FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- Human retinas contain the same protein that senses magnetism in drosophila and may perhaps explain the so-called 'electrosmog' which many people claim to be able to feel.
- Scientists have discovered a new molecule that will make your teeth cavityproof and may change dental care forever.
- A wind turbine flying at the end of a tether—in essence, a type of kite—has big advantages over one fixed to a concrete foundation.
- Cellphone companies responded to 1.3 million demands for subscribers’ information last year from law enforcement; many of the records, such as location data, didn’t require search warrants.
Source of Animals’ Magnetic Sense Found – (TG Daily – July 10, 2012)
Scientists say they've identified 'internal compass needles' in the noses of rainbow trout, helping explain the way many creatures can navigate using the Earth's magnetic field. Neuroscientists recently discovered “GPS maps” in pigeons' brains, explaining how information on magnetism is encoded in the brain - but until now, nobody's ever been able to pinpoint the cells that detect the magnetic field and convert the information into nerve impulses. "This explains why low-frequency magnetic fields generated by powerlines disrupt navigation relative to the geomagnetic field and may induce other physiological effects," says University of Munich geophysicist Michael Winklhofer, whose team has finally identified magnetosensory cells in the olfactory epithelium of the trout. The findings raise the question of whether human cells are capable of forming magnetite and if so, how much. It's already been discovered that human retinas contain the same protein that senses magnetism in drosophila. If the answer is yes, it could perhaps explain the so-called 'electrosmog' which many people claim to be able to feel.
Is It a Higgs Boson Imposter? – (Discovery News – July 10, 2012)
It was perhaps the most important physics discovery of the century to date: a team of physicists at CERN announced that the elusive Higgs boson had been found — or, at least, a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson had been found. But was the newly discovered particle an imposter? What if it's actually a more exotic Higgs doppelganger? This possibility has been raised by Ian Low, of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Easter Island Drug Raises Cognition Throughout Life Span – (University of Texas – June 20, 2012)
Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, added rapamycin to the diet of healthy mice throughout the rodents’ life span. Rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated from soil on Easter Island, enhanced learning and memory in young mice and improved these faculties in old mice, the study showed. The drug also lowered anxiety and depressive-like behavior in the mice. Rapamycin is an antifungal agent currently administered to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection.
Newspaper Reports of GM Babies Are Misleading – (On Science – June, 2012)
Recently newspapers were abuzz with reports that the world’s first genetically modified human babies had been born. Most accounts gave only a sketchy description of what had occurred, but managed to convey a considerable sense of alarm. For a sample “horror” article, click here. For a more measured and scientifically detailed explanation of the mitochondrial DNA transfer process and its implications, see the primary article referenced above.
Can "Keep 32" Chemical Keep You Cavity-free? – (CBS News – July 11, 2012)
A report out in March 2012 said that more preschoolers were showing up at dentists’ offices with 10 or more cavities, while a report released in May said that one in five Americans have an untreated cavity. But soon, there may be new way to prevent cavities - forever. Jose Cordoba of Yale University and Erich Astudillo of Universidad de Santiago in Chile have discovered a new chemical that may be able to keep your pearly whites pristine. Named after the 32 teeth in the human mouth, Keep 32 was able to get rid of all the bacteria that causes cavities in just 60 seconds. The molecule can not only be incorporated into a gum, but in products like toothpastes, mouthwashes, dental floss, candies, lollipops, dental night gel and other items that can be kept inside the mouth for at least 60 seconds. Astudillo said he hopes to license the chemical to companies that produce dental hygiene products like Colgate or Proctor and Gamble or candy companies like Hershey's or Cadbury. However, the molecule may be classified as an antibiotic. In this case, the researchers would have to prove that the it can be used in a variety of methods without many health consequences, similar to fluoride. See also: Smart-bomb mouthwash still waiting for FDA approval.
Cancer Treatment: Can a Vaccine Trigger An Immune System Response to Cancer? – (Life Extenstion – July 9, 2012)
When the Roswell Park Cancer Institute announced a new trial of an experimental cancer vaccine earlier this year, 5,000 people watched the event on the Internet, 4,000 called or emailed in the following days and nearly 1,000 people posted comments on Twitter. All this for a small study that will enroll only 18 participants to gauge safety. The intense interest reflected the major re-emergence of an idea that has intrigued medical scientists for more than a century - using the body's natural ability to defend itself against disease-causing organisms, the immune system, to treat and prevent cancer. Decades of scientific insights, as well as the landmark approval in recent years of a few early-generation cancer vaccines, now strongly suggest that the body's defenses can be manipulated to attack cancer cells. The survival benefit of the approved vaccines is modest - only a few more months than conventional therapies. And, they are wildly expensive, one costing $120,000 for one course. But evidence is mounting that the concept can work and that other cancer vaccines under study around the world can improve on past versions.
Calcium Carbonate Templates for Drug Delivery – (Max Planck Institute – May 22, 2012)
Chemotherapy is a successful weapon in the fight against cancer; however, it poses one major problem: the toxic substances not only inhibit the growth of the tumor cells, they also damage healthy tissue. Microspheres or nanospheres that deliver drugs to targeted areas of the body and only release them there could help to overcome this problem. The method developed by the researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces makes it possible to produce such spheres in a broad range of sizes and to equip them with different functions. The researchers use porous calcium carbonate microspheres as templates for the production of hollow three-dimensional balls. These can absorb medically effective substances and allow signaling molecules to be attached to their surface, with the help of which the spheres can be channeled to a selected target (diseased tissues) in the body.
An Alzheimer's Warning 25 Years Before Symptoms Show – (Technology Review – July 11, 2012)
The first detectable signs of Alzheimer's disease occur as long as a quarter century before symptoms like memory loss become noticeable, according to a detailed chronology of molecular changes to the brain and spinal fluid of people who later developed the brain disease. The research provides a timeline of the subtle changes that begin in victims' brains and, importantly, can be detected years earlier than detection by MRI exams, blood analyses, or other tests. The development of biomarkers that can track and predict the natural course of the disease is important for carrying out drug studies, in part because changes to these molecules could give early hints that a drug works. Treatments for Alzheimer's have all been unsuccessful so far—in part, researchers think, because people received drugs only after symptoms had become obvious and their brains were too damaged to recover. According to the study, levels in the spinal fluid of Aβ42, a protein associated with Alzheimer's, begins to decline 25 years before the onset of symptoms; at 15 years before symptoms develop, levels of another protein, called tau, begin to rise, and some brain shrinkage and atrophy is evident; at 10 years out, the brain's consumption of the sugar glucose is discernibly lower, and some memory impairment can be measured.
Underwater Sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor – (WebUrbanist – 2009)
Sculptures decorate landscapes, museums, and buildings, but water covers the majority of the Earth’s surface thus making it potentially the world’s largest art gallery. In Grenada, West Indies, 26 life-sized figures sculpted by Jason deCaires Taylor await divers to view them in their underwater playground. The installation entitled Vicissitudes was cast from children with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Hauntingly beautiful, these underwater kids stand united in a circle, holding hands. The Vicissitudes are both art and an enhancement the environment, inviting marine life to rebuild the reef. Fourteen feet below the surface, the Vicissitudes seem to change, depending upon light and weather conditions, while their cement finish and chemical composition actively encourage the establishment of coral and marine life. See this article on the current and projected state of the world’s coral reefs. See also the website of the artist
Copper Making Salmon Prone to Predators – (EurekAlert – July 10, 2012)
Minute amounts of copper from brake linings and mining operations can affect salmon to the point that they are easily eaten by predators, says a Washington State University researcher. Jenifer McIntyre found the metal affects salmon's sense of smell so much that they won't detect a compound that ordinarily alerts them to be still and wary. Salmon are attuned to smell a substance called Schreckstoff. German for "scary stuff," it is released when a fish is physically damaged, alerting nearby fish to the predator's presence. In her experiments, conducted in a four-foot-diameter tank, fish that weren't exposed to copper would freeze in the presence of Schreckstoff, making it harder for motion-sensitive predators to detect them. On average, half a minute would go by before they were attacked. But salmon in water with just five parts of copper per billion failed to detect the Schreckstoff and kept swimming. They were attacked in about five seconds.
How a Grad Student Scooped the Federal Trade Commission – (Nation of Change – June 30, 2012)
A gifted computer scientist, Jonathan Mayer, suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.
HP’s See-through Screen – (BBC News – July 5, 2012)
Hewlett Packard has been granted a US patent for its see-through screen technology. The firm describes a system to create transparent displays that would allow users to see both the screen's computer graphics and the backdrop of the room or an object behind the device. Possible uses include navigation data shown on vehicle windscreens and adverts shown on windows. Alternative see-through technology using angled half-silvered mirrors is already used by TV broadcasters in teleprompters to allow newsreaders to see text superimposed over camera lenses. While such systems coped well with text or images formed by bright lines, HP said, they struggled with greyscale or full-color graphics. The firm said its proposal should overcome this problem and added that individuals standing behind the screen could also be shown different images in order to overcome privacy concerns.
Electricity in the Air – (NASA – May 3, 2012)
A wind turbine that's flying at the end of a tether instead of fixed to a concrete foundation has big advantages. Most tower turbines are roughly 300 feet high, which is "pathetically down in the boundary layer of Earth." The boundary layer is where friction from Earth's surface keeps the wind relatively slow and turbulent. The sweet spot for wind energy starts around 2000 feet up. To use wind at that altitude to generate electricity, you’d have to build a turbine tower taller than the Empire State Building. Or you can fly a kite. There are two basic types of airborne wind-energy systems. One, known as "flygen," is literally a flying generator, with turbines built into the kite. The resulting electricity travels by tether to a storage or distribution device on the ground. In the other kind of system, the generator sits on the ground, powered by the reeling out of the tether as the wind catches the kite. By maneuvering the kite like a sailboat tacking upwind, the periodic reeling-in phase can take only about 10% of the energy produced by the reeling-out phase, for a 90% net gain.
A Biofuel That Blows Ethanol Out of the Water – (Business Insider – July 5, 2012)
What if averting peak oil meant not turning up more rocks but growing oil in a lab? Since 2006, Virent, a Madison, Wisconsin-based venture founded by chemical engineering Ph.D Randy Cortwright, has been doing just that. Earlier this year, the company announced it had completed a pilot refinery sponsored by Shell to help the oil giant meet renewable fuel standards. The process is a quantum-leap improvement on how ethanol gets made. While it uses similar materials like corn starch, sugar cane and wood, the end product has a much higher energy content than regular ethanol.Virent says its products, unlike ethanol, can literally be "dropped in" to existing fuel supply chains, meaning manufacturing facilities, pipelines, tanks and fueling stations would not need to change anything about the way they currently operate. Virent's technology uses hydrogen gas and metal compound agents to catalyze plant products, then uses a decades-old refining formula first pioneered by Mobil to convert them into the complex hydrocarbons that constitute premium fuel products.
Wave-Energy Project in Australia – (Lockheed Martin – July 11, 2012)
According to the World Energy Council, (ocean) wave energy has the potential to produce around 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity a year, or enough power to meet 10 percent of the world’s current energy needs. In Australia, which has very attractive wave resources, this percentage could be significantly higher. Ocean Power Technologies, Inc., (OPT) a leading wave energy technology company, and Lockheed Martin have entered into a teaming agreement with the goal of developing a 19 megawatt wave-energy project in Victoria, Australia. This is one of the largest wave-energy projects announced to date, and leverages a grant from the Commonwealth of Australia. Lockheed Martin and OPT have been collaborating since 2004, most recently to design and launch utility-scale wave energy converters off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon.
Eggasus – Putting Clean Urban Transportation in an Eggshell – (GizMag – July 2, 2012)
Fans of personal, futuristic eco cars have something to "eggcited" about with the arrival of Eggasus, which is slated for northern hemisphere fall launch in the US. The designers are currently taking orders of the cute, no-emissions three-wheeler, which recently made the finalist list of the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge. Eggasus is designed for one person only, with the driver protected from the elements by an all-weather enclosure, which gives the vehicle its egg shape. Underneath the shell is a three-wheeled electric vehicle, fitted with an electric hub motor in the front wheel, enclosed cab, tinted windows, a seat, and instrument display panel. It reaches a range of up to 50 miles, with a top speed of 25 mph. (Editor’s Note: It does not appear that this vehicle would be street-legal, but it would be great for navigating large university or corporate campuses.) See also: this article.
Getting a Charge Out of Automobile Heat – (NASA – February 9, 2012)
Only about 25% of the energy in every gallon of gasoline pumped into your car’s gas tank actually runs the vehicle. The rest is converted to heat, which is radiated uselessly off of your engine or blown out of your exhaust pipe. What if you could recover some of that wasted energy? JPL and two automakers are developing technology to do just that. NASA has been using heat-to-electricity technology for decades to power spacecraft touring the outer planets, where the distance from the sun makes solar panels inadequate. The technology relies on thermoelectric (TE) materials—special kinds of semiconductors that generate an electric current when one end is kept hotter than the other end. The greater the temperature difference, the more electricity is produced.
Smart Grid Leads to More Efficient Electric Trains – (GizMag – July 11, 2012)
Electric commuter trains, while quiet and fast, have one glaring inefficiency – when they brake at a station, the energy of the moving train is lost, even when the motors are electrically reversed. Capturing the electrical energy generated during braking is simple, but efficiently redistributing it through the power grid is not. The result, in too many systems, is that the braking energy is simply wasted. Now an energy storage project in Philadelphia aims to capture and efficiently utilize that braking energy, providing a look into the potential of the forthcoming smart grid. Engineering studies conducted by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority showed that while practical banks of ultracapacitors cannot provide sufficient additional capacity to capture the braking energy, banks of lithium-ion batteries can. The power is not only recovered efficiently, but is fed back into the regional power grid rather than remaining confined within the commuter train's third rail system.
Dying for Starbucks: Funeral Home Adds Coffee Franchise – (Examiner – July 11, 2012)
With people literally dying to get in, a funeral home in northwestern South Carolina has announced plans to open what it calls the “Starbucks Experience”. Robinson Funeral Home, a fourth-generation funeral home and crematory in Easley, South Carolina, has announced that a Starbucks franchise will be added to its existing slate of services. Having hired a full-staff of Starbucks baristas to handle the caffeine needs of every mourner, coffee will also be discreetly served to the general public. The so-called "Coffee Corner" will also offer food, a fireplace and free Wi-Fi access.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
New Homeland Security Laser Scanner Reads People At Molecular Level – (CBS – July 11, 2012)
The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you at the molecular level from over 160-feet away. This laser-based scanner – which can be used 164-feet away — could read everything from a person’s adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a person’s clothes, to illegal substances — and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports. The new scanners are expected to be used in airports as soon as 2013. For a more technical analysis of how the equipment works, see: Government Scanners Will Instantly Know Everything About You From 164 Feet Away
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Obama’s Scramble for Africa – (Nation of Change – July 12, 2012)
Under President Obama, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years: last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders. And this only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region. Today, the U.S. is drawing down in Afghanistan and has largely left Iraq. Africa, however, remains a growth opportunity for the Pentagon. The U.S. is now involved, directly and by proxy, in military and surveillance operations against an expanding list of regional enemies.
How Many Millions of Cellphones Are Police Watching? – (Nation of Change – July 12, 2012)
In response to a congressional inquiry, mobile phone companies have finally disclosed just how many times they’ve handed over users’ cellphone data to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. By the New York Times’ count, cellphone companies responded to 1.3 million demands for subscribers’ information last year from law enforcement. Many of the records, such as location data, don’t require search warrants or much court oversight. Both police and cell service providers had long resisted releasing details on the scope of cellphone surveillance. But the new disclosures from cellphone companies still leave a slew of unanswered questions.
That’s No Phone; That’s My Tracker – (New York Times – July 15, 2012)
In a commentary on the government and corporate use of tracking, this article puts it succinctly: the device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone is not. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Let’s stop calling them phones. They are trackers. A recent survey by a British cell carrier showed that making calls is the fifth-most-popular activity for smartphones; more popular uses are Web browsing, checking social networks, playing games and listening to music. Smartphones are taking over the functions that laptops, cameras, credit cards and watches once performed for us. And just how much do those smartphones know? The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruling on the use of tracking devices by the police, noted that GPS data can reveal whether a person “is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.”
Russia’s Parliament Votes for Internet Censorship Law – (BBC News – July 11, 2012)
Russia's parliament has voted to approve a law that would give the government the power to force certain internet sites offline without a trial. Supporters of the amendment to the Act for Information say it will help the authorities block sites containing images of child abuse and other illegal material. But opponents have warned that censorship could later be extended. The bill still needs to be signed by President Vladimir Putin and approved by Russia's upper house, the Federation Council of Russia. Local reports suggest it could come into force by November. The Russian-language version of Wikipedia took its content offline for a day ahead of the vote claiming the law "could lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the entire internet in Russia, including banning access to Wikipedia in the Russian language." Local search engine Yandex also signalled its concern by temporarily crossing out the word "everything" in its "everything will be found" logo.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Obesity, the Other Gulf War Syndrome – (Business Week, June 21, 2012)
One out of three Kuwaiti adults is obese. Ten percent are morbidly obese. Actually, the numbers are worse: Only 12% of Kuwaitis have a body-mass index (BMI) below 25. (The ideal range is 18.5 to 25.) At least 88% of Kuwaitis, in other words, are considered overweight. As waistlines in Kuwait and across the Persian Gulf have expanded over the last three or four years, so too has the business of bariatric surgery. Ten years ago, Dr. Al Sanea says, there were only two bariatric surgeons in Kuwait. Today, there are 20. the bariatric boom can be traced to the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War. That was when hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops descended on the Gulf nation, bringing with them Taco Bell, Hardee’s, Baskin-Robbins, and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, among others. Andrew Smith, the author of the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, says, “The American military went in, and obviously they wanted fast food. Therefore, the number of fast-food establishments expanded exponentially.” And Kuwaitis fell in love.
Stepping Out of the System – (BBC News – July 13, 2012)
In lean economic times, alternative financial systems are sprouting up around the world. And now they come with a digital twist. A network of more than 500 people in Volos, Greece have taken financial matters into their own hands as part of an alternative local currency, known by its Greek acronym TEM. "In the network, people can trade their goods and services," says Christos Papaioannou, one of the network's founders. "If I do a service for you, then you owe me a favour. And I can use that favour to get some service from someone else. So, we don't have to exchange directly, I can get it from some third person." To be clear, there is no actual currency or scrip exchanged. Credits are tracked via an open-source community banking software system called Cyclos. One woman, for example, banks her credits from selling jam to buy staple foods such as eggs and fresh vegetables that are offered through the network. The idea of bartering is catching on. Ken Banks, who recently launched a project called Means of Exchange, said that the idea behind the project is to create a "toolbox" of web-based and mobile apps that will make it easier for people to engage in things like bartering, swapping and alternative currencies.
TV Habits Predict Kids' Waist Size and Sporting Ability – (EurekAlert – July 15, 2012)
Each hour of TV watched by a two- to four-year- old contributes to his or her waist circumference by the end of grade 4 and his or her ability to perform in sports, according to a world-first study undertaken by researchers at the University of Montreal. Each weekly hour of TV at 29 months of age corresponds to a decrease of about a third of a centimeter in the distance a child is able to jump. In terms of waist size, the researchers found that, at 4.5 years of age, the children's waist size increased by slightly less than half a millimeter for every extra weekly hour of TV the child was watching on top of what they had been watching when he or she was 2.5. To put it another way, a child who watched 18 hours of television at 4.5 years of age (true for approximately 15% of the children in the study) would by the age of 10 have an extra 7.6 millimeters of girth because of his or her habits.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Roswell UFO Not of This World and There Were ET Cadavers According to Former CIA Agent – (Huffington Post – July 8, 2012)
Sixty-five years ago, the Roswell Daily Record blasted an infamous headline claiming local military officials had captured a flying saucer on a nearby ranch. And now, a former CIA agent says it really happened. "It was not a damn weather balloon—it was what it was billed when people first reported it," said Chase Brandon, a 35-year CIA veteran. "It was a craft that clearly did not come from this planet, it crashed and I don't doubt for a second that the use of the word 'remains' and 'cadavers' was exactly what people were talking about." Brandon served as an undercover, covert operations officer in the agency's Clandestine Service for 25 years, where he was assigned missions in international terrorism, counterinsurgency, global narcotics trafficking and weapons smuggling. He spent his final 10 years of CIA service on the director's staff as the agency's first official liaison to the entertainment and publication industries. It was during this time, in the mid-1990s, that he walked into a special section of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., called the Historical Intelligence Collection and saw a box labeled “Roswell”.
Hubble Discovers New Pluto Moon – (BBC News – July 11, 2012)
The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a fifth moon circling the dwarf planet Pluto. The new moon, visible as a speck of light in Hubble images, is estimated to be irregular in shape and between 10km and 25km across. Scientists are intrigued that such a small world can have such a complex collection of satellites. The moon - known only as P5 - could help shed light on how the Pluto system formed and evolved. According to one idea, all the moons are relics of a collision between Pluto and another large icy object billions of years ago.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
“Rubber-Band Electronics” Can Stretch to 200% Their Original Size – (GizMag – July 2, 2012)
In the quest to develop implantable electronics to monitor the human body from within, flexibility and stretchability have been major hurdles. We’ve seen numerous developments including stretchable LED arrays, an implantable device for measuring the heart’s electrical output, and an electrode array that melts onto the surface of the brain. Now researchers have developed technology that combines a porous polymer and liquid metal that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200% their original size. As well as flexible and stretchable medical devices that can be implanted inside the human body, the technology could also free consumer electronics manufacturers from the rigid designs we’re used to. The technology could pave the way for bendable consumer electronic devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Nanostructures Modeled After Moth Eyes May Enhance Medical Imaging – (Optical Society – July 3, 2012)
Using the compound eyes of the humble moth as their inspiration, an international team of physicists has developed new nanoscale materials that could someday reduce the radiation dosages received by patients getting X-rayed, while improving the resolution of the resulting images. Like butterflies, moths have large compound eyes, made up of many thousands of ommatidia-structures made up of a primitive cornea and lens, connected to photoreceptor cells. But moth eyes, unlike those of butterflies, are remarkably anti-reflective, bouncing back very little of the light that strikes them. The adaptation helps the insects be stealthier and less visible to predators during their nocturnal flights. Because of this feature, engineers have looked to the moth eye to help design more efficient coatings for solar panels and antireflective surfaces for military devices, among other applications. Now a team led by Yasha Yi, a professor at the City University of New York, have used the moth eye as a model for a new class of materials that improve the light-capturing efficiency of X-ray machines and similar medical imaging devices.
Robot Legs Walk Like a Human – (UPI – July 7, 2012)
Scientists at the University of Arizona have built a pair of robotic legs that they believe is the first to accurately replicate how humans walk. Scientists Theresa J. Klein and M. Anthony Lewis explain how their model imitates the workings of the body to produce "biologically accurate walking." Klein and Lewis believe that, by better understanding the walking process in humans, they can gain a better sense of how babies learn to walk – and ultimately help people with spinal cord injuries regain the ability. Article includes video clip of the robotic legs.
89 Business Clichés That Will Get Any MBA Promoted And Make Them Totally Useless – (Forbes – June 19, 2012)
Here are 89 of the most common clichés currently taking up air space in corporate conversations (along with the author’s de-spinning translations). For example: 37. Our visibility into the quarter is a little fuzzy = Sales just fell off a cliff. 66. We’re getting some push back = They’re not buying it. 89. I want you to run with this = I just threw you into the deep end of the pool and you’re on your own to figure it out.
The Spreading Scourge of Corporate Corruption – (New York Times – July 10, 2012)
This article fingers everything from globalization to rising income inequality, as well as the growing role of corporate money in political campaigns. Yet, while corporations are spending more than ever on political campaigns, we’ve also recently seen a noticeable uptick in corporate corruption scandals. According to Transparency International, the United States is becoming more corrupt. That organization, which ranked the country the 16th least-corrupt in the world in 2001. By last year, the United States had fallenl back to 24th place. Have corporations lost whatever ethical compass they once had? Or does it just look that way because we are paying more attention than we used to?
Africa’s True Mobile Revolution Has Yet to Start – (Harvard Business Review – July 4, 2012)
The United States economy is nine times the size of Africa's, but Africa has twice as many mobile phones. This tantalizing statistic would seem to indicate that, in the mobile era, Africa's time has come. So far, the buzz about African mobile has been about the consumer side of things. This article suggests, though, that it is at the enterprise level that mobile could truly become a game changer for Africa, enabling the building of massive fortunes, and perhaps even the much anticipated recycling of innovation from Africa to the West. Given the unique advantages of the African setting for all things mobile — the whole enterprise is likely to embrace cloud and mobility with a seamlessness and finality that is impossible to achieve in the West. And when such a bug successfully infects one company it could very easily affect its entire industry, because mobile has always been a viral technology.
Which Businesses Are the Least Transparent - (Forbes - July 11, 2012)
The nonprofit organization Transparency International ranks sectors' disclosure records. Its results may—or may not— surprise you. The organization examined the world's largest 105 companies. Big Energy is the most "transparent" industry when it comes to corruption-fighting. On a scale of 0-10, the finance sector averaged a score of just 4.2. Only two-thirds of them voluntarily report on their corruption-prevention policies, but that's better than the last time Transparency International issued a report, in 2009, when less than half of them did. That result is weighted by the fact that four of the least transparent companies on the overall list are Chinese banks. But the organization says that, nevertheless, "the remaining financial companies were also below average."
Drachten Intersection – (You Tube – March 8, 2007)
In Drachten, Holland, the removal years ago of road safety measures has doubled traffic flow and resulted in zero fatalities. Hans Monderman, Dutch traffic engineer, has been helping towns calm traffic for a couple decades. This is a clip of an intersection with no real signage, where pedestrians, bikers and drivers all coexist peacefully. Occasional tire screeches, but no accidents for years.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Chimpanzees Use Human-like Gestures – (BBC News – July 13, 2012)
Dr. Anna Roberts said she has identified 20 to 30 manual gestures used by wild chimps, up to a third of which were similar to those used by humans, including beckoning to make someone approach or flailing their arms to make someone leave. The Stirling University scientist said: "Chimpanzees use these gestures intentionally to elicit a desired response from other chimpanzees and they may be the missing link between ape and human communication. We now know that these gestures must have been in the repertoire of our common ancestor and might have been the starting point for language evolution." The study found the animals used gestures to communicate a range of activities including nursing, feeding, sex, aggression and defense. Dr. Roberts also discovered that chimpanzees not only communicate using manual gestures, but are able to work out what the signaller means from both gesture and accompanying context.
JUST FOR FUN
Women in Science - The Longest Time – (You Tube – April 20, 2012)
Check out the Barber Lab Quartet. Beyond singing, these four young women do research in the Coral Triangle (in Indonesia), one of the most threatened, yet understudied, ecosystems in the world. They are working to understand the processes creating and maintaining biological diversity in this region, while building the capacity of researchers and students to contribute to local conservation efforts.
A FINAL QUOTE--
The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn. - Alvin Toffler
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Ray Goodman, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Hal Taylor, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen