Volume 15, Number 23 - 12/15/12 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • A newly discovered giant black hole is 17 billion times as massive as our sun.

  • The dispersant Corexit made oil from Deepwater Horizon spill 52 times more toxic.

  • A network of elevated bike lanes is being considered in London.

  • Social media will change the workplace in 2013.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

First of all, happy holidays to you, if you’re in a part of the world that is celebrating something significant in the next few days. Here in the U.S. there are a bundle of different things you can party around as we work our way to the new year.

Leonard Cohen Diane and I with our son John and my brother Ray are headed up to New York City for a couple of days. One of the things we’re going to take in is a Leonard Cohen concert at Madison Square Garden, to which I’m very much looking forward.

Cohen, who I had kind of forgotten over the years, was reintroduced to me again earlier this year in Europe, where, though in his 80s, he is a huge star. If I remember correctly he did 83 concerts last year, many in Europe where he played to sold out crowds of many thousands.

For my money, Leonard Cohen is right up there with Bob Dylan as one of the most significant poet/songwriter/singers of this era. His songs are works of art. I went out and bought Essential Leonard Cohen, a two disc history that has some of the most interesting music that I have heard. Pico Iyer wrote the liner notes for the album and they alone are almost worth the price of admission:

There is a poetic rightness in having an essential Cohen, in part because he's always been so essential to the rest of us (keeping one eye firmly on the times and one eye on the timeless), but even more because essentials are what he lives off. There are almost no clocks in Cohen's work, and even though the details ("It's four in the morning, the end of December") are often scrupulously exact, they're always there to take you to something deeper: love, jealousy, the imminence of loss. No distractions, nothing extraneous. Cohen has always made a practice of defying every category--he's a community of one--even as he has moved from poems to novels to songs: the only writer I know who managed to become an international singing sensation, the only #1 performer who's also been a prize-winning poet. He tops the charts in Norway and Malaysia, and you hear his spirit behind every new generation of poet-songwriters (there are 12 tribute albums to him worldwide). He defined the Sixties for many of us, with songs like "Suzanne" and "Bird On a Wire"; he caught the bravado of the Eighties ("First We Take Manhattan"), and, having already plunged deep into the time out of time ("Night Comes On"), he then summarized the Nineties ("The Future"). When everyone had counted him out, he looked in on us again, from his cabin high up at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, and told us what was essential in the 21st century too. (read the complete piece here)

If you’re not familiar with Cohen’s work, listen in on Hallelujah and I'm Your Man. You’ll get the idea.

Stanislav Grof and expanding the mind

While you’re in a listening mood, here’s a fascinating podcast of an interview with Stanislav Grof, talking about his thousands of experiments with hallucinogenic drugs in the 50s (when it was legal). It’s rather personally mind expanding to listen as he describes the systematic opening up of his consciousness over time. It’s a longish interview (over an hour), but worth it.

Climate Change

One FE reader sent me a note and took me to task for suggesting that global warming was real. I didn’t know that I had done that – if I did – as I always talk about climate change, not global warming. He mentioned that Alaska had its coldest and worst winter ever last year, something I didn’t know. You can read about it here. I thought the bit about having had 26 feet of snow – and it was still snowing – was rather interesting.

It will be interesting to see how this winter plays out. If it turns out to be as acute as some forecasters are suggesting, then that would lend credibility to the increasing amount of science that is pointing to a coming, rapid cooling period (it starts about 2020 they say) that will issue in decades of very cold weather.

You Can Help

In the coming year, we’re going to do our best here at FUTUREdition to continue to try to provide you with provocative indications of what’s headed our way and try to make a some sense out of what we can. Will you help us do that?

It costs about $15,000 a year to produce this free newsletter and we have no other source of funding, so every holiday season we ask you to pitch in to offset that cost. Many of you have been very generous in the past, for which I am very appreciative. I hope that you’ll be able to be generous again.

If you think that 24 issues of FE that you receive is worth $25 – just a nickel more than a dollar an issue (in U.S. money!) – then please send that along. If you can help with more than that, let me tell you that we can use it. I will assure you that your gift will be used directly to continue to publish FUTUREdition.

You can click here to help.

Warmest wishes!



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Netflix CEO Hastings Faces SEC Action Over Facebook Post - (Business Week - December 6, 2012)
Netflix and its Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said they may face a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil claim over a July Facebook post that coincided with the stock’s biggest gain in almost six weeks. SEC staff alleges Netflix and its CEO violated rules governing selective disclosure of material information in the July 3 post. The post by Hastings said Netflix viewing “exceeded 1 billion hours” of videos in June. Netflix shares rose 6.2% that day. The SEC allegation highlights the potential for legal trouble when company executives like Hastings, who has more than 200,000 Facebook fans, communicate with the public via social media. Regulation Fair Disclosure, aimed at preventing selective reporting, was passed by the SEC in 2000, before the use of social-media outlets like Facebook and Twitter exploded. The regulation requires public disclosure, such as through a press release on a widely disseminated news or wire service, or by “any other non-exclusionary method” that provides broad public access. Facebook is considered "exclusionary". “This may be a case when the SEC needs to play catch-up,” said Charley Moore, executive chairman and founder of San Francisco-based online legal services firm Rocket Lawyer. “Disclosing information to 200,000-plus Facebook users is basically the same as issuing a press release.”

They Can Hear You Now: Verizon Patent Could Listen In On Customers – (CBS – December 4, 2012)
Verizon has filed a patent for targeting ads that collect information from infrared cameras and microphones that can detect the amount of people and types of conversations happening in customers’ living rooms. The set-top box technology is not the first of its kind – Comcast patented similar monitoring technology in 2008 that recommended content to users based on people it recognized in the room. Google TV also proposed a patent that would use video and audio recorders to figure out exactly how many people in a room were watching its broadcast. The Verizon patent gives examples of the DVR’s acute sensitivity in customers’ living rooms: argument sounds prompt ads for marriage counseling and sounds of “cuddling” prompt ads for contraceptives. The patent goes on to say that the sensors would also be able to determine if a viewer is exercising, eating, laughing, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and target ads to viewers based on their mood. It also could use sensors to determine what type of pets or inanimate objects are in the room.



NEW REALITIES

Largest Ever Black Hole Discovered – (Helium – December 1, 2012)
Astrophysicists peering at an image of NGC 1277—a galaxy located in the constellation Perseus about 220 million light-years away—are ready to tear up the textbooks concerning how galaxies are created. What is causing the uproar? A black hole, one of the most mysterious objects in the cosmos. And it's not just any black hole. Calling it a "giant black hole" doesn't begin to describe it for the object is 17 billion times as massive as our sun. Stunned astronomers believe it dominates a whopping 59% of the entire mass of the distant galaxy. The mass of the black hole is typically 0.1 per cent of the mass of the stellar bulge of the galaxy. Until now, the galaxy with the largest known fraction of its mass in its central black hole still had only 11%.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Scanadu Unveils Family of New Tools to Revolutionize Consumer Healthcare – (Scanadu – November 29, 2012)
Scanadu, a personalized health electronics company, has unveiled the first three products in its family of consumer health tools: Scanadu SCOUT, Project ScanaFlu and Project ScanaFlo. Based at NASA-Ames Research Center, Scanadu is using imaging and sound analysis, molecular diagnostics, data analytics and a suite of algorithms to create devices that offer a comprehensive, real-time picture of your health data. “The thermometer, introduced in the 1800s, was the last great tool to revolutionize home healthcare,” said Walter de Brouwer, founder and CEO of Scanadu. “Consumers don’t have the tools they need to monitor their health and make informed decisions about when they’re actually sick and need to see a doctor.” By holding Scanadu SCOUT to the temple, in less than ten seconds it will accurately read more than five vital signs. Data collected by the Scanadu SCOUT is uploaded to the Scanadu smartphone app via Bluetooth. Scanadu’s low-cost and disposable early detection diagnostic tools – Project ScanaFlo and Project ScanaFlu – are also integrated with its smartphone app.

Alzheimer’s Disease in Mice Alleviated Promising Therapeutic Approach for Humans – (University of Zurich – November 25, 2012)
Pathological changes typical of Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced in mice by blockade of an immune system transmitter. This approach promises potential in prevention, as well as in cases where the disease has already set in. Researchers were able to show that turning off particular cytokines (immune system signal transmitters) reduced the Alzheimer’s typical amyloid-ß deposits in mice with the disease. As a result, the strongest effects were demonstrated after reducing amyloid-ß by approximately 65%, when the immune molecule p40 was affected, which is a component of the cytokines interleukin (IL)-12 and -23. Follow-up experiments relevant for humans showed that substantial improvements in behavioral testing resulted when mice were given the antibody blocking the immune molecule p40.

Vision Restoring Implants That Fit Inside the Eye – (Technology Review – December 4, 2012)
An Israeli company, Nano Retina, has developed an implant that consists of photosensors, circuits, and 676 electrodes, all small enough to fit onto a single implant the size of a child’s fingernail; unlike products currently available, the device requires no external camera or wires. “The eye is the most confined space in the body,” says Ra’anan Gefen, managing director of Nano Retina. “That’s where miniaturization is needed.” The company has already tested a prototype in pigs, and it “worked beautifully,” Gefen says. They are now building a human prototype that should improve on both the quality and the number of electrodes, potentially reaching up to 5,000. “Our target is to get to 20/20 [vision],” says Gefen. “I’m sure we can get there.” The company hopes to enter clinical trials within two years. Another team, this one at the UC San Diego, is using nanotechnology to directly mimic cells found in the eye. Uniquely, this approach combines both light detection and neuron stimulation in a single material, with no need for additional photosensors or a camera to capture light.

Precisely Engineering 3-D Brain Tissue – (MIT News – November 30, 2012)
Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, MIT and Harvard Medical School engineers have developed a simple and inexpensive way to create three-dimensional brain tissues in a lab dish. The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs. The work also paves the way for developing bioengineered implants to replace damaged tissue for organ systems, according to the researchers.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Polar Ice Sheets Melt Faster - (Wall St. Journal - November 29, 2012)
Higher temperatures over the past two decades have caused the polar ice sheets to melt at an accelerating rate, contributing to an almost half-inch rise in global sea levels, according to the most comprehensive study done so far. The new study, published in the journal Science, estimates that the melting of the ice sheets as a whole has raised global sea levels by 11.1 millimeters (0.43 inch) since 1992. That represents one-fifth of the total sea-level increase recorded in that period.

Dispersant Makes Oil from Spills 52 Times More Toxic – (MSNBC – November 30, 2012)
For microscopic animals living in the Gulf of Mexico, even worse than the toxic oil released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster may be the very oil dispersants used to clean it up. More than 2 million gallons of oil dispersants called Corexit 9527A and 9500A were dumped into the gulf in an effort to prevent oil from reaching shore and to help it degrade more quickly. However, when oil and Corexit are combined, the mixture becomes up to 52 times more toxic than oil alone, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Using dispersants breaks up the oil into small droplets and makes it less visible, but makes it more toxic to the planktonic food chain.

Superstorm Sandy Alters Reality - (Wall St. Journal - December 6, 2012)
Two-thirds of all New York City homes damaged by superstorm Sandy were outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's existing 100-year flood zone, observed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, calling for an immediate redrawing of the maps to reflect current conditions. "The yardstick has changed, and so must we," Mr. Bloomberg said during a breakfast speech in Lower Manhattan. "FEMA is currently in the process of updating their maps, and those maps will guide us in setting new construction requirements." Mr. Bloomberg described superstorm Sandy as unprecedented. Water levels at the Battery reached 14 feet, he said, noting that FEMA had estimated there was a less than 1% chance of that happening. In 1960, the water levels reached 11 feet, the record before Sandy. Mr. Bloomberg pledged to redo New York City's evacuation maps to better "reflect the new reality we face."



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

How Easy Is It to Shut off a Country's Internet? - (Washington Post - December 1, 2012)
So just how easy is it to sever a country’s Internet connection? It varies from country to country. The two key variables are infrastructure and how many companies offer connections into and out of the country. There are 61 nations, including Syria and Libya and even Greenland, where there are only one or two providers connecting people to the outside world. “Under those circumstances,” James Cowie, from the Web monitoring firm Renesys, writes, “it’s almost trivial for a government to issue an order that would take down the Internet. Make a few phone calls, or turn off power in a couple of central facilities, and you’ve (legally) disconnected the domestic Internet from the global Internet.” It would be nearly impossible for a government to shut down the entire Internet in the United States or Western Europe. “There are just too many paths into and out of the country,” Cowie writes, “too many independent providers who would have to be coerced or damaged, to make a rapid countrywide shutdown plausible to execute.”



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

Home, Sweet Shipping Container: NYC’s Secret Plans for the Perfect Disaster Apartments – (New York Observer – November 19, 2012)
If another Sandy hits a year or three from now, hopefully very few New Yorkers will have to call tent cities and high school gymnasiums home. Instead, they will be living inside shipping containers. For the past five years, the Bloomberg administration has been quietly developing a first-of-its-kind disaster housing program, creating modular apartments uniquely designed for the challenges of urban living. Carved out of shipping containers, these LEGO-like, stackable apartments offer all the amenities of home. Or more, since they are bigger, and brighter, than the typical Manhattan studio. It’s the FEMA trailer of the future, built with the Dwell reader in mind. “It’s nicer than my apartment,” David Burney, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction. Don’t miss the slideshow of the units.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Rice Unveils Super-efficient Solar-energy Technology – (Rice University – November 11, 2012)
Rice University scientists have unveiled a new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new “solar steam” method from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics is so effective it can produce steam from icy cold water. The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. Researchers expect that the solar steam’s overall energy efficiency can be increased as the technology is refined. The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24%. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15%. However, the inventors of solar steam said they expect the first uses of the new technology will not be for electricity generation but rather for sanitation and water purification in developing countries. See also: Scientists use nanotechnology to harvest electricity from temperature fluctuations.

Wind Power Revolution: The World’s First Timber Turbine – (Design, Build, Source – November 13, 2012)
A German engineering firm has erected the world’s first wooden wind turbine tower in Hanover, a 100-metre-tall multi-megawatt wind turbine that can produce electricity for about 1,000 households. Wind turbines are becoming taller and larger in order to increase profit, as the higher the tower stands, the more energy can be produced. However, wind turbines with conventional steel towers are inefficient when to great heights. Wood on the other hand, has stable material prices, a longer service life, is simple to dismantle, is more sustainable and has lower project costs. With the TimberTower standing 100 meters high, the wooden turbine required about 300 fewer tons of sheet steel to build than a traditional turbine. Its method of construction and transportation also produces distinct advantages. See also: GE Developing Fabric Wind Turbine Blades.

Tiny Structure Gives Big Boost to Solar Power – (Princeton University – December 5, 2012)
Princeton researchers have found a simple and economical way to nearly triple the efficiency of organic solar cells, the cheap and flexible plastic devices that could be the future of solar power. The research team used nanotechnology to overcome two primary challenges that cause solar cells to lose energy: light reflecting from the cell, and the inability to fully capture light that enters the cell. Led by electrical engineer Stephen Chou, they were able to increase the efficiency of the solar cells 175% by using a nanostructured "sandwich" of metal and plastic that collects and traps light. The new technique allowed a solar cell to reflect only about 4% of light, absorb as much as 96% and demonstrate 52% higher efficiency in converting light to electrical energy than a conventional solar cell. See also: detailed description of “sandwich” layers.



TRANSPORTATION

A Network of Elevated Bike Lanes for London – (Fast Company – September 13, 2012)
It’s every urban cyclist’s dream: to be able to cruise through the city completely unburdened by cars. In London, that dream might actually become a reality with the SkyCycle, a network of elevated bike lanes that the city is considering. Designed by Exterior Architecture, the proposed bike lanes would allow cyclists to travel between train stations, where they would pay a small fee (one pound or so) to use the SkyCycle. That’s a pound more than cyclists are used to paying for the privilege of riding on bike lanes, but still cheaper than public transportation. Would the SkyCycle prevent cyclists from reaching certain destinations since it would only have entrances and exits at designated points? Definitely. But think of it more as a cycling superhighway in the sky--it’s not meant to get you those handful of blocks from home to the grocery store, it’s intended to take you from one neighborhood to another across the city.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Say Cheese – Central European Farmers Did 7,500 years Ago – (MSNBC – December 12, 2012)
The first direct signs of cheesemaking now seen in potsherds from Poland may help reveal how animal milk dramatically shaped the genetics of Europeans. The researchers shed light on the origins of dairying by analyzing locales in Central Europe once home to the Linear Potters (or LBK) Culture, the first known farmers in Europe, dating back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age.

Modern Wheat a "Perfect, Chronic Poison," Doctor Says – (CBS News – September 3, 2012)
Modern wheat is a "perfect, chronic poison," according to Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who has published a book all about the world's most popular grain. Davis said that the wheat we eat these days isn't the wheat your grandma had: "It's an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the '60s and '70s," he said. "This thing has many new features nobody told you about, such as there's a new protein in this thing called gliadin. It's not gluten. I'm not addressing people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. I'm talking about everybody else because everybody else is susceptible to the gliadin protein that is an opiate. This thing binds into the opiate receptors in your brain and in most people stimulates appetite, such that we consume 440 more calories per day, 365 days per year."

Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even a Bee – (National Public Radio – November 30, 2012)
Cornfields are not like national parks or virgin forests. Corn farmers champion corn. Anything that might eat corn, hurt corn, bother corn, is killed. Their corn is bred to fight pests. The ground is sprayed. The stalks are sprayed again. We'll start in a cornfield — we'll call it an Iowa cornfield in late summer — on a beautiful day. The corn is high. The air is shimmering. There's just one thing missing.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Security Obsession Drives 100 Scientists from NASA - (This Can't Be Happening - December 3, 2012)
Due to an order issued by the Department of Homeland Security, an order went out that all workers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena--an organization that is run under contract to NASA by the California Institute of Technology, had to be vetted for high security clearance in order to continue doing their jobs. Never mind that NASA is a rigorously non-military, scientific agency which not only publishes all its findings, but which invites the active participation of scientists from around the world. In order to continue working at JPL, even scientists who had been with NASA for decades were told they would need a high-level security badge just to enter the premises. To be issued that badge, they were told they would need to agree undergo an intensive FBI check that would look into their prior life history, right back to college. NASA additionally planned to use the information it obtained on its scientists’ and employees’ lives to create a “suitability matrix,” (Editor’s note: we have vetted this link; it is a legitimate 94 page NASA document) which would be used to see if they merited continued employment. This “suitability matrix” would be considering things like “whether JPL scientists had participated in political demonstrations that could qualify in NASA's scheme of things as disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, unlawful assembly” -- all activities that many of JPL’s scientists had engaged in over the years. One of the big concerns expressed by the JPL scientists was that NASA would not adequately protect the incredibly personal information it was going to be gathering. Sure enough, recently NASA was forced to admit that an employee at the agency’s offices in Washington DC had left a laptop computer containing all that newly acquired personal information on its employees in his car on Halloween night, and it had been stolen. Worse yet, the data on the computer had not even been encrypted.

TSA Executive Admits Not a Single Terrorist-related Arrest Has Resulted from Whole-body Scanners – (TSA News – May 17, 2012)
When John Halinski, TSA’s Assistant Administrator for Global Strategies, was asked about the current TSA searches for prohibited items such as tools of any sort, knives, and boxcutters that were prohibited immediately post-9/11 because the cockpit doors were not yet hardened, he claimed that TSA was protecting the security of passengers by confiscating knives and brass knuckles. His amazing answer was that though cockpits were now hardened, it was the mission of the TSA to prevent passengers from hitting other passengers with brass knuckles or from engaging in knife flights on a plane — a closed space where such a fight might terrorize passengers. However, in the whole history of the U.S. airline industry there has never been a report of a knife fight between passengers on a plane. A simple revamping of the forbidden items list could save thousands of hours of searching time and even more time when it comes to passengers waiting. Article includes complete list of forbidden items and raises related questions such as: When was the last time a passenger was threatened by a wrench?



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Bradley Manning Testifies for the First Time – (Huffington Post – November 29, 2012)
On November 29th, Bradley Manning testified for the first time since his arrest two and a half years ago in Baghdad. That day also marks the two-year anniversary of the first front pages around the world from “Cablegate”, an archive of 251,287 U.S. State Department diplomatic cables—messages sent between the State Department and its embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world. Bradley Manning, who is alleged to be a source of the cables, started testifying about his pre-trial treatment, which UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez said was "at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture." Captain William Hoctor, the government psychiatrist with 24 years of experience who evaluated Manning at Quantico base in Virginia, testified that brig commanders had ignored his recommendations for Manning's detention, something he had not even experienced in his work at Guantánamo bay prison. Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for 921 days. This is the longest pre-trial detention of a U.S. military soldier since at least the Vietnam War. U.S. military law says the maximum is 120 days. Written by Julian Assange, this article reviews the most significant cables that have been released and some of their international impacts. (Editor’s note: If you have wondered whether all of the WikiLeaks disclosures have really made any difference, this article is useful reading.)

Cut Military Waste, Not Charitable Deductions – (American Conservative – November 27, 2012)
Did you ever wonder what tax loopholes cost relative to war and Pentagon spending? For example, mortgage interest deductions “cost” Washington some $100 billion in lost revenue. This “buys” America some 11 months of war in Afghanistan or some 14% of the whole $740 billion Pentagon budget. Charitable and educational tax deductions “cost” Washington $52 billion per year. These include all yearly tax-deductible donations to churches, universities, charities, thinks tanks, and all other non-profits. All of it equals some 7% of Pentagon spending, or just about the amount of the coming sequestration cuts.

Police Have the Scary Capability to Track Wherever You're Driving – (AlterNet – November 30, 2012)
License-plate reading technology's jaw dropping capabilities are already deployed across America. The NYPD is but one of a growing number of local and state police agencies throughout the country engaged in the non-stop tracking of car license plates. Most troubling, the data captured through license plate reader (LPR) and automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) programs are being integrated with other personal data to provide the security state with ever more detailed profiles of ordinary Americans. Motorola is one of the major tech companies providing police agencies with ALPR products. The Motorola system is used to track the “vehicle of interest” by a police officer in a squad car. The captured data is integrated into the back-office system software, or BOSS. The system incorporates diverse data sets, including full or partial plate numbers, GPS coordinates, time and day, photographs and more. Equally critical, the system allows data to be shared among multiple locations and agencies. In New York, the state police reported in 2010 that its auto-theft unit had tracked over 57,000 licenses. The outcome: it located three stolen cars and 200 revoked or suspended license registrations.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Sociophysicists Discover Universal Pattern of Voting Behavior – (Technology Review – December 12, 2012)
One of the triumphs of statistical physics is that it explains how seemingly complex behavior emerges from the simple actions of large numbers of individual agents. In recent years, physicists have begun to apply this idea to the social sciences. The idea is to explain the complex behavior of societies using the simple actions of individuals, a discipline known as sociophysics. The ability to simulate this behavior has provided a powerful way to test these ideas in areas ranging from crowd dynamics to financial markets. One area that has attracted particular interest is voting patterns, for which high quality data is available in many countries around the world. That’s allowed sociophysicists to test an interesting hypothesis–that people in countries with the same electoral rules should vote in exactly the same way. Or in other words, that the distribution of votes for candidates should be the same in all countries which share the same electoral system. The results resoundingly confirm the hypothesis. This finding is so strong say researchers that it could be used to identify fraud, should the voting patterns not follow the predicted distribution. It also implies that human voting patterns are remarkably predictable and based on just a few simple variables.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

One Day on Earth - (One Day on Earth website - no date)
People in every country in the world were asked to video-document their lives on one day. What all of humanity does on any single day is literally beyond words—and absolutely worth seeing. This link is for the trailer of the film made from footage shot by thousands of people. The first time this was done was on 10-10-10 and then again on 11-11-11 and just recently on 12-12-12. The film will be screened all around the world (it appears that the one ready to begin screening may be the one shot on 11-11-11). If you are interested in hosting a screening, see here.

US Intelligence Agencies See a Different World in 2030 – (Bloomberg – December 10, 2012)
New technologies, dwindling resources and explosive population growth in the next 18 years will alter the global balance of power and trigger radical economic and political changes at a speed unprecedented in modern history, says a new report by the U.S. intelligence community. The 140-page report recently released by the National Intelligence Council lays out dangers and opportunities for nations, economies, investors, political systems and leaders due to four “megatrends” that government intelligence analysts say are transforming the world. Those major trends are the end of U.S. global dominance, the rising power of individuals against states, a rising middle class whose demands challenge governments, and a Gordian knot of water, food and energy shortages. See also Bloomberg’s analysis of the report: Where will you be in 2030, America?

Suit Targets 'Locator' Chips in Texas Student IDs - (ABC News - November 28, 2012)
To 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, the tracking microchip embedded in her student ID card is a "mark of the beast," sacrilege to her Christian faith -- not to mention how it pinpoints her location, even in the school bathroom. Starting this fall, the fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with "locator" chips in student ID badges on two of its campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision. Hernandez's refusal to participate isn't a twist on teenage rebellion, but has launched a debate over privacy and religion that has forged a rare like-mindedness between typically opposing groups. For the school, the biggest motivation was financial. In Texas, school funding is based on daily attendance. The more students seated in homeroom when the first bell rings, the more state dollars the school receives. But with the locator chips--the district doesn't like to call them "tracking" -- a clerk in the main office can find out if a student is elsewhere on campus, and if so, include them in the attendance count. Every student found amounts to another $30 in funding, based on the school's calculations. In that way, those moving red dots that represent students on the clerk's computer screen are like finding change in the couch cushions.

Alleged Maternity House for Chinese Women May Be Shut Down - (LA Times - December 4, 2012)
So-called birth tourism appears to be an active but largely under-the-radar industry in Southern California. One local Chinese phone book has five pages of listings for birthing centers, where women from China and Taiwan stay for a month or so before going home with their U.S.-citizen babies. When the children get older, they may return here to study, perhaps paving the way for the rest of the family to immigrate more easily. A 30-day stay at one such facility, along with a month of prenatal care, costs $10,500 to $11,500, according to the Chinese-language website, www.asiamchild.com.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Voyager Discovers ‘Magnetic Highway’ at Edge of Solar System – (Agence France Presse – December 3, 2012)
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a “magnetic highway” at the edge of the solar system, a surprising discovery 35 years after its launch. Earlier this year a surge in a key indicator fueled hopes that the craft was nearing the so-called heliopause, which marks the boundary between our solar system and outer space. But instead of slipping away from the bubble of charged particles the Sun blows around itself, Voyager encountered something completely unexpected. The craft’s daily radio reports sent back evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field lines were connected to interstellar magnetic fields. Lower-energy charged particles were zooming out and higher-energy particles from outside were streaming in. They termed it a “magnetic highway” because charged particles outside this region bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the bubble, or heliosphere. Voyager is now 11 billion miles away from the Sun, which is 122 times the distances from the Earth to the Sun. Yet it takes only 17 hours for its radio signal to reach us. The scientists controlling Voyager 1 — whose 1970s technology gives it just a 100,000th of the computer memory of an eight-gigabyte iPod Nano — decided to turn off its cameras after it passed Neptune in 1989 to preserve power.



DEMOGRAPHICS

China Survey Shows Wealth Gap Soaring – (Bloomberg – December 10, 2012)
China’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, was 0.61 in 2010, a central bank-backed survey shows, with zero representing perfect equality and one perfect inequality. A print above 0.4 is used as a gauge of the potential for social unrest, so the figure of 0.61 appears to be in line with a doubling of "mass incidents," including strikes, riots and other disturbances, to at least 180,000 from 2006-2010. The statistic is based on a survey of 8,438 households by the Survey and Research Center for China Household Finance, a body set up by the Finance Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. The survey also estimated the urban jobless rate in July 2012 was 8.05%, almost double the official figure. (Editor’s note: The official unemployment rate in China does not include the unregistered workers who have migrated from rural areas to major cities.) “China’s wealth gap is so prevalent between regions, sectors, and urban and rural that it’s impossible to see a meaningful decline in the Gini coefficient in the short term,” said Gan Li, director of the Chengdu-based center and a professor at Texas A & M.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

New Technique Allows Scrap Rubber to be Recycled into High-quality Plastic – (Giz Mag – November 13, 2012)
Most of the 22 million tons of rubber that are processed every year worldwide goes into making vehicle tires. Once the rubber products reach the end of their useful lives, for the most part they end up being incinerated. Even when the rubber residues are reclaimed and re-used to make new products, the lack of techniques for producing high-quality materials means that the recyclables are relegated to secondary products such as arena or playground floor coverings or padded doormats. Looking for new ways to optimize the recycling of rubber waste, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology in Oberhausen, Germany, have developed three basic elastomer powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT) recipes that produce the desired material properties and characteristics for use in the manufacture of high quality products such as wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable casters.

PacX Wave Glider Arrives in Australia, Setting a New World Record – (Liquid Robotics – December 3, 2012)
PacX is an unprecedented voyage: an unmanned crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Four Wave Gliders are traveling from California to Australia and Japan to foster new scientific discoveries in ocean science. During their year-long voyage, the gliders will transmit valuable ocean data on salinity, water temperature, waves, weather, fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. One of them, dubbed “Papa Mau”, completed its 9,000 nautical mile (16,668 kilometers) scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle. Throughout its journey, Papa Mau navigated along a prescribed route under autonomous control collecting and transmitting unprecedented amounts of high-resolution ocean data never before available over these vast distances or timeframes. During Papa Mau’s journey, it weathered gale force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the East Australian Current (EAC) to reach its final destination in Hervey Bay near Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

5 Ways Social Media Will Change the Way You Work in 2013 - (Forbes - December 11, 2012)
In the nine short years since Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, social media has evolved from dorm room toy to boardroom tool. Last year, 73% of Fortune 500 companies were active on Twitter, while more than 80% of executives believed social media engagement led to increased sales. So what does 2013 hold for social media in the workplace? It looks like many of the big (and sometimes overhyped) promises that have surrounded social media – better insight into customer behavior, improved office productivity with internal networks and, of course, significant, measurable ROI – will finally begin to bear fruit. This article looks at five ways social media will impact the way we work and the bottom line in 2013. Here's the first one: A recent report from McKinsey showed that a majority of the estimated $1.3 trillion in untapped value from social technologies lies in “improved communications and collaboration within and across enterprises.” In other words, social media is poised to become an office productivity tool, much the same way that email did in the late 1990s.



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

Seismic Evidence Implies Controlled Demolition on 9/11 – (Washington’s Blog – December 1, 2012)
André Rousseau is a Doctor of Geophysics and Geology, a former researcher in the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), who has published 50 papers on the relationships between the characteristics of progressive mechanical waves and geology. Dr. Rousseau, an expert on measurement of acoustic waves, says that the seismic waves measured on September 11th prove that the 3 buildings were brought down by controlled demolition.

Is the Latest World's Tallest Building a Boondoggle? – (Casey Research – November 29, 2012)
The Chinese are endeavoring to erect the tallest building in the world – leapfrogging Dubai's 2,719-foot Burj Khalifa by 30 feet – and to do it in 90 days! That's over 2.4 floors per day, for those keeping score – a pace that's all but incomprehensible. (For comparison purposes, the Empire State Building, with a labor force of 3,000, went up at the rate of 4.5 floors per week.) It sounds ridiculous. Yet the Broad Sustainable Building Group, a company that has built 20 super-tall structures in China so far, is dead serious. Pending final government approvals, foundations are due to start pouring before the end of the year. The building is expected to be fully finished by March of 2013. The specs are mind boggling: the building's 220 floors will require setting in place 220,000 tons of steel. The final product will constitute a self-contained small city that's 83% residential, housing 31,400 people in both "high and low income communities," the company says. The other 17% will contain offices, schools, hospitals, shops, and restaurants, and 104 high-speed elevators to whisk the inhabitants from here to there



JUST FOR FUN

Bibliomat: A Vending Machine for Random Rare and Antiquarian Books – (Boing Boing – November 18, 2012)
The Biblio-Mat is a random book dispenser built by Craig Small for The Monkey’s Paw, an idiosyncratic antiquarian bookshop in Toronto. Biblio-Mat books, which vary widely in size and subject matter, cost two dollars. The machine was conceived as an artful alternative to the ubiquitous and often ignored discount sidewalk bin. When a customer puts coins into it, the Biblio-Mat dramatically whirrs and vibrates as the machine is set in motion. The ring of an old telephone bell enhances the thrill when the customer's mystery book is delivered with a satisfying clunk into the retrieval receptacle.



A FINAL QUOTE--

If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic. – Hazel Henderson, futurist and evolutionary economist.



A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Ken Dabkowski, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Brad Hayden, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, SchwartzReport, Bobbie Rohn, Stu Rose, 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
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org
www.arlingtoninstitute.org

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