Volume 16, Number 07 - 4/15/13 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Eighty-six journalists from 46 countries used high-tech data crunching and shoe-leather reporting to sift through emails, account ledgers and other files covering nearly 30 years to uncover the identities of off-shore account-holders with an estimated $32trillion in undisclosed wealth.

  • New technologies are emerging that could radically reduce our need to sleep - if we can bear to use them.

  • The amount of U.S. dollar cash in circulation has risen by 42% in the last five years; the proportion held abroad has climbed from 56% to nearly 66%.

  • According to recent scientific speculation, the Earth once had two moons gracing our night skies. 


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Penny Kelly Coming to Berkeley Springs

Our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series continues on Saturday, the 27th of April with author, naturopathic physician and researcher Penny Kelly. In 1979, while working as a tool and process engineer for Chrysler Corp, she experienced a full, spontaneous awakening of kundalini that completely changed her life. She left Chrysler and returned to school to study the brain, consciousness, perception, cognition, intelligence and intuition. For some years now she has been involved in scientific research and investigations into consciousness at Pinelandia Laboratory near Ann Arbor, MI and has been the subject of some research as well.

Penny is the author of six books, and her latest, Consciousness and Energy, Vol 2, contains an extraordinary explanation of how matter derives from consciousness. For example, it explains the linkage between crop circles, animal mutilation, UFO energies and things like why plants know your thoughts.

Her talk, Stepping Into New Worlds of Energy, will review some of her groundbreaking research and paint a very interesting picture of the emergence of a new world.

It is profoundly important information that provides enlightenment on all aspects of life, and is backed up by scientific research as well. (That’s important because almost all other theories of everything are not backed up by experiments that confirm the theory.)

Come hear her talk at the Star Theatre in Berkeley Springs, WV at 2:30 PM on Saturday, 27th of April. You can find all of the details here.

Why Do We Treat People This Way?

Today I’m confused. I have had a number of articles converge upon me in the last few days that have me asking the rather basic question, “Why do we treat people the way we do?”

It’s more than some kind of moral or philosophic question, it’s a logical one, because many of the most destructive things that we do make no logical sense – it’s like they are counterproductive... they don’t accomplish what they say they are trying to do. Yet we keep doing them.

Consider, for example, the case of Bradley Manning and how the government is pursuing his prosecution. It’s bad enough that they kept him in solitary confinement for a year without charge but now that they have charged him they’re arguing this perverse and baffling approach that is the equivalent of saying that if someone or some group is considered the enemy, a local car dealer is complicit and supported terrorism (or whatever) because the accused may (he may not) have used a car (any car) to do something that the government found unacceptable. Understand that the car dealer didn’t sell the guy a car or ever met him... and that the accused may never have used a car. It’s just that he might have. You can read about it in How To Commit Espionage Without Trying. Here’s an excerpt.

According to the prosecutors, Manning committed espionage and aided the enemy by giving them important intelligence and he did that by putting it on the Internet. That's it; that's the crime. His real intent is irrelevant. The government is arguing that, if you put something on the Internet that some nefarious rascal downloads, you are effectively aiding that person materially in any "relevant" crime he or she might commit. It doesn't matter if there's no evidence that the person read it and no need to prove that you intended for him or her to retrieve it. Effectively, it makes the use of the Internet a potential crime. Read the whole article here.

Now, I know about lawyers being hired guns and the concept that everyone deserves a defense and all of that, but here is a clear case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The government may win this case and in the process destroy an essential function of the Internet. This kind of judgment would generate a great deal of broad-based fear across the country and the world about what individuals were willing to put up on the Internet... and effectively destroy the protections for freedom of speech and all of the progressive force that fuels change throughout all components of our larger system.

Is that really what they want to do?

One might argue that this is an attempt to get the “out of control” Internet under control... by the government. It highlights the basic, structural mismatch between the metabolism and operational rate of the rapidly developing global brain and the inability of entrenched underlying social systems – such as the government – to adapt quickly enough to be relevant and effective in the explosively emergent new world.

Fighting for relevancy (and power and resources) by attempting to maintain the status quo in the face of rapid change is nothing new for science, government, the energy sector and most other structural system components. Watch this summary of Noam Chomsky’s recent lecture on the subject as it applies to Iran.

It’s almost as though there is a “coefficient of adaptation” associated with human societies that varies with the relative level of “development” (whatever that means) which describes the amount of change that a social system can effectively assimilate without becoming unstable. It’s not just quantitative, but also qualitative, having clear hot-button issues (often related to women and the role of government) that, if pushed too hard, accelerate the movement toward state change.

What also happens, of course, is that the powers that be, regardless of the particular discipline or sector, see the abrupt change as a threat and, like white corpuscles rushing to staunch a wound, leap forward in defense of the status quo – regardless of the relative merit of the new proposal. This is where I get hung up. It’s as though the “system” embraces the status quo, even though things are clearly not working very well and treats thoughtful new proposals as mortal threats, even as people die and suffer because of the present policies. And it’s not just that they defend the status quo, but that they leap to attack the new ideas in very non-rational and sometimes inhumane terms. Let me give you a couple of current examples.

