FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Leeches are now enjoying a renaissance in the doctor’s office and there’s solid evidence showing the bloodsuckers can have plenty of benefits.
- Uber has been sending self-driving trucks on delivery runs across Arizona since November, the first step in what promises to be a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers.
- Embryologists working at the University of Cambridge in the UK have grown realistic-looking mouse embryos using only stem cells. No egg. No sperm. Just cells plucked from another embryo.
- The world’s largest family tree to date — which includes 13 million people going back 11 generations and 500 years — provides new insights about marriage and death, and it all comes from public data.
by John L. Petersen
ROBERT DAVID STEELE COMING TO TRANSITION TALKS
Robert Steele on Grand Strategy – With Trump, Beyond Tillerson & Mattis
In the aftermath of Robert’s trip to Japan, during which he learned of Donald Trump’s presidential-level initiative to unite the Koreas, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis and their respective pro forma strategies have become irrelevant. What Robert was going to cover is now overtaken by events and will be covered by his forthcoming article to be published prior to our meeting. Instead of being negative about irrelevant paper strategies, Robert will discuss the end of Zionism in America, the #GoogleGestapo purge and how it is accelerating the creation of a post-Google Internet, and the post-Western economy rooted in Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE). Core documents are on the landing page of robertdavidsteele.com, see also his Interviews and his Articles. For those desiring a quick dive into his thirty years of thinking, see his just selected Core Works. He has agreed to answer questions on pedophilia in his capacity as the Chief Counsel and Commissioner for an international inquiry that now includes a technical capability led by William Binney and three others utilizing Thin Thread based out of Amsterdam.
So, do come to hear Robert David Steele. You can find complete information at www.transitiontalks.org. It will be a great afternoon.
Let me tell you more about Robert:
And then check out this interview:
Robert is closing out his inventory of hard cover books and is bringing the last four boxes of what he has to give away to those attending.
The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News – (Atlantic – March 8, 2018)
A massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories. “It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.” The study has already prompted alarm from social scientists. “We must redesign our information ecosystem in the 21st century,” write a group of 16 political scientists and legal scholars. The new study suggests that it will not be easy. The study offers a methodical indictment of the accuracy of information that spreads on these platforms. A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story, the authors find. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best. And blame for this problem cannot be laid with our robotic brethren. From 2006 to 2016, Twitter bots amplified true stories as much as they amplified false ones, the study found. Fake news prospers, the authors write, “because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.” Why does falsehood do so well? The MIT team settled on two hypotheses. In short, social media seems to systematically amplify falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one—neither experts nor politicians nor tech companies—knows how to reverse that trend. It is a dangerous moment for any system of government premised on a common public reality. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article.)
The Moon Formed Inside a Hot Cosmic Doughnut, Scientists Say – (NBC News – March 3, 2018)
In recent decades the scientific consensus has been that the moon formed billions of years ago from debris cast off when a Mars-sized object dealt Earth a glancing blow. But a radical new theory holds that some long-ago giant collision actually disintegrated Earth, causing it to balloon out into a vast doughnut-shaped cloud of vaporized rock, which the scientists who developed the theory dubbed a “synestia.” They say the moon subsequently formed within this cosmic maelstrom. In the long-accepted explanation of lunar formation, the collision between Earth and the Mars-sized object, known as Theia, ejected part of Earth’s mantle — essentially molten rock and metal — and left debris orbiting our planet. Over time, the bits of debris collided and clumped together to form the moon. But when the researchers used powerful computers to simulate this process, they ran into the same problem that has long vexed scientists examining the Theia theory: It was hard to see how the collision and the ensuing clumping of debris could explain the moon’s unique chemistry, said study co-author Dr. Sarah Stewart, a professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis. If the moon formed from debris created by the Theia impact, the chemical composition of the moon should differ from that of Earth. But that’s not the case. “The moon has a very distinctive composition,” Lock said. “If you look at major rock-forming elements, the moon looks exactly the same as the Earth.” But if the moon formed within a vaporized Earth, that could account for the similarities in the celestial bodies’ chemical compositions.
Ancient African Artifacts May Solve the Mystery of Earth’s Weakening Magnetic Field – (Outer Places – March 6, 2018)
Scientists have noticed that the Earth’s entire magnetic field has been getting rapidly weaker for the past few years. The South Atlantic Anomaly is a region stretching from Chile to Zimbabwe where the Earth’s magnetic field is significantly weaker than in other parts of the world. This weak spot in the Earth’s magnetic field has been migrating westward for the past seven years and was situated over South America in 2016. According to ScienceAlert, the area is weak enough that satellites are being diverted around it because the risk of being bombarded by unfiltered stellar radiation is too high. Among many other things, Earth’s magnetic field normally protects us from this type of radiation. The big questions now are whether the anomaly will continue to weaken, or if it will bounce back and regain strength. One major clue came from a very unlikely place: an ancient tribal practice of burning their African huts. Data gathered from analysis of the debris has led to the discovery that the South Atlantic Anomaly has gone through similar fluctuations in strength several times over the past few thousand years, and may in fact be caused by a giant hunk of dense rock called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province floating around on the mantle and interfering with our planet’s iron core (which is thought to be the source of our magnetic field).
Stephen Hawking on What Happened Before the Big Bang – (Live Science – March 2, 2018)
At the time of the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe was smooshed into an incredibly hot, infinitely dense speck of matter. But what happened before that? It turns out, famed physicist Stephen Hawking has an answer. Hawking’s answer to the question “What was there before there was anything?” relies on a theory known as the “no-boundary proposal.” To understand the theory better, grab your universal remote (that is, your remote that controls the universe), and hit Rewind. As scientists know now, the universe is constantly expanding. As you move backward in time, then, the universe contracts. Rewind far enough (about 13.8 billion years), and the entire universe shrinks to the size of a single atom, Hawking said. This subatomic ball of everything is known as the singularity (not to be confused with the technological singularity during which artificial intelligence will overtake humans). Inside this extremely small, massively dense speck of heat and energy, the laws of physics and time as we know them cease to function. Put another way, time as we understand it literally did not exist before the universe started to expand. Rather, the arrow of time shrinks infinitely as the universe becomes smaller and smaller, never reaching a clear starting point. “Events before the Big Bang are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them,” Hawking wrote in a lecture on the no-boundary proposal. “Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang.”
