Volume 8, Number 18
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.
- John Hopkins University scientists have developed a method of finding specific sequences of DNA.
- US researchers have now shown that differences in fingerprints between the thumb and little finger are associated with the likelihood of developing diabetes later in life.
- A method for transferring quantum information from atoms to photons and back again could be used to create impenetrable global communication networks and computers that work at astounding speeds.
- Using advanced camera and sound techniques, caterpillars of large blue butterflies have been shown to communicate with ants, making noises that fool them into caring for the larvae as if their own.
Technology Helping Blind, Deaf Enjoy Movies
Excitement Building in Eu(rope)
Wikipedia Tightens the Reins
Technology Helping Blind, Deaf Enjoy Movies — (CNN — December 6, 2005)
Nationwide, more than 150 movie theaters have added special systems to help the deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired. Most of those theaters are in major cities that made the move voluntarily, but states are now putting pressure on theater chains to spread the technology much farther or risk discrimination lawsuits.
Excitement Building in Eu(rope) — (Wired — December 1, 2005)
The European Union expects a surge of applications next week when its “.eu” regional domain name opens for registration. Many believe such a domain will help promote European identity and create greater visibility for pan-European e-commerce. Currently, businesses must use domains for their particular country, such as “.fr” for France, or a global one like “.com,” which is seen by some as mostly a U.S. suffix.
Wikipedia Tightens the Reins — (Wired — December 6, 2005)
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows anyone to contribute articles, is tightening its rules for submitting entries following the disclosure that it ran a piece falsely implicating a man in the Kennedy assassinations. Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create articles. Wikipedia visitors will still be able to edit content already posted without registering.
New animal Found in Borneo Jungles
BBC Listens in to Insect Chatter
Radar Sees Ice Deep below Mars
A Paint Job for Your Car That Touches Itself up
More Often Than Not, Massive Galaxies Form by Mergers
New animal Found in Borneo Jungles — (Independent Online — December 6, 2005)
Researchers from the WWF conservation group have made the extremely rare discovery of a new species of mammal in the dense forests of central Borneo. The carnivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat with dark red fur and a long bushy tail, was photographed twice by an automated camera at night in 2003 on the Indonesian side of the island, the WWF said, but a live capture of the animal was required to confirm it was a new species.
BBC Listens in to Insect Chatter — (BBC — December 8, 2005)
Advanced camera and sound techniques are giving scientists remarkable new insights into insect behavior. Caterpillars of large blue butterflies have been shown to communicate with ants, making noises that fool them into caring for the larvae as if their own. And scientists are now looking into the idea that these sounds are actually overheard by the wasps that seek out such caterpillars to lay eggs in them.
Radar Sees Ice Deep below Mars — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
Mars Express has become the first spacecraft to detect reserves of water ice deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet, experts have announced. The Marsis radar experiment carried onboard appears to have discovered water ice more than 1km below ground. It is thought the greatest reservoir of retained water on Mars could be found beneath the surface, perhaps providing a habitat for microbial life.
A Paint Job for Your Car That Touches Itself up — (Sydney Morning Herald — December 6, 2005)
Nissan claims its new car paint can repair its own scratches and scrapes. Minor scuffs disappear in about a week if your car has Scratch Guard Coat, a clear paint that the Japanese automaker developed with Nippon Paint Co. The coating, which Nissan says is the first of its kind in the world, contains elastic resin. Its rubbery surface can bounce back to repair itself of slight scratches caused by car-washing, off-road driving and fingernails.
More Often Than Not, Massive Galaxies Form by Mergers — (Scientific American — December 6, 2005)
New data seems to show that galaxies collide all the time. In fact, the oldest and largest galaxies in the universe most likely formed from such intergalactic combinations. A researcher used some of the longest and deepest sky surveys ever conducted to try to determine whether the oldest, largest galaxies formed from the collapse of ancient clouds of gas or the accretion of smaller galaxies bumping into each other.
Johns Hopkins Develops New DNA Technique
Italian Laboratory Clones 14 Pigs
Better Bananas, Nicer Mosquitoes
Study Bolsters Link between Health and Stress
Woman has First Face Transplant
Fingerprints May Illuminate Life in the Womb
Bacterial Cameras and the Fabrication Future
Johns Hopkins Develops New DNA Technique — (Science Daily — December 6, 2005)
Johns Hopkins University scientists say they’ve developed a method of finding specific sequences of DNA by making them light up under a microscope. The researchers say the technique, which uses tiny semiconductor crystals, biological probes and a laser, will have important uses in medical research. They demonstrated the method’s potential in their lab by detecting a sample of DNA containing a mutation linked to ovarian cancer.
Italian Laboratory Clones 14 Pigs — (BBC — December 6, 2005)
The Italian researchers who produced the first horse clone have announced the birth of 14 cloned piglets. The animals were born several weeks ago at the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology in Cremona. The pigs will help in understanding animal to human organ transplants. This experiment was carried out as part of a European Union project to study stem cells in cloned animals.
Better Bananas, Nicer Mosquitoes — (Herald Tribune — December 8, 2005)
In 2003, Bill Gates challenged scientists around the globe to find new solutions to the most pressing health issues. Over $450 million is now being disbursed among the 43 winning team proposals, whose projects include some of the oddest-sounding projects in the history of science. These projects range from combating mosquitoes to creating better AIDs vaccinations.
Study Bolsters Link between Health and Stress — (Seattle P.I. — December 6, 2005)
A steady stream of irritations and upsets from people and things around us can literally make us sick or slow to heal. One new report finds that routine marital discord can slow the body’s ability to heal from trauma or surgical wounds by as long as two days. The second new study, by Australian researchers working with mice, fingered a specific stress hormone that appears to disrupt the work of immune cells.
Woman has First Face Transplant — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
Surgeons in France have carried out the first face transplant on a woman who had lost her nose, lips and chin after being savaged by a dog. In the controversial operation, tissues, muscles, arteries and veins were taken from a brain-dead donor and attached to the patient’s lower face. Doctors stress the woman will not look like her donor, but nor will she look like she did before the attack – instead she will have a “hybrid” face.
Fingerprints May Illuminate Life in the Womb — (New Scientist — December 1, 2005)
Fingerprints may provide important clues about life in the womb, and may even become useful as predictors of disease risk. US researchers have now shown that differences in fingerprints between the thumb and little finger are associated with likelihood of developing diabetes later in life. The researchers decided to look at quantitative differences in ridges between the first and last fingertips, the thumb and pinkie.
Bacterial Cameras and the Fabrication Future — (World Changing — December 8, 2005)
Researchers hacked the genome of E. coli, the common food-poisoning gut microbe, to make it sensitive to light by adding sequences from photosynthesizing algae. When activated by light, the new genes can shut off the action of another gene, in this case one controlling the color of the bacteria. A sufficiently large mass of E. coli can then be used to “print” images. The goal is to demonstrate the use of light sensitivity as a control for other bacterial functions.
Cheap Chemical Sensors
Radical Nanotechnology Theory is Advanced
Nanopillars Reverse Optical Behavior
Cheap Chemical Sensors — (Technology Review — December 1, 2005)
Technology already exists that can sniff out chemicals in the air and water — but the detecting devices are expensive, limiting their use. Now one scientist has made arrays of sensors cheap enough that they could be widely distributed for monitoring toxins in the environment. The idea of using an array for chemical sensing, first proposed in the late 1970s, mimics the behavior of the human nose, which can recognize a wide range of different chemicals without having sensors for detecting each one.
Radical Nanotechnology Theory is Advanced — (Science Daily — December 1, 2005)
Princeton University researchers have advanced a theory of nanotechnology that would enable them to manipulate the way particles interact. Scientists outlined a mathematical approach that would enable them to produce desired configurations of nanoparticles by manipulating the manner in which the particles interact with one another.
Nanopillars Reverse Optical Behavior — (optics.org — December 1, 2005)
Scientists in the UK and Russia have succeeded in fabricating a material that has a negative permeability at visible wavelengths. This discovery could be a milestone for optics and could help realize the possibility for making new optical devices such as spacers and nanolasers.
FDA Queries Tamiflu for Children
FDA Investigators Say Tamiflu Is Safe
Food Crisis Feared as Fertile Land Runs Out
Poultry Vaccine Could Stop Flu Spread
Russia Wakes Up to Aids Epidemic
FDA Queries Tamiflu for Children — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
The US Food and Drug Administration has raised concerns about how safe it is for children to take Tamiflu. In a memorandum, the FDA says it is aware of 12 deaths of children who took the drug in the past 13 months. Tamiflu is the most important anti-viral drug in the fight against bird flu in humans.
FDA Investigators Say Tamiflu Is Safe — (FluSTAR — November 18, 2005)
The antiflu drug Tamiflu is safe, federal health advisers according to the FDA after finding no direct link between the drug and the deaths of 12 Japanese children who had taken it. “If we ever have a pandemic of avian flu, which is a debatable point, people want to know that they have a drug that will not cause more (harm) than the flu itself”.
Food Crisis Feared as Fertile Land Runs Out — (Gaurdian Unlimited — December 6, 2005)
New maps show that the Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land and that food production will soon be unable to keep up with the world’s burgeoning population. The maps reveal that more than one third of the world’s land is being used to grow crops or graze cattle. Scientists combined satellite land cover images with agricultural census data from every country in the world to create detailed maps of global land use. Maps show 40% of Earth’s land is used for agriculture. The growing human ‘footprint’ is a risk to the environment.
Poultry Vaccine Could Stop Flu Spread — (CNN — December 1, 2005)
Vaccines can keep chickens from dying of bird flu, but can immunized birds still silently spread infection? It’s an important question, as China and Vietnam vaccinate millions of chickens in an effort to stamp out a worrisome strain of bird flu called H5N1. Scientists in the Netherlands put the question to a test, using vaccines against a different strain, and concluded that vaccinating poultry indeed can block viral spread between birds.
Russia Wakes Up to Aids Epidemic — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
At the end of last year Russia had around 340,000 registered people living with HIV. But it is widely acknowledged that the figure could be at least four times higher. To date, more than 7,500 people have died of Aids in Russia. The rate of infection is spiraling upwards. Russia now has the fastest-growing Aids epidemic in Europe – every day 100 new HIV positive infections are registered.
Fido’s First Cell Phone
Holographic-Memory Discs May Put DVDs to Shame
A Tinfoil Hat on Every Head
‘Data-In, Data-Out’ Signals Quantum Breakthrough
Viral Cure Could Immunize the Internet
Fido’s First Cell Phone — (Wired — December 6, 2005)
PetCell, the first cell phone for dogs, is due to hit pet-store shelves next March. Hung off Fido’s collar, the PetCell is a bone-shaped cell phone that will let dog owners talk to their best friend over a two-way speaker. The ability to track a lost pet has most dog lovers excited. The PetCell has a “call owner” button in case Rover strays. It also includes assisted GPS, or A-GPS, which works indoors, allowing dog owners to map their pup’s coordinates from any web-enabled device or by dialing a voice-enabled call center.
Holographic-Memory Discs May Put DVDs to Shame — (New Scientist — December 1, 2005)
A computer disc about the size of a DVD that can hold 60 times more data is set to go on sale in 2006. The disc stores information through the interference of light, a technique known as holographic memory. Unlike other technologies that record one data bit at a time, holography allows a million bits of data to be written and read in parallel with a single flash of light.
A Tinfoil Hat on Every Head — (Wired — December 6, 2005)
Targeting Americans concerned about exposure to mobile phone and electrical infrastructure, online retailers are selling a growing selection of protective gear. Listings include radiation-blocking boxers, radio curtain shields and pendants for removing electromagnetic frequencies. Top sellers include meters for measuring magnetic fields and radio frequencies as well as clothes that shield wearers from electric, radio and microwave emissions.
‘Data-In, Data-Out’ Signals Quantum Breakthrough — (New Scientist — December 8, 2005)
A trick for transferring quantum information from atoms to photons and back again could be used to create impenetrable global communication networks and computers that work at astounding speeds. The crucial step is filtering the individual photon from the various laser pulses. A team managed this by using crystals to separate photons based on their polarity, reflectivity and absorption.
Viral Cure Could Immunize the Internet — (New Scientist — December 1, 2005)
A cure for computer viruses that spreads in a viral fashion could immunize the internet, even against pests that travel at lightning speed, a mathematical study reveals. Most conventional anti-virus programs use “signatures” to identify and block viruses. But experts must first analyze a virus before sending out the fix. This means that rapidly spreading viruses can cause widespread damage before being stopped. Some researchers have developed artificial “immune systems” that automatically analyze a virus, meaning a fix can be sent out more rapidly.
This Storm Cycle Just Getting Warmed up
GM Pea Causes Allergic Damage in Mice
Ocean Changes Will Cool Europe
CO2: This Time It’s Personal
This Storm Cycle Just Getting Warmed up — (The LA Times — December 6, 2005)
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active and destructive on record has come to an official end, with weather specialists cautioning that at least 10 more stormy years lay ahead. We are 11 years into an active hurricane cycle, and history shows that they last anywhere from 20 to 30, even 40 years at a time.
GM Pea Causes Allergic Damage in Mice — (New Scientist — December 6, 2005)
A decade-long project to develop genetically modified peas with built-in pest-resistance has been abandoned after tests showed they caused allergic lung damage in mice. The researchers took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people.
Ocean Changes Will Cool Europe — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
Changes to ocean currents in the Atlantic may cool European weather within a few decades, scientists say. Researchers from the UK’s National Oceanography Center say currents derived from the Gulf Stream are weakening, bringing less heat north. They say that European political leaders need to plan for a future which may be cooler rather than warmer.
CO2: This Time It’s Personal — (BBC — December 1, 2005)
Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs) are in effect personal allowances to pollute. In Europe, about 12,000 big companies and institutions already have such allowances, regulated by the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Pollution has become a commodity with a price determined by the market, which will ensure that emissions are cut in as cost-effective a manner as possible. If imposed, DTQs would simply extend this concept to the public.
TERRORISM AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Scientists Now Using T-ray Imaging
The ‘IC You’ Card
Scientists Now Using T-ray Imaging — (Science Daily — December 6, 2005)
A new technology called “T-ray” sensing and imaging is being used by scientists in several fields in place of X-rays. The new technology penetrates only a few millimeters beneath the skin, which is an area that X-rays cannot easily image. T-ray procedures allow sensing of objects on the nanometer scale, as well as at large distances of more than 300 feet, an essential capability for areas such as national security and space programs.
The ‘IC You’ Card — (The Japan Times — December 1, 2005)
Japanese Politicians have created a “Proposal for a New Immigration Control Policy”, which would include issuing “IC Cards,” or credit card-sized identification cards, containing computer chips to track people. One form of IC card will be issued to anyone (Japanese or not) crossing the Japanese border, upon request and at their expense. The other card is obligatory. All resident aliens must still carry it 24/7 or face arrest.
India Joins Nuclear Fusion Club — (BBC — December 6, 2005)
India has become the latest nation to join the global project building a prototype nuclear fusion reactor. It joins China, the EU, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) team. Iter will be the second largest science project in history after the International Space Station. After decades of experimentation at national and regional level, it should demonstrate once and for all whether it is possible to harness the tremendous potential of nuclear fusion in a practical and economic way.
RAPID AFRICA CHANGE
Hunger Kills 6 Million Children a Year – (BBC — December 8, 2005)
No developing region is on track to meet the international goal of reducing the number of hungry people by half, a UN agency has warned. Nearly six million children die from hunger or malnutrition every year, as many deaths result from treatable diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and measles. They would survive if they had proper nourishment, the agency says in a new report on world hunger which mainly focuses on Africa.
Alien Message May Be in Our DNA — (Mail & Guardian — December 6, 2005)
Forget waiting for ET to call, the most likely place to find an alien message is in our DNA, according to an expert in Australia. The coded message would only be discovered once the human race had the technology to read and understand it. For more than 40 years astronomers have been sweeping the skies with radio telescopes hoping to catch a signal from an alien civilization. So far the search has been in vain. But it may be wrong to assume that extraterrestrials who may be hundreds of millions of years ahead of us technologically will have chosen to communicate by radio.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Munich Scientists Study Bystander Effect
Young Prefer Illegal Song Swaps
Munich Scientists Study Bystander Effect — (PhysOrg — December 6, 2005)
A study indicates the larger the group watching someone in trouble in a public place, the less likely anyone will offer to help. The situation is called bystander effect, and now research at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich suggests even when accompanied by another person, individuals are more likely to intervene if the situation is dangerous or violent.
Young Prefer Illegal Song Swaps — (BBC — December 8, 2005)
The music industry could be facing a crisis because of the number of young people still illegally downloading from the internet. The report suggests European consumers who download music from illegal file-sharing websites outnumber those using legal services and illegal networks are used three times as much as legal ones. It also warns that file-sharers, particularly young people, have little concept of music as a paid commodity.
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. —John F. Kennedy
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, Hanna Adeyema, Jin Zhu, and Richard May, our contributors to this issue. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.