FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- The Earth’s magnetic field is currently moving approximately 30 miles a year.
- One of the most widely used antidepressants has just been implicated in causing antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Most central banks have no plans to issue a digital version of their currency after studies left them unconvinced of the merits of e-money.
- Thousands of stars, including the Sun, will turn into huge crystals.
by John L. Petersen
Happy New Year!
We all wish you a very meaningful and blessed New Year. No matter how you approach it, 2019 appears to have all of the makings of an extraordinary – indeed, pivital – moment in this transition to a new world.
Many thanks to the many of you who generously supported us in our fundraising effort. Your contributions make a very large difference in keeping FUTUREdition coming your way!
I was the presenter at our last TransitionTalks event here in Berkeley Springs. I’m going to try to produce a video of the talk, but you can get a taste of some of it here in our PostScript interview, which I did with Gary Sycalik just before the talk:
Renowned Teacher, Healer Next TransitionTalks Presenter
Our next TransitionTalk will be on February 23rd with Pierre DuBois. Pierre is a very special guy, with highly developed abilities to access other dimensions and translate those inputs into practical advice for preparing for the coming changes. Let me tell you more about it:
Saturday, February 23rd, 1 to 4 pm
Toward an Ascended Tomorrow
Predictions, strategies, and suggestions for a graceful transition into future earth.
A cursory look at the world today will reveal that we are standing on a razor’s edge. The dream of planetary growth: the promise of the golden age of evolutionary transformation and change is being challenged by regressive ideas, fear mongering, and xenophobia where factual, empirical, historical and scientific evidence seen to evaporate leaving behind a haze of blind obedience to unscrupulous and manipulative leaders. It is evident that a separation, schism, and fragmentation between extreme is being created setting humanity up for rivalry, combat, and battle.
What is really happening? Forces that are far beyond the obvious are at play. It is not simply that corporate sponsored leaders are abusing power by enflaming core fears, but that those leaders are the center of a centrifuge or vortex that is seeking to amass souls in a process that will lead into a split into parallel realities. The planet is shifting into multiple realities each calibrated to a different root vibration, frequency, and emotions. As human beings begin to identify on a visceral level with core emotions that exist in their subconscious mind, they will be choosing which parallel reality they go into.
Keep in mind that parallel realities are not higher or lower dimensions. Going into a parallel reality is moving horizontally, while going into a higher or lower dimension is moving vertically. The Milky Way is a flat and spiral galaxy and as the earth rotates around the sun, they both rotate around the core of the Milky Way a process that takes 250 million years to complete. During that journey the earth will crest above and below the thickness of the Milky Way 8 times in one galactic year. At each cresting the earth and its inhabitants become completely bathed by the light of the galactic equator and are presented with a unique opportunity to evolve and ascend en mass. In the Galactic Core, these periods are called the great harvest.
Existence at the time of the shift is complicated for multiple realities are occupying the same space while struggling with each other for dominance and control. Understand that the core emotions of these parallel world also exist in you and they will emotionally trigger you to react thus leading you horizontally. Put differently, the space that they occupy exist in you. You will be experiencing a myriad of contradictory and opposite emotions and sensations leaving you feeling lost, confuse and without a compass.
How is one supposed to navigate these emotional and dimensional turbulences? Form a spiritual stand point, what are the predictions of where we are headed? Knowing this, what are the preparatory strategies and suggestions that can help us transition gracefully into the ascended tomorrow?
Join us for revelations, discussions, and an exchange of ideas about the shift into parallel and higher dimensions:
February 23, 2019
1:00 to 4:00 pm
The Ice House Theatre
138 Independence Street
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Click here for more information and registration.
Amazon and Google Are Going to Be in Every Aspect of Your Life Whether You Want Them to or Not – (CNBC – January 11, 2019)
Until recently, Amazon and Google competed for presence in our homes through their own gadgets: Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, TV add-ons like Chromecast and Fire TV and even home security systems like Nest and Ring. But, at CES 2019, that competition was brought to a boil as partners from both companies launched dozens of products that will bring Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant into nearly every aspect of our lives. That’s because their smart assistants, the ones you can control by voice, are being built into almost every category of new product that was introduced at CES, from TVs to ovens — even lawnmowers and a toilet. Both firms also revealed how widespread their ecosystems are. Google said that by the end of January, more than 1 billion devices will have Google Assistant built-in. That’s up from 500 million in May, but a lot of that growth is because Assistant now ships as a standard feature on Android phones. Google Assistant is also built into 10,000 different smart home devices from more than 1,600 brands, the company said. Amazon said there are now more than 150 products with Alexa built directly in — which means you can talk right to it without also owning an Echo — and more than 28,000 products from 4,500 brands that support it. Those do need an Amazon Echo to control the gadget. Amazon also said it has now sold more than 100 million Alexa devices. There’s a reason the number of products that support the assistants is skyrocketing. Last year, Amazon introduced a developer kit that made it much easier for partners to add Alexa to their devices. Google also introduced similar tools for developers. However, more brands and products were on display with Amazon Alexa on board. Some supported both.
Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Up to Some Seriously Weird Stuff and No One Knows Why – (ILF Science – January 11, 2019)
Earth’s magnetic poles can wander several kilometers every year, however, the north pole’s movement has become increasingly stranger in recent years. For reasons that are currently unclear, the magnetic north pole seems to be increasingly slipping away from Canada and towards Siberia at an erratic rate. “The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,” said Phil Livermore, a geomagnetist at the University of Leeds in the UK. “The Siberian patch is winning the competition.” Every five years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maps out the Earth’s magnetic field in the World Magnetic Model (WMM). This was last published in 2015, with the next edition planned for 2020, but this freak behavior forced scientists to revise the map earlier than anticipated. Earth’s magnetic field is created by molten iron in its core swirling around through convection currents, resulting in a complex pattern of magnetism which can prove extremely difficult to model and predict. Just to make things even more complicated, an unusually punchy geomagnetic pulse occurred under South America in 2016, which is believed to have contributed to the recent unexpected changes. However, it largely remains unclear why the magnetic field beneath Canada is appearing to weaken in such a strange way. See this site for a map showing the movement of the pole since 1900. It has now crossed the International Date Line in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. It’s currently moving approximately 30 miles a year. It didn’t move much between 1900 and 1980 but it has significantly accelerated in the past 40 years.
Photos: Top 10 New Species of 2018 – (Mongabay – 2018)
Again this year, researchers described several new species of animals and plants after months, or even several years, of trials and tribulations. Some were tiny, like the Japan pig, a colorful pygmy horse that’s smaller than a fingernail. Some were cases of mistaken identities, such as Africa’s biggest cobra that turned out to be not one but five species. Some, like the new species of giant salamander, took nearly a decade to capture and describe. Other species, although new to science, such as the stunning blue-throated hillstar, are already severely threatened and could become extinct before we get the chance to learn more about them. In 2018, Mongabay covered many of these new discoveries and descriptions. Here, in no particular order, it presents photos of its10 top picks.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
One of the Most Widely Used Antidepressants Has Just Been Implicated in Breeding Antibiotic Resistance – (Science Alert – September 10, 2018)
In recent years, bacteria have been growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics. It’s generally thought that the overuse of antibiotics has been driving this trend, but now it looks like non-antibiotic medications can play a significant role too. Researchers from Australia’s University of Queensland embarked on the study to demonstrate that it’s not just antibiotics that are triggering the rise of the superbug. “Our previous study reported that triclosan, a common ingredient in toothpaste and hand wash can directly induce antibiotic resistance,” said engineer Jianhua Guo of the University’s Advanced Water Management Centre. “We also wondered whether other non-antibiotic pharmaceuticals such as fluoxetine can directly induce antibiotic resistance.” Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and the key ingredient in antidepressants such as Prozac and Sarafem. The test involved exposing the bacterium Escherichia coli (or E. coli) to different concentrations of fluoxetine, in body-temperature baths that were changed daily for 30 days. After this, the mutated bacteria were transferred to agar plates that contained an antibiotic. The researchers found that these bacteria had a greatly increased resistance to antibiotics chloramphenicol, amoxicillin and tetracycline – up to 50 million-fold compared to the control. The stronger the concentration of fluoxetine, the faster the bacteria mutated over time.
Breath Test to Detect Multiple Cancers Early Begins Large Trial – (CNN – January 3, 2019)
A breathalyzer designed to detect multiple cancers early is being tested in the UK. Several illnesses are known to create signature smells from the body, including typhoid fever reported to smell like baked bread and the aroma of acetone, said to be similar to rotten apples, on the breath of diabetics. Recent research has also shown that a person’s breath could also indicate the presence of cancer. To test this theory, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre has launched a two-year trial into a clinical device, called the Breath Biopsy, to find out if exhaled airborne molecules can be useful for cancer detection. In the body’s normal metabolic processes, molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced. It’s thought that cancer can create a different pattern of VOCs, which researchers hope to identify using the device. “Our goal is: can we spot these subtle differences?” said Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical which developed the device. The trial is recruiting up to 1,500 participants, including healthy people to act as a control group. Patients with stomach and esophageal cancers will initially be asked to try the test, before expanding to patients with prostate, kidney, bladder, liver and pancreatic cancers. See also: Dog Saves Its Owner’s Life When It Sniffs Out Cancer, Not Once, But Three Times.
Monogamy May Have a Telltale Signature of Gene Activity – (Science – January 3, 2019)
In the animal world, monogamy has some clear perks. Living in pairs can give animals some stability and certainty in the constant struggle to reproduce and protect their young—which may be why it has evolved independently in various species. Now, an analysis of gene activity within the brains of frogs, rodents, fish, and birds suggests there may be a pattern common to monogamous creatures. Despite very different brain structures and evolutionary histories, these animals all seem to have developed monogamy by turning on and off some of the same sets of genes. “It is quite surprising,” says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Hopi Hoekstra, who was not involved in the new work. “It suggests that there’s a sort of genomic strategy to becoming monogamous that evolution has repeatedly tapped into.” Neuroscientist Hans Hofmann and evolutionary biologist Rebecca Young at the University of Texas in Austin wanted to explore how the regulation of genes in the brain might have changed when a nonmonogamous species evolved to become monogamous. For example, the complex set of genes that underlie the ability to tolerate the presence of another member of one’s species presumably exists in nonmonogamous animals, but might be activated in different patterns to allow prolonged partnerships in monogamous ones. Among the monogamous animals, a pattern emerged. The researchers found certain sets of genes were more likely to be “turned up” or “turned down” in those creatures than in the nonmonogamous species. They ruled out other reasons why these monogamous animals might have similar gene expression patterns, including similar environments or close evolutionary relationships. Among the genes with increased activity in monogamous species were those involved in neural development, signaling between cells, learning, and memory. The researchers speculate that genes that make the brain more adaptable—and better able to remember—might also help animals recognize their mates and find their presence rewarding.
AI Technology Can Identify Genetic Diseases by Looking at Your Face – (KLS – January 8, 2019)
A new artificial intelligence technology can accurately identify some rare genetic disorders using a photograph of a patient’s face, according to a new study. The AI technology, called DeepGestalt, outperformed clinicians in identifying a range of syndromes in three trials and could add significant value in personalized care. The study notes 8% of the population has diseases with key genetic components, and many have recognizable facial features. The technology could identify, for example, Angelman syndrome, a disorder affecting the nervous system with characteristic features such as a wide mouth with widely spaced teeth, strabismus, where the eyes point in different directions, or a protruding tongue. This opens the door for future research and applications, and the identification of new genetic syndromes. But with facial images being easily accessible, this could lead to payers and employers potentially analyzing facial images and discriminating against individuals who have pre-existing conditions or developing medical complications, the authors warned. Yaron Gurovich, chief technology officer at FDNA, an artificial intelligence and precision medicine company, who led the research and his team trained DeepGestalt, a deep learning algorithm, by using 17,000 facial images of patients from a database of patients diagnosed with over 200 distinct genetic syndromes. The team found that the AI technology outperformed clinicians in two separate sets of tests to identify a target syndrome among 502 chosen images. In each test, the AI proposed a list of potential syndromes and identified the correct syndrome in its top 10 suggestions 91% of the time.
Scientists Seek Ways to Finally Take a Real Measure of Pain – (Associated Press – January 10, 2019)
There’s no stethoscope for pain. That’s problematic for lots of reasons. Doctors and nurses have to guess at babies’ pain by their cries and squirms, for example. The aching that one person rates a 7 might be a 4 to someone who’s more used to serious pain or genetically more tolerant. Patient-to-patient variability makes it hard to test if potential new painkillers really work. Now scientists are peeking into a test subject’s eyes to track how her pupils react when she’s hurting and when she’s not — part of a quest to develop the first objective way to measure pain. Some pain-sensing nerves transmit “ouch” signals to the brain along pathways that also alter muscles of the pupils as they react to different stimuli. The device tracks pupillary reactions to light or to non-painful stimulation of certain nerve fibers, aiming to link different patterns to different intensities and types of pain. The National Institutes of Health is pushing for development of what its director, Dr. Francis Collins, has called a “pain-o-meter.” Spurred by the opioid crisis, the goal isn’t just to signal how much pain someone’s in. It’s also to determine what kind it is and what drug might be the most effective. “We’re not creating a lie detector for pain,” stressed David Thomas of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, who oversees the research. “We do not want to lose the patient voice.” Around the country, NIH-funded scientists have begun studies of brain scans, pupil reactions and other possible markers of pain in hopes of finally “seeing” the ouch so they can better treat it. It’s early-stage research, and it’s not clear how soon any of the attempts might pan out. “There won’t be a single signature of pain,” Thomas predicted. “My vision is that someday we’ll pull these different metrics together for something of a fingerprint of pain.”
Building Blocks of Ocean Food Web in Rapid Decline as Plankton Productivity Plunges – (Canadian Broadcasting – December 22, 2018)
Phytoplankton and zooplankton that live near the surface are the base of the ocean’s food system. Everything from small fish, big fish, whales and seabirds depend on their productivity. “They actually determine what’s going to happen, how much energy is going to be available for the rest of the food chain,” explained Pierre Pepin, a senior researcher with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John’s. Pepin says over the past three to four years, scientists have seen a persistent drop in phytoplankton and zooplankton in waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. “Based on the measurements that we’ve been taking in this region, we’ve seen pretty close to 50% decline in the overall biomass of zooplankton,” said Pepin. It’s not just a problem here, declining plankton numbers are a global phenomenon. It’s a difficult idea to convey to the average person who might not understand the ocean ecosystem, but Pepin likens it to walking into a grocery store and instead of seeing the shelves full, they’re only half-full. “You know if you saw half the number of birds, if you saw half the number of fish in the water you’d pay attention. Well, this is a signal to say we need to pay attention.” Scientists here don’t know what’s causing this dramatic decline; they haven’t detected anything in particular that can be linked to the plunge in productivity, but they are worried. “When it persists — in our case now for three or four years — in the back of my mind, at the very least, little alarm bells start going off because it means that something fundamental may have changed in the food web,” said Pepin.
Time-bombing the Future – (Aeon – January 2, 2019)
Synthetics created in the 20th century have become an evolutionary force, altering human biology and the web of life. It’s fair to say that PCBs and fluorocarbons have altered the biochemical composition of the food web and the interior of the human body, and in the case of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFAS), the water we drink. (Some PFASs can even fall with rain.) These have been swift, sweeping changes over the course of just three or four generations, too quick for the slow-grinding machinery of human evolution to adapt. And yet, PCBs and PFASs are now an integral part of the human story. They pass from species to species, from mother to child. They are present from conception to death, and consumed with daily meals and holy feasts. The presence of PCBs alone shapes how humankind reproduces itself, how our young develop, and even whether subsequent generations will be susceptible to certain cancers or resilient against disease. The implications are disturbing. Change a ship’s course by one degree, and in a decade, a century, a millennium, that ship will be sailing through entirely different waters. Subtle alterations barely perceptible today could mean profound changes in the lives of the next generation and beyond. High-tech chemicals designed to endure, imagined as the stuff of an everlasting archive, will be read into the rock layer that marks our geological epoch. Scientists know that children’s bodies bear higher PFAS levels than adults, and have since learned that PFAS exposures can interfere with whether childhood vaccines take. In young men, higher levels of exposures are associated with shortened penis length and reduced sperm counts, suggesting that PFASs might play a role in the growing global epidemic of male infertility. Research is now looking into even more fundamental questions about how PFASs participate in a host of biological processes, including liver and thyroid function, metabolism, and in reproductive and developmental outcomes. But what is known to date pales in comparison to all that remains unknown about PFASs as a family. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article; it’s well researched and beautifully written.)
