Volume 8, Number 8
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.
- Scientists have grown fully mature brain cells in a laboratory for the first time, using a technique that mimics the natural process of brain regeneration.
- NASA has used multispectral imaging to decipher lost texts of Sophocles and Euripides as well as some early Christian gospels that do not appear in the New Testament.
- Scientists at UCLA have initiated a fusion reaction using a laboratory device that’s not much bigger than a breadbox, and works at roughly room temperature.
- An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level, was launched.
- Neuroscientists have been using brain scans to observe what happens in the brain when people evaluate things like beer, cars and politicians.
Technology that Imitates Nature
Philips, Infineon Win German Passport Chip Deal
Space Tourism: Marketing to the Masses
Technology that Imitates Nature — (Economist — June 9, 2005)
Surely human intellect, and the deliberate application of design knowledge, can devise better mechanisms than the mindless, random process of evolution? Far from it. In some cases, engineers can spend decades inventing and perfecting a new technology, only to discover that nature beat them to it. For this reason scientists have spent the past three years building a database of biological tricks which engineers will be able to access to find natural solutions to their design problems.
Philips, Infineon Win German Passport Chip Deal — (Reuters — June 2, 2005)
ET Philips Electronics and Infineon said on Thursday they will supply the German passport printing authority with wireless chips for new smart passports for the country’s 80 million citizens. “Based on sophisticated encryption technology, the highly secure chip will be used to hold personal information on the passport holder, reducing fraud and forgery of travel documents and increasing security for travelers,” Netherlands-based Philips said in a statement.
Automatic House — (BBC News — June 1, 2005)
A unique project is under way in Sheffield to monitor the movements of a family living in a futuristic home packed with the latest technological innovations. Sliding walls, sound wave cleaning, opaque-changing glass, clevar fridges and robots are just a few of the developments predicted to hit the home improvement market soon.
Space Tourism: Marketing to the Masses — (adAstra — June 14, 2005)
Commuter space travel is sure to roar to life as a big business, at least that’s what space entrepreneurs are hoping for. In fact, people are already putting down money for ticketed flight on rockets that are more artwork than hardware. Ultimately, a passenger’s ticket price for a suborbital spree will come down after several hundred people have flown- for comparison, a T-1 connection to the Internet cost $1 million a year in 1990. Now the equivalent service is $19.99 a month.
Most Earth-like Exoplanet yet is Discovered
Andromeda Galaxy 3 Times Bigger than Thought
NASA Science Uncovers Texts of Trojan Wars, Early Gospel
Millennium Simulation — The Largest Ever Model Of The Universe
Most Earth-like Exoplanet yet is Discovered — (NewScientist — June 14, 2005)
A small planet just seven or eight times as massive as the Earth has been found circling a nearby star. Astronomers say it is the most Earth-like world we have ever seen beyond our solar system. A slight wobble of the star had already revealed that it is being tugged by the gravity of two gas giants as they orbit around it with periods of 30 and 61 days.
Andromeda Galaxy 3 Times Bigger than Thought — (Space News — May 31, 2005)
A map of the outer suburbs of the Andromeda galaxy finds that its rotating disk of stars is three times bigger than previously measured. The implication is that the disk is 220,000 light years in diameter, instead of the earlier estimates of 70,000 to 80,000 light years. In our sky, that means Andromeda stretches out over the length of 12 full Moons.
NASA Science Uncovers Texts of Trojan Wars, Early Gospel — (Chicago Tribune — May 19, 2005)
The scholars at Oxford University are not sure how it works or why; all they know is that it does. A new technology called is turning a pile of ancient garbage into classical knowledge, bringing to light the lost texts of Sophocles and Euripides as well as some early Christian gospels that do not appear in the New Testament.
Millennium Simulation — The Largest Ever Model Of The Universe — (Science Daily — June 4, 2005)
The Virgo consortium, an international group of astrophysicists from the UK, Germany, Japan, Canada and the USA has today (June 2nd) released first results from the largest and most realistic simulation ever of the growth of cosmic structure and the formation of galaxies and quasars. The “Millennium Simulation” employed more than 10 billion particles of matter to trace the evolution of the matter distribution in a cubic region of the Universe over 2 billion light-years on a side.
Cloning a Champion
World First: Brain Cells Grown in Laboratory
Cigarettes Age Your DNA
Zarlink Unveils Wireless Chip for Medical Implants
Cloning a Champion — (CNN — May 24, 2005)
The first cloned horse in the United States, dubbed Paris, is the world’s third to be successfully cloned. In San Diego, a small startup called Geneticas Life Sciences said it will begin to sell horse cloning services next year and expects to charge between $150,000 and $200,000 each.
Artificial Heart — (BBC News — June 1, 2005)
Peter Houghton was just weeks away from certain death when doctors offered him a radical new treatment – would he like the world’s first mechanical heart? The device, costing £60,000 for the device alone and between £100-200,000 for the hospital care, is much smaller than other similar devices and can be left in permanently.
World First: Brain Cells Grown in Laboratory — (The Independent — June 14, 2005)
Scientists have grown fully mature brain cells in a laboratory for the first time, using a technique that mimics the natural process of brain regeneration. It promises to open the door to new ways of treating and possibly curing debilitating brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Cigarettes Age Your DNA — (Nature — June 13, 2005)
It isn’t news that eating fatty foods and smoking can shorten your life expectancy, but now a study shows that a lifetime of these unhealthy habits can directly ‘age’ DNA by years. The immediate impact of such ageing could provide a different motivation to quit smoking or start a diet, alongside the fear of one day contracting cancer or heart disease.
Zarlink Unveils Wireless Chip for Medical Implants — (Reuters — May 31, 2005)
Zarlink unveils a ground-breaking wireless chip for medical implants that could allow doctors to monitor a patient’s pacemaker or even control a diabetic’s insulin dosage from miles away. As the world’s first chip designed specifically for in-body communication systems, Zarlink’s high-speed chip transmits about ten times the data of rival products, while consuming about 20 percent of the power, the company said.
UCI Scientists Create World’s Fastest Information Transmitting Method.
Nanotechnology Combined with Superconductivity Could Pave the Way For ‘Spintronics’
UCI Scientists Create World’s Fastest Information Transmitting Method. — (UC Irvine — June 13, 2005)
UC Irvine scientists have demonstrated for the first time that carbon nanotubes can route electrical signals on a chip faster than traditional copper or aluminum wires, at speeds of up to 10 GHz. The breakthrough could lead to faster and more efficient computers, and improved wireless network and cellular phone systems, adding to the growing enthusiasm about nanotechnology’s revolutionary potential.
Nanotechnology Combined with Superconductivity Could Pave the Way For ‘Spintronics’ — (Science Daily — June 1, 2005)
Many researchers are betting that the future will belong to “spintronics”: a nanoscale technology in which information is carried not by the electron’s charge, as it is in conventional microchips, but by the electron’s intrinsic spin. Now, a University of Notre Dame physicist and his colleagues believe they have found such a control technique.
Virus Vaccines Show Promise
Can Tamiflu Save Us from Bird Flu?
Fungi Destroy Mosquitoes
Study Reveals New Way for West Nile Virus to Spread
Chinese Government Pleas with Poultry Sector
Virus Vaccines Show Promise — (Wired News — June 5, 2005)
Canadian and U.S. scientists have developed vaccines that protect monkeys from the deadly Marburg and Ebola viruses and show promise for humans.The data would suggest that instead of 100 percent chance of dying, they would have an 80 percent chance of survival.
Can Tamiflu Save Us from Bird Flu? — (New Scientist — June 2, 2005)
Amid ominous signs that H5N1 bird flu is acquiring the ability to spread more readily among people, many health authorities are pinning their hopes on Tamiflu, the only available antiviral drug known to block the replication of the virus. But can the drug really help stop an emerging flu pandemic?
Fungi Destroy Mosquitoes — (Nature — June 9, 2005)
At least 300 million acute cases of malaria occur each year and cause at least a million deaths, according to the World Health Organization. However, researchers have found that an oil-based fungal treatment could be a viable alternative to the insecticides to which mosquitoes have grown resistant.
Study Reveals New Way for West Nile Virus to Spread — (Scientific American — June 7, 2005)
Study Reveals New Way for West Nile Virus to Spread. The findings indicate that the virus can pass from one mosquito to another while they feed on previously uninfected animals. The new results suggest a previously assumed days-long waiting period between mosquito feedings is not required for transmission.
Chinese Government Pleas with Poultry Sector — (Associated Press — June 10, 2005)
The Chinese government proposed a buy-out offer to the poultry industry to cut the maximum number of chickens bred in China by half, from 3.7 million to 1.8 million in response to the Bird flu, which has been affecting Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam since early last year, killing 52 people in the three countries.
Foggy Screen Points the Way
Self-wiring Supercomputer is Cool and Compact
Advertisers Tap Brain Science
World’s First UV ‘Ruler’ Sizes Up Atomic World
Foggy Screen Points the Way — (Nature — June 10, 2005)
Forget plasma screens, here’s one made out of nothing but water. Poke a finger at the screen, and the laser beams scanning the surface of the fog are interrupted, allowing the system to detect where you have ‘clicked’. The gadget’s most obvious applications are for splashy displays at high-tech events, but the absence of traditional hardware make this display an attractive option in a variety of possible settings.
Self-wiring Supercomputer is Cool and Compact — (New Scientist — May 31, 2005)
An experimental supercomputer made from hardware that can reconfigure itself to tackle different software problems is being built by researchers in Scotland. Edinburgh system will be up to 100 times more energy efficient than a conventional supercomputer of equivalent computing power (1 teraflop) and will need only as much space as four conventional PCs, while a normal 1 teraflop supercomputer would fill a room.
Television Reloaded — (Newsweek– June 14, 2005)
It’s a transformation as significant as when we went from black-and-white to color- and it’s already underway. The promise is that you’ll be able to watch anything you want, anywhere- on a huge high-def screen or on your phone.
Advertisers Tap Brain Science — (Wired News — May 31, 2005)
Scientists are scanning brain activity in the hopes of catching sight of the physical mechanisms that determine whether you prefer Coke over Pepsi. The development of “neuromarketing,” could one day lead to new advertising strategies that directly stimulate hard-wired mental reflexes rather than appealing to fuzzy consumer attitudes.
World’s First UV ‘Ruler’ Sizes Up Atomic World — (Science Daily — June 5, 2005)
The world’s most accurate “ruler” made with extreme ultraviolet light has been built and demonstrated with ultrafast laser pulses. The new device, which consistently generates pulses of light lasting just femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second, or millionths of a billionth of a second) in the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, is expected to become an important tool for ultraprecise measurements in many fields of science including chemistry, physics and astronomy.
China Says Polluters Getting Official Protection
Environment Atlas Reveals Planet Wide Devastation
China Says Polluters Getting Official Protection — (Reuters — June 2, 2005)
China, the world’s top coal producer and second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, handled more than 200 cases of local governments protecting polluters last year. With 300 million people not having access to drinkable water, as well as stiffled clean-up campaigns due to spotty enforcement and uncooperative industry, China’s limited environmental progress is a pressing global concern.
Environment Atlas Reveals Planet Wide Devastation — (Reuters — June 3, 2005)
The devastating impact of mankind on the planet is dramatically illustrated in pictures recently published in a new environmental atlas by the United Nations. Showing explosive urban sprawl, major deforestation and the sucking dry of inland seas over less than three decades, the atlas includes progressive satellite photos of major cities like Las Vegas, Beijing, and Delhi, that “serves as an early warning”, says U.N. expert Kaveh Zahedi.
TERRORISM AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Robots Putting Their Heads Together
Mobile Army Requires Solar Soldiers
Robots Putting Their Heads Together — (Philadelphia Business Journal — June 10, 2005)
The key to getting robots to perform complex tasks may not be in making them smarter. Instead, it may be in getting a lot of dumb robots to act together. The groups would be similar to insects such as ants, which together can perform quite complex tasks, even though individually they are pretty simple.
Mobile Army Requires Solar Soldiers — (Technology Review — May 16, 2005)
The Army is now field testing portable battery chargers, tents, and sensor systems containing flexible solar cell materials that can be rolled up or folded for easy storage. The new materials “allow someone to go farther, stay longer, and be more self sufficient”.
Toyota Aims to Sell Service Robots by 2010
Mission to Build a Simulated Brain Begins
AI Developed for Mars Explorers
Toyota Aims to Sell Service Robots by 2010 — (Reuters — May 31, 2005)
Toyota Motor Corp. aims to start selling robots that can help look after elderly people or serve tea to guests by 2010.
Mission to Build a Simulated Brain Begins — (NewScientist — June 6, 2005)
An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level, was launched on Monday. The “Blue Brain project”, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss university team, will involve building a custom-made supercomputer based on IBM’s Blue Gene design. The hope is that the virtual brain will help shed light on some aspects of human cognition, such as perception, memory and perhaps even consciousness.
AI Developed for Mars Explorers — (BBC — June 15, 2005)
A computer system designed to look for life on Mars has been tested at a site on Earth resembling a Martian region being explored by one of Nasa’s rovers. The system, to be worn by an astronaut, is configured with Intelligent software that picks out interesting features in the landscape.
Solar Thermal Building Product Demonstrates Energy Savings of 48%
Coming in out of the Cold: Cold Fusion, for Real
The Mad Genius from the Bottom of the Sea
Biomass Adds to Ethanol Debate
Pilot Plant on Stream to Turn Manure into Usable Energy
Solar Thermal Building Product Demonstrates Energy Savings of 48% — (Science Daily — June 3, 2005)
Researchers at the Alberta Research Council Inc. (ARC) have completed a pilot study identifying a more efficient technology to insulate homes, reducing space heating costs for homeowners. Researchers proved by combining direct solar collection and heat storage technology with existing structural insulated panel system (SIPS), energy consumption for space heating could be reduced by 48%.
Coming in out of the Cold: Cold Fusion, for Real — (Christian Science Monitor — June 14, 2005)
This time, it looks like the real thing. A very reputable, careful group of scientists at the UCLA has initiated a fusion reaction using a laboratory device that’s not much bigger than a breadbox, and works at roughly room temperature.
The Mad Genius from the Bottom of the Sea — (Wired — June 6, 2005)
The new energy system exploits the dramatic temperature difference between ocean water below 3,000 feet – perpetually just above freezing – and the much warmer water and air above it. That temperature gap can be harnessed to create a nearly unlimited supply of energy. Already, 39-degree-Fahrenheit water courses through the Natural Energy Lab’s newest pipe – a 55-inch-diameter, 9,000-foot-long polyethylene behemoth – at the rate of 27,000 gallons a minute, 24 hours a day.
Biomass Adds to Ethanol Debate — (Wired News — June 2, 2005)
Biomass could be converted into ethanol in commercial quantities at a cost equivalent to $25 per barrel of crude oil, or roughly half the current price of imported oil, according to expert E. Kyle Datta. Producing 2.4 million barrels of ethanol per day would “be a $40 billion per year transfer of wealth from the Middle East to our farmers,” added Datta in regard to the new technology, which processes biomass from widely available plant and tree residue.
Pilot Plant on Stream to Turn Manure into Usable Energy — (Science Daily — June 3, 2005)
A new pilot plant at Highland Feeders, one of Canada’s largest feedlot operations, demonstrates technology to transform manure into energy, bio-based fertilizers and reusable water, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with land application of manure.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE
‘Cities in Crisis’, Leaders Warn
Lawmakers Vote to Ban Sale of Violent Video Games
‘Cities in Crisis’, Leaders Warn — (BBC News — June 5, 2005)
World leaders and mayors have warned that rapid urbanisation is set to become one of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century. Already 50% of the world’s population live in an urban setting and that could grow to two-thirds by 2050, the World Urban Forum in Barcelona was told.
Lawmakers Vote to Ban Sale of Violent Video Games — (null — May 31, 2005)
Lawmakers voted to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors in Illinois, a move other states and cities have tried but federal courts have repeatedly struck down. Under the legislation, clerks who knowingly sell adult video games to minors could be fined $1,000.
The thing to remember is that the future comes one day at a time. —Dean Acheson
A special thanks to Bernard Calil, Humera Khan, KurzweilAI, Sher Patterson-Black, Diane Petersen, John C. Petersen, the Schwartzreport and Joel Snell our contributors to this issue. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks. firstname.lastname@example.org