Volume 8, Number 17
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.
- A research team has designed the first microscope sensitive enough to track the real-time motion of a single protein down to the level of its individual atoms.
- Deactivating a specific gene transforms meek mice into daredevils, researchers have found. The team believes the research might one day enable people suffering from fear, in the form of phobias or anxiety disorders, for example, to be clinically treated.
- A company is developing a way to use ultra wideband wireless signals to transmit data at broadband speeds through natural-gas pipes.
- A 15-year old boy whose mother used an anonymous sperm donor was able to track down his biological father by submitting a DNA sample to a commercial genetic database service designed to help people draw their family tree.
Archaeologists Go Digital
‘Literary’ Texts No More?
Found on the Web, With DNA: a Boy’s Father
Geocoding Used to Locate Katrina Survivors
UN Summit Aims for a Fairer Web
Archaeologists Go Digital — (Live Science — November 15, 2005)
Researchers are beginning to excavate with the help of new technologies for streamlining the archaeological process. The innovations, collectively known as e-science, threaten to shrug off archeology’s antiquated image. Not only do the techniques make recording data faster and easier, the creation of the Virtual Research Environment (VRE) also allows for widespread participation in the project by researchers across the world.
‘Literary’ Texts No More? — (CNN — November 17, 2005)
It could be the future of Shakespeare. A British mobile phone service aimed at students, says it plans to condense classic works of literature into SMS text messages. The company claims the service will be a valuable resource for studying for exams. Most academic purists will be horrified, but one professor who consulted on the project said they could act as a useful memory aid.
Found on the Web, With DNA: a Boy’s Father — (Washington Post — November 14, 2005)
Like many children whose mothers used an anonymous sperm donor, the 15-year-old boy longed for any shred of information about his biological father. But, uniquely, this resourceful teenager decided to try exploiting the latest in genetic technology and the sleuthing powers of the Internet in his quest. By submitting a DNA sample to a commercial genetic database service designed to help people draw their family tree, the youth was able to achieve his goal.
Geocoding Used to Locate Katrina Survivors — (CNN — November 14, 2005)
Police, firefighters, and Coast Guard crews may be the first to come to mind when naming the lifesavers during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. It might be time to add geographers to that list, as one of the most valuable tools was a process called “geocoding,” the conversion of street addresses into global positioning system (GPS) coordinates.
UN Summit Aims for a Fairer Web — (BBC — November 15, 2005)
World leaders, technology leaders, and campaigners are in Tunisia for a UN summit intended to help poorer nations benefit from the digital revolution. About 10,000 participants are at expected at a three-day World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The event is being eclipsed by a row over how the net is run and fears over freedom of expression in Tunisia. Many developing nations say it is time control moved from the incumbent US body to a more accountable global one.
Astronomers Zoom In on Galaxy’s Glittering Heart
Virtual Property Yields $100,000
Two More Moons Discovered Orbiting Pluto
Earliest Starlight of The Universe Is Revealed
Astronomers Zoom In on Galaxy’s Glittering Heart — (New Scientist — November 14, 2005)
Astronomers have obtained the closest glimpse yet of the supermassive black hole thought to lurk at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. They focused on radio emissions around the black hole over an area equal in width to the distance between the Earth and the Sun (1 astronomical unit).
Virtual Property Yields $100,000 — (CNN — November 14, 2005)
A Miami resident has bought a virtual space station for $100,000 and wants to turn it into a cross between Jurassic Park and a disco. The buyer plans to call the space resort, in the science-fiction themed game Project Entropia, “Club Neverdie.” Like other land areas in the game that has been visited by 300,000 players, the resort grounds will spawn dinosaur-like monsters, which visitors can kill.
Two More Moons Discovered Orbiting Pluto — (Space — November 17, 2005)
Two small moons have been discovered orbiting Pluto, bringing the planet’s retinue of known satellites to three and leaving scientist to wonder how it could be. The newfound moons orbit about 27,000 miles (44,000 kilometers) from Pluto, more than twice as far as Charon, Pluto’s other satellite. They are 5,000 times dimmer than Charon. Preliminary observations suggest they are in circular orbits around Pluto and in the same plane as Charon.
Earliest Starlight of The Universe Is Revealed — (New Scientist — November 8, 2005)
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope may have detected the infrared glow from the very first generation of stars, a new study reports. If confirmed, the work would reveal the structure of the universe a few hundred million years after the big bang, when the galaxies that exist today were just beginning to take shape.
Heart Risk Gene Hits African Americans Hardest
Aspirin Cuts Stroke Risk in Women, Not Men
Malaria Jab’s Long-Term Promise
Gene Turn-Off Makes Meek Mice Fearless
First Proof of Living Memory Trace Found
New Microscope Allows Scientists To Track a Functioning Protein with Atomic-Level Precision
Heart Risk Gene Hits African Americans Hardest — (New Scientist — November 14, 2005)
A gene commonly found in Americans of European descent can be deadly when carried by African Americans, a new study has revealed. The gene variant more than triples the risk of heart attack in African American populations. African Americans are known to be more prone to heart attacks. Researchers suggest this may partly due because unlike European Americans, they have not had thousands of years to adjust to the genes presence in their genome
Aspirin Cuts Stroke Risk in Women, Not Men — (News Daily — November 15, 2005)
Duke University scientists have found aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in women, but has little protective effect in men. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of more than 95,000 patients and also found aspirin increases the risk of bleeding, or hemorrhagic, strokes in men with no similar effect on women.
Malaria Jab’s Long-Term Promise — (BBC — November 15, 2005)
A malaria vaccine has been found to protect children in Africa from serious disease for at least 18 months. Researchers working in Mozambique found the jab cut the risk of clinical malaria by 35% and nearly halved the risk of serious malaria. Malaria kills over a million people world-wide each year, and one African child every 30 seconds.
Gene Turn-Off Makes Meek Mice Fearless — (New Scientist — November 17, 2005)
Deactivating a specific gene transforms meek mice into daredevils, researchers have found. The team believes the research might one day enable people suffering from fear, for example in the form of phobias or anxiety disorders, for example, to be clinically treated. The research found that mice are not only more courageous, but are also slower to learn fear responses to pain-associated stimuli.
First Proof of Living Memory Trace Found — (News Daily — November 14, 2005)
A Pittsburgh scientist says researchers have detected a memory trace in an animal after it has encountered a single, new stimulus. “Our findings show an odor produces a memory trace of synchronized neural activity that lasts several minutes after a bee initially senses it,” said the researcher. “This is the first time anyone has revealed a short-term, stimulus-specific neural pulse within the living brain that occurs after exposure to a previously unknown stimulus.”
New Microscope Allows Scientists To Track a Functioning Protein with Atomic-Level Precision — (Science Daily — November 17, 2005)
A research team has designed the first microscope sensitive enough to track the real-time motion of a single protein down to the level of its individual atoms. The microscope uses an advanced version of the “optical trap,” which uses infrared light to trap and control the forces on a functional protein, allowing researchers to monitor the molecule’s every move in real time.
Graphite Found to Exhibit Surprising Quantum Effects
MIT Tackles Nanotechnogy Research
Marathon of Nano-Sprinters
New Look for Optical Microscopy
Nanotechnology May Help Treat Cancer
Graphite Found to Exhibit Surprising Quantum Effects — (Scientific American — November 15, 2005)
Last year, reserchers used adhesive tape to strip graphite down to a layer just one atom thick; they called this superthin layer of graphite “graphene.” Experiments on graphene have revealed some strange phenomena. The two-dimensional material remains capable of conducting electricity, but these electrons display some unusual properties. The findings may lead to new applications in carbon-based electronic and magneto-electronic devices.
MIT Tackles Nanotechnogy Research — (MIT — November 15, 2005)
In 2002, the U.S. Army established the Institute for Soldier Technologies (ISN) through a 5 year, $50 million contract with MIT devoted to research in nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Other research projects through the ISN now include energy absorbing materials, chemical and biological weapons sensing and counteraction, remote systems monitoring, and innovative materials for soldier systems. One current long-term project, implementation of carbon nanotubes, has elicited much excitement from the scientific community.
Marathon of Nano-Sprinters — (Eureka Alert — November 15, 2005)
To achieve transport over larger distances, several motor molecules have to cooperate. Scientists have now developed a new theory that only seven or eight motor molecules are sufficient for directed transport over centimeters or even meters. They also show that an applied load force, which is shared by the pulling motors, strongly reduces the cargo velocity and leads to a highly nonlinear force-velocity relationship.
New Look for Optical Microscopy — (NanotechWeb — November 15, 2005)
Physicists in Switzerland and Germany have made a new type of optical microscope that can produce images without capturing light from the sample. The new device relies on measuring changes in the properties of a gold nanoparticle placed next to the sample. The “nanoantenna” could have applications in sensing devices
Nanotechnology May Help Treat Cancer — (ABC — November 8, 2005)
Experiments on mice have shown promise for the future of nanotechnology in treating cancer. Research is bringing doctors a step closer to using the technology to release cancer-killing drugs inside tumors while leaving the rest of the body unscathed. After seeing how some mice were cured of human prostate cancer with the technology, cancer specialists have high hopes for its future application.
40 million Now Have AIDS Virus
Vietnam Begins Bird Purge
40 million Now Have AIDS Virus — (CNN — November 22, 2005)
The global HIV epidemic continues to expand, with more than 40 million people now estimated to have the AIDS virus, but in some countries prevention efforts are finally starting to pay off, the United Nations says. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in history.
Vietnam Begins Bird Purge — (CNN — November 15, 2005)
Vietnam recently slaughtered thousands of birds in its two largest cities, while other Asian nations boosted efforts to halt the spread of deadly avian flu. China vowed to vaccinate its entire stock of 14 billion poultry against bird flu, with the government promising to help pay for the process. The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia and has killed more than 60 people in the region.
Silicon Chip Works on The Speed of Light
What Lurks in Its Soul?
Narrowing the Digital Divide
Finger-Vein Reader to Foil Car Thieves
Top Supercomputer Reaches New Record Speeds
Silicon Chip Works on The Speed of Light — (New Scientist — November 8, 2005)
A silicon chip that can carry light and even slow it down has been unveiled by IBM researchers. The chip demonstrates some of the essential techniques for creating high-speed photonic memory, which many researchers believe will one day make electronic memory obsolete in optical communications networks.
What Lurks in Its Soul? — (Washington Post — November 14, 2005)
Google’s disdain for the status quo and its voracious appetite for aggressively pursuing initiatives to bring about radical change seems endless. Google is testing the boundaries in so many ways, and so purposefully, it’s likely to wind up at the center of a variety of legal battles with landmark significance.
Narrowing the Digital Divide — (Wired — November 14, 2005)
An African-led initiative that will use high-speed internet connections to treat AIDS patients in Burundi and Burkina Faso offers inspiration for those working to bridge the world’s digital divide. Its great promise lies in its linking of technology spending with existing campaigns to extinguish poverty, diseases and illiteracy, averting the need to choose one over the other.
Finger-Vein Reader to Foil Car Thieves — (New Scientist — November 8, 2005)
Car thieves could be foiled by a car security system that recognises the unique pattern of veins on a driver’s fingers as they pull the door handle. The system would stop a thief even if he had stolen the keys to the car, says Japanese company Hitachi, which has developed the technology.
Top Supercomputer Reaches New Record Speeds — (New Scientist — November 14, 2005)
The most powerful supercomputer on the planet has reached a scorching new processing speed, confirming its reputation as the world’s top number-cruncher by some margin.The BlueGene/L System ranks number one on the latest world rankings, a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers known as the Top500. BlueGene/L was jointly developed by IBM and the US National Nuclear Security Administration and is installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The machine is used to simulate nuclear weapon explosions and model molecular dynamics. The behemoth has now reached a peak speed of 280.6 teraflops (1 teraflop is one trillion calculations in 1 second).
Sunscreen Sexually Alters Fish on West Coast
Deadly Effects of Future U.S. Heat Waves Predicted
Volcanic Eruptions Mask Effect of Global Warming
Deforestation Slowing – UN
Tsunami Warning System Under Way
Sunscreen Sexually Alters Fish on West Coast — (News Daily — November 15, 2005)
Sunscreen residue washed off in showers and sinks is reportedly sexually altering some male fish off the Southern California coast. A University of California-Riverside scientist sasys a chemical used in sunscreen products is causing some male fish to develop ovary tissue and female egg proteins.
Deadly Effects of Future U.S. Heat Waves Predicted — (Live Science — November 15, 2005)
In 2003, a summer heat wave killed between 22,000 and 35,000 people in five European countries. Temperatures soared to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in Paris, and London recorded its first triple-digit Fahrenheit temperature in history. If a similar heat wave struck the United States, the results would be disastrous, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at what would happen if a comparable extreme-heat event settled on five major U.S. cities, learning that not only would the country experience massive blackouts, but thousands of people could die.
Volcanic Eruptions Mask Effect of Global Warming — (The Sydney Morning Herald — November 8, 2005)
A key indicator of climate change – rising global sea levels – has been masked by a string of volcanic eruptions, Australian research has found. If it had not been for the eruptions sea levels today would be six or seven millimetres higher according to one expert.
Deforestation Slowing – UN — (BBC — November 15, 2005)
The speed of global deforestation is showing signs of slowing down because of new planting and natural forest extension, according to new figures. But the world’s forests are still being destroyed at an alarming rate, says the UN. Deforestation was most extensive in South America, where an average of 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres) were lost annually over the last five years, followed by Africa with 4 million hectares (9.8 million acres).
Tsunami Warning System Under Way — (BBC — November 17, 2005)
The first stage in the installation of a tsunami early-warning system has got under way off the coast of Indonesia. After eight months of designing, testing and surveying, the first two early-warning buoys are ready. In a joint project with the Indonesian government, a German research vessel is sailing towards the coastal waters of Sumatra where they will be deployed.
TERRORISM AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
The Bioweapon Is in the Post
US Military Sets Laser PHASRs to Stun
Landmine Arrows — (New Scientist — November 28, 2005)
A company has developed a shell containing hundreds of steel arrows that can trigger landmines with a single shot. Each rod has a flared rear end, like the feathers of an arrow, and hundreds can be packed into a single cylindrical shell. This shell can be lobbed into a mined area and just before impact a charge behind the arrows will fire them downwards. The metal flights will keep the arrows on a straight course so that they pepper the area at high velocity and at regular spaces.
The Bioweapon Is in the Post — (New Scientist — November 14, 2005)
You might think it would be difficult for a terrorist to obtain genes from the smallpox virus, or a similarly vicious pathogen; unfortunately its not. Armed with a fake email address, a would-be bioterrorist could probably order the building blocks of a deadly biological weapon online, and receive them by post within weeks. That’s the sobering reality uncovered by an investigation into the bioterror risks posed by the booming business of gene synthesis.
US Military Sets Laser PHASRs to Stun — (New Scientist — November 8, 2005)
The US government has unveiled a “non-lethal” laser rifle designed to dazzle enemy personnel without causing them permanent harm. But the device will require close scrutiny to ensure compliance with a United Nations protocol on blinding laser weapons. The US Department of Defense believes the weapon could be used, for example, to temporarily blind suspects who drive through a roadblock.
Japan Developing Remote Control for Humans
Machines and Objects to Overtake Humans on the Internet
Japan Developing Remote Control for Humans — (CNN — November 8, 2005)
Japans top telephone company, says it is developing the technology to perhaps make video games more realistic. A special headset is placed on the cranium that sends a very low voltage electric current from the back of your ears through your head. The technology is called galvanic vestibular stimulation — essentially, electricity messes with the delicate nerves inside the ear that help maintain balance. The phenomenon is painless but dramatic, as your feet start to move before you know it.
Machines and Objects to Overtake Humans on the Internet — (PhysicsOrg — November 17, 2005)
Machines will overtake humans to become the biggest users of the Internet in a brave new world of electronic sensors, smart homes, and tags that track users’ movements and habits, the UN’s telecommunications agency predicted. Currently there are about 875 million Internet users worldwide, a number that may simply double if humans remain the primary users of the future. But experts are counting on tens of billions of human and inanimate “users” in future decades.
Energy Gap: The Cultural Roots
How Soon Will World’s Oil Supplies Peak?
Gas Pipe Broadband?
Biodiesel Keeps Home Fire Burning
Energy Gap: The Cultural Roots — (BBC — November 17, 2005)
Why is Britain facing an enormous shortfall in electricity provision while neighboring nations are not? This is the unspoken question behind a report compiled from the contributions of 150 academics, entrepreneurs and business people drawn from across the energy sector under the aegis of the Geological Society of London (GSL). Its headline conclusion is that within a decade, Britain will be producing only about 80% of the electricity it needs unless big decisions are taken – and taken soon.
How Soon Will World’s Oil Supplies Peak? — (CS Monitor — November 14, 2005)
If world crude-oil production hits its peak and then falls within the next five to 10 years, would America be ready? The answer is, almost certainly not. A debate unlike anything seen since the oil embargoes of the 1970s has erupted over the future of world petroleum supplies.
Gas Pipe Broadband? — (CNET — November 14, 2005)
Imagine accessing the Internet over the same pipe that provides you with natural gas for cooking. It may sound nuts today, but a San Diego company called Nethercomm is developing a way to use ultra wideband wireless signals to transmit data at broadband speeds through natural-gas pipes. The company claims its technology will be able to offer 100 megabits per second to every home, which is more than enough to provide voice, video and high-speed Internet access.
Biodiesel Keeps Home Fire Burning — (Wired — November 14, 2005)
Biodiesel, the vegetable-oil alternative to diesel that sparked a small, grass-roots movement, is exploding onto the commercial marketplace and rapidly gaining widespread acceptance. But not as an alternative to gasoline, as many had envisioned. This clean-burning, renewable fuel is making its way into a growing number of American homes as a substitute for residential heating oil.
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. —John Schaar
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.