FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- 27 science fictions have become science facts in 2012.
- Fake malaria drugs are fueling the rise of a drug-resistant strain of the disease.
- Concern about climate change has led Seattle mayor Mike McGinn to formally request that the city’s two chief pension funds “refrain from future investments in fossil fuel companies and begin the process of divesting our pension portfolio from those companies”.
- Living walls also known as green walls or vertical gardens can transform any vertical surface into a lush and strikingly beautiful garden, either inside or out.
by John L. Petersen
Best wishes are in order for the new year. I’m kind of in awe that it is really 2013 – after all these years of thinking about 2012. And now it’s over. We’ve all lived through the end of the world and now we’re cruising into what has every appearance of being an extraordinary new world – whether you see it as good or bad.
The old system is slowly imploding. Here in the U.S. there has been much ado about a “fiscal cliff”, the imperative of cutting the government budget by the end of the year. But in a real sense, it is a big ado about nothing. Let me explain it to you here (with help from my friend Bernard Calil):
How to better understand the US economic problems
The Fiscal Cliff put in a much better perspective.
Lesson # 1:
* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000
Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend
it's a household budget:
* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50
Got It ?????
Lesson # 2:
Well, looking at it that way convinces me that this system is never going to be able to fix itself . . . and therefore will ultimately fail. That will open a new opportunity to us all to contribute to the evolution of a new world. It’s inevitable. Something new will arise based upon a new set of principles and values. Here at The Arlington Institute we’re actively pursuing a project to begin to develop a new model of what a new world might be that could be a vehicle for starting a global conversation. Stay tuned.
Here's another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:
Let's say, You come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood.... and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.
What do you think you should do ......
Raise the ceilings, or remove the shit?
PAST AND FUTURE
This is the time of year where almost everyone with access to a computer generates reviews of the past year and predictions of the future. Here are a couple you might find of interest.
CNN published these science breakthroughs from the last year. They’re pretty good.
Here’s a somewhat frivolous (but nevertheless interesting) summary from Huffington Post of some of the major happenings of the past year.
Gizmag published its take on the top concept cars and vehicles of last year. Here are their best NASA images from last year.
Popular Science published their greatest science photos of the year and here are their best science infographics of the year. These are neat!
In the predictions area, science fiction has always been a fertile ground for future events and capabilities. Here is an interesting collection of predictions for 2013 drawn from science fiction stories.
For what it’s worth, here’s a summary of some psychic predictions (and a source for acquiring your own crystal ball!).
The folks at Global Futures Forum have generated this future report that has some interesting ideas, and here are 13 of their rather meaty predictions for the coming year.
Yeah, but what about the really big future, you ask . . . like thousands of years? Here’s the astrophysicists’ take on it. Click through the slides and the descriptions of them to see the BIG picture.
What’s my prediction? I’d say that at some time in the not too distant future we’ll all look back and say that 2012 was the nominal end of one significant age on earth and 2013 represented the beginning of a new one . . . with all of the significance that we usually ascribe to an era of life on this planet. I also think that the role of love in shaping our future will significantly increase.
Help Keep This Going
I’d like to give you one more chance to make a small, tax-deductible contribution to helping to keep FUTUREdition coming your way. As I’ve said in the past, it costs us about $15,000 a year to publish this newsletter and I haven’t yet found a palatable way of generating any significant income from all of this effort. So once a year we ask our readers if they would help to defray some of the cost.
Think of it this way. We publish 24 issues a year. Round that up to 25, convert it to dollars, and it’s a slight bit more than a dollar an issue. That’s a pretty good deal, don’t you think? Quite a few FE readers have agreed with that and sent along contributions of $25 (or less or more), for which we are very grateful. If you haven’t yet chipped in, this will be your last time this season to hear me remind you of the value that FE brings to your inbox twice a month ... and ask for your help. I hope that you can send something along.
You can make a tax-deductible contribution to help in the publishing of FUTUREdition by clicking here.
Thank you so very much.
Warmest wishes for the New Year to you and those you love.
Amazing Mind Reader Reveals His “Gift” – (You Tube – September 24, 2012)
If you’ve ever wondered how mind reading really works (or even if it works), this will not answer your questions. Nonetheless, the revelation is worth the 2 ½ minutes to watch this video clip. (Editor’s note: we doubt these subjects were really as “random” as claimed, but the point is still brilliantly made.)
Shopping Online? Location Matters - (Wall St. Journal - December 24, 2012)
For years, the Internet, with its promise of quick comparison shopping, has granted people a certain power over retailers. At the click of a button, shoppers could find a better deal elsewhere, no travel required. But the idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens. Retailers increasingly shift marketing messages and prices on the fly as they harness the enormous amount of consumer data at their fingertips. The biggest factor in this subtle manner companies offer different versions of their online deals to customers is the proximity of a rival's store to the tracked location of an online shopper. A Wall Street Journal investigation found that the Staples Inc. website displays different prices to people after estimating their locations. More than that, Staples appeared to consider the person's distance from a rival brick-and-mortar store, either OfficeMax Inc. or Office Depot Inc. If rival stores were within 20 miles or so, Staples.com usually showed a discounted price. Staples, Rosetta Stone, and Home Depot were a few of the firms identified as actively shifting their prices online based on consumer data.
27 Science Fictions That Became Science Facts in 2012 - (BuzzFeed - December 20, 2012)
From creating fully functioning artificial leaves to hacking the human brain, science made a lot of breakthroughs this year. If you don’t have time for anything else, check out these developments. They aren’t exactly “coming soon to a theatre near you” but, in many cases, their potential to create change is here, now, and greater than we can imagine.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Microbubbles May Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes - (GizMag - December 18, 2012)
Heart attack and stroke-causing plaque deposits in the arteries are typically preceded by an inflammation of the arteries in those same areas. Therefore, if doctors could be aware of those inflamed regions before plaque deposits formed and problems such as chest pains arose, a lot of hardship could potentially be avoided. Well, that soon may be possible, thanks to some tiny bubbles. In tests conducted at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Isabelle Masseau started out with perfluorocarbon gas-containing, lipid-shelled “micro-bubbles”, each measuring two to three microns in diameter. She proceeded to attach antibodies to the micro-bubbles, and then injected them into the bloodstream of pigs with heart disease. The antibodies were drawn to inflammatory sites in the pigs’ arteries, and caused the bubbles to stick to them. Using ultrasound, she was then able to pinpoint the locations of those gathered bubbles, as the gas within them reflected back the ultrasound signal. With further testing, this procedure may become approved for people.
Mind-controlled Robotic Arm Has Skill and Speed of Human Limb - (Reuters - December 17, 2012)
A research team from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has implanted two microelectrode devices into a woman's left motor cortex, the part of the brain that initiates movement. The electrodes were connected to the robotic hand via a computer running a complex algorithm to translate the signals that mimics the way an unimpaired brain controls healthy limbs. "These electrodes are remarkable devices in that they are very small," according to Michael Boninger who worked on the study. But Boninger said the way the algorithm operates is the main advance. Accurately translating brain signals has been one of the biggest challenges in mind-controlled prosthetics. Scientists predict the technology could eventually be used to bypass nerve damage and re-awaken a person's own paralyzed muscles. Experts are calling it a remarkable step forward for prosthetics controlled directly by the brain. Other systems have already allowed paralyzed patients to type or write in freehand simply by thinking about the letters they want. In the past month, researchers in Switzerland also used electrodes implanted directly on the retina to enable a blind patient to read.
Ordinary Heart Cells Become "Biological Pacemakers" with Injection of a Single Gene - (Cedar Sinai - December 16, 2012)
Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute researchers have reprogrammed ordinary heart cells to become exact replicas of highly specialized pacemaker cells by injecting a single gene (Tbx18) – a major step forward in the decade-long search for a biological therapy to correct erratic and failing heartbeats. “Although we and others have created primitive biological pacemakers before, this study is the first to show that a single gene can direct the conversion of heart muscle cells to genuine pacemaker cells. The new cells generated electrical impulses spontaneously and were indistinguishable from native pacemaker cells,” said Hee Cheol Cho, PhD., a Heart Institute research scientist.
Fake Malaria Drugs Fuel Rise of Drug-Resistant Disease - (National Public Radio - December 19, 2012
Counterfeit drugs are a growing scourge around the world. They're generating millions of dollars in revenue for organized crime and fueling the rise of drug-resistant parasites. Anti-malarials are among the most popular drugs to fake. But these faux pharmaceuticals are particularly dangerous because malaria can kill a person in a matter of days. Sometimes the fake drugs are nothing more than repackaged sugar pills or chalk. But at times, they contain small amounts of anti-malarial drugs. That causes another major public health problem. When the malaria parasite is exposed to an insufficient dose of a drug, resistance can start to develop. And that appears to be happening now in Southeast Asia with one of the most powerful anti-malarials, artemisinin.
A Cheap, Accurate Test for Pancreatic Cancer, Created by a 15 Year Old - (Fast Company – May 23, 2012)
Every year, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair wows us with the ingenuity of high school students. This year’s first place winner is particularly impressive. Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests. It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better. Andraka’s dip-stick sensor can test urine or blood for a certain protein (mesothelin) that indicates the existence of the specific cancer. The paper strip changes conductivity based on how much of the protein is in the blood. It can, according to Andraka, detect the cancer even before it becomes invasive. All of Andraka’s $75,000 in winnings will go to his college education. He plans on studying to become a pathologist. In the meantime, the high school student plans to start clinical trials with the sensor, meet with Quest Diagnostics, and get the product on the market within 10 years.
Can We Adapt to Climate Change? The Colorado Basin May Soon Find Out - (Washington Post - December 14, 2012)
Congress isn’t planning to take action on climate change any time soon. But if the planet keeps warming, a number of states won’t be able to ignore the problem quite so easily. One good place to see this is in the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River provides fresh water to nearly 40 million people in seven states out west. A sizable chunk of U.S. agriculture relies on that water — about 15% of the nation’s crops and 13% of its livestock. (Indeed, the vast majority of the river’s water is used for irrigation and agriculture.) But there’s a problem: The demand is growing and supply of water is dropping — and could keep dropping as climate change speeds evaporation, shrinks the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains, and makes droughts more likely. By some recent estimates, annual flows could drop up to 20% by mid-century. So how are these states going to deal with the water problem? When scientists talk about the need for “climate adaptation,” this is what they mean. The report has an in-depth analysis of different adaptation options.
US Army Corps Sees Mississippi River Staying Open - (Reuters - December 17, 2012)
The Army Corps of Engineers is doing everything it can to keep the Mississippi river open following the worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years. Some shippers of grain, coal and steel have worried the river will close to navigation on a busy stretch between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois, due to low water. Declining water levels have already forced barge tows to lighten loads or risk groundings. However, expected rains plus water that is being released into the river from a lake in southern Illinois should keep open the critical route to the Gulf of Mexico. The river and its tributaries are critical for commerce because they draw on a region that produces 90% of U.S. farm exports. Despite the actions by the Corps, the American Waterways Operators said the river will "be effectively closed to navigation" by the end of the year unless water is released from the Missouri River. The rock removal and release of water from Carlyle Lake are "really just delaying the inevitable," American Waterways spokeswoman Ann McCulloch said. Drought conservation steps have cut water flow into the Mississippi River from upriver dams on its tributary the Missouri River. Cities and towns along the Missouri River, including Omaha and Kansas City, rely on the river for drinking water. Three nuclear power plants in Nebraska and Missouri also use river water for cooling.
Stick-N-Find Bluetooth-powered Stickers Will Help You Find Anything - (Digital Trends - December 5, 2012)
Stick-N-Find stickers will offer the ability to find any object using a smartphone and a Bluetooth connection. After a user attaches a Stick-N-Find Bluetooth sticker to an object, they can check distance from the object using a smartphone application. In addition, the user can trigger an audible buzzer to hear the sticker as well as turn on a blinking red light housed within the sticker to see the object in the dark. This can be useful for locating lost car keys, expensive electronics like a smartphone or a remote control buried in the couch cushions. Roughly the size of a quarter, the Stick-N-Find sticker has a range of approximately 100 feet and the battery lasts about a year. When the battery is running low on power, the Stick-N-Find smartphone application will alert the user.
Telepresence Robots Let Employees "Beam" to Work - (Huffington Post - December 23, 2012)
Engineer Dallas Goecker attends meetings, jokes with colleagues and roams the office building just like other employees at his company in Silicon Valley. But Goecker isn't in California. He's more than 2,300 miles away, working at home in Seymour, Indiana. It's all made possible by the Beam – a mobile video-conferencing machine that he can drive around the Palo Alto offices and workshops of Suitable Technologies. The 5-foot-tall device, topped with a large video screen, gives him a physical presence that makes him and his colleagues feel like he's actually there."This gives you that casual interaction that you're used to at work," Goecker said, speaking on a Beam. "I'm sitting in my desk area with everybody else. I'm part of their conversations and their socializing." Suitable Technologies, which makes the Beam, is now one of more than a dozen companies that sell telepresence robots. These remote-controlled machines are equipped with video cameras, speakers, microphones and wheels that allow users to see, hear, talk and "walk" in faraway locations.
Green over Grey - Living Walls and Design - (Green over Grey company website - no date)
Green over Grey is a leading North American based design firm based in Vancouver, BC. The company designs and installs living walls also known as green walls or vertical gardens. Their soil-free system makes it possible to transform any vertical surface into a lush and strikingly beautiful garden, either inside or out. The company's goal is to create living works of art that purify the air you breathe, make life more sustainable and add some green to the grey of our cities. Don't miss the photo gallery of the company's projects.
Micro Cabin in Finland - (Design Milk - May 14, 2012)
Finland has regulations that restrict cabins and small houses from being larger than 96-128 square feet if they are being built without a permit. Robin Falck was able to build a 96-square-foot cabin overlooking a lake with a 50-square-foot loft space that houses the bed and stores clothing. Using mostly recycled materials, the entire cabin was built for around $10,500 plus the labor. And it's beautiful.
This Breathing Office Building Makes You Feel Like You’re Outside – (Fast Company – December 17, 2012)
Sometimes, a skyscraper isn’t just a skyscraper. It’s a community gathering space, a building that offers respite from typical stale indoor office environments, a model of sustainability for others to follow, a breathing--but not living--entity. PNC Bank’s new 33-story global headquarters, set to be built in Pittsburgh, is that place. Today’s "green" high-rises can be placed in two categories, according to Hao Ko, a senior associate and design director at Gensler and the lead architect on the PNC project: they’re either like bicycles that use onsite resources and are only as big as the site will allow, or they’re like hybrid SUVs, basically just normative high-rises that have fancy technology added to make them high-performing. Inside the future tower are the SkyGardens, spaces that pop up every five stories that will contain conference rooms, open collaborative areas, and glass-walled "outdoor spaces". Sometimes it might be too cold in the space without a coat, but in the spring and summer, people will probably want to sit down and have lunch in the area. Sunglasses will be provided on a rack—a reminder that the interior of the building is connected to the exterior.
GravityLight Uses Weight to Illuminate without Batteries or Fuel - (Engadget - December 6,2012)
The lack of reliable electricity in developing countries puts a damper on more than just technology use -- having to run kerosene lamps, or even those based on solar power, often involves recurring costs that whittle away at very modest incomes. GravityLight has built an LED lamp that just might lift the burden. As the name implies, a weight (usually the very bag that the lamp ships in, filled on site with sand, pebbles or whatever) generates electricity through natural force: the few seconds it takes to lift the weight can generate 30 minutes of light without ever replacing a battery or fuel supply. The simple construction also has helpful side benefits, such as powering up other devices and a clip that can replace the bag with most anything that weighs around 20 pounds. Article includes demo video clip.
Ancient Red Dye Powers New “Green” Battery - (City College of NY - December 11, 2012)
More than 3,500 years ago, civilizations in Asia and the Middle East first boiled madder roots to color fabrics in vivid oranges, reds and pinks. In its latest technological incarnation, the climbing herb could lay the foundation for an eco-friendly alternative to traditional lithium-ion batteries. These batteries charge everything from mobile phone to electric vehicles, but carry with them risks to the environment during production, recycling and disposal. Most Li-ion batteries today rely on finite supplies of mined metal ores, such as cobalt. “Thirty percent of globally produced cobalt is fed into battery technology,” noted Dr. Leela Reddy, lead author and a research scientist at Rice University. Fabricating and recycling standard Li-ion batteries demands high temperatures, guzzling costly energy, especially during recycling. Production and recycling also pumps an estimated 72 kilograms of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere for every kilowatt-hour of energy in a Li-ion battery. Fortunately, biologically based color molecules, like madder root and its relatives, seem pre-adapted to act as a battery’s electrode.
Renewable Energy Is Reliable, New Study Claims – (GizMag - December 13, 2012)
Although critics of renewable energy may claim that it isn't reliable enough to power a grid, a new study gives proponents of clean power – such as wind and solar – fresh ammunition to respond. A thorough analysis carried out by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College concluded that renewable energy could reliably power a large electrical grid 99.9% of the time by 2030, at a cost that matches today’s electricity prices. A diversified energy mix, an expanded geographic area of renewable generation, and efficient storage media such as batteries and fuel cells are key to running a successful renewable-powered grid. With that in mind, the study utilized a computer model that looked at 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage devices. The research spanned four years based on weather and energy demand data drawn from PJM Interconnection, a regional grid linking 13 states including New Jersey and Illinois. PJM makes up one-fifth of America’s total electrical grid.
Electricity from the Marshes - ( Wageningen University - November 23, 2012)
A plant-microbial fuel cell has been developed that can generate electricity from the natural interaction between living plant roots and soil bacteria. The technique already works on a small scale and will soon be applied in larger marshland areas throughout the world. Bacteria around plants' roots break down the organic residue of photosynthesis. The degradation processes causes electrons to be released. An electrode placed close to the bacteria can absorb these electrons and generate electricity via the potential difference thus created. The plant-microbial fuel cell can currently generate 0.4 Watt per square meter of plant growth. This is more than is generated by fermenting biomass. Plants of various species could be used, including grasses such as common cordgrass and, in warmer countries, rice.
The Top 12 Energy Stories of 2012 - (Fast Company - December 28, 2012)
The shine might have come off renewable energy in the last year, but new innovations that generate fuel from the craziest sources mean we have a lot of hope for more and more clean power in the future. If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that renewable energy isn’t a new shiny toy anymore. While the sector grew rapidly in 2011, it looks like it will actually end up having decreased by the end of 2012. But though Solyndra and other much-hyped "failures" spent a lot of time in the press, renewable energy continued to innovate in places that received less mainstream publicity. While wind and solar get most of the attention in discussions of renewables, some of the major innovation is happening by getting power from everything else we have laying around. Here are 12 innovations that are distinctly off-beat. For example, a new technology to extract energy from the waste of coffee production.
Why Hyperloop Transportion Systems Could Change the World - (Helium - December 20, 2012)
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX industries is a visionary. An Internet multi-billionaire from his PayPal venture, Musk foresaw the privatization of space. Some called him a dreamer, but he led the way and billionaires from Europe and the U.S. are now funding private space ventures. Musk (who has gone on record saying he expects to die on Mars) is touting his new vision: an amalgam of hypersonic flight technology within a loop powered by a magnetic railgun. Seeing the entrepreneur's stunning track record of success, no one's laughing. The transport would be "open sourced" and allow for modification and improvements. Musk sees it as a maglev, vacuum tube, aerospace train that travels in a loop, similar in some aspects to a launch loop, but kept as a ground-based system. While Musk envisions it as a future system that would reduce travel from San Francisco to L.A. to about 30 minutes, the Swissmetro project is already raising funds for a hyperloop transport to run between Zurich to Bern in a sizzling 15 minutes.
China Opens Longest High Speed Rail Line - (New York Times - December 26, 2012)
While ‘hyperloop transportion’ is still in the visioning stage, China has begun service on the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Fla., or from London across Europe to Belgrade, Serbia. Trains traveling 186 miles an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours. The national rail network has helped to reduce air pollution in Chinese cities and helped to curb demand for imported diesel fuel by freeing capacity on older rail lines for goods to be carried by freight trains instead of heavily polluting, costlier trucks. Debt to finance the construction has reached nearly 4 trillion renminbi, or $640 billion, making it one of the most visible reasons total debt has been surging as a share of economic output in China, and is approaching levels in the West. Each passenger car taken off the older, slower rail lines makes room for three freight cars because passenger trains have to move so quickly that they force freight trains to stop frequently. But although the high-speed trains have played a big role in allowing sharp increases in freight shipments, the Ministry of Railways has not yet figured out a way to charge large freight shippers, many of them politically influential state-owned enterprises, for part of the cost of the high-speed lines, which haul only passengers.
Russia Bans US Meat Imports Due to Dangerous Drug Residue - (Healthy Home Economist - December 19, 2012)
Recently Russia announced that it intends to ban US imports of beef and pork unless these foods can be certified free of the livestock drug ractopamine. Ractopamine is a growth promoting drug which increases muscle mass by actively slowing protein degradation. Unlike other veterinary drugs which are withdrawn prior to slaughter, ractopamine is started and never withdrawn in the animal’s final days. Given that these animals are actively being given ractopamine immediately prior to slaughter and have been receiving the drug for some weeks preceding, there can be no doubt that a residue of the drug remains in the animal’s meat when it finally hits supermarket shelves. The Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, Health Protection Branch of the Health and Welfare Department of Ottawa Canada found that rats fed ractopamine experienced a cluster of serious birth defects. In 2002, the FDA accused Elanco, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly and manufacturer of Paylean, the brand name for ractopamine for pigs, of a cover-up on the dangers of the drug in animals. Inexplicably, the FDA went on to approve ractopamine for cattle the following year even after it’s 14 page warning letter to Elanco on it’s blatant deception and abuse of the approval process of Paylean for pigs.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Camouflage Fabric That Can Make Soldiers Invisible - (Daily Mail - December 10, 2012)
The U.S. military is backing the development of camouflage fabrics that could one day make their soldiers completely invisible. The so-called 'Quantum Stealth' camouflage material is said to render its wearers completely invisible by bending light waves around them. However, its development is apparently so secret the Canadian company behind it says it cannot even show the technology in action and offers only mock ups of its effect on their website. Nevertheless, Guy Cramer, CEO of Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp, says he does not care that some observers remain skeptical as to his company's claims since 'the people that need to know that it works have seen it. These groups now know that it works and does so without cameras, batteries, lights or mirrors...It is lightweight and quite inexpensive. Both the U.S. and Canadian military have confirmed that it also works against military IR scopes and Thermal Optics.'
Body Armor for Kids: Sales Surge after Sandy Hook Massacre - (ABC News - December 19, 2012)
Although the black, child-size backpacks sold by the Massachusetts body armor company Bullet Blocker look like regular backpacks, a sheet of body armor is sewn inside each bag as "another protective layer." Another company, Amendment II, based in Utah, that manufactures lightweight armor for law enforcement and the military, began inserting their technology into kids' backpacks six months ago after they received several custom orders, said Derek Williams, president of the company.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
An All-American Nightmare - (Nation of Change - December 18, 2012)
There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen. Torture can’t be made to disappear like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us—that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are. The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture program was real. In the course of 24 years as a State Department officer, the author of this article spoke with two men who had been tortured, both by allies of the United States and with at least the tacit approval of Washington. Their stories are included. See also: Political Prisoners in America. Institutionalizing Indefinite Detention.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Lisa Kristine: Photos That Bear Witness to Modern Slavery – (TED Talk – August, 2012)
For the past two years, photographer Lisa Kristine has traveled the world, documenting the unbearably harsh realities of modern-day slavery. She shares hauntingly beautiful images—miners in the Congo, brick layers in Nepal—illuminating the plight of the 27 million souls enslaved worldwide. (Editor’s note: The images this photographer shows are as difficult to see as the photographer is lovely.)
10 Best Countries in Which To Be Born in 2013 – (AlterNet – December 7, 2012)
Hint: America is not one of them. As 2012 comes to a close, marking the finish of a year of economic upheaval around the world (with no clear end in sight), the Economist Intelligence Unit posed the question: Which child born next year will be more likely to have a good quality-of-life? And, perhaps most importantly, what person entering adulthood in the 2030s will be gladdest to live where she or he lives? They call this the "born index” or "life satisfaction index," and it explains which countries lead the pack as the best place to be born in 2013. America, which used to be number-one on this very same index back in 1988, has plummeted to number 16. It’s understandable in terms of our miserable healthcare system, growing social stratification and workplace policies; we hang out toward the bottom of the lists when it comes to maternal health, paid leave for parents or family sickness. And yes, we have zero mandatory vacation hours. But there’s a lot more to this index. Article includes methodology of the index and results.
A Retailer for Free Stuff - (Fast Company – December 4, 2012)
Yerdle—a new website where you can list things to give away—hopes to change how we view consumerism and make it easier to give unwanted purchases a second life. Yerdle isn’t aiming to be a Craigslist or Freecycle clone. It’s trying to create a whole new model of sharing, one that resembles a traditional retail experience, and one that other retailers might actually want to get involved in. Co-founder Adam Werbach says the idea for Yerdle first came to him after a trip to India, where he met women setting up "saving circles." They’d save up money to buy things that they could share amongst themselves. Speaking of sharing, see also RelayRides where you can share your car (at a price that you set per hour or per day) and where the company seems to have worked out some of the issues of liability insurance.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Advanced Technology May Exist on a Third Level Beyond Matter - (Daily Galaxy - December 30, 2012)
World renowned experts from physicist Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University to astrobiologist Paul Davis of Arizona State have asked that if we were to encounter alien technology far superior to our own, would we even realize what it was. A technology a million or more years in advance of ours would appear miraculous. In fact, Davies writes in his book, Eerie Silence, that advanced technology might not even be made of matter. That it might have no fixed size or shape; have no well-defined boundaries. Is dynamical on all scales of space and time. Or, conversely, does not appear to do anything at all that we can discern. Does not consist of discrete, separate things; but rather it is a system, or a subtle higher-level correlation of things. Are matter and information, Davies asks, all there is? Five hundred years ago, Davies writes, " the very concept of a device manipulating information, or software, would have been incomprehensible. Might there be a still higher level, as yet outside all human experience, that organizes electrons? If so, this "third level" would never be manifest through observations made at the informational level, still less at the matter level.
US Population 315 Million and Slowing - (CNN - December 28, 2012)
That's what the Census Bureau projects will be the population of the United States on New Year's Day. The number of people increased by 2,272,462 or 0.73% since the last time a population snapshot was taken – April 1, 2010. In January, America can expect one birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds. America's population is growing at a slower pace than was previously projected, the Census Bureau said. One reason is lower birth rates starting in 2008, when the economy soured. Lower immigration numbers have also affected the population. The U.S. population is now projected to be around 399.8 million by 2050, far short of the 439 million that was projected four years ago.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Year in Science 2012, Discoveries and Events – (Huffington Post – December 21, 2012)
From the mission to Mars to exoplanets orbiting distant stars, supermassive black holes and a new look at DNA, many inspiring discoveries and important events made 2012 an amazing year in science. Physicists brought science an important step closer to explaining the universe. NASA pushed the boundaries of space exploration, and commercial ventures took humanity to dizzying new heights.
NYSE Deal Shows Future of Finance – (USA Today – December 24, 2012)
The recent history of the New York Stock Exchange is interesting in part because it's an illustration of how disruptive new technology can be. Twenty years ago, the NYSE and its relatively young rival NASDAQ accounted for 97% of the total U.S. stock trading volume. Then the rapid development of computer technology enabled dozens of alternative trading venues to sprout up over the past two decades, increasing competition for volume and driving down the exchanges' profits, ultimately pushing the NYSE — one of the most enduring symbols of American capitalism — towards increasing irrelevancy.
Seattle Mayor Orders City to Divest Fossil Fuels – (Nation of Change – December 26, 2012)
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sent a letter to the city’s two chief pension funds last week, formally requesting that they “refrain from future investments in fossil fuel companies and begin the process of divesting our pension portfolio from those companies. Climate change is one of the most important challenges we currently face as a city and as a society,” wrote Mayor McGinn in a letter to the Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System (SCERS) Board and the City of Seattle Voluntary Deferred Compensation Plan Committee. Valued at $1.9 billion, SCERS is also the largest investment portfolio yet to consider fossil fuel divestment.
New Mayor Takes Entire Salary in Local Currency - (Tree Hugger - December 7, 2012)
From Banksy-themed bank notes to a policy that allows businesses to pay their taxes in local currency, the high-tech, mainstream Bristol Pound has been shaking up the somewhat worthy, idealistic image of local currency schemes. That looks set to continue. George Ferguson, the independent candidate just elected mayor of Bristol, England has elected to take his entire salary, currently £51,000, in local money. Bristol pounds, a currency introduced this year, is proving to be a success. Ferguson said Bristol had a minor link to London but a more important link to the rest of the world. "We are a proud provincial city," he said. "We are pretty self-contained and we are independent."
Multi-phase Weaponization of Replica Guns for Children: Proposal of the Notional Rifle Association in Response to School Shootings - (Laetus in Preasens - December 29, 2012)
This article presents a proposal by the Notional Rifle Association (carefully notice the spelling)—necessarily more radical than that of our colleagues in the National Rifle Association. It could be considered potentially both more politically feasible and more cost-effective (given the drain on much-stretched public resources required to guard against the well-documented and greater threats of terrorism). The proposal here advocates the possibility of progressive weaponisation of the replica toy weapons already made available by parents to children for their amusement--and received with enthusiasm by them as a complement to their experience with video games. The process is seen as engendering an internal pattern of control within schools, consistent with the arguments of the National Rifle Association and with the principles enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. (Editor's note: this article is NOT meant to be taken as a serious proposal, but as a serious examination of the underlying issues.)
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
(Re)Flag USA – (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – October 16, 2012)
Is there anything more American than the American flag? As any American school kid knows, the stars and stripes are not merely decorative. Each element in the flag represents information: 13 horizontal strips represent the 13 original colonies and 50 stars stand for the 50 states. While our flag is directly representational of both our colonial history and our modern identity, its information has become static and inflexible. Using the American flag as the formal foundation, MGMT. created 50 new flags that are based the current conditions of a changing nation. These new standards utilize data visualization in a heraldic form to reveal facts about our country, from the obvious to the sublime: 1 in 32 Americans are in prison, 3.2% of us are vegetarian, and 1 in 4 of us has been on TV. While sometimes superficial, these new metrics reveal aspects of America that go deeper than traditional patriotic symbols. Freedom has always been America’s primary brand attribute. Imagine a country where individual expression includes the creation of a personal flag for every citizen or like-minded group. This could be just the beginning. View all flags with accompanying explanations here.
JUST FOR FUN
Handmade Portraits: Sophie Blackall - (You Tube - February 7, 2012)
Brooklyn-based illustrator Sophie Blackall was in search of inspiration when she stumbled upon the infamous Missed Connections section of Craigslist. In this Internet realm of love lost and found, anonymous posters chronicle the one who got away, hoping that the object of their affection will remember the shy stranger who offered an umbrella during a freak hail storm. Sophie immediately knew she had found her muse. In a delightful twist of life, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program asked Sophie to design an Art Card — a prominent piece of subway art featured in most of the city’s newest subway cars. Her wonderful illustrations, featuring some of the characters in her book, can now be seen on lines in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, as subway riders make and miss connections.
Seeds: Time Capsules Of Life' Reveals A Hidden World - (Huffington Post - December 11, 2012)
Earth Aware Editions and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew have produced a stunning book, Seeds: Time Capsules of Life, featuring close ups of some of the most varied, yet overlooked creations of the natural world. It's a beautiful look at the world from a very different angle. Article includes a slide show of eleven gorgeous photographs from the book.
A FINAL QUOTE--
The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future. – Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), first Chief of the United States Forest Service
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Terah Collins, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Anthony Judge, Diane Petersen, 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.
Edited by John L. Petersen