New paradigms for the Old Soul
If you have never been to a Kryon event before, get ready to meet Lee Carroll. He’s the original Kryon channel who enthusiastically presents profound information and research based on Kryon’s teachings. In his fast-paced lectures, Lee charmingly anchors Kryon’s new information with humor, personal insights, and stories. And of course, you’ll experience TWO live Kryon channellings!
Get complete details here!
DENNIS MCKENNA, Ph.D., COMING TO TRANSITION TALKS IN MAY
Join us Saturday, May 12, 2018, 2 to 4 pm in Berkeley Springs for “Climbing the Vine”!
Dennis McKenna and his brother Terence first came to S. America in 1971. Their unexpected adventures in pursuit of exotic psychedelics led to some surprising discoveries recounted in Terence’s book, True Hallucinations, and Dennis’ 2012 memoir, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. In 1981, Dennis returned to Peru, this time as a graduate student, and began his scientific investigations of ayahuasca, that continue to this day as a professional and personal passion. In this lecture, Dennis tells the tale of an unusual life lived in the shadow (or perhaps the light) of this mysterious and beautiful medicine.
Get complete details at TransitionTalks.org.
John Petersen to speak at Energy, Science and Technology Conference
I will be one of the keynote speakers at one of the foremost new energy conferences in the world, held in Idaho (near Spokane, Washington), on the 5th -8th of July. ESTC is a marvelously interesting mix of researchers and inventors who are on the leading edge of “free” and alternative energy. It is always a most provocative time full of new ideas . . . and mind-blowing technology that really works. The revolution is starting there.
Here’s what some of the folks who attended last year had to say about their experience:
This is a really great conference, with ample opportunities to meet many very interesting people and hear sometimes amazing presentations about working technologies that trumpet the emergence of a new world. That’s what I’m going to talk about. Here’s the description of my talk.
New Energy: The Linchpin to Unprecedented Change and the Emergence of a New Era
We are full into the most extraordinary period of change ever experienced by humanity . . . and the acceleration will increase before things begin to settle down. Amazing breakthroughs and manipulations of our reality signal a transition the likes of which baffles conventional wisdom.
The endpoint is a new world populated by new humans – both fundamentally different from the familiar forms that we all grew up with. Many sources paint a picture of a world without war for millennia.
Futurist John Petersen will paint the big picture of what is going on, where it could be headed and why new energy is such a key piece of the extraordinary new world.
You can get complete information on the program at energyscienceconference.com. If this is of interest to you, there are only about 40 seats left, so register soon.
Hope to see you there.
This Is How We Take Power Back From Facebook (And Every Other Monopoly) – (Fast Company – March 21, 2018)
For all its fabled dynamism, the American economy isn’t particularly dynamic at the moment. There are many reasons for this. But one factor encompasses them all: market concentration. From beer to dairy, airlines to healthcare, large companies increasingly dominate their industries. Four brewers control 90% of the beer market, for example. Four airlines are responsible for two-thirds of all ticket sales. Almost 50 million Americans live in areas with only one broadband supplier. If limited airline or internet options haven’t convinced you that monopolies (or oligopolies, when just a few companies control an industry) are a problem, you need to look no farther than the computer screen in front of you. For a long time, it may not have seemed particularly ominous that a few companies should control internet search, social networking, and a large part of the e-commerce landscape; it might have even made your life easier, and more convenient. Workers bear the brunt of monopolization, as one highly cited paper illustrates. The economists behind the research–José Azar, Ioana Elena Marinescu, and Marshall Steinbaum–looked at posted vacancies from 2010 to 2013 on Careerbuilder.com, which advertises about a third of all online job ads. They wanted to understand how fewer employers in a particular area might affect what they are willing to pay prospective hires. What they found was fairly amazing. The research points to what economists call a monopsony problem–where a lack of employers means a lack of competition and more power for companies to reduce wages. More or less the only places in America that don’t have a monopsony problem, they say, are large cities where employers tend to congregate. Even before revelations about Facebook’s role in the election, the power of big tech was raising special questions among experts concerned about concentration in the economy. Some say Amazon, Google, and Facebook require special regulatory attention because of their platform and informational advantages. Amazon, Google, and Facebook not only dominate markets like e-books, search, and social, but they also control the information on which these markets run. Facebook and Google are not only platforms for advertising–with about three-quarters of the market and most of the growth–they are also nontransparent holders of the information that marketers need to understand – and manipulate – our online lives, campaigners say. (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article in this issue, this is the one.)
Mystery of Purple Lights in Sky Solved with Help from Citizen Scientists – (PhysOrg – March 14, 2018)
Glowing in mostly purple and green colors, a new celestial phenomenon is sparking the interest of scientists, photographers and astronauts. The display was initially discovered by a group of citizen scientists who took pictures of the unusual lights and playfully named them “Steve” (now officially called Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement). Scientists have now learned, despite its ordinary name, that Steve may be an extraordinary puzzle piece in painting a better picture of how Earth’s magnetic fields function and interact with charged particles in space. The study highlights one key quality of Steve: Steve is not a normal aurora. Auroras occur globally in an oval shape, last hours and appear primarily in greens, blues and reds. Citizen science reports showed Steve is purple with a green picket fence structure that waves. It is a line with a beginning and end. People have observed Steve for 20 minutes to 1 hour before it disappears. If anything, auroras and Steve are different flavors of an ice cream, said MacDonald. They are both created in generally the same way: Charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s magnetic field lines. The uniqueness of Steve is in the details. While Steve goes through the same large-scale creation process as an aurora, it travels along different magnetic field lines than the aurora. All-sky cameras showed that Steve appears at much lower latitudes. That means the charged particles that create Steve connect to magnetic field lines that are closer to Earth’s equator, hence why Steve is often seen in southern Canada.
Newfound ‘Organ’ Had Been Missed by Standard Method for Visualizing Anatomy – (EurekAlert – March 27, 2018)
Researchers have identified a previously unknown feature of human anatomy with implications for the function of all organs, most tissues and the mechanisms of most major diseases. Published in Scientific Reports, a new study co-led by an NYU School of Medicine pathologist reveals that layers of the body long thought to be dense, connective tissues – below the skin’s surface, lining the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems, and surrounding arteries, veins, and the fascia between muscles – are instead interconnected, fluid-filled compartments. This series of spaces, supported by a meshwork of strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins, may act like shock absorbers that keep tissues from tearing as organs, muscles, and vessels squeeze, pump, and pulse as part of daily function. Importantly, the finding that this layer is a highway of moving fluid may explain why cancer that invades it becomes much more likely to spread. Draining into the lymphatic system, the newfound network is the source of lymph, the fluid vital to the functioning of immune cells that generate inflammation. Furthermore, the cells that reside in the space, and collagen bundles they line, change with age, and may contribute to the wrinkling of skin, the stiffening of limbs, and the progression of fibrotic, sclerotic and inflammatory diseases. The field has long known that more than half the fluid in the body resides within cells, and about a seventh inside the heart, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels. The remaining fluid is “interstitial,” and the current study is the first to define the interstitium as an organ in its own right, and as one of the largest of the body, say the authors. The researchers say that no one saw these spaces before because of the medical field’s dependence on the examination of fixed tissue on microscope slides, believed to offer the most accurate view of biological reality.
The Genetics of Depression Are Different for Men and Women – (GizModo – March 15, 2018)
In men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the same genes show the opposite changes. In other words, the molecular underpinnings of depression in men and women may be different. That’s according to a new postmortem brain study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The study could in the future help lead to more effective treatments for depression, if it turns out that men and women need different types of treatment. To arrive at that conclusion, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health analyzed gene expression levels in the postmortem brain tissue of 50 people who had major depressive disorder, of which 26 were men and 24 were women. They also looked at the postmortem brain tissue of 50 men and women not diagnosed with depression. Gene expression levels are an indication of how much of a particular protein an individual gene is producing. Of 706 gene variants in men with depression and 882 variants in women with depression, 52 of the genes showed opposite changes in expression between the men and women. Only 21 genes changed in the same way in both sexes. The study is significant for two reasons. For one, it is the first to suggest an opposing pathology for depression in men and women, which could eventually influence how depression is treated. Depression is complex disease that occurs in different regions of the brain, and increased understanding of the neurology and genetics of depression may lead to tailored depression treatments that are far more effective. But the study also highlights the necessity of diversity in scientific study. Major depressive disorder affects women about twice as often as men. Women are also more likely to experience symptoms like weight gain along with depression, suggesting the biological mechanisms at work may be different. But many depression studies only look at men, and ones that look at both sexes do not necessarily differentiate between the two when reporting findings.
Hidden Cancers Uncovered With Glowing Dyes – (CBS – March 15, 2018)
The difficulty in surgically removing cancerous tumors is that the good and bad tissues often seem to be the same. Doctors have no good way of identifying cancerous tissues. However, glowing dyes that can reveal hidden cancers during surgery offers solution to this challenge. Fluorescent dyes can make cancer cells light up, which can make it easier for doctors to remove cancerous cells and give their patients increased odds for survival. Sunil Singhal, from the University of Pennsylvania, first pondered on the idea of cells that light up a decade ago, after a patient died because the lung cancer has recurred. He found potentials in the ICG dye, which has long been used for many medical purposes. When administered intravenously a day before the surgery, the dye collects in the cancer cells and glows under near-infrared cameras. The technology is now being tested for a range of tumor types including those that affect the lungs and brain. In one study, the dye lit up 56 of 59 lung cancers that were detected by scans before surgery. It also detected nine more that were not visible earlier. The dyes are experimental but advancing quickly. Two are in late-stage studies aimed at winning Food and Drug Administration approval. Johnson & Johnson just invested $40 million in one, and federal grants support some of the work. “We think this is so important. Patients’ lives will be improved by this,” said Paula Jacobs, an imaging expert at the National Cancer Institute. In five or so years, “there will be a palette of these,” she predicts. Dyes may hold the most promise for breast cancer, said the American Cancer Society’s Dr. Len Lichtenfeld. Up to one third of women who have a lump removed need a second operation because margins weren’t clear — an edge of the removed tissue later was found to harbor cancer. “If we drop that down into single digits, the impact is huge,” said Kelly Londy, who heads Lumicell, a suburban Boston company testing a dye paired with a device to scan the lump cavity for stray cancer cells. Article mentions a number of dyes in early studies at this point.
Cell Therapy Could Improve Brain Function for Alzheimer’s Disease – (R&D Mag – March 15, 2018)
Like a great orchestra, your brain relies on the perfect coordination of many elements to function properly. And if one of those elements is out of sync, it affects the entire ensemble. In Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, damage to specific neurons can alter brainwave rhythms and cause a loss of cognitive functions. One type of neuron, called inhibitory interneuron, is particularly important for managing brain rhythms. It’s also the research focus of a laboratory led by Jorge Palop, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. In a study published in Neuron, Palop and his collaborators uncovered the therapeutic benefits of genetically improving these interneurons and transplanting them into the brain of a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. You can think of inhibitory interneurons as orchestra conductors. They create rhythms in the brain to instruct the players–excitatory neurons–when to play and when to stop. An imbalance between these two types of neurons creates disharmony and is seen in multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and autism. Palop’s team found a way to reengineer inhibitory interneurons to improve their function. They showed that these enhanced interneurons, when transplanted into the abnormal brain of Alzheimer mice, can properly control the activity of excitatory cells and restore brain rhythms. First, the scientists had to overcome a significant challenge. When they transplanted regular interneurons, they saw no beneficial effects, presumably because Alzheimer’s disease creates a toxic environment in the brain. The researchers then genetically boosted the activity of inhibitory interneurons by adding a protein called Nav1.1. They discovered that the interneurons with enhanced function were able to overcome the toxic disease environment and restore brain function. “These optimized neurons are like master conductors,” said Palop. “Even with a declining orchestra, they can restore the rhythms and harmony needed for cognitive functions.”
Taste Buds Dull As People Gain Weight. Now Scientists Think They Know Why – (NPR – March 20, 2018)
Robin Dando’s work, which he and his graduate students Andrew Kaufman and Ezen Choo published in PLoS Biology, investigates a curious effect of being obese: why people’s sense of taste seems to dull as they gain weight. Doctors have known about the phenomenon for the last few years, after reports published in the last decade showed that obese people performed poorly on taste tests compared with normal weight individuals. But the fundamental question remained: why? Article describes research looking at four groups of genetically engineered mice. The study’s conclusion is that “taste bud loss is really related to that inflammatory state,” Dando says. That’s a key finding, says Dr. John Morton, the chief of bariatric medicine at Stanford University, who was not involved in the new study. “We’ve known for a long time that obesity is a disease of inflammation,” he says. “Before this study, we didn’t know that there is a connection between inflammation and the proliferation of taste buds, and that actually leads to the decrease in taste sensitivity.”
Experimental Weight Loss Treatment Involves Freezing ‘Hunger’ Nerves – (Tech Times – March 23, 2018)
A team of researchers found a novel way of trying to suppress hunger by actually freezing the nerve which signals hunger in the brain. To test the treatment, researchers gathered 10 participants with obesity, all of whom had a body mass index that lies between 30 and 37, and all also unqualified for other weight loss procedures such as the gastric bypass surgery. After each of the participants were sedated, researchers inserted a needle through the patient’s back and with the help of a CT scan, guided the needle to freeze the posterior vagal trunk using argon gas. The posterior vagal trunk is found at the base of the esophagus and is believed to be one of the important mechanisms that signal the brain when the stomach is empty. After the procedure, the participants were followed and monitored for 90 days, wherein all of the participants reported decreased appetites. In fact, from day seven of the follow-up until the 90th day, 100 percent of participants reported the decrease. Amazingly, by the end of the 90-day follow-up, the participants had an average of 3.6 percent weight-loss and 12.9 percent decrease in body mass index. Further, there were no reported procedure-related complications and no reported negative effects for the duration of the follow-up. As such, at least for the pilot phase of the study, the procedure is considered effective and safe. However, the solution is not a permanent one as the nerve regrows by a millimeter per day and could likely grow back in full in about 12 months. Still, with the success of the pilot phase, follow-up trials with more participants are expected to be conducted.
Researchers Are Developing a New Cancer Vaccine Using Virus-Like Particles – (Futurism – March 4, 2018)
The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $2.4 million grant for researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) to engineer a cancer vaccine for animals that uses a virus-like particle to trigger anti-cancer immune responses. While the vaccine will initially be tested against cancer cells in animals, the hope is ultimately to develop a treatment for human patients. Cancer can be tricky to deal with, particularly since cancer cells are able to suppress the immune system by concealing proteins that trigger an immune response. This vaccine gets around this using two major components: First, Qβ particles, which are the virus-like particles that serve as a red flag for the immune system, and second, tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs), which are unique structures present on many cancer cells, but not on healthy cells. For a completely different approach to developing a cancer vaccine, see this article.
Japan Has Approved a New Drug That Can Kill the Flu Virus in Just One Day – (Fortune – February 23, 2018)
A potentially groundbreaking new drug that can kill the flu virus in just one day has won regulatory approval—in Japan. Unlike other flu antivirals, Xofluza actually stops virus replication in its tracks by inhibiting an enzyme that the flu virus needs to multiply. It could soon prove to be a significant competitor to Swiss drug giant Roche’s Tamiflu, one of the most common antivirals used to treat the flu. But it could also take until at least 2019 for Xofluza to reach the U.S. market. Xofluza sets itself apart from Tamiflu in several key ways, according to Shionogi. For one, it requires far fewer doses—just a single pill, in fact, compared with the five-day, two-doses-per-day regimen required by Tamiflu. That could be significant given that infections tend to linger if you don’t follow through on the entire prescribed course of a medicine. Xofluza was able to kill off the flu virus within 24 hours (compared with the nearly three days it takes Tamiflu to pull off the same feat) in trials. Admittedly, that rapid flu virus destruction doesn’t mean that your flu symptoms will subside just as fast; in fact, complete symptom elimination probably takes about the same time as Tamiflu does. However, symptoms begin to dissipate faster and aren’t necessarily as pronounced with Xofluza treatment, Shionogi says.
Anti-Alzheimer’s Antibodies Clean out Brain Plaques in Mice – (New Atlas – March 26, 2018)
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have tested a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s. In mice tests, the team has demonstrated an antibody that can clear away the disease’s characteristic build-up of proteins in the brain, which may lead to an early-stage treatment to prevent symptoms from occurring. One such avenue of treatment may be antibodies, which have in the past shown promise as valuable candidates for breaking down the plaques of neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, this can come with the side effect of triggering a strong immune response, leading to swelling and inflammation in the brain. To overcome that problem, the Washington study targeted a protein named APOE, which is bundled up in small amounts in the amyloid plaques. The researchers experimented with several antibodies that bind to APOE, to test the idea that clearing away these proteins might also destroy the amyloid in the process. So the team engineered mice that had a human APOE gene, and were predisposed to develop amyloid plaques. Once a week for six weeks, the team gave these mice injections of either APOE-targeting antibodies or a placebo, and then checked their brain plaque levels at the end of the treatment. One antibody, known as HAE-4, showed particular promise. It managed to halve the amount of amyloid plaques in the mice and was selective enough to only target APOE in the brain, not in the blood where it could trigger side effects.
Tribes Build a Traditional Watch House to Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion – (Nation of Change – March 15, 2018)
At Kwekwecnewtxw, or “a place to watch from,” in Burnaby, B.C., tribal elders are holding ceremonies and keeping watch over the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Volunteers began construction of Kwekwecnewtxw, a traditional cedar watch house on March 10th. It is the gathering point of Protect the Inlet, a new campaign launched to stop the pipeline. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would more than double the capacity of the existing pipeline that runs from the Alberta tar sands to the Vancouver coast. The construction cuts through unceded First Nations territory and would significantly increase tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet, threatening salmon and orcas native to the Salish Sea. It was approved by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2016. Protect the Inlet is a part of growing indigenous-led efforts to stop construction of the Trans Mountain expansion. Efforts like the recent construction of the watch house build on ongoing work to place tiny houses in the path of the pipeline. These acts of resistance are rooted in traditional cultural values, and they’re also providing benefits for people who would be negatively impacted by the project. Kwekwecnewtxw isn’t the first structure to be built in the path of the pipeline. Since the fall, Native women have been leading efforts to build and place tiny houses in the path of construction throughout the 322-mile pipeline route. The Tiny House Warriors project was founded by indigenous environmental and women’s rights activist Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa Nations. “Right now we are working in collaboration with other indigenous communities to build 10 of them on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. There are three of them built so far, we’re going to be deploying them soon,” Manuel said. “These tiny houses will be strategically placed in the path of any construction that’s threatening our food harvesting grounds, our medicine harvesting grounds, our sacred sites, or our ancient village sites.”
Great Pacific Garbage Patch Now Three Times the Size of France – (CNN – March 23, 2018)
A huge, swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean is growing faster than expected and is now three times the size of France. According to a three-year study, the mass known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about 1.6 million square kilometers in size — up to 16 times bigger than previous estimates. Ghost nets, or discarded fishing nets, make up almost half the 80,000 metric tons of garbage floating at sea, and researchers believe that around 20% of the total volume of trash is debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. It’s estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost to the marine environment each year. The study — conducted by an international team of scientists with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company — utilized two aircraft surveys and 30 vessels to cross the debris field. The patch is so big that last fall environmentalists called on the United Nations to declare the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a country, called “The Trash Isles,” complete with its own passport and currency, called debris. They even solicited 200,000 people to become citizens, including celebrities Sir David Attenborough, Chris Hemsworth and Gal Gadot. Their first citizen was former US vice president and environmentalist Al Gore.
Clearing the Radioactive Rubble Heap That Was Fukushima Daiichi, 7 Years On – (Scientific American – March 9, 2018)
Seven years after one of the largest earthquakes on record unleashed a massive tsunami and triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials say they are at last getting a handle on the mammoth task of cleaning the site before it is ultimately dismantled. But the process is still expected to be a long, expensive slog, requiring as-yet untried feats of engineering—and not all the details have yet been worked out. Completely cleaning up and taking apart the plant could take a generation or more, and comes with a hefty price tag. In 2016 the government increased its cost estimate to about $75.7 billion, part of the overall Fukushima disaster price tag of $202.5 billion. The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, said the cleanup costs could mount to some $470 billion to $660 billion, however. Under a government roadmap, TEPCO hopes to finish the job in 30 to 40 years. But some experts say even that could be an underestimate. “In general, estimates of work involving decontamination and disposal of nuclear materials are underestimated by decades,” says Rod Ewing, a professor of nuclear security and geological sciences at Stanford University. “I think that we have to expect that the job will extend beyond the estimated time.”
Smartphones Are Killing the Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected – (Fast Company – March 27, 2018)
Before you upgrade your next iPhone, you may want to consider a $29 battery instead. Not only will the choice save you money, it could help save the planet. A new study from researchers at McMaster University published in the Journal of Cleaner Production analyzed the carbon impact of the whole Information and Communication Industry (ICT) from around 2010-2020, including PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers. They found remarkably bad news. Even as the world shifts away from giant tower PCs toward tiny, energy-sipping phones, the overall environmental impact of technology is only getting worse. Whereas ICT represented 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007, it’s already about tripled, and is on its way to exceed 14% by 2040. That’s half as large as the carbon impact of the entire transportation industry. Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.
This Computer Uses Light—Not Electricity—To Train AI Algorithms – (Wired – February 20, 2018)
William Andregg, co-founder of startup Fathom Computing, gently lifts the lid from a bulky black box. Right now, this embryonic optical computer is good, not great: on its best run it read 90% of scrawled numbers correctly. Andregg claims this is the first time such complex machine-learning software has been trained using circuits that pulse with laser light, not electricity. Fathom hopes the technology will become one of the shovels of the artificial-intelligence gold rush. Tech companies, particularly large cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft, spend heavily on computer chips to power machine-learning algorithms. The current AI-crazed moment began when researchers found that chips marketed for graphics were well-suited to power so-called artificial neural networks for tasks such as recognizing speech or images. Fathom’s founders are betting this hunger for more powerful machine learning will outstrip the capabilities of purely electronic computers. “Optics has fundamental advantages over electronics that no amount of design will overcome,” says William Andregg. You’re already reaping the benefits of using light instead of electricity to work with data. Telecommunications companies move our web pages and selfies over long distances by shooting lasers down optical fiber, because light signals travel much farther, using a fraction of the energy, than electrical pulses in a metal cable.
The Last Barrier to Ultra-Miniaturized Electronics Is Broken, Thanks to a New Type of Inductor – (Medium – March 15, 2018)
One of the three basic circuit elements just got a lot smaller for the very first time, in what promises to be a trillion-dollar breakthrough. In the race for ever-improving technology, there are two related technical capabilities that drive our world forward: speed and size. These are related, as the smaller a device is, the less distance the electrical signal driving your device has to travel. As we’ve been able to cut silicon thinner, print circuit elements smaller, and develop increasingly miniaturized transistors, gains in computing speed-and-power and decreases in device size have gone hand-in-hand. But at the same time these advances have comes in leaps and bounds, one fundamental circuit element — the inductor — has had its design remain exactly the same. Found in everything from televisions to laptops to smartphones to wireless chargers, radios, and transformers, it’s one of the most indispensable electronic components in existence. Until last month, that is, when a UC Santa Barbara team led by Kaustav Banerjee demonstrated a fundamentally new type of inductor. Without the limitations of the original inductor design, it should allow a new breakthrough in miniaturization and speed, potentially paving the way for a more connected world.
This Cheap 3D-printed Home Is a Start for the 1 Billion Who Lack Shelter – (The Verge – March 12, 2018)
According to a report by the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, 1.2 billion people in the world live without adequate housing. ICON, an Austin, TX based startup, has developed a method for printing a single-story 650-square-foot house out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours, a fraction of the time it takes for new construction. If all goes according to plan, a community made up of about 100 homes will be constructed for residents in El Salvador next year. The company has partnered with New Story, a nonprofit that focuses on international housing solutions. “We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” said Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story. Using the Vulcan printer, ICON can print an entire home out of concrete for $10,000 and plans to bring costs down to $4,000 per house. The model has a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and a covered porch. Cooking, apparently, will be done outside. See embedded video clip.
Your Next Car Might Be a Subscription – (Fast Company – March 2, 2018)
Four-figure down payments, cumbersome lease lengths, and skyrocketing insurance costs: it’s enough to send a would-be car shopper running for an Uber or Lyft. That’s why more automakers are rolling out flat-fee programs that aim to make leasing a car as simple as buying a smartphone. In a bid to keep potential customers from defecting to ride-hailing services and foregoing personal car ownership, brands like Volvo, Cadillac, and Porsche are upending the traditional retail model by developing app-based monthly subscription services that provide vehicles on demand. When Volvo’s new XC40 SUV arrives at dealerships this spring, subscribers to the brand’s new Care by Volvo program will pay a minimum of $600 a month– depending on the trim level–for a package that includes maintenance, insurance, and 15,000 miles annually. They can switch to a new Volvo after a year or renew their lease for up to two more years. Taxes, gas, and registration fees are not included. “We are seeing a new way of having a car,” says Volvo President and CEO Håkan Samuelsson. “That’s why we’re offering a flat rate independently of your age or where you live. People living in big cities normally pay a very high insurance fee.” Available in New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles, BOOK by Cadillac lets subscribers rent different cars up to 18 times a year, starting at $1,800 per month plus a $500 initiation fee. They also get full access to the automaker’s lineup of sports cars, sedans, and SUVs, as well as a “white-glove concierge service” that delivers and retrieves the vehicles at a time and place the subscriber sets through the program’s app. Users can keep the vehicle for up to 30 days, with an option to renew, and are allowed 2,000 miles per month. Between loans, the concierge service stores the unused vehicles on its lot and handles maintenance and detailing for the next user.
Plastic Particles Found in Bottled Water – (BBC News – March 15, 2018)
In the largest investigation of its kind, 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined. Research led by journalism organization Orb Media discovered an average of 10 plastic particles per liter, each larger than the width of a human hair. Of the bottles tested, 93% showed microplastic contamination. Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the State University of New York in Fredonia, conducted the analysis and said: “We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand. It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water – all of these products that we consume at a very basic level.” Contacted to comment on the findings, the companies behind the brands have insisted that their products meet the highest standards for safety and quality. They also point to the absence of any regulations on microplastics and of the lack of standardized methods of testing for them. Last year, Prof Mason found plastic particles in samples of tap water and other researchers have spotted them in seafood, beer, sea salt and even the air. Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science. Article lists brands tested and details (rather interesting) test design.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
How the Network Generation Is Changing the Millennial Military – (War on the Rocks – March 20, 2018)
Millennials are no longer the generation the military needs to focus on. Millennials — those born between 1980 and 1996 — are not joining the military; they are the military. As of 2015, about 72% of active duty personnel were millennials. Many millennials could have retired with 20 years in service last year. The junior enlisted service members walking out during training sessions that they deem unworthy of their time are not millennials. They are the next generation: the Network Generation. The Network Generation, members of which are known as NetGens, consists of those born in and after 1997. This generation accounted for about 70 million members of the U.S. population in 2015. With the eldest turning 21 this year, NetGens now make up much of the military recruiting pool and already form 15% of Active Duty Enlisted in the Marine Corps. This new generation is more intellectually prepared for danger and uncertainty, and is full of determination and self-confidence, but it is also uniquely fragile. The U.S. military requires mental toughness beyond what many NetGens possess when they join. NetGens receive information differently, see themselves as individuals first, and give little weight to traditional mantras. These new recruits are altering the personnel challenges the military faces. Today’s largely millennial military will have to change how it communicates to and trains individuals from the next generation, in order to continue creating fighters who can overcome the intense pressures of armed conflict. For example: The author came across an active distrust of brands in an eye-opening conversation in 2016. He asked how to incorporate the Marine Corps values — Honor. Courage. Commitment — into his training. The millennials provided the expected answer: explicitly and frequently. But the responses from those under 20 stunned him. All of them echoed one corporal’s statement: “Don’t even say those words to us. We hear that phrase, and we know what’s coming next is just more Marine Corps propaganda.” The motto was an immediate tune-out trigger. The marines had no problem with the values themselves, but believed they should be taught as part of being a good person — not a good marine. One junior marine added, “I take off this uniform when I go home. I’m a person first, not a marine.” (Editor’s note: We recommend this article.)
Facial Recognition Technology Can Now Text Jaywalkers a Fine – (NY Post – March 27, 2018)
Jaywalkers in China are to be named, shamed and slapped with an instant SMS fine. And it’s all thanks to cutting-edge artificial intelligence. In the southeastern city of Shenzhen, police have set up AI-powered boards by crossings. If you jaywalk, a CCTV camera will scan your face and flash it up on the huge screens for all to see, according to the South China Morning Post. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, there are now plans to ping offenders’ phones with quick-fire fines as soon as they violate the grim rule. The AI company behind the billboards, Intellifusion, is in talks with mobile phone networks and local social media platforms to enforce the new system. In 10 months, a whopping 13,930 jaywalkers had their mugs displayed on the screen at one busy crossing, Shenzhen police announced last month. The surveillance system is powered by a network of 170 million CCTV cameras, many of which are fitted with AI, including face-recognition tech. These security cams are already being used to regulate traffic and pinpoint drivers who break the rules. An estimated 400 million more security cams will be installed in the next three years.
In a First, U.S. Blames Russia for Cyber Attacks on Energy Grid – (Reuters – March 15, 2018)
The Trump administration has blamed the Russian government for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid, marking the first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure. Beginning in March 2016, or possibly earlier, Russian government hackers sought to penetrate multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing, according to a U.S. security alert. According to an analysis by the U.S. cyber security firm Symantec last fall, malicious email campaigns dating back to late 2015 were used to gain entry into organizations in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland, and likely other countries, Symantec said at the time, though it did not name Russia as the culprit. The decision by the United States to publicly attribute hacking attempts of American critical infrastructure was “unprecedented and extraordinary,” said Amit Yoran, a former U.S. official who founded DHS’s Computer Emergency Response Team. U.S. officials have historically been reluctant to call out such activity in part because the United States also spies on infrastructure in other parts of the world. Russia’s motive was unknown. Many cyber security experts and former U.S. officials say such behavior is generally espionage-oriented with the potential, if desired, for sabotage.
The Implications of Russia’s New Weapon Systems – (Unz – March 5, 2018)
Vladimir Putin’s March 1st, 2018 address to Russia’s Federal Assembly was not about Russia’s upcoming presidential elections, as many in the election-obsessed West suggest. Putin’s speech was about coercing America’s elites into, if not peace, at least into some form of sanity, given that they are currently completely detached from the geopolitical, military and economic realities of a newly emerging world. Putin’s message was clear: “You didn’t listen to us then, you will listen to us now”. The strategic ramifications of the latest weapon systems Putin presented are immense. Of course, many American pundits, expectedly, dismissed that as bluster—it is expected from the US military “expert” community. Others were not as dismissive and some were, indeed, deeply shocked. The overall impression can be described in simple terms as such: the missile gap is real and, in fact, it is not a gap but a technological abyss. The Dagger (Kinzhal) is a complete game changer geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically. It was known for some time now that Russian Navy was already deploying a revolutionary Mach 8 capable 3M22 Zircon anti-shipping missile. As impressive and virtually uninterceptable by any air defenses as the Zircon is, the Kinzhal is simply shocking in its capabilities. This, most likely based on the famed Iskander airframe, Mach10+ capable, highly maneuverable, aero-ballistic missile with a range of 2000 kilometers, carried by MiG-31BMs, just rewrote the book on naval warfare. It made large surface fleets and combatants obsolete. No, you are not misreading it. No air-defense or anti-missile system in the world today (maybe with the exception of the upcoming S-500 specifically designed for the interception of hyper-sonic targets) is capable of doing anything about it, and, most likely, it will take decades to find the antidote. More specifically, no modern or perspective air-defense system deployed today by any NATO fleet can intercept even a single missile with such characteristics. A salvo of 5-6 such missiles guarantees the destruction of any Carrier Battle Group or any other surface group, for that matter–all this without use of nuclear munitions. But here is the point, Putin’s speech was not about directly threatening the US which, for all intents and purposes, is simply defenseless against the plethora of Russia’s hyper-sonic weapons. Russia does not pursue the objective of destroying the United States. Russia’s actions are dictated by only one cause–to pull a gun on a drunk, rowdy, knife wielding bully in the bar and get him to pay attention to what others may have to say. In other words, Russia brought the gun to a knife fight and it seems that this is the only way to deal with the United States today. Article includes more technical discussion of weaponry capabilities. For a very different analysis of the claimed capabilities of the new Kinzhal, see Is Kinzhal, Russia’s New Hypersonic Missile, a Game Changer?
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Canada’s First ‘Dementia Village’ Is Set to Open Its Doors in Langley, B.C. Next Year – (National Post – February 28, 2018)
Canada’s first community designed specifically for people with dementia is opening next year in Langley, British Columbia. It’s called The Village. Comprised of six, single-storey cottage-style homes and a community centre, The Village will be home to 78 people with dementia, an umbrella term that includes people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases associated with aging. Care will be provided by 72 specially trained staff. Project leader Elroy Jespersen said The Village’s design was inspired by Hogeweyk, the world’s first dementia village, in The Netherlands. Jespersen, the vice-president of special projects for Verve Senior Living, said The Village builds on the other assisted- and extended-care communities he has developed during the past 29 years. “What makes The Village different from traditional nursing homes … is that residents will be able to shop, have a coffee, walk their dog, get their hair cut and take part in activities such as gardening by themselves,” Jespersen said. Three of the cottages will be designed to allow a couple to live together, and the other three will have an extra guest room for short-term stays for people with dementia. Living in the privately funded project won’t be cheap. Jespersen said he is still working on final numbers, but he estimates it will cost between $190 to $245 a day per person, or $6,000 to $7,500 a month. Jespersen said The Village would be open to working with government to make it more affordable to people so that there is a real community of people of different income levels. The world’s first “dementia village” is Hogeweyk outside of Amsterdam, where 152 people live in 23 houses on 3.7 acres. Residents can walk the streets, squares and gardens and go to a theatre and grocery store. In Hogeweyk, the buildings are designed so they create a border that allows residents to wander safely within the property. Access is controlled by a single entry and exit. The Village will have a similar design, but in a rural setting on five acres. The site will be surrounded by an eight-foot perimeter fence designed to blend in with its surroundings.
How Much Should Your Boss Know about You? – (BBC News – March 26, 2018)
The idea of employers trying to control workers’ lives beyond the workplace is not new, and digital tools have made it easier than ever. Chances are, you use several technologies that could create a detailed profile of your activities and habits, both in the office and out of it. But what can (and can’t) employers do with this data? And, where do we draw the line? HR departments are crunching increasing volumes of data to measure employees in a more granular way. From software that records every keystroke, or the ‘smart’ coffee machines that will only give you a hot drink if you tap it with your work ID badge there are more opportunities than ever for bosses to measure behavior. One big aim of data collection is to make “predictions about how long an employee will stay, and it may influence hiring, firing, or retention of people,” says Phoebe Moore, Associate Professor of Political Economy and Technology at Leicester University in the UK and author of the book The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts. Data collection is “changing employment relationships, the way people work and what the expectations can be”, says Moore. In most parts of the world, the law prevents your HR department from sharing or requesting data about you from your credit card provider, your healthcare provider, or your favorite online dating site, unless you explicitly consent that it can do so. This should keep the most cynical temptations at bay for now, but how to reap the benefits of data in an acceptable way? There is a strong case for finding this balance: as Waber says, data can give you evidence-based advice for advancing your career, or for enhancing your effectiveness at work. Having a space for taking care of your health at work might improve your happiness at your job, and some studies suggest that this also translates into a productivity push. These are important considerations, even if you are one of those with nothing to hide. As it turns out, it is very likely that giving away our data is going to be part of the everyday experience of work in the near future, at least in the corporate world.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Oldest (Human-made) Thing in Space – (Vanderbilt Hustler – March 21, 2018)
On March 17, 1958, at the time when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the American president, when Nelson Mandela was a minor activist charged with treason for publicly opposing apartheid, and when the ancestor of the European Union was less than a year old, a three-stage rocket planted Vanguard 1 into Earth’s orbit with the mission of conducting upper atmosphere observations. To be honest, there really isn’t anything romantic to say about Vanguard 1. Both Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2 (the latter complete with Laika, the unfortunate dog, onboard) had beat it into space by several months. Vanguard 1 isn’t even aesthetically impressive. It’s a little aluminum orb, no more than a kilogram and a half in weight, the size of and shape of a large citrus. Nikita Khrushchev even called it “the grapefruit satellite.” It’s pockmarked with solar panels and studded with six antennae, giving it the ungainly appearance of a postmodern naval mine. Those solar panels were a first (earlier satellites had used battery power), but it’s not an exaggeration to say that, given the proper materials, Vanguard 1 could probably be built in a day by a school science class. The only reason Vanguard 1 is at all worth mentioning is that none of its predecessors still exist, all three having long ago re-entered the atmosphere and burnt up. Vanguard 1, however, has floated on through time even after its mission ended in 1964, when its power failed. It’s orbited haplessly, little better than a piece of space debris, for over five decades and will likely continue orbiting for several centuries. In the grander scheme of things, Vanguard 1 is almost completely forgettable. But it says a lot about how time plays out that an insignificant aluminium sphere has become the oldest thing humanity has put into space.
Alzheimer’s Costs Americans $277 Billion a Year – and Rising – (CBS – March 20, 2018)
Sharp increases in Alzheimer’s disease cases, deaths and costs are stressing the U.S. health care system and caregivers, a new report reveals. About 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease — 5.5 million of them aged 65 and older. By 2025, the number of seniors with Alzheimer’s could reach 7.1 million, up nearly 29%. And, if no new treatments are found, that number could hit 13.8 million by 2050, according to the new report on Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures, published by the Alzheimer’s Association. Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that will occur every 33 seconds, the experts said. While deaths from other major causes continue to decline, Alzheimer’s deaths have more than doubled, rising 123% between 2000 and 2015. By comparison, the number of deaths from heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States — fell 11%. The estimated cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is $277 billion this year — and that doesn’t include unpaid caregiving. Of that amount, $186 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid, and $60 billion is for out-of-pocket costs, the report found. In 2017, more than 16 million Americans provided about 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients, worth $232 billion. And that takes a toll on caregivers, to the tune of $11.4 billion in added health care costs last year, according to the report. Dementia caregivers also spend nearly twice as much out-of-pocket ($10,697) as other caregivers ($5,758), the findings showed. Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 a year or less.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Boston Dynamics’s SpotMini Is Really, Really Determined to Open Doors – (Futurism – February 21, 2018)
In early February, Boston Dynamics’s SpotMini robot impressed the world with its new ability to open a door all by itself (link in article) and then hold it open for a fellow robot to walk through. Now, Boston Dynamics and SpotMini are back to show off the latter’s dedication to opening doors. In Boston Dynamics’ new video (embedded in article), SpotMini once again approaches the now-familiar door. This time, however, the bot is met with (mild) resistance in the form of a person wielding a hockey stick. The conflict between man and machine lasts roughly 30 seconds before one emerges victorious. (Editor’s note: We don’t know how effective a determined human resistance would be. How possible would it be for an unarmed human to completely disable the robot?)
Sprawling Maya Network Discovered under Guatemala Jungle – (BBC News – February 2, 2018)
Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough. Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications. The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested. Results from the research using Lidar technology, which is short for “light detection and ranging”, suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilisation more akin to sophisticated cultures like ancient Greece or China. “Everything is turned on its head,” Ithaca College archaeologist Thomas Garrison told the BBC. He believes the scale and population density has been “grossly underestimated and could in fact be three or four times greater than previously thought”. Article includes comparison of regular photos and Lidar photos of the same area.
The Way We Make Things Is About to Fundamentally Change – (World Economic Forum – March 1, 2018)
Tens of trillions of dollars in capital is travelling at any given time on boats and planes, for weeks on end, across the oceans. Almost every product has a part or component that has sluggishly moved through warehouses and customs facilities where bureaucrats have charged tariffs or VAT. This antiquated process is slowly starting to change. We are at the beginning of a new S-curve, one that will forever advance the way we make and trade goods enabling a new era of productivity. A new class of high-speed industrial 3D printers from companies like Carbon, HP and Desktop Metal, which are closer to a printing press than a printer, are enabling this change and quickly becoming an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this new model, only raw materials are shipped and factories around the world digitally print parts as they need them for the final assembly of the products they make. There is no tooling and no waste of raw materials. Parts are no longer stuck on ships and planes, instead, they travel as digital files to the locations where they need to be printed for the final assembly. The benefits of a borderless supply chain aren’t the only factor driving the adoption of these new printing presses. There are three additional motivations, all of which will lead to dramatically superior products: generative design, reductive decontenting, and assemblies consolidation. (Editor’s note: Imagine how this might impact tariffs, import/export imbalances, trade wars, and global employment.)
11 Easy Ways to Save Money on Amazon – (Purse – March 15, 2018)
Many of us rely on Amazon.com for just about everything, yet so few of us know how to save money on Amazon. Most people, myself included, hope to catch the best Amazon deals at random, and rarely put much thought into it. But there are actually several ways to save money on Amazon that are also pretty simple. These range from using apps and Chrome extensions to using Amazon’s own services. For example: Here’s a scenario we all know well. After buying something on Amazon on an impulse, you find that you could have gotten the item at a significantly discounted price on another website. Amazon has become such a beast of an online marketplace that a lot of shoppers neglect to do price comparisons. However, if you download the Wikibuy extension, you can automatically see if Amazon is offering the lowest price or not.
Bitcoin Mining Banned for First Time in Upstate New York Town – (Bloomberg – March 16, 2018)
A small lakeside town in upstate New York is fed up with Bitcoin miners using up so much of its low-cost electricity. Plattsburgh, whose residents are a quick jaunt from the Canadian border, has put an 18-month moratorium on cryptocurrency mining to preserve natural resources, the health of its residents, and the “character and direction” of the city. For a year and a half, the almost 20,000-resident city will not consider new applications for commercial cryptocurrency mining. And if you break the rules, you’ll owe Plattsburgh up to $1,000 for each day you violate the moratorium. Mining, a process by which individuals or groups get paid in new Bitcoins to run complex mathematical equations on high-powered computers in order to confirm the validity of transactions, has drawn scrutiny from environmentalists who say it’s sucking up too much electricity. Some have estimated that Bitcoin miners will use more power than electric cars in the near term. Plattsburgh gets cheap power from the St. Lawrence River, driving down electricity costs for residents, but it exceeded its allotted amount of hydropower in December and January, according to a local newspaper. Some complained that their bills surged as much as $300.
Finnish Research Project Probes Stigma of the Paranormal – (YLE – March 20, 2018)
Based on population research, more than half of people in the Western world have had at least one experience that might be called “paranormal.” So why then do we hear so little about them? Professor Marja-Liisa Honkasalo spoke about a recent research project called Mind and the Other, funded by the country’s most prestigious academic body, the Academy of Finland. A medical doctor and anthropologist, Honkasalo led the four-year study, which ended in late 2017. It investigated what the researchers called “uncanny” experiences – ones that defy common sense and a mainstream modern worldview. The Mind and Other researchers were not interested in whether their subjects’ experiences were ‘true’ or ‘false’ in a narrow natural scientific sense, however. The interdisciplinary Academy of Finland project took a cultural studies perspective, with contributors from fields including anthropology, folklore, history, and psychiatry. As Honkasalo explains, they were interested in what these experiences meant to the subjects, and society around them. Honkasalo adds that it was a bit astonishing to researchers in this study how strongly taboo they are. Honkasalo said that when the project started, many people contacted the team because they specifically wanted to tell about the stigma; about how they had tried to make themselves understood for years or even decades. This included tales of how they had contacted various institutional figures and medical doctors, as well as priests and representatives of the Finnish Lutheran Church. “Because these authorities were not quite sure whether these are healthy or sane experiences, they always considered them to be on the sick side. They were categorized as sick people. After having tried to share these experiences, it caused a kind of itinerary of stigma for them and for their families. Also, quite tragic lives and fates.”
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Startup Wants to Upload Your Brain to the Cloud, But Has to Kill You to Do It – (Guardian – March 14, 2018)
A US startup is promising to upload customers’ brains to the cloud using a pioneering technique it has trialed on rabbits. The only catch, according to the company’s cofounder? The process is “100% fatal”. Nectome, founded in 2016 by a pair of MIT AI researchers, hopes to offer a commercial application of a novel process for preserving brains, called “aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation”. The process, which results in the brain being “vitrifixed” – the startup’s self-named term for essentially turning it into glass – is promising enough that it has won two prizes from the Brain Preservation Foundation, for preserving a rabbit’s brain in 2016 and a pig’s brain in 2018. Influential startup accelerator Y Combinator has taken Nectome in, with the organization’s chief executive, Sam Altman, becoming one of the 25 people to pay a $10,000 deposit to join its waiting list. “I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” Altman told said. But there is one pretty large downside. In order for the vitrification process to preserve a brain well enough to leave hope of accurate upload or revival, it has to be carried out at the moment of death. Or, more precisely, it has to be the cause of death: the subject/ customer/ victim has the blood flow to their brain replaced with the embalming chemicals that preserve the neuronal structure, even as they kill the patient. Nectome believes that its service is legal in certain US states with robust euthanasia laws, including California, where “death with dignity” statutes have been in place for two years. Even then, however, it doesn’t predict actual use of its services until around 2021. The other downside of Nectome is that, in common with most cryopreservation businesses, the company doesn’t have any actual method for reviving or uploading the brains it stores.
JUST FOR FUN
Marvel at Tiny, Perfect Staircases Made by a Secret Society of French Woodworkers – (Atlas Obscura – March 14, 2018)
Since the Middle Ages, France’s “compagnons” have lived idiosyncratic existences, steeped in mystery, ritual, and a devotion to their trades. Even today, these master craftsmen have certain quirks: As young people, they live in boarding houses together in towns across France, where they spend their days training to become the country’s greatest craftspeople. After six months in one place, each tradesperson will pack up and move on to another French town, and a new hostel, to learn more skills under a new master. The name “compagnon” translates to “companion,” relating to the brotherhood between members and the shared identity of a movement that, today, encompasses around 12,000 permanent, active members. Professions usually fall into one of five “groups,” depending on their principal material: stone; wood; metal; leather and textiles; and food. But whatever the craft, the journey from apprentice to “compagnon” is long and highly specific, and culminates in the completion of a “masterwork”: an item that showcases the skills acquired over at least five years of sustained study. Historically, woodworkers have often chosen to produce a tiny, intricate staircase as their “masterwork.” Over 30 years, the art dealer and collector Eugene V. Thaw, who died at 90 in January 2018, amassed an incredible collection of these staircase models, dating from between the 18th and 20th centuries. Measuring only a few inches in height, they are self-supporting, graceful, and impossibly delicate. Since 2007, they have been part of the permanent collection of New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and are currently on display alongside craftsmen’s working drawings.
A FINAL QUOTE
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. — Eleanor Roosevelt
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Heidi Waltos, 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