What Scientists Found Trapped in a Diamond: A Type of Ice Not Known on Earth – (LA Times – March 9, 2018)
Trapped in the rigid structure of diamonds formed deep in the Earth’s crust, scientists have discovered a form of water ice that was not previously known to occur naturally on our planet. The finding represents the first detection of naturally occurring ice-VII ever found on Earth. Ice-VII is about one and a half times as dense as the regular ice we put in our drinks and skate on in winter, and the crystalline structure of its atoms is different as well. In normal ice, known as ice-I, the oxygen atoms arrange themselves in a hexagonal shape. In ice-VII these atoms are arranged in a cubic shape. Oliver Tschauner, a professor of geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, explained that there are actually several known phases of water ice that form under different pressure and temperature conditions. That’s unusual. Generally, when you subject a solid phase of matter to increasing amounts of pressure, the space between the chemical bonds will decrease a little, and the bonds will tilt slightly toward each other, said Tschauner, who led the new work. That’s called compressibility. But water ice has very low compressibility. When it gets subjected to too much pressure, the atoms don’t scooch together. Instead, they rearrange themselves into different patterns. For example, if you press down hard enough on ice-I, it will transform into ice-II, which has a rhombohedral structure. Increase the pressure once again and the atoms will rearrange themselves into ice-III, then IV, V, VI and VII. Scientists believe that ice-VII may be found in great abundance in the solar system, perhaps in the interior of ice moons like Enceladus and Europa, or as part of the ocean floor of Titan. But they did not think it could naturally occur on Earth. The pressures ice-VII requires to form can be found on our planet, but they exist only deep in the mantle where the temperature is too warm for this form of ice to be stable.
Diabetes Is Actually Five Separate Diseases, Research Suggests – (BBC News – March 2, 2018)
Diabetes affects about one in 11 adults worldwide and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation. Diabetes – or uncontrolled blood sugar levels – is normally split into type 1 and type 2. But researchers in Sweden and Finland think the more complicated picture they have uncovered will usher in an era of personalized medicine for diabetes. The results, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, showed the patients could be separated into five distinct clusters. Cluster 1 – severe autoimmune diabetes is broadly the same as the classical type 1 – it hit people when they were young, seemingly healthy and an immune disease left them unable to produce insulin. Cluster 2 – severe insulin-deficient diabetes patients initially looked very similar to those in cluster 1 – they were young, had a healthy weight and struggled to make insulin, but the immune system was not at fault. Cluster 3 – severe insulin-resistant diabetes patients were generally overweight and making insulin but their body was no longer responding to it. Cluster 4 – mild obesity-related diabetes was mainly seen in people who were very overweight but metabolically much closer to normal than those in cluster 3. Cluster 5 – mild age-related diabetes patients developed symptoms when they were significantly older than in other groups and their disease tended to be milder. Experts said the study was a herald of the future of diabetes care but changes to treatment would not be immediate.
Athletes Are Turning to Leeches to Try to Gain Wolverine-Like Healing Powers – (GizModo – March 7, 2018)
After spending much of the 20th century relegated to the dustbin of quack medicine, leeches are now enjoying a renaissance in the doctor’s office and there’s solid evidence showing the bloodsuckers can have plenty of benefits. Artur Klena, identified as the laboratory head of a Polish leech exporting firm, told Reuters that among other things, sports clubs are buying up leeches to help their jocks “regenerate muscles after intensive exercise.” Leeches have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions, including pain, gout, fever, and hearing loss. For most of that time, leeches were revered simply because they sucked blood out from us—the leading theory being that sickness was caused by an imbalance of “humors.” Artur Klena, identified as the laboratory head of a Polish leech exporting firm, told Reuters that among other things, sports clubs are buying up leeches to help their jocks “regenerate muscles after intensive exercise.” Leeches have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions, including pain, gout, fever, and hearing loss. For most of that time, leeches were revered simply because they sucked blood out from us—the leading theory being that sickness was caused by an imbalance of “humors.” More recently, however, doctors and researchers have found that leeches—and the cocktail of chemicals found inside their saliva that aid their dine-and-dash routine—really can have useful effects on the body. Their saliva contains powerful blood-thinners and anti-inflammatory chemicals that have been used to develop treatments for cardiovascular disease, while the leeches themselves can clean up some gaping wounds better than other modern methods we have available. Other research has found evidence that components in leech saliva could possibly even treat cancer pain or tackle conditions like arthritis.
Cycling Keeps Your Immune System Young, Study Finds – (Guardian – March 8, 2018)
Cycling can hold back the effects of ageing and rejuvenate the immune system, a study has found. Scientists carried out tests on 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 and compared them with healthy adults from a wide age group who did not exercise regularly. The findings showed that the cyclists preserved muscle mass and strength with age while maintaining stable levels of body fat and cholesterol. In men, testosterone levels remained high. More surprisingly, the anti-ageing effects of cycling appeared to extend to the immune system. Male cyclists taking part in the study had to be able to cycle 60 miles in under 6.5 hours, while women had to cover about 37 miles in 5.5 hours. The non-exercising group consisted of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80 and 55 young adults aged 20 to 36. Many other studies have also shown the remarkable health benefits of cycling. A study published in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) last April found that regular cycling cut the risk of death from all causes by more than 40%, and cut the risk of cancer and heart disease by 45%. Experts also believe cycling boosts riders’ mental health, with multiple studies finding that those who commute by bicycle are happier and less prone to depression than those who use any other form of transport. A recent report from British cycling and walking charity Sustrans also found that cycling also benefits society as a whole, estimating that if Britain were to reach government targets for walking and cycling, the country would save about £9.3bn and reduce deaths from air pollution by more than 13,000 over the next decade.
Researchers Successfully Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease in Mouse Model – (MedicalXpress – February 14, 2018)
A team of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have found that gradually depleting an enzyme called BACE1 completely reverses the formation of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease, thereby improving the animals’ cognitive function. The study raises hopes that drugs targeting this enzyme will be able to successfully treat Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Drugs that inhibit BACE1 are therefore being developed as potential Alzheimer’s disease treatments but, because BACE1 controls many important processes by cleaving proteins other than APP, these drugs could have serious side effects. Mice completely lacking BACE1 suffer severe neurodevelopmental defects. To investigate whether inhibiting BACE1 in adults might be less harmful, Riqiang Yan and colleagues generated mice that gradually lose this enzyme as they grow older. These mice developed normally and appeared to remain perfectly healthy over time. The researchers then bred these rodents with mice that start to develop amyloid plaques and Alzheimer’s disease when they are 75 days old. The resulting offspring also formed plaques at this age, even though their BACE1 levels were approximately 50% lower than normal. Remarkably, however, the plaques began to disappear as the mice continued to age and lose BACE1 activity, until, at 10 months old, the mice had no plaques in their brains at all. Loss of BACE1 also improved the learning and memory of mice with Alzheimer’s disease. However, when the researchers made electrophysiological recordings of neurons from these animals, they found that depletion of BACE1 only partially restored synaptic function, suggesting that BACE1 may be required for optimal synaptic activity and cognition.
A Fatal Disease Is Ravaging America’s Bats, and Scientists Are Struggling to Stop It – (New Yorker – February 18, 2018)
Late last summer, the biologist Mark Gumbert began flying over the farmlands of Iowa, looking for bats. As the animals foraged and moved through the night, he followed from above, circling the rivers and fields in his single-engine Cessna 172, trying his best not to lose the signals from their transmitters. Over the past decade or so, Gumbert has pioneered the study of bat migrations using radio telemetry. The project that brought Gumbert to Iowa was unlike any he had undertaken before—tracking the northern long-eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis, a species that is among those most threatened by a dangerous fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. Since the syndrome was first identified, twelve years ago, it is estimated to have killed more than six million bats nationwide, a number that has undoubtedly risen since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its most recent official estimate, in 2012. As of September, 2017, the disease had spread to thirty-one states, some of which have suffered 90% declines in their bat populations; the crisis, which began in New York, now extends as far west as Washington. The disease disrupts the bats’ hibernation, causing them to wake up in winter, exert energy looking for food, and, in time, starve. It is almost always fatal, leaving caves full of bones in its wake. Scientists have yet to find a cure or treatment. In a state such as Iowa, where the economy is based largely on agriculture, white nose is particularly worrisome. According to a study published in 2011 in the journal Science, bats consume enough insects to save U.S. farmers an estimated $22.9 billion a year in pest control and crop damage, a conclusion echoed by a follow-up study in 2015. even now, with white nose as widespread as it is, researchers are already behind in simply trying to understand the lives of bats—the northerns, in particular. “All of a sudden, we’re starting to lose these populations, and we don’t know how to help them because we don’t know what they need,” said Piper Roby, research director at Copperhead Environmental Consulting.
World’s Climate is Rapidly Cooling – (Dr. Circus – February 26, 2018)
Contrary to all of the hype about melting glaciers, at least 58 New Zealand glaciers advanced between 1983 and 2008. Indeed, Franz Josef Glacier advanced nearly continuously during those years. “We found that lower temperature caused the glaciers to advance, rather than increased precipitation as previously thought. These periods of reduced temperature affected the entire New Zealand region, and they were significant enough for the glaciers to re-advance in spite of human-induced climate change.” Rapid cooling is happening to our beloved earth and there is nothing we can do about it except fantasize about global warming. The ice and snow that is headed our way is going to bury civilization in the northern latitudes in the next few decades. Dr. Sam Myers, a medical doctor and senior research scientist studying environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “We’ve never needed to increase food production more rapidly than we do today to keep up with global demand.” That is going to be impossible in a cooling world where contracting growing seasons will collapse yields. “The recent prolonged solar minimum and subsequent weak solar cycle 24 have led to suggestions that the grand solar maximum may be at an end,” says this study on nature.com. The study, published in 2015, looked at past variations of solar activity. In 2010, the study found, scientists estimated a mere 8% chance of a return to Maunder Minimum-like conditions within the next 40 years. However, “the decline in solar activity has continued, to the time of writing, and is faster than any other such decline in 9,300 years.”
California Joins 18 States Proposing Right to Repair Act – (Venture Beat – March 8, 2018)
“People shouldn’t be forced to ‘upgrade’ to the newest model every time a replaceable part on their smartphone or home appliance breaks,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “These companies are profiting at the expense of our environment and our pocketbooks as we become a throw-away society that discards over 6 million tons of electronics every year.” California Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman has introduced the California Right to Repair Act, marking the 19th state to propose pro-consumer repair legislation this year. The Right to Repair Act would require electronics makers to offer repair information and parts to third-party repair providers and product owners. Its goal is to empower customers to repair their own devices, or obtain repairs from companies that aren’t necessarily authorized by the original manufacturer. Though similar bills have been proposed elsewhere without success, supporters give California a better chance of actually passing Right to Repair, while at least one lobbying group has already spoken out against it. Given that many Right to Repair bills have been proposed in recent years only to stagnate in state legislatures, we asked iFixit what made California’s bill more likely to pass. “California has a long history of pioneering pro-consumer and pro-environment legislation,” said iFixit’s Kay-Kay Clapp, including electronics recycling and plastic bag laws. “That gives this bill some legs. Additionally, this bill is supported by a broad coalition of folks with a track record of success — the EFF, and Consumers Union.”
This Is Why Alexa Is Laughing at You – (NY Mag – March 8, 2018)
The story of Amazon devices laughing at users is easily taken as a parable about our anxiety over increasingly sophisticated consumer-facing artificial intelligence, or maybe an object lesson in bad user design. But there’s another warning to pay attention to. The laughing Alexas lay bare, more than ever, the need for transparency from the companies that make these devices, whether that company is Amazon (Alexa), or Google (the Assistant), or Apple (Siri), or Microsoft (Cortana). The problem with smart speakers is that they are, for reasons both incidental and intentional, almost impossible to troubleshoot. Much of this is attributable to the fact that these devices are “headless” — they operate without a screen or inputs such as a mouse and keyboard. It’s very difficult to diagnose problems when you literally cannot see how the computer is processing information. Yet even if we could poke around the internals of a smart speaker, there wouldn’t be much to find. The entire premise of the product line is that these devices are “cloud-enabled”; that they’re connected to the internet 24/7 and do very little computing locally. When you say “Alexa …” or “Okay, Google …” the speaker records what you say next and sends that audio to a remote server controlled by Amazon or Google, respectively. It is on that server that the audio is analyzed and the speaker figures out what you want, and then the response is sent back to the speaker on your living-room table. Yet even if we could poke around the internals of a smart speaker, there wouldn’t be much to find. The entire premise of the product line is that these devices are “cloud-enabled”; that they’re connected to the internet 24/7 and do very little computing locally. When you say “Alexa …” or “Okay, Google …” the speaker records what you say next and sends that audio to a remote server controlled by Amazon or Google, respectively. It is on that server that the audio is analyzed and the speaker figures out what you want, and then the response is sent back to the speaker on your living-room table.
He Predicted the 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried about an Information Apocalypse. – (BuzzFeed – February 11, 2018)
“What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?” technologist Aviv Ovadya warns. Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact. The future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality, for which terms have already been coined — “reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets.” Which is why Ovadya, an MIT grad with engineering stints at tech companies like Quora, dropped everything in early 2016 to try to prevent what he saw as a Big Tech–enabled information crisis. It became clear to him that, if somebody were to exploit our attention economy and use the platforms that undergird it to distort the truth, there were no real checks and balances to stop it. “I realized if these systems were going to go out of control, there’d be nothing to reign them in and it was going to get bad, and quick,” he said. Technologies that can be used to enhance and distort what is real are evolving faster than our ability to understand and control or mitigate it. The stakes are high and the possible consequences more disastrous than foreign meddling in an election — an undermining or upending of core civilizational institutions, an “infocalypse.” Worse because of our ever-expanding computational prowess; worse because of ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that can blur the lines between fact and fiction; worse because those things could usher in a future where, as Ovadya observes, anyone could make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.”
Space Saving Furniture – (Futurism – no date)
Short, silent video clip showing innovative shape-shifting furniture that can save space in your home. The video is sufficiently fast paced that it can be difficult to catch bits, but if you stop it, you can capture product names and then search for them. For example, here’s the “Ludovico office” from Expand Furniture.
When a Tech Giant Plays Waterfront Developer – (City Lab – January 9, 2018)
“Quayside,” is a 12-acre slice of Toronto waterfront in line to be developed by Sidewalk Labs (the urban tech-focused subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet) now focused on turning the patch of city-owned land into what it calls the “world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.” In working with Waterfront Toronto, the public entity that owns the land, to develop Quayside, Sidewalk Labs would reimagine urban life in five dimensions—housing, energy, mobility, social services, and shared public spaces—with an aim to “serve as a model for sustainable neighborhoods” around the world. A self-contained thermal grid would recirculate energy from non-fossil-fuel sources to heat and cool buildings, while a food disposal system would keep garbage out of landfills. For cars and trucks, Quayside would be less hospitable: Part of the neighborhood would prohibit non-emergency vehicles entirely, while bikeshare stations, transit stops, and cycling and walking paths—kept useable through the Canadian winter with sidewalk snow melters and automated awnings—would offer “efficient alternatives to driving, all at lower cost than owning a car.” An autonomous transit shuttle would rove some streets. (Waymo, a leading developer of self-driving vehicle software, is also an Alphabet subsidiary.) Buildings would be largely pre-fabricated using eco-friendly materials, to cut back on waste. With a “strong shell and minimalistic interior,” they could be adapted to multiple uses, morphing from residential to retail to industrial, and back again. To support such a futuristic vision, Quayside would test a novel “outcome-based” zoning code focused on limiting things like pollution and noise rather than specific land uses. If it doesn’t bother the neighbors, one might operate a whiskey distillery in the middle of an apartment complex. In many ways, it’s not an especially futuristic vision. What has drawn the most concern and curiosity with regards to Quayside is a uniquely 21st-century feature: a data-harvesting, wifi-beaming “digital layer” that would underpin each proposed facet of Quayside life. According to Sidewalk Labs, this would provide “a single unified source of information about what is going on”—to an astonishing level of detail—as well as a centralized platform for efficiently managing it all.
Uber Trucks Start Shuttling Goods across Arizona — By Themselves – (USA Today – March 6, 2018)
Uber has been sending self-driving trucks on delivery runs across Arizona since November, the first step in what promises to be a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers. In Uber‘s current program, a trucker meets the self-driving truck at the Arizona state border, which then takes the load across the state before handing it off to a second conventional trucker for the short-haul trip. During the autonomous trip, an Uber employee rides in the driver seat of the autonomous truck to monitor — but not to drive. If one day both the technology and regulations play out in favor of self-driving trucks, two scenarios emerge. The first would find self-driving trucks handling long-haul highway legs with no one at the wheel as they meet up with conventional truckers, who then drive the deliveries into city centers. The other possibility is Uber could sell its technology to trucking owner-operators, who then use it to sleep while the truck handles the bulk of long-distance driving. Uber Freight, which launched last May, is an app that matches shippers with loads using technology drawn from Uber’s ride-hailing app. Typically such trucking logistics have been coordinated through phone calls and emails. The San Francisco-based company isn’t alone in its pursuit of self-driving truck technology, with startups such as Embark joining companies such as Tesla and its new Tesla Semi to carve out a slice of a $700 billion industry that moves 70% of all domestic freight, according to the American Trucking Association. Uber’s current Arizona pilot program does not feature trucks making end-to-end runs from pick-up to delivery because it’s tough to make huge trucks navigate urban traffic on their own. Instead, Uber’s Volvo trucks receive loads at state border weigh stations. These trucks are equipped with hardware, software and an array of sensors developed by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group that help the truck make what amounts to a glorified cruise-control run across the state. Uber ATG also is behind ongoing self-driving car testing in Arizona, Pennsylvania and San Francisco. (Editor’s note: What’s interesting here is seeing how companies are creating the technological, regulatory, and social “transitional platforms” to gradually implement huge change.
Check-in Time Hours Away? How to Ditch Those Annoying Bags – (New York Times – March 8, 2018)
You’re familiar with the predicament: You’ve got a few hours before you can check into your vacation rental, or before you leave for your flight, and you want to do some sightseeing — but that means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your (undoubtedly overstuffed) luggage in tow. Or does it? Increasingly, you may not only store your bags for a couple of hours at the usual places (airports, train stations, luggage storage companies), but also with a surprising variety of businesses — delis, dry cleaners, clothing boutiques, wine shops, eyebrow-shaping salons — for less than the cost of a couple of Starbucks lattes. In New York City, for example, you can stash your bags for $2 an hour per bag at Chelsea Bicycles, the Puerh Brooklyn teashop, or an Al Horno Lean Mexican Kitchen (which is convenient if you’re also in the mood for a burrito), among hundreds of other untraditional storage locations. Websites and apps that help travelers find these short-term spots have likened themselves to Airbnb for luggage: Travelers go online and book a date (it can be the same day) and location (maps show you your options), then drop off their bags. Such services aren’t just handy for travelers: They’re also convenient for local city dwellers who may want to temporarily ditch their bags after work or shopping so they can attend an event or stop by an intimate bar without having to zip home first and unburden themselves. (Editor’s note: What is visible just beneath the surface of this article is yet another service made possible by internet connected cell phones which allow individuals to almost instantly find and do business with non-traditional businesses, even when one is not a “local” and perhaps doesn’t even speak the local language.)
Elon Musk’s Boring Company Gets Green-light for Possible Hyperloop Station in Washington – (Electrek – February 19, 2018)
The company has reportedly received its first excavation permit in Washington D.C. in a vacant lot at 53 New York Avenue NE. As previously reported, the Boring Company’s main project is its network of tunnels under Los Angeles, where it already started digging last year. They want to alleviate traffic by moving vehicles at high speeds on electric skates underneath existing streets. But the company is also working on a similar project on the east coast, where they also want to reduce pressure in the tunnels in order to be able to increase the speed of travel, which would create a hyperloop system connecting several cities. Last year, Musk announced that the project would result in an underground hyperloop system between New York and Washington DC. So far, it seems that the company has been focusing its efforts in Maryland, where it is working on a 12-mile tunnel that would eventually to extended to connect Baltimore and Washington in what could become the first leg of the major east coast hyperloop. There hasn’t been any timeline for any of the Boring Company’s projects really, but it looks like the company is just digging wherever they are allowed to and gradually making small progress like this.
Ranchers Set to Fight Back Against Vegetarian ‘Fake Meat’ – (USA Today – February 25, 2018)
Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are combining plant-based ingredients and science, rather than animals, to create fake-meat burgers and other products that taste like the real thing. Now U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is looking to draw a line in the sand. The association launched what could be the first salvo in a long battle against plant-based foods. Earlier this month, the association filed a 15-page petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an official definition for the term “beef,” and more broadly, “meat.” Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, doesn’t necessarily see the petition as a bad thing. “I think it actually could help us more than it could hurt us because it starts the national dialogue around what really is meat, and if the origin of meat really matters to the consumer,” said Brown. The Good Food Institute, which advocates a sustainable food supply, breaks it down into two categories: clean meat and plant-based meat. Clean meat refers to “meat” grown in a lab from a small amount of animal stem cells. This kind of meat isn’t on the market yet, but it’s in development. Plant-based meat is anything that mimics traditional meat but is made mainly using plant ingredients.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Nations Built on Lies – (Boston Globe – February 18, 2018)
During World War II, some people in Poland cheered the Nazis and helped them kill Jews. Saying so is now a crime in Poland. A new law imposes prison terms of up the three years for anyone who asserts “that the Polish nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes.” By adopting this new law, Poland guarantees new scrutiny of its unsavory World War II record. It also reinforces its image as an increasingly undemocratic country that is falling back under authoritarian rule. The law, however, has implications far beyond Poland. No nation is so unremittingly evil that it must flee from its history. Few, however, are as innocent as their citizens like to believe. Most have reason to avoid deep self-examination. The writer Philip K. Dick famously defined reality as “what continues to exist whether you believe in it or not.” Poland’s government rejects that view. Other countries might take note. Many have developed fantasies to cover unpleasant truths of their history. Suppose other countries were to follow Poland’s lead. For example: France: It is illegal to say that our troops supported Rwandans who carried out the 1994 genocide, and then, after their defeat, moved them into the Congo, where they have been rampaging ever since. Great Britain: It is illegal to say that British imperialism was one of history’s most monstrous projects, brutally looting nations and sparking much of the chaos and hatred that now shakes the world. United States: It is illegal to say that our country was built on the bones of slaughtered Indians and enslaved Africans. Wallowing in past sins is as unhealthy for nations as it is for people. Denying those sins, however, is at least as pernicious. Historical facts are stubborn. They can be interpreted in endlessly various ways, but cannot be altered. Governments do no service to their people by protecting them from the reality of their past.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Poison We Pick: How Americans Use Opioids to Escape Modern Life – (New York Mag – February 20, 2018)
We know, from Neolithic ruins in Europe, that the cultivation of opium poppies goes back as far as 6,000 years, probably farther. Homer called it a “wondrous substance.” It was a medicine before there was such a thing as medicine. Every attempt to banish it, destroy it, or prohibit it has failed. Opium, heroin, morphine, and a universe of synthetic opioids, including the superpowerful painkiller fentanyl, are its proliferating offspring. More than 2 million Americans are now hooked on some kind of opioid, and drug overdoses — from heroin and fentanyl in particular — claimed more American lives last year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War. Of all the many social indicators flashing red in contemporary America, this is surely the brightest. Just as LSD helps explain the 1960s, cocaine the 1980s, and crack the 1990s, so opium defines this new era. The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness. America, having pioneered the modern way of life, is now in the midst of trying to escape it. Americans consume 99% of the world’s hydrocodone and 81% of its oxycodone. A Medicaid co-pay of $3 for a bottle of pills could yield $10,000 on the streets — an economic arbitrage that has enticed countless middle-class Americans to become drug dealers. It’s telling that the drug has not taken off equally among all Americans — especially not among the engaged, multiethnic, urban-dwelling, financially successful inhabitants of the coasts. The poppy has instead found a home in those places left behind — towns and small cities that owed their success to a particular industry, whose civic life was built around a factory or a mine. (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article from this issue of FUTUREdition, this is the one.)
Holier Than Thou? No, Just Less Evil – (Chicago Booth – December 5, 2017)
Social psychologists have documented that people believe they’re more likely than others to donate blood, give to charity, treat another person fairly, or give up their seat on a crowded bus for a pregnant woman. But research from University of Chicago postdoctoral researcher Nadav Klein and Chicago Booth’s Nicholas Epley suggests that people don’t necessarily believe they are holier than others. Instead, people simply believe they are less evil than others. Understanding the fine distinction between the two ideas could be used to help guide behavior. The experiments revealed an “asymmetric self-righteousness,” as the researchers call it: people consistently reported they were less evil but no more moral than others. When it comes to ethical behaviors, people judge themselves based on their own positive intentions, but they judge others based on their actions, the researchers write. And when it comes to unethical behaviors, people justify their own actions but are less understanding of others’. The findings could benefit people writing policies that try to encourage particular behaviors.
Vatican Sets Up New Exorcism Training Courses as Demand Triples in Italy – (Kataeb – February 25, 2018)
The Vatican hopes to step up its game against demonic possessions with a week-long international conference in April to address a threefold increase in demand in Italy alone for the services of exorcists. The church is particularly alarmed over the uneven skills of some of its current exorcists and worried about priests who are no longer willing to learn the techniques. The assessment is a major finding of a four-day meeting in Sicily that included testimony on sects and Satanism, according to Vatican Radio. One of the organizers of the Sicily gathering, Friar Beningo Palilla told Vatican Radio there are some 500,000 cases requiring exorcism in Italy each year. While many of the cases are not actually related to demonic possession, but to spiritual or psychological problems, he conceded, they nonetheless must be investigated. In any event, Palilla, a priest in Palermo, is calling for an across-the-board improvement in training. “We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us: in the preparation for the priesthood, we do not talk about these things,” he said. Palilla is particularly concerned about some do-it-yourselfers within the priesthood.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Spacewatch: Engine Fuelled by Air Will Enable Low-flying Class of Satellites – (Guardian – March 8, 2018)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has test-fired an engine that opens the path for a novel class of low-flying Earth-orbiting space missions. Called an air-breathing electric thruster, it is designed to work at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. It sucks in the scarce air molecules and uses them as propellant. Low-flying satellites, those in orbits of about 200-300km altitude, are gradually pulled out of orbit by the drag of the residual atmosphere. For example, ESA’s GOCE mission operated in this region of space. It flew for five years thanks to an electric thruster that used xenon fuel to counteract the atmospheric drag. When the 40kg of xenon ran out, however, the spacecraft fell to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere. The new thruster, designed by an ESA-led team that includes Sitael in Italy and QuinteScience in Poland, does not carry xenon. Instead, it sucks in the scarce air molecules that cause the drag, and uses them instead. The successful test firing took place in a chamber that simulates atmospheric conditions at 200km altitude. Further development is expected to lead to a whole new class of low-flying satellites that could operate indefinitely.
Government Scientists Have a Plan for Blowing Up Asteroids with a Nuke – (BuzzFeed – March 7, 2018)
The title of this article sounds like the opening line of a lame joke, but it’s not. The asteroid Bennu, a boulder the size of a village, is circling the sun at 63,000 mph, now a comfortable 54 million miles from Earth. But on Sept. 21, 2135, there is a 1 in 2,700 chance that it will hit us. Government scientists now have an official plan, just in case: They’ve designed a spacecraft to hit any large oncoming asteroids with a nuclear explosion. The Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER) spacecraft — a collaboration between the National Nuclear Security Administration, NASA, and two Energy Department weapons labs — would either steer its 8.8-ton bulk (called an “impactor”) into a small asteroid, or carry a nuclear device to deflect a big one. “If the asteroid is small enough, and we detect it early enough, we can do it with the impactor,” said physicist David Dearborn of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The impactor is not as flexible as the nuclear option when we really want to change the speed of the body in a hurry.” Just because these plans now exist does not mean the spacecraft will ever get built. NASA scientists declined to give a cost estimate for a mission, citing the sensitivity of pricing information, but for comparison, NASA’s more complex OSIRIS-REx mission, now on its way to Bennu, cost $800 million.
Google Received 2.4M ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Requests – (PC Mag – February 27, 2018)
The landmark “right to be forgotten” ruling in the EU has led Google to delist over one million URLs from its search engine. A 2014 court ruling gave European citizens the right to request that Google prevent inaccurate or irrelevant information about them from appearing in the company’s search results. Since the ruling went into effect, Google has received almost 2.4 million URL removal requests from 400,000 requesters; 43% of requests were approved, Google revealed. Requests have been made by people from all walks of life, from corporations to politicians to celebrities. For instance, government officials filed over 33,000 URL removals, 11.7 percent of which were granted. About 89% of URL removals come from private citizens, including minors. Top internet sites targeted in these requests include Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube and Twitter. The company will rejected attempts to delist URLs involving information that Google finds valuable to the public, like articles about financial scams or news on the public conduct of government officials. Once a URL is removed, Google users in Europe will no longer see it appear in their search results. However, the URL will remain for users outside the region.
What the World’s Largest Family Tree Tells Us about Marriage and Death in the West – (The Verge – March 1, 2018)
The largest family tree to date — which includes 13 million people going back 11 generations and 500 years — provides new insights about marriage and death, and it all comes from public data. The tree was created by a team led by Yaniv Erlich, a Columbia University computer scientist who is also chief science officer at the genealogy company MyHeritage. The tree, which is available online, includes (anonymized) data on when and where everyone died. When Erlich’s team analyzed the data to find trends related to marriage and death, they found that genetics may play a smaller role in longevity than we thought, and the advent of mass transportation wasn’t the only reason why we started marrying people outside the family. For the analysis, the researchers focused on two topics: how long we live and who we choose to marry. By measuring the birth location between husbands and wives and tracking that over time, they found that, unsurprisingly, before the Industrial Revolution most Americans married someone within six miles of where they were born. This person was also likely to be a relative — a fourth cousin on average, says Erlich. After the Industrial Revolution, when transportation became more common, people started to marry those who were born farther away and were more distantly related. (By 1950, people were finding their spouses within 60 miles of where they were born.) But the pattern shows it’s not all about transportation. Between 1800 and 1850, people were traveling more and moving to cities en masse, but the genealogical distance remained the same: in other words, people were still marrying their relatives. Looking at death statistics, the researchers analyzed the lifespans of 3 million relatives who were born between 1600 and 1910 and lived past age 30. By comparing each person’s lifespan to that of their relatives, they found that genes are responsible for about 16% of the variation in how long they lived.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2018 – (Technology Review – March, 2018)
Every year since 2001, the editors of Technology Review have picked what they expect to be the year’s biggest 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by “breakthrough”? What we’re really looking for is a technology, or perhaps even a collection of technologies, that will have a profound effect on our lives. For this year, a new technique in artificial intelligence called GANs is giving machines imagination; artificial embryos, despite some thorny ethical constraints, are redefining how life can be created and are opening a research window into the early moments of a human life; and a pilot plant in the heart of Texas’s petrochemical industry is attempting to create completely clean power from natural gas—probably a major energy source for the foreseeable future. These and the rest of their list will be worth keeping an eye on. For example: In a breakthrough that redefines how life can be created, embryologists working at the University of Cambridge in the UK have grown realistic-looking mouse embryos using only stem cells. No egg. No sperm. Just cells plucked from another embryo. For a highly condensed listing of all 10 technologies, see this précis.
Scientists Create a Mega-Giant Atom Stuffed with Other Atoms – (Forbes – February 26, 2018)
Researchers have engineered a new, exotic state of matter in a lab in Houston – a giant atom filled with other atoms. The team, from the Vienna University of Technology and Harvard University, were pondering the fact of life that pretty much everything is made up of a lot of empty space. Within atoms, electrons usually orbit relatively far from their nucleus, leaving a big empty space that is basically nothingness at the heart of these tiny building blocks of the Universe. In this case, the scientists wondered if they couldn’t fill that space with something else, like a whole bunch of other atoms. In atomic physics, scientists can create an atom, known as a Rydberg atom, in which one single electron is highly excited and orbits its nucleus at a very large distance. Professor Joachim Burgdörfer of Vienna University and his colleague Professor Shuhei Yoshida decided to combine the theory of Rydberg atoms with Bose-Einstein condensates. What they ended up with was an electron that orbited around not just its own atomic nucleus, but as many as 170 additional strontium atoms that got stuck between them. Article includes basic technical details.
Aira: A New Access Service for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired – (VisionWare – June 6, 2018)
Aira (pronounced “EYE-rah”) calls itself a “visual interpreter for the blind,” enabling users to explore the world in augmented ways using an eclectic and robust collection of technologies and services. It combines wearable smart glasses with an embedded video camera paired with a smartphone, a portable WiFi hotspot, and a network of live certified agents who assist the user remotely in real-time. The trained agents see the world through the smart glass worn by the customer and describe the view. They respond to requests for information from the user, working at a specially-designed dashboard that efficiently connects to information via the video camera, GPS, and other sources of data. The result is an augmented reality experience in which users can access helpful information in a friendly, efficient manner to improve their mobility and independence. Paul Schroeder, an Aira team member, states, “It is more than a navigation tool; it is an ‘information service’ at its heart.” Customers may use Aira to travel independently while learning about their surroundings. The agent can give detailed descriptions of buildings, landscapes, and people in the environment. If a customer wants to know more about the restaurant he/she is headed to for lunch, the agent can quickly access a Yelp review. Aira agents can read print like menus, business cards, signs and handwritten notes through the smart glass video camera. They can even take photos for the user and e-mail them. Aira can help with tasks like shopping, homework, or to learn a new skill like origami. Erich Manser, who is legally blind from retinitis pigmentosa, recently ran the Boston marathon assisted by Aira. The possibilities are endless, and customers are discovering innovative ways to apply the Aira service daily. Article lists costs for various service plans.
Google’s Nemesis: Meet the British Couple Who Took on a Giant, Won… and Cost it £2.1 Billion – (Wired – February 14, 2018)
Google was guilty. The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, made that brutally clear. “Google abused its market dominance,” Vestager declared as she announced her judgement in Brussels on June 27, 2017. She handed Google a £2.1 billion fine – the largest antitrust penalty ever handed to a single company, and gave it 90 days to change its ways. Watching the livestream 500 metres away in the Thon Hotel EU, Adam and Shivaun Raff shared a smile of relief. It had been 11 grueling years since they realized Google was deliberately demoting their price comparison website, Foundem, in search results. Eight years since they brought their complaint to the European Commission, becoming the first plaintiffs in the case against the search firm (others include Yelp, Expedia and Deutsche Telecom.) Competition abuse is difficult to understand, because its victims are usually invisible. Their presence is measured in absences: businesses abandoned; careers unfulfilled; innovations stifled at birth. Today, Foundem’s website is the digital equivalent of a boarded-up house. But when the Raffs created it in 2005, it represented a technological epiphany: a search engine for the parts of the internet Google couldn’t reach. The culprit was an update to an algorithm ostensibly designed to root out spam, but targeted at features, such as lack of original content, that are also defining characteristics of search services. Because Google is hosted across numerous data centres, Adam was able to watch, horrified, as the penalty swept across the search engine, downgrading Foundem for every search except its own name. One second Foundem ranked first or third (a status it maintained on Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing). The next, it was down in the 70s and 80s. For huge swathes of online life, Google is the default entry point. In a single stroke, Foundem had effectively been disappeared from the internet. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article for its explanation of how a search engine can subtly skew and distort search results its own financial interests and in ways that are invisible to users.)
Are We in the Middle of a Long Peace—Or on the Brink of a Major War? – (Science – February 21, 2018)
Since the close of World War II, humanity has seen few large-scale wars—and battlefield deaths—compared with the past 2 centuries. (“Large war” defined as one whose battle death toll falls within the upper quartile of total battle deaths over the past 2 centuries. Basically, that means anything with more than 26,625 deaths.) War scholars refer to our current era as the “long peace.” Anthropologists and political scientists have argued that several 20th century developments have lessened the risk of large-scale interstate conflicts, including the spread of democracy, increased economic interdependence, and the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. From a purely numerical perspective, those arguments carry weight. But are we really getting along any better? Only a handful of recent conflicts have boiled over into all-out war, and few have seen the kinds of extraordinary body counts—in the hundreds of thousands—common to wars in the 19th and 20th centuries. To find out whether we are really in the midst of a period of true harmony, computer scientist Aaron Clauset at the University of Colorado in Boulder plotted data from The Correlates of War Project’s data set, widely used in political science. The database includes the year of onset and number of battle deaths for 95 interstate conflicts between 1823 and 2003. Clauset crunched the data as if they represented any other statistical relationship, looking for trends and calculating the normal range of fluctuation in both battle deaths and years between conflicts. For one thing, Clauset found the unimaginable carnage of World War II was not, in fact, a statistical anomaly; its death toll falls well within the expected range for war deaths. He also found that, statistically speaking, going several decades without a large war simply isn’t a rare event. In order for our present peaceful era to become meaningfully aberrant—that is, for it to represent a real change in our ability to get along—it would have to last for another 100 to 140 years. (Editor’s note: The entire complexion of war has changed since WWII; it’s no longer conducted on large battlefields with soldiers from opposing sides facing each other. The style now is hit-and-run within urban and semi-urban areas. For this study to be more meaningful, we think it needed to find a way to reasonably estimate civilian causalities and include them in the analysis. Raising additional questions of current validity, the ratio of soldiers wounded to those killed has shifted dramatically due to medical advances. For additional insight into these issues, please read the next article.)
The Iraq War: Fifteen Years Later – (Lob Log – February 15, 2018)
From 2003 to the formal withdrawal of US fighting forces in 2011, the war took the lives of 4,500 Americans and well over 150,000 Iraqi civilians. And more than 600,000 US thousand veterans of these wars are now registered as disabled. To fully understand the war’s impact, however, we must also factor in the number of young men and women, who after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (400,000 served three or more tours of duty in these two wars) have returned home suffering from post-traumatic shock disorder (PTSD)—about 10% of veterans suffer from PTSD. A great number of them have tragically joined the ranks of the homeless or the addicted or they have committed suicide. Studies show that on an average night almost 40,000 veterans are homeless. And in recent years, the average number of suicides among this group of PTSD veterans is a staggering 22 per day—meaning that more young veterans of these two wars die each year at their own hands out of despair than died in battle in both wars combined. The direct costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been estimated to be almost two trillion dollars, with trillions more needing to be factored in to cover the long-term health care and disability payments to the wars’ veterans. The two long unwinnable wars resulted in grounding down and exhausting the US military. It also demonstrated their inability to decisively beat insurgencies and resistance movements. This proved demoralizing to US troops and also established the limits of the world’s most powerful and expensive military machine.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Scientists Warn of Mysterious and Deadly New Epidemic Called Disease X That Could Kill Millions around the World – (Mirror – March 10, 2018)
First of all: this disease doesn’t exist – yet. Each year scientists with the World Health Organization (WHO) create a list of the most likely diseases to break out into a worldwide pandemic. This year, among the familiar Ebola, SARS, and Zika viruses is the new name of Disease X. And unlike the other pathogens, it is not known what causes Disease X or how doctors could try to treat it. Researchers said that they added Disease X to the threat list to recognise the fact that the next deadly pandemic could be started by an illness that has not caused any problems before. Norwegian scientist and WHO adviser John-Arne Rottingen said that it was likely the next outbreak would be “something we have not seen before”. “It may seem strange to be adding an ‘X’ but the point is to make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests,” he said. Disease X could even be man-made, rather than a fluke of nature. There are growing fears that the use and development of chemical and biological weapons are on the rise. Mr Rottingen said that the man-made viruses and diseases were especially dangerous because humans have not built up any resistance over time to them, leaving them free to sweep across the globe before governments and doctors can catch up.
JUST FOR FUN
NRA – Sunday with Lubach – (YouTube – October 8, 2017)
Arjen Henrik Lubach is a Dutch comedian, author and television presenter. He hosts the weekly news satire television show Zondag met Lubach. In this short clip, he discusses “nonsensical rifle addiction”, NRA for short. In case you are pro-NRA or perhaps even a member of the NRA, this is a self-administered test: Can you see the humor and chuckle even when the humor is pointed right at you? It’s often not easy, but your doctor recommends it. It’s good for your blood pressure.
A FINAL QUOTE
We know what we are, but know not what we may be. — Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Humera Khan, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen