Volume 15, Number 16 - 8/30/12 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • The first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star has been discovered by an international team of astronomers.

  • Researchers have discovered a way to store an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA -- one trillionth of a gram -- an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data.

  • A company named Modern Meadow aims to bypass livestock by combining regenerative medicine with 3D printing to create edible meat.

  • In a new film, over 40 experts in the fields of structural engineering, high-rise architecture, controlled demolition, physics, chemistry and metallurgy lay out the case for a controlled demolition of the World Trade Center on 9/11. (Film can be watched for free online.)


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Presentation in Virginia

I am giving a talk next weekend west of Charlottesville in central Virginia. The event will be held at the Swannanoa Palace, which I’m told to see is worth the trip alone.



Swannanoa was the home of the polymath Walter Russell for many years.

The event is called the One Heart Homecoming Festival and will be held on Saturday and Sunday the 8th and 9th of September. There is an interesting lineup of other speakers. You can find complete information here.

Exponential Change

I’ve been impressed during the last week or so with the extraordinary change that has transpired during the last 10 years. I’ve tried to explain in many talks over the years the notion of exponential change, but in general that is somewhat of an abstract concept – big change in a short time. But let me give you a couple of examples here from quite different domains of two things that have happened in the last decade that have the potential of dramatically changing the shape and color of the next world in which we live.

These are links to significant videos – some shorter, one rather long. I’d commend them all to you. These are powerful communications that paint, in compelling terms, the outline of the emergence of a dramatic new reality.

First, rather amazing changes in the notion of privacy and the intrusive role of government has happened in the last ten years. Here’s a good initial summary from AlterNet.

The article says, in part: “Today’s surveillance and tracking systems can (in principle) integrate infinite amounts of information: your location and identity via GPS and face recognition technology; video feeds from the cameras located down the street or across the globe; records from any and all databases; electronic communications like voice and emails. It’s all in the processors and the sky's the limit.”

It’s one thing to read things like that at a site like AlterNet, which promotes activist positions, but it’s rather another thing when similar stories show up in the New York Times, where film maker Laura Poitras recently profiled National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney’s exposure of the extraordinary transformation that took place within the National Security Agency after 9/11.

Poitras has personal experience that is illustrative of some of what is going on:

“To those who understand state surveillance as an abstraction, I will try to describe a little about how it has affected me. The United States apparently placed me on a “watch-list” in 2006 after I completed a film about the Iraq war. I have been detained at the border more than 40 times. Once, in 2011, when I was stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and asserted my First Amendment right not to answer questions about my work, the border agent replied, “If you don’t answer our questions, we’ll find our answers on your electronics.”’ As a filmmaker and journalist entrusted to protect the people who share information with me, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to work in the United States. Although I take every effort to secure my material, I know the N.S.A. has technical abilities that are nearly impossible to defend against if you are targeted.”

Be sure to watch the video clip. If, by the way, you would like to know more about Binney’s allegations of what the government is now doing, just Google his name. Lot’s of illuminating things there.

I’ve often said that in order for the exponential trend to be sustained that there must be earth changing breakthroughs in almost every area of life. I just recently came across one potential one in the last few days. Mehran Tavakoli Keshe, an Iranian-born nuclear engineer educated in the UK and now living in Belgium, has developed a new theoretical framework for understanding how this reality works that is based on plasma and the interaction of magnetism and gravity. What makes him different from others who have “theories of everything” is that he had developed a number of products that appear to work that are based upon the relationships that he describes, including a flashlight that produces light without any obvious conventional source of energy – he says it harvests energy from the ambient magnetic fluctuations that surround us all.

A flashlight (torch) is nothing compared to other projects he describes as either already completed or in a late phase of development, among them: a means of levitation, a radically different way of harnessing energy, disease elimination, space travel. He claims to have helped the Iranian government pluck an American spy drone out of the air over Iran and deliver it undamaged on the ground. He suggests that the because of these new science and technological breakthroughs, the world is on the verge of a new era of peace that will eliminate all conflict between nations.

You can order from his site a soup can-sized generator that is advertized to produce 4 KWH of electricity (enough for a reasonably sized home), 24 hours a day that uses no conventional fuel source (it’s the gravitational fluctuation, again). It costs 5,000 euros and is in production now, apparently. Deliveries before the end of the year.

You can listen to this two-hour explanation of his scientific theory (which for me, at least, was quite compelling and convincing) along with a host of descriptions and demonstrations of his inventions.

Now, even though the descriptions and logic hold together for me and I have two independent sources that have essentially come to the same conclusion about Keshe’s theories, I have no way of knowing whether all of this is true or some kind of a very interesting ruse (for what reason I sure don’t know). But if you allow the possibility that it could be true and take the time to watch this and think about what is being said you will probably come to the conclusions that:

1. We are on the verge of perhaps the greatest (and most rapid) transformation in how humans live on this planet in all of the history, and

2. There are a bunch of government types in windowless rooms who are VERY concerned about all of this and probably don’t have one good idea about what to do about the obvious unpinning of the status quo that is rushing headlong this way.


Stay tuned: Keshe is scheduled to unveil this all publically on the 21st of September. We’ll see.

Keep in mind that these are only two data points in an innumerable number of transitions taking place coincidently, which are fundamentally redefining who we are and how we will live.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Appeals Court OKs Warrantless, Real-Time Mobile Phone Tracking – (Wired – August 14, 2012)
A federal appeals court has ruled that authorities do not need a probable-cause warrant to track a suspect’s every move via GPS signals from a suspect’s mobile phone. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling 2-1, upheld a 20-year term for a drug courier nabbed with 1,100 pounds of marijuana in a motorhome camper the authorities tracked via his mobile phone pinging cell towers from Arizona to a Texas truck stop. The decision, a big boost for the government’s surveillance powers, comes as prosecutors are shifting their focus to warrantless cell-tower location tracking of suspects in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in January sharply limiting the use of GPS vehicle trackers. The Supreme Court found law enforcement should acquire probable-cause warrants from judges to affix GPS devices to vehicles and monitor their every move.

We Love You – (You Tube – March 19, 2012)
Ronny (Raodekia), a 41-year-old citizen of Israel, posted a message on Facebook, saying “Iranians, We Love You”. The whole message was a little longer than that, but still, it was simple, human to human, not government to government. “We do not hate you. We are not afraid of you. We do not want to bomb you. We don’t even know you. We’d like to know you.” It went viral. And then the same message started coming back… from Iranians. See also this clip from the same man inviting people banned from visiting each other’s countries to share their stories and, thus, the realities of their lives.

Thirteen Year Old Persuades Illinois Governor to Veto Bill Prohibiting Communities from Banning Plastic Bags – (Nation of Change – August 28, 2012)
Illinois student, Abby Goldberg, joined by more than 170,000 people who signed her petition on Change.org, has persuaded Governor Pat Quinn to veto SB 3442, the Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act, a proposed law that would have prohibited communities in Illinois from enacting bans on plastic bags. Goldberg’s campaign on Change.org is yet another example of students using the online platform to create change. Earlier this summer, three high school students from New Jersey successfully petitioned the Commission on Presidential Debates to name the first woman presidential debate moderator in 20 years, and just last week, a 10-year-old in California inspired smoothie giant Jamba Juice to publicly commit to a timeline for phasing out styrofoam cups in their stores.



NEW REALITIES

1,000,000,000,000 Frames/Second Photography – (TED – July 26, 2012)
In 1964 MIT professor Harold Edgerton, pioneer of stop-action photography, famously took a photo of a bullet piercing an apple using exposures as short as a few nanoseconds. Inspired by his work, Ramesh Raskar and his team set out to create a camera that could capture not just a bullet (traveling at 850 meters per second) but light itself (nearly 300 million meters per second). Stop a moment to take that in: photographing light as it moves. For that, they built a camera and software that can visualize pictures as if they are recorded at 1 trillion frames per second. The same photon-imaging technology can also be used to create a camera that can peer "around" corners , by exploiting specific properties of the photons when they bounce off surfaces and objects.

First Ever Death Star Discovered – (Daily Galaxy – August 25, 2012)
The first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. The evidence indicates that the missing planet was devoured as the star began expanding into a "red giant" -- the stellar equivalent of advanced age. "A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the Sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some five-billion years from now," said Alexander Wolszczan, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, who is one of the members of the research team. Wolszczan also is the discoverer of the first planet ever found outside our solar system.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Making Stretchable Electronics – (Technology Review – Sept/Oct, 2012)
MC10, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is getting ready to commercialize high-performance electronics that can stretch. The technology could lead to such products as skin patches that monitor whether the wearer is sufficiently hydrated, or inflatable balloon catheters equipped with sensors that measure electrical misfiring caused by cardiac arrhythmias. To make both the hydration-sensing patch and the catheter, gold electrodes and wires just a few hundred nanometers thick are deposited on silicon wafers by conventional means, then peeled off and applied to stretchable polymers. The serpentine wires elongate when the polymers stretch, either when the balloon inflates in the heart or as the patch moves around on the skin.

Nanofibers May Pose Health Risk – (BBC News – August 23, 2012)
Inhaling tiny fibers made by the nanotechnology industry could cause similar health problems to asbestos, say researchers. Some are similar in shape to asbestos fibers, which have caused lung cancers such as mesothelioma. Nanofibers are in a range of goods, from airplane wings to tennis rackets. Those larger than five micrometers, or five-thousandths of a millimeter, tended to become lodged in the lungs and cause inflammation. The smaller ones were cleared from the lungs. Ken Donaldson, professor of respiratory toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We knew that long fibers, compared with shorter fibers, could cause tumors, but until now we did not know the cut-off length at which this happened.

Antibiotics Linked to Weight Gain – (Scientific American – August 27, 2012)
Changes in the gut microbiome from low-dose antibiotics caused mice to gain weight. Similar alterations in humans taking antibiotics, especially children, might be adding to the obesity epidemic. Researchers mimicked what farmers have been doing for decades to fatten up their livestock: they fed young mice a steady low dose of antibiotics. The antibiotics altered the composition of bacteria in the guts of the mice and also changed how the bacteria broke down nutrients. The bacteria in treated mice activated more genes that turn carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids, and they turned on genes related to lipid conversion in the liver. Presumably, these shifts in molecular pathway enable fat build-up. Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at New York University in New York, says that parents might unknowingly be promoting a similar phenomenon when they treat common ailments and ear infections in their children. To back that idea up, he points to a study that found that a disproportionate number of 11,000 kids in the United Kingdom who were overweight by the time they were 3 years old had taken antibiotics within their first 6 months of life.

Genomics Solves Medical Mystery – (Technology Review – August 22, 2012)
Tracing bacterial genomes revealed the surprising way that an infection spread throughout a hospital. Between June and December of last year, 17 patients at the Clinical Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, came down with a bloodstream infection; six of them died. Doctors knew that a patient had arrived with Klebsiella pneumoniae in June, but it wasn't clear how the bacterium, a common culprit in hospital-acquired infections, was passed around, or whether several different patients had simply brought it in with them. By taking bacterial samples from the patients and certain hospital equipment and analyzing the genomes of the different strains, researchers traced the organism's meandering path as it cut a deadly swath through the facility. The sequencing was possible because it is now cheap and fast enough to do in near-real time. Each of the genome sequences cost about $2,000 last year; the price has since dropped to about $500. The scans revealed that the germs originated from one patient, that their path through the hospital was different than expected, and that current methods for combating such hospital-acquired infections are inadequate.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Climate Experts: More Extreme Weather to Come – (Yes – August 22, 2012)
In a supplement to their State of the Climate report released in July, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) attributed—for the first time—recent extreme weather events to human-induced climate change. The study found increasing evidence that specific events, and patterns of events—such as floods, heat waves, and drought—can now be linked to human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions. Of the six extreme weather events in 2011, the report indicates that five were at least partly caused by climate change. Last year’s record heat wave in Texas was about 20 times more likely to have happened due to climate change than natural variations in weather systems, according to the report.“ Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment,” commented Kathryn D. Sullivan, deputy NOAA administrator.

Mutant Butterflies Near Fukushima Linked to Radiation – (Discover – August 15, 2012)
Japanese authorities may have cleared out the human population around the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but the native wildlife is still there. A month after the accident, scientists who study the pale grass blue butterfly collected 144 near the plant, and found that they had begun to show mutations like dented eyes and deformed wings. Six months later, they caught another batch—and, worryingly, found they had twice as many mutations. This suggested that the butterflies’ germ line—the cells that turn into egg and sperm—had suffered damage, so mutations could be expected to continue to accumulate down through the generations. Exposing butterflies in the lab to radiation at the levels around the Fukushima plant triggered similar malformations, further strengthening the link between the radiation and the mutations.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Germans Reopen Investigation on Facebook Privacy – (New York Times – August 15, 2012)
Data protection officials in Germany reopened an investigation into Facebook’s facial recognition technology Wednesday, saying that the social networking giant was illegally compiling a huge database of members’ photos without their consent. The company’s use of analytic software to compile photographic archives of human faces, based on photos uploaded by Facebook’s members, has been problematic in Europe, where data protection laws require people to give their explicit consent to the practice. In their meetings, Facebook representatives acknowledged that the company was compiling biometric data on users, but have maintained that the practice is legal in Ireland, where Facebook’s European operation is incorporated. (Editor’s note: What is interesting about this is the question of legal jurisdiction and whether or not a country has legal jurisdiction over itself.)

DNA, the Ultimate Hard Drive – (Science Mag – August 14, 2012)
When it comes to storing information, hard drives don't hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has been mostly theoretical—until now. In a new study, researchers stored an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA—one trillionth of a gram—an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data. A few teams have tried to write data into the genomes of living cells. But the approach has a couple of disadvantages. First, cells die—not a good way to lose your term paper. They also replicate, introducing new mutations over time that can change the data. To get around these problems, at team at Harvard Medical School created a DNA information-archiving system that uses no cells at all. Instead, an inkjet printer embeds short fragments of chemically synthesized DNA onto the surface of a tiny glass chip. To encode a digital file, researchers divide it into tiny blocks of data and convert these data not into the 1s and 0s of typical digital storage media, but rather into DNA’s four-letter alphabet of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts.

Shamoon Virus Contains Amateur Coding Error That Suggests It Isn’t State Sponsored – (Red Orbit – August 22, 2012)
The devil is often in the details, and sometimes those details can provide would-be sleuths with clues. This is certainly the case in the new mystery virus known as “Shamoon,” which was discovered by researchers at Symantec and McAfee last week. Also known as “Disttrack,” the virus is notable in that it contains the string “wiper” in the Windows file directory that its developers used when compiling it. The malware reportedly has the potential to permanently wipe data from an infected hard drive, rendering the targeted machine almost unusable. This particular super virus was also notable in that it had specific targets in mind. The mystery malware recently wreaked havoc on specific energy sector computers. In this case the “detail” is actually what has been reported to be an amateur programming error, one that is not typically found in state-sponsored attacks. The conclusion from this is that an experienced programmer didn’t create Shamoon, which indicates that earlier reports that it was perhaps an example of a state-sponsored cyber-attack aimed at a foreign power is unlikely. But the questions now are: Who made it? Why? and, ominously, What can we expect next? Evidence has surfaced that could answer at least some of these questions.



SHELTER

New Toilet Technology after 150 Years of Waste - (Bloomberg - August 14, 2012)
The Gates Foundation is sponsoring a competition to reinvent the toilet for the 2.5 billion people around the world who don't have access to modern sanitation. To pass the foundation's threshold for the world's next toilet, it must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system, not discharge pollutants, preferably capture energy or other resources, and operate at a cost of 5 cents a day. Most of the prototypes turn solid waste into energy. This is both a practical and pragmatic solution to the solid waste puzzle, said Carl Hensman, program officer for the foundation's water, sanitation and hygiene team. One design uses microwave energy to transform human waste into electricity. Another captures urine and uses it for flushing. Still another turns excrement into charcoal. Update: CalTech won the $100,000 prize; they started working on the project last summer after winning a $400,000 grant. The units will operate for 5 cents/day, but the manufacturing cost per unit was not disclosed.

Bringing Power to the People—And Heat as Well – (MIT – August 6, 2012)
In some clinics in isolated parts of Africa, the electricity needed to power lights and medical devices is generated by expensive imported diesel fuel; the water supply can be so cold in winter that health workers can’t even wash their hands properly. But a startup company established by a team of MIT students and alumni aims to change that. The patented technology they developed uses a mirrored parabolic trough to capture sunlight, heating fluid in a pipe along the mirror’s centerline. This fluid then powers a sort of air conditioner in reverse: Instead of using electricity to pump out cold air on one side and hot air on the other, it uses the hot fluid and cold air to generate electricity. At the same time, the hot fluid can be used to provide heat and hot water — or, by adding a separate chiller stage, to produce cooling as well. A prototype has been installed at a small clinic in the southern African nation of Lesotho; next year, the MIT team plans to have five fully operational systems installed in isolated clinics and schools there for field-testing.

House for All Seasons – (DaZeen – July 4, 2012)
Architect John Lin has adapted the traditional style of a rural Chinese courtyard residence to create a village house that is entirely self-sufficient. Lin, an architecture professor at the University of Hong Kong, designed the house in Shijia Village, north-eastern China, as a model that would encourage village residents to be less dependent on outside goods and services. A number of courtyards are contained behind the walls of the house, accommodating a pig pen and an underground biogas boiler that generates energy from the animal waste. Lin’s design won first prize in the Architectural Review House 2012 awards.

World’s First Digitally Fabricated House – (GizMag – August 24, 2012)
Facit Homes claims to be the first company in the world to digitally fabricate a custom home on-site. The company has developed a process (D-Process) whereby it delivers a compact mobile production facility (MPF) to the construction site, equipped with all the materials and machinery required to transform a 3D digital design into a physical building. “We are the first company in the world to have successfully trialed manufacturing a house on-site,” according to Managing Director of Facit Homes, Bruce Bell “We bring our compact high-tech machine to site and make it there and then—its an amazingly efficient way of designing and making a house.” Facit Homes first designs the house using a 3D computer model, which contains every aspect from its orientation, material quantities, even down to the position of individual plug sockets. The patented “D-Process” then transforms the 3D digital designs into the home’s exact physical building components, using a computer controlled cutter. These components are usually made from engineered spruce ply and are light and easy enough to then be assembled together on site.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Major Advance in Generating Electricity from Wastewater – (Oregon State University – August 13, 2012)
Engineers at Oregon State University have made a breakthrough in the performance of microbial fuel cells that can produce electricity directly from wastewater, opening the door to a future in which waste treatment plants not only will power themselves, but will sell excess electricity. The new technology can produce 10 to 50 more times the electricity, per volume, than most other approaches using microbial fuel cells, and 100 times more electricity than some. Continued research should also find even more optimal use of necessary microbes, reduced material costs and improved function of the technology at commercial scales, OSU scientists said. Once advances are made to reduce high initial costs, researchers estimate that the capital construction costs of this new technology should be comparable to that of the activated sludge systems now in widespread use today. The approach may have special value in developing nations, where access to electricity is limited and sewage treatment at remote sites is difficult or impossible as a result.

Is India About to Alter the World's Energy Future? - (Oil Price - August 23, 2012)
India has missed every annual target to add electricity production capacity since 1951. India also faced a deficit of 8.5% on its base electricity load from 2010-2011; and many Indians now feel that government’s general inaction has compounded the nation’s energy problems. And the biggest news for India’s energy future actually came earlier this year – before the blackouts even occurred – when the Indian parliament declared, in collaboration with its Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), that the nation would commence on the construction of its first-ever 300 MW (megawatt) thorium reactor by 2016-17. Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element that is named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Discovered in 1828 by Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, the 90th element on the periodic table has been described by Forbes as possibly “the biggest energy breakthrough since fire.” According to Greentech Media, Thorium the potential to replace uranium as a ultra-cheap and ultra-safe nuclear energy source. Not only is the metal approximately three times as abundant as uranium in the earth’s crust, but it also contains up to 200 times the energy density. “So why on earth are we using uranium?” asked Marin Katusa of Forbes. “As you may recall, research into the mechanization of nuclear reactions was initially driven not by the desire to make energy, but by the desire to make bombs.”

World's Largest Rooftop Wind Farm in Oklahoma City – (Inhabitat – August 16, 2012)
Venger Wind and renewable energy company SWG Energy have installed the world’s largest rooftop wind farm atop the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The project has 18 V2 vertical axis wind turbines on the medical center’s roof as part of OMRF’s sustainability strategy to create a zero emissions research tower. The omni-directional wind turbines (see photo: they look like contemporary architectural sculpture)have been integrated into the design of the building and positioned to collect wind from both the North and South sides of the rooftop farm. Unlike most vertical wind turbines, which are relatively modest in size, the V2 wind turbines are massive. They stand 18.5 feet tall and are rated at 4.5 kilowatts each. Unlike conventional wind turbines that use energy from the grid to start, the vertical turbines start producing electricity at 8.9 mph, which is well below Oklahoma City’s annual wind speed average.



TRANSPORTATION

Analyses of Automotive Attack Surfaces – (Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security – 2011)
An academic report concludes that as automobiles become increasingly computerized, they also become more vulnerable to viruses. Just like any machine that transmits bits of information wirelessly, hackers in theory could intercept and redirect packets of information from on-board computer systems.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Agri-Cube Grows Large Quantity of Vegetables in One Car Parking Space – (GizMag – August 24, 2012)
Daiwa House, Japan's largest homebuilder, has introduced a line of prefabricated hydroponic greenhouses, aimed at housing complexes, hotels, and top-end restaurants. Called the Agri-Cube, these units are expected to be located in and amongst the places where people live and work. More and more people desire sustainable, organic produce for their own use, and are turning to urban farming in an effort to insure their food quality. However, some municipalities, neighborhoods, and homeowners associations have rules that effectively block such endeavors in areas under their sway. Add drought and pest control to the picture, and suddenly urban farming may seem more trouble than it is worth. This is where the Agri-Cube comes in.

Monsanto Genetic ‘X-Ray Glasses’ Speed Tastier Tomatoes – (Bloomberg – August 21, 2012)
Monsanto is accelerating its push to identify thousands of genetic markers in fruits and vegetables as it brings the tools of biotechnology to conventional breeding, giving researchers the ability to select for everything from taste to disease- resistance. It’s also allowing the world’s biggest vegetable-seed producer to develop new varieties in two to four years, down from as many as 10 years. Using the markers is like having “X-ray glasses” that let breeders peer inside a leaf clipping or seed to find what will grow. Monsanto has identified about 5,000 genetic markers in peppers, more than 4,000 in tomatoes and thousands more in melons, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers and beans according to investor presentation. The company plans to identify more vegetable markers this year than in the past 20 years combined. Using genetic markers to guide breeding decisions will improve the appeal and nutrition of over 20 fruits and vegetables, helping people eat healthier and propelling vegetables to Monsanto’s third-most-profitable business, surpassing cotton in the next three years. “The markers have fundamentally changed what we do,” a company spokesperson said. “We can, for the first time, address complex disease-resistance and flavor characteristics.”

Start-up Company Making 3-D Printed Meat – (CNBC – August 17, 2012)
Breakout Labs, eccentric billionaire Peter Thiel’s biotech foundation, announced an eyebrow-raising investment in a start-up that makes 3D printed meat (yes, really). Modern Meadow, based in Columbia, Missouri, will receive a $350,000 grant to continue developing new meat and leather production technologies. The company engineers tissues to create leather and edible meat, in a process that eliminates many of the negative environment effects associated with traditional livestock practices.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Drone on the Range - (Nation of Change - August 13, 2012)
Prepare to be monitored. Police agencies and corporate interests are said to be abuzz about getting their own drones. The first ones are expected to be used for high-altitude surveillance. But consider this: A Texas sheriff's office has already bought a "ShadowHawk" drone and says it might outfit the little buzzer to fire tear gas and rubber bullets. See also: Police Chiefs Adopt Drone Code of Conduct detailing 8 operational rules recommended by the nation’s police chiefs. (Editor’s note: The recommendations in no way preclude arming drones or using them for crowd control.)

Spy-Butterfly: Israel Developing Insect Drone for Indoor Surveillance – (RT – May 19, 2012)
The future is here and this is not a butterfly on your wall, as Israeli drones are getting tiny. Their latest project – a butterfly-shaped drone weighing just 20 grams - the smallest in its range so far – can gather intelligence inside buildings. -The new miniscule surveillance device can take color pictures and is capable of a vertical take-off and hover flight, just like a helicopter. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says this may come in handy in ground clashes, when a soldier would merely take it out of a pocket and send behind the enemy’s line. The insect-drone, with its 0.15-gram camera and memory card, is managed remotely with a special helmet. Putting on the helmet, you find yourself in the “butterfly’s cockpit” and virtually see what the butterfly sees – in real time. “The butterfly’s advantage is its ability to fly in an enclosed environment. There is no other aerial vehicle that can do that today,” according to Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI’s mini-robotics department.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

The National Security Agency’s Domestic Spying Program – (New York Times – August 23, 2012)
William Binney is a 32-year veteran of the NSA who helped design a top-secret program he says is broadly collecting Americans’ personal data. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. Speaking to a documentary filmmaker, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest in 2004. In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out in public in the last year.

NYPD Admits Muslim Spy Program Generated No Leads or Terrorism Probes – (Nation of Change – August 27, 2012)
After years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, infiltrating groups and eavesdropping on conversations across the northeastern United States, the New York City Police Department has admitted its secret Demographics Unit failed to yield a single terrorism investigation or even a single lead. In the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, the NYPD secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations and created databases showing where Muslims lived, worked and prayed. This article is an interview with Adam Goldman, who co-wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series that revealed the spy program and, most recently, its failure.

TSA Rifles through Bags, Conducts Pat Downs at Paul Ryan Event – (InfoWars – August 22, 2012)
The TSA is systematically moving beyond the nation’s airports and conducting operations on the streets of America. The latest example of this kind of activity occurred at an event organized by Mitt Romney’s GOP running mate Paul Ryan this past weekend in The Villages, Florida. TSA officers showed up alongside Secret Service and the local Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and proceeded to do what they do like no one else does. Airport security style checkpoints and inspection procedures are already in place at bus terminals, train stations, and are rapidly being expanded to the streets of America. Agents have even been spotted roaming around at public events such as sports games and music concerts, and even at high school proms. The TSA even moved beyond its own borders this summer as agents were dispatched to airports in London for the Olympic Games. The TSA has also announced its intention to expand the VIPR program to include roadside inspections of commercial vehicles, setting up a network of internal checkpoints and rolling out security procedures already active in airports, bus terminals and subway stations to roads and highways across the United States.

Is the US Government Helping Cyber Crooks? – (Fox News – August 21, 2012)
Security firm Kaspersky has revealed that a sophisticated program had been used to record instant messaging and social networking logins and bank account information and passwords—including targets such as Citibank and PayPal accounts—on some 2,500 infected PCs. It may have been based on the Stuxnet cyberweapon widely attributed to the U.S. This program, dubbed Gauss, raised alarms for its financial focus: Rather than trying to disrupt nuclear lab equipment or steal cruise missile plans it seemed devised for monetary gain, the very goal of cybercriminals worldwide. "There's no doubt in our mind that the authors [of Gauss] needed to have access to that [Stuxnet] source code to create this malware," Roel Schouwenberg, senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said. "Therefore, we're convinced this is coming from the same factory which created Stuxnet. The only alternative is that the source code has been leaked or stolen, which is an extremely scary scenario." There is at least one reason to think that Gauss is the work of government espionage and not crooks looking to skim millions from bank accounts. Most of the infected computers -- but by no means all -- were in the Middle East and most of the targeted banks were in Lebanon. Some of those banks have been accused of laundering money for drug smugglers and terrorists.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

LA Restaurant Pays Patrons to Put Away Their Cell Phones - (LA Times - August 15, 2012)
In recent years, technology has become unavoidable in restaurants. Diners have turned into food paparazzi, hustling to get the perfect snapshot of a well-plated dish. Others seem to tweet every other bite while reviews on Yelp and Chowhound come harsh and often. But one restaurant in Los Angeles is now paying customers to check their tech at the door. Eva Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard is offering diners a 5% discount on their bill if they dump their digital devices before being seated. About half the patrons accept the offer. Owner and chef Mark Gold says, "For us, it's really not about people disrupting other guests. It's about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone, and we're trying to create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company."

Klout Reveals a New Scoring Algorithm - (Digital Trends - August 14, 2012)
Klout's new scoring system includes some real world influence and for once fails to outrage users. Klout has managed to greatly annoy most of the Internet more than once. When the site first launched, the mere idea of quantifying a person’s global influence with a number was enough to anger critics – only to later incite yet more rage when it changed its scoring metrics. When it comes to Klout, the fact that we’re easy to anger makes sense: First accepting that we are being measured by our social influence was a tough pill to swallow – an accurate one (it’s happening whether we like it or not), but a tough one. And then the idea that a Web app could be the deciding factor in all this proved even more difficult to accept, and it’s been incredibly challenging for that Web app to gain much faith. Now Klout has rewritten its formula again, in an attempt to quell criticisms about real life versus online influence as well as increase accuracy. Because of the adjustment, President Obama now finally has a higher Klout score than Justin Bieber, who used to have a perfect 100 (he’s been docked to 92).



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Advance Warning System for Solar Flares Hinges on Surprising Hypotheses – (GizMag – August 14, 2012)
Scientists may have hit upon a new means of predicting solar flares more than a day in advance. The technique hinges on a hypothesis that solar activity affects the rate of decay of radioactive materials on Earth. Study of the phenomenon could lead to a new system which monitors changes in gamma radiation emitted from radioactive materials, and if the underlying hypothesis proves correct, this could lead to solar flare advance warning systems that would assist in the protection of satellites, power systems and astronauts. In 2006, nuclear engineer Jere Jenkins of Purdue University noticed a change in the decay rate of a radioactive sample 39 hours before a solar flare. Jenkins' subsequent research has reinforced the discovery, using two samples of the same isotope, chlorine 36, in two separate experiments in two different labs. Purdue's proposed detector uses a sample of manganese 54 which is monitored with a gamma-radiation detector as it decays into chromium 54. It's hoped that anomalies in the rate of decay would indicate forthcoming solar flares. A US patent has been filed to protect the idea. The research has significant implications for science. To date, the rate of radioactive decay is understood to be constant. Further, the researchers hypothesize that it's neutrinos that are affecting the change in the rate of decay: an idea sure to turn heads.



DEMOGRAPHICS

Study Finds Middle Class Shrinking – (CBS News – August 23, 2012)
The core American belief that a large sector of the public enjoys economic and social mobility is not necessarily true anymore, a Pew study shows. The idea of a large, stable middle class is central to America's sense of itself. But the U.S. middle class has been steadily shrinking, dropping from 61% of all adults 40 years ago to a bare majority now. This middle tier of American society also has slipped downward in terms of its income and wealth in the last decade. And it has lost a share of its traditional faith in the future.

Americans Throw Away 40% of Their Food – (NBC – August 23, 2012)
Americans are not cleaning their plates. Instead, they are tossing away 40 percent of their meals – “essentially every other piece of food that crosses our path” – or the equivalent of $2,275 a year for a family of four, according to a new report. Food waste has swelled by 50% since the 1970s in this country. A total $165 billion annually in leftovers gets trashed by homeowners and in unsold or unused perishables or scraps dumped by grocers or restaurants, according to research compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Ironically the new findings come out as a Gallup pole shows that nearly one in five Americans say they haven’t had enough money to buy groceries on some days during the past 12 months. (Editor’s note: What has changed dramatically since the 1970s is the practice of assigning every perishable food item a “sell by” date—a date that is often unnecessarily conservative and often understood by people as a date after which the food is not properly edible. The waste from grocery stores, driven by fears of liability is phenomenal.)



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Skilled Work, Without the Worker – (New York Times – August 19, 2012)
At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way. At a Philips factory in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human. All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai. This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. The advent of low-cost automation foretells changes on the scale of the revolution in agricultural technology over the last century, when farming employment in the United States fell from 40% of the work force to about 2% today. (Editor’s note: This next shift will occur in a small fraction of a century.) Robots will soon put automation within range of companies like Federal Express and United Parcel Service that now employ tens of thousands of workers doing such tasks.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Economist Richard Duncan: Civilization May Not Survive 'Death Spiral' – (Money Morning – August 23, 2012)
Richard Duncan, formerly of the World Bank and chief economist at Blackhorse Asset Mgmt., says America's $16 trillion federal debt has escalated into a "death spiral." And it could result in a depression so severe that he doesn't "think our civilization could survive it." Duncan is not alone in warning that the U.S. economy may go into a "death spiral." So the questions remain: Is the threat of collapse for real? And if so, when? A team of scientists, economists, and geopolitical analysts believes they have proof that the threat is indeed real - and the danger imminent. "We found an identical pattern in our debt, total credit market, and money supply that guarantees they're going to fail. This pattern is nearly the same as in any pyramid scheme, one that escalates exponentially fast before it collapses. Governments around the globe are chiefly responsible. And what's really disturbing about these findings is that the pattern isn't limited to our economy. We found the same catastrophic pattern in our energy, food, and water systems as well."



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out – (Colorado Public Television – August 29, 2012)
In this new film, over 40 experts in the fields of structural engineering, high-rise architecture, controlled demolition, physics, chemistry and metallurgy lay out the case for a controlled demolition of the World Trade Center on 9/11. The experts cite evidence showing that high-temperature incendiaries and explosives were planted throughout the twin towers and the lesser-known Building 7 which collapsed later the same day. The film also addresses the seeming implausibility of the implications of a controlled demolition. Eight experts in psychology (including four from Colorado) discuss the difficulties many people have in confronting this possible reality and how necessary the truth is for healing – both at the individual and collective levels. Two years in the making, 9/11: EXPERTS SPEAK OUT is the latest film from Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth, represented by founder Richard Gage, AIA. The video can be watched online, following a number of advertisements.



FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.

Try Something New for 30 days – (TED – July, 2011)
Is there something you've always meant to do, wanted to do, but just ... haven't? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals. Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google, where he fights linkspam and helps webmasters understand how search works.

Johnson & Johnson Removing Harsh Chemicals – (Washington Post – August 15, 2012)
Johnson & Johnson plans to remove potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products worldwide within 3 1/2 years. The health care giant late last year pledged to remove “chemicals of concern” from its baby products sold around the world after being pressed to do so for more than three years by a large coalition of health and environmental groups. (Editor’s note: 3 ½ years? We don’t know why it will take so long to reformulate the products. In the meantime, you may wish to buy other companies' products.)



JUST FOR FUN

This Will Put a Smile on Your Face – (NASA – July 10, 2012)
Don’t worry about 30 days. Just try this now. (It’s not exactly an “Astronomy Picture of the Day” as claimed, but so what? As the “brief explanation written by a professional astronomer” says: Happiness is frequently contagious.) Then, if you’re interested, here’s an interview with Matt Harding, the video creator.

A Vision of the Future from 1899 – (CBS – 2012)
“What will the future look like?” That's what French artists tried to depict in a series of futuristic postcards presented at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. Some of their ideas were prescient: for example, image 41, an RV, envisioned many decades before the term Recreational Vehicle was coined. Some were charmingly fantastic. What they primarily missed were the changes based on technological advances built on Edison's system for electricity distribution patented in 1880.



A FINAL QUOTE--

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it? — Albert Einstein



A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ken Dabkowski, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Michael Ostrolenk, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Boundless Presence, SchwartzReport, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, 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.
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org



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Edited by John L. Petersen
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