The Internet lubricates and compresses the whole process of debate around foreign affairs and policies making the tempo of the reaction to a new idea far more volatile. A good case in point is the situation in Iran. Look at the broad-based negative reaction to an intelligent, reasonably argued proposal for a different, more realistic approach to the country: Demonizing Realism on Iran Note that the response has not been to raise questions about the essential value and logic of the proposal, but to offer ad hominem attacks suggesting unacceptable, underlying personal perspectives and allegiances.

Remember, this is a situation that is clearly not working. It is an issue looking for a solution. But rather than rising to a different level of perspective and honestly looking for the new space that offers a novel, fair solution (read: evolving to a new level of human development), the reaction is one that revolves around negativity and personal destruction.

You may say that what I’m describing here is nothing new – that this is the way the system has always worked; it will never change. Thomas Kuhn, of course, has famously suggested that we just have to wait until the death of the present minders before an opening will allow for the embrace of the inevitable new ideas.

But what I’m trying to suggest is that the Internet (among other things) is increasing the metabolism of the process and it is eclipsing the evolutionary rate of change that is inherently tied to the usual lifetime of humans. The size of the issues and implications of the decisions are getting bigger and larger and we are essentially being forced into a corner that requires a dramatic shift in perspective and operation in order to deal with the emergent reality.

These forcing functions are driving us to rapidly confront escalating choices that offer the options of either rising to a higher level of consideration, analysis and decision making, or degenerating into the space of trying - in spurts of more and more corrosive creativity - to maintain what is, regardless of the cost to humanity and society. That’s what we’re doing with the prisoners that we’re keeping without charge in Guantanamo and what we did after 9/11. It’s the way things have degenerated into the elimination of dignity in the Middle East. You can watch Noam Chomsky’s complete review of that situation here.

To me, all of this sounds like an evolutionary process for the species – a chance to rise to the epic occasion of becoming someone new.

We have a small group that meets here every couple of weeks to discuss the future of our community. The other night I made the point that without a fundamental, significantly embraced mind shift, all of the attempts to “solve” problems are just band aids stretched over the underlying structural rust and erosion. And that is the hope for all of this: the emergence of a new way of seeing things and a new way of living.

I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Frank DeMarco and Rita Warren entitled The Sphere and the Hologram: Explanations from the Other Side. It’s a channeled book of systematic, probing questions by psychologist Warren and answers from the very wise “Gentlemen Upstairs” through the voice of DeMarco. It’s fascinating because it is like being on the phone with an angel and being able to ask any question that you might have about how this reality really works.

All of my adult life I’ve thought that this human experience was about learning – leaving wiser than you arrived. But that’s not what these guys are saying. They say that learning is the inevitable byproduct but not the objective of the human experience. The objective is related to making choices and becoming an individual. I won’t dwell on the “becoming an individual” part here, but let me tell you about the issue of choices.

We are presented in this reality with a never ending series of choices, starting from when we open our eyes in the morning until we fall asleep at night – day after day. Each choice produces a bifurcation, a directional change, which leads to a different future. Essentially, they say that every possibility exists in this extraordinarily complex context in which we operate (which is just one entity, by the way... and is why I’m not going to talk about becoming an “individual” right now), and our consciousness moves its point of focus from one place to another within this space of futures depending upon the choices that we make.

So, in simple terms, who we become and what future we experience is only the result of the choices that we make... and our job is to learn how to make better and better choices.

What that means to me (I haven’t finished the book yet), is that there is an opportunity here – in fact, it’s the name of the game – to become increasingly sensitive to the subtleties and weak signals that always present themselves in the face of every choice and decision that is presented to you. It’s right brain, intuitive, follow-your-heart kind of stuff. In essence, there’s another way of sensing the ideal path forward that is always available to us and learning the skill of hearing that message and doing what it says (you can always choose not to, of course – it’s that free-will thing), is what we are here to develop. (If you’re following this, you may now see the emergence of the “individual” part as making choices based upon your own internal guidance – and not all of the social noise from outside; this is essentially the process of becoming an individual.)

So, there’s a way to deal with all of this irrationality and dysfunction that is cascading around us. We very well may not understand it and things may not make sense, but our job is to transcend it all... which just means that there is a path through all of this for each one of us if we only evolve to hearing our own internal drummer that is constantly illuminating the best way forward.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Goodbye Paper Boys, Hello Drones – (Government Technology – April 1, 2013)
Traditional newspaper delivery may be a practice of the past for one French province. Auvergne, a province in central France, will be piloting a new program to deliver the region’s daily newspapers using drones. The area’s postal service La Poste Group partnered with French company Parrot to implement the project in early May. The new program will offer home delivery of the local newspaper using drones designed by Parrot. Before implementation, the program will be tested through the use of volunteers. The drone developed for this specific program will be named “Air Drone Postal,” and 20 drones are slated to deliver mail to customers before 7 a.m. The drones will be handled and driven by 20 postal workers currently in training.

Facebook Widens Data Targeting – (Wall St. Journal – April 10, 2013)
Facebook is using new ways to cull personal information from outside the social network and match it with data submitted by its billion-plus users. The company is rolling out a new advertiser tool to help advertisers target Facebook users based on their offline spending history. The tool marries what Facebook already knows about people's friends and "likes" with vast troves of information from third-party data marketers. That includes data on the Web pages that consumers visit, the email lists they have signed up for, and the way they are spending money online and offline. While Facebook doesn't provide data on individuals to advertisers, it now can feed advertisers information on broad swaths of its members including their behavior outside of the social network. As it broadens its network of data partners, Facebook is creating an increasingly detailed composite of their behavior, from what products they're buying at the drugstore to sexual preferences and predicting what big purchases they may be contemplating. Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington, D.C., policy advocacy group, said Facebook's relationship with data partners could become more worrisome if Facebook leverages the location data it passively collects from mobile devices to sell ads.

Secret Files Expose Offshore's Global Impact – (Huffington Post – April 3, 2013)
A cache of 2.5 million files has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich the world over. The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways. They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010. To analyze the documents, ICIJ collaborated with reporters from The Guardian and the BBC in the U.K., Le Monde in France, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Germany, The Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and 31 other media partners around the world. “I’ve never seen anything like this. This secret world has finally been revealed,” said Arthur Cockfield, a law professor and tax expert at Queen’s University in Canada. He said the documents remind him of the scene in the movie classic The Wizard of Oz in which “they pull back the curtain and you see the wizard operating this secret machine.” A former chief economist at McKinsey estimates that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn stashed in overseas havens. The article goes on to mention some specific names. Other names, more well-known internationally, can be read in this article from The Guardian covering the same story with a slightly different slant.



NEW REALITIES

New Music Is Rewarding for the Brain – (BBC News – April 11, 2013)
Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward center of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. Dr. Valorie Salimpoor, from the Rotman Research Institute, in Toronto, said, "We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward. But music is abstract: It's not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food and you are really excited about it because you are going to eat it - or the same thing applies to sex or money - that's when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens. But what's cool is that you're anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract - and that's the next sound that is coming up."

Reading Your Dreams: Brain Wave Activity Reveals Dream Imagery - (Huffington Post - April 4, 2013)
Previous studies have suggested that people's brain activity can be decoded to reveal what they are thinking about: For instance, scientists have decoded movie clips from brain waves. Masako Tamaki, a neuroscientist at Brown University, and her colleagues tracked brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of three people as they were sleeping; the researchers woke up the trio every few minutes to have them describe their dreams. In total, the scientists collected about 200 visual images. The researchers then tied the dream content that participants described in their waking moments to specific patterns in brain activity (as seen in the blood flow in fMRI scans) and had a computer model learn those signatures. The computer model then analyzed each person's dreams. The model was able to pick out the time when each person dreamed of specific objects based on their brain activity when they were awake.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Device Finds Stray Cancer Cells in Patients’ Blood – (Technolgy Review – April 3, 2013)
Doctors typically diagnose cancer via a biopsy, which can be invasive and expensive. A better way to diagnose the disease would be to detect telltale tumor cells floating in the bloodstream, but such a test has proved difficult to develop because stray cancer cells are rare, and it’s difficult to separate them from the mélange of cells in circulation. Now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School say they’ve built a microfluidic device that can quickly grab nearly any type of tumor cell, an advance that may one day lead to simple blood tests for detecting or tracking cancer. Similar, existing devices depend on tumor-specific biomarkers on the surface of the cells to pull them out of a blood sample, meaning that a given device won’t work for all cancer types. What’s more, the efficiency by which the tumor cells are purified from other cell types is generally low and time-consuming. In a given blood sample, circulating tumor cells are rare—there may be only one tumor cell for every billion cells. The new device combines existing microfluidic techniques of cell sorting into a single device, he says. The result is that the tumor cells can be pulled out of a blood sample quicker, and without prior knowledge of their molecular characteristics.

The End of Sleep? – (Aeon – April 12, 2013)
New technologies are emerging that could radically reduce our need to sleep - if we can bear to use them. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in. One of the most valuable outcomes of work on sleep deprivation is the emergence of clear individual differences — groups of people who reliably perform better after sleepless nights, as well as those who suffer disproportionately. The division is quite stark and seems based on a few gene variants that code for neurotransmitter receptors, opening the possibility that it will soon be possible to tailor stimulant variety and dosage to genetic type.

New Cancer Radiation Therapy Treatment with No Harmful Side Effects – (GizMag – April 3, 2013)
Shortly after the discovery of the neutron in 1932, some scientists recognized the potential of boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) as a cancer treatment. But despite decades of research, the problem of finding a delivery agent that would more effectively target the tumor without harming surrounding tissue persisted. Taking advantage of the fact that cancer cells absorb more materials than normal cells, MU Curators’ Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne and his team got cancer cells to take in and store a boron chemical designed by Hawthorne. When it captures a neutron, the boron chemical releases lithium and helium atoms that penetrate the cancer cell and destroy it from the inside without harming neighboring healthy cells. “A wide variety of cancers can be attacked with our BNCT technique,” Hawthorne said. “The technique worked excellently in mice. We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we can start treating humans, we will need to build suitable equipment and facilities.”

