Volume 22, Number 4 – 2/15/19

Volume 22, Number 4 – 2/15/19       


Pacemakers could soon be powered by our heartbeats rather than batteries. A new chemical process could turn a quarter of our plastic waste into clean fuel. China is home to 5 of the top 10 EV companies in the world. Japan is in the grip of an elderly crime wave – the proportion of crimes committed by people over the age of 65 has been steadily increasing for 20 years.
by John L. Petersen

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.

Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:

Plan ahead! Linda Moulton Howe in March!

Ancient Aliens television personality and internationally known UFO researcher Linda Moulton Howe is coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 16th of March. Don’t miss her extraordinary presentation: “Is A. I. An Existential Threat To Human Existence?” You’ll be rather amazed – and certainly surprised – at her disclosure of where autonomous artificial intelligence is already being used and the situations where AI robots are currently programmed to make decisions about whether to kill someone . . . or not.

This will be a talk you’ll certainly want to hear.

All information can be found at



A Global Guide to State-Sponsored Trolling – (Bloomberg – July 19, 2018)
Only a few years after Twitter and Facebook were celebrated as the spark for democratic movements worldwide, states and their proxies are hatching new forms of digitally enabled suppression that were unthinkable before the age of the social media giants, according to evidence collected from computer sleuths, researchers and documents across more than a dozen countries. Combining virtual hate mobs, surveillance, misinformation, anonymous threats, and the invasion of victims’ privacy, states and political parties around the globe have created an increasingly aggressive online playbook that is difficult for the platforms to detect or counter. Some regimes use techniques like those Russia deployed to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, while others are riffing in homegrown ways. And an informal but burgeoning industry of bot brokers and trolls-for-hire has sprung up to assist. The efforts have succeeded in many cases, sending journalists into exile or effectively silencing online expression. In Venezuela, prospective trolls sign up for Twitter and Instagram accounts at government-sanctioned kiosks in town squares and are rewarded for their participation with access to scarce food coupons, according to Venezuelan researcher Marianne Diaz of the group @DerechosDigitales. A self-described former troll in India says he was given a half-dozen Facebook accounts and eight cell phones after he joined a 300-person team that worked to intimidate opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And in Ecuador, contracting documents detail government payments to a public relations company that set up and ran a troll farm used to harass political opponents. Many of those findings are contained in a report by a global group of researchers that uncovered evidence of state-sponsored trolling in seven countries, and Bloomberg reporters documented additional examples in several others. The report is by the Institute for the Future, a non-partisan, foresight research and public policy group based in Palo Alto, California. Almost two years in the making, the report grew out of an earlier project commissioned by Google but never published. Researchers for the company’s Jigsaw division, its technology incubator, documented vicious harassment campaigns that were intended to appear spontaneous but in fact had links to various governments. These campaigns often operate “under a high degree of centralized coordination and deploy bots and centrally-managed social media accounts designed to overwhelm victims and drown out their dissent,” according to an unpublished copy of the Google report. (Editor’s note: Here’s another article that pulls back the curtain; we recommend it.)


The Middle East Is Dotted With Thousands of Puzzling Kite-Shaped Structures – (Atlas Obscura – January 22, 2019)
In late 2017, it was announced that 400 elongated, stone-built structures, some the size of football fields, had been seen within Saudi Arabia’s inhospitable Harrat Khaybar, one of several volcanic fields (harrats) scattered throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The identification of these so-called “gates,” some of which may be up to 9,000 years old, generated significant media coverage. “What’s really fascinating to me,” says Michael Petraglia, professor of human evolution and prehistory at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, “is that structures like these occur throughout the Middle East.” In other words, the gates aren’t the only notable ancient constructions of this ilk in the region. These other enormous stone structures, comparable in size to the famous Nazca lines in the Andes, are known as “kites.” Thanks to aerial surveys, satellite imagery, and reports by those on the ground, researchers know that there are thousands of kites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and even as far afield as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. One of the first known written descriptions of them comes courtesy of the British Royal Air Force’s Flight-Lieutenant Percy Maitland, who serendipitously saw them a few years after the end of the First World War. Maitland describes seeing stone walls, both in lines and in radiating, more circular patterns, around 120 miles east of the Dead Sea in old lava fields. The nomadic Bedouin, he says, call them “The Works of the Old Men.” He mentions that the Arabs attribute them to Christians, which implies they are pre-Islam. Over time, it has emerged that the origin story of the kites stretches across many thousands of years of ancient human history, but three major questions remain: What were they used for, how old are they, and who built them?

Scientists Have Detected an Enormous Cavity Growing Beneath Antarctica – (Science Alert – January 31, 2019)
In the space of only decades, the continent has lost trillions of tons of ice. Now, a stunning new void has been revealed amidst this massive vanishing act, and it’s a big one: a gigantic cavity growing under West Antarctica that scientists say covers two-thirds the footprint of Manhattan and stands almost 984 ft tall. This huge opening at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier – dubbed the “most dangerous glacier in the world” – is so big it represents an overt chunk of the estimated 252 billion tons of ice Antarctica loses every year. Researchers say the cavity would once have been large enough to hold some 14 billion tonnes of ice. Even more disturbing, the researchers say it lost most of this ice volume over the last three years alone. “We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath it,” says glaciologist Eric Rignot from the University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. According to the readings, the hidden void is but one ice casualty among a “complex pattern of retreat and ice melt” that’s taking place at Thwaites Glacier, sectors of which are retreating by as much as 2,625 ft every year. The complex pattern the new readings reveal – which don’t fit with current ice sheet or ocean models – suggest scientists have more to learn about how water and ice interact with one another in the frigid but warming Antarctic environment.

Rare Egyptian Fossil Find Holds Clues About African Dinosaur Migration – (How Stuff Works – February 6, 2019)
The finding of a new dinosaur species is always cause for celebration. And on an academic level, recently discovered species can help us better understand the story of dinosaurian evolution. Occasionally, they provide clues to other mysteries as well. On Jan. 29, 2018, the scientific journal Nature published a study announcing that the remains of a previously unknown dinosaur had been found in Egypt. A long-necked herbivore, the beast’s been dubbed Mansourasaurus shahinae. Size-wise, it wasn’t too impressive, but the discovery still has a lot of scientists very excited. That’s because, by virtue of its age and anatomy, Mansourasaurus might settle a debate about where the African continent was located on Earth when the non-avian dinosaurs died out. We know that, due to plate tectonics, the continents are indeed moving along at a steady pace. And a century’s worth of research has allowed geologists to piece together the travel histories of major landmasses. Still, our knowledge does contain some gaps. Consider Africa. Roughly 300 million years ago, it was part of the supercontinent Pangea. This mega-landmass started to break apart 100 million years later. But we don’t know exactly what Africa was doing during certain stages of this process. Mansourasaurus offers a badly needed breakthrough in piecing together an answer.


Immune Cells in the Gut May Explain Why Some People Can’t Lose Weight – (NBC – January 30, 2019)
Experiments done in specially engineered mice found that certain immune cells in the small intestine tended to slow down metabolism and send ingested food to be stored as fat rather than converting it to energy. Mice engineered to lack these immune cells could consume diets high in fat, sugar and salt without developing conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, researchers reported. The hope, experts say, is that these findings will suggest ways to tweak something in the guts of people genetically programmed to have “thrifty” or slow metabolisms. Perhaps by bumping up levels of certain substances in the gut, metabolisms can be revved up to run hotter, thus allowing people to eat a little more without gaining weight. After the researchers had found the metabolism-slowing cells, Filip Swirski, an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School and a principle investigator at the Center for Systems Biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. and his team started to wonder why mice — and humans — would have a system that slowed the metabolism down. One possible reason is how humans evolved to survive food shortages over millions of years. It suggests an explanation for why some people tend to be overweight and some are resistant to becoming overweight. And it’s telling us that the story is way more complicated than a simple calculation of ‘calories in and calories out.

Scans Show Women’s Brains Remain Youthful As Male Brains Wind Down – (NPR – February 4, 2019)
Women tend to have more youthful brains than their male counterparts – at least when it comes to metabolism. While age reduces the metabolism of all brains, women retain a higher rate throughout the lifespan, researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Females had a younger brain age relative to males,” says Dr. Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And that may mean women are better equipped to learn and be creative in later life, he says. The study came after Goyal and a team of researchers studied the brain scans of 205 people whose ages ranged from 20 to 82. Positron emission tomography scans of these people assessed metabolism by measuring how much oxygen and glucose was being used at many different locations in the brain. The team initially hoped to use the metabolic information to predict a person’s age. Women’s brains appeared about four years younger, on average. But it’s still not clear why. “It makes us wonder, are hormones involved in brain metabolism and how it ages?” Goyal says. Or is it something else, like genetics? Whatever the cause, higher metabolism may give female brains an edge when it comes to learning and creativity in later life, Goyal says. “But it might also set up the brain for certain vulnerabilities,” he says, including a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. See also: Is this why women have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s? Scientists discover men have fewer dementia-causing proteins in their brains.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Could a New Approach Lead to a Breakthrough? – (Fortune – January 18, 2019)
In a small lab in Jackson Hole, Wyo., 65-year-old Paul Cox believes he’s closing in on a treatment that might prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And ALS. And a host of other neurodegenerative diseases, for that matter. Cox, we should point out, isn’t a neurologist. He isn’t a physician of any kind. He doesn’t work at a big drug company or an academic medical center or a government laboratory. His ideas come from so far outside the mainstream of neurological research that you might think he’s crazy or deluded or worse. But then, some very credible people think he might be on to something big—which might make the improbable, quixotic story you are about to read one of the most important as well. Working on a tiny budget, Cox has built a consortium of 50 scientists from a wide range of disciplines, who share their unpublished research with one another and push Cox’s theories in directions he never would have anticipated. Within this loose-knit group, the spirit of inquiry seems to thrive, uninhibited by strictures that rein in scientists in academic research centers and pharmaceutical labs. (Editor’s Note: If you have time for only one article in this issue of FE, choose this one; it might save your mind.)

Adults Sleep Better When They’re Rocked to Sleep Like Babies – (BGR – January 25, 2019)
For whatever reason, a gentle side-to-side motion seems to soothe small children and lull them off to dreamland. You wouldn’t exactly expect the same thing to work for a grown adult, but a new study suggests that rocking away while sleeping might actually have some huge benefits, including deeper sleep, waking up less, and even improved memory. Rocking a baby to sleep is easy because they’re so small, but rocking a full sized adult is a bit more challenging. To make it possible, researchers from the University of Geneva constructed a bed that slowly rocks back and forth on a large frame. To test whether rocking aids or hinders adult sleep, the team recruited 18 individuals to each spend a night in it. Equipped with electrodes to monitor brain activity, the participants dozed off while the researchers gathered data. Each person was asked to spend three nights in the bed. The first night was to help them feel comfortable, the second was used to monitor brain activity while rocking and sleeping and the third was a night in the same bed without the rocking movement. The team found that rocking while sleeping allowed the subjects to achieve deeper sleep and were less prone to waking up over the course of the night. The rocking was gentle enough so as to not cause a feeling of “sea sickness,” and the subjects experienced the deepest sleep during the rocking test. This more restful sleep promoted brain functions like memory, which was tracked using memory tests given to each participant. Replicating something similar in your own home would difficult, but it will be interesting to see if this becomes a new trend for people who value a good night’s sleep.

Inside the Push to Legalize Magic Mushrooms for Depression and PTSD – (Wired – February 7, 2019)
In North America, at least four organizations, each with unique strategies, are working to expand access to psilocybin for anyone with mental health issues, dying or not. These groups hope to undo decades of psilocybin prohibition by removing criminal penalties for possession or cultivation, or by providing access to psilocybin in a therapist’s offices, or both. They cite a small but growing body of research suggesting psychedelic drugs can, in fact, be medically beneficial with low potential for addiction or abuse. Some small studies suggest that psilocybin can alleviate obsessive-compulsive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, end-of-life anxiety, addiction, cluster headaches, and, yes, relieve pain. There’s also growing evidence that ingesting the drug can promote optimism and prosocial and mystical worldviews, and nurture well-being. The leaders of this movement include Compass Pathways, a UK startup developing psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression in North America and Europe. There are also two psilocybin grassroots movements, one in Oregon and another in Denver. If voters approve the Oregon Psilocybin Service Initiative in 2020, the state would develop a licensed psilocybin therapist industry and lower criminal penalties for growing or consuming mushrooms. Denver city voters may also get to decide whether to decriminalize personal possession and use of mushrooms—a voter initiative just gathered enough signatures to appear on the May ballot. Finally, there’s TheraPsil, a group of seven Canadian health care professionals who formally announced their intent to challenge the illegality of psilocybin by petitioning Health Canada to allow access to mushrooms in a medical setting for terminal patients. Compass, which has reaped about $31.5 million in Series A investment, is conducting two studies to see how viable psilocybin is for psychotherapy. The first, due to finish in early 2019, is a double-blind placebo-controlled trial planned with 90 healthy volunteers to evaluate cognitive and emotional function. The study is also helping to train Compass’ therapists. The Food and Drug Administration recently granted the company “breakthrough” therapy status for its second study, giving Compass priority review, following approval in August of a phase IIB clinical trial, designed to establish proper dosing.

Scientists Have Observed Epigenetic Memories Being Passed Down for 14 Generations – (Science Alert – April 27, 2018)
Last year, researchers discovered that environmentally induced epigenetic changes can be passed down for a whopping 14 generations in an animal – in this case being a dynasty of C. elegans nematodes (roundworms). To study how long the environment can leave a mark on genetic expression, a team led by scientists from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in Spain took genetically engineered nematode worms that carry a transgene for a fluorescent protein. When activated, this gene made the worms glow under ultraviolet light. (Article goes on to carefully explain the design of the experiments.) Then the team pushed the results even further – when they kept five generations of nematodes at 25° C (77° F) and then banished their offspring to colder temperatures, the worms continued to have higher transgene activity for an unprecedented 14 generations. That’s the longest scientists have ever observed the passing-down of an environmentally induced genetic change. Usually, environmental changes to genetic expression only last a few generations. “We don’t know exactly why this happens, but it might be a form of biological forward-planning,” said one member of the team, Adam Klosin from EMBO and Pompeu Fabra University, Spain. “Worms are very short-lived, so perhaps they are transmitting memories of past conditions to help their descendants predict what their environment might be like in the future,” added co-researcher Tanya Vavouri from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Spain.

Dartmouth Engineers Design Implantable Micro-Devices for Self-Charging Pacemakers – (Dartmouth News – January 24, 2019)
The over one million pacemakers implanted each year worldwide currently require an additional surgical procedure every 5–10 years to replace the batteries. Dartmouth engineering researchers, along with clinicians at UT Health San Antonio, have published promising results of a new way to power these and other implantable medical devices. The study investigates using a combination of thin-film energy conversion materials with a minimally-invasive mechanical design to enable self-charging batteries for a potentially wide-range of implantable devices including pacemakers and defibrillators. “We’re trying to solve the ultimate problem for any implantable biomedical device,” says Dartmouth engineering professor John X.J. Zhang, a lead researcher on the study. “How do you create an effective energy source so the device will do its job during the entire life span of the patient, without the need for surgery to replace the battery?” The work proposes a modification to existing pacemaker design that would harness the kinetic energy of the lead wire that’s attached to a beating heart and convert it into electricity to continually charge the batteries. The added material is a type of specialty polymer piezoelectric film called “PVDF” and, when designed with porous structures — either an array of small beams or a flexible cantilever — it can convert mechanical motion to electricity. The same modules could also be used as sensors which enable data collection for real-time monitoring of patients.


Massive Insect Decline Could Have Catastrophic Environmental Impact – (CNN – February 11, 2019)
More than 40% of insect species could become extinct in the next few decades, according to the “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” report, published in the journal Biological Conservation. Insect biomass is declining by a staggering 2.5% a year, a rate that indicates widespread extinctions within a century, the report found. In addition to the 40% at risk of dying out, a third of species are endangered — numbers that could cause the collapse of the planet’s ecosystems with a devastating impact on life on Earth. The report, co-authored by scientists from the universities of Sydney and Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, looked at dozens of existing reports on insect decline published over the past three decades, and examined the reasons behind the falling numbers to produce the alarming global picture. The repercussions of insect extinction would be “catastrophic to say the least,” according to the report, as insects have been at “the structural and functional base of many of the world’s ecosystems since their rise … almost 400 million years ago.” Key causes of the decline included “habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization,” pollution, particularly from pesticides and fertilizers, as well as biological factors, such as “pathogens and introduced species” and climate change. See also: Out-Of-Work Appalachian Coal Miners Train As Beekeepers To Earn Extra Cash.


‘Internet of Things’ Or ‘Vulnerability of Everything’? Japan Will Hack Its Own Citizens to Find Out – (CNN – February 1, 2019)
Children playing in a middle school gym in Indonesia; a man getting ready for bed in a Moscow apartment; an Australian family coming and going from their garage; and a woman feeding her cat in Japan. All of these were recently live on the internet to anyone who knew the right address, through cameras with little or no security, whose owners probably don’t realize they’re constantly broadcasting online. The rise of the “internet of things” (IOT) has flooded households and businesses across the world with poorly secured devices easily accessible online, from webcams and printers to “smart” fridges and speakers. Experts have been sounding the alarm for years, with little progress. So Japan will take the radical step of hacking its own citizens to try to alert them to the risks posed by their internet-enabled devices. Beginning on February 20, Japanese officials will start probing 200 million IP addresses linked to the country, sniffing out devices with poor or little security. A law was passed last year to enable the mass hack, as part of security preparations ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, two-thirds of cyber attacks in Japan in 2016 targeted IOT devices. Officials fear some kind of IOT-related attack could be used to target or disrupt the Olympics. As well as testing which servers have no security, the Japanese team will also test 100 common username and password combinations, such as “admin/admin” or “1234,” the MIAC said in a statement. Michael Gazeley, director of Hong Kong-based security firm Network Box, warned that, “The public at large is going to have to be extra vigilant. “How easy would it be to send someone (everyone) a phishing email, claiming to be from the government, saying, ‘Your IOT devices failed our testing, please click on this link to get updated,’ resulting in a huge number of successful hacks?”

The Insane Surveillance of your iPhone that Exposes You to Massive Risks – (Armstrong Economics – February 12, 2019)
There are a number of major companies who are now secretly recording your every move on their iPhone apps without your permission or even your knowledge. They are actually recording every keystroke you make. The list of companies includes Abercrombie & Fitch, Air Canada, Expedia, Hollister, Hotels.COM, and Singapore Airlines to mention a few. According to an investigation by App Analyst, they checked apps created by Glassbox by reviewing their listed customers to see exactly what data was leaving their iPhones and going back to the companies. According to TechCrunch, none of the apps that were checked bothered to tell the client that they were recording their screens or that they were sending the information back to each company. What is becoming painfully obvious is you should not use your phone for financial transactions — PERIOD! Additionally, get a cheap laptop and use that for any financial transactions with NO OTHER apps for movies, travel, or anything. Segregate your financial transactions from the rest of your activities. The TechCrunch research goes into this in much more depth.

Skype’s New Background Blur Helps You Avoid Cleaning Your House or Office – (The Verge – February 7, 2019)
Microsoft has added automatic background blur to Skype video calls this week. The new feature lets you blur out your background in a call, helping erase the clutter in your office or home. If you’ve ever worked from home or in a busy cafe, this feature is ideal if you want to magically remove distractions. It could even help out in embarrassing situations, like when kids interrupt a live Skype call. Microsoft says it’s using artificial intelligence to blur everything around you and keep you as the main focal point. Skype’s background blur should detect hands, arms, and hair to ensure it doesn’t blur out incorrect parts of your video call.


3 x 20ft Shipping Containers Turn into Amazing Compact Home – (YouTube – February 1, 2019)
An Australian couple have connected 3 shipping containers to produce a beautifully designed and executed home. This house utilizes a grid tied solar system, taking advantage of the extreme Australian sun. It also collects all its own water. This is high concept, hugely compact “modular housing” at its best. And, for a high end modular house, check out this one designed by an architect as a his family’s weekend getaway in the hills of Sonoma County.


Finally, Fusion Power Is about to Become a Reality – (Medium – January 3, 2019)
Researchers, like Dennis Whyte, a professor at MIT, know all too well the sardonic joke about their work: “Fusion is the energy source of the future, and it always will be.” That line took on an especially bitter edge one day in 2012, when the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would eliminate funding for MIT’s experimental fusion reactor. So Whyte thought about giving up. He looked for other things to focus on, “stuff that wasn’t as exciting, quite frankly,” but stuff that would be achievable. Instead, he and his colleagues and graduate students at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center figured out a new angle. And last winter, MIT declared that Whyte’s lab had a fundamentally new approach to fusion and threw its weight behind their plan with an unusually public bet, spinning out a company to capitalize on it. An Italian oil company and private investors — including a firm funded by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — put at least $75 million into the company, known as Commonwealth Fusion Systems [CFS]. The startup intends to demonstrate the workings of fusion power by 2025. Real, live, economically viable power plants could then follow in the 2030s. But it’s not just at MIT. At least 10 other startups also are trying new approaches to fusion power. All of them contend that it’s no longer a tantalizingly tricky science experiment, and is becoming a matter of engineering. If even just one of these ventures can pull it off, the energy source of the future is closer than it seems.

A New Chemical Process Could Turn a Quarter of Our Plastic Waste into Clean Fuel – (Technology Review – February 11, 2019)
Grocery bags and other trash could be melted down to yield useful products like oil and gas. The problem: The world’s landfill sites and oceans are being flooded with plastic. Currently, a mere 9% of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced over the last 65 years has been recycled, according to the United Nations. Over eight million tons of plastic flow into our oceans every year, harming wildlife. How it works: The technology works on polyolefin waste, the sort of plastic used for grocery bags, toys, and shrink wrap. This sort of plastic accounts for about 23% of plastic waste, according to researchers who describe the process in a paper published in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering. The new technique uses a process called hydrothermal liquefaction, in which very high temperatures melt pellets of polyolefin and then dissolve them in water. The by-products of this process are oil, gas, or solvents. From the abstract of the research paper: Preliminary analyses indicate that this conversion process is net-energy positive and potentially has a higher energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions than incineration and mechanical recycling.


Why China’s Electric-car Industry Is Leaving Detroit, Japan, and Germany in the Dust – (Technology Review – December 17, 2018)
By the early ’80s, foreign automakers were allowed into China on the condition that they form a joint venture with a Chinese partner. These Chinese firms, by working with foreign companies, would eventually gain enough knowledge to function independently. Or so the theory went. Carmakers in the US and Europe had too much of a head start for China to catch up. The only way to outdo the rest of the world, then, was to bet on a whole new technology. Enter electric vehicles, which require less mechanical complexity and rely more on electronic prowess. A Chevrolet Bolt’s electric engine contains just 24 moving segments. In comparison, a Volkswagen Golf’s combustion engine has 149. Meanwhile, China already had an electronic manufacturing supply chain in place from its years of producing the world’s batteries, phones, and gadgets. Now the Chinese government is embracing the shift from combustion to electric engines in a way no other country can match. It’s made electric vehicles one of the 10 pillars of Made in China 2025—a state-led plan for the country to become a global leader in high-tech industries—and enacted policies to generate demand. “The world needs a different way of powering the economy,” says Bill Russo, CEO of the Shanghai consultancy firm Automobility. “China recognizes it can’t be dependent on fossil fuels—it will choke on its own fumes.” To combat pollution, the number of license plates issued each year is strictly limited. Beijing awards them through a lottery, but the chance of getting one in any given year is now 0.2%. Shanghai sells them at an auction with prices of over $14,000, more than the price of many domestically produced cars. Electric-vehicle plates are not only faster to get; they’re free. China is home to 5 of the top 10 electric vehicle manufacturing companies in the world.


The US-China Fight over 5G Is Also about the Future of Warfare – (Inkstone – February 1, 2019)
To most people, 5G networks – the fifth generation of mobile communications – which will be at least 20 times faster than the most advanced networks today, may just mean faster movie downloads. But what puts 5G at the center of a new tech arms race between the United States and China is also its role as the cornerstone of future military technology. Whereas existing networks connect people to people, 5G will connect a vast network of sensors, robots and autonomous vehicles through sophisticated artificial intelligence. And military equipment embedded with communication devices will be all the more efficient. Which means faster, deadlier, less human warfare. “The 5G network and the internet of things enlarge and deepen the cognition of situations in the battlefield by several orders of magnitude and produce gigantic amounts of data, requiring AI to analyze and even issue commands,” said Dr Clark Shu, an AI and telecommunication researcher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. Using 5G, data can be transmitted at up to 10 gigabytes per second, far faster than using a 4G network, and response times will be 1% those of 4G. Communication can take place from device to device, without satellites or early-warning planes, saving those limited resources for other uses and significantly lowering the cost of a military operation, according to a 2017 report in China Defence News, a mouthpiece of China’s People’s Liberation Army. But all this potential comes with geopolitical implications, especially given a China that has increasingly been flexing its military muscle. Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei has launched a chip that it claimed to be the world’s most powerful 5G modem. A report last year to the White House by the US’ National Security Council called for action and a strategy to “protect US technology leadership” and prevent China from challenging US dominance in tech. The lines of 21st-century battle have been drawn, and they’re completely invisible.

DARPA Wants to Build Conscious Robots Using Insect Brains – (Futurism – January 12, 2019)
The Pentagon thinks bugs could hold the secrets to conscious experience. The Pentagon’s emerging technologies unit has put out a call for proposals that use insect brains to control robots — because they could be used to create efficient new models for artificial intelligence, but also because they could be used to explore the meaning of consciousness.“Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form-factor, while maintaining basic functionality,” reads a document in the proposal. “Furthermore, these organisms are possibly able to display increased subjectivity of experience.” It goes on to say that there’s evidence suggesting that “even small insects have subjective experiences, the first step towards a concept of ‘consciousness.’” DARPA is offering $1 million to the company it awards the insect brain proposal to. First the winning bidder will need to complete a feasibility study on mapping an insect’s central intelligence system. Then it will need to create a “proof of concept” platform that uses the insect brain architecture to create “more capable AI hardware.” See also this article published in Scientific Advances: Numerical Cognition in Honeybees Enables Addition and Subtraction.


It’s Time to End Unnecessary Wars – (The Hill – February 12, 2019)
This op-ed piece was written by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis., Ret. In his address to Congress, Trump detailed the enormous cost the United States has borne in blood and treasure over the “almost 19 years” American troops have been fighting in Afghanistan. Trump has directed his administration to “reach a political settlement,” by holding “constructive talks with…the Taliban,” but, predictably, this progress has received pushback from those voices in Washington who would happily keep American troops in Afghanistan forever. In December, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) possibly the most outspoken advocate of remaining in Afghanistan indefinitely, warned that getting out would likely “pave the way to a second 9/11.” In an attempt to avoid the appearance of advocating permanent war, however, Graham added that “troop withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground,” and that “at the present…American troop withdrawals [would be] a high-risk strategy.” Yet aside from the fact that troops on the ground do virtually nothing to prevent a new 9/11, it is precisely an assessment of realities on the ground that argues most persuasively for a complete withdrawal. As I observed, painfully, during my second combat deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 to 2011, it is a virtual impossibility for U.S. troops to locate and identify who among the local population is an insurgent or terrorist and who is simply a law-abiding citizen. Even when we were attacked, unless we caught the Taliban in the act, it was near-impossible to capture or kill the real perpetrators. I can personally attest to the fact having American boots on the ground in Afghanistan does virtually nothing to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States. And bear in mind there are scores of nations around the world plagued with a high terrorist presence; U.S. troops cannot possibly occupy them all. The truth is, we don’t need to occupy any of them to keep us safe here. American security would be better served by ending the wasteful practice of billions annually on reckless and futile military interventions. To stop the pointless sacrifice of American blood abroad, we must end our “endless wars.” It’s past time to end the war in Afghanistan. Our safety is already effectively ensured by means other than occupying foreign lands. It is time to acknowledge the reality on the ground and stop wasting our most precious resources on peripheral military missions that cannot succeed and come at great cost to the United States.

TAKEN: How Police Departments Make Millions by Seizing Property – (Greenville News – January 27, 2019)
In South Carolina, civil forfeiture targets black people’s money most of all, exclusive investigative data shows. The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail examined every court case involving civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina from 2014-2016. Our examination was aimed at understanding this little-discussed, potentially life-changing power that state law holds over citizens — the ability of officers to seize property from people, even if they aren’t charged with a crime. The resulting investigation became TAKEN, a statewide journalism project with an exclusive database and in-depth reporting. It’s the first time a comprehensive forfeiture investigation like this has been done for an entire U.S. state, according to experts. The TAKEN team scoured more than 3,200 forfeiture cases and spoke to dozens of targeted citizens plus more than 50 experts and officials. Additionally, the team contacted every law enforcement agency in the state. This yielded a clear picture of what is happening: Police are systematically seizing cash and property — many times from people who aren’t guilty of a crime — netting millions of dollars each year. South Carolina law enforcement profits from this policing tactic: the bulk of the money ends up in its possession. The original intent was to give law enforcement a tool to use against nefarious organizations by grabbing the fruits of their illegal deeds and using the proceeds to fight more crime. But that’s not how the law is being used. Officers gather in places like Spartanburg County for contests with trophies to see who can make the largest or most seizures during highway blitzes. They earn hats, mementos and free dinners, and agencies that participate take home a cut of the forfeiture proceeds. That money adds up. Over three years, law enforcement agencies seized more than $17 million, our investigation shows. These seizures leave thousands of citizens without their cash and belongings or reliable means to get them back. They target black men most, our investigation found — with crushing consequences when life savings or a small business payroll is taken. Many people never get their money back. Or they have to fight to have their property returned and incur high attorney fees.


Trump/Bolton Threatens ICC Judges: Senior Judge Resigns, Cites US Interference – (Veterans Today, January 30, 2019)
A senior judge has resigned from the UN International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, after the United States threatened judges investigating alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. The judge, Christoph Flügge, has worked with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) since 2008. More recently, he has been involved with preliminary investigations into claims that US military service members and CIA operatives tortured prisoners in Afghanistan. Flügge told German newspaper Zeit that he handed in his resignation after open threats from US officials, including a speech by hawkish national security adviser John Bolton last September. Bolton’s speech was delivered in September to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, DC. It came a year after the ICC began investigating claims that at least 61 detained persons in Afghanistan had been tortured by American troops and another 27 by the CIA at secret prisons in Afghanistan and abroad, according to prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The senior US official also vowed to defend Israeli citizens from the court. US “friend and ally” Israel was at the time accused of perpetrating war crimes against Palestinian civilians. He warned that the US would disregard arrest warrants, ban judges and prosecutors from entering the country, and even try them in American courts. Flügge said his colleagues were “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery,” but added “it is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”

Apple, Google Both Hosting Saudi Government App That Lets Men Track Women, Restrict Their Travel – (Gizmodo – February 12, 2019)
Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store both continue to host a Saudi government app, Absher, that allows men in the country to track their female relatives’ movements and restrict their travel. The Saudi Interior Ministry-designed app serves as an e-government and e-services portal, including functions like requesting a passport, birth certificate, vehicle registration, or other documentation. It also allows for male Saudis “to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel.” Absher can be used to restrict which destinations Saudi women can travel to, as well as prevent them from traveling anywhere outside the country at all, and the SMS notification system is used to alert the men if the women try to leave on their own. That’s a pretty big deal, given that women in Saudi Arabia live under a patriarchal “guardanship” system which requires them to be a legal dependent of a man—and get that man’s permission to attend school, manage their work and finances, marry, and travel abroad or in public. Women are also required to have male chaperones in many situations and have fewer legal rights than men, and they can be arrested for “disobedience.” Absher certainly appears to automate elements of this system, and as the Post noted, the ministry claims it has 11 million users. Critics say the app violates policies on both stores, such as those against bullying and harassment.


Why Some Japanese Pensioners Want to Go to Jail – (BBC News – January 31, 2019)
Japan is in the grip of an elderly crime wave – the proportion of crimes committed by people over the age of 65 has been steadily increasing for 20 years. At a halfway house in Hiroshima – for criminals who are being released from jail back into the community – 69-year-old Toshio Takata tells the author of this piece that he broke the law because he was poor and wanted somewhere to live free of charge, even if it was behind bars. Takata explained, “So I took a bicycle and rode it to the police station and told the guy there: ‘Look, I took this.'” The plan worked. This was Toshio’s first offence, committed when he was 62, but Japanese courts treat petty theft seriously, so it was enough to get him a one-year sentence. Small, slender, and with a tendency to giggle, Toshio looks nothing like a habitual criminal, much less someone who’d threaten women with knives. But after he was released from his first sentence, that’s exactly what he did. “I went to a park and just threatened them. I wasn’t intending to do any harm. I just showed the knife to them hoping one of them would call the police. One did.” Altogether, Toshio has spent half of the last eight years in jail. His pension continues to be paid even while he’s inside. “It’s not that I like it but I can stay there for free,” he says. “And when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful.” And like Toshio, many of the elderly lawbreakers are repeat offenders. Of the 2,500 over-65s convicted in 2016, more than a third had more than five previous convictions. Another example is Keiko (not her real name). Seventy years old, small, and neatly presented, she also tells me that it was poverty that was her undoing. “I couldn’t get along with my husband. I had nowhere to live and no place to stay. So it became my only choice: to steal,” she says. “Even women in their 80s who can’t properly walk are committing crime. It’s because they can’t find food, money.” Theft, principally shoplifting, is overwhelmingly the biggest crime committed by elderly offenders. They mostly steal food worth less than 3,000 yen (£20) from a shop they visit regularly.


New Star Map Reveals the Milky Way Is Warped – (Gizmodo – February 4, 2019)
Scientists have known since the 1950s that the spiral-shaped Milky Way’s disk is warped, bending by thousands of light-years at its outskirts. Now, researchers have created a map of stars called Cepheid variables in order to create a 3D map of our galaxy and understand the warping better than ever. Though past analysis has established that the hydrogen gas in our galaxy takes on a warped shape, questions have remained as to whether stars follow the same shape or not. So the researchers from universities in China and Australia built a model of the Milky Way’s disk using a well-known distance measure: stars called Cepheid variables. The stars appeared to take on the same shape as the hydrogen gas, warping out to around 50,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s center. However, the hydrogen gas appears to warp more than the stars do, specifically on one of the disk’s sides. The warping might sound strange compared to common assumptions about how the Milky Way looks, but isn’t a huge surprise. Scientists have observed other similarly warped galactic disks, and the team inferred that the rotational forces from the inner galaxy were producing the warped shape. But the research solidifies something that you might not know about our galaxy—if you picture it as a beautiful, flat spiral akin to images of Andromeda, it’s time to repaint that picture as a floppy, curved disk of stars and gas.

NASA: Icy Object Past Pluto Looks Like Reddish Snowman – (AP – January 3, 2019)
A NASA spacecraft 4 billion miles from Earth has yielded its first close-up pictures of the most distant celestial object ever explored, depicting what looks like a reddish snowman. Ultima Thule, as the small, icy object has been dubbed, was found to consist of two fused-together spheres, one of them three times bigger than the other, extending about 21 miles in length. NASA’s New Horizons, the spacecraft that sent back pictures of Pluto 3½ years ago, swept past the ancient, mysterious object early on New Year’s Day. It is 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. The celestial body was nicknamed Ultima Thule — meaning “beyond the known world” — before scientists could say for sure whether it was one object or two. With the arrival of the photos, they are now calling the bigger sphere Ultima and the smaller one Thule. Thule is estimated to be 9 miles across, while Ultima is thought to be 12 miles. Scientist Jeff Moore of NASA’s Ames Research Center said the two spheres formed when icy, pebble-size pieces coalesced in space billions of years ago. Then the spheres spiraled closer to each other until they gently touched — as slowly as parking a car here on Earth at just a mile or two per hour — and stuck together. The two-lobed object is what is known as a “contact binary.” It is the first contact binary NASA has ever explored. Having formed 4.5 billion years ago, when the solar system taking shape, it is also the most primitive object seen up close like this. See also: NASA Says Ultima Thule Actually Looks Like a Pancake And a Walnut.

Do You Like Earth’s Solid Surface and Life-inclined Climate? Thank Your Lucky (Massive) Star – (PhysOrg – February 11, 2019)
Earth’s solid surface and moderate climate may be due, in part, to a massive star in the birth environment of the Sun, according to new computer simulations of planet formation. Without the star’s radioactive elements injected into the early solar system, our home planet could be a hostile ocean world covered in global ice sheets. “The results of our simulations suggest that there are two qualitatively different types of planetary systems,” said Tim Lichtenberg of the National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS in Switzerland. “There are those similar to our solar system, whose planets have little water, and those in which primarily ocean worlds are created because no massive star was around when their host system formed.” Lichtenberg and colleagues, including University of Michigan astronomer Michael Meyer, were initially intrigued by the role the potential presence of a massive star played on the formation of a planet. Meyer said the simulations help solve some questions, while raising others. “It is great to know that radioactive elements can help make a wet system drier and to have an explanation as to why planets within the same system would share similar properties,” Meyer said. “But radioactive heating may not be enough. How can we explain our Earth, which is very dry, indeed, compared to planets formed in our models? Perhaps having Jupiter where it is was also important in keeping most icy bodies out of the inner solar system.” Researchers say while water covers more than two-thirds of the surface of Earth, in astronomical terms, the inner terrestrial planets of our solar system are very dry.


Super-rich Americans Are Getting Younger and Multiplying – (Bloomberg – January 23, 2019)
A survey of U.S. investors with $25 million or more finds their average age dropped by 11 years since 2014, to 47. These fabulously rich Americans, whose ranks have more than doubled since the depths of the Great Recession, are younger than less wealthy millionaires. The average age of those with at least a mere $1 million is 62, a number that hasn’t budged in years. The finding suggests a “vast generational transfer of wealth” is “just beginning,” said George Walper Jr., president of the Spectrem Group, which conducted the study. The sample size was small—185 Americans with more than $25 million in net worth—but the findings are consistent with other economic research on the top 0.1 percent. A new generation of millionaires and billionaires probably owe as much to inheritances as to self-made fortunes. “There may be more Mark Zuckerbergs at the top of the wealth distribution than in the 1960s, but also more Paris Hiltons,” University of California Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman wrote. About 172,000 U.S. households have a net worth of at least $25 million, Spectrem estimated last year. That’s up from 84,000 in 2008.


New Adaptive Fabric Cools Down as You Heat Up – (Scientific American – February 9, 2019)
Scientists have developed what they claim is the first textile that automatically changes its structure in response to outside conditions, releasing more heat as temperature and humidity rise. Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, led by YuHuang Wang and Ouyang Min, constructed this self-regulating fabric from infrared-sensitive yarn that reacts to temperature and humidity. When the microenvironment between a person’s skin and the garment changes, the strands constrict to vent more heat—or expand to hold that warmth closer to the body. The yarn’s responsiveness comes from its coating: The polymer fibers are covered with a thin layer of carbon nanotubes. When the wearer gets hot or sweaty, the carbon layer tightens, drawing the strands closer together and creating gaps in the fabric. This makes it more breathable, allowing heat to radiate so the wearer can cool down. If the microenvironment next to the skin becomes cold or dry, the fibers expand to capture heat. The researchers report the adaptive textile altered heat radiation by over 35%, adjusting for relative humidity. “Now you can have a one-base-layer garment that can keep you comfortable in a wider range of temperatures and wider range of activities,” Wang says. With help from industry, Wang plans to continue developing the adaptive textile. He hopes to test clothing made from it this year and eventually scale up production. Bringing it to the nearest sporting-apparel store, however, could be difficult: the challenge is in commercialization, cost and design capabilities of these new fibers.

Researchers Develop New Strategy for Detecting Consciousness – (Scientist – November 25, 2018)
In 2005, a 23-year-old woman in the UK was involved in a traffic accident that left her with a severe brain injury. Five months after the event, she slept and woke and could open her eyes, but she didn’t always respond to smells or touch or track things visually. In other words, she fit the clinical criteria for being in a vegetative state. In a study published in Science in 2006, a team of researchers tested her ability to imagine herself playing tennis or walking through her house while they observed activity in her brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Remarkably, her brain responded with activity in the same areas of the brains of healthy people when asked to do the same, indicating that she was capable of complex cognition, despite her apparent unresponsiveness at the bedside. The findings indicated that this patient and others like her may have hidden cognitive abilities that, if found, could potentially help them communicate or improve their prognosis. Since then, researchers and clinicians around the world have used task-based neuroimaging to determine that other patients who appear unresponsive or minimally conscious can do challenging cognitive tasks. The problem is that the tests to uncover hidden consciousness can be complex to analyze, expensive to perform, and hard for all patients to access. Now, Schiff and his colleagues have come up with an easier way to test for covert consciousness: measuring electroencephalogram (EEG) responses to human speech. It turns out that the EEG signatures of some patients with brain injuries in response to human speech look similar to those of healthy people. And the same patients whose brains react normally to human speech are also the ones able to do difficult cognitive tasks during fMRI. If this link between EEG results and hidden consciousness is validated in more people with brain injuries, evaluating the response to human speech with EEG could be a more affordable and accessible way to find patients whose cognitive capacity should be further examined.


A Prison Where the Inmates Have to Go and Find Jobs – (BBC News – February 4, 2019)
At Sanganer prison, in the Indian city of Jaipur, inmates get a roof over their head, but no money and no food. This means they must go to work and earn their living beyond the prison gates, writes Masuma Ahuja – as laborers, factory workers, drivers, even yoga teachers. Smita Chakraburtty is the woman behind a campaign to make open prisons the norm across India. “The criminal justice system addresses an incident… and doesn’t know what to do with an individual,” Chakraburtty argues. Her cause is gaining momentum: four other states in India established new open prisons last year. To get to Sanganer, they all have to have served at least two-thirds of their sentences in closed prisons, and they say that compared to those places, this is freedom. In fact, the government in Rajasthan has had to evict prisoners who didn’t want to leave. They had set up lives – stable jobs, schools for their children – in this neighbourhood, that they didn’t want to give up at the end of their sentences. Still, many prisoners noted that they struggle with outsiders’ perception of prison.

This City Made Access to Food a Right – (Nation of Change – January 30, 2019)
Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million people, once had 11% of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20% of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market – you are no less a citizen. The new mayor, Patrus Ananias – now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort – began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources – the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer markups on produce – which often reached 100% – to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food. In addition to the farmer-run stands, the city makes good food available by offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to bid on the right to use well-trafficked plots of city land for “ABC” markets, from the Portuguese acronym for “food at low prices.” Today there are 34 such markets where the city determines a set price – about two-thirds of the market price – of about 20 healthy items, mostly from in-state farmers and chosen by store owners. Everything else they can sell at the market price. “For ABC sellers with the best spots, there’s another obligation attached to being able to use the city land,” a former manager within this city agency, Adriana Aranha, explained. “Every weekend they have to drive produce-laden trucks to the poor neighborhoods outside of the city center, so everyone can get good produce.” Another product of food-as-a-right thinking is three large, airy People’s Restaurants (Restaurante Popular), plus a few smaller venues, that daily serve 12,000 or more people using mostly locally grown food for the equivalent of less than 50 cents a meal. The cost of these efforts? Around $10 million annually, or less than 2% of the city budget. That’s about a penny a day per Belo resident.

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

Emotional Support Alligator Offers Comfort, Sharp Teeth – (Stars and Stripes – January 14, 2019)
On a recent Monday afternoon, Joie Henney walked into the Glatfelter Community Center at the Village at Sprenkle Drive, an assisted-living development north of York, Pennsylvania with his emotional support animal on a leash. He walked by an elderly woman sitting on a bench by a window, reading a book. The woman glanced up from her book, took a look at Joie’s emotional support animal, shrugged and went back to her book. Which seemed kind of unusual. Joie’s emotional support animal is a four-and-a-half foot alligator. Joie paused in the hallway while residents and staff gathered in a semi-circle, an air of curiosity mixed with the terror of seeing a huge reptile, its sharp teeth visible inside its powerful jaws, and kept their distance. Joie said it was all right. Wally – that’s the gator’s name – wouldn’t hurt them. He’s a pretty mellow reptile, and he likes people in the companionship way, not the potential food way.

Utterly Unkillable Tardigrades Will Live to See Our Sun Die – (New Atlas – July 14, 2017)
In about 5 billion years’ time, our Sun will use up its reserves of hydrogen and begin to cool down and expand, cooking the Earth in a miasma of heat and radiation. Given our current trajectory, humans will probably be long gone by then, but at least one lifeform will likely still be plodding along: the utterly unkillable tardigrade. According to a new study from Harvard and Oxford, it’ll take nothing short of the death of the Sun to finally do the species in – which bodes well for the resilience of life as a whole. Tardigrades look a little strange but these microscopic creatures may just be the hardiest lifeforms on the planet. Tardigrades are mostly about 1 mm (0.04 inch) or less in size. By entering a state of suspended animation, they’ve been known to withstand temperatures as low as -272º C (-457.6º F) and as high as 150º C (302º F), they can live without food, water and oxygen for extended periods of time, and are fine with both the vacuum of space and the crushing pressures at the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean. With this list of superpowers to their name, tardigrades are a good model for how tough life is overall. Life on Earth has already endured five mass extinction events, in some cases killing 90% of all species. Tardigrades, however, are one of the few animals to have survived all of them. To come up with an idea of the circumstances and likelihood of an event completely sterilizing all life on Earth, the Oxford and Harvard scientists looked at what it would take to wipe out these little creatures. In short, the oceans will have to boil before life can be fully extinguished. And there are only three known events that could achieve this: a large asteroid impact (with a mass at least as large as Pluto), a supernova, or a gamma ray burst. The likelihood of one of those events? Just above nil.


Don McMillan – Greatest Charts – (You Tube – June 25, 2018)
Don McMillan shares his Greatest Charts. Charts include: Nerd vs Geek, Printer Ink Price, USB Configurations, Network Security Expert Career Path, First Thing You Do When You Get Out of Bed, The Facebook Proof, Shopping With My Wife, and The Key to a Long Happy Marriage. Yes, this guy is an engineer – and he is also a great comic. Keep Laughing!


I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place. – Winston Churchill

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


Edited by John L. Petersen

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Volume 22, Number 3 – 2/1/19

Volume 22, Number 5 – 3/1/19