Number of Monarch Butterflies in California Declined by 86% in One Year – (Seattle Post Intelligencer – January 6, 2019)
If you enjoy watching the annual migration of the western monarch along the California coast you have probably already seen the signs of trouble in recent years. Numbers have declined precipitously over the last two decades and extinction looks increasingly likely. In 1981 the Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on invertebrate conservation, counted more than 1 million western monarchs wintering in California. The group’s most recent count, over Thanksgiving weekend, recorded less than 30,000 butterflies — an 86% decline since 2017 alone. The population of western monarchs in California was already low before the most recent count, having declined by an estimated 97% since the 1980s. The species will likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done to save them, a 2017 study by Washington State University researchers found. Washington State scientists say that 30,000 butterflies is the average quasi-extinction population size — the number of adult butterflies needed to ensure the persistence of the species. A true minimum population size cannot be determined until the seasonal migration of the western monarch collapses. The Xerces Society, which conducts annual Thanksgiving and New Year’s counts, is not certain why the monarch numbers plummeted substantially this year. Beside the overall downward population trend, the scientists suspect the dismal numbers are related to monarchs arriving nearly a month late to breeding areas in 2018, which leaves aging monarchs more exposed to the elements. The species didn’t even make it to its northernmost breeding range in Washington state, where it is typically abundant. Known for coloring the trees along the West Coast in shades of orange and black, the western monarch is threatened by pesticides, herbicides and the destruction of the butterflies’ milkweed habitat along their migratory route, scientists say. The study also found that carbon dioxide from car and factory exhaust reduced a natural toxin in milkweed that feeding caterpillars use to fight parasites.
Researchers Find Bottom of Pacific Getting Colder, Possibly Due to Little Ice Age – (PhysOrg – January 4, 2019)
A pair of researchers, one with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the other Harvard University, has found evidence of deep ocean cooling that is likely due to the Little Ice Age. Prior research has suggested that it takes a very long time for water in the Pacific Ocean to circulate down to its lowest depths. This is because it is replenished only from the south, which means it takes a very long time for water on the surface to make its way to the bottom—perhaps as long as several hundred years. That is what Gebbie and Huber found back in 2012. That got them to thinking that water temperature at the bottom of the Pacific could offer a hint of what surface temperatures were like hundreds of years ago. To find out if that truly was the case, the researchers obtained data from an international consortium called the Argo Program—a group of people who together have been taking ocean measurements down to depths of approximately two kilometers. As a comparative reference, the researchers also obtained data gathered by the crew of the HMS Challenger—they had taken Pacific Ocean temperatures down to a depth of two kilometers during the years 1872 to 1876. The researchers used the data from both projects to build a computer model meant to mimic the circulation of water in the Pacific Ocean over the past century and a half. The model showed that the Pacific Ocean cooled over the course of the 20th century at depths of 1.8 to 2.6 kilometers. The amount is still not precise, but the researchers suggest it is most likely between 0.02 and 0.08° C. That cooling, the researchers suggest, is likely due to the Little Ice Age, which ran from approximately 1300 until approximately 1870. Prior to that, there was a time known as the Medieval Warm Period, which had caused the deep waters of the Pacific to warm just prior to the cooling it is now experiencing.
The Coming Mini Ice Age and Cyclical Movement of the Tropics Belt – (Armstrong Economics – December 30, 2018)
This was the coldest Thanksgiving in 150 years! The author of this article has previously warned that if this trend continues during the next winter, then we have exceeded any short-term reactionary trend and the weather appears poised to continue to get colder going into the distant future. For the next 20 years at a minimum it’s going to get colder and colder on average. Research conducted by the University of Arizona-led international team has traced the north-south shifts of the northern-most edge of the tropics back 800 years. The University of Arizona researchers wrote: “From 1568 to 1634, the tropics expanded to the north, the team found. That time period coincides with severe droughts and other disruptions of human societies, including the collapse of the Ottoman bEmpire in Turkey, the end of the Ming Dynasty in China and near abandonment of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia…” The Tropic Belt has been gradually moving northward since 1970.
This Million-core Supercomputer Inspired by the Human Brain Breaks All the Rules – (ZDNet – January 3, 2019)
Late last year, in an unprepossessing former metal works in Manchester, one machine became the closest thing to an artificial human brain there is. The one-million core SpiNNaker — short for Spiking Neural Network Architecture — is the culmination of decades of work and millions of pounds of investment. The result: a massively parallel supercomputer designed to mimic the workings of the human brain, which it’s hoped will give neuroscientists a new understanding of how the mind works and open up new avenues of medical research. The genesis of the project lies in the late 1990s with the work of Steve Furber, now professor of computer engineering at the University of Manchester. Neurons — the nerve fibres that travel throughout the body and largely terminate in the brain — each have thousands of inputs and thousands of outputs. Computing systems struggle with anything on a similar scale. “It was clear that the big problem in building computational models of biological neural networks is getting anywhere close to the degree of connectivity you find in biology,” Furber says. In order to build a system that more closely resembles the human brain, the research group created a novel spiking neural network system-on-a-chip. Spiking neural network architectures take their cue from the way neurons work in the brain: in order to pass a signal from one neuron to another, the voltage of its membrane has to change, and what’s known as an action potential has to be generated. The action potential is translated as the spikes in a spiking neural network. By using this architecture, the team say that SpiNNaker breaks the rules followed by traditional supercomputers because the nodes communicate using these simple messages — spikes — that are inherently unreliable. “This break with determinism offers new challenges, but also the potential to discover powerful new principles of massively parallel computation,” the team says. After reaching half a million cores in 2016 as part of EU Human Brain Project, SpiNNAker recently reached one million, enabling it to perform two trillion actions per second and model the action of 200 million neurons in real time.
The Weirdest Gadgets from CES 2019 – (Techradar – January 9, 2019)
The future is going to be weird. At least, that’s the impression one gets from what’s new at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. The annual consumer tech show is notorious for wacky inventions, strange gadgets, and providing tech solutions for problems you didn’t even know you had (a toilet that plays music, anyone?) From robots that live to love you, to machines that fold your laundry for you, this year’s show has been no exception – even the humble television has had a total reconfiguration thanks to LG’s rollable OLED model that wowed us with its unique mechanical design. Prepare to be amazed and amused as you peruse 5 of the weirdest gadgets at CES 2019.
Librarian Transforms 110-Year-Old Tree Stump into Free Community Library – (MyModernMet – January 9, 2019)
Sharalee Armitage Howard works at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library in Idaho, so when a huge and aging cottonwood tree began to rot and had to be cut down for safety reasons, she knew just how to transform it into something special. Now, she has her very own Little Free Library where people can take a book and leave a book at their leisure. Little Free Library is a nonprofit that fosters a love of reading and community by encouraging book exchanges. No detail was spared in the creation of this “Little Tree Library,” which includes stone steps, a glass door, and warm interior and exterior lighting that provides a welcoming glow. Even in the small details, the project maintains its literary purpose. Just above the doorway, dentils in the form of miniature books recall some of the great classics like Call of the Wild and The Grapes of Wrath. Don’t miss the photos of the stump/little library. There are more than 75,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 88 countries around the world, each with its own unique character.
The Future of the Open Office Means Saying Goodbye to Your Desk – (Medium – January 7, 2019)
In recent years, the open office has gained a bad reputation. Critics argue that instead of fostering easygoing creativity, the lack of privacy creates stress. Without walls and doors to dampen noise, distractions chip away at concentration, so less work gets done. Because of all this, research shows that job satisfaction decreases after a transition to an open office from a more traditional office. Now, designers and architects are pushing beyond open office plans toward the next generation of barrierless office design: something we might call “zoned offices.” These spaces will feature hot desking, where assigned seating is a thing of the past, and the office itself becomes a flexible, dynamic private-public space. With semi-defined areas for taking phone calls, meeting with clients, and creative brainstorming, the worker will be free to move to the room or zone that fits the mood they’re looking for. With more employees allowed to work remotely from anywhere with Wi-Fi, offices now compete with local coffee shops, or co-working spaces. “So let’s just give everybody a flat desk, and let’s have them work in the office the way they work at Starbucks,” says Ethan Bernstein, associate professor at Harvard Business School. But not everyone is happy. In particular, hot-desking has already sparked some pushback. “Your desk is a bit like your bedroom. It’s your kingdom when you’re at work,” says one designer. Even the designers pushing for more open offices recognize that eventually, the movement to break down barriers will hit a limit. See also: 8 Sci-Fi Writers Imagine the Bold and New Future of Work.
Gilets Jaunes Protesters Destroy Over Half of Speed Cameras in France – (MSN – January 10, 2019)
Yellow vest activists have reportedly destroyed over half of France’s speed cameras in protest against speed limits introduced last year. Up to 65% of the cameras have been smashed, set ablaze, blown up, painted or covered with the jackets. The attacks began when President Emmanuel Macron’s government cut the speed limit on country roads from 90kmph (56mph) to 80kmph (50mph) in July (with additional resulting fines for speeding). In December, 250 of France’s 3,275 speed cameras had been damaged beyond repair and 1,500 had been vandalized to the extent they no longer worked. Culprits could be fined up to €100,000 or face up to seven years in prison. It comes as yellow vest protesters urged citizens to empty their bank accounts and spark a massive run on French banks.
Genetic Modification Turbocharges Photosynthesis and Drastically Improves Crop Growth – (Gizmodo – January 3, 2019)
Photosynthesis is an incredible chemical reaction, but it’s not perfect. In the presence of oxygen, a process called photorespiration is required to remove a byproduct called glycolate, which is toxic to the plant. This can cost the photosynthesis process 20-50% efficiency, especially in hot and arid climates. Researchers hope that through genetic modification they can optimize the process by which plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce fuel for themselves, called photosynthesis. University of Illinois researchers used computer simulations to design three new processes to deal with the glycolate. Then they spliced new DNA into tobacco plants’ chloroplasts, the site where photosynthesis occurs. They also prevented glycolate from leaving the chloroplasts to ensure they carried out the alternative processes, rather allowing photorespiration to take over. They saw over 40% increases in the amount of biomass the plants produced. To their credit, the researchers performed their tests in a field, rather than in a greenhouse. There’s more work to do, and it could be a decade or decades before you see this technique employed on farms. The study was performed on tobacco because tobacco creates a canopy of leaves, so it’s obvious when the plants are doing better as a group. Eventually, the scientists hope to instead use the methods on food crops like soybeans.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Wholesale Destruction of Our Postal Service Is Already Underway – (TruthDig – January 2, 2019)
Last spring, President Trump created an inter-agency federal task force to propose structural reforms in the U.S. Postal Service. In only two months, the task force (comprised entirely of top Trump officials) zapped out a down-and-dirty report with this key recommendation: “Prepare [USPS] for future conversion from a government agency into a privately-held corporation.” Privatization! Are they not aware that our public postal agency is enormously popular and important to… well, to the public? A February Pew Research poll finds that an astonishing 88% of Americans give the Postal Service a thumbs up. Even the president’s executive order setting up the task force conceded that the post office “is regularly cited as the Federal agency with the highest public approval rating.” The 640,000 middle-class postal workers and letter carriers merit such kudos because they literally deliver for us. Working from 31,585 local offices, they trundle 150 billion pieces of mail a year, 4 million miles a day, to 157 million addresses across the land — from inner-city neighborhoods to back roads — delivering all with remarkable speed. USPS does this without taking a dime in taxpayer funds, financing its operations entirely from its sales and services to customers. This is a genuine public good linking all of America’s people together.
The World through the Eyes of the U.S. – (Pudding – December, 2018)
This is a chart about the international landscape as viewed through the eyes of the US. At any given time, there is always one country uppermost in our collective conscious, and the author of this piece wanted to know how that has changed over time. So he turned to the newspaper, since headlines have long been the catalyst for daily conversations about what is going on in the world. Most of that content is still preserved thanks to the New York Times archive. After looking at 741,681 section front headlines, he found out which countries around the world have preoccupied Americans the most each month (on a month by month basis) since 1900. (Editor’s note: This is a pretty cool – and well displayed – chart, however there is one country that is always uppermost in our collective conscious which he omits because its absolute prominence hasn’t changed since well before 1900: the U.S.)
BIS Says Central Banks in No Rush to Issue e-Money – (Reuters – January 8, 2019)
Most central banks have no plans to issue a digital version of their currency after studies left them unconvinced of the merits of e-money, according to a survey by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Central banks have warned investors they could lose money on privately minted cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which have taken a hammering in recent months. The survey from the BIS, a global forum for central banks, underscored policymaker caution over issuing central bank-backed digital currencies (CBDC). “At this stage, most central banks appear to have clarified the challenges of launching a CBDC but they are not yet convinced that the benefits will outweigh the costs,” the BIS said. Responses from 63 central banks that represent over 90 percent of global economic output and 80 percent of the world’s population showed that much of the work done so far is “conceptual”. Only five central banks have progressed to e-money pilot projects. Sweden’s central bank has been working on an “e-Krona” project since 2017 as the use of cash continues to decline in the country. The central bank wants to remain relevant as retailers say that accepting cash will become uneconomic for them. More than 85% of central banks say they are either unlikely or very unlikely to issue any type of digital currency in the next three years, the BIS said. Only one central bank said it was very likely to issue a digital version of its currency in the next six years.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
As Cancer Mortality Declines, Gap Between Rich and Poor Emerges – (Axios – January 8, 2019)
American deaths from cancer dropped 27% overall from 1991 to 2016, and racial disparities are slowly narrowing, according to a major new report from the American Cancer Society. Yes, but: This isn’t the same for all Americans or the case for all cancers. The gap in the success rate is widening between socioeconomic groups, particularly in preventable cancers. And deaths from some cancers, mostly related to obesity, continue to rise. The 4 major cancers — lung, breast, prostate and colorectal — all show declines. Lung cancer deaths have decreased since 1991, but the Axios chart above shows an overall increase since 1970 due to the majority of women smokers picking up the habit later than men. The declines in the 4 cancers are mainly due to less smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. The racial disparity is lessening. But the socioeconomic gap in cancer mortality is growing. For example, poor women have twice as many deaths from cervical cancer than affluent women — and this is mostly preventable. Lung and liver cancer mortality also is more than 40% higher in poor men compared to affluent men. Incidence rates have increased for melanoma and cancers of the liver, thyroid, uterine corpus and pancreas — and some of this has been linked to the obesity epidemic.
Universal Basic Income Is Easier Than It Looks – (TruthDig – December 27, 2018)
Calls for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) have been increasing, most recently as part of the “Green New Deal” introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A UBI is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” among other vehicles. This article explains the funding ideas, and the economics behind them, more fully. Explaining why a UBI would not necessarily be inflationary, the article goes on to discuss a 2018 book The Road to Debt Bondage: How Banks Create Unpayable Debt, by political economist Derryl Hermanutz who proposes a central-bank-issued UBI of $1,000 per month, credited directly to people’s bank accounts. Assuming this payment went to all U.S. residents over 18, or about 241 million people, the outlay would be about $3 trillion annually. For people with overdue debt, Hermanutz proposes that it automatically go to pay down those debts. (Editor’s note: Whoa – that would entail having the government track the debt status of every single adult in the country. To say nothing of privacy issues, the mere mechanics of that are mind boggling. Even apart from that, the difficulties of implementing any sort of UBI are tremendous. We recommend this article just as a way to begin to think about the complexities involved.)
Coca-Cola Influences China’s Obesity Policy, BMJ Report Says – (Guardian – January 10, 2019)
China has a serious and growing obesity problem: 42.3% of Chinese adults were overweight or obese in 2011, up from 20.5% in 1991. And its 1.4 billion people constitute Coca-Cola’s third-largest market by volume. The Coca-Cola Company has shaped China’s policies towards its growing obesity crisis, encouraging a focus on exercise rather than diet and thereby safeguarding its drinks sales, an academic investigation has alleged. Susan Greenhalgh, a Harvard academic and China scholar, says Coca-Cola has exerted its influence since 1999 through a Chinese offshoot of an institute founded in the US by the then Coca-Cola vice-president Alex Malaspina with substantial company funding. The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has been heavily criticized in the US and Europe for promoting exercise and downplaying the need for people to cut down on excessive sugary drinks. Between 1999-2015 ILSI-China’s obesity activities shifted from a focus on nutrition to physical activity, in line with Coca-Cola’s position that an active lifestyle was the key to tackling obesity. Tough measures recommended by the World Health Organization – such as taxing sugary drinks and restricting food advertising to children – were missing. National plans and targets emphasized physical fitness over dietary restrictions, in line with the drinks company’s “energy balance” perspective. Obesity meetings sponsored or co-sponsored by ILSI-China were packed with presentations by experts with financial ties to Coca-Cola or ILSI with a focus on the science of physical activity rather than nutrition.
Marriott Hotel Strikers Set a New Industry Standard – (Nation of Change – December 31, 2018)
After two months of strikes, workers at the largest hotel company in the world have won their biggest demands and set a new pattern for the hospitality industry. The seven UNITE HERE locals in Hawaii, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Detroit, and Boston bargained separately, but similar contract expiration dates allowed 7,700 workers to strike Marriott at the same time. Employees stopped Marriott from making them choose between wages and benefits. Their common demands focused on three areas – job security, workload, and wages and benefits – and the slogan, “One Job Should Be Enough.”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Milky Way Will Crash into a Neighbor Galaxy – (Space – January 4, 2019)
Our Milky Way galaxy will endure more than one dramatic collision in the foreseeable future, new research suggests. The huge and beautiful spiral galaxy Andromeda will plow into the Milky Way about 5 billion years from now, livening up the night skies of any Earth creatures who are still around to look up. But one of our smaller galactic neighbors, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), will actually hit the Milky Way about 2.5 billion years before the epic Andromeda event, according to a new study. The 100,000-light-year-wide Milky Way will gobble up the runty LMC (diameter, 14,000 light-years), and the meal won’t sit well, study team members said. “The destruction of the Large Magellanic Cloud, as it is devoured by the Milky Way, will wreak havoc with our galaxy, waking up the black hole that lives at its center and turning our galaxy into an active galactic nucleus or quasar,” lead author Marius Cautun, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University in England, said. (That central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, is about 4 million times more massive than the sun.) But rest easy: These jets won’t affect our solar system, Cautun stressed.
Dark Matter on the Move – (PhysOrg – January 3, 2019)
Scientists have found evidence that dark matter can be heated up and moved around, as a result of star formation in galaxies. The findings provide the first observational evidence for the effect known as ‘dark matter heating’, and give new clues as to what makes up dark matter. Scientists from the University of Surrey, Carnegie Mellon University and ETH Zürich set out to hunt for evidence for dark matter at the centers of nearby dwarf galaxies. Dwarf galaxies are small, faint galaxies that are typically found orbiting larger galaxies like our own Milky Way. They may hold clues that could help us to better understand the nature of dark matter. The team of astrophysicists measured the amount of dark matter at the centers of 16 dwarf galaxies with very different star formation histories. They found that galaxies that stopped forming stars long ago had higher dark matter densities at their centers than those that are still forming stars today. This supports the theory that the older galaxies had less dark matter heating. The findings provide a new constraint on dark matter models: dark matter must be able to form dwarf galaxies that exhibit a range of central densities, and those densities must relate to the amount of star formation. Professor Matthew Walker, a co-author from Carnegie Mellon University, said: “This study may be the “smoking gun” evidence that takes us a step closer to understanding what dark matter is. Our finding that it can be heated up and moved around helps to motivate searches for a dark matter particle.” The team hope to expand on this work by measuring the central dark matter density in a larger sample of dwarfs, pushing to even fainter galaxies, and testing a wider range of dark matter models.
Thousands of Stars, Including the Sun, Will Turn into Huge Crystals – (CNet – January 10, 2019)
Eventually, the sun will cool off and become a giant crystal floating through space. It’s not a bizarre science fiction plot, but the takeaway of new scientific research published in the journal Nature. billions of years down the road the sun will swell to a ravenous red giant star that will eventually swallow Earth. But long after our planet has been ended, the sun will shrink to a cool white dwarf star and then slowly solidify into a massive white crystal, the study says. That’s a lot of bling wasted on the empty vacuum of space. The work verified earlier predictions that such a catalog of white dwarf stars would reveal a number in the slow process of turning from what is essentially a liquid form to a solid state. “It was predicted 50 years ago that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at certain luminosities and colors due to crystallization and only now this has been observed,” explained Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics in the UK. “This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky. The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years.”
U.S. Fertility Rate Declines for Seventh Year Running – (Daily Beast – January 10, 2019)
The U.S. fertility rate has dropped for the seventh year in a row—and Americans are now having so few babies that the population will be sent into decline without immigration, according to new government numbers. The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released early Thursday, show that the annual rate of births per 1,000 women of childbearing age was 1,765.5, or 16 percent below the number needed to keep the population stable without immigrants. The total fertility rate has been declining year on year since 2010, but the numbers for 2017 represent the biggest drop in recent history. Experts say the decline is due to changing economics, delays in childbirth by women pursuing jobs and education, the greater availability of contraception, and a decline in teen pregnancies.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Photo Wake-Up: 3D Character Animation from a Single Photo – (YouTube – December 1, 2018)
This 5 minute video clip presents a technique to “wake up” a still photo by animating the human subject in 3D, and further demonstrate an Augmented Reality (AR) experience by bringing the central figure into the real world. See also: Inventing NYC an AR journey back in time to New York of the 17th century. This one is still clumsy, but it gives you a sense of the fascinating potential uses of AR.
As Big Retailers Seek to Cut Their Tax Bills, Towns Bear the Brunt – (New York Times – January 6, 2019)
With astonishing range and rapidity, big-box retailers and corporate giants are using an aggressive legal tactic to shrink their property tax bills, a strategy that is costing local governments and school districts around the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. These businesses — many of them brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, Menards and Walgreens that have faced fierce online competition — maintain that no matter how valuable a thriving store is to its current owner, these warehouse-type structures are not worth much to anyone else. So the best way to appraise their property, they contend in their tax appeals, is to look at the sale prices on the open market of vacant or formerly vacant shells in other places. As shuttered stores spread across the landscape, their argument has resonated. This approach — labeled dark store theory by critics — significantly broadens the basis for those appeals while threatening to undermine municipalities’ ability to raise operating funds. To municipalities, these appeals amount to a far-fetched tax dodge that allows corporations to wriggle out of paying their fair share. In Michigan, the state association of counties estimated that dark-store appeals reduced local revenue from 2013 to 2017 by $100 million. In Texas, the comptroller said such appeals could end up costing local governments $2.6 billion a year.
Seeing Wetiko: On Capitalism, Mind Viruses, and Antidotes for a World in Transition – (Kosmos Journal – Spring/Summer, 2016)
Wetiko is an Algonquin word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess, and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windigo, wintiko in Powhatan). Author Paul Levy, in an attempt to find language accessible for Western audiences, describes it as ‘malignant egophrenia’—the ego unchained from reason and limits, acting with the malevolent logic of the cancer cell. An example of wetiko nature is modern capitalism. Its insatiable hunger for finite resources; its disregard for the pain of groups and cultures it consumes; its belief in consumption as savior; its overriding obsession with its own material growth; and its viral spread across the surface of the planet. It is wholly accurate to describe neoliberal capitalism as cannibalizing life on this planet. It is not the only truth—capitalism has also facilitated an explosion of human life and ingenuity—but when taken as a whole, capitalism is certainly eating through the life-force of this planet in service of its own growth. (Editor’s note: If you are willing to read an article that might make you uncomfortable, this is a good one to choose. It is a place to start looking at ourselves and the systems in which we are enmeshed through a lens that offers a non-standard perspective.)
A Mirror Image of Our Universe May Have Existed Before the Big Bang – (Live Science – January 11, 2019)
Physicists have a pretty good idea of the structure of the universe just a couple of seconds after the Big Bang, moving forward to today. In many ways, fundamental physics then worked as it does today. But experts have argued for decades about what happened in that first moment — when the tiny, infinitely dense speck of matter first expanded outward — often presuming that basic physics were somehow altered. Researchers Latham Boyle, Kieran Finn and Neil Turok at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, have turned this idea on its head by assuming the universe has always been fundamentally symmetrical and simple, then mathematically extrapolating into that first moment after the Big Bang. That led them to propose a previous universe that was a mirror image of our current one, except with everything reversed. Time went backward and particles were antiparticles. It’s not the first time physicists have envisioned another universe before the Big Bang, but those were always seen as separate universes much like our own. “Instead of saying there was a different universe before the bang,” explained Neil Turok, “we’re saying that the universe before the bang is actually, in some sense, an image of the universe after the bang.” But seen another way, both universes were created at the Big Bang and exploded simultaneously backward and forward in time. This dichotomy allows for some creative explanations to problems that have stumped physicists for years. For one, it would make the first second of the universe fairly simple, removing the necessity for the bizarre multiverses and dimensions experts have used for three decades to explain some of the stickier aspects of quantum physics and the Standard Model, which describes the zoo of subatomic particles that make up our universe.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Bristol Myers-Squibb and Others Can’t Dodge $1 Billion Lawsuit Over 1940s Syphilis Study, Judge Rules – (GizModo – January 7, 2019)
For the time being, pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers-Squibb and others will not be allowed to avoid a billion-dollar civil lawsuit over their alleged roles in a U.S. government-led study in the 1940s that deliberately and secretly infected Guatemalan people with syphilis. A federal Maryland judge has struck down an argument by defense lawyers that domestic companies should be exempt from lawsuits filed in U.S. courts that allege human rights violations outside of the country. In 2010, Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby uncovered the historical atrocity. She found that U.S. researchers conducted a series of unethical human experiments throughout the 1940s and 1950s on thousands of Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers, sex workers, and mental health patients, some of whom were young as 10. The experiments were carried at the behest of the U.S. government’s Public Health Service and with the approval of the Guatemalan government. The overall purpose of the study was to test out whether antibiotics could be used to prevent syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections before its symptoms appeared in someone who was exposed to them. So the researchers initially recruited sex workers with syphilis to have sex with prisoners. Later on, they directly infected volunteers without their informed consent or knowledge of what was really happening. In many cases, though, infected people were left untreated. In total, 83 deaths were linked to the study, though it’s not entirely certain whether the infections were the direct cause (late-stage syphilis is often fatal). In 2012, a class-action lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by the victims’ families was dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine meant to protect governments from prosecution in its courts. But the government wasn’t the only party at blame for the experiment, the current lawsuit now claims. It alleges that researchers from Johns Hopkins University as well as the Rockefeller Foundation also helped design or otherwise secure the study’s approval and funding, as did executives from Bristol Laboratories and the Squibb Institute, the two companies that later merged into Bristol Myers-Squibb.
JUST FOR FUN
Fleet of Flower Bicycles Takes Over the Streets of São Paulo – (MyModernMet – April 21, 2017)
Avant-garde artist Azuma Makoto has created experimental art ranging from cosmic plants to ice block bouquets. Now, the Japanese artist is back with another beautiful and botanical work of art called Flower Messenger. Composed of 30 functioning bikes overflowing with floral arrangements, Flower Messenger puts a performance-art spin on Makoto’s plant-inspired practice. Each bike is driven by a young individual with Japanese roots. As the fleet travels from landmark to landmark around the city, the “messengers” arbitrarily distribute flowers to pedestrians and passersby, adding an interactive—and undeniably heartwarming—element to the public performance piece. The photographs of this event (in the article) are glorious.
A FINAL QUOTE
Not only is another world possible, it is on its way. On a quiet day, I can hear it breathing. – Arundhati Roy
A special thanks to: Ellen Crockett, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen