Volume 21, Number 17 – 9/1/18

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Volume 21, Number 17 – 9/1/18       


Researchers estimate that the hypothetical single cell that all life on Earth is derived from probably lived around 4.5 billion years ago.Google is effectively the world’s largest digital advertising company.The amount of food that is wasted each year will rise by a third by 2030, when 2.1bn tons will either be lost or thrown away.By 2020, more than half the world’s population will be “middle class” (defined as people who have enough money to cover basic needs — food, clothing and shelter — and have enough left over for a few luxuries such as a television or a motorbike).
by John L. Petersen

Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles
September 15-16 in Berkeley Springs

Dispelling the Myth of Genes:BluePrint or EnvironmentFall of DarwinismQuantum BiophysicsBiology of the MindPower of the SubconsciousKnowledge is power. The new knowledge provided in this program empowers participants to take back creative control over their own lives and evolve from passive victims to responsible co-creators of the world to come. BRUCE’S animated presentation will inspire your spirit, engage your mind and challenge your creativity, as you comprehend the enormous potential for applying this information in your life.

Get complete details at, along with information on local lodging and restaurants.

New Energy: The Linchpin to Unprecedented Change and the Emergence of a New Era by John Petersen

1 hour and 10-minute presentation by John Petersen on downloadable digital video:

This is a dynamic presentation showing you the path that mankind is on and how a new human being is emerging.

Get the complete details here.



Would You Plunk Down $30,000 to Get the Most from Your Brain? – (Fast Company – August 24, 2018)
A growing field of science is now working to literally rewire your brain waves for the ultimate bio hack. “We are having problems with psychiatry because we miss the autonomic and neurophysiological aspects,” says psychiatrist Hasan Asif, cofounder of Field, an upscale private membership club devoted to brain optimization. Field is part lab clinic, part therapist’s office, bringing together a team of scientists, doctors, and a life coach to tune up its decidedly 1% clientele. They study your mental history and emotional health while analyzing your biofeedback: brainwaves, skin conductance, respiration, heart rate variability, and neurophysiology. And yes, electrodes do get attached to your head because monitoring and changing the synchronization of the brain’s energy waves is very much what the startup does. The team promises to help move members toward a bevy of goals—more creativity, less stress, “heightened awareness,” or enhanced athletic prowess. Its therapies can reportedly even increase one’s sex drive. The philosophy is based on the premise that any given mental state or ego state depends on an underlying autonomic (involuntary nervous) system, explains Asif. That is the same system that makes your heart race when you’re excited or your palms sweaty when nervous. Once the medical team has accumulated enough data, they turn to the tech that can manipulate your brain waves, including TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), which emits targeted magnetic bursts. “We’re looking at the brain to see where it is now, we know where we want it to go, and then we use those various treatment protocols to drive it there and train it to do that all the time ,”Field’s unorthodox biohacking treatments range from several days to routine appointments stretched over months or its popular seven-day retreat. The New York startup, founded six months ago, says its clients are top figures from sports, finance, tech, law, and entertainment. These are people already performing to some degree at peak, but all share the same concern: How do I get my mind to work even better? That could mean faster or more relaxed. Or basically, less distracted. Such noodle tinkering doesn’t come cheap: Individual sessions run $1,100, but people generally need at least 20-30 sessions to see results.

Goodbye to All That – (Nation of Change – August 28, 2018)
In a world in which most people reveal their intimate secrets voluntarily, posting them on social media and ignoring the pleas of security experts to protect their data with strong passwords, shouldn’t a private investigator, or PI, like me be thrilled? As it happens, tech – or surveillance capitalism – has disrupted the private investigation business as much as it’s ripped through journalism, the taxi business, war making, and so many other private and public parts of our world. Huge online database brokers like Tracers, TLO, and IRBsearch that law enforcement and private eyes like me use can trace your address, phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, family members, neighbors, credit reports, the property you own, foreclosures or bankruptcies you’ve experienced, court judgments or liens against you, and criminal records you may have rolled up over the years. Ten years ago, to subscribe to one of these databases, I had to show proof that I was indeed a licensed investigator and pass an on-site investigation to ensure that any data I downloaded would be protected. I was required to have a surveillance camera and burglar alarm on the building where my office was located, as well as a dead bolt on my office door, a locked filing cabinet, and double passwords to get into my computer. Now, most database brokers just require a PI or attorney license and you can sign right up online. (Editor’s note: This article goes on to discuss many of the ways in which the contemporary 24/7 surveillance of everyone everywhere has changed private investigation and become a world of tech junkies. We highly recommend it.)


