be returning in April and Bruce Lipton is scheduled in September. Robert David Steele will provide his world-changing ideas in February, so it’s going to be a really great 2018.
On December 9th, I’ll be giving a talk on the big picture of global change and the emergence of the new human – the divergence of two big evolutionary tracks. On one hand there are the explosive advances in nanotech, government surveillance, bio tech, 3D manufacturing (and the loss of upwards of 80% of current jobs!), and the implosion of present global systems (financial, geopolitical, et.al.), and on the other, there is the rise of awakened individuals who are literally becoming a new version of the species, with new levels of consciousness and capabilities . . . who will be the core community of the emergent new world.
It’s a great, new picture that you’ll find interesting and helpful.
Let me tell you about it: John L. Petersen: Upcoming Talks in Berkeley Springs 2017-2018
Register at www.TransitionTalks.org
Jim McCarty Interviews Available
Our November TransitionTalk presenter, Jim McCarty, scribe of the Law of One transmissions, gave a very provocative talk and lively Q&A session about the history of the project and the essential nature of some of the most provocative aspects of the communications. Here are two PostScript interviews I did with Jim that explored some of the more interesting aspects of these rather extraordinary books.
Scientists Are About to Test a Devastating Hypothesis: 2018 Will Suffer a Lot of Big Earthquakes – (Quartz – November 19, 2017)
Every so often, the Earth’s rotation slows by a few milliseconds per day. This is inconsequential to the average human, and causes only mild annoyance to the people whose job it is to measure Earth’s rotation with great precision. That may be about to change, if the hypothesis set out by two geologists proves true. In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters earlier this year, Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana predict that, because of Earth’s slowing rotation, the world will see a significant spike in large earthquakes in 2018. To make this prediction, Bilham and Bendick studied every earthquake since 1900 that recorded more than 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale. They found that approximately every 32 years, there is an uptick in these large quakes. The only factor that strongly correlates is a slight slowing of the Earth’s rotation in a five-year period before the uptick. Though Bilham and Bendick don’t know for sure, they believe that every so often the Earth’s mantle might stick a little more to the crust. That could change how the liquid outer core flows. And because it’s all metal down there, the change in flow will affect planet’s magnetic field, which would ever so slightly affect the Earth’s rotation and thus change the length of the day by milliseconds. The Earth’s rotation has been slowing down for the past four years. “The inference is clear,” Bilham said. “Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes.” Instead of an average of about 15-20 large earthquakes, we might see 25 or 30 in 2018. See also: The Real Science Behind the Unreal Predictions of Major Earthquakes in 2018 which attempts to cut down on the sensationalism. Their study is about probabilities, not predictions, Bendick cautioned. Earth’s slowing doesn’t mean that a quake will happen in the next year or so, just that the likelihood may have gone up.
Male Dolphins Attract Female Dolphins with Gifts for Mating – (Value Walk – November 22, 2017)
If you thought that only men like attracting women with stunning presents, you were wrong. A group of marine biologists has observed the mating process of dolphins on the northwest coast of Australia and they recorded an uncommon event, where male dolphins attract female dolphins by offering them gifts in the form of marine sponges! Scientists have managed to record adult male Australian humpback dolphins that gifted marine sponges to female dolphins while performing visual and acoustical gestures. The scientists observed a male dolphin reaching to the floor of the ocean to get a marine sponge, which it then put on the end of its beak to give it to a female. Scientists have documented dolphins mating before. However, seeing male dolphins attract female dolphins with gifts, in particular, this behavior in animals is extremely rare. Sometimes it occurred that once the male dolphins gave the sponge to the female, he would make a quick pose for added effect. Others would move their tail, lifting it above the water. The researchers refer to this pose as the “banana pose.” (Editor’s note: Why would the ladies want sponges? What do they do with them? The article doesn’t say.)
U.S. Approves Digital Pill That Tracks When Patients Take It – (Reuters – November 13, 2017)
U.S. regulators have approved the first digital pill with an embedded sensor to track if patients are taking their medication properly, marking a significant step forward in the convergence of healthcare and technology. The medicine is a version of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co Ltd’s established drug Abilify for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, containing a tracking device developed by Proteus Digital Health. The system offers doctors an objective way to measure if patients are swallowing their pills on schedule, opening up a new avenue for monitoring medicine compliance that could be applied in other therapeutic areas. The FDA said that being able to track ingestion of medicines prescribed for mental illness may be useful “for some patients”, although the ability of the digital pill to improve patient compliance had not been proved. The system works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch, which then transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smartphone. About the size of a grain of salt, the sensor has no battery or antenna and is activated when it gets wet from stomach juices. That completes a circuit between coatings of copper and magnesium on either side, generating a tiny electric charge. In the longer term, such digital pills could also be used to manage patients with other complicated medicine routines, such as those suffering from diabetes or heart conditions. See also: First Digital Pill Approved to Worries about Biomedical ‘Big Brother’.
U.S. Man with Rare Disease Is First to Undergo Gene Editing in the Body – (CBS News – November 15, 2017)
Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person’s DNA to cure a disease. The experiment was done Monday in California on 44-year-old Brian Madeux. Through an IV, he received billions of copies of a corrective gene and a genetic tool to cut his DNA in a precise spot. “It’s kind of humbling” to be the first to test this,” said Madeux, who has a metabolic disease called Hunter syndrome. “I’m willing to take that risk. Hopefully it will help me and other people.” Signs of whether it’s working may come in a month; tests will show for sure in three months. If it’s successful, it could give a major boost to the fledgling field of gene therapy. Scientists have edited people’s genes before, altering cells in the lab that are then returned to patients. There also are gene therapies that don’t involve editing DNA.
Hibernating Ground Squirrels Offer Clues to Fight Against Stroke-induced Brain Damage – (News Medical – November 17, 2017)
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels. While the animals’ brains experience dramatically reduced blood flow during hibernation, just like human patients after a certain type of stroke, the squirrels emerge from their extended naps suffering no ill effects. Now, a team of NIH-funded scientists has identified a potential drug that could grant the same resilience to the brains of ischemic stroke patients by mimicking the cellular changes that protect the brains of those animals. Currently, the only way to minimize stroke-induced cell death is to remove the clot as soon as possible. A treatment to help brain cells survive a stroke-induced lack of oxygen and glucose could dramatically improve patient outcomes, but no such neuroprotective agents for stroke patients exist. Recently, researchers led by John Hallenbeck, M.D., an NINDS senior investigator and co-senior author of the study, found that a cellular process called SUMOylation goes into overdrive in a certain species of ground squirrel during hibernation. Dr. Hallenbeck suspected this was how the animals’ brains survived the reduced blood flow caused by hibernation, and subsequent experiments in cells and mice confirmed his suspicions. Article includes detailed information on the squirrel biochemistry and the experimental design.
First Brain Training Exercise Positively Linked to Dementia Prevention Identified – (Science Daily – November 16, 2017)
Aging research specialists have identified, for the first time, a form of mental exercise that can reduce the risk of dementia. The cognitive training, called speed of processing, showed benefits up to 10 years after study participants underwent the mental exercise program, said Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine. There were measurable benefits even though the amount of training was small and spread out over time: 10 one-hour sessions over six weeks initially and up to eight booster sessions after that. After attrition due to death and other factors, 1,220 participants completed the 10-year follow-up assessment. During that time, 260 participants developed dementia. The risk of developing dementia was 29% lower for participants in speed of processing training than for those who were in the control group, a statistically significant difference. Moreover, the benefits of the training were stronger for those who underwent booster training. Dr. Unverzagt noted that the speed of processing training used computerized “adaptive training” software with touch screens. Participants were asked to identify objects in the center of the screen, while also identifying the location of briefly appearing objects in the periphery. The software would adjust the speed and difficulty of the exercises based on how well participants performed. The current version of the “speed training” software, now called Double Decision, is produced by the company Posit Science.
Brain Is Strobing Not Constant, Neuroscience Research Shows – (Science Daily – November 16, 2017)
It’s not just our eyes that play tricks on us, but our ears. It has been known for some years that our sight perception is cyclical but this is the first time it has been demonstrated that hearing is as well.”These findings that auditory perception also goes through peaks and troughs supports the theory that perception is not passive but in fact our understanding of the world goes through cycles,” said Professor Alais from the University of Sydney. That’s the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration that provides new evidence that oscillations, or ‘strobes’, are a general feature of human perception. While our conscious experience appears to be continuous, the University of Sydney and Italian universities study suggests that perception and attention are intrinsically rhythmic in nature. A paper published in Current Biology provides the important new evidence for the cyclical nature of perception. The key findings are: 1. auditory perception oscillates over time and peak perception alternates between the ears — which is important for locating events in the environment; 2. auditory decision-making also oscillates; and 3. oscillations are a general feature of perception, not specific to vision. “These findings are important as humans make decisions at the rate of about one-sixth of a second, which is in line with these auditory oscillations,” said Professor Alais. Why should the brain sample information in this cyclic fashion? Theories abound, but one popular idea — favored by the authors of this study — is that it reflects the action of attention which appears to sample neural activity in rapid bursts.
A Vest That Allows the Deaf to ‘Hear’ – (Medscape – November 17, 2017)
Interviewer: You’ve also developed a vest that allows deaf people to, in a way, “hear” through vibrations. Tell us about this. Dr. Eagleman: It’s to hear through vibrations—exactly. The inner ear takes sound and breaks it up into different frequencies; it then sends this information to the brain. I got very interested in the topic of sensory substitution and whether you could actually feed information to the brain via unusual sensory channels. One of my graduate students, Scott Novak, and I ended up making a vest that captures sound and converts it on the fly into patterns of vibration on the torso. In our tests, people can come to understand the world that way. We’ve now also built a wristband version that has lower resolution but is obviously easier to wear. It will be available in about 11 months. That’s when it’s going to finally roll out of the factories. If somebody were to get a cochlear implant, that’s $100,000 and an invasive therapy. But our wristbands will sell for just $389. The company is called company NeoSensory, located in Palo Alto, CA.
9 Unexpected Outcomes of Human Cloning – (Gizmodo – July 17, 2014)
Human cloning is currently illegal in virtually all parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Here are some surprising things we can expect once we’re finally allowed to make genetic duplicates of ourselves. Back in 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Declaration on Human Cloning prohibiting all forms of human cloning “inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” The ruling prohibits both therapeutic cloning, in which cells are cloned from a human for use in medicine and transplants, and reproductive cloning, the practice of creating a living, breathing genetic duplicate. Though many countries disagreed with the declaration, the resulting moratorium is respected around the globe. To date, no human clone has ever been born (as far as is publically known). But if human cloning ever does become legal, we can expect some weirdness. Here are nine surprising outcomes. For example: Let’s say you clone yourself. Should your clone, in turn, be allowed to clone him or herself? How could you possibly say no, and what makes you think you’d even have any control over your genome at this point anyway? Here’s the thing — the moment you choose to reproduce via human cloning, you’re going to have to expect that it may not be the only genetic version of yourself to roam this great Earth; it’s doubtful that the law would preclude your clonal offspring from reproducing in the same way you did. The other 8 unexpected outcomes are equally worthy of consideration.
New Study Shows What Would Happen If the US Went Vegan – (Gizmodo – November 14, 2017)
A pair of scientists, one from the University of Vermont and another from the USDA, have made some new calculations based on the wonder: what if the United States really did ditch animals for good? What would a society without animal agriculture look like? Their answer is complicated. “This assessment suggests that removing animals from US agriculture would reduce agricultural [greenhouse gas] emissions,” write the authors in the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “but would also create a food supply incapable of supporting the US population’s nutritional requirements.” The researchers looked at hypothetical changes to the entire livestock process, including people and industry, fuel, and raising crops for animals, for example. They found a 23% increase in the amount of food available—mainly in grains—and a 28% decrease in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. However, they only found a 2.6% decrease in overall greenhouse gas emissions. They also found deficiencies in the American diet’s essential nutrients. Many will probably remind me that it is possible to live healthily on a vegan diet, though doing so might require supplements and extra work, including producing more of certain calcium and Vitamin B12-containing foods. Others might remind me that meat replacements like plant-based burgers and lab grown meat should be taken seriously. Some researchers took issue with its conclusions, and thought that restructuring land use could account for the lost nutrients, or that it underestimated the cuts in greenhouse gases that might come from importing meat, according to an article published in Science.
The Switch to Outdoor LED Lighting Has Completely Backfired – (Gizmodo – November 22, 2017)
Using satellite-based sensors, an international team of scientists sought to understand if our planet’s surface is getting brighter or darker at night, and to determine if LEDs are saving energy at the global scale. With the introduction of solid-state lighting—such as LEDs, OLEDs, and PLEDs—it was thought (and hoped) that the transition to it from conventional lighting—like electrical filaments, gas, and plasma—would result in big energy savings. According to the latest research, however, the use of LEDs has resulted in a “rebound” effect whereby many jurisdictions have opted to use even more light owing to the associated energy (i.e. cost) savings. Indeed, as the new results show, the amount of outdoor lighting around the world has increased during the past several years. “As a result, the world has experienced widespread ‘loss of the night,’ with half of Europe and a quarter of North America experiencing substantially modified light-dark cycles,” write the researchers in the new study. Researchers have been documenting the steady growth of artificial lighting ever since it was invented, and they’ve been wondering when the trend might stop. During the second half of the 20th century, electric light grew at an estimated rate of 3% to 6% per year. According to the new study, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor areas grew by 2.2% each year from 2012 to 2015, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% each year.
French Government Declares War on Pesticides – (PhysOrg – September 25, 2017)
France is planning to cut back on use of all pesticides, though it rowed back on an announcement of an outright ban on controversial chemical glyphosate. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner had said earlier Monday that France—Europe’s biggest food producer—intended to phase out glyphosate completely by 2022 over fears that it may cause cancer. But he later reversed his comments, saying that by the end of President Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term “the government is committed to seeing significant progress on all pesticides”. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in one of the world’s most widely used weedkillers, Roundup, produced by the US agro-chemicals giant Monsanto. The European Commission has proposed extending the license for the use of the chemical for 10 years, which France has said it will vote against and try to block. France’s biggest farming union, the FNSEA, said that it was “out of the question” for the country to go it alone, worrying that a French ban could put them at a disadvantage against European competitors. “A sudden ban, no—a path for reducing it and finding solutions, if the solutions are good economically and technically, we can see it happening,” said FNSEA chief Christiane Lambert. Europe limited use of glyphosate last year pending further research. See also: French Court Suspends Two Dow Pesticides over Potential Harm to Bees.
Google Collects Android Users’ Locations Even When Location Services Are Disabled – (Quartz – November 21, 2017)
Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card? Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed. Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy. The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.
Twitter Says It Will Judge Verified Users’ Offline Behavior – (The Verge – November 16, 2017)
Twitter’s announcement that it would begin removing verification badges from some accounts had an immediate impact, as the company stripped the blue checkmark from a handful of accounts associated with the far right. But the announcement, which arrived via five tweets and an update to a Twitter support page, left much unanswered. The most common question was why Twitter would remove a user’s badge instead of simply suspending or banning the account. And the answer, the company says, has to do with offline behavior. The gist is this: if a user breaks Twitter’s rules on Twitter — that is to say, by tweeting — that user will still be disciplined in all the usual ways, a spokesperson said. What’s new is that Twitter now plans to do at least some monitoring of verified users’ offline behavior as well, to determine whether it is consistent with its rules. If it isn’t, users can lose their badges. And so a hypothetical verified user who tweeted nothing but pictures of kittens but organized Nazi rallies for a living could now retain his tweeting privileges, but lose his verification badge. While it worked on a new program, the company introduced a half-measure. It introduced accountability for offline behavior into its rules and suspended a handful of accounts associated with far-right activism. The company said it would also review all verified accounts — about 287,000 in total. Many questions remain unanswered. What will the company’s “review” consist of? How will it examine users’ offline behavior? Will it simply respond to reports, or will it actively look for violations? Will it handle the work with its existing team, or will it expand its trust and safety team? The company declined to comment.
This Company Is Turning Plastic Waste into Public Furniture – (Nation of Change – November 24, 2017)
A Rotterdam-based studio is turning Amsterdam resident’s plastic waste into public street furniture. The New Raw’s project, “Print Your City!” calls on citizens to support turning their discarded plastic into furniture by combining 3D printing with recycling. Their first prototype, the XXX plastic bench, turns plastic bags into stylish 3D-printed benches. These chairs are made to look like rocking chairs and can fit up to four people, but the company says this can be easily customized. Even better, when the bench can’t be used any more it can be taken apart and recycled again up to seven times to create more furniture for public spaces. Each resident of Amsterdam produces up to 50.7 lbs of plastic waste each year. Each bench weighs about twice that, meaning that Amsterdam citizens produce enough plastic waste to build one bench for every two residents every year. Here’s a video clip with more details.
Transparent Solar Technology Represents ‘Wave of the Future’ – (PhysOrg – October 23, 2017)
See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units, scientists report in Nature Energy. Led by engineering researchers at Michigan State University, the authors argue that widespread use of such highly transparent solar applications, together with the rooftop units, could nearly meet U.S. electricity demand and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels. “Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.” Lunt said highly transparent solar applications are recording efficiencies above 5%, while traditional solar panels typically are about 15% to 18% efficient. Although transparent solar technologies will never be more efficient at converting solar energy to electricity than their opaque counterparts, they can get close and offer the potential to be applied to a lot more additional surface area, he said. The authors note that there is an estimated 5 billion to 7 billion square meters of glass surface in the United States.
This Ex-trucker Has Some Questions about the Tesla Semi – (Engadget – November 21, 2017)
First, let’s clear up what this truck is for, as it was presented. This is not an over-the-road truck. This truck suits line-haul – routes that run between a company’s terminals, like from one regional Wal-Mart distribution center to another. When Musk made the case for a 20-percent savings over a diesel truck, he based the numbers on a 100-mile trip – fifty miles out, fifty miles back. The Semi would be perfect for port work, which involves lots of waiting, idling, stop-and-go traffic, and local out-and-back trips. This first version of the Semi will not replace the dozens of thousands of trucks on huge regional or coast-to-coast runs, clocking 2,000 to 5,000 miles per week. Moving to his questions, the author notes that, for example, he doesn’t see how a central seating position helps a trucker; he or she already gets “a commanding view of the road” in a traditional truck because they sit six feet above traffic. What a driver needs is a commanding view of his/her own truck, which the central seating position compromises. The worst blind spot in a tractor is next to the doors; in the Tesla Semi, the driver can’t lean over to see if there’s a Toyota Corolla camped out right there. The central seating position hampers the commanding view when the driver needs that view most: in backing up. Being able to physically watch the trailer – not camera images on screens – can be the difference between making a clean back-up or making an insurance claim. When the driver needs to exchange paperwork with the guard at a terminal, or the police, he or she can’t lean out the window to do so. The rest of the author’s questions seem equally – and highly – relevant.
Bud on Mars – (NY Daily News – November 22, 2017)
In order for Budweiser, produced by Anheuser Busch, to be the first “microgravity” beer on Mars, the company is sending barley into space. Rather than wait until humans make it to the Red Planet, the beer company is doing their advanced research to see how and if beer tastes different in space. In conjunction with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space and payload development company Space Tango, Budweiser will send 20 barley seeds to the International Space Station on Dec. 4. The shipments will leave from Cape Canaveral and stay in orbit on the space station for one month. This will test how gravity affects barley growth and how the barley will germinate before heading back to earth for analysis. Also, as NASA says in an article on beer in space, researchers must also understand the differences in carbonation. With “no buoyancy to bring the bubbles to the top,” how will the beer form a proper head?
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Watch Parkour Robot Do Backflip as Boston Dynamics Unveils Latest Atlas Model – (Newsweek – November 17, 2017)
A humanoid robot capable of jumping over blocks and performing backflips has been unveiled by pioneering robotics firm Boston Dynamics. Each new generation of Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot, originally developed for use in the U.S. military (research often funded by DARPA), demonstrates new physical feats of balance and agility. Previous videos of the 5 foot 9 inches, 180-pound bi-pedal robot have shown its ability to navigate rough terrain, pick up objects and self-right when pushed to the ground. The latest video, posted late Thursday, shows Atlas performing tricks beyond the realm of most humans, though not every attempt at a backflip is successful. It is still not clear what these applications will be, though current humanoid robots in commercial applications are used to perform human tasks, like personal assistants and hotel receptionists. In the future, advances in humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence could lead to robots like Atlas being used in dangerous environments, such as on space exploration missions. Artificial intelligence experts warn that such advances will need to be carefully monitored and regulated to prevent future robots from breaking one or all of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Last week, hundreds of leading AI figures sent open letters to the prime ministers of Australia and Canada to call for a ban on weaponized robots capable of autonomously deciding whether people live or die. The letters concluded: If developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. The deadly consequence of this is that machines—not people—will determine who lives and dies.” See also: Artificially Intelligent Drones Become Terrifying Killing Machines In Dystopian Short Film. The film, called Slaughterbots, is done in a style reminiscent of the sci-fi series Black Mirror, and it takes place in the near future. A fictional company called StratoEnergetics is seen holding a product launch of its new AI-powered and miniaturised killer drones, but things start to take a dark turn. The weapon eventually gets into the wrong hands, and it’s used as an assassination tool, targeting politicians, political activists and students. The film illustrates just how easy it will be to build such weapons, and how hard it will be to defend against them. Clip from film embedded in article.
Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core – (New York Times – November 12, 2017)
Current and former National Security Agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden. He released code words, while the Shadow Brokers have released the actual code; if he shared what might be described as battle plans, they have loosed the weapons themselves. Created at huge expense to American taxpayers, those cyberweapons have now been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies. Millions of people saw their computers shut down by ransomware, with demands for payments in digital currency to have their access restored. Tens of thousands of employees at Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies, have had their data completely wiped. FedEx reported that an attack on a European subsidiary had halted deliveries and cost $300 million. Hospitals in Pennsylvania, Britain and Indonesia had to turn away patients. Much of the agency’s arsenal is still being replaced, curtailing operations. Morale has plunged, and experienced specialists are leaving the agency for better-paying jobs — including with firms defending computer networks from intrusions that use the N.S.A.’s leaked tools. The prime suspect, Russia, is also suspected in a parallel hemorrhage of hacking tools and secret documents from the C.I.A.’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, posted week after week since March to the WikiLeaks website under the names Vault7 and Vault8. That breach, too, is unsolved. Together, the flood of digital secrets from agencies that invest huge resources in preventing such breaches is raising profound questions. Have hackers and leakers made secrecy obsolete? Has Russian intelligence simply outplayed the United States, penetrating the most closely guarded corners of its government? Can a work force of thousands of young, tech-savvy spies ever be immune to leaks?
Israeli Court Orders al-Araqib Residents to Pay Costs of Israel Demolishing Their Village – (Ma’an News Agency – August 24, 2017)
An Israeli court has ruled that several residents of the unrecognized village of al-Araqib in the Negev of southern Israel must pay the costs for demolitions carried out by Israeli forces, which have completely destroyed the village at least 116 times since 2010. Israeli daily Haaretz reported that an Israeli court had ruled that six residents of the village must pay 262,000 shekels (more than $72,000) for the costs of demolishing the village, in addition to 100,000 shekels ($27,693) to cover the costs of the state’s lawyer. The case began in Aug. 2011 against 34 village residents, as the Israeli state prosecution demanded reimbursement for costs of eight Israeli-ordered demolitions that destroyed the village between July and Dec. 2010, according to Haaretz. Two of the village residents died during the legal proceedings, while 26 agreed on a compromise. However, six had continued until the end of the court proceedings. Haaretz reported that the six would also have to pay for the state prosecution, “for recordings and minutes, which are likely to be a few thousand shekels more.” According to al-Araqib residents, before the latest court ruling, the village was ordered to pay more than two million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010. Al-Araqib is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Bedouins in the Negev reside in unrecognized villages.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Many Older Americans Are Living a Desperate, Nomadic Life – (MarketWatch – November 11, 2017)
In her powerful new book, Nomadland, award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder reveals the dark, depressing and sometimes physically painful life of a tribe of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are — as the subtitle says — “surviving America in the twenty-first century.” Not quite homeless, they are “houseless,” living in secondhand RVs, trailers and vans and driving from one location to another to pick up seasonal low-wage jobs, if they can get them, with little or no benefits. The “workamper” jobs range from helping harvest sugar beets to flipping burgers at baseball spring training games to Amazon’s “CamperForce,” seasonal employees who can walk the equivalent of 15 miles a day during Christmas season pulling items off warehouse shelves and then returning to frigid campgrounds at night. Living on less than $1,000 a month, in certain cases, some have no hot showers. As Bruder writes, these are “people who never imagined being nomads.” Many saw their savings wiped out during the Great Recession or were foreclosure victims and, writes Bruder, “felt they’d spent too long losing a rigged game.” Some were laid off from high-paying professional jobs. Few have chosen this life. Few think they can find a way out of it. They’re downwardly mobile older Americans in mobile homes. During her three years doing research for the book, conducting hundreds of interviews and traversing 15,000 miles, Bruder even tried living the difficult nomad life; she lasted one workweek. See also: The New Retirement: A KOA ‘Work Kamper’ Couple.
Gaming Is Now a Viable Career in Singapore with This Academy – (Vulcan Post – April 21, 2017)
Remember when people used to say that gaming is a waste of time? Well, not anymore. The eSports scene is currently flourishing, and game market research firm Newzoo has estimated that the global e-sports market will hit almost US$700 million this year, and reach US$1.5 billion in three years. eSports is also slowly gaining more recognition, especially following the recent announcement by the Olympic Council of Asia that eSports will be officially included as a medal sport in the 2022 Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China. The Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association (Scoga), a non-profit organization supported by the National Youth Council, has partnered with the world’s largest streaming website Twitch, to launch the first ever eSports Academy in Singapore. The academy will hold classes to train gamers who wish to go professional and on other gaming-related fields, including live-streaming and shoutcasting, which involves a play-by-play commentary during a gaming session. Aspiring eSports professionals can sign up for classes and boot camps run by professional game coaches on how to better their game mechanics and strategies, and to practice with higher-level players. See also: Why Singapore is Training Professional Gamers.
Substitute Phone Aims to Help Overcome Smartphone Addiction – (Dezeen – November 26, 2017)
Designer Klemens Schillinger has created a set of therapeutic phone-like objects, to help smartphone “addicts” cope with being away from their devices. The Vienna-based designer created a series of five Substitute Phones, which use stone beads to imitate the different motions used for smart devices, such as scrolling, zooming, and swiping. By replacing digital functions with the stone beads, Schillinger aims to create a set of therapeutic tools that can help frequent smartphone users cope with withdrawal symptoms, by providing physical stimulation as a substitute for phone usage. “The touchscreen smartphone has made it possible to ‘escape’ into social media,” he said. “We check emails and messages not only on public transport but also in social situations, for example when having drinks with friends.” “More and more often one feels the urge to check their phone, even if you are not expecting a specific message or call. These observations inspired the idea of making a tool that would help stop this ‘checking’ behavior.” When researching his project, Schillinger was inspired by a documentary featuring the Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco – who was trying to give up smoking by substituting his pipe with a wooden stick. “It was the same thing, but without the nicotine, just the physical stimulation,” he said. “I remembered this and thought to make phones that would provide the physical stimulation but not the connectivity.” See also: Klemens Schillinger’s lamps supply electricity in exchange for users’ smartphones
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Star Explodes As Supernova 50 Years Ago – Explodes Again in 2014 – (Daily Galaxy – November 8, 2017)
It’s the celestial equivalent of a horror movie villain–a star that wouldn’t stay dead. An international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Nick Konidaris and Benjamin Shappee discovered a star that exploded multiple times over a period of 50 years. The finding, published by Nature, completely confounds existing knowledge of a star’s end of life, and Konidaris’ instrument-construction played a crucial role in analyzing the phenomenon. In September 2014, the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory team of astronomers detected a new explosion in the sky, iPTF14hls. The light given off by the event was analyzed in order to understand the speed and chemical composition of the material ejected in the explosion. This analysis indicated that the explosion was what’s called a type II-P supernova, and everything about the discovery seemed normal. Until, that is, a few months later when the supernova started getting brighter again. Type II-P supernovae usually remain bright for about 100 days. But iPTF14hls remained bright for more than 600! What’s more, archival data revealed a 1954 explosion in the exact same location. It turned out that somehow this star exploded more than half a century ago, survived, and exploded again in 2014. “This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work,” said lead author Iair Arcavi of University of California Santa Barbara and Las Cumbres Observatory.
NASA Goes Back to the Middle Ages for Its Rover Tire Design – (Engadget – November 24, 2017)
The Mars Curiosity rover has been a big success, but NASA’s modern tech couldn’t save its tires from breaking down in the harsh conditions of Mars. For future missions, the agency has gone back to the age of knights. Based on the principals of chainmail armor, the “Superelastic” tires can withstand more deformation than any other non-pneumatic tire. At the same time, they could potentially withstand extraplanetary abuse and provide better traction for next-generation rovers. It’s not just the chainmail-style configuration that makes the tires work, though. They’re also built from alloys like nickel-titanium (NiTi) that can deform up to 10% deformation without losing their shape. The tires could even be useful here on Earth. “The Superelastic tire offers traction equal or superior to conventional pneumatic tires and eliminates the possibility of puncture failures, thereby improving automobile safety,” NASA said.
Millennials Are Set to Be the Most Unequal Generation Yet – (Quartz – November 19, 2017)
In an economic climate where the top 1% own half the world’s wealth, a new analysis by Credit Suisse suggests that millennials in several advanced economies are likely going to face the worst income inequality of any generation in recent memory. The report, which focuses on the US, Germany, France, and Spain, shows that millennials are generally saddled with more student debt, less inherited money, and stricter mortgages than previous generations. At the same time, a lucky few are set to become spectacularly wealthy, widening the already large gap between rich and poor. Why? Members of the class of 2015 owe, on average, around $35,000, about twice the amount of their counterparts two decades ago, after adjusting for inflation. Analysis of Federal Reserve data by the group Young Invincibles shows that the median millennial household earns around $40,500, 20% less than boomers at the same point in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, more and more millennials are entering the ranks of the ultra-rich. In 2003, there were only 21 billionaires under 40. By 2017, the number had more than doubled, to 46. The average wealth of young billionaires is also on the rise. Seven years ago, the average young billionaire was worth $3.2 billion. Today, the richest millennials are worth some $4.1 billion.
Self-harm Rises Sharply Among Tween and Young Teen Girls, Study Shows – (LA Times – November 21, 2017)
For girls navigating the straits of adolescence and young adulthood, there are new signs of serious emotional trouble. From 2009 to 2015, the nation’s emergency rooms saw a sharp rise in treatment of girls 10 to 24 who intentionally injured themselves. But inside that increasing trend of girls and young women harming themselves — a yearly hike of 8.4% in ER visits over six years — lies an even more alarming statistic: Among girls 10 to 14 years old, rates of ER visits for treatment of self-harm surged 18.8% yearly between 2009 and 2015. For girls in and around their middle school years, the statistics are a harbinger of turmoil and tragedy. Self-inflicted injury, including such behaviors as cutting, burning and ingesting poisons, is not only a cry for help, it is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide. Among American kids 10 to 24, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2015. The new statistics show that girls and young women were overwhelmingly treated in emergency departments after ingesting pills or poisons. Self-injury with sharp objects was about half as frequent. The data are in line with reports of an uptick in depression and suicide in young Americans, especially in young girls, starting around 2008-2009. Among girls 5 to 15 years old — a segment of the population among whom suicide was a rare phenomenon in 1999 — an April 2016 study showed that rates of suicide tripled between 1999 and 2014, with one suicide yearly for every 6,660 of these girls.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
World’s Smallest Tape Recorder Has Been Built Inside a Living Bacterium – (Science Alert – November 24, 2017)
Researchers have hacked the immune system of a bacterium into serving as the equivalent of a molecular tape recorder. By responding to chemical changes in the surroundings and then ‘time-stamping’ them in DNA, the technology paves the way for living monitoring devices that could be used in health screens or to analyze pollutants in ecosystems. Scientists from Columbia University Medical Centre in the US co-opted the gene editing system known as CRISPR-Cas in the bacterium Escherichia coli, taking advantage of its natural ability to remember the genetic information of viruses. “The CRISPR-Cas system is a natural biological memory device,” says the study’s senior author, biophysicist Harris Wang. “From an engineering perspective that’s actually quite nice, because it’s already a system that has been honed through evolution to be really great at storing information.” The tool works based on a principle we’ve observed in bacteria – as it turns out, a bacterium like E. coli contains ‘libraries’ of genetic sequences that help it identify invasive viruses. The bacterium copies these libraries onto sections of RNA that helps enzymes called Cas to rapidly recognize viral genomes and tear them up before they can cause damage.
The Ransomware Economy – (Carbon Black – October, 2017)
It’s no secret that 2017 is shaping up to be the most notorious year on record for ransomware. Even a casual news consumer can identify several, if not all, of the menacing ransomware attacks that have cost worldwide businesses an estimated $1 billion this year. With ransomware illuminated in the cybersecurity spotlight, Carbon Black’s Threat Analysis Unit (TAU) leveraged its own intelligence network to investigate the deepest, darkest portions on the web, where ransomware is currently being created, bought, and sold in burgeoning underground economies. Our research found that, from 2016 to 2017, there has been a 2,502% increase in the sale of ransomware on the dark web. This increase is largely due to a simple economic principle – supply and demand. Cybercriminals are increasingly seeing opportunities to enter the market and looking to make a quick buck via one of the many ransomware offerings available via illicit economies. In addition, a basic appeal of ransomware is simple: it’s turnkey. Unlike many other forms of cyberattacks, ransomware can be quickly and brainlessly deployed with a high probability of profit. As our research found, these dark web economies are empowering even the most novice criminals to launch ransomware attacks via do-it-yourself (DIY) kits and providing successful ransomware authors with annual incomes into six figures. (According to the company website, “Carbon Black was founded by former members of the U.S. government’s elite team of offensive security hackers. Trained by the NSA and CIA, our founders possessed early insights into the tools and techniques of 21st century cyber hackers. For more than 15 years, our leadership and software have outpaced increasingly sophisticated attacks.”
Shop Here, Not There: Science Says Reducing Inequality Is Almost That Simple – (Yes Magazine – November 20, 2017)
We already get shopping suggestions when we bring up Google Maps, especially when our smartphones are transmitting our GPS coordinates. A similar type of computation is happening behind the scenes at Facebook and Twitter, whose targeted ads can sometimes be scarily on point. But what if, instead of just boosting sales, those suggestions coming from your phone were designed to address social problems like inequality? In the paper “Crowdsourcing the Robin Hood Effect in Cities,” published in the journal Applied Network Science, the researchers describe a computer algorithm they created that attempts to “rewire” the complex network of commercial transactions and shopping trips people take part in every day. The goal is to redirect more money to poorer neighborhoods so that the wealth differences between rich and poor parts of a city are evened out. The study used data from 150,000 people and 95,000 businesses in Barcelona and Madrid and the pattern of transactions and the money spent revealed that some neighborhoods were up to five times wealthier than others. But researchers were shocked to find that if as few as 5% of commercial transactions were changed—so that capital flowed from richer to poorer neighborhoods—income inequality in those cities was drastically reduced, up to 80%. So far, it’s just an algorithm. “One of the first questions you can ask is what extent is this scenario implementable,” Louail said. “The rise of so-called “big data” raises interesting questions about how social scientists and anti-poverty activists approach their work, said Sarah Elwood, a professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Geography who studies the intersection of geographic information systems and technology with social justice and inequality. “We’re seeing more of these sorts of practices that sort of try to get at the behaviors of individual people and try to get them to do something different.” However, she added, “It’s important to differentiate between questions of inequality and questions of impoverishment. You can change the degree of inequality in a society without having acted to change the big processes of impoverishment.”
The Death of Christianity in the U.S. – (Baptist News Global – November 13, 2017)
This op-ed piece in the publication of a mainstream Christian denomination opens with the observation that “Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate. Evangelicals have constructed an exclusive interpretation which fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation.” And the author goes on from there. Clearly not all of the conservative Christian right wishes to be identified with conservative Republican right.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Christmas Trees: Science Has Finally Found the Answer to Needle Drop – (Telegraph – November 17, 2017)
If you were starting to worry that scientists never do anything useful, here’s some genuinely worthwhile research: how to look after your Christmas tree. It was published nearly two years ago, but it was missed at the time by almost everyone. One reason may be that it was published in the Australian Journal of Botany, not a title one would normally associate with Christmas. It was also first published online on Feb 5, 2016 – not a time to attract a lot of holiday attention. The researchers tested four treatments that have been suggested to prolong the health of cut trees. First, spraying the foliage with hairspray; water loss is the big problem for cut trees, and hairspray should reduce that by blocking the stomata. Second, energy drink, because the sugar in the drink might give the plants energy. Previous research has shown that cut flowers last longer in sugar solution than in pure water. Third, freshly boiled (still hot) water, in the hope that this would dissolve the sticky sap at the end of the cut stem and improve water uptake (of course the water quickly cools to room temperature). Fourth, beer (diluted 50/50 with water), because there’s plenty around at Christmas and, a bit like the energy drink, it contains lots of nutrients and minerals that might feed the tree. The alcohol might also kill any germs. Finally, plain cold tap water as a control (also used for the hairspray-treated trees). The trees were kept under typical “room” conditions for a month. So what did they find? Beer and energy drink were easily the worst, although the possibility remains that a more dilute solution of either might do better. Water, either cold or boiled, was better. But best of all was hairspray. Needles on hairspray-treated trees were as healthy after a month as they were at the start, and the trees were even starting to show new growth.
A Guide to Understanding a Million vs. a Billion vs. a Trillion – (Slate – November, 2017)
National discussions of crucial importance to ordinary citizens—such as funding for scientific and medical research, bailouts of financial institutions, and the current Republican tax proposals—inevitably involve dollar figures in the millions, billions, and trillions. Complicating the issue further, citizens emotionally undeterred by billions and trillions are nonetheless likely to be ill-equipped for meaningful analysis because most people don’t correctly intuit large numbers. But it’s really easy to read past these words (“billions”, “trillions”) and extremely difficult to internalize how dramatically different these amounts are. These thought experiments can help. For example: The bailout of AIG after the mortgage-backed securities crisis cost more than $125 billion. The Panama Papers document upward of $20 trillion hidden in a dark labyrinth of shell companies and other tax shelters over the past 40 years. (The recently published Paradise Papers paint an even more extensive picture.) On the bright side, we recovered $165 million in bonuses from AIG executives. That’s something, right? Let’s find out: On a scale where a million dollars is one penny, the AIG bailout cost taxpayers $1,250. The Panama Papers document at least $200,000 missing from the world economy. On the bright side, we recovered $1.65 in executive bonuses. In an innumerate world, this is what passes for fiscal justice.
JUST FOR FUN
Drone Race: Human Versus Artificial Intelligence – (NASA – November 21, 2017)
Drone racing is a high-speed sport demanding instinctive reflexes — but humans won’t be the only competitors for long. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, put their work to the test recently. Timing laps through a twisting obstacle course, they raced drones controlled by artificial intelligence (A.I.) against a professional human pilot. The race, held on Oct. 12, capped off two years of research into drone autonomy funded by Google. The company was interested in JPL’s work with vision-based navigation for spacecraft — technologies that can also be applied to drones. To demonstrate the team’s progress, JPL set up a timed trial between their A.I. and world-class drone pilot Ken Loo. The team built three custom drones (dubbed Batman, Joker and Nightwing) and developed the complex algorithms the drones needed to fly at high speeds while avoiding obstacles. These algorithms were integrated with Google’s Tango technology, which JPL also worked on. Compared to Loo, the drones flew more cautiously but consistently. Their algorithms are still a work in progress. For example, the drones sometimes moved so fast that motion blur caused them to lose track of their surroundings. Loo attained higher speeds and was able to perform impressive aerial corkscrews. But he was limited by exhaustion, something the A.I.-piloted drones didn’t have to deal with. For the official laps, Loo averaged 11.1 seconds, compared to the autonomous drones, which averaged 13.9 seconds. Article includes a video clip.
A FINAL QUOTE
If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong. — Arthur C. Clarke
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Steve McDonald, Diane Petersen, Todd Pierce, Bobbie Rohn, 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
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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