Volume 8, Number 16
Edited by John L. Petersen
In This Issue:
At The Arlington Institute, we believe that to understand the future, you need to have an open mind and cast a very wide net. To that end, FUTUREdition explores a cross-disciplinary palette of issues, from the frontiers of science and technology to major developments in mass media, geopolitics, the environment, and social perspectives.
- Micro-organisms commonly found floating in oceans might someday be reborn as components in incredibly complex computer circuits.
- UK scientists say they can cut the time it takes to grow new tissue from days to minutes. The lengthy process can be accelerated by simply removing the water present in the starting material.
- A pencil sized wand that generates “cold plasma” can be used to kill germs that contaminate surfaces, infect wounds and rot your teeth.
- Air force engineers are testing a new kind of transparent armor – stronger and lighter than traditional materials – that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.
- A new study shows that 20% of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities.
Designer Gear for the Apocalypse
Ink and Paper or 1s and 0s?
Trafficmaster – Passive Target Flow Measurement
Designer Gear for the Apocalypse — (Wired — October 25, 2005)
Just in time for the wave of catastrophes plaguing our fragile planet, some top designers unveil a series of aesthetically pleasing objects that could be handy in dangerous situations, from the banal to the apocalyptic. The exhibition, SAFE: Design Takes On Risk, is running from Oct. 16 to Jan. 2 of next year at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Ink and Paper or 1s and 0s? — (Washington Post — October 17, 2005)
Because the Internet provides an instant two-way exchange that newspapers cannot, papers are using it to ask readers not only how they want their paper but what they want in it. In this way, the Web may change the tone of newspaper writing, as in this story.
Trafficmaster – Passive Target Flow Measurement — (Spy Blog — October 17, 2005)
The initial Trafficmaster system provided reasonable information about traffic jams from a network of sensors along the UK motorways. Presumably with an eye to future possible road pricing schemes, and anti-car theft/recovery tracking systems, the company somehow seems to have got permission to install a much more widespread and sophisticated Car Numberplate Tracking system, which has the potential for mass public surveillance.
Zombie Worms Found off Sweden
Chinese Spacecraft Back to Earth
Study: Human Hands Emit Light
Mysterious Microbe Retrofits Itself with Plant
Einstein Theory May Be Wrong
Three Faces of Andromeda
Zombie Worms Found off Sweden — (BBC — October 25, 2005)
A new species of marine worm that lives off whale bones on the sea floor has been described by scientists. Such “zombie worms”, as they are called, are known from the deep waters of the Pacific but their presence in the North Sea is a major surprise.
Chinese Spacecraft Back to Earth — (BBC — October 25, 2005)
China’s Shenzhou VI spacecraft has safely returned to Earth, after five days in orbit. The craft, carrying two astronauts, landed in the remote grasslands of Inner Mongolia. It is the second manned spaceflight for China – only the third country to successfully put a man into space.
Study: Human Hands Emit Light — (Discovery Channel — October 31, 2005)
Human hands glow, but fingernails release the most light, according to a recent study that found all parts of the hand emit detectable levels of light. The findings support prior research that suggested most living things, including plants, release light. Since disease and illness appear to affect the strength and pattern of the glow, the discovery might lead to less-invasive ways of diagnosing patients.
Mysterious Microbe Retrofits Itself with Plant — (MSNBC — October 25, 2005)
A one-celled creature found on a sandy beach may be in the process of endosymbiosis, in which one creature incorporates another, creating a new form of life, say researchers. Scientists believe this is how many modern plants and animals evolved. Soon they will see if the two species have traded genes, considered an important step in the evolution of modern plants and algae.
Einstein Theory May Be Wrong — (Science Daily — October 17, 2005)
An international group of researchers has demonstrated Brownian motion of a single particle behaves differently than Einstein postulated 100 years ago. Researchers say they have provided physical evidence that validates a corrected form of the standard theory describing Brownian motion.
Three Faces of Andromeda — (NASA — October 25, 2005)
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has captured stunning infrared views of the famous Andromeda galaxy to reveal insights that were only hinted at in visible light. Spitzer’s 24-micron mosaic is the sharpest image ever taken of the dust in another spiral galaxy. This is possible because Andromeda is a close neighbor to the Milky Way at a mere 2.5 million light-years away.
One-Fifth of Human Genes Have Been Patented
Marijuana Might Cause New Cell Growth in the Brain
International Stem Cell Bank Open
Plasma Pencil Kills Germs
Cells Found to Have Emergency RNA Reserves
New Tissue Grown Within Minutes
Flea Protein May Repair Arteries
One-Fifth of Human Genes Have Been Patented — (National Geographic — October 20, 2005)
A new study shows that 20% of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities. The study marks the first time that a detailed map has been created to match patents to specific physical locations on the human genome. Researchers can patent genes because they are potentially valuable research tools, useful in diagnostic tests or to discover and produce new drugs.
Marijuana Might Cause New Cell Growth in the Brain — (New Scientist — October 20, 2005)
A synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. In addition, this cell growth in rats appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain.
International Stem Cell Bank Open — (BBC — October 20, 2005)
A bank that will create and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for research around the world has been opened in Seoul, South Korea. It will serve as the main center for an international consortium, including the United States and the UK.
Plasma Pencil Kills Germs — (Old Dominion University — November 1, 2005)
A pencil sized wand that generates “cold plasma” can be used to kill germs that contaminate surfaces, infect wounds and rot your teeth. In the future, it might be used to destroy tumors without damaging surrounding tissue. The inventor hopes the beam will soon find its way into doctors’ and dentists’ offices.
Cells Found to Have Emergency RNA Reserves — (Nature — October 20, 2005)
Researchers have found reserve stocks of RNA strands in mouse cells, which allow the cells to quickly churn out proteins in response to stressful conditions. The discovery of these back-up protein-coding strands has opened up new avenues for research in genetics and should help biologists better understand how our bodies fight off infection.
New Tissue Grown Within Minutes — (BBC — October 17, 2005)
UK scientists say they can cut the time it takes to grow new tissue from days to minutes. The lengthy process can be accelerated by simply removing the water present in the starting material. Following such shrinkage by a factor of at least 100, tissues could be created in 35 minutes.
Flea Protein May Repair Arteries — (BBC — October 31, 2005)
A protein responsible for fleas’ astonishing jumping power could be harnessed to repair damaged arteries. Scientists have taken the gene that produces resilin and used it to create a super-strong rubbery polymer with potential use in surgery. They actually extracted the gene from fruit flies and cultured resilin in large quantities in E.coli bacteria.
Micro-Organisms May Be Turned into Nano-Circuitry
Researchers Develop Cancer Nanobomb
Micro-Organisms May Be Turned into Nano-Circuitry — (New Scientist — October 27, 2005)
Micro-organisms commonly found floating in oceans might someday be reborn as components in incredibly complex computer circuits. The single-celled algae, called diatoms, live in water and assemble a shell, or frustule, of silica by converting nutrients and light. They can adopt an incredible diversity of shapes from simple geometric structures like triangles and squares to extremely complex 3D constructs with thousands of individual pores.
Researchers Develop Cancer Nanobomb — (Science Daily — October 17, 2005)
Researchers are opening a new front in the war on cancer, bringing to bear new nanotechnologies for cancer detection and treatment and introducing a unique nanobomb that can literally blow up breast cancer tumors. They say this is basic research in the very early stages of inquiry and that it would take extensive testing and years of clinical trials before the nanobombs could actually be used in medical applications to treat human beings.
Roche Suspends Tamiflu to U.S.
What Would a Modern Quarantine Look Like?
Roche Suspends Tamiflu to U.S. — (CNN — October 27, 2005)
Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG said it had temporarily suspended shipments of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to wholesalers and other private sector recipients in the United States to ensure that enough treatments will be available for the regular influenza season.
What Would a Modern Quarantine Look Like? — (MSNBC — October 27, 2005)
Quarantine, or some version of it, in a 21st-century flu pandemic would look very different from the medieval stereotype of diseased outcasts locked in a do-not-enter zone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been helping states plan how they would enact quarantines in case of a bioterrorism attack. The instructions stress using the least restrictive means necessary to stem an infection’s spread.
Meet The Life Hackers
What Is Web 2.0?
Futurists Pick Top Tech Trends
Broadband Net Goes Stratospheric
Meet The Life Hackers — (Collision Detection — October 20, 2005)
In a work force reliant on computers, straying from one’s task is becoming the norm. New software minimizes distractions and multitasking chaos, improving productivity and reducing stress. This new software may be implemented in operating systems in the near future.
What Is Web 2.0? — (O’Reily Net — October 20, 2005)
The idea of a new, more collaborative internet is growing. Web 2.0 is an “architecture of participation”; a network made up of links between web applications that rival desktop applications, the blog publishing revolution and other increasingly important facets of the internet.
Futurists Pick Top Tech Trends — (Wired — October 27, 2005)
Investors who plan strategies over multiple years or decades recognize that today’s must-have technologies are probably destined for tomorrow’s waste bins. But there’s no scientific method for identifying their replacements. This column includes input from an assortment of experts who share their views on top contenders to be the technologies of tomorrow.
Broadband Net Goes Stratospheric — (BBC — October 20, 2005)
The latest broadband delivery system has seen researchers looking to the skies to provide super-fast internet access via airships. Airships in the stratosphere beaming back broadband capable of speeds up to 120Mbps may seem like fantasy. But tests in Sweden have suggested it could become a reality within three to five years.
Geologists Tackle Landslide Fire Mystery
Old Ways of Life Are Fading as the Arctic Thaws
Earth – Melting in the Heat?
World Temperatures Keep Rising with a Hot 2005
Spain Gets First Tropical Storm — Vince
Amazon Rainforest Vanishing At Twice Rate of Previous Estimates
China Crisis: Threat to the Global Environment
India’s Poor Tackle Toxic E-Waste
Greenland Ice Cap Thickens Slightly
Geologists Tackle Landslide Fire Mystery — (Global Fire Monitoring Center — October 25, 2005)
A year after firefighters extinguished a small wildfire in the southern California mountains, geologists are still struggling to understand how a landslide apparently sparked the blaze. One possibility is that the landslide exposed a mix of minerals to the air, which promptly began oxidizing, giving off enough heat to trigger the fire. But that explanation remains the top choice simply because the other alternatives – including geothermal heat, radioactivity, and an alien conspiracy – have all been ruled out.
Old Ways of Life Are Fading as the Arctic Thaws — (Climate Ark — October 25, 2005)
In Russia, 20 percent of which lies above the Arctic Circle, melting of the permafrost threatens the foundations of homes, factories, pipelines. While the primary causes are debated, the effect is an engineering nightmare no one anticipated when the towns were built in Stalin’s time.
Earth – Melting in the Heat? — (BBC — October 25, 2005)
Glaciers are melting with the ice caps disappearing into the oceans. Sea levels may rise by many meters as a consequence. Europe’s new spacecraft Cryosat has been lost, but one day a satellite should provide some definitive answers. In the meantime, here is our global snapshot.
World Temperatures Keep Rising with a Hot 2005 — (Washington Post — October 25, 2005)
New international climate data show that 2005 is on track to be the hottest year on record, continuing a 25-year trend of rising global temperatures. Climatologists calculated the record-breaking global average temperature, which now surpasses 1998’s record by a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, from readings taken at 7,200 weather stations scattered around the world.
Spain Gets First Tropical Storm — Vince — (Political Gateway — October 25, 2005)
Vince, the 20th named tropical storm in the Atlantic this year, is the first storm of its type to reach Spain in recorded history, claimed the National Hurricane Center. “The historical record shows no tropical cyclone ever making landfall on the Iberian peninsula,” added one meteorologist.
Amazon Rainforest Vanishing At Twice Rate of Previous Estimates — (Climate Ark — November 1, 2005)
Loggers are cutting down trees in the Amazon rainforest at twice the rate of previous estimates, according to a new analysis of satellite images of the region. Earlier attempts to gauge the scale of deforestation were not sensitive enough to spot the occurrence of selective logging – the cutting down of individual trees without clearing the surrounding forest.
China Crisis: Threat to the Global Environment — (The Independent — October 20, 2005)
There is another side to China’s exploding, double-digit-growth miracle economy – it is turning into one of the greatest environmental threats the earth has ever faced. It is or soon will be the leading source deforestation, consumption of resources, and emitting of greenhouse gases.
India’s Poor Tackle Toxic E-Waste — (BBC — October 17, 2005)
While businesses see Bangalore as a technology hub, environmentalists claim India is the world’s dumping ground for old computers. And this is threatening the health of some of the country’s most vulnerable people. India’s poor work dismantling PCs, not realizing the health risks. Most of our discarded computers will end up in a huge pile, but India’s pile of past-it PCs is larger than most.
Greenland Ice Cap Thickens Slightly — (CNN — October 25, 2005)
Greenland’s ice cap has thickened slightly in recent years despite wide predictions of a thaw triggered by global warming say researchers. The 9,842-feet thick ice cap is a key concern in debates about climate change because a total melt would raise world sea levels by about 7 meters. And a runaway thaw might slow the Gulf Stream that keeps the North Atlantic region warm.
TERRORISM AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Air Force Testing New Transparent Armor
Recipe for Destruction
Improved X-ray Vision to Stop Nuke Smugglers
Biological Alarm in Washington
Air Force Testing New Transparent Armor — (Air Force — October 25, 2005)
Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor – stronger and lighter than traditional materials – that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows. Researchers are testing aluminum oxynitride (ALONtm) as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles.
Recipe for Destruction — (Common Dreams — October 20, 2005)
The U.S. government’s decision to publish the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database was “extremely foolish,” say some experts. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction, given out as public information.
Improved X-ray Vision to Stop Nuke Smugglers — (New Scientist — October 25, 2005)
Nightmare scenarios have already prompted the US Department of Homeland Security to spend $300 million installing radiation-detection equipment at the nation’s ports. But despite this, US ports remain vulnerable, according to the many scientists, government and port officials.
Biological Alarm in Washington — (Truth Out — October 25, 2005)
On Sept. 24, 2005, tens of thousands of protesters marched past the White House; unknown to the crowd, biological-weapons sensors, scattered for miles across Washington by the Department of Homeland Security, were quietly doing their work. Six of those machines sucked in trace amounts of deadly bacteria called Francisella tularensis. It was an alarming reading, as the biological-weapons detection system in Washington had never set off any alarms before.
Power Boosts for Future Gadgets
Accidental Invention Points to End of Light Bulbs
The Latest Investor in Green Energy – The CIA
The Petroleum Bomb
Power Boosts for Future Gadgets — (BBC — October 20, 2005)
Power generation is one of the big challenges facing not only the consumer electronics industry, as people do more with their devices, but also the military and scientific research. A recent global survey across 15 countries revealed that the most desired feature in a future mobile device was a long-life battery. But the field of power is one which has not kept up with the speed of advances in processor performance and capabilities of consumer electronics.
Accidental Invention Points to End of Light Bulbs — (Live Science — October 25, 2005)
The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork. An accidental discovery has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb.
The Latest Investor in Green Energy – The CIA — (The Christian Science Monitor — October 20, 2005)
What if you had a power unit that generated substantial electrical energy with no fuel? Now there is such a device – built by a small Virginia start-up – and the federal government has taken notice. Within hours, solar and wind energy units can be up and running in war or disaster zones.
The Petroleum Bomb — (Mechanical Engineering Magazine — October 25, 2005)
A single well-designed attack on the petroleum infrastructure in the Middle East could send oil to well over $100 per barrel and devastate the world’s economy. That reality, among other risks, and the fact that our current transportation infrastructure is locked in to oil, should be sufficient to convince any objective observer that oil dependence today creates serious and pressing dangers for the United States and other oil-importing nations.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Cell Phones Reshaping Africa — (CNN — October 20, 2005)
Cell phones made up 74.6 percent of all African phone subscriptions last year. An industry that barely existed 10 years ago is now worth $25 billion, he says. Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors.
“Doors of opportunity don’t open, they unlock; it is up to you to turn the knob.” —–Lily Taylor
A special thanks to Bernard Calil, Humera Khan, Deanna Korda, KurzweilAI, Sher Patterson-Black, Diane Petersen, John C. Petersen, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, Ken Dabkowski, Jin Zhu, and Richard May, our contributors to this issue. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.