Nanoparticle Disguised as a Blood Cell Fights Bacterial Infection – (Technology Review – April 14, 2013)
A nanoparticle wrapped in a red blood cell membrane can remove toxins from the body and could be used to fight bacterial infections. The results of a new study demonstrate that the nanoparticles could be used to neutralize toxins produced by many bacteria, including some that are antibiotic-resistant, and could counteract the toxicity of venom from a snake or scorpion attack, says Liangfang Zhang, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego. Zhang led the research. The “nanosponges” work by targeting so-called pore-forming toxins, which kill cells by poking holes in them. One of the most common classes of protein toxins in nature, pore-forming toxins are secreted by many types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, of which antibiotic-resistant strains, called MRSA, are endemic in hospitals worldwide and cause tens of thousands of deaths annually. They are also present in many types of animal venom.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Is Earth Undergoing a 6th Mass Extinction? – (Daily Galaxy – March 23, 2013)
Of all species that have existed on Earth, 99.9% are now extinct. Many of them perished in five cataclysmic events. The classical "Big Five" mass extinctions are: End Ordovician, Late Devonian, End Permian, End Triassic, and End Cretaceous. According to a recent poll, seven out of ten biologists think we are currently in the throes of a sixth mass extinction. Some say it could wipe out as many as 90% of all species living today. Other scientists dispute such dire projections. “If you look at the fossil record, it is just littered with dead bodies from past catastrophes,” observes University of Washington paleontologist, Peter Ward. Ward says that only one extinction in Earth’s past was caused by an asteroid impact – the event 65 million years ago that ended the age of the dinosaurs. All the rest, he claims, were caused by global warming. Ward's study, Under a Green Sky, explores extinctions in Earth’s past and predicts extinctions to come in the future. An analysis of the geological record of the Earth's sea level, carried out by scientists at Princeton and Harvard universities supports Ward using a novel statistical approach that reveals the planet's polar ice sheets are vulnerable to large-scale melting even under moderate global warming scenarios.

Clean Air Technologies - (Univ. of South Florida - March 4, 2013)
Chemists at the University of South Florida and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have discovered a more efficient, less expensive and reusable material for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and separation. The breakthrough could have implications for a new generation of clean-air technologies and offers new tools for confronting the world’s challenges in controlling carbon. The group of scientists has identified a previously underused material – known as SIFSIX-1-Cu - that offers a highly efficient mechanism for capturing CO₂. The material is a crystal whose atoms form a three-dimensional lattice with holes that snare molecules of CO2 but allow other molecules in air to pass. SIFSIX-1-Cu is an adaptation of a material created more than 15 years ago and is named after the chemical component that leads to the special properties; its chemical name is hexafluorosilicate. Porous SIFSIX materials are built from combinations of inorganic and organic chemical building blocks and are part of a general class of materials known as Metal-Organic Materials, or “MOMs”. The material also is highly-effective at carbon capture even in the presence of water vapor, a standard that other materials have not been able to meet. This makes it a promising candidate for real-world applications.

New Research Confirms Global Warming Has Accelerated – (Skeptical Science – March 25, 2013)
A new study of ocean warming has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters. Several important conclusions can be drawn from this paper. Global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically. This study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

The Great Google Glass Ban List, and Where Glass Should Go from Here – (Geek – April 11, 2013)
Before Google’s wearable computer is even a retail product, the list of places looking to ban the headset continues to grow and could end up being significant. There’s one simple way to tell if Glass will be permitted in an establishment, and that’s whether or not you’re allowed to use cameras in that place to begin with. Courthouses, military installations, any building with a SCIF designation (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), and intelligence facilities of any kind are all obviously on the list from the start. But there are not-so-obvious places where it might be banned as well. The gym, for example, would be a great place to have Glass. The floating screen would offer all the distraction you could possibly need while repeating the same physical task over and over again. However, all it would take is one person questioning whether or not you just decided to record that attractive young specimen over on the elliptical and you can bet your headset would no longer be welcomed there. See also: Vegas Casinos May Place Google Glass on “Banned” List 

Genetic Transistors Make Biologic Computing Possible - (Engadget - March 31, 2013)
When constructing computer circuits, most folks start with silicon and metal, but not the researchers at Stanford. The boffins in Palo Alto want to build computers out of living tissue, and to that end they've created a biological transistor, called the transcriptor. Transcriptors substitute DNA for semiconductors and RNA for the electrons in traditional transistors -- essentially, the transcriptor controls the flow of a specific RNA protein along a DNA strand using tailored combinations of enzymes. Using these transcriptors, researchers built logic gates to derive true/false answers to biochemical questions posed within living cells. Using these bio-transistors, researchers gain access to data not previously available (like whether an individual cell has been exposed to certain external stimuli), in addition to allowing them to control basic functions like cellular reproduction. This new breakthrough--when combined with the DNA-based data storage and a method to transmit DNA between cells the school's already working on -- means that Stanford has created all the necessary components of a biologic computer.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

Using the New SimCity, 6 Urban Planners Battle for Bragging Rights – (Fast Company – March 5, 2013)
A tournament using the new SimCity pitted six teams of the country’s preeminent urban thinkers against each other. SimCity game designer, Stone Librande’s urban planning knowledge was quaint by comparison. He built SimCity over the past three and a half years with Netflix documentaries on urbanism as his only academic resource. But the latest version contains two new wrinkles that have city wonks downright giddy. First, it uses what’s called agent-based modeling. If you see a truck transporting oil from the refinery you built, there is “actual” oil being trucked through your city. Each item on the screen is its own discrete piece of data in your city. For the purposes of the tournament, the second new feature was more important: Inter-city interaction. Excess goods or services can be bought and sold between cities in the same region. If the seams of a neighboring metropolis are bursting with trash, send your waste management fleet to clear some space (for a price). If your power grid sputters, buy some energy from the mayor next door who just flipped the switch on a new nuclear power plant. Nearly every team planned to create a city independent of finite energy resources and the help of other cities. How each city planned to achieve sustainability and economic prowess differed. Details are in the article.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Nanotubes Boost Potential of Salinity Power as a Renewable Energy Source – (Giz Mag – March 12, 2013)
In November 2009, Norwegian state owned electricity company Statkraft opened the world’s first osmotic power plant prototype, which generates electricity from the difference in the salt concentration between river water and sea water. While osmotic power is a clean, renewable energy source, its commercial use has been limited due to the low generating capacities offered by current technology – the Statkraft plant, for example, has a capacity of about 4 kW. Now researchers have discovered a new way to harness osmotic power that they claim would enable a 10.7 sq. ft. membrane to have the same 4 kW capacity as the entire Statkraft plant. Electricity can be generated through the osmotic phenomena that results when a reservoir of fresh water is brought into contact with a reservoir of salt water through the use of a special kind of semipermeable membrane in one of two ways –either by harnessing the osmotic pressure differential between the two reservoirs to drive a turbine, or by using a membrane that only allows the passage of ions to produce an electric current. A new technique using an impermeable and electrically insulating membrane pierced by a single hole through which the researchers inserted a boron nitride nanotube with an external diameter of a few dozen nanometers promises to greatly enhance the generating capacity.

Graphene Micro Supercapacitors Are a Breakthrough in Energy Storage – (Energy Manager Today – March 18, 2013)
Imagine plugging in your smartphone for thirty seconds and then continuing the rest of your day with a fully charged phone. Then imagine plugging in your electric vehicle for less time it takes to fill up a standard gas tank before running a day’s worth of errands on that single charge. Researchers at UCLA may have used some everyday, easily available technology and graphene—a strong, flexible and highly conductible carbon product— to make this dream of energy storage a reality. Micro supercapacitors are not a new idea. These devices which can charge very quickly and which have the potential for hundreds of times more energy storage than typical batteries might one day have the capacity to power much of what now runs on more cumbersome and toxic batteries. The major problem has been that the process for creating these micro structures was not cost-efficient and therefore limited the appeal to investors. Now professor Richard Kaner and grad student Maher El-Kady have used a laser optical drive (usually used to label DVDs) and graphene—readily made from available material—to mass produce these micro supercapacitors.

A Milestone for Carbon-dioxide Capture/Clean Coal Technology – (Energy Daily – March 22, 2013)
An innovative new process that releases the energy in coal without burning - while capturing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas - has passed a milestone on the route to possible commercial use, scientists are reporting. Liang-Shih Fan and colleagues explain that carbon capture and sequestration ranks high among the approaches for reducing coal-related emissions of the carbon dioxide linked to global warming. This approach involves separating and collecting carbon dioxide before it leaves smokestacks. Fan's team has been working for more than a decade on two versions of carbon capture termed Syngas Chemical Looping (SCL) and Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL). They involve oxidizing coal, syngas or natural gas in a sealed chamber in the absence of the atmospheric oxygen involved in conventional burning. Metal compounds containing oxygen are in the chamber. They provide the oxygen for oxidation, take up coal's energy, release it as heat in a second chamber and circulate back for another run in the first chamber. The system used sub-bituminous and lignite coals, which are the main source of carbon dioxide emissions at U.S. coal-fired power plants. Carbon dioxide captured during operation had a purity of 99.5%.


AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Allan Savory: How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change – (TED – February, 2013)
The conversion of large amounts of fertile land to desert has long been thought to be caused by livestock, such as sheep and cattle overgrazing and giving off methane. This has now been shown to be incorrect, as removing animals to protect land speeds up desertification According to African ecologist, Allan Savory, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is the only thing that can reverse both desertification and climate change. Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), play a key role in this impending disaster, as large-scale factory farms also directly contribute to environmental pollution. According to estimates, grazing large herds of livestock on half of the world’s barren or semi-barren grasslands could take enough carbon from the atmosphere to bring us back to preindustrial levels. For a very different perspective on this issue, please see this article in Wildlife News: Allan Savory gives a popular and very misleading TED talk

New Meat Naming System Aims to Help Cooks – (USA Today – April 3, 2013)
The pork loin top loin chop is out. Porterhouse chop is in. Forget beef shoulder top blade steak, boneless. Just look for flatiron steak. Both are part of a new naming system for beef and pork cuts aimed at making it easier for consumers to understand what they're buying and how to cook it. With the new names come new labels for meat. They'll now identify the species (at this point just beef or pork), whether it's from the chuck, rib, loin or round, the retail cut name and provide cooking instructions. Most names consumers know and love won't be changing but after two years of research it became apparent that Americans needed more clarity when they perused the meat case, said Trevor Amen, director of market intelligence for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The old labels were based on lists created in the 1970s. They were very anatomical, describing cuts based on their location in the animal. That information remains on the new labels but it's second after the new cut name. For example what was once called boneless beef loin top sirloin cubes for kabobs is now simply kabobs.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Costly Flight Hours – (Time - April 02, 2013)
The Air Force has provided the cost-per-flight-hour for dozens of aircraft. Here's a sample of what it costs to keep these Air Force aircraft airborne for one hour last year (the so-called "ownership" cost-per-flight-hour, which includes modifications). For example: A-10C Warthog Attack Plane - $17,716; AC-130U Spooky Gunship - $45,986; B-1B Lancer Bomber - $57,807; CV-22B Osprey Tilt-Rotor(helicopter) - $83,256; least expensive Drone - $3,679; Air Force One - $161,591. Article includes additional aircraft with photo of each type and cost per flight hour.

DARPA's New Navigation Tool Is Smaller Than a Penny – (Wired – April 11, 2013)
At the University of Michigan, researchers for DARPA announced they’d created a very small chip containing a timing and inertial measurement unit, or TIMU, that’s as thick as a couple human hairs. When the satellites we rely on for navigation can’t be reached — whether they’ve been jammed or you’re in a densely packed city — the chip contains everything you’ll need to figure out how to get from place to place. It’s got gyroscopes, accelerometers and a master clock, to calculate orientation, acceleration and time. The TIMU is fabricated from silicon dioxide and contained within a 10 cubic millimeter package — meaning it can just about fit within the Lincoln Memorial rendered on the back of a penny. All of this came out of a DARPA effort to compensate for the weaknesses of global satellite positioning through the possibilities of microtechnology. “The resulting TIMU is small enough and should be robust enough for applications (when GPS is unavailable or limited for a short period of time) such as personnel tracking, handheld navigation, small diameter munitions and small airborne platforms,” DARPA said program manager Andrei Shkel. In other words, further development could not only help ground units find optimal battlefield routes in the absence of GPS, they could make ever smaller bombs and missiles smart enough to find accurate targets, and equip gliders like the ones the Naval Research Lab 3D-prints with miniature navigation.

Researcher Hacks Aircraft Controls with Android Smartphone – (Register – April 11, 2013)
A presentation at the Hack In The Box security summit in Amsterdam has demonstrated that it's possible to take control of aircraft flight systems and communications using an Android smartphone and some specialized attack code. Hugo Teso, a security researcher at N.Runs and a commercial airline pilot, spent three years developing the code, buying second-hand commercial flight system software and hardware online and finding vulnerabilities within it. Teso's attack code, dubbed SIMON, along with an Android app called PlaneSploit, can take full control of flight systems and the pilot's displays. The hacked aircraft could even be controlled using a smartphone's accelerometer to vary its course and speed by moving the handset about. "You can use this system to modify approximately everything related to the navigation of the plane," Teso told Forbes. "That includes a lot of nasty things."



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

'Monsanto Protection Act' Slips Silently through US Congress – (RT – March 26, 2013)
The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week - including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks. The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it strips federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns. The provision, also decried as a “biotech rider,” should have gone through the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees for review. Instead, no hearings were held, and the piece was evidently unknown to most Democrats (who hold the majority in the Senate) prior to its approval as part of HR 993, the short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown. Previously discovered pathogens in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soy are suspected of causing infertility in livestock and to impact the health of plants.

Hearts, Minds and Dollars: Condolence Payments in the Drone Strike Age – (Nation of Change – April 8, 2013)
What happens when innocent civilians are killed in drone strikes? In February, during his confirmation process, CIA director John Brennan offered an unusually straightforward explanation:  “Where possible, we also work with local governments to gather facts, and, if appropriate, provide condolence payments to families of those killed.” There’s little documentation of where and how such payments are being made. The government has released almost no information on civilian casualties sustained in drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the military in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Officials maintain they have been “in the single digits” in recent years, while independent researchers put the total for the past decade in the hundreds. Such condolence payments featured prominently in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are now embraced by many military commanders and by human rights advocates, some of whom are pushing for a system to govern what had been an ad hoc practice for most of the 20th Century: recognizing the dignity of life, even during war, and even with what might seem like a mere token acknowledgement. Known payments range from $1,000 to $7,500 per death.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

China's Urbanization Drive Leaves Migrant Workers Out in the Cold – (Reuters – March 30, 2013)
Cheap but crowded neighborhoods are being cleared across China as part of a stepped-up "urbanization" campaign by China's new leaders. The country aims to spend an estimated $6 trillion on infrastructure, including housing, as a projected 400 million people become urban residents over the next decade. But in an ironic twist, the clearance of so-called "villages within cities" removes cheap housing stock for the very people targeted to fuel that migration, without providing sufficient replacement units. The land is sold by municipalities to developers who generally erect expensive apartment towers. About 130 million Chinese migrants live in tiny, sub-divided rooms rented out by former farmers whose villages have been swallowed by sprawl, according to government surveys. Policies to provide government-built housing while razing these shabby "villages within cities" result in a net loss of housing units, according to urban planners and academics, while choking off the private rental market that for decades has enabled China's massive urban migration.  Shanghai officials, embarrassed by photos of a “village” of made of used shipping containers circulating on the Internet, have vowed to remove the site within days.

Russia's Treasure Island – (UPI – April 1, 2013)
By the time the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, Soviet crime gangs had moved into West Berlin and from there they created global organized crime syndicates. Cayman Islands facilities, used extensively for illegal transactions close to the United States, were too far for the new breed of Russian transnational crime bosses. They needed something closer to home and totally secure from Western snoopers. And that is how Cyprus became financial headquarters for a new class of Russian millionaires and then billionaires. Cypriot lawyers helped them establish legitimate businesses in Nicosia and the seaside resort of Limassol. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has close ties with Russia and his law firm represents two Russian billionaires. The crisis, long dormant in the wake of the better known eurozone Greek upheaval, shared the same roots. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel always thought -- and said privately -- that Cyprus was the European Union's ticking financial bomb. Following the Cypriot bank “holiday”, when the banks reopened they limited withdrawals to €100 ($384) per day per person and limited transfers abroad to $6,400. Those leaving the island could only take €1,000 -- $1,280 -- or the equivalent in foreign currency. (Some of the later details of this article regarding the loss of savings by Cypriot bank patrons are out of date.) However, what very few international news outlets reported is that the London offices of the Cypriot banks stayed open the entire time and funds could be withdrawn from them as usual. “Unlike Cypriot banks, which have placed a €100-per-day on ATM withdrawals, a Laiki Bank spokesperson (in the UK) said yesterday that the bank’s London branches were open as normal and there were no limits on withdrawals and no change to conditions.” In other words, most of the account holders with the largest balances probably did not suffer any losses.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Graphic Presentation Shows the Extent of U.S. Wealth Inequality – (Mashable – March 2, 2013)
The issue of wealth inequality across the United States is well known, but this video shows you the extent of that imbalance in dramatic and graphic fashion. The video, which has gone viral continues to climb on YouTube.

Jobs Confidential: 15 People Reveal the Truth about Their Work – (Guardian – March 23, 2013)
Ever wondered what it's really like to be a vicar or a dominatrix? Or what a brain surgeon or a bikini waxer think about their job? Here, 15 people with very different careers reveal – anonymously – the trade secrets of their working day. Excerpt from the Episcopal priest: I get asked to pray for some odd things: I know far too much about the continence of my congregation. Sometimes they'll get very upset about something they've read in the newspaper and I end up having to pray for whatever's causing cancer in cats this week. Excerpt from the brain surgeon: I could teach you to do a basic brain operation in two weeks. But what takes time and experience is doing it without wrecking the brain. Learning your limitations takes years.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Earth-like Planets May Have Formed Early in Milky Way's History—with Implications for Advanced Life – (Daily Galaxy – April 14, 2013)
Research by a team of astronomers found that planets smaller than Neptune are located around a wide variety of stars, including those with fewer heavy elements than the Sun. As a result, rocky worlds like Earth could have formed earlier than expected in the universe's history. "This work suggests that terrestrial worlds could form at almost any time in our galaxy's history," said Smithsonian astronomer David Latham (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). "You don't need many earlier generations of stars."* Latham played a lead role in the study, which was led by Lars A. Buchhave from the University of Copenhagen.

NASA: Earth's Missing Moon May Explain a Long-Standing Enigma – (Daily Galaxy – April 12, 2013)
NASA's grail mission started its lunar probe late in 2011 to uncover some of the mysteries buried beneath the surface of the Moon -- even, perhaps, a long-lost companion. According to recent scientific speculation, the Earth once had two moons gracing our night skies. "It's an intriguing idea," said David Smith, GRAIL's deputy principal investigator at MIT. "And it would be a way to explain one of the great perplexities of the Earth-Moon system – the Moon's strangely asymmetrical nature. Its near and far sides are substantially different."  The Moon's near side, facing us, is dominated by vast smooth 'seas' of ancient hardened lava. In contrast, the far side is marked by mountainous highlands. Researchers have long struggled to account for the differences, and the "two moon" theory introduced by Martin Jutzi and Erik Asphaug of the UC Santa Cruz is the latest attempt. Scientists agree that when a Mars-sized object crashed into our planet about 4 billion years ago, the resulting debris cloud coalesced to form the Moon. Jutzi and Asphaug posit that the debris cloud actually formed two moons. A second, smaller chunk of debris landed in just the right orbit to lead or follow the bigger Moon around Earth.


NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Skylar Tibbits: The Emergence of "4D Printing" – (TED – April, 2013)
3D printing has grown in sophistication since the late 1970s; TED Fellow Skylar Tibbits is shaping the next development, which he calls 4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract. Skylar Tibbits, a TED Fellow, is an artist and computational architect working on "smart" components that can assemble themselves.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Globalism and Technology: A Hidden Misconception That Dooms the U.S. Economy - (Forbes - March 31, 2013)
How do we explain America’s sudden mid-twentieth century ascent to technological glory? All the evidence is that it was not freedom that did it but something more prosaic: money. With the monopolistic Bell System setting the pace, U.S. corporate spending on research and development took off in the 1920s. The rise of U.S. research and development is merely a special case of a more general phenomenon. Down through history, rich nations have gotten to the future first. They can afford to equip their tinkerers and visionaries with the most advanced materials, instruments, and knowledge, and the result has often been a superior capacity for innovation. This raises an epochal question: as China becomes richer, is it destined to pass the United States as the world’s most inventive nation? James Keeley in an analysis for the London think-tank Demos, commented: “The Chinese science and innovation system has its weaknesses but one thing it excels at is the rapid mobilization of resources. Right now, the country is at an early stage in the most ambitious program of research investment since John F. Kennedy embarked on the moon race.” Already there is plenty of evidence that this program is gaining traction.

Nervous Europe Drives Demand for Dollars – (Financial Times – April 8, 2013) (Free registration required.)
Demand for $100 bills has jumped since 2008 as nervous Europeans stuff them under the mattress, providing vivid proof that the world still loves the dollar and confirming the benefit to the U.S. of the currency's status as a global reserve. The amount of dollar cash in circulation has risen by 42% in the last five years; the proportion held abroad has climbed from 56% to nearly 66%.  The main reason is a demand from Europe, according to a top U.S. Federal Reserve official. "As Europe's crisis worsened in the spring of 2010, U.S. currency holdings rose sharply," said John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, in his bank's annual report. The surge in demand for U.S. cash suggests that the world is worried about the safety of its banks and the future of the euro - but has no fear of inflation or default in the U.S. High budget deficits in the U.S. have prompted warnings of a debt crisis, but no asset is more vulnerable to default or rising prices than paper money, because it does not pay any interest. The strongest demand for dollar cash comes from Argentina and the former Soviet Union. The recent haircut on bank deposits in Cyprus, where many Russians have accounts, may prompt fresh interest in greenbacks.

Bitcoin May Be the Global Economy’s Last Safe Haven – (Business Week – April 3, 2013)
One of the oddest bits of news to emerge from the economic collapse of Cyprus is a corresponding rise in the value of Bitcoin, the Internet’s favorite, media-friendly, anarchist crypto-currency. Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous hacker who calls him or herself Satoshi Nakamoto (and who might be several people). It’s a form of virtual cash used to buy goods and services online. Even by Web standards, it’s a strange and supergeeky phenomenon. This is what happens when software and networks meet the concept of currency, when you take peer-to-peer networks and advanced cryptography and ask, “How can I make a new economy?” There are 10,952,975 Bitcoins in circulation. (With a digital currency you can be specific.) Bitcoin isn’t about to replace hard currency, (market cap of $864 million), but it’s bigger than anyone expected. And many people will tell you that the emergence of a virtual global money supply beyond the reach and control of any government is very real and that it’s time we take it seriously. See this for an update on Bitcoins, and a sudden big drop in their value.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

UK Man Wins Court Victory Over BBC for 9/11 Coverup Broadcast – (Activist Post – April 9, 2013)
Tony Rooke refused to pay a TV license fee because the BBC intentionally misrepresented facts about the 9/11 attacks, he alleged. It is widely known that the BBC reported the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 over 20 minutes before it occurred. WTC 7 was a 47-story skyscraper that was not hit by a plane on 9/11 but collapsed at free-fall speed later that day. So Rooke said the BBC had to have had prior knowledge to a terror attack making them complicit in the attack. He presented the BBC footage to the judge along with a slew of other evidence, and the judge agreed that Rooke had a reasonable case to protest. Rooke was found not guilty and he was not fined for failure to pay the licensing fee. The article includes a video clip of the broadcast in which the BBC announced the collapse of WTC 7 while it was still standing behind the reporter.



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

Dumb Ways to Die – (You Tube – November 14, 2012)
Public service announcements are heavy-handed and tedious, right? Wrong – at least not this one on safety which intends to catch kids’ attention. In fact, “Dumb Ways to Die” is good enough that it’s gone viral.



JUST FOR FUN

The Art of Rock Balancing – (Gravity Glue website – no date).
Michael Grab is an artist that has been 'rock balancing' since 2008. Much of his recent work has been done around the Boulder, Colorado area. He explains: "The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of 'tripod' for the rock to stand on. Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise." (Editor’s note: Grab’s work is exquisite and, as he says, the only “glue” is gravity. Here you can watch a clip of him building one of his sculptures.)



A FINAL QUOTE--

You are always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past. – Richard Bach



A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Robert Hoge, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Winslow Wheeler 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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