“Molecular Clock” Study Traces Evolution Back to Ancestor of All Life on Earth – (New Atlas – August 21, 2018)
The further back in time you go, the patchier our understanding of life on Earth gets. That’s because fossils from those early years are extremely hard to come by and interpret, for a number of reasons. Now, British scientists have used a different method known as a molecular clock to plot out a rough timeline of all life on Earth, tracing the first organisms back to about 4.5 billion years ago. The fossil record gets murky towards the Archaean period, over 2.5 billion years ago. “There are few fossils from the Archaean and they generally cannot be unambiguously assigned to the lineages we are familiar with, like the blue-green algae or the salt-loving archaebacteria that colors salt-marshes pink all around the world,” says Holly Betts, lead author of the new study. “The problem with the early fossil record of life is that it is so limited and difficult to interpret – careful reanalysis of the some of the very oldest fossils has shown them to be crystals, not fossils at all.” But life had to have developed enough to leave fossils behind in the first place. To figure out what came before, researchers have another tool in their belt called a “molecular clock.” In a very simplified sense, genetic mutations happen at a relatively consistent rate, and by comparing the genomes of two living species, the evolutionary pathways in both creatures can be traced back to their last common ancestor. Using this technique and cross-referencing it with the fossil record, researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Bath in the UK developed a timescale for when the widest groups of organisms diverged from one another. The two main branches of the tree of life, bacteria and archaea, diverged about 3.5 billion years ago. Tracing it back further, the researchers estimate that the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) – a hypothetical single cell that all life on Earth is derived from – probably lived around 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists Stunned By a Neanderthal Hybrid Discovered in a Siberian Cave – (Atlantic – August 22, 2018)
A single cave in the mountains of Siberia has produced a string of remarkable archaeological discoveries. In 2008, scientists there found a 41,000-year-old pinky bone, whose DNA matched neither humans nor Neanderthals. Instead, it belonged to a previously unknown group of hominins they named Denisovans. Three Denisovan teeth also turned up in the cave. Since then, traces of Denisovan DNA have been found in humans living today in Asia and Melanesia—suggesting that long ago, humans and Denisovans met, had sex, and had children. A remarkable new discovery—also in the Denisova cave—paints an even more interesting picture. The evidence is as direct as it can be: a bone fragment in the cave that, according to DNA analysis, belonged to the daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. Neanderthals and Denisovans split off from each other some 400,000 years ago, making them far more distinct than any two groups of modern humans living today. Yet both appeared to have lived in or around the Denisova Cave. In 2010, excavators also found a Neanderthal toe bone in the cave. This new bone fragment—from the daughter of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan—suggests the two groups not only inhabited the same place but at the same time. Russian scientists first excavated this sliver of bone in 2012. It was one of more than 2,000 fragments that Slon’s collaborators at Oxford analyzed using a protein called collagen. The collagen in this one, they realized, was of human-like origin, so they sent it to the ancient-DNA lab at Max Planck for extraction. The inch-long fragment is too small to even tell which bone it came from. Nevertheless, it yielded a wealth of genomic information. The daughter herself was a mix of Neanderthal and Denisovan. Her mother’s half of the genome most resembled DNA from a Neanderthal found in Croatia. It did not particularly match DNA from the Neanderthal actually found right in the Denisova cave in 2010, suggesting that Neanderthals migrated west to east in multiple waves. Her father’s Denisovan half of the genome actually had a touch of Neanderthal DNA—suggesting he too had a Neanderthal ancestor hundreds of generations ago. And somehow, 50,000 years ago or more, her mother and father met. The proof is in her DNA. For photos of the surrounding area and the archeological dig, see this article.

3 Species Were Known to Go Through Menopause – Now It’s 5 – (Newser – August 28, 2018)
Menopause isn’t a distinctly human condition—and now scientists have discovered two more species that experience it and then live well beyond it, bringing the total number to five. The four non-human species that go through menopause are similar in that they’re all toothed whales. The new study finds that belugas and narwhals now join killer whales and short-finned pilot whales on the list. “For menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards,” says study author Dr.Sam Ellis. He uses killer whales as an example: Because offspring of both genders stay with their mothers for life, her pod will eventually include her children and grandchildren.”If she keeps having young, they compete with her own direct descendants for resources such as food.” But there is a reason for her to live beyond her reproductive years: These females are a wealth of knowledge in terms of locating food. (Editor’s note: In other words, evolution finds that wisdom is an adequate reason for reproductively “useless” members of a species to continue to live.)


Gut Bug Enzyme Turns Blood into Type-O – (BBC News – August 21, 2018)
Scientists believe they have found a reliable way to transform donor blood into the universal type needed for safe, emergency blood transfusions. The discovery is enzymes from gut bacteria that can efficiently turn type-A human blood into type-O. Type-O blood is special because it can be donated to anyone without the risk of a bad mismatch reaction. The researchers, from the University of British Columbia, say clinical trials of the treatment could begin soon. The gut bug enzymes remove markers from the surface of the donor red blood cells present in type A but not in type O. With the help of the Canadian Blood Service, the researchers now want to test more blood samples before trialing the treatment in the clinic.


America’s Waterways Have a Huge Problem with Contact Lenses – (Inverse – August 19, 2018)
Every day, 45 million Americans stuff slivers of flexible plastic into their eyes, hoping to look less like nerds. While contacts-wearers become quite adept at poking them into place, a new study from researchers from Arizona State University suggests users are not very good at dealing with lenses once they’re done with them. All those tiny discarded plastic discs, they report, are adding up to a big environmental problem. According to the findings anywhere from six to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in United States wastewater annually. Because of the way wastewater is treated, all that plastic ends up contributing to microplastic pollution currently building up in waterways, which eventually makes its way into the food chain. It’s an especially timely problem as the use of contact lenses is steadily rising. This study, one of the first to examine how those lenses get in the water and what exactly happens to them there, was broken down into three parts. In the first, the team surveyed 139 people to find out how contacts end up in wastewater in the first place. Turns out, regardless of whether the users wore monthlies or dailies, 19% of wearers flushed their contacts down the sink or toilet. The second and third stage of the study showed that contact lenses — which are made of soft plastics like poly(methylmethacrylate), silicones, and fluoropolymers — become weakened when they’re mixed together with microbes in the wastewater. When these plastics lose their structural strength, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics, which can’t be filtered out like other larger plastics. Some contact recycling programs do exist — study co-author Charles Rolsky and team are impressed by them — but until those become more widespread, the researchers suggest that “contact lens manufacturers should have a label on the box which suggests the best disposal strategy for used lenses, which should be with solid waste in the trash.”

Mexican Farmers Claims Volkswagen ‘Hail Cannons’ Caused Drought – (Telegraph – August 23, 2018)
Mexican farming communities are accusing German auto giant Volkswagen of “arbitrarily” provoking a drought in the central state of Puebla to protect its newly manufactured cars from hail. Volkswagen, which has a major plant in Puebla, has been using “hail cannons” – sonic devises that purport to disrupt the formation of hail in the atmosphere – to disperse storm clouds menacing the thousands of new cars parked on its lots. But farmers in Cuautlancingo, the rural municipality where the plant is located, say the controversial technique is causing a drought that has made them lose 2,000 hectares (nearly 5,000 acres) of crops. Scientists are skeptical over whether hail cannons actually work. But local farmers say the cannons work so well they have dispersed not only hail storms but all precipitation since May – what was supposed to be the start of the rainy season. The farmers are reportedly seeking more than 70 million pesos (nearly $4 million) in compensation from the automaker. Volkswagen tried to defuse the conflict this week by announcing it was taking the cannons off automatic mode and would only fire them when potential hail storms approached. It also pledged to invest in protective mesh to serve as its first line of defense against hail. But that only added to the fury of local farmers and officials who have been protesting against the auto maker. Rafael Ramirez, the top local environmental official, said “The company can take other measures to protect its cars, but people here can’t live off anything but their land.”

‘Hunger Stones’ With Ominous Messages Emerge in Drought-Parched Czech River – (Smithsonian – August 24, 2018)
Throughout the summer, unusually hot and dry weather in Europe has revealed a slew of archaeological treasures, from a prehistoric henge in Ireland, to an ornate 17th century garden in England, to a lost German village once submerged underwater. The most recent relic to surface amid the drought is a stark reminder that Europeans have long been afflicted by parched, damaging conditions. And “hunger stones” warning of drought-induced hardships have started surfacing in the Czech Republic. More than a dozen of the stones have been found in and near the town of Decin, which is crossed by the Elbe River. Due to scorching temperatures, the water in the river has dropped, revealing boulders that were once used to record low water levels. The rocks are etched with dates, and the earliest one currently visible is 1616. But hunger stones did more than simply document drought: They also lamented difficult conditions and let people know that trouble was afoot. One of the rocks, for instance, “expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices and hunger for poor people,” according to a 2013 study of drought in Czech lands. A German inscription on the same rock reads: “When you see me, weep.” This particular hunger stone is among the oldest hydrological landmarks in Central Europe and, due to a dam that was built on a tributary of the Elbe in 1926, the rock can be seen approximately 126 days each year. But the low water levels in the Elbe today are nevertheless “exceptional,” Domonoske writes. Earlier this month, the Local reported that the river had reached its lowest levels in more than half a century. The hunger stones are not the first sunken relics to resurface in the Elbe this summer. Earlier this month, receding waters exposed unexploded bombs that may have been dumped in the Elbe after WWII. A recent study, in fact, found that while 21st century droughts are “the most extreme droughts driven by precipitation deficits during the vegetation period,” they have not been as long or as severe as some of the historic droughts that have struck Europe over the past 250 years. For an analysis of drought cycles going back almost 500 years and the volcano eruptions that appear to be related in some cases, see “The Hunger Stones Have Appeared”.

Scientists Discover Hidden Deep-sea Coral Reef off South Carolina Coast – (CNN – August 28, 2018)
Because little is known about the natural resources of the deep ocean off the United States’ Southeast coast from Virginia to Georgia, Deep Search 2018 was created to learn more by exploring the deep sea ecosystems. The project, consisting of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Geological Survey, is nearing the end of its 15-day voyage aboard the research vessel Atlantis. A pair of dives in a submersible called Alvin confirmed the existence of the coral reef on Thursday, and based on observations, researchers estimate the reef, located approximately 160 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, is at least 85 miles long. A coral reef is a large community of live organisms that live in one location. Many fish and sea creatures choose to spawn here, because the protected environment of the reef means their eggs will be safe from predators. The discovery of this Atlantic reef comes as the Trump administration is proposing to roll back a ban on offshore drilling, which would reinstate drilling leases in Pacific and Atlantic waters. More than 140 municipalities have publicly opposed offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic, according to the environmental group Oceana. Environmental groups call the plan dirty and dangerous. A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokeswoman said it funds this type of research to identify resources that must be protected should there be future energy activity off the coast, and new information from this reef study “could be useful in pre-leasing or post-leasing [oil and gas] decisions, such as those affecting sensitive habitats that are the focus of this study.”


Android Sucks Ten Times More Private Data Than iPhone, Study Says – (Tom’s Guide – August 22, 2018)
According to a research paper published by Vanderbilt University’s Professor Douglas Schmidt, Google’s Android phones are sucking your private data at a much higher rate than Apple’s iPhones—almost 10 times more, on average. “Google is the world’s largest digital advertising company,” he says, “[it] utilizes the tremendous reach of its products to collect detailed information about people’s online and real-world behaviors, which it then uses to target them with paid advertising.” Google collects data in active and passive ways. Schmidt says that, every time you sign in to any of its services, from Gmail to YouTube to Photos, you are actively sending information. It’s a necessary evil. The passive ways, however, happen without any user intervention or knowledge. The location data is a good example of that—a user has to actually take steps to stop it from happening, even while he or she thought there was no location gathering after turning off location history. The research, Schmidt claims in his paper, focused on the passive collection methods. He intercepted and analyzed all the traffic going to Google servers, analyzing Google’s My Activity and Takeout tools, and the company’s privacy policies, as well as third-party research on Google’s data collection activities. One data point: Chrome on Android is sending data back to the Mountain View mothership at a rate of almost 50 times as much as Safari on iPhone. His research final conclusions are not surprising. “[Google is] able to collect user data through a variety of techniques that may not be easily graspable by a general user,” Schmidt points out, “a major part of Google’s data collection occurs while a user is not directly engaged with any of its products. The magnitude of such collection is significant, especially on Android mobile devices.” And while Google may claim that a lot of this information is anonymous, Schmidts says that “Google distinctively possesses the ability to utilize data collected from other sources to de-anonymize such a collection.” In other words: you and your antics are exposed, individually. Unlike Google, Apple’s business is selling its products, iCloud services, apps, and content. It has no need to suck so much data from its users.

Trump Unblocks More Twitter Users after US Court Ruling – (Reuters – August 29, 2018)
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday unblocked some additional Twitter users after a federal judge in May said preventing people from following him violated individuals constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled on May 23 that comments on the president’s account, and those of other government officials, were public forums and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on August 10 sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that had remained blocked from Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump account. The seven users who filed suit had their accounts unblocked in June. The 41 blocked users include a film producer, screenwriter, photographer and author who had criticized President Trump or his policies. At least 20 of those individuals said on Twitter that Trump had unblocked them on Tuesday. The U.S. Justice Department said the ruling was “fundamentally misconceived” arguing Trump’s account “belongs to Donald Trump in his personal capacity and is subject to his personal control, not the control of the government.” Judge Buchwald rejected the argument that Trump’s First Amendment rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to interact. Trump could “mute” users, meaning he would not see their tweets while they could still respond to his, she said, without violating their free speech rights. The ruling has raised novel legal issues. The Internet Association warned “there is a considerable risk that any decision that may recognize isolated public forums on Twitter will be misunderstood to hold that Twitter, too, can be subject to First Amendment scrutiny. …Twitter itself is not a state actor when it blocks or withdraws access to its account-holders or users, and it is therefore not subject to the First Amendment’s restraints.”


Google Flights Will Make It Easier to See When You’re Overpaying for Your Airfare and Hotels – (Android Police – August 27, 2018)
One of the more frustrating elements of booking flights online is being unsure about whether you’re getting a deal, an average price or an overly-expensive ticket. The always-useful Google Flights will soon offer a solution to that issue by rolling out a feature that shows how good the price you’re given is, based on historical pricing and flight ticket costs so far that year. The price tracking feature shows where your price lands on a gradient with three sections: low, typical, and high. The feature is now available on mobile for flights in the U.S. In addition to the new price tracking feature for flights, Google is also adding some pretty thorough price tracking and comparison tools for hotels. For example, if you’re looking for a hotel room in San Francisco this holiday season, not only can you see how historical prices compare to the current rates — you can also compare the price against other hotels in the same city within a similar price range (and star rating) during the same time period. Price insights for hotels is available globally on mobile.

Google Flights Will Make It Easier to See When You’re Overpaying for Your Airfare and Hotels – (Android Police – August 27, 2018)
Project Wing Completes First Long-Distance, Residential Drone Delivery in US – (UAS Vision – August 10, 2018) A couple weeks ago, Project Wing completed the first long-distance, residential drone delivery in the United States Tuesday. In this historical first, two-year-old Jack Smith received an aerial delivery of ice cream and a Popsicle, a mere six minutes after a Wing technician confirmed the order through the company’s smartphone app. The Smith family was part of a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration-approved test that for the first time allowed delivery flights over congested areas where people live, and ventured beyond the view of its operator on the ground. It was the most realistic public demonstration to date in the U.S. that people may someday get near instant purchases sent to their home by unmanned devices. The Department of Transportation has selected 10 government and tribal agencies to work with industry and academia to push the boundaries of drone technology at the same time that they wrestle with potential public unease and legal questions. The flights were novel for how many different types of technology were being tested at once, said the company’s Chief Executive Officer James Ryan Burgess. In addition to the technology needed to guide the drone to its drop zones, the company demonstrated a radio-identification beacon, which is similar to what the government plans to mandate soon. It also relied on an existing cellular network for communication and was tracked by a kind of air-traffic system it hopes to introduce. The “purchases” were made on mobile phones using an app it wants people to eventually use to buy items from real vendors.


Food Waste: Alarming Rise Will See 66 Tons Thrown Away Every Second – (Guardian – 8/19/2018)
The amount of food that is wasted each year will rise by a third by 2030, when 2.1bn tons will either be lost or thrown away, equivalent to 66 tons per second, according to new analysis. The report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) warns that the global response to food waste is fragmented and inadequate, and that the problem is growing at an alarming rate. The report suggests the creation of an ecolabel, similar to fair trade campaigns, to encourage customers to buy from companies that have committed to reducing waste. “The scale of the problem is one that will continue to grow while we’re developing our solutions,” said Shalini Unnikrishnan, a partner and managing director at BCG. Each year, 1.6bn tons of food worth approximately $1.2tn, goes to waste – about one third of the food produced globally. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 815 million of the 7.6 billion people in the world (10.7%), were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Food waste and loss accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO. Unless urgent action is taken by governments, companies and consumers, the report warns there is little chance of meeting UN targets to halve food waste by 2030. Over this period, food loss and waste is projected to increase in most regions around the world, with a significant spike in Asia, according to the study. Countries that are industrializing and have a growing population will see the largest increases, said Unnikrishnan. “As wealth grows, people are demanding more food, more diverse food, food that is not grown locally. That’s going to increase food loss and waste.” While in developing countries waste occurs during production processes, in wealthy countries waste is mostly driven by retailers and consumers, who throw away food because they have purchased too much or because it does not meet aesthetic standards.


China Is Monitoring Employees’ Brain Waves and Emotions – (Business Insider – May 1, 2018)
Employees’ brain waves are reportedly being monitored in factories, state-owned enterprises, and the military across China. The technology works by placing wireless sensors in employees’ caps or hats which, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, spot incidents of workplace rage, anxiety, or sadness. Employers use this “emotional surveillance technology” by then tweaking workflows, including employee placement and breaks, to increase productivity and profits. At State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power in the southeast city of Hangzhou, company profits jumped by $315 million since the technology was introduced in 2014, an official told the South China Morning Post (SCMP). According to the SCMP, more than a dozen businesses and China’s military have used a different program developed by the government-funded brain surveillance project Neuro Cap, based out of Ningbo University. “They thought we could read their mind. This caused some discomfort and resistance in the beginning,” said Jin Jia, a professor of brain science at Ningbo University. “After a while they got used to the device… They wore it all day at work.” Another type of sensor, built by technology company Deayea, is reportedly used in the caps of train drivers on the high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai. The sensor can even trigger an alarm if a driver falls asleep. Widespread use of emotion monitoring may mark a new stage in China’s surveillance state, which has largely been focused on facial recognition and increasing internet censorship. See also: Parts of China are using facial recognition technology that can scan the country’s entire population in one second. Reportedly it would be able to scan the world’s population in two seconds (if the database existed). Over the last two years the system has been used to arrest 2,000 people.

How to Start a Nuclear War – (Harpers – August, 2018)
The destructive power of the chief executive is sanctified at the very instant of inauguration. The nuclear codes required to authenticate a launch order (reformulated for each incoming president) are activated, and the incumbent begins an umbilical relationship with the military officer, always by his side, who carries the “football,” a briefcase containing said codes. It’s an image simultaneously ominous and reassuring, certifying that the system for initiating World War III is alert but secure and under control. Even as commonly understood, the procedures leading up to a launch order are frightening. Within eight minutes, the president is alerted. He then reviews his options with senior advisers such as the secretary of defense, at least those who can be reached in time. The momentous decision of how to respond must be made in as little as six minutes. Using the unique codes that identify him to the military commands that will carry out his instruction, he can then give the order, which is relayed in seconds via the war room and various alternate command centers to the missile silos, submarines, and bombers on alert. The bombers can be turned around, but otherwise the order cannot be recalled. Today, things are different. The nuclear fuse has gotten shorter. Generally unrecorded by the outside world, there has been a “streamlining” of the system of command and control. While Bush and Obama were at the helm, their untrammeled power to launch excited little public concern, even though both men were prone to initiating conventional wars. Obama’s commitment to “modernize” America’s entire nuclear arsenal at a reported cost of at least $1.2 trillion generated no public outrage, or even much concern. According to Jon Wolfsthal, Obama’s senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, “There is no clear understanding of how much these weapons systems actually cost.” When asked to produce a budget for the entire cost of our nuclear weapons forces, the Pentagon declined, on the grounds that it would be “too hard” to come up with that figure. But the arrival of Donald Trump, irascible, impulsive, and ignorant, was a different matter, especially given his threats to destroy North Korea with fire and fury. For the first time in decades, nuclear weapons were becoming a matter of public interest and concern. As Maryland senator Ben Cardin remarked in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing last fall, “We don’t normally get a lot of foreign policy questions at town hall meetings, but as of late, I’ve been getting more and more questions about, Can the president really order a nuclear attack without any controls?” (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its insights into the practical realities of a system we generally know little about.)


US Cities Issue IDs to Protect Undocumented Immigrants – (Nation of Change – August 21, 2018)
More than 20 U.S. cities and counties have launched municipal identification programs since 2007 to make civic engagement and day-to-day living more accessible. Several more are in the process of creating legislation that would allow residents of any immigration status to get a local government ID. Poughkeepsie, New York, is the latest city to pass a municipal identification program into law, and the first city to do so with a Republican mayor in office. The Poughkeepsie Common Council voted unanimously in July to launch the new program, which was made possible in part by the advocacy and lobbying efforts of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a membership-based grassroots movement combating issues faced by mostly working-class communities of color in the Hudson Valley region. For the members of the organization, the issue of safety and access for immigrants in their communities is a very personal one. Municipal IDs can be particularly beneficial for immigrants who lack U.S. government ID. But the identification cards can also reshape the way transgender people, the elderly, homeless individuals, and people who were formerly incarcerated live in and interact with their communities. The application process for municipal identification generally does not require people to produce the same highly specific and rigorous documentation – such as social security cards and birth certificates – needed for issuance of a state identification card. The cards also tend to allow people to self-affirm their gender identities. The Center for Popular Democracy has consulted with policymakers and advocates who seek to start municipal ID programs. In 2015, the organization published a municipal ID toolkit listing a series of best practices for local governments to follow. Among them are recommendations that municipalities market the IDs to a broad range of applicants and that police departments complete training programs to ensure the legitimacy of the IDs will be acknowledged out in the field. Another of its core guidelines is for cities to avoid duplicating or retaining other documents or forms of ID that residents provide during the application process.

War without End – (New York Times – August 8, 2018)
In early October, the Afghan war will be 17 years old, a milestone that has loomed with grim inevitability as the fighting has continued without a clear exit strategy across three presidential administrations. With this anniversary, prospective recruits born after the terrorist attacks of 2001 will be old enough to enlist. And Afghanistan is not the sole enduring American campaign. The war in Iraq, which started in 2003, has resumed and continues in a different form over the border in Syria, where the American military also has settled into a string of ground outposts without articulating a plan or schedule for a way out. The United States has at various times declared success in its many campaigns — in late 2001; in the spring of 2003; in 2008; in the short-lived withdrawal from Iraq late in 2011; and in its allies’ recapture more recently of the ruins of Ramadi, Falluja, Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State, a terrorist organization, formed in the crucible of occupied Iraq, that did not even exist when the wars to defeat terrorism started. And still the wars grind on, with the conflict in Afghanistan on track to be a destination for American soldiers born after it began. More than three million Americans have served in uniform in these wars. Nearly 7,000 of them have died. Tens of thousands more have been wounded. On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Much of the infrastructure the United States built with its citizens’ treasure and its troops’ labor lies abandoned. Hundreds of thousands of weapons provided to would-be allies have vanished; an innumerable quantity are on markets or in the hands of Washington’s enemies. Billions of dollars spent creating security partners also deputized pedophiles, torturers and thieves. A dark slang developed in the lower ranks. Afghanistan was the “welfare war.” Forlorn outposts, often built near villages resentful of foreign occupiers, were “bullet sponges.” (Editor’s note: If you have time to follow up on only one link in this issue of FE, this is the one. It’s a long article and worth every bit of the time you spend on it.)

What Would the Intelligence Community’s ‘Insurance Policy’ against Trump Look Like? – (The Hill – August 9, 2018)
Assume, for the sake of argument, that powerful, connected people in the intelligence community and in politics worried that a wildcard Trump presidency, unlike another Clinton or Bush, might expose a decade-plus of questionable practices. Disrupt long-established money channels. Reveal secret machinations that could arguably land some people in prison. What exactly might an “insurance policy” against Donald Trump look like? For starters, Trump would have to be marginalized at every turn. Strategies would encompass politics, the courts, opposition research and the media. He’d have to become mired in lawsuits, distracted by allegations, riddled with calls for impeachment, hounded by investigations. His election must be portrayed as the illegitimate result of a criminal or un-American conspiracy. Once Trump is in office, a good insurance policy would call for neutralizing the advisers seen as most threatening, including his attorney general. The reigning FBI director could privately send the implicit message that as long as Trump minds his own business, he won’t be named as a target. When the president asks the FBI director to lift the cloud and tell the public their president isn’t under investigation, the FBI director could demur and allow a storm of innuendo to build. (Editor’s note: What’s interesting here is not the news “dots” in and of themselves: we are all familiar with the “dots”. Instead it is how they can be strung together in a way that has at least internally consistent logic and then points in a direction that most of us have not even imagined, let alone seriously considered. The point is not whether this perspective is accurate or not; it’s that, generally speaking, it hasn’t even been on the table.)


Does $60,000 Make You Middle-class or Wealthy on Planet Earth? – (Gazette – August 25, 2018)
The world is on the brink of a historic milestone: By 2020, more than half the world’s population will be “middle class,” according to Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas. Kharas defines the middle class as people who have enough money to cover basic needs — such as food, clothing and shelter — and still have enough left over for a few luxuries, such as fancy food, a television, a motorbike, home improvements or higher education. It’s a critical juncture. After thousands of years of most people on the planet living as serfs, as slaves or in other destitute scenarios, half the population now has the financial means to be able to do more than just try to survive. “There was almost no middle class before the Industrial Revolution began in the 1830s,” Kharas said. “It was just royalty and peasants. Now we are about to have a majority middle-class world.” Today, the middle class totals about 3.7 billion people, Kharas said, or 48 percent of the world’s population. An additional 190 million — 2.5 percent — comprise the mega-rich. Together, the two groups make up a majority of humanity in 2018, a shift with wide-reaching consequences for the global economy — and potential implications for the happiness of millions of people. Q So how much money does it take to meet Kharas’s definition of middle-class? A It depends on where you live and, more precisely, on how expensive things are where you live. Kharas estimates 140 million to 170 million people a year are moving into the middle class every year. India and China have been driving much of the middle-class boom in recent years. Now, Kharas said, Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam are poised for a middle-class surge. The article refers to the Dollar Street Project. The Project features more than 264 homes in 50 countries – more than 30,000 photos. This link will take you to their photo collection of families all over the world, arranged by monthly income. Click on any family and you can see what their home looks like. From there you can go to other families in the same country with a broad range of incomes.

The Death Penalty Is Becoming More Popular Again in America – (Economist – August 18, 2018)
On August 14th at 10:24 am, the state penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska executed Carey Dean Moore, aged 60, who had been incarcerated for 38 years for murdering two taxi drivers. It was the first time in 21 years that Nebraska had executed a prisoner. And it was the first time ever that fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, had been used for an execution. After declining for years, public support for the death penalty is on the rise; 54% of those surveyed are in favor, compared with 49% two years ago, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre. Death sentences are also a little more frequent than in the recent past, says Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Centre. That may be related to the political rhetoric in Washington. President Donald Trump has proposed executing drug dealers to curb the opioid epidemic. Nebraska is a deeply conservative state and its Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, is a fervent supporter of capital punishment (not least, some say, because he was so shocked by the gruesome murder of one of his cousins). Yet the state has been unsure about the sentence for years. In 2015 a bipartisan group of lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of their vote to abolish the death penalty. The next year, Mr. Ricketts used his family fortune to bankroll a referendum on its reintroduction; voters endorsed the measure overwhelmingly.


NASA Is Making an AI-Based GPS for Space – (Futurism – August 23, 2018)
Researchers from NASA’s Frontier Development Lab (FDL) and Intel have found a way to make it easy to navigate a new planet — they just needed a little help from artificial intelligence (AI) to do it. GPS stands for “global positioning system,” and it’s just that: global. The satellites that let the system know your location so your app can give you directions to that new restaurant don’t work when you’re not on Earth. Since positioning a similar system of satellites around every moon or planet we’d like to explore would be really difficult and expensive, NASA and Intel set out to create a different kind of planetary navigation system. If fed an AI enough pictures of the surface of a celestial body, they determined, a person could simply take a photo of their surroundings and the system would be able to figure out where they were and give them directions to the place they wanted to be. To see if this kind of system could work, the researchers built a virtual moon. First, they created 2.4 million images of its would-be surface that were taken by a rover (or, at least would have been if the planet had been real — in the presentation, it sounds like the researchers just made them up). They fed the images captured by these would-be cameras to their AI, which put them together to create the virtual moon. According to the team’s presentation, this was enough to effectively enable navigation on the virtual moon’s surface. Next, they want to try to do the same thing with a real celestial body: Mars. They think they have enough satellite images to make it happen. If they’re right, the first people to walk on the Red Planet could find that all they have to do to navigate around the Martian surface is just take a picture.

The Milky Way ‘Died’ a Long Time Ago and We’re Living through Its Second Coming – (Metro – August 22, 2018)
Academics at Tohoku University in Japan believe the Milky Way experienced a dark age when the formation of new stars dramatically stopped. But this era may have sparked a process which led to the galaxy’s glorious Second Coming and take the form which allowed intelligent life to spring up on one of its spinning arms. ‘The Milky Way galaxy has died once before and we are now in what is considered its second life,’ the university announced in a statement. ‘Stars formed in two different epochs through different mechanisms. ‘There was a long dormant period between when star formation ceased. Our home galaxy has turned out to have a more dramatic history than was originally thought.’ Masafumi Noguchi has calculated the evolution of the Milky Way over the past 10 billion years. He found that the history of our galaxy is ‘inscribed in the elemental composition of stars’ because they take on the composition of whatever gas they formed from. This means they ‘memorize’ events in the past because they show which gas was present during their birth. Noguchi’s tale begins 10 billion years ago when cold gasses rushed into the Milky Way to form the first stars – a process called cold flow accretion. Then, about three billion years later, ‘Shockwaves appeared and heated the gas to high temperatures seven billion years ago,’ the university continued. ‘The gas stopped flowing into the galaxy and stars ceased to form.’ During this period, the explosions of supernovae injected iron into the gas swirling in and around the Milky Way and changed its composition. As the gas cooled down, it began flowing back into the galaxy some five billion years ago and began the creation of the second generation of stars – including our own sun. For more technical details, see this article.

Steve, the Weird ‘Aurora’, Is Not What We Thought It Was – (Science Alert – August 21, 2018)
Steve – which manifests as gorgeous glowing purple ribbons across the sky – has been around for a few decades now, known to photographers and aurora chasers, but was only brought to the attention of scientists in 2016. It had been nicknamed Steve by the Alberta Aurora Chasers, which scientists upheld when they officially named it Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE). Earlier this year, researchers announced that the purple and white streamers, while very different from the shimmering green auroral curtains, were indeed a new kind of aurora. But the light produced by Steve isn’t the same as the light produced by an aurora, so a new team of researchers worked on figuring out Steve’s mechanism by studying a Steve event from March 2008. An aurora is generated by solar winds, which interact with charged particles in our magnetosphere, mainly protons and electrons. These charged particles rain into the ionosphere and travel along the planet’s magnetic field lines to the poles, where they manifest as dancing lights in the sky, usually green, but sometimes red or blue, producing strong radio emissions. This is not what is happening with Steve. “Our main conclusion is that STEVE is not an aurora,” said physicist Bea Gallardo-Lacourt of the University of Calgary in Canada. To figure this out, the research team focused on the rain of charged particles in the ionosphere. They wanted to see if such a rain was occurring during a Steve event. Such an event occurred on 28 March 2008, and data was obtained both by ground-based cameras that record auroras, and the NOAA’s Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite 17, which was directly overhead at the time, and which carries an instrument that can measure charged particles raining into the ionosphere. This instrument detected no such particles. This means the mechanism that produces Steve must be different from the mechanism that produces auroras. “Right now, we know very little about it,” Gallardo-Lacourt said. “And that’s the cool thing, because this has been known by photographers for decades. But for the scientists, it’s completely unknown.”


New Electrolyte Recipe Keeps Lithium-ion Batteries from Catching Fire – (Ars Technica – August 23, 2018)
Exploding lithium-ion batteries can wreak havoc on airline flights or in waste facilities after people toss their old electronics into the trash. Now, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have come up with a new chemical recipe that could combat the problem. A lithium battery has two electrodes, separated by a thin plastic sheet and submerged in a liquid electrolyte—that’s a chemical medium (usually a flammable lithium-ion fluid) that allows charge to flow between a lithium-ion cathode to a carbon anode. When that thin plastic sheet breaks (due to too much jostling in the cargo hold of an airplane, for instance), the electrodes can come together, shorting out the battery. This produces heat, which can ignite the liquid electrolyte, and boom! You have a small fire in the cargo hold. Non-flammable solid electrolytes could solve the problem, but ORNL physicist Gabriel Veith says this would require a significant overhaul of the production process for lithium-ion batteries, a considerable capital investment that manufacturers might not wish to make. That’s why he and his cohorts are researching ways to tweak the conventional electrolyte recipe. Veith said he found inspiration for a tweak while introducing his kids to a cornstarch and water mixture popularly known as “oobleck.” The nickname is a nod to Dr. Seuss’ children’s tale, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, in which a magic spell gone awry causes sticky green stuff to rain down from the sky. The recipe is simple: just suspend sphere-shaped silica nanoparticles in the usual liquid electrolytes used for lithium-ion batteries, and your work is done. The tricky part is ensuring all the nanoparticles are the same size (200 nanometers in diameter); otherwise, it has the opposite effect and the liquid becomes less viscous upon impact (a shear-thinning fluid). “And that’s bad,” said Veith. (Again, ka-boom.) There’s a slight tradeoff in terms of reduced battery capacity and slower charging, but otherwise performance is comparable to the current crop of lithium-ion batteries. And it will only require a small modification to the production process.


Procter and Gamble Tries to Trademark ‘LOL,’ ‘WTF’; Millennials Say, WYD – (Jezebel – August 23, 2018)
Like so many storied consumer brands of the last century, Procter and Gamble—which makes Tide and many other name-brand household staples—wants to attract the elusive millennial, killer of mayo and so many other things. Their latest bid: Attempting to trademark “LOL,” “WTF,” “NBD,” and “FML.” If you thought all those texting acronyms couldn’t be yanked out of the digital commons and trademarked, forget that. Procter & Gamble Co. has filed for trademarks on household and personal-care use of LOL, WTF, NBD and FML. FWIW, there’s no indication products bearing those names exist yet, and P&G doesn’t have trademark approval. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has sought clarifications from P&G, which has until January to respond. “P&G has applied to use the four acronyms in liquid soap, dishwashing detergent, hard surface cleaners and air fresheners,” clarified CNBC. SRSLY, P&G?

This Company Hired Anyone Who Applied. Now It’s Starting a Movement. (Fast Company – August 17, 2018)
Greyston Bakery was founded 36 years ago in Yonkers, New York, by Bernie Glassman, who practiced Zen Buddhism and pioneered the practice of Open Hiring (which Greyston has since trademarked). “Greyston was founded on the idea that a profitable business could be the backbone of ethical practice,” Brady says. The company’s slogan reads “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people,” and indeed the concept is that simple. Anyone who asks for a job at Greyston’s Bakery will get one. It may take a little while–people sign up on a list, and when there’s a job opening, they’ll be contacted in the order in which they signed up. That’s it. The company does not use background checks, drug tests, or interviews; hiring is done on the basis of faith that if someone is given a job, they will do it, and their skills and salaries will grow as they work. At Greyston, which currently employs 130 people, open hiring creates a pipeline for careers on the bakery’s manufacturing floor and throughout the rest of the company’s operations. People who are given a job start off as apprentices, during which they go through a 10-month job training and life-skills course. Around half the people who begin an apprenticeship choose to complete it and stay at Greyston, and when they do, they’re then assigned an entry-level job–-working the mixing machines, or overseeing the slicing and packaging of different-sized brownies for distribution. The company helps individual employees develop a career path, and provides them the support–-whether it be additional job training or a GED course–-to follow it. With an annual revenue of over $20 million and distribution partnerships with companies like Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry’s, which has been using Greyston brownies in their flavors since 1988, the company has proven its practice of open hiring to be economically viable. This summer, it launched the Center for Open Hiring out of its offices in Yonkers to educate more companies about how to implement the practice. At the center, which is still in the early stages, companies will be able to bring their leadership and HR teams through to train with Brady and Greyston managers, who will educate them about the benefits of open hiring, and how it could work in different settings. To date, 15 organizations, including Unilever and the Stern School of Business at NYU, have joined the Center.

Inside the High-stakes Business of Tracking Space Junk – (CNN – August 25, 2018)
In a nondescript office building in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a software company is watching thousands of pieces of junk floating around in space. One mission of Analytical Graphics Inc., or AGI, is to ensure that none of that garbage comes close to colliding with the dozens of billion-dollar communications satellites orbiting Earth. The junk includes defunct satellites, discarded rocket boosters, and tiny pieces of garbage from a prior collision. At orbital speeds, something as small as a ping pong ball could blow a hole in a critical satellite. Collisions can set off disastrous chain reactions, spawning thousands of new pieces of debris. Too much junk in one orbital field can render it useless. And too much junk around Earth could mean all spaceflight comes to a grinding halt. That could mean an end to scientific exploration, GPS service, and satellite TV, internet and phone service for millions of people. The US government and regulators around the world have long worked to track spaceborne objects and mitigate threats. About five years ago, AGI launched a program called ComSpOC, making it one of a the few private-sector companies in the business of tracking objects in space. The 30-year-old software company is known for creating intricate 3-D models and maps. For example, the map of Earth you see at Christmas when NORAD “tracks Santa” is created by AGI. ComSpOC’s headquarters are in a dimly lit room, painted wall-to-wall black, where AGI employees stare at giant glowing monitors that constantly update the projected path of various objects. They look eight days into the future, scanning for possible collisions. ComSpOC is tracking about 2,500 objects that are of interest to AGI’s current or prospective customers, though the software is capable of handling information about hundreds of thousands of objects. AGI has spent tens of millions of dollars buying data from operators of telescopes, radio antennae and radars, and the company has also purchased its own data collection devices. If a risk is identified — say a dead satellite could drift within 50 kilometers of an active communications satellite that belongs to one of AGI’s customers — the company will alert the satellite operator. Then, the operator may choose to fire up the satellite’s thrusters and maneuver it out of harm’s way.


We Are Merging With Robots. That’s a Good Thing. – (New York Times – August 13, 2018)
The old boundaries of the human self are being blurred by technology. The risks are real, but the potential is astounding. What does it mean to live in a world where human intelligence itself is poised for repair and reinvention? And one whose bedrock nature is itself becoming fluid, as digital overlays augment reality with personalized pointers (the information-rich cousins of the contemporary elves and pixies of Pokémon Go). It’s also a world permeated by a growing swath of alien intelligences (just ask Alexa, although she won’t really admit it). This is a world of remarkable personal and social possibility. Sharing and group solidarity are now easier than ever before, and the communal mapping of new electronic trails is enabling multiple once-hidden demographics to command social, commercial and political respect. All this blurs the boundaries between body and machine, between mind and world, between standard, augmented and virtual realities, and between human and post-human. At the cusp of these waves of change, this is also the moment at which, increasingly, inclusivities of one kind (extensions of personal, social and sexual freedom) bump up against the threat of new forms of exclusivity, as the augmented, fluid, connected cyber-haves increasingly differentiate themselves from the unaugmented, less connected, cyber have-nots.

Guy Gives Plant Robotic Legs So It Can Experience Animal-Like Freedom – (Twisted Sifter – July 17, 2018)
No matter if plants are being cut, bitten, burned or pulled from the earth, or when they lack sunshine, water, or are too hot or cold, they will hold still and take whatever is happening to them. They have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures in nature. This is simply the default setting that nature gives to plants. For billions of years, plants have never experienced (lateral) movement, not even the simplest movement. Their whole lives, they stick to where they first took root, (unless manually moved). With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction. Here is the original article with more clips of the plant moving toward the sunshine, rotating to get sunshine on its leaves more evenly, etc. Here is a comment from the designer, Tianqi Sun,“ My intent in creating it is to inspire people to think about the relationship between human technology and natural limitation, and the boundaries between living being and machine with robotics. While at the time of building this, I built it as more of an installation art piece rather than functional robot.” (Editor’s note: It is not at clear how, or even if, the plant actually directs the motion of its robotic base. Our guess is that the plant does not control the base, but is simply perched atop a radio-controlled robot intended to challenge the viewer’s thinking.)

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

Ghosts on the Shore – (Aeon – August 6, 2018)
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake sent a towering wall of putrid water surging inland from the Tōhoku coast. Television footage filmed from helicopters revealed familiar points of reference suddenly replaced by vast muddy lakes, as the fabric of everyday life – homes, offices, bridges, vehicles – was broken up and sucked out to sea, or else scattered across a new, barely recognizable landscape. People struggled to reach loved ones, first by phone and later by searching through the debris left behind as the waters receded. Some went on looking for weeks, months, even years, as the toll of the dead and missing rose towards 20,000. Survivors of the disaster soon began seeing and feeling ghostly presences. Men and women dressed in warm clothes at the height of summer, hailing taxis and then disappearing from the back seat. A toy truck, belonging to a young boy killed in the tsunami, pushing itself haltingly around the room. One woman answered her door to a sopping wet stranger, who asked for a change of clothes. She went off to find something. When she came back, a whole host of people were standing there, all of them soaked to the skin. But why would Japan, a country so often associated with a secular, high-tech modernity find itself home to all this? Where do Japan’s ghosts come from? And what message do they bring? Japanese awareness of ghosts – yūrei – goes back centuries, rooted in ideas of justice and injustice, and in a fear of unfinished business. In Japan, ghost stories are not to be scoffed at, but provide deep insights into the fuzzy boundary between life and death.


MIT Scientists Crack the Case of Breaking Spaghetti in Two – (Ars Technica – August 15, 2018)
Pasta purists insist on plunking dry spaghetti into the boiling pot whole, but should you rebel against convention and try to break the strands in half, you’ll probably end up with a mess of scattered pieces. Now, two MIT mathematicians have figured out the trick to breaking spaghetti strands neatly in two: add a little twist as you bend. They outlined their findings in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This isn’t the first time scientists have been fascinated by the physics of breaking spaghetti. The ever-curious Richard Feynman famously spent hours in his kitchen one night in a failed attempt to successfully break spaghetti strands neatly in half. It should have worked, he reasoned, because the strand snaps when the curvature becomes too great, and once that happens, the energy release should reduce the curvature. The spaghetti should straighten out and not break any further. But no matter how hard he tried, the spaghetti would break in three or more pieces. It wasn’t until 2006 that a pair of French physicists successfully explained the dynamics at work and solved the mystery. They found that, counterintuitively, a spaghetti strand produces a “kick back” traveling wave as it breaks. This wave temporarily increases the curvature in other sections, leading to many more breaks. (You can see slow motion videos of shattering spaghetti here if that’s your jam.) Basile Audoly and Sébastien Neukirch won the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for their insight. Then, in 2015, two MIT students in search of a final project set out to discover if there was any way to control those natural forces to achieve a neat, clean break. Being MIT students who needed a neat, clean grade, they succeeded. How? The article gives it away.


So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events. And in today already walks tomorrow. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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


Edited by John L. Petersen

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

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

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