Volume 10, Number 11
Edited by John L. Petersen

See past issues in the Archives

In This Issue:
Future Facts - From Think Links
Think Links - The Future in the News…Today
A Final Quote



  • Researchers are using a jet flying 40,000 feet above the ocean as part of a mission to track dust and pollution particles blown from Asia to the United States.
  • The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines.
  • A Purdue University engineer has developed a method of generating hydrogen that solves the hydrogen storage and transport issues.
  • A study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of content filtering.



Scientists Work on Encyclopedia of Life – (Physorg – May 08, 2007)
The world's scientists plan to compile everything they know about all of Earth's 1.8 million known species and put it all on one Web site, open to everyone. The effort, called the Encyclopedia of Life, will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers.



The Equivalence Principle
Rare Giant Turtle Found in Mekong
Hubble Spots Ring of Dark Matter
Gene Mutation Linked to Cognition is Found Only in Humans
Earth Likely to Relocate in Galactic Collision

The Equivalence Principle – (NASA – May 18, 2007)
The “equivalence principle" states that gravity accelerates all objects equally regardless of their masses or the materials from which they are made. It's a cornerstone of modern physics. But what if the equivalence principle is wrong? Discovering even the slightest difference in how gravity acts on objects of different materials would have enormous implications and it could offer one way to test string theory.

Rare Giant Turtle Found in Mekong – (BBC News – May 16, 2007)
Conservationists have discovered a 24 pound female Cantor's giant soft-shell turtle and a nesting ground during a survey of Cambodia's Mekong River. The species, which can grow to 6 feet long and weigh 110 pounds was last spotted in Cambodia in 2003. This very strange looking turtle (see photo) has a rubbery skin and a powerful bite, with jaws strong enough to crush bone.

Hubble Spots Ring of Dark Matter – (BBC News – May 15, 2007)
Astronomers have found one of the best pieces of evidence for the existence of dark matter, a mysterious quantity that pervades our Universe. They have identified what appears to be a ghostly ring in the sky which is made up of this enigmatic substance formed long ago after a colossal smash-up between two galaxy clusters.

Gene Mutation Linked to Cognition is Found Only in Humans – (Physorg – May 8, 2007)
The human and chimpanzee genomes vary by just 1.2%, yet there is a considerable difference in the mental and linguistic capabilities of the two species. A new study showed that a certain form of neuropsin, a protein that plays a role in learning and memory, is expressed only in the central nervous systems of humans and that it originated less than 5 million years ago.

Earth Likely to Relocate in Galactic Collision – (National Geographic – May 16, 2007)
The sun and Earth will probably be spun out into a lonely region of space when the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies finish colliding about five billion years from now, researchers say in a new study. There's also a small chance that our solar system will be swept from its home in the Milky Way and be scooped up by Andromeda during an earlier close encounter, in just three-and-a-half-billion years.



Allergy Fear on Green Laundry
Gene Find Triggers Baldness Hope
Scientists Allowed to Experiment on Hybrid Embryos

Allergy Fear on Green Laundry – (BBC News – May 20, 2007)
“Green" energy-efficient 30 or 40 degree Celsius (86°F or 104°F) washes killed only 6% of house dust mites compared with 100% at 60 degrees, Korean researchers have found. Washing clothes at 40 degrees rather than 60 degrees (140°F) uses a third less energy, and many environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, recommend even lower temperature washes. Modern detergent manufacturers say that their products are capable of cleaning effectively at these low temperatures. However the research suggests that this may not be the case.

Gene Find Triggers Baldness Hope – (BBC News – May 16, 2007)
Hair loss in humans might be reversible, suggest scientists who have helped create new hair cells on the skin of mice. Hair follicles are produced by the embryo and it was thought that no further replacement follicles could be produced during life. The U. of Pennsylvania team found that a particular gene important in wound healing, called wnt, appeared to play a role in the production of new hair follicles and that under conditions peculiar to wound-healing, the highly complex hair follicle can be created anew from cells of the healing epidermis and its underlying dermis.

Scientists Allowed to Experiment on Hybrid Embryos – (Telegraph – May 19, 2007)
Two teams of British researchers are seeking permission to create "cybrid" embryos that would be around 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent animal to produce embryonic stem cells. They want to use the stem cells to understand and provide new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and Huntington’s.



Global Net Censorship Growing
Wi-fi Health Fears are Unproven
$100 Laptop Sparks War of Words
Bio-sensor Puts Slime Mold at its Heart
Coming Soon from Google: Cross-Language Searches

Global Net Censorship Growing – (BBC News – May 18, 2007)
A study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of government-sponsored content filtering. The study did not examine a number of countries in Europe or the US because there the private sector rather than the government tends to carry out filtering. The 25 countries which carry out the broadest range of filtering are listed at the bottom of the article.

Wi-fi Health Fears are Unproven – (BBC News – May 21, 2007)
Scientists have said there is no evidence to suggest a link between the use of wi-fi and damage to health. However, radiation levels from wi-fi in one British school were up to three times the level of mobile phone mast radiation. The readings were 600 times below the government's safety limits but there is ongoing debate about wi-fi use.

$100 Laptop Sparks War of Words – (BBC News – may 21, 2007)
Intel "should be ashamed of itself" for efforts to undermine the $100 laptop initiative, according to its founder Nicholas Negroponte. Negroponte believes the main problem is that his machine uses a processor designed by Intel's main competitor, AMD. The concept of a $100 laptop has received a lot of criticism however, as Professor Negroponte said, "Yes people laugh at it, then they criticize it, then they copy it."

Bio-sensor Puts Slime Mold at its Heart – (New Scientist – May 17, 2007)
A sensor chip controlled not by wires and transistors, but by a living slime mould marks an important step towards more widespread use of biologically-driven components and devices, researchers say. At the heart of the chip is a living Physarum polycephalum, or slime mold – a yellow, single-celled organism more commonly found gobbling up bacteria and microbes in damp areas of forest. The chip plugs into a computer via a normal USB interface.

Coming Soon from Google: Cross-Language Searches – (Wired – May 16, 2007)
“Cross Language Information Retreival” will allow anyone to find any document in any language. Google handles the translation on the fly. It's a technology that Google says will "break the language barrier" for Google's international audience. No specific launch date, but “soon”.



Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed
Asian Dust Plume Might Sway U.S. Climate
Climate Study: Eastern U.S. Going to Get a Lot Hotter
Scientists Back off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World
NASA Satellites Reveal Vast Snow Melt on Antarctica
Polar Ocean Soaking up Less CO2

Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed – (New Scientist – May 16, 2007)
For those who are not sure what source to believe, here is New Scientist’s round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions. Also included is a guide to assessing the evidence: links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

Asian Dust Plume Might Sway U.S. Climate – (Reuters – May 15, 2007)
Asian desert dust and city pollution is swirling in vast plumes across the Pacific to North America, interacting with storms and possibly spurring climate change. Researchers are using a jet flying 40,000 feet above the ocean as part of a mission to track dust and pollution particles blown from Asia to the United States. Images of Asian dust and pollution clouds, the research aircraft and its route across the Pacific can be seen online at http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2007/pacdexvisuals.shtml

Climate Study: Eastern U.S. Going to Get a Lot Hotter – (CNN – May 11, 2007)
Future eastern United States summers look much hotter than originally predicted with daily highs about 10 degrees warmer than in recent years by the mid-2080s, a new NASA study says. Previous and widely used global warming estimates predict too many rainy days and, because drier weather is hotter, they underestimate how warm it will be east of the Mississippi River. However, there is disagreement as to the validity of the assumptions on which the computer model is based.

Scientists Back off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World – (International Herald Tribune – May 15, 2007)
Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination. "The bottom line is that the atmosphere is warming up so much that a slowdown of the North Atlantic Current will never be able to cool Europe," said Helge Drange, a professor at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway.

NASA Satellites Reveal Vast Snow Melt on Antarctica – (Yahoo News – May 15, 2007)
Rising temperatures caused a layer of snow blanketing a California-sized region of Antarctica to melt, according to US space agency. New satellite imagery had revealed a vast expanse of snow melt in 2005 where it had previously been considered unlikely. The 2005 melt was intense enough to create an extensive ice layer when water refroze after the melt, the statement said. However, the melt was not prolonged enough for the melt water to flow into the sea.

Polar Ocean Soaking up Less CO2 – (BBC News – May 17, 2007)
One of Earth's most important absorbers of carbon dioxide (CO2) is failing to soak up as much of the greenhouse gas as it was expected to, scientists say. The decline of Antarctica's Southern Ocean carbon "sink" - or reservoir - means that atmospheric CO2 levels may be higher in future than predicted. This effect had been predicted by climate scientists, and is taken into account - to some extent - by climate models. But it appears to be happening 40 years ahead of schedule.


Sizing up the Coming Robotics Revolution
'Guessing' Robots Navigate Faster

Sizing up the Coming Robotics Revolution – (C/Net News – May 15, 2007)
Rodney Brooks, professor of robotics at MIT, discusses the four research goals that, as progress is made on each one, will enable robots to do a lot more: the object recognition capabilities of a 2-year-old child, the language understanding of a 4-year-old, the manual dexterity of a 6-year-old, and the social understanding of an 8-year-old child – e.g. knowing the difference between what you say and your actual intent, all those things that make us human.

'Guessing' Robots Navigate Faster – (New Scientist – May 8, 2007)
http://www.newscientisttech.com/article/dn11805-guessing-robots-navigate-faster.html Navigation is one of the biggest challenges faced by mobile robots. Robots that use educated guesswork to build maps of their surroundings are being tested by US researchers. The approach could let them navigate more easily through complex environments such as unfamiliar buildings.



Vital Electric Fusion: Proven, Safe, Cheap
Aussies Make Solar Power Cell Breakthrough
Coconut Oil Powers Island's Cars
Purdue Scientists Claim Major Leap in Engine Design
The Air Car
Clean Power is Key to the Future
Cellulosic Ethanol from Bagasse at $1/gallon
New Process Generates Hydrogen to Run Engines, Fuel Cells

Vital Electric Fusion: Proven, Safe, Cheap – (PES Network – May, 09, 2007)
US Physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard has produced proven, consistent, working prototypes of a fusion device that does not need to release neutrons as part of the fusion process. Neutrons induce radioactivity to their immediate surroundings. Bussard's method does not do this.

Aussies Make Solar Power Cell Breakthrough – (Daily Telegraph – May 01, 2007)
Australian researchers have developed a means of increasing a solar cell's light-trapping ability by up to 50% and increasing the power generated by 30%. The new process coats a thin film (about 10 nanometres thick) of silver onto a solar cell and heats it to 200C. The film breaks into tiny 100-nanometre "islands" of silver and raises its light-trapping efficiency.

Coconut Oil Powers Island's Cars – (BBC News – May 8, 2007)
People on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea have found their own solution to high energy prices. They are developing mini-refineries that produce a coconut oil that can replace diesel. Coconut oil is being produced at a growing number of backyard refineries and inquiries for the coconut power have come in from overseas, including Iran and Europe.

Purdue Scientists Claim Major Leap in Engine Design – (Science Blog – May 10, 2007)
In today's internal combustion engines, the pistons turn a crankshaft, which is linked to a camshaft that opens and closes the valves, directing the flow of air and exhaust into and out of the cylinders. The new design would eliminate the mechanism linking the crankshaft to the camshaft, providing an independent control system for the valves. Because the valves' timing would no longer be restricted by the pistons' movement, they could be more finely tuned to allow more efficient combustion of diesel, gasoline and alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel

The Air Car – (Moteur Developpment International – December 17, 2006)
Compressed air technology allows for engines that are both non-polluting and economical. After ten years of research and development, MDI (Moteur Developpment International), is preparing to introduce its clean vehicles onto the market. A nine minute video showcases the car. The specs can be found at www.theaircar.com.

Clean Power is Key to the Future – (The Age – May 10, 2007)
This is an op-ed piece listing energy solutions that are all technically available today in the order of their capacity to deliver. It also offers a commentary on the long term viability of so-called new fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen and nuclear energy generation.

Cellulosic Ethanol from Bagasse at $1/gallon – (Biopact – May 16, 2007)
In Brazil, Dedini SA, the leading manufacturer of sugar and biofuel equipment, has announced it has come up with a way to produce cellulosic ethanol on an industrial scale from plant waste, a development that could revolutionize the industry by boosting the competitiveness and energy balance of biofuels. The technology is based on a combination of two processing steps that convert bagasse, a byproduct from cane processing, into ethanol. Dedini has commercial ties with all of Brazil's 357 sugar and ethanol mills.

New Process Generates Hydrogen to Run Engines, Fuel Cells - (Physorg – May 16, 2007)
http://www.physorg.com/news98556080.html A Purdue University engineer has developed a method that uses an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water for running fuel cells or internal combustion engines. The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen - two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy.



Bots on the Ground
Feds Rethinking RFID Passport
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Bots on the Ground – (Washington Post – May 6, 2007)
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines. These conflicts are the first in history to see widespread deployment of thousands of battle bots. Even more startling than these machines' capabilities, however, are the effects they have on their friendly keepers who, for example, award their bots "battlefield promotions" and "purple hearts." What the battle bots are teaching us is how easily we identify our own creations as animate.

Feds Rethinking RFID Passport – (Wired – April 26, 2007)
http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2005/04/67333 Following criticism from computer security professionals and civil libertarians about the privacy risks posed by new RFID passports the government plans to begin issuing, a State Department official said his office is reconsidering a privacy solution it rejected earlier. The solution would require an RFID reader to provide a key or password before it could read data embedded on an RFID passport's chip. It would also encrypt data as it's transmitted from the chip to a reader so that no one could read the data if they intercepted it in transit.



Bright Idea Creates 25-hour Day – (BBC News – May 16, 2007)
Our natural daily 24-hour cycle could be stretched by an extra hour safely and simply by exposure to pulses of bright light, research suggests. Experts say it could prove useful for astronauts adapting for long-term missions to Mars - where a day lasts an extra 40 minutes.



Happiness Wins Science Book Prize – (BBC News – May 15, 2007)
A scientific exploration of the various ways people attempt to make themselves happy has won the annual Royal Society Prize for Science Books. Stumbling on Happiness uses cognitive science and psychology to provide intriguing insights into human nature, helping us to understand why we make the decisions we do.



Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet. - Victor Hugo

A special thanks to Bernard Calil, Ken Dabkowski, Free Energy News, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, Humera Khan, KurzweilAI, Sebastian McCallister, Sher Patterson-Black, Diane C. Petersen, John C. Petersen, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell and Adrian Taylor, our contributors to this issue. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.



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