FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- 19 galaxies are apparently devoid of dark matter, but no one knows why.
- More than 4,000 bus-sized craters created by trash have been found on the seafloor near California.
- Light pollution is a significant contributing factor in the insect ‘apocalypse’
- Researchers found that for every dollar of aid given as cash to poor families in rural Kenya, total economic activity in the area was increased by $2.60.
by John L. Petersen
HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM JOHN PETERSEN
As you know, we publish FUTUREdition twice a month – as we have now for almost 30 years – and make it freely available, hoping that you find it useful in navigating the extraordinary times in which we live.
I’m really impressed lately with the acceleration of change that is moving us into a period that is unprecedented in human history. I spoke about these things on Saturday the 7th of December here at TransitionTalks in Berkeley Springs and have been trying to organize a year’s worth of reading and thinking. Frankly, I’m having a hard time keeping this all in terms that don’t immediately cause one to blow it all off as science fiction. An amazing, big picture is coming together about the convergence of multiple forces, all weaving an experience for us all unlike anything we have ever lived through – let alone realistically contemplated! It’s really extraordinary.
We also don’t have much time before all of the forces that are in play, come together to clearly drive us into a new space that – trust me on this – will be radically different than anything we all find familiar. So that’s what we’re trying to do here, is to make you aware of what’s heading this way . . . and try to begin to describe how we all can be fully prepared for this amazing time.
We’re able to bring all of this to you only because friends and subscribers like you see fit to help us make it happen. Obviously, you can’t produce a newsletter like FUTUREdition without engaging a number of people in gathering the information, coding and publishing each edition and then, working to make new people who haven’t previously been subscribers aware of FE and what we have to offer.
So, once a year at this time we ask our subscribers if they’d help us keep FE going. Even though I don’t take anything out of this for my time, our costs are now running about $20,000 a year, so there’s no way that we can do this without your help.
This year, I’d like to offer you a special incentive to help support FUTUREdition.
You probably don’t live in our area but have seen the people we feature in our speakers series here in Berkeley Springs, TransitionTalks. I’ve had many of you send me emails over the years asking if we’d please record the presentations and make them available for those who live elsewhere in the world.
Well, we’re doing that. With the generous help of filmmaker Jim Grapek, we are now taping each presentation and going to be making them available to those who can’t be with us at TransitionTalks. After the first of the year, those presentations will be available only to “Premium Members” of a new service that we’re going to launch, but for now, I’m going to make them available to those who help support FE during this end-of-year campaign.
In particular, if you can contribute $49 to help defray the expenses of publishing FUTUREdition, I’ll also give you full access to two of our TransitionTalks presentations. You’ll be able to either watch them online or download them for later viewing. I’ll send you download links to two presentations. First, you’ll receive the last one, with Dr. John McMichael, the impressive research scientist who has discovered an extraordinary breakthrough therapy that eliminates the effects of traumatic brain injury (and other scarring injuries). His talk not only addresses his discovery, but also works across the leading edge of really unconventional – but amazing – breakthroughs that other “unconventional” researchers have discovered.
I’ll also send along the link to the talk that I gave on the 7th of December that builds the integrated picture of what seems to coming in the next half-dozen years. It’s kind of a big deal (for me, at least). I’m guessing that it will be about 3 hours long. I’ll cover what the extraordinary implications of this change could be and what likely possible futures will emerge. We’re about to be catapulted into a new world – a new era – and it will be ride unlike anything that any of us have been experienced before.
So, if you can help us with $49 to keep FUTUREdition going for another year (that’s about the same as one Starbucks a month), I’ll not only make sure that we send you two issues a month for the next twelve months . . . but I’ll also send you links to Dr. John McMichael’s and my talks. That’s a pretty good deal!
Thanks for being with us. Thanks for considering helping us. I really enjoy hearing from many of you with your comments and questions. (There’ll be more opportunities for that in the future, by the way).
Warmest holiday wishes to you and those close to you.
Best wishes for 2020! ~ JLP
John L. Petersen
Larry Dossey, M.D. Consciousness and Healing: the Unfolding Vision — January 18th in Berkeley Springs
|BONUS: At 10 am on 1/18, John Petersen will finalize his talk on “Getting to 2027”. All are welcome!
For three centuries, human health and illness has been generally viewed through the lens of “the physical” and the proper functioning of the body. A major transition is now underway in our understanding of the nature of consciousness, how it interacts with the body in health and healing, and its origin and destiny. Dr. Dossey will discuss these developments, including actual clinical cases.
Dr. Larry Dossey is a physician of internal medicine and former Chief of Staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital. He received his M. D. degree from Southwestern Medical School (Dallas), and trained in internal medicine at Parkland and the VA hospitals in Dallas. Dossey has lectured at medical schools and hospitals throughout the United States and abroad. In 1988 he delivered the annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, India, the only physician ever invited to do so. He is the author of twelve books dealing with consciousness, spirituality, and healing, including the New York Times bestseller HEALING WORDS: THE POWER OF PRAYER AND THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE, and most recently One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters. His books have been translated into languages around the world. Dr. Dossey is the former co-chairman of the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. He is the executive editor of the peer-reviewed journal EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. Dr. Dossey lectures around the world. He lives in Santa Fe with his wife Barbara, a nurse-consultant and the author of several award-winning books.
You can find complete information at TransitionTalks.org.
Full Access to Robert David Steele Transition Talk
Robert Steele held forth to a capacity crowd in Berkeley Springs last month, entertaining a clearly engaged audience in a 90 minute survey of the most life-changing books he had read. Robert’s Talk was long on lists of books and many asked that we make the video of the presentation available so that they could capture all of the detail. So they —- and you —- are in luck!
Although in the future we will be charging for access to the TransitionTalks videos, Robert and I wanted to get this one out to as many people as possible, so here is a link where you can see the great talk:
One favor for Robert: if you like this talk, please link to it and Tweet the video with your comments to both your friends and these addresses: #UNRIG #MAGA #Triggered @GOP @POTUS
Free Book Offer
Our friends at The Fetzer Memorial Trust would like to give you a free hard-cover copy of the book “John E. Fetzer and the Quest for The New Age” by Brian Wilson, Ph. D.
John E. Fetzer, was a pioneer in the broadcast industry, owner of the World Series Detroit Tigers, advisor to two presidents and one of America’s 400 most wealthy individuals. Driven by a deep spiritual quest and interest in scientific exploration he is a true inspiration.
I found this biography of John Fetzer most interesting. Here was a titan of industry who had another life that was involved in helping to fund and enable a great deal of research in the metaphysical area and who set up a major foundation that continues to explore the leading edge of our reality.
The Fetzer Institute has always had a very impressive, big outlook on this world and what was possible and I’m pleased that they are making this hardcover book available at no cost to FUTUREdition subscribers.
I certainly would encourage you to take advantage of this offer. — JLP
To Receive Your Gift click here
(Limited to the first 500 requests)
Your book will be mailed to you free of charge. This is truly a free gift from The Fetzer Memorial Trust. The only mail you will receive from them, will be this book. You will not be added to a mailing list.
|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
Hoag’s Object Is a Galaxy within a Galaxy within a Galaxy (and Nobody Knows Why) – (Live Science – December 3, 2019)
The cosmic turducken is known as Hoag’s object, and it has befuddled stargazers since astronomer Arthur Hoag discovered it in 1950. The object in question is a rare, ring-shaped galaxy measuring some 100,000 light-years across (slightly larger than the Milky Way) and located 600 million light-years from Earth. In a recent image of the oddball object taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and processed by geophysicist Benoit Blanco, a bright ring of billions of blue stars forms a perfect circle around a much smaller and denser sphere of reddish stars. In the dark gap between the two stellar circles, another ring galaxy — much, much farther away from us — peeks out to say hello. Ring galaxies account for less than 0.1% of all known galaxies, and they aren’t the easiest objects to study. With only a handful of other known ring galaxies available to study (none of which shows the perfectly symmetrical characteristics found in this one), Hoag’s object remains a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma — you know, like a turducken. Continuing the theme of “no one knows why”, you might also be interested in 19 Galaxies Are Apparently Missing Dark Matter. No One Knows Why.
“Self-domestication” May Have Led to the Modern Human Face – (Inverse – December 4, 2019)
Humans depend on facial features to tell one another apart, to read emotions and intent, and to communicate with others. Now, a new study published in Science Advances suggests the reason our human faces look like they do is due to a long history of accumulated genetic mutations. It’s likely this is no biological accident. The finding supports the theory of “self-domestication,” which is the idea that ancient people chose to mate with more docile partners and used facial appearance as clues as to who was the least aggressive. The study argues that mutations associated with gene BAZ1B — which is present in all animals — drove the human face to have slimmer features than our ancient hominid peers, Neanderthals and Denisovans. It may also have played a role in the development of cooperative societies, the study suggests. Ancient humans who carried a mutated BAZ1B gene were selected as mates more often, the study suggests — passing these mutations through the population. BAZ1B mutations affect human behavior as well as the development of craniofacial features — the gene is linked to Williams syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by an highly social disposition. These findings do not mean that facial traits can be used to define an individual’s aggressiveness or any other characteristics, the authors say. The team explained, “The self-domestication assumptions do not refer to single individuals, but to the entire humankind.”
This Brainless, Single-Celled Blob Can Make Complex ‘Decisions’ – (Live Science – December 6, 2019)
Tiny, brainless blobs might be able to make decisions: A single-celled organism can “change its mind” to avoid going near an irritating substance, according to new findings. Over a century ago, American zoologist Herbert Spencer Jennings conducted an experiment on a relatively large, trumpet-shaped, single-celled organism called Stentor roeselii. When Jennings released an irritating carmine powder around the organisms, he observed that they responded in a predictable pattern, he wrote in his findings, which he published in a text called “Behavior of the Lower Organisms” in 1906. To avoid the powder, the organism first would try to bend its body around the powder. If that didn’t work, the blob would reverse the movement of its cilia — hairlike projections that help it move and feed — to push away the surrounding particles. If that still didn’t work, the organism would contract around its point of attachment on a surface to feed. And finally, if all else failed, it would detach from the surface and swim away. In the decades that followed, however, other experiments failed to replicate these findings, and so they were discredited. But recently, a group of researchers at Harvard University decided to re-create the old experiment as a side project. “It was a completely off-the-books, skunkworks project,” said senior author Jeremy Gunawardena, a systems biologist at Harvard. “They do the simple things first, but if you keep stimulating, they ‘decide’ to try something else,” Gunawardena said. “S. roeselii has no brain, but there seems to be some mechanism that, in effect, lets it ‘change its mind’ once it feels like the irritation has gone on too long.” The findings can help inform cancer research and even change the way we think about our own cells. Rather than being solely “programmed” to do something by our genes, “cells exist in a very complex ecosystem, and they are, in a way, talking and negotiating with each other, responding to signals and making decisions,” Gunawardena said. Single-celled organisms, whose ancestors once ruled the ancient world, might be “much more sophisticated than we generally give them credit for,” he said. (Editor’s note: If we were to grant that a single-celled creature with no brain could be called conscious, this is what it would look like.)
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away – (New York Times – December 7, 2019)
Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with. He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains. But four years after his lifesaving procedure, it was not only Mr. Long’s blood that was affected. Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” he said. Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA. Doctors and forensic scientists have long known that certain medical procedures turn people into chimeras, but where exactly a donor’s DNA shows up — beyond blood — has rarely been studied with criminal applications in mind. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. The specifics of Mr. Long’s situation raise an inevitable question: What happens if he has a baby? Three bone marrow transplant experts who were surveyed agreed that passing on someone else’s genes as a result of a transplant like Mr. Long’s was impossible. A donor’s blood cells should not be able to create new sperm cells, Dr. Rezvani said. Dr. Mehrdad Abedi, the doctor at the University of California, Davis, who treated Mr. Long, agreed: He believed it was Mr. Long’s vasectomy that explained how his semen came to contain his donor’s DNA. The forensic scientists involved say they plan to investigate further.
Our Bodies Age in Three Distinct Shifts, According to More Than 4,000 Blood Tests – (Science Alert – December 7, 2019)
In terms of biological ageing, the body seems to shift gears three times during our lifespans, new research suggests – with 34 years, 60 years and 78 years the key thresholds. In other words, ageing isn’t one long, continuous process that moves at the same speed throughout our lives. The findings might help us understand more about how our bodies start to break down as we get older, and how specific age-related diseases – including Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease – could be better tackled. The same study has also put forward a new way of reliably predicting people’s ages using the protein levels (the proteome) in their blood. “By deep mining the ageing plasma proteome, we identified undulating changes during the human lifespan,” write the researchers in their published paper. “These changes were the result of clusters of proteins moving in distinct patterns, culminating in the emergence of three waves of ageing.” The team analyzed data from the blood plasma of 4,263 people aged 18 to 95, looking at the levels of around 3,000 different proteins moving through these biological systems, and acting as a snapshot of what’s going on in the body: of those, 1,379 were found to vary with age. It also emphasizes the link between ageing and the blood, something that’s been spotted in previous studies. “We’ve known for a long time that measuring certain proteins in the blood can give you information about a person’s health status – lipoproteins for cardiovascular health, for example,” says neurologist Tony Wyss-Coray, from the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). “But it hasn’t been appreciated that so many different proteins’ levels – roughly a third of all the ones we looked at – change markedly with advancing age.”
Light Pollution Is Key Bringer of Insect ‘Apocalypse’ – (Guardian – November 22, 2019)
“We strongly believe artificial light at night – in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species, and climate change – is driving insect declines,” the scientists concluded after assessing more than 150 studies. “We posit here that artificial light at night is another important – but often overlooked – bringer of the insect apocalypse.” However, unlike other drivers of decline, light pollution was relatively easy to prevent, the team said, by switching off unnecessary lights and using proper shades. “Doing so could greatly reduce insect losses immediately,” they said. Brett Seymoure, a behavioral ecologist at Washington University in St Louis and senior author of the review, said: “Artificial light at night is human-caused lighting – ranging from streetlights to gas flares from oil extraction. It can affect insects in pretty much every imaginable part of their lives.” The first global scientific review, published in February, said widespread declines threatened to cause a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”. The latest review says: “Insects around the world are rapidly declining. Their absence would have devastating consequences for life on this planet.” There are thought to be millions of insect species, most still unknown to science, and about half are nocturnal. Those active in the day may also be disturbed by light at night when they are at rest. The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, notes that light has long been used deliberately by farmers to suppress insects. But as human infrastructure has expanded, and the cost of lighting has fallen, light pollution has come to affect a quarter of the world’s land surface.
Damaged Coral Reefs Could Be Restored Using Underwater Loudspeakers – (CBS News – November 30, 2019)
Coral reefs around the world have long suffered from the effects of climate change and overfishing. But scientists haven’t given up on saving the natural wonders — and now, a new study shows loudspeakers could help. Researchers set up underwater loudspeakers in Australia’s northern Great Barrier Reef in late 2017, blasting recorded sounds of healthy reefs to encourage young fish to return to, and settle in, damaged ones. In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers said this “acoustic enrichment” can help revive coral reefs globally. “Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places – the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape. Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they’re looking for a place to settle,” senior author and professor Steve Simpson of the University of Exeter. Researchers found that twice as many fish flocked to the “acoustically enriched reefs” compared to areas where no sound was played — a crucial factor in kick-starting natural recovery processes. And not only did the six-week loudspeaker experiment double the total number of fish arriving at the habitats. It also increased the number of species in the region by 50%.
Coastal Fog — Yes, Fog — Is Giving Pumas Mercury Poisoning – (Salon – December 1, 2019)
The amount of mercury found in mountain lions who roman the Santa Cruz Mountains, an area that is frequently exposed to coastal fog, was three times higher than in lions who live outside the fog zone, according to researchers at the University of California-Santa Cruz. The study is the first to track the atmospheric source of methylmercury, which is a very toxic type of mercury, in the terrestrial food chain as it travels up to top predators. Similar levels of mercury were found in lichen and deer inside the fog zone, too. Mercury is emitted into the environment through a mix of human activities, such as burning waste and coal, and from natural processes, like volcanoes and forest fires. The mercury in the fog is a result of the mercury in the oceans. Mercury that rains down on oceans is converted to methylmercury by anaerobic bacteria in the deep waters. It floats back up to the surface by the rising seawater and is released back into the atmosphere before being carried ashore by the fog. Chris Wilmers, a professor of environmental studies at UCSC, said in a media statement that high levels of mercury in the mountain lions present an additional challenge to a species that is already struggling with habitat loss.
Study Finds North American Birds Getting Smaller – (Reuters – December 4, 2019)
Since 1978, researchers have scooped up and measured tens of thousands of birds that died after crashing into buildings in Chicago during spring and fall migrations. Their work has documented what might be called the incredible shrinking bird. A study involving 70,716 birds killed from 1978 through 2016 in such collisions in the third-largest U.S. city found that their average body sizes steadily declined over that time, though their wingspans increased. The results suggest that a warming climate is driving down the size of certain bird species in North America and perhaps around the world, the researchers said. They cited a phenomenon called Bergmann’s rule, in which individuals within a species tend to be smaller in warmer regions and larger in colder regions, as reason to believe that species may become smaller over time as temperatures rise. The study focused on 52 species – mostly songbirds dominated by various sparrows, warblers and thrushes – that breed in cold regions of North America and spend their winters in locations south of Chicago. Over the four decades, body size decreased in all 52 species. The average body mass fell by 2.6%. Leg bone length dropped by 2.4%. The wingspans increased by 1.3%, possibly to enable the species to continue to make long migrations even with smaller bodies.
More Than 4,000 Bus-sized Craters Created by TRASH Are Found on the Seafloor near California – (Daily Mail – December 11, 2019)
Off the coast of Big Sur, California, 4,500 small crates created by human garbage have been discovered on the seafloor. The depressions, known as ‘micro-depressions’, were uncovered during a series of underwater autonomous vehicle (AUV) surveys in 2018 and 2019. The observations revealed that marine trash is responsible for the tiny pits, which were found to be the size of a bus and filled with plastics, nets, rope and other garbage. These tiny craters average about 36 feet across, the length of a bus, and three feet deep, and were found to be elongated in one direction. The micro-depressions were excavated by debris, most of it being garbage. ‘About 20% of the surveyed MDs [micro-depressions] contain exotic material including cobbles, kelp holdfasts, and a whale skull,’ reads the team’s presentation summary at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. ‘Another 30% contain large anthropogenic objects, including filled trash bags, 5-gallon buckets, and a storage trunk, but no objects were observed outside the MDs.’ The team believes the trash may have fallen off of marine boats or rafted out in kelp holdfasts.
50 Years Later, the Internet’s Inventors Are Horrified by What It’s Become – (Fast Company – November 21, 2019)
Fifty years ago, the first permanent link between a computer at UCLA and at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was formed. It was the first connection of ARPANET, which would grow into a large network of research and military computers and later become the public internet we know today. UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock developed much of the theoretical groundwork for that first digital network and forerunner to the internet. Kleinrock had a surprisingly clear view of what ARPANET might become even back in 1969. The one thing Kleinrock says he didn’t see coming was the rise of social media and social networks. And that’s where many of the internet’s biggest problems have incubated—things like election tampering, surveillance capitalism, bullying, fake news, deepfakes, revenge porn, and on and on. Kleinrock says he initially saw those things as problems that the citizens of the internet would eventually react against and solve. “I used to say that the internet was going through its teenage years,” Kleinrock tells me. “But I don’t say that anymore.” He now speaks resignedly about an internet that is inherently well-suited to be a playground for the worst instincts of human beings. He sees the inherent fault of these places as social spaces is users’ anonymity and lack of accountability. Online, people can make statements and take actions without having to take personal responsibility for them, Kleinrock says. They often don’t have to put their reputation on the line in the same way they might in a physical public space. To remedy the problem of identity and accountability, Kleinrock says he once envisioned a digital reputation that would attach to a person’s online identity. Clearly that never occurred. But unlike the rarefied network of Kleinrock’s time, the internet has become a great democratizing force. As a publishing platform, it’s made regular people into journalists, videographers, and pundits. It’s made housewives into fashion influencers, and basement-bound gamers into celebrities.
This Alternative Search Engine Is Basically Google without the Privacy Headaches – (Fast Company – November 29, 2019)
Picture for a moment a version of Google Search that barely evolved from its early years. Instead of a results page cluttered by informational widgets, this one would primarily link out to other sites. And instead of tracking your search history for ad targeting purposes, this search engine would be decidedly impersonal. It turns out that such a thing exists today in Startpage, a Netherlands-based Google search alternative that emphasizes privacy. While it’s not the only privacy-first search engine—DuckDuckGo is a better-known example—Startpage is the only one whose search results come from Google, due to a unique and longstanding agreement in which Startpage pays the search giant to get a feed of links for any search. The result is a search engine that feels a lot like Google did before it leaned into personalized search and advertising—and all of its requisite data collection—about 15 years ago.
American Trash – (The Verge – December 4, 2019)
Electronics can be hazardous when disposed of improperly, and the Basel Action Network, or BAN, investigates the underground world of the e-waste trade. The nonprofit group secretly embeds trackers in discarded devices, then hands them to recyclers to see where they end up, exposing bad practices in the process. To handle its waste, the US has turned to other nations, funneling discarded electronics to South Asia and Africa, where laborers scrap products for salvageable metals. The workers might burn the material in the open air, or treat it in an acid bath, sifting through the remains for small amounts of potentially valuable metals, like gold. The results can be devastating. A 2007 study found that children in Guiyu, China, a hotspot for e-waste dumping at the time, had radically elevated levels of lead in their blood. In the same village, according to a 2008 study, dust contained heavy metals at a rate hundreds of times higher than nearby sites without e-waste dumping. In Agbogbloshie, Ghana, a BAN report found that a free-range egg contained toxins at a rate more than 200 times above European food safety standards. Several countries have come together to prevent the dumping of e-waste on other countries. In 1989, a United Nations treaty known as the Basel Convention was set up to regulate the export of hazardous material. The convention, which BAN is named after, requires a country to consent before being sent waste, and to dispose of junked electronics in an eco-friendly way. America is an extreme producer of e-waste, but has done next to nothing about regulating it. Despite signing on to the convention, the country has failed to ratify it, and nearly all e-waste can be lawfully shipped overseas, more than 30 years after the first countries agreed to abide by the Basel Convention. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its careful detailing of an e-waste sting and what that uncovered.)
Germany Is Closing All Its Nuclear Power Plants. Now It Must Find a Place to Bury the Deadly Waste for 1 Million Years – (CNN – November 30, 2019)
Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters — roughly six Big Ben clock towers — of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? The seven power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022. With their closure comes a new challenge — finding a permanent nuclear graveyard by the government’s 2031 deadline. Currently, high-level radioactive waste is stored in temporary facilities, usually near the power plant it came from. There are dozens of these temporary storage sites dotted across Germany. The search is now on for a permanent home at least 1 kilometer underground. The technological challenges — of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans — are huge. But the most pressing challenge today might simply be finding a community willing to have a nuclear dumping ground in their backyard.
Rivers Could Generate Thousands of Nuclear Power Plants Worth of Energy, Thanks to a New ‘Blue’ Membrane – (Science Mag – December 4, 2019)
A new membrane could unlock the potential of “blue energy,” which uses chemical differences between fresh- and saltwater to generate electricity. If researchers can scale up the postage stamp–size membrane in an affordable fashion, it could provide carbon-free power to millions of people in coastal nations where freshwater rivers meet the sea. Blue energy’s promise stems from its scale: Rivers dump some 37,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater into the oceans every year. This intersection between fresh- and saltwater creates the potential to generate lots of electricity—2.6 terawatts, according to one recent estimate, roughly the amount that can be generated by 2000 nuclear power plants. By pumping the positive ions—like sodium or potassium—to the other side of a semipermeable membrane, researchers can create two pools of water: one with a positive charge, and one with a negative charge. If they then dunk electrodes in the pools and connect them with a wire, electrons will flow from the negatively charged to the positively charged side, generating electricity. In 2013, French researchers made just such a membrane. They used a ceramic film of silicon nitride—commonly used in industry for electronics, cutting tools, and other uses—pierced by a single pore lined with a boron nitride nanotube (BNNT), a material being investigated for use in high-strength composites, among other things. Because BNNTs are highly negatively charged, the French team suspected they would prevent negatively charged ions in water from passing through the membrane (because similar electric charges repel one another). Their hunch was right. They found that when a membrane with a single BNNT was placed between fresh- and saltwater, the positive ions zipped from the salty side to the fresh side, but the negatively charged ions were mostly blocked. The charge imbalance between the two sides was so strong that the researchers estimated a single square meter of the membrane—packed with millions of pores per square centimeter—could generate about 30 megawatt hours per year. That’s enough to power three homes. But creating even postage stamp–size films has proved impossible, because no one has figured out how to make all of the long, thin BNNTs line up perpendicular to the membrane. Until now.
Study Finds BPA Levels in Humans Dramatically Underestimated – (Washington State University – December 5, 2019)
Researchers have developed a more accurate method of measuring bisphenol A (BPA) levels in humans and found that exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical is far higher than previously assumed. The study, published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, provides the first evidence that the measurements relied upon by regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are flawed, underestimating exposure levels by as much as 44 times. BPA can be found in a wide range of plastics, including food and drink containers, and animal studies have shown that it can interfere with the body’s hormones. In particular, fetal exposure to BPA has been linked to problems with growth, metabolism, behavior, fertility and even greater cancer risk. Despite this experimental evidence, the FDA has evaluated data from studies measuring BPA in human urine and determined that human exposure to the chemical is at very low, and therefore, safe levels. This paper challenges that assumption and raises questions about other chemicals, including BPA replacements that are also assessed using indirect methods. Previously, most studies had to rely on an indirect process to measure BPA metabolites, using an enzyme solution made from a snail to transform the metabolites back into whole BPA, which could then be measured. This study used a newly developed direct way of measuring BPA that more accurately accounts for BPA metabolites, the compounds that are created as the chemical passes through the human body.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
We Just Got a Rare Look at National Security Surveillance. It Was Ugly. – (New York Times – December 11, 2019)
A long-awaited inspector general report about the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation became public this week. At more than 400 pages, the study amounted to the most searching look ever at the government’s secretive system for carrying out national-security surveillance on American soil. The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The inspector general found major errors, material omissions and unsupported statements about Mr. Page in the materials that went to the court. F.B.I. agents cherry-picked the evidence, telling the Justice Department information that made Mr. Page look suspicious and omitting material that cut the other way, and the department passed that misleading portrait onto the court. “The litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. Congress enacted FISA in 1978 to regulate domestic surveillance for national-security investigations — monitoring suspected spies and terrorists, as opposed to ordinary criminals. Investigators must persuade a judge on a special court that a target is probably an agent of a foreign power. In 2018, there were 1,833 targets of such orders, including 232 Americans. Most of those targets never learn that their privacy has been invaded, but some are sent to prison on the basis of evidence derived from the surveillance. And unlike in ordinary criminal wiretap cases, defendants are not permitted to see what investigators told the court about them to obtain permission to eavesdrop on their calls and emails.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
This Impeachment Is Different—and More Dangerous – (Politico – December 7, 2019)
Americans haven’t been this siloed since the Civil War. The nation has never entered impeachment proceedings in a media environment—and hence a political environment—like the current one. That difference will matter profoundly to our democracy. And as the process unfolds, it’s not just elected leaders but our media institutions that need to consider how to limit the potential damage. The impeachment of Donald Trump will happen in a radically new media environment. As information channels have multiplied, real “broadcast democracy”—the shared and broad engagement with a common set of facts —has disappeared. An abundance of choice means fewer focus on the news, and those who do are more engaged politically, and more partisan. In a study published last month, the research institute PRRI found that 55% of “Republicans for whom Fox News is their primary news source say there is nothing Trump could do to lose their approval, compared to only 29% of Republicans who do not cite Fox News as their primary news source.” That 26-point difference is driven not just by politics, but in part by the media source. This means that as the story of impeachment develops, it will be understood differently across the network-based tribes of America. Regardless of what happens, on one side, it will be justice delivered. On the other, justice denied. Sadly, the environment of our culture today leaves us less able to work through our fundamental differences than at any time in our past. Indeed, as difference drives hate, hate pays — at least it pays the media companies, and too many politicians. But the cost of this profit to the Republic will be profound. This article as it goes on to discuss how journalism could – and needs to – push opinion-based reporting to the side, and place journalism-based news in prime time. The media outlets must take responsibility for their audiences’ understanding the facts, more than simply rallying its side to its partisan understanding.
Documents Show US Leaders Misled Public on Progress in Afghanistan War – (The Hill – December 9, 2019)
Senior U.S. officials knowingly lied to the public about their progress throughout the 18-year war in Afghanistan, consistently painting a rosier picture of the state of the war than they knew to be true, according to a cache of documents obtained by the Washington Post (paywalled). In private interviews conducted by a watchdog that span the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations – which the Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request — U.S. officials frequently acknowledged a lack of understanding, strategy and progress in a war they regularly described publicly as being on the cusp of success. Interviewees also describe a deliberate disinformation campaign meant to spin discouraging statistics as evidence the U.S. was prevailing in the war. “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel and senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, said in an interview. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone,” he added. John Sopko, head of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which conducted the interviews, said the documents demonstrate “the American people have constantly been lied to” on Afghanistan. SIGAR conducted more than 600 interviews for a 2014 initiative called “Lessons Learned,” meant to avoid the mistakes of the Afghanistan war for future U.S. military campaigns. These interviews included Americans, NATO allies and Afghanistan officials. (Editor’s note: If you can possibly access the Post article, we urge you to read it.)
This Map Shows How the US Really Has 11 Separate ‘Nations’ with Entirely Different Cultures – (Business Insider – December 4, 2019)
In his fourth book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America, award-winning author Colin Woodard identifies 11 distinct cultures that have historically divided the US. “The country has been arguing about a lot of fundamental things lately including state roles and individual liberty,” said Woodard, a Maine native who won the 2012 George Polk Award for investigative reporting. “[But] in order to have any productive conversation on these issues,” he added, “you need to know where you come from.” Woodard also believes the nation is likely to become more polarized, even though America is becoming a more diverse place every day. He says this is because people are “self-sorting.” “People choose to move to places where they identify with the values,” Woodard says. “Red minorities go south and blue minorities go north to be in the majority. This is why blue states are getting bluer and red states are getting redder and the middle is getting smaller.” Woodard then goes on to characterize each “nation”. For example, encompassing the entire Northeast north of New York City and spreading through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Yankeedom values education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment, and citizen participation in government as a shield against tyranny. Yankees are comfortable with government regulation. Woodard notes that Yankees have a “Utopian streak” and that the area was settled by radical Calvinists. Not far away from Yankeedom, a highly commercial culture, New Netherland is “materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience,” according to Woodard. It is a natural ally with Yankeedom and encompasses New York City and northern New Jersey. The area was settled by the Dutch. The article goes on to delineate the other 9 “nations” of North America.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Behold, the Millennial Nuns – (HuffPost – July 11, 2019)
A 2008 Pew Research Center study found that Catholicism lost more adherents in the late 20th century than any other religion in the U.S. About a third of Americans raised Catholic reported that they had left the church. The contraction hit church staff, too—its priesthood and its community of nuns. In 1965, America had 180,000 perpetually professed Catholic sisters, the technical term for women who have pledged their lives to chastity, poverty, obedience and serving the church. By 2010, that number tanked to fewer than 50,000. In 2009, more Catholic sisters in America were over 90 years old than under 60. After 50 years of decline, the number of young women “discerning the religious life”—or going through the long process of becoming a Catholic sister—is substantially increasing. In 2017, 13% of women from age 18 to 35 who answered a Georgetown University-affiliated survey of American Catholics reported that they had considered becoming a Catholic sister. That’s more than 900,000 young women, enough to repopulate the corps of “women religious” in a couple of decades, even if only a fraction of them actually go through with it. And the aspiring sisters aren’t like the old ones. They’re more diverse: 90% of American nuns in 2009 identified as white; last year, fewer than 60% of new entrants to convents did. They’re also younger: The average age for taking the final step into the religious life a decade ago was 40. Today, it’s 24. They’re disproportionately middle children, often high-flying and high-achieving. (Editor’s note: This is an interesting article, not only for its focus on Millennial women interested in joining a religious order but for its insights into the Millennial mindscape in general.)
Researchers Find a Remarkable Ripple Effect When You Give Cash to Poor Families – (NPR – December 2, 2019)
Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in a novel approach to helping the world’s poor: Instead of giving them goods like food or services like job training, just hand out cash — with no strings attached. Now a major new study suggests that people who get the aid aren’t the only ones who benefit. Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the study, says that until now, research on cash aid has almost exclusively focused on the impact on those receiving the aid. And a wealth of research suggests that when families are given the power to decide how to spend it, they manage the money in ways that improve their overall well-being: Kids get more schooling; the family’s nutrition and health improves. “There’s a fear that you just have more dollars chasing around the same number of goods, and you could have price inflation,” says Miguel. “And that could hurt people who didn’t get the cash infusion.” So Miguel and his collaborators teamed up to conduct an experiment with one of the biggest advocates of cash aid. It’s a charity called GiveDirectly that, since 2009, has given out more than $140 million to impoverished families in various African countries. Eighteen months on, the researchers found that, as expected, the families who got the money used it to buy lots more food and other essentials. But that was just the beginning. “That money goes to local businesses,” says Miguel. “They sell more. They generate more revenue. And then eventually that gets passed on into labor earnings for their workers.” The net effect: Every dollar in cash aid increased total economic activity in the area by $2.60. Miguel notes that, in the competition between traditional aid programs and cash aid, “cash just became a lot more effective.”
A.I. Could Bring a Sea Change in How People Experience Religious Faith – (Slate – November 30, 2019)
The Michigan-based company Covenant Eyes markets itself to Christians who want to stop viewing pornography. Its software takes screenshots of a user’s screen activity, uses A.I. to scan it for pornographic imagery, and then sends regular reports to the user and a designated “ally” who has agreed to hold him accountable. The company’s name comes from a Bible verse that reads, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” Everyone wants technology to reflect their own worldview, and religious conservatives are no exception. The problem of A.I.’s ability to buttress or erode religious values is one that religious conservatives are already grappling with on their own. Earlier this year, the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, published a statement on artificial intelligence that struck a cautiously optimistic tone. “When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him,” its authors wrote. But religiously motivated uses of A.I. and surveillance technology are inevitable—in fact, plenty already exist. One company provides facial recognition technology to churches so they can keep track of member attendance. Smartphones are a fixture in church services, many large churches have their own apps, and millions of people read the Bible on screens instead of in print. The Church of England recently developed an Alexa “skill” that reads prayers, answers questions like “Who is God?,” and helps users locate nearby churches. The Vatican now sells a $110 “eRosary” bracelet that encourages Catholics to pray and logs their progress as they do so. Some of these innovations are gimmicks, but others suggest changes in the way people experience religious faith, both privately and in community. See also the short story, “A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Robot Walk Into a Bar.”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Our Place in the Universe Will Change Dramatically in the Next 50 Years – (PhysOrg – November 29, 2019)
The title of this article is not exactly accurate: what will change is not our place in the universe, but our understanding of it. The twentieth century completely turned physics on its head. A huge number of theoretical and experimental discoveries have transformed our understanding of the universe, and our place within it. Don’t expect this century to be any different. The universe has many mysteries that still remain to be uncovered—and new technologies will help us to solve them over the next 50 years. The first concerns the fundamentals of our existence. Physics predicts that the Big Bang produced equal amounts of the matter and something called antimatter. But so far we haven’t been able to locate the antimatter. Three new colliders will likely change that in the coming decades. Just as much remains to be discovered on the cosmic scale—not least the age-old question of whether we’re alone in the universe. To date, the search for life on planets in other star systems has so far not borne fruit. But the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2021, will revolutionize the way that we detect habitable exoplanets.
Astronomers Find Stellar Black Hole So Large It Shouldn’t Exist – (Engadget – December 1, 2019)
Chinese-led researchers have detected a stellar black hole in the Milky Way with a mass so large that it breaks current stellar evolution models. LB-1, a black hole 15,000 light-years away, has a mass 70 times greater than that of the Sun — previous estimates suggested that no stellar black hole would have more than 20 times the Sun’s mass. Scientists expected many dying stars to shed most of their gas, making something this large impossible without readjusting theories. That, consequently, could change how humanity understands galactic activity on a broader level.
Parker Solar Probe Reveals Major New Insights on the Sun – (Room – December 6, 2019)
Launched in August 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe that is packed with cutting-edge scientific instruments to measure the environment around the spacecraft, has completed three of 24 planned passes through never-before-explored parts of the Sun’s corona. Seen near Earth, the solar wind plasma appears to be a relatively uniform flow with an occasional turbulent tussle going on. But from an earthly point of view, 90 million miles away, the traces of the exact mechanisms for heating and accelerating the solar wind have long since dissipated. From the close-up position of the spacecraft however, Parker has revealed that the sun’s rotation impacts the solar wind much farther away than previously thought. “To our great surprise, as we neared the sun, we’ve already detected large rotational flows – 10 to 20 times greater than what standard models of the sun predict,” said Justin Kasper, a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan who serves as principal investigator for Parker’s Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) instrument suite. “So we are missing something fundamental about the sun, and how the solar wind escapes. This has huge implications. Space weather forecasting will need to account for these flows if we are going to be able to predict whether a coronal mass ejection will strike Earth, or astronauts heading to the moon or Mars,” Kasper said.
World-first Space Debris Removal Mission to Launch in 2025 – (New Atlas – December 9, 2019)
Space debris is a major problem with thousands of active and inactive satellites, rocket stages, and general rubbish ranging in size down to paint flecks circling the Earth at hypersonic speeds. With mega-constellations of new satellites planned to be placed in already crowded orbital regions, the threat of collisions that could lead to a catastrophic cascade of destruction increases. Even today, it’s recognized that the only way to decrease the threat is by actively removing defunct satellites and other debris from orbit. The European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned the world’s first mission to recover a piece of space debris in orbit. At the end of November, the space agency’s Ministerial Council consortium awarded a service contract to a consortium led by Swiss startup ClearSpace. The ClearSpace-1 mission set to launch in 2025 will intercept and collect a rocket upper stage from a previous ESA mission as part of a project to jump-start the market for the servicing and disposal of orbiting payloads. Part of ESA’s Space Safety program, ClearSpace-1 is tasked with demonstrating the technology that could be developed for a full program of debris clean up. Under international law, satellites are the property and responsibility of those who sent them up, so the test target is ESA’s Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA) upper stage. It was selected because it weighs only 220 lb and has a simple shape and sturdy construction.
Explosive Growth in Screen Use by Toddlers, Studies Say – (CNN – November 25, 2019)
Use of screen time explodes between 12 months and three years in the United States. Nearly 4,000 upstate New York mothers were asked about the level of screen use by their children at 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months of age. Those answers were then compared to the results of similar questions when the children were 7 and 8 years old. Researchers showed that daily use of television, computers and mobile devices by children increased three fold from age 12 months to three years, from an average of 53 minutes at 12 months to more than 150 minutes. Children were twice as likely to be in the highest screen use group if they were a first child, a twin, were in home-based care or their parents only attended high school, the study found. The American Academy of Pediatrics says no baby under 18 months should be exposed to a screen except for face-to-face family interactions. Children between 18 months and 5 years of age should only be exposed to one hour a day, preferably with parents or caregivers who interact with them about the content on the screen. See also: Why we should stop calling it ‘screen time’ to our kids.
As Baby Boomers Retire, Main Street Could Face a Tsunami of Change – (CNBC – December 10, 2019)
Boomers own 2.34 million small businesses in the United States, employing more than 25 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Twenty-five million workers equates to 25 million families, which in the larger picture is closer to 100 million people. Tens of millions of additional vendors, suppliers, partners, independent contractors, gig workers and others rely on these boomer-owned small businesses to stay in business and are interdependent on one another’s existence and welfare. But a recent survey by Wilmington Trust shows that more than 58% of small business owners have not only failed to complete a succession plan, many have not even contemplated a transition or succession plan at any time along the way. The impact on the US economy as boomers age, run into health problems, burn out or hit significant marketplace hurdles is potentially catastrophic to our economy. Another conundrum is the fact that millennials and others in future generations are not interested in running the family business. Younger generations are looking at the sacrifices made by their boomer parents or grandparents and are not as eager to bear the burden of owning and running a business well into their 70s. To make matters worse, many boomer-owned small businesses (and closely-held companies in general) have the lion’s share of their overall net worth tied up in their companies, so if enterprise value diminishes, so does their ability and willingness to retire. Where will all of these small businesses go as their owners age? Who or what will buy them? Politicians seem to think that “private equity” will just buy everything eventually, but many of these companies are simply too small to be on the radar screens or meet the deal criteria of even the smallest of funds.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
An Electron Highway Headed for Methanol – (PhysOrg – November 28, 2019)
Methanol is used in a variety of products, including antifreeze, paint thinners, and glass cleaners. It is also used to produce biodiesel fuel, plastics, plywood, and permanent-press clothing. Making methanol just got a lot easier, now that chemists at Yale have opened up a new electron highway. The discovery, published online Nov. 27 in the journal Nature, finds a novel solution for two chemical tasks: producing methanol—a volatile, liquid fuel that is prized by industry—and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yale researchers developed a catalyst that converts carbon dioxide and water into methanol using electricity. It’s a type of catalyst called a heterogeneous molecular electrocatalyst—”heterogeneous” because it’s a solid catalyst material operating in a liquid electrolyte, and “molecular” because the active site of the catalyst is a molecular structure. The distinct structure of the new catalyst is the key, said Hailiang Wang, an assistant professor of chemistry at Yale and member of the Energy Sciences Institute at Yale’s West Campus, who led the research. He and his team anchored individual molecules of cobalt phthalocyanine (or its derivative) onto the surface of carbon nanotubes, nanometer-sized tubes of rolled up graphene layers. The nanotubes act like a highway for electrons, creating a rapid and continuous delivery of electrons to the catalytic sites for converting carbon dioxide to methanol.
This Microbe No Longer Needs to Eat Food to Grow, Thanks to a Bit of Genetic Engineering – (Science – November 27, 2019)
Synthetic biologists re-engineered a bacterium that normally eats a diet of simple sugars into one that builds its cells by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), much like plants. The work could lead to engineered microbes that suck CO2 out of the air and turn it into medicines and other high-value compounds. “The implications of this are profound,” says Dave Savage, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved with the work. Such advances, he says, could “ultimately make us change the way we teach biochemistry.” Biologists typically break the world up into two types of organisms: “autotrophs” like plants and some bacteria that mostly use photosynthesis to convert CO2 into sugars and other organic compounds they need to build their cells. Meanwhile, the “heterotrophs” (that’s us and pretty much everything else) get those building blocks from the organisms they consume. Synthetic biologists have long tried to engineer plants and autotrophic bacteria to produce valuable chemicals and fuels from water and CO2, because it has the potential to be cheaper than other routes. But so far they’ve been far more successful at getting the heterotrophic bacterium Escherichia coli—known to most people as the microbe that lives in our guts and sometimes triggers food poisoning—to produce ethanol and other desired chemicals more cheaply than other approaches. It’s not always cheap, however; these engineered E. coli strains must eat a steady diet of sugars, increasing the costs of the effort. Ron Milo, a synthetic biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues decided to see whether they could transform E. coli into an autotroph. To do so, they re-engineered two essential parts of the bacterium’s metabolism: how it gets energy and what source of carbon it uses to grow.
They See You When You’re Shopping – (New York Times – November 26, 2019)
In an office building on the waterfront in Jersey City, N.J., a screen is displaying technology from Powerfront. Through its flagship product, Inside, businesses — most of them luxury brands — can see, chat with and track online shoppers. The program allows Powerfront’s clients to treat shoppers as if they were in a bricks-and-mortar store. Powerfront said it processes the information of about 20 million unique customers from 400 clients every 24 hours. Most people have become resigned to companies tracking them online, collecting their searches and analyzing their browsing. But Powerfront’s visualization, and its Pixar-like avatars, drive home the sheer amount of personal information available to brands every minute. Purchasing is emotional, so Powerfront also measures how shoppers are feeling during their chats with customer-service agents. Through an analysis of their words, the movement of their cursors and other “personalized data,” the platform creates profiles of shoppers’ moods. Powerfront does keep a record of customers’ past sentiments. And the company has access to an extraordinary amount of information. It not only knows when consumers are buying blouses, but also their favorite styles and fits. It has a God’s eye view of how consumers interact with many luxury brands. “It is one thing to think, ‘O.K., somehow my clicks are being recorded somewhere,’” said Christine Bannan, a consumer protection lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “But to think of an individual sales rep watching all of your clicks, I think it will resonate with people that this sort of tracking is so prevalent and what it really means. It makes it less abstract.”
Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance – (Electronic Frontier Foundation – December 2, 2019)
Trackers are hiding in nearly every corner of today’s Internet, which is to say nearly every corner of modern life. The average web page shares data with dozens of third-parties. The average mobile app does the same, and many apps collect highly sensitive information like location and call records even when they’re not in use. Tracking also reaches into the physical world. Shopping centers use automatic license-plate readers to track traffic through their parking lots, then share that data with law enforcement. Businesses, concert organizers, and political campaigns use Bluetooth and WiFi beacons to perform passive monitoring of people in their area. Retail stores use face recognition to identify customers, screen for theft, and deliver targeted ads. The tech companies, data brokers, and advertisers behind this surveillance, and the technology that drives it, are largely invisible to the average user. Corporations have built a hall of one-way mirrors: from the inside, you can see only apps, web pages, ads, and yourself reflected by social media. But in the shadows behind the glass, trackers quietly take notes on nearly everything you do. These trackers are not omniscient, but they are widespread and indiscriminate. The data they collect and derive is not perfect, but it is nevertheless extremely sensitive. This paper will focus on corporate “third-party” tracking: the collection of personal information by companies that users don’t intend to interact with. It will shed light on the technical methods and business practices behind third-party tracking. For journalists, policy makers, and concerned consumers, we hope this paper will demystify the fundamentals of third-party tracking, explain the scope of the problem, and suggest ways for users and legislation to fight back against the status quo. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its ability to shine a light in places that are usually dark to customers, consumers, and users.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Why We’re So Upset about the $120,000 Banana on the Wall – (National – December 8, 2019)
Marshall McLuhan once said, “Art is anything you can get away with.” That certainly seems to be the case for Maurizio Cattelan. His recent work, Comedian – a real banana duct-taped to a wall – has been causing a stir at the Perrotin Gallery booth at Art Basel Miami Beach, mainly because of its $120,000 price tag. Even before the art fair opened to the public, two editions of the work were already sold to VIP collectors for the asking price and a third edition was recently bought for $150,000 (the artist and gallerist bumped up the price after seeing the demand). The whole thing seems to have touched a nerve. More than the disbelief is the amount of outrage. On Saturday, performance artist David Datuna took down the fruit and ate it front of a captive audience. The gallery, however, remains unfazed. They simply put up another banana on the wall. “[He] did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea,” said gallery director Lucien Terras. So what exactly is the idea? And it is worth $120,000? The gallery’s founder Emmanuel Perrotin has done much of the talking, or rather marketing, for the work. He has said that bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor.” Meanwhile, the New York Times has quoted him saying, “Maurizio forces us to question how value is placed on material goods. The spectacle… is as much a part of the work as the banana.” Indeed, spectacle is Cattelan’s style. He has produced taxidermies like Novecento, a horse hung from the ceiling; taped a man to a wall (A Perfect Day); and installed an 18-karat gold toilet in a museum (America). All this has earned him the label as the art world’s “jokester”. This time, despite the lack of stuffed animals or expensive materials, he still somehow caused a sensation. That says a lot about Cattelan’s cachet, and there is a sense of smug self-awareness on his part here. A lesser-known artist pulling the same stunt would probably receive no recognition or financial value. (Editor’s note: If you are not familiar with Cattelan, this interview with many photographs of his work explains a great deal. Cattelan is definitely an in-your-face artist, but he is not just flipping off the viewer.)
JUST FOR FUN
Museum of Underwater Art to Open on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – (Guardian – July 18, 2019)
Created by British sculptor and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor, the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) will feature partially and fully submerged installations and sculptures that will become sites for coral and marine life regeneration. The artworks will be at several locations along the Queensland coast, including the John Brewer Reef, and Magnetic Island, Palm Island and Townsville. The first, Ocean Siren, due to open in December 2019, is on the Strand in Townsville. The solar-powered sculpture of a young indigenous girl will change colour as a visual warning of critical warming, using live water-temperature data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It will be exposed at low tide and underwater at high tide. From a color-changing figure warning of warming seas to a sunken skeletal greenhouse encrusted with coral, a new museum of underwater art in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef marine park aims to raise awareness of the threatened ecosystem – and rehabilitate parts of the reef. Combining his skills as a sculptor, marine conservationist, underwater photographer and scuba-diving instructor, deCaires Taylor has been making underwater sculptures for over a decade. In 2006 he created the world’s first underwater sculpture park, in Grenada – the Molinere Underwater sculpture park and museum – and has since made sculpture parks around the world, including Cancún, Lanzarote and the Bahamas. See also this two minute YouTube clip about the museum. For something a little closer to home, see Noeel: Electric Eel Lights Up Christmas Tree In Tennessee.
A FINAL QUOTE
The future has a way of arriving unannounced. – George Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, 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