FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- White dwarf stars are the main source of carbon atoms in the Milky Way.
- The first self-driving cars are expected to be deployed as roving bands of robotaxis.
- NASA has developed a perfume that smells like outer space.
- An autonomous robot has been developed that uses UVC light to disinfect warehouses.
Freddy Silva Joins Us August 22nd
We’re delighted to have Freddy back with us for this in-person AND live-stream event!
Freddy will present two visual lectures — Transformers: The Sacred Science of Ancient Temples; and Lost Lands And Ancient Architects.
He will discuss how our predecessors regarded places such as pyramids and dolmens as living entities. Now, evidence is proving them to be correct. Experiments in subtle energy show that, rather than being immense monuments of idle stone, the temples of Egypt, the stone circles of Scotland, Stonehenge, even Gothic cathedrals are manipulating the electromagnetic field and generating geomagnetic hotspots.
But to what end?
If you can’t make it in person, or even if you can, your ticket gives you access to a replay that will be available for two weeks following the event!
Gregg Braden Livestream — Watch it anytime for two weeks!
We had a stellar presentation from Gregg this past weekend. Eye opening and thought provoking, to say the least! If you are late to the scene, you can still get a ticket to watch this day long replay — until August 7th that is. Click here to get your ticket to the replay.
Gregg gives a taste of this new research in the short interview below.
Be sure to check it out.
Complete information on the Braden event and all of the others on our lineup can be found at TransitionTalks.org.
Synthetic Antibody Could Prevent and Treat COVID-19 – (Medical News Today – July 1, 2020)
A receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is present on the surface of cells in the airways and the lungs. After a person inhales viral particles, spike proteins on the outside of the virus bind to this receptor, which allows the virus to enter cells and cause disease. Researchers from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, have now developed an antibody that stops the virus from attaching to the ACE2 receptor, ultimately preventing infection. In a paper on the preprint server bioRxiv, the researchers say that healthcare professionals could use the antibody both before and after a person has had exposure to SARS-CoV-2. In an effort to trick the virus, the researchers behind the study designed a “decoy” ACE2, which the virus recognizes in the same way it does the real thing. However, it is not attached to cells in the body. This decoy protein intercepts to neutralize the virus before it can attach to ACE2 on cells and cause infection. The virus bound more tightly to one particular antibody than it does to the natural ACE2 in the body. This means that the antibody could effectively outcompete the ACE2 expressed on bodily cells, preventing the virus from infecting them. They next injected the antibody into mice, where it reached the lungs at levels likely high enough to stop the virus from entering the cells lining these organs. The researchers also say that the antibody could be dual purpose; they could use it to prevent infection and as a treatment for COVID-19. Initially, they suggest administering it to high risk groups, such as healthcare workers and first responders, to prevent them from contracting the novel coronavirus. As the drug is an antibody, a doctor would need to inject it directly into the circulation rather than asking a person to take it orally. If they took it orally, the body would break it down in the gut. However, because it also has a long half-life, these injections could be relatively infrequent, the researchers suggest. “Based on our data, we think it would work as an injection either once every 2 weeks or maybe even once a month,” says Dr. Kolls. The team has already started collaborating with a biotechnology company to further develop the treatment and start the necessary clinical trials in humans.
Coronavirus Autopsies: A Story of 38 Brains, 87 Lungs and 42 Hearts – (Washington Post – July 1, 2020)
When pathologist Amy Rapkiewicz began the grim process of opening up the coronavirus dead to learn how their bodies went awry, she found damage to the lungs, kidneys and liver consistent with what doctors had reported for months. But something was off. Rapkiewicz, who directs autopsies at NYU Langone Health, noticed that some organs had far too many of a special cell rarely found in those places. She had never seen that before, yet it seemed vaguely familiar. But in her history books, she found a reference to 1960′s report on a patient with dengue fever. In dengue, a mosquito-borne tropical disease, she learned, the virus appeared to destroy these cells, which produce platelets, leading to uncontrolled bleeding. The novel coronavirus seemed to amplify their effect, causing dangerous clotting. She was struck by the parallels: “Covid-19 and dengue sound really different, but the cells that are involved are similar.” Autopsies have long been a source of breakthroughs in understanding new diseases, from HIV/AIDS and Ebola, to Lassa fever — and the medical community is counting on them to do the same for covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. With a vaccine likely many months away in even the most optimistic scenarios, autopsies are becoming a critical source of information for research into possible treatments. The investigations have confirmed some of our early hunches of the disease, refuted others — and opened up new mysteries about the novel pathogen that has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide. The brain and heart yielded surprises. Another unexpected finding, pathologists said, is that oxygen deprivation of the brain and the formation of blood clots may start early in the disease process. That could have major implications for how people with covid-19 are treated at home, even if they never need to be hospitalized.
Lessons from the Lockdown—Why Are So Many Fewer Children Dying? – (Children’s Health Defense – June 18, 2020)
The pandemic experience has brought on a surprising effect on this expected death rate among children. Starting in early March, expected deaths began a sharp decline, from an expected level of around 700 deaths per week to well under 500 by mid-April and throughout May. As untimely deaths spiked among the elderly in Manhattan nursing homes and in similar settings all over the country, something mysterious was saving the lives of children. As springtime in America came along with massive disruptions in family life amid near universal lockdowns, roughly 30% fewer children died. Virtually the entire change came from infants. Somehow, the changing pattern of American life during the lockdowns has been saving the lives of hundreds of infants, over 200 per week. One very clear change that has received publicity is that public health officials are bemoaning the sharp decline in infant vaccinations as parents are not taking their infants into pediatric offices for their regular well-baby checks. In the May 15 issue of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a group of authors from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente reported a sharp decline in provider orders for vaccines as well as a decline in pediatric vaccine doses administered. These declines began in early March, around the time infant deaths began declining. (Editor’s note: The section on children as noted in this blurb starts about 2/3 of the way down on the webpage. Although co-incidence doesn’t prove correlation, it certainly raises questions.)
