Volume 10, Number 18
Edited by John L. Petersen
In This Issue:
The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophesies and Possibilities
The Buckminsterfuller Challenge – entries accepted September 4 through October 30, 2007
Future Facts - From Think Links
Think Links - The Future in the News…Today
A Final Quote
The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities
The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies, and Possibilities
Order from Sounds True today and get 25% discount.
Are we truly coming to the end of a cosmic cycle? Will there be an age of awakening, a new step in human evolution, or even an end to the world we know? For years, archaeologists have known the Mayan calendar predicts this date as the end of an era on Earth. Yet today, more and more researchers, spiritual explorers, and even scientists are witnessing signs that 2012 will mark a critical shift in the history of our planet. Now, for the first time, the leading authorities on the 2012 phenomenon present their insights about this enigmatic date: The Mystery of 2012.
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The Buckminsterfuller Challenge - http://challenge.bfi.org/
Each year a distinguished jury will award a single $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a solution that has the potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems in the shortest possible time while enhancing the Earth’s ecological integrity. The Buckminsterfuller Challenge sponsored by the Institute bearing his name seeks submissions of design science solutions within a broad range of human endeavor that will exemplify the “trimtab principle”. Trimtabs demonstrate how small amounts of energy and resources precisely applied at the right time and place can produce maximum advantageous change. Entries accepted from September 4 – October 30, 2007. For further details, please contact the Buckminsterfuller Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 718-290-9283.
FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT...
Burma Cyber-dissidents Crack Censorship – (BBC News – September 26, 2007)
The use of the internet as a political tool is one of the most marked differences between the latest protests in Myanmar and the 1988 uprising, which was brutally repressed. Vincent Brussels, head of the Asian section of press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said, "Before, they [the dissidents] were moving things hand-to-hand and now they are using the internet - proxy websites, Google and YouTube." Bloggers are teaching others to use foreign-hosted proxy sites - such as your-freedom.net and glite.sayni.net - to view blocked sites and tip-toe virtually unseen through cyberspace, swapping tricks and links on their pages.
Cancer-fighting Transplant Hope
U.S. Study Finds Potential New Ways to Fight Aging
Cancer-fighting Transplant Hope – (BBC News – September 20, 2007)
There is evidence that certain people seem to have cells with a more powerful ability to tackle cervical cancer cells in the test tube. US scientist Dr Zheng Cui now wants to transplant more potent "granulocytes" into patients. The finding has surprised some experts, who had thought granulocytes played a fairly minor role in fighting cancer. In other research, granulocytes from a strain of mice completely resistant to cancer cured the disease when they were transplanted into other mice.
U.S. Study Finds Potential New Ways to Fight Aging – (Reuters – September 20, 2007)
Researchers said on Thursday they had found more ways to activate the body's own anti-aging defenses - perhaps with a pill that could fight multiple diseases at once. Their study, published in the journal Cell, helps explain why animals fed very low-calorie diets live longer, but it also offers new ways to try to replicate the effects of these diets using a pill instead of hunger, the researchers said. "What we are talking about is potentially having one pill that prevents and even cures many diseases at once," said David Sinclair, a pathologist at Harvard Medical School who helped lead the research.
DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY
Space Pile-up Condemned Dinos
Birds May See Earth's Magnetic Fields
Space Pile-up Condemned Dinos – (BBC News – September 5, 2007)
An asteroid pile-up sent debris swirling around the Solar System, including a chunk that later smashed into Earth wiping out the great beasts. Other fragments crashed into the Moon, Venus and Mars, gouging out some of their most dominant impact craters, a US-Czech research team believes, based on a computer modeling study.
Birds May See Earth's Magnetic Fields – (Live Science – September 26, 2007)
Birds can travel the world without any of the gizmos that humans depend on. A new study suggests that they may "see" Earth's magnetic field. "If you look into the brain of a bird during magnetic compass orientation, only the visual system is highly active," said study co-author Henrik Mouritsen, a biologist at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. The researchers previously discovered molecules called cryptochromes, which change their chemistry in the presence of a magnetic field, in the retinas of migratory birds' eyes, but a direct connection between the specialized cells and the region of the bird's brain active during magnetic orientation had never been shown before.
Hackers Take Down the Most Wired Country in Europe
Listen Up Pirates: Free Vids at Google
Virtual Worlds Opened up to All
Dual Reality Lab
Google Hunts for Submarine Bandwidth as Traffic Surges
Hackers Take Down the Most Wired Country in Europe – (Wired – August 21, 2007)
Never before had an entire country been targeted on almost every digital front all at once, and never before had a government itself fought back. "The attacks were aimed at the essential electronic infrastructure of the Republic of Estonia," according to Defense minister Jaak Aaviksoo. "All major commercial banks, telcos, media outlets, and name servers — the phone books of the Internet — felt the impact, and this affected the majority of the Estonian population. This was the first time that a botnet threatened the national security of an entire nation." Welcome to Web War one.
Listen Up Pirates: Free Vids at Google – (Wired – September 26, 2007)
Fearing the Motion Picture Association of America or its entourage are monitoring that BitTorrents site that has all the latest flicks? Fear no more. Go mainstream: Click to Google Video. There you can find some 300 full-length movies for the taking, including the recently released The Simpsons Movie, Shrek the Third, Oceans Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up and more. Quality varies.
Virtual Worlds Opened up to All – (BBC News – September 19, 2007)
A free tool that allows anyone to create a virtual world has been launched. Users of Metaplace, as it is known, can build 3D online worlds for PCs or even a mobile phone without any knowledge of complex computer languages. The web-based program is the brainchild of Raph Koster, one of the developers of massively multiplayer online games such as Ultima Online.
Dual Reality Lab – (MIT – 2007)
"Dual reality" is the concept of maintaining two worlds, one virtual and one real, that reflect, influence, and merge into each other by means of deeply embedded sensor/actuator networks. Both the real and virtual components of a dual reality are complete unto themselves, but are enriched by their mutual interaction. See this site for a tour of the MIT Dual Reality lab and for slides for a talk given at the MIT Media Lab's Spring 2007 Things That Think consortium, a refined version of a talk originally given at DARPA.
Google Hunts for Submarine Bandwidth as Traffic Surges – (Wired – September 25, 2007)
While Google would not offer specifics on the U.S.-to-Asia connection, known at this point as Unity, it did confirm its interest in undersea cable, saying in a statement that "additional infrastructure for the internet is good for users and there are a number of proposals to add a Pacific submarine cable." After the market collapsed in 2001, telcos stopped laying new cables. With a glut of capacity on the market, Google bought "dark fiber" - unused fiber-optic cable connections - at discount rates. Google won't disclose how much fiber capacity it owns, but experts concur that it is a significant amount.
Climate Change Puts Mediterranean Sea at Risk
A Flood of Claims
Loss of Arctic Ice Leaves Experts Stunned
What Global Warming Looks Like
Lovelock Urges Ocean Climate Fix
The Greatest Dying
The Climate Change Peril That Insurers See
Climate Change Puts Mediterranean Sea at Risk – (Associated Press – September 12, 2007)
Climate change is affecting Europe faster than the rest of the world and rising temperatures could transform the Mediterranean into a salty and stagnant sea, Italian experts say. Warmer waters and increased salinity could doom many of the sea's plant and animal species and ravage the fishing industry. Scientists still don't know why the region is more sensitive to climate change, but in the next decades, temperature increases hitting Europe during the summer months could be 40-50% higher than elsewhere.
A Flood of Claims – (Economist – September 13, 2007)
Floods in the UK, the worst in decades, resulted in widespread misery: around 60,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Insurers, which are facing at least $6.1 billion in claims, expect household premiums to rise next year. Aside from the victims themselves, the insurance industry is among the first to feel the after-effects of extreme weather. So recently, the Association of British Insurers put forth a series of principles—ranging from greater engagement in public-policy making to incorporating climate change in members’ investment strategies—that it dubbed ClimateWise.
Loss of Arctic Ice Leaves Experts Stunned – (Guardian – September 4, 2007)
Experts say they are "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.
What Global Warming Looks Like – (ABC News – September 14, 2007)
Architecture 2030, in a partnership with Google Maps, has determined how American coastal cities would be affected by predicted sea level rise (see projected land loss drawings). The chief villain contributing to global warming is coal burned in power plants to generate electricity in buildings. "76% of the energy produced in this country goes just to operating buildings. That's heating, lighting, cooling and hot water," Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, said. "Our focus has been on how to reduce the demand side so we don't need the new coal plants."
Lovelock Urges Ocean Climate Fix – (BBC News – September 26, 2007)
Two of Britain's leading environmental thinkers say it is time to develop a quick technical fix for climate change. Their idea, also being investigated by a US firm, involves huge flotillas of vertical pipes in the tropical seas. Floating pipes reaching down from the top of the ocean into colder water below move up and down with the swell. As the pipe moves down, cold water flows up and out onto the ocean surface. A simple valve blocks any downward flow when the pipe is moving upwards. Colder water is more "productive" - it contains more life, and so in principle can absorb more carbon.
The Greatest Dying – (Truth Out – September 26, 2007)
Over the life of planet Earth, there have been five mass extinctions, all of which severely pruned life's diversity. Scientists agree that we're now in the midst of a sixth such episode. Unlike earlier extinctions, this one results from the work of a single species, Homo sapiens. Of the roughly 250,000 plant species on Earth, fewer than 5% have been screened for pharmaceutical properties. Given current extinction rates, it's estimated that we're losing one valuable drug every two years.
The Climate Change Peril That Insurers See – (Washington Post – September 27, 2007)
Increasingly destructive weather -- including heat waves, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, hailstorms and drought -- accounted for 88 percent of all property losses paid by insurers from 1980 through 2005. Seven of the 10 most expensive catastrophes for the U.S. property and casualty industry happened between 2001 and 2005. Lloyd's of London has warned: "The insurance industry must start actively adjusting in response to greenhouse gas trends if it is to survive."
Expressive Robot Boy Unveiled
Will Super Smart Artificial Intelligences Keep Humans Around as Pets?
Online Worlds to be AI Incubators
Expressive Robot Boy Unveiled – (Associated Press – September 13, 2007)
At 17 inches tall and 6 pounds, the robotic Zeno can't speak or walk yet, but it has blinking eyes that can track people and a face that captivates with a range of expressions. It’s developer, Hanson Robotics believes there's an emerging business in the design and sale of lifelike robotic companions, or social robots. "It sees you and recognizes your face. It learns your name and can build a relationship with you."
Will Super Smart Artificial Intelligences Keep Humans Around as Pets? – (Reason on Line – September 11, 2007)
By 2030, or by 2050 at the latest, will a super-smart artificial intelligence decide to keep humans around as pets? Will it instead choose to turn the entire Earth, including the messy organic bits like us, into computronium? Or is there a third alternative? The chief goal of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence is to make sure that whatever smarter-than-human artificial intelligence is eventually spawned by exponentially accelerating information technology that it will be friendly to humans.
Online Worlds to be AI Incubators – (BBC News – September 13, 2007)
Online worlds such as Second Life will soon become training grounds for artificial intelligences. Researchers at US firm Novamente have created software that learns by controlling avatars in virtual worlds. Initially the AIs will be embodied in pets that will get smarter by interacting with the avatars controlled by their human owners. Novamente said it eventually aimed to create more sophisticated avatars such as talking parrots and even babies.
Tidal Generation Limited
Town Tries out Cybercar Concept
Can Magnets Boost Ethanol Production?
Tidal Generation Limited – (Corporate website – no date)
Tidal Generation Limited is developing tidal turbines to generate electricity from tidal flows. The company has an innovative concept for a fully submerged machine which is designed for reliability and economy. Each machine will produce sufficient electricity to power 650 homes. The company is currently working on a prototype, to be installed at the European Marine Energy Centre in the UK.
Town Tries out Cybercar Concept – (BBC News – September 26, 2007)
A driverless car which is controlled by computer and uses lasers to avoid obstacles is being demonstrated in a Northamptonshire, UK town. Cybercars are designed for short trips at low speed in an urban environment and need only a very light track to operate. They aim to take people to a specific zone where private car access is limited and would be most efficient over short distances and in tourist areas.
Can Magnets Boost Ethanol Production? – (Technology Review – September 21, 2007)
The researchers at the University of Campinas, in Brazil, say that they boosted ethanol yield 17 percent and shaved two hours off of a 15-hour fermentation process simply by circulating the fermentation brew past six magnets, each about the size of an overstuffed wallet. Magnetic-field effects on microbial and mammalian cells are well documented. Biologists now view magnetic-field "pollution" from mobile-phone towers as a likely cause of a decline in the population of some migratory birds that rely on magnetic fields for navigation.
Pig Disease in China Worries the World – (Washington Post – September 16, 2007)
Moving rapidly from one farm to the next, the virus has been devastating pig communities throughout China for more than a year, wiping out entire herds, driving pork prices up nearly 87% in a year and helping push the country's inflation rate to its highest levels since 1996. The Chinese government has admitted that the swine deaths amount to an epidemic but contends that the situation is under control. However, there is worry: the virus is quickly turning into a global problem. China does not export pork to the United States, but the virus has already been found in pigs in China's southern neighbors, Vietnam and Burma.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Staged Cyber Attack Reveals Vulnerability in Power Grid
Check Your Homeland Security Travel File
Army Blocks Time Warner
Staged Cyber Attack Reveals Vulnerability in Power Grid – (CNN – September 26, 2007)
Researchers who launched an experimental cyber attack caused a generator to self-destruct, alarming the federal government and electrical industry about what might happen if such an attack were carried out on a larger scale. Sources familiar with the experiment said the same attack scenario could be used against huge generators that produce the country's electric power. Some experts fear bigger, coordinated attacks could cause widespread damage to electric infrastructure that could take months to fix.
Check Your Homeland Security Travel File – (Wired – September 26, 2007)
Are you interested in knowing what travel information is being stored about you by the Department of Homeland Security? Wondering if somehow your airport reading material was recorded and kept in their records? The Identity Project now has up an easy-to-use set of forms so you can make your own Privacy Act request to see what data powers the government's assessment of your terrorism potential whenever you fly into or out of the country.
Army Blocks Time Warner – (Wired – September 26, 2007)
The U.S. Army is blocking web and e-mail traffic between itself and all companies who rely on Time Warner's servers for their online presence. The blackout affects anyone whose domain name is managed through Road Runner's business class domain name server, or DNS. Road Runner is Time Warner's Internet service. Businesses across the country whose Web sites and e-mail accounts are managed by Road Runner's commercial DNS cannot exchange mails with Army accounts, and the Army cannot access those businesses' Web sites. A Pentagon source said the Army blocked Time Warner Business Class servers because of a “network security breach."
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Neptune's South Pole Is Warming
Cave Skylights Spotted on Mars
Space Bugs Become More Dangerous
Neptune's South Pole Is Warming – (Associated Press – September 20, 2007)
Scientists say that Neptune, one of the coldest planets in the solar system, has a surprising warm spot - relatively speaking. Temperatures at its south pole are about 18 degrees warmer than elsewhere on the planet - not much for a planet with an average temperature colder than 320 degrees below zero. The apparent reason is that the south pole has been in the summer sunlight for about 40 years.
Cave Skylights Spotted on Mars – (NASA – September 21, 2007)
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has discovered entrances to seven possible caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano. The find is fueling interest in potential underground habitats and sparking searches for caverns elsewhere on the Red Planet. Using Mars Odyssey's infrared camera to check the daytime and nighttime temperatures of the circles, scientists concluded that they could be windows into underground spaces.
Space Bugs Become More Dangerous – (BBC News – September 25, 2007)
When Salmonella typhimurium food bugs were flown in special flasks on the shuttle, they were found to alter the way they expressed 167 genes. The bacteria were almost three times as likely to kill infected mice compared with standard samples held on Earth. The study has important implications for astronauts going to the Moon or Mars.
Here Comes A Whale – (Investor’s Insight – September 17, 2007)
Sadly for Northern Rock, which has been one of the world's most efficient exponents of new financial technologies and managerial methods, its whale-like £113 billion balance sheet rests on a £3 billion equity base better suited for a sardine. Even worse, its liabilities include only £30 billion of stable (until last week) consumer deposits. Its remaining £80 billion of funding depended on securitization or on capital market and inter-bank borrowing. As a result its free liquidity is almost certainly zero, after a deposit flight of more than £2 billion. The analysis in this article concludes that, “The bottom line is that the Bank of England, the media and the markets have no idea of the force which could be about to hit them.”
More Than $1B Needed to Make Forbes List
Prisoners in Pink: Deterrent or Scarlet Mark of Danger?
Prisoners in Pink: Deterrent or Scarlet Mark of Danger? – (USA Today – September 14, 2007)
Sheriff Clint Low, in Mason County, Texas, was looking to cut down on repeat offenders in his small-town jail. Not only did he put all inmates in pink jumpsuits, he put them in pink shoes, pink underwear and pink socks. He painted cell walls pink and put in pink sheets and towels. The effect: a 68% reduction in return customers, Low said. Before painting "drunk tanks" pink at the U.S. Naval Correctional Center in Seattle, the facility had an average of one assault on staff per day. After it went pink, there was only one assault over the next six months.
More Than $1B Needed to Make Forbes List – (Associated Press – September 20, 2007)
A billion dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to. For the first time, it takes more than $1 billion to earn a spot on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans. The minimum net worth for inclusion in this year's rankings released Thursday was $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The new threshold meant 82 of America's billionaires didn't make the cut.
TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT
China Regulates Reincarnation – (Newsweek – August 20, 2007)
China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama. However, at 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession and saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control.
JUST FOR FUN
Super Solution for Rubik's Cube – (BBC News – August 16, 2007)
Research has proved that a Rubik's cube can be returned to its original state in no more than 26 moves. The supercomputer took 63 hours to crank out the proof which goes one better than the previous best solution. The study brings scientists one step closer to finding the so-called "God's Number" which is the minimum number of moves needed to solve any disordered Rubik's cube. It is so named because God would only need the smallest number of moves to solve a cube. Theoretical work suggests that God's Number is in the "low 20s".
A FINAL QUOTE...
We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. - George Bernard Shaw
A special thanks to: Paul Alois, Ken Dabkowski, , Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, KurzweilAI, Sebastian McCallister, Sher Patterson-Black, Diane C. Petersen, , the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, and Steve Ujvarosy our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.