Virus-Tracing Apps Are Rife with Problems. Governments Are Rushing to Fix Them – (New York Times – July 8, 2020)
Human rights groups and technologists have warned that the design of many virus-tracing apps put hundreds of millions of people at risk for stalking, scams, identity theft or oppressive government tracking — and could undermine trust in public health efforts. The problems have emerged just as some countries are poised to deploy even more intrusive technologies, including asking hundreds of thousands of workers to wear virus-tracking wristbands around the clock. In mid-June, after a barrage of criticism from privacy advocates, Britain abandoned the virus-tracing app it was developing and announced it was switching to software from Apple and Google that the companies have promoted as more “privacy preserving.” In May, after Amnesty International identified major security flaws with a mandatory virus exposure-alert app in Qatar, the government quickly released an update with new security features. In April, reporters at The New York Times found that a government virus-tracing app in India, which had been downloaded more than 77 million times, could leak users’ precise locations. The Indian government immediately fixed the problem, and soon began offering financial rewards to security researchers who find vulnerabilities in the app. In fact, “the vast majority” of virus-tracing apps used by governments lack adequate security and “are easy for hackers” to attack, according to a recent software analysis by Guardsquare, a mobile app security company. Epidemiologists have said virus control apps may be helpful additions to public health efforts, especially in countries like South Korea, which has the national medical infrastructure to do mass-scale testing and isolate people who test positive. But digital rights groups say some governments are using apps largely as performative gestures — to demonstrate to the public that they are taking some kind of concrete action against the virus.
Mystery of Earth’s Vanishing Crust Solved by MagLab Geochemists – Prevailing Theories Contradicted – (SciTech Daily – June 26, 2020)
Much of what happens below that the Earth’s crust remains a mystery, including the fate of sections of crust that vanish back into the Earth. Now, a team of geochemists based at the Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has uncovered key clues about where those rocks have been hiding. The researchers provided fresh evidence that, while most of the Earth’s crust is relatively new, a small percentage is actually made up of ancient chunks that had sunk long ago back into the mantle then later resurfaced. They also found, based on the amount of that “recycled” crust, that the planet has been churning out crust consistently since its formation 4.5 billion years ago — a picture that contradicts prevailing theories. The Earth’s oceanic crust is formed when mantle rock melts near fissures between tectonic plates along undersea volcanic ridges, yielding basalt. As new crust is made, it pushes the older crust away from the ridge toward continents, like a super slow conveyer belt. Eventually, it reaches areas called subduction zones, where it is forced under another plate and swallowed back into the Earth. Scientists have long theorized about what happens to subducted crust after being reabsorbed into the hot, high-pressure environment of the planet’s mantle. It might sink deeper into the mantle and settle there, or rise back to the surface in plumes, or swirl through the mantle, like strands of chocolate through a yellow marble cake. Some of that “chocolate” might eventually rise up, re-melt at mid-ocean ridges, and form new rock for yet another millions-year-long tour of duty on the sea floor. This new evidence supports the “marble cake” theory.
The Chicken First Crossed the Road in Southeast Asia, Landmark Gene Study Finds – (Science Mag – June 24, 2020)
It is the world’s most common farm animal as well as humanity’s largest single source of animal protein. Some 24 billion strong, it outnumbers all other birds by an order of magnitude. Yet for 2 centuries, biologists have struggled to explain how the chicken became the chicken. Now, the first extensive study of the bird’s full genome concludes that people in northern Southeast Asia or southern China domesticated a colorful pheasant sometime after about 7500 B.C.E. Migrants and traders then carried the bird across Asia and on to every continent except Antarctica. “Our results contradict previous claims that chickens were domesticated in northern China and the Indus Valley,” researchers led by Ming-Shan Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Kunming Institute of Zoology write in a paper published in Cell Research. Wang’s team sequenced the full genomes of 863 birds and compared them. The results suggest modern chickens descend primarily from domesticated and wild varieties in what is now Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and southern China They also found that the modern chicken’s chief ancestor is a subspecies of red jungle fowl named Gallus gallus spadiceus. The study results may shed light on the emergence of agriculture and early trade networks, and what features of the bird made it so attractive to people. But Jonathan Kenoyer, an archaeologist and Indus expert at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, remains skeptical that the chicken arose in Southeast Asia. “They need to get ancient DNA” to back up their claims, he says, because genomes of modern birds may provide limited clues to early events in chicken evolution. Nor does the DNA show what first enticed people to tame the bird. Early varieties were far scrawnier and produced fewer eggs than today’s industrial varieties. Some researchers suggest the bird was initially prized for its exotic plumage or for cockfighting. Selling prize fighting cocks remains a lucrative business in Southeast Asia, and the birds’ high value may have spurred traders to carry them long distances.
Astronomers Have Found the Source of Life in the Universe – (Inverse – July 6, 2020)
Every second, a star dies in the universe. But these stellar beings don’t just completely vanish, stars always leave something behind. Some stars explode in a supernova, turning into a black hole or a neutron star, while the majority of stars become white dwarfs, a core of the star it once used to be. However, a new study reveals that these white dwarfs contribute more to life in the cosmos than previously believed. The study suggests that white dwarf stars are the main source of carbon atoms in the Milky Way, a chemical element known to be crucial to all life. When stars like our own Sun, a yellow dwarf star, run out of fuel, they turn into a white dwarf. In fact, 90% of all stars in the universe end up as white dwarf stars. White dwarfs are hot, dense stellar remains with temperatures that reach 100,000 Kelvin. Over time, billions of years, these stars cool and eventually dim as they shed their outer material. However, right before they collapse, their remains are transported through space by winds that originate from their bodies. These stellar ashes contain chemical elements such as carbon. All of the carbon in the universe originated from stars, therefore the phrase that we are made of stars is not only poetic but rather accurate.
Hummingbirds Found Able to Understand Numerical Order – (PhysOrg – July 8, 2020)
Human beings are the only known creatures on Earth that are able to conduct complex math operations. However, other animals have been found to conduct simple math operations such as counting or sequencing—actions that require an understanding of numerical order. In this new effort, team of researchers from the University of St Andrews in the U.K. and the University of Lethbridge in Canada has found that hummingbirds can be added to that list. The researchers claim their findings are the first demonstration of numerical order understanding in a wild vertebrate and further suggest that such an ability could explain the extraordinary memory abilities of hummingbirds and their uncanny ability to find food in a methodical manner. Article describes the methodology of the experiment.
The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come into View – (Quanta – July 2, 2020)
Anytime astronomers figure out a new way of looking for magnetic fields in ever more remote regions of the cosmos, inexplicably, they find them. These force fields — the same entities that emanate from fridge magnets — surround Earth, the sun and all galaxies. Twenty years ago, astronomers started to detect magnetism permeating entire galaxy clusters, including the space between one galaxy and the next. Invisible field lines swoop through intergalactic space like the grooves of a fingerprint. Last year, astronomers finally managed to examine a far sparser region of space — the expanse between galaxy clusters. There, they discovered the largest magnetic field yet: 10 million light-years of magnetized space spanning the entire length of this “filament” of the cosmic web. A second magnetized filament has already been spotted elsewhere in the cosmos by means of the same techniques. “We are just looking at the tip of the iceberg, probably,” said Federica Govoni of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Cagliari, Italy, who led the first detection. The question is: Where did these enormous magnetic fields come from? One possibility is that cosmic magnetism is primordial, tracing all the way back to the birth of the universe. In that case, weak magnetism should exist everywhere, even in the “voids” of the cosmic web — the very darkest, emptiest regions of the universe. The omnipresent magnetism would have seeded the stronger fields that blossomed in galaxies and clusters. Primordial magnetism might also help resolve another cosmological conundrum known as the Hubble tension — probably the hottest topic in cosmology. The problem at the heart of the Hubble tension is that the universe seems to be expanding significantly faster than expected based on its known ingredients. Article goes on to offer an interesting discussion of the theoretical issues involved.
Earth’s Magnetic Field Changes 10 Times Faster Than Once Thought – (Live Science – July 8, 2020)
A bubble of magnetism holds our atmosphere in place and protects us from harmful cosmic radiation and solar winds. But a few times every million years, the field’s polarity reverses and the magnetic North Pole and South Pole trade places. The last time this happened was about 780,000 years ago, and the process was previously estimated to take thousands of years, shifting at a rate of about one degree per year. But this and other dramatic changes in the magnetic field’s direction may happen 10 times faster than once thought — and nearly 100 times faster than recently observed changes, researchers reported in a new study. The sloshing of molten iron in the planet’s outer core, swirling more than 1,700 miles (2,800 kilometers) below the surface, powers Earth’s invisible magnetic field. Roiling, conductive magma creates electrical charges that determine the positions of the magnetic poles and shape the invisible magnetic field lines that cradle the globe and connect the poles. Lead study author Christopher Davies, an associate professor with the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, said. “In our work we asked the question: How fast can the field change direction on these timescales?” To answer that question, Davies and study co-author Catherine Constable, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, used a new model of the magnetic field that was derived from a large dataset of magnetic field observations from the past 100,000 years.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
Deep Red Light Reboots Aging Retinas Like Recharging a Battery – (New Atlas – June 29, 2020)
As our bodies age we can expect different components to deteriorate in performance, however, not all do so at the same pace. The retinas are one example of a part that ages sooner than most, but a new study has demonstrated how a form of deep red light therapy can help arrest this slide. Hitting the eyeball with just the right wavelength of light has been found to “recharge the energy system” and bring significant improvements to vision in those over 40. The study conducted at University College London (UCL) looked at the potential for manipulating the performance of mitochondria, which are often referred to as the powerhouses of cells. Like they do in cells throughout the body in the body, mitochondria act as the energy factory of retinal cells by producing the energy-rich molecule, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The UCL researchers had previously conducted experiments in which they found that exposing the eyes of mice, bumblebees and fruit flies to 670-nanometer deep red light resulted in significant improvements to their vision. “Mitochondria have specific light absorbance characteristics influencing their performance: longer wavelengths spanning 650 to 1000 nanometers are absorbed and improve mitochondrial performance to increase energy production,” says Professor Jeffery. Next, the researchers turned their attention to human subjects. This round of experiments involved 24 healthy participants between the ages of 28 and 72, who underwent examinations at the outset of the study. This meant testing the sensitivity of the retina’s rods, which handle peripheral vision and low-light scenarios, and its cones, which mediate color vision. All of the subjects were given a small LED flashlight that emits a deep red 670-nanometer beam, and were asked to look into it for three minutes a day across a two-week period. Follow-up testing revealed that the therapy had no impact on the younger subjects, but brought significant benefits for those 40 and over. The ability to detect colors improved by as much as 20% in some of those subjects, with the most significant gains observed in the blue part of the spectrum that is most susceptible to age-related decline. Rod sensitivity was also significantly improved in those 40 and over, albeit not by quite as much.
Does the Key to Anti-ageing Lie in Our Bones? – (Guardian – July 4, 2020)
Gérard Karsenty was a young scientist trying to make a name for himself in the early 1990s when he first stumbled upon a finding that would go on to transform our understanding of bone, and the role it plays in our body. Karsenty had become interested in osteocalcin, one of the most abundant proteins in bone. He suspected that it played a crucial role in bone remodelling – the process by which our bones continuously remove and create new tissue – which enables us to grow during childhood and adolescence, and also recover from injuries. To study this, he conducted a genetic knockout experiment, removing the gene responsible for osteocalcin from mice. His mutant mice did not appear to have any obvious bone defects at all, but the mice appeared to be both noticeably fat and cognitively impaired. “Mice that don’t have osteocalcin have increased circulating glucose, and they tend to look a bit stupid,” says Ferron. “It may sound silly to say this, but they don’t learn very well, they appear kind of depressed.” But it took Karsenty and his team some time to understand how a protein in bone could be affecting these functions. They were initially a bit surprised and terrified as it didn’t really make any sense to them. Almost 15 years later, Karsenty would publish the first of a series of landmark papers that would revolutionize our perspective on bone and the skeleton in general. Our bones are very much live organs, which we now believe play a role in regulating a whole range of vital bodily processes ranging from memory to appetite, muscle health, fertility, metabolism and many others. Karsenty’s mice eventually led him to realize that osteocalcin was in fact a hormone. Understanding its links to regulating so many of these functions could have future implications in terms of public health interventions.
Uncovered: 1,000 Phrases That Incorrectly Trigger Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant – (Ars Technica – July 1, 2020)
As Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and other voice assistants have become fixtures in millions of homes, privacy advocates have grown concerned that their near-constant listening to nearby conversations could pose more risk than benefit to users. New research suggests the privacy threat may be greater than previously thought. The findings demonstrate how common it is for dialog in TV shows and other sources to produce false triggers that cause the devices to turn on, sometimes sending nearby sounds to Amazon, Apple, Google, or other manufacturers. In all, researchers uncovered more than 1,000 word sequences—including those from Game of Thrones, Modern Family, House of Cards, and news broadcasts—that incorrectly trigger the devices. “The devices are intentionally programmed in a somewhat forgiving manner, because they are supposed to be able to understand their humans,” one of the researchers, Dorothea Kolossa, said. “Therefore, they are more likely to start up once too often rather than not at all.” Examples of words or word sequences that provide false triggers for different voice assistants are given in the article. The phrases activate the device both locally, where algorithms analyze the phrases; after mistakenly concluding that these are likely a wake word, the devices then send the audio to remote servers where more robust checking mechanisms also mistake the words for wake terms. In other cases, the words or phrases trick only the local wake word detection but not algorithms in the cloud. When devices wake, the researchers said, they record a portion of what’s said and transmit it to the manufacturer. The audio may then be transcribed and checked by employees, in an attempt to improve word recognition. The result: fragments of potentially private conversations can end up in the company logs. The risk to privacy isn’t solely theoretical.
The Case for Putting a Voice Assistant in Every Device – (Digital Trends – July 1, 2020)
The birth and rise of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant has played a critical role in the development of smart technology. Despite the controversy these technologies generated, particularly surrounding privacy implications, more and more devices enter the market with built-in voice assistants. Voice control removes a usage barrier. While almost all smart devices can be controlled with a smartphone, the seamless nature of asking Alexa or Google to take care of a task often becomes the go-to method of interacting with a device. With that in mind, a case can be made to put smart assistants in everything. Imagine if that level of convenience was available in every device, without the need for a smart assistant nearby. Many companies have already begun to implement this idea. You’ll find smart assistants integrated in places and gadgets you wouldn’t think of normally. The iDevices Instinct is an Alexa-powered light switch to control lights in a room, making it an ideal device for use in areas that might not normally have a lot of tech; for example, garages or backyard sheds. Kohler even decided that Alexa had a home in your shower. Including smart assistants in a broader range of products benefits the consumer. It also benefits Amazon or Google. If a consumer purchases a device with a voice assistant built-in and it becomes a part of that respective ecosystem as a result, then they will likely purchase more of the same kind of voice assistant — at least one for each room, most likely.
Could Doomsday Bunkers Become the New Normal? – (New York Times – June 26, 2020)
A reserved man with Downeast stoicism, Mr. Woodworth is the owner of Northeast Bunkers, a company in Pittsfield, Maine, that specializes in the design and construction of underground bunkers. It was 18 years ago that Mr. Woodworth outfitted that first steel vault while working as a general contractor, and he has since changed direction, pivoting his business model to focus solely on designing, installing and updating underground shelters. He stresses that these are not “luxury bunkers” for the top 1%, and only a small part of the calls are coming from Doomsday preppers or Cold War-era holdovers. Rather, about two-thirds of his business comes from consumers who pay approximately $25,000 for an underground livable dwelling. The basic model at Northeast Bunkers is a cylindrical steel vessel eight feet in diameter, in 13- or 20-foot lengths, welded from quarter-inch plate steel and equipped with an entrance hatch on top. Standard features include rust-resistant exterior paint, cedar plank flooring, zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) interior finishes, two vent ports, floor hatches for storage, and an emergency exit hatch. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Woodworth said he has been unable to keep up with the demand. Buyers of these kinds of underground dwellings say that they simply want to protect their families from an increasingly turbulent world. For many, the decision to build a bunker was made before the coronavirus pandemic surfaced, but they say that they now feel prepared for the next local or global crisis. Amenities may include a food and storage room, a weapons room, as well as an aboveground “safe room” which is used “if you need to quickly get away from something immediately. Basically, a panic room.” Some buyers go through a bunker broker to find a shelter that fits their needs. Jonathan Rawles is the owner and manager of Survival Realty Brokerage Services, a national company based in Idaho that works with agents and brokers specializing in remote, off-grid bunker-type property. Mr. Rawles pairs his clients with bunker-building companies in the U.S. and says his company has a wide range of clients. “This market and desire for security cuts across all levels of society — social, political, racial, religious,” he said.
The Dying Mall’s New Lease on Life: Apartments – (Bloomberg – June 30, 2020)
The multiple crises impacting the U.S. economy — the coronavirus and the resulting economic fallout, and lack of spending power — have delivered a new gut punch to brick-and-mortar retail, a sector that was already reeling. More than half of all U.S. department stores in malls will be gone by 2021, one real estate research firm predicts. Recently, the Trump administration floated the idea of turning the glut of empty retail space into affordable housing. At the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, a suburb north of Seattle, an adaptive reuse project already in progress suggests that America’s vast stock of fading shopping infrastructure could indeed get a second life as places to live. Such transformation could even bring malls closer to the “village square” concept they were initially envisioned to become. Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, a consulting firm focused on location-based entertainment, says the Alderwood project is smart, because it’s envisioning a world where we can digitally shop and entertain ourselves at home. “Right before the pandemic, a lot of these malls thought restaurants and entertainment would be their savior, the new anchors,” he says. “Those hopes are dashed. There’s even a question if movie theaters are going to survive.” “There have been some great examples of this kind of redevelopment, such as Tyson’s Corner in Virginia, but it’s very specific to individual cases, and very expensive,” says Nick Egelanian, president of retail consultancy SiteWorks, who predicts up to a third of malls will be vacant due to the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars – (Wired – July 13, 2020)
Making an electric car self-driving requires tradeoffs. Electric vehicles have limited range, and the first self-driving cars are expected to be deployed as roving bands of robotaxis, traveling hundreds of miles each day. Plus, the sensors and computers onboard self-driving cars suck up lots of energy—not great for range, either.
New research suggests that the tradeoffs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought—and indicates that AVs, whenever and wherever they show up, could contribute to the green-ing of the global car market. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University project the find that certain aspects of autonomy do drain car batteries, but smart software and hardware tweaks should make fleets of battery-powered self-driving cars very possible. “A bunch of commentators used to suggest the first AVs might have to be gas hybrids,” says Shashank Sripad, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who worked on the paper. “But we believe that, if we want to do electric vehicles, autonomy will be compatible with it.” Automakers differ on whether to power their first self-driving vehicles with electricity. The intra-industry divide is a reminder that autonomy is both an ambitious research project and a potential multi-trillion-dollar business, and that different players see different paths to market. The ideal self-driving business model, in other words, is far from settled. For example, Ford aspires to transition to battery-electric self-driving cars eventually, says Dan Pierce, a spokesperson for autonomous vehicles at the Detroit automaker. But if Ford hits its deadline of launching an autonomous vehicle service in 2022, it will do so with gas-electric hybrid vehicles. For now, Ford’s testing shows that more than 50% of a battery-electric vehicle’s range would be sucked up by the computing power demanded by self-driving software, plus the air conditioning and entertainment systems needed to keep passengers comfortable.
Common Food Additive Found to Disrupt Gut Bacteria, Cause Inflammation – (New Atlas – June 28, 2020)
New research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is adding weight to a growing body of evidence suggesting the food additive titanium dioxide, also known as E171, can disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to colonic inflammation. Titanium dioxide has long been used as a food coloring additive, but at the beginning of 2020 France became the first country in the world to ban the compound being used for this purpose. Over recent years many global companies have moved to stop using titanium dioxide as a food additive amidst growing concerns over its safety, however, it still can be found in hundreds of foods. Much of the current debate over its safety as a food additive revolves around particle size. The majority of titanium dioxide particles used in food additives are relatively large – over 100 nanometers (nm) in diameter – so most toxicology research has focused on the health effects of consuming those larger particles. More recent study has suggested titanium dioxide nanoparticles (particles less than 100 nm in diameter) may be more bioactive, with a greater propensity to induce adverse effects compared to larger particles. The new research explored the effects of different sized titanium dioxide particles in both obese and non-obese mice. After eight weeks of feed supplemented with either 112-nm or 33-nm titanium dioxide particles, no severe toxic effects were noted, but a number of other adverse effects were detected. “In both the non-obese mice and obese mice, the gut microbiota was disturbed by both E171 [112 nm] and TiO2 NPs [33 nm],” Xiao says. “The nanosized particles caused more negative changes in both groups of mice.” While both kinds of titanium dioxide particles induced inflammation in the animals, the smaller nanoparticles caused significantly greater levels of colonic inflammation. (Editor’s note: E171 (titanium dioxide) is mainly used as a whitening and brightening agent in cheeses, sauces, skimmed milk, ice cream, confectionery products, sweets, candies, chewing gum, pastries, and cookies. It can also be found in cosmetics and medications.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
How Infrared Images Could Be Part of Your Daily Life – (New York Times – July 2, 2020)
A fever is one indicator that someone may be exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends temperature screenings in a variety of environments, including schools and businesses. As shelter-in-place restrictions vary across many cities and counties around the country, officials have begun buying technology like infrared cameras in the hopes of helping track and contain the spread of the outbreak. Companies like Amazon are using this technology to help identify sick people in their warehouses. Thermal imaging cameras are beginning to appear in Subway restaurants. Carnival Cruise Lines, whose ships became hot spots for the virus’s spread, said all passengers and crew would be screened when it began sailing again. However a working infrared camera system won’t detect many people who may have the virus but aren’t exhibiting symptoms. Equally important is how the cameras are used. “The problem with crowd scanning is we know temperature measurements are impacted by the distance from camera to target, and crowds are different distances away,” said Chris Bainter, the director of global business development for FLIR, a maker of infrared technology. “The cameras don’t focus from three feet or six feet away to infinite with everything in focus.” The growing use of the technology has raised privacy and other concerns. Civil liberties experts have warned about data being collected on employees and used without their permission. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed bills to help protect people’s information and privacy as data like temperature readings is collected, but the legislation has so far stalled in Congress. “The road to hell is paved in good intentions, and the mass rollout of cameras should be seen for what it is: the mass rollout and further normalization of cameras,” said Ed Geraghty, a technologist at Privacy International, a British nongovernmental organization focused on privacy rights.
Barcelona Opera Reopens with an Audience of Plants – (NPR – June 22, 2020)
When Barcelona’s Liceu opera opened for its first concert since mid-March, it did so to a full house — of plants. The Gran Teatre del Liceu filled its 2,292 seats with plants for a performance by the UceLi Quartet, which it called a prelude to its 2020-2021 season. The string quartet serenaded its leafy audience with Giacomo Puccini’s “Crisantemi” in a performance that was also made available to human listeners via livestream. The plants came from local nurseries and will be donated along with a certificate from the artist to 2,292 health care professionals, specifically at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona. Organizers wrote that they wanted to recognize the work of health care providers, who have served “on the toughest front in a battle unprecedented for our generations.”
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Greet Each Other – (Washington Post – June 21, 2020)
Forget handshakes or hugs. Even the elbow bump with which Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders opened their mid-March debate is a thing of the past. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greeted each other with waves and thumbs-up just recently. Gestures aren’t the only rituals learned over a lifetime that have been adapted in mere months since the novel coronavirus began changing the world. Verbal greetings and leave-takings have evolved, too. Until recently, we could begin a conversation with “How are you doing?” or start an email with “I hope this finds you well,” never expecting a comment on that hope. These greetings are what linguists call “formulaic expressions”: idiomatic phrases people say in certain circumstances without a thought to their literal meaning. Now, no one takes health for granted, and everyone is going through at best a tough time and possibly an awful one. That forces us to notice the meaning of the words in these greetings — and to change them. Now it’s much more common to hear “I hope you’re managing” or “doing okay” or “hanging in there” — or any of myriad other ways of implying what a fellow linguist used parentheses to convey while preserving this familiar formulaic expression: “I hope you’re doing (as) well (as one could expect under the present circumstances).”
Without Spectators in Seats, Oakland A’s Will Put Fans’ Photos on Cardboard Cutouts to Fill Stadium – (KMOV – June 30, 2020)
With Major League Baseball returning in July, things are going to look a bit different as teams will play without fans in the seats. But the Oakland A’s have come up with a way to fill the stands — cardboard cutouts. Through the team’s Coliseum Cutouts program, fans can purchase a cardboard cutout of themselves to be placed in the stadium’s seats during games. The cutouts will remain in the stadium for the entire 2020 season, and fans will be able to take them home at the end of the season. Cardboard cutouts will cost $49 for A’s Access members, $89 for general fans, and $129 for a Foul Ball Zone cutout. If a cutout in the Foul Ball Zone gets hit with a foul ball, the A’s will mail that baseball to that fan. Proceeds from the cardboard cutouts will benefit the Oakland A’s Community Fund.
The #Vanlife Business Is Booming – (New York Times – July 3, 2020)
Dozens of new companies are popping up to rent or sell retrofitted sleeper vans, some now with yearlong wait-lists. Apps are surfacing to help these van dwellers find legal parking. Big R.V. park conglomerates, whose stocks have soared, are starting to eye the new interest and figure out ways to capitalize. And advocates for the rights of the homeless, who often end up living in cars out of need, are seeing potential new allies among the new professional class of car campers. The last few months have felt chaotic, and the van living sell is that there can be stability in constant motion. “What we say is: We build your escape,” said Leland Gilmore, the founder of Benchmark Vehicles, which makes custom vans. Mr. Gilmore typically sells custom vans for $100,000 to $300,000, not including the cost of the van, which is usually a $40,000-and-up Mercedes Sprinter. Demand has nearly doubled since lockdowns began, he said, and Benchmark Vehicles just hired three more people. It is the minimalist fantasy, which is always in part a lie. The vans are 6,000 or more pounds of gear, and living very small and possession-free is often much more complicated than living big and sprawling. But as the pandemic has worn on, it is a fantasy more people are having. Of course, the dream of getting rid of stuff and hitting the open road has existed for many years. That is what drove the R.V. movement. So I asked Mr. Fraser, founder of Ready Set Van, what the difference between R.V. culture and vanlife was. “It’s red versus blue,” he said. “It’s Republican versus Democrat.” Vanlifers see themselves as free from restrictions and rules, he said. They do not want to be in R.V. parks. They want to be in the wilderness or on the streets of beach towns.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
NASA-Designed Perfume Brings the Smell of Outer Space to Earth – (NDTV – June 29, 2020)
A fragrance that smells like outer space may soon be made available to the general public, years after it was developed to help astronauts get used to the smell of space. Eau de Space was developed by Steve Pearce, a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients. Mr. Pearce was originally contracted by NASA to recreate the smell of space in 2008 as part of the space agency’s mission to eliminate any potential surprises for astronauts going to space. It took him four years to perfect the fragrance. If you’re curious about what outer space smells like, Peggy Whitson, an astronaut and former resident of the International Space Station, told CNN in a 2002 interview: “It’s kind of like a smell from a gun, right after you fire the shot. I think it kind of has almost a bitter kind of smell in addition to being smoky and burned.” According to Unilad, Mr. Pearce also took inspiration for the fragrance from accounts of astronauts who described the smell of space as “a mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum.”
Higher Concentration of Metal in Moon’s Craters Provides New Insights to Its Origin – (PhysOrg – July 1, 2020)
There has been considerable debate over how the Moon was formed. The popular hypothesis contends that the Moon was formed by a Mars-sized body colliding with Earth’s upper crust which is poor in metals. One puzzling aspect of this theory of the Moon’s formation, has been that the Moon has a higher concentration of iron oxides than the Earth—a fact well-known to scientists. But new research suggests the Moon’s subsurface is more metal-rich than previously thought, providing new insights that could challenge our understanding of that process. Led by Essam Heggy, research scientist of electrical and computer engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and co-investigator of the Mini-RF instrument onboard NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the team members used radar to image and characterize the Moon’s fine dust. The researchers concluded that the Moon’s subsurface may be richer in metals (i.e. Fe and Ti oxides) than scientists had believed. According to the researchers, the fine dust at the bottom of the Moon’s craters is actually ejected materials forced up from below the Moon’s surface during meteor impacts. When comparing the metal content at the bottom of larger and deeper craters to that of the smaller and shallower ones, the team found higher metal concentrations in the deeper craters. This particular research contributes to the field in that it provides insights about a section of the moon that has not been frequently studied and posits that there may exist an even higher concentration of metal deeper below the surface.
Stars Aren’t Supposed to Go Out Like This – (Atlantic – July 1, 2020)
A star has gone missing. Not in the Milky Way, but in a galaxy about 75 million light-years away. The star in question is so hot that it glows crystal blue, and it shines a couple million times brighter than the star we know best, our sun. Even as stars go, it’s massive. Astronomers have studied it for nearly two decades, so it was pretty disconcerting when, one day last year, they looked at the latest observations and realized they couldn’t find it anymore. Stars like this one aren’t supposed to blink out without a trace. They usually finish their life in a powerful, radiant explosion—a supernova—leaving behind a newly formed black hole. Andrew Allan, a doctoral student in astrophysics at Trinity College Dublin and his colleagues say that the star might have simply skipped over the supernova and collapsed into a black hole without fanfare. “If indeed the star turned into a black hole with no supernova at all, then it’s a case of ‘gone without a bang’ that astronomers have been searching for a while now,” said Iair Arcavi, an astronomer at Tel Aviv University who was not involved in this research. Allan hopes that’s what happened here, but the researchers don’t yet know for sure.
Scientists Propose Plan to Determine If Planet Nine Is a Primordial Black Hole – (PhysOrg – July 10, 2020)
Scientists at Harvard University and the Black Hole Initiative (BHI) have developed a new method to find black holes in the outer solar system, and along with it, determine once-and-for-all the true nature of the hypothesized Planet Nine. Their research highlights the ability of the future Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission to observe accretion flares, the presence of which could prove or rule out Planet Nine as a black hole. Dr. Avi Loeb, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard, and Amir Siraj, a Harvard undergraduate student, have developed the new method to search for black holes in the outer solar system based on flares that result from the disruption of intercepted comets. The study suggests that the LSST has the capability to find black holes by observing for accretion flares resulting from the impact of small Oort cloud objects. “LSST has a wide field of view, covering the entire sky again and again, and searching for transient flares,” said Loeb. “Other telescopes are good at pointing at a known target, but we do not know exactly where to look for Planet Nine. We only know the broad region in which it may reside.” “Planet Nine is a compelling explanation for the observed clustering of some objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. If the existence of Planet Nine is confirmed through a direct electromagnetic search, it will be the first detection of a new planet in the solar system in two centuries, not counting Pluto, said Siraj, adding that a failure to detect light from Planet Nine—or other recent models, such as the suggestion to send probes to measure gravitational influence—would make the black hole model intriguing.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Autonomous Robot Uses UVC Light to Disinfect Warehouses – (Engadget – June 29, 2020)
Researchers from MIT have developed a new way to keep shared spaces free of the coronavirus and other pathogens: a UVC light-equipped robot. UVC light is capable of disinfecting surfaces and neutralizing aerosolized virus particles, but it’s dangerous for humans to be exposed. With this in mind, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) teamed up with Ava Robotics to develop a robot that can travel through and disinfect spaces autonomously. The partners added a custom UVC light fixture designed by CSAIL to Ava Robotics’ mobile robot base. They deployed the prototype at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB). The robot drove through GBFB’s warehouse at about 0.22 miles per hour. At this speed, it could cover about 4,000 square feet (the entire warehouse) in half an hour and neutralize approximately 90% of coronavirus particles on surfaces. The researchers believe the approach could be used to autonomously disinfect other environments, like factories, restaurants, supermarkets and schools. The system is capable of mapping a given space, and it can navigate between waypoints and other specified areas.
Inside the Invasive, Secretive “Bossware” Tracking Workers – (Electronic Frontier Foundation – June 30, 2020)
COVID-19 has pushed millions of people to work from home, and a flock of companies offering software for tracking workers has swooped in to pitch their products to employers across the country. The services often sound relatively innocuous. Some vendors bill their tools as “automatic time tracking” or “workplace analytics” software. Others market to companies concerned about data breaches or intellectual property theft. We’ll call these tools, collectively, “bossware.” While aimed at helping employers, bossware puts workers’ privacy and security at risk by logging every click and keystroke, covertly gathering information for lawsuits, and using other spying features that go far beyond what is necessary and proportionate to manage a workforce. Bossware typically lives on a computer or smartphone and has privileges to access data about everything that happens on that device. Most bossware collects, more or less, everything that the user does. Companies that offer software for mobile devices nearly always include location tracking using GPS data. At least two services—StaffCop Enterprise and CleverControl—let employers secretly activate webcams and microphones on worker devices. This article looked at marketing materials, demos, and customer reviews to get a sense of how these tools work and attempts to break down the ways these products can surveil into general categories.
They Are Deliberately Trying to Bankrupt Businesses to Recreate a Marxist World – (Armstrong Economics – July 13, 2020)
Based upon reliable sources, the agenda is to bankrupt as much of the economy as possible to take it over via nationalization which is their Great Reset to reconstruct the economy in only their vision. They are attacking all fund managers and pensions that have any investment in China to try to force them to sell everything to bring China to its knees. Then they have activist judges on board who are in league with them to force by decree the closure of all fossil fuels and pipelines. An activist Judge who should be removed from the bench ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois must shut down pending an environmental review and be emptied of oil by August 5th. The order will be most likely appealed. Instead of armed conflict as they did in Russia, they are now actively trying to deliberately destroy the economy and the future of everyone and think we will be satisfied with Guaranteed Basic Income which will be a minimal subsistence. In Germany, the Greens are trying to bankrupt the auto industry and you can see who is part of the agenda by their position on the climate. This is an all-out war and it will not end nicely. They are well funded and they are deliberately creating a Hybrid-Marxist World which only the multinationals will survive in league with the Marxists providing full tracking of everyone and monitoring everything we search, think about, and where we go.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Money Actually Can Buy Happiness, Study Finds – (Washington Post – July 1, 2020)
The Expanding Class Divide in Happiness in the United States, 1972—2016, published last week in the journal Emotion, found that among people age 30 and older, the correlation between income and happiness has steadily risen over the years. The study used data from the General Social Survey, one of the longest-running nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults, with 44,198 participants between 1972 and 2016. It found a growing class divide in happiness, with the happiness of whites with no college education steadily declining since 1972, while the happiness of whites with college education stayed steady. For African Americans, the results were different but still reflected a rising money-happiness correlation: Happiness levels of blacks with no college education has stayed steady since 1972, while the happiness of blacks with college education has increased. For both races, the happiness gap by education has grown. The findings challenge the “Money can’t buy happiness” adage, which had been supported by other studies, including a widely cited 2010 Princeton University report showing that at levels higher than $75,000, a rise in income is not associated with greater happiness. Adults who were in the top decile (tenth) of inflation-adjusted household income ($108,410 and higher) were 5 percent more likely to say they were “very happy” than people in the ninth decile. See also: The 1% are much more satisfied with their lives than everyone else, survey finds.
In Paris, Haute Couture Face Masks for All – (New York Times – July 7, 2020)
There are disposable masks bought in bulk: light blue, three-ply, fastened with white elastic hoops. There are D.I.Y. masks, stitched at home, and designer masks, sold for $10 or $100. Then there are masks made by a collective of the world’s most elite couturières: the seamstresses of Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, among others, who spent lockdown making more than 3,000 of them — a limited edition of sorts. But these masks are not for sale, and the people wearing them are not influencers or celebrities. They are worn by the city’s nurses, bakers and firefighters. And that distinction is important to the masks’ makers. Their collective, called Tissuni (a portmanteau of the French words for “united fabric”), was founded in March by Marie Beatrice Boyer, a seamstress at Chanel. Since then, the collective has grown to more than 100 members, according to Ms. Boyer. Many are haute couture seamstresses; in addition to Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, they come from Jean Paul Gaultier, Schiaparelli and the Paris Opera. They made their masks from personal fabric supplies, and when those were depleted, used old curtains, pillowcases and clothes. They donated the masks to hospital workers, but also to law enforcement and Paris’s “front line”: cashiers, delivery people, taxi drivers. The collective was adamant about not charging for the masks (though some recipients would offer payment as thanks). Making masks gave Mme. Boyer an entirely new perspective on fashion. “You realize that a simple piece of fabric, well cut, can have a direct impact on people’s lives,” she said. “We will never see a more beautiful collection than that of all the masks made and distributed free of charge by all the seamstresses and dressmakers from all houses and all regions.”
JUST FOR FUN
The Wonderline // Noah Fishman & Samuel Lundh – (You Tube – April 12, 2018)
In praise of joint efforts, here’s “The Wonderline” by Noah Fishman, a young Maine musician who collaborated on this original polska across the Atlantic with his friend Samuel Lundh, a Swedish musician whom he met first at a music festival in Sweden and then serendipitously a few weeks later on a train. Footage is from two years’ worth of Fishman’s travels.
A FINAL QUOTE
Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present. ― Albert Camus
A special thanks to: Mandy Cavanaugh, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen