Volume 17, Number 8 - 4/30/14 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • A nanoparticle temporarily trapped by laser light can temporarily violate the second law of thermodynamics.

  • Watch a road test of the first self-cleaning car (exterior only). Hint: Nano-paint.

  • Flowing salt water over graphene can generate electricity.

  • Watch a bonobo monkey build a fire, strike a match, light the fire, toast a stick of marshmallows and carefully start to eat a very hot marshmallow. What is “human”? What is not?


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Gregg Braden Coming to Berkeley Springs

New York Times best-selling author Gregg Braden will be the next speaker in our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series (www.transitiontalks.org), held in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia on Saturday the 24th of May.

Gregg will be addressing Creating Resilience in a Time of Extremes.

The Situation: We live in a time of extremes. From failing economies and the realities of climate change, to the violent breakdown of traditional societies it's clear that we've entered a new phase of life on planet Earth. Without the tools to adapt to such abrupt change the consequences include:
  • The documented rise of stress-related illness, disease and deaths
  • The rising loss of traditional jobs, stable income and feelings of security
  • The struggle to find a sense of well-being in life
  • Increased conflict in families and societies as they try to meet new needs with old thinking
The Opportunity: We solve our problems based upon the way we think of ourselves. When new discoveries show us where the beliefs of the past no longer apply, we owe it to ourselves to update our thinking!

In this Program Discover For yourself
  • The 5 false assumptions of traditional science that the modern world is built upon
  • The single belief that keeps us locked in conflict and struggle, and why it’s wrong
  • The new discoveries that change 300 years of scientific beliefs, and the reluctance of mainstream media and classrooms to share them
  • The strategies for personal resilience that hold the key to adapting to change
The solutions to life’s biggest problems already exist! Join Gregg Braden in this compelling presentation to discover the extremes that are shaping our world and how you can thrive from them in your life!

Gregg Braden is internationally renowned as a pioneer in bridging science, ancient wisdom, and the real world! For more than 27 years he has explored high mountain villages, remote monasteries and forgotten texts to merge their timeless secrets with the best science of today. His discoveries are now shared in 33 countries and 38 languages through such paradigm-inspiring books as: The God Code, The Divine Matrix, Fractal Time, and his newest, Deep Truth. His 2007 best seller, The Divine Matrix, was recently selected as the source for the made-for-television feature, “Entanglement,” and is now a textbook for college level courses exploring new discoveries of science and our relationship to the world.

Register today here!

Shocking Study from the Largest Cosmic Ray Physics Experiment in the Northern Hemisphere

The headline above is from a rather amazing article (below) which essentially says: Our whole notion of how lightning is produced is wrong and that it can be explained by factoring in the cosmic rays arriving from the sun. This comes from the Electric Universe website (www.thunderbolts.info) which argues that everything in our universe is a form of electric energy . . . and that the climate on earth (and every other planet in the solar system) can be best understood within the framework of the energetic interaction between and among the sun and planets. It’s a whole new (to me) model that is consistent with new energy therapies and breakthrough energy generation designs.

There’s a chance that the mystifying phenomena we call lightning would not exist without cosmic aid. The same high-energy particles that light the night sky with colorful auroras, scientists think could also explain a longstanding problem in the process of lightning production.

Lightning detector in the foreground with
a cosmic ray detector in the background.
Credit: William Hanlon, University of Utah


When you shock yourself after reaching for a metal doorknob, you’re experiencing a similar process that leads to lightning. As long as the extra charge you accumulate from, for example, rubbing your feet across a carpeted surface reaches a minimum value, called the breakdown voltage, a shock will travel from you to the doorknob.

Storm clouds can also build up extra charge, which must go somewhere. Often times it will either strike the ground or branch outward across the sky in the form of a lightning bolt. However, scientists have yet to find a way to explain how storm clouds build up enough extra charge to electrically illuminate the sky.

“The cloud has to charge to a certain amount so spontaneous discharge can happen,” said Helio Takai, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “What [scientists] measure is not enough charge for this spontaneous discharge to happen.”

The solution might lie with cosmic rays, high-energy particles that enter Earth’s atmosphere from far-off sources, most of which are outside of our solar system.

About twenty years ago, physicist Alex Gurevich at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow proposed that cosmic rays could lead to lightning. So far, finding a correlation has been easier said than done and scientists are still uncertain whether the two phenomena are linked and at what point in the process cosmic rays might be important for lightning production.

Takai is hot on the hunt with help from a team of scientists at University of Utah, New Mexico Tech and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. The team is running the largest cosmic ray physics experiment in the northern hemisphere, using the Telescope Array, and a series of nearby lightning monitor stations to see if measurements from both will throw some light on the mystery.


Panorama of the lightning detector at the left and cosmic ray detector in the middle. Credit: William Hanlon, University of Utah.

When cosmic rays enter the atmosphere, they interact with the molecules in the air by stripping them of some of their electrons. These free electrons go on to liberate yet more electrons in what scientists call a runaway breakdown effect. The remaining ions charge up the atmosphere.

But is that extra charge enough to account for the missing amount in storm clouds that scientists need to explain lightning formation?

The answer to that question might get help from the team’s research. The lightning monitors, built by scientists at New Mexico Tech, work by detecting radio pulses of lightning discharges. If the Telescope Array site based in Utah measures a shower of high-energy particles around the same time the lightning monitoring stations detect a lightning bolt, it could point to a correlation.

Utah is not the stormiest of states, especially in Millar County which is mostly covered by the Sevier Desert and where the Telescope Array is based. Last year the team collected what measurements they could from the few storms that hit the region. That data is still being analyzed, said Takai who remains optimistic about the work.


Very cool!

The Turning Point

As mentioned above, Gregg Braden is coming to be with us here in Berkeley Springs in a couple of weeks. In light of his impending visit, it seemed like a good idea to read his latest book, The Turning Point: Creating Resilience in a Time of Extremes. That was a really good idea.

Maybe I typecast Gregg wrong, but I have always seen him as one of the big thinker/integrators who was scanning the horizon and scouring the past and bringing them together with powerful imagery that explained reality and our acceleration into a new future in new, compelling new ways. He’s really good at that. A very large number of people agree with me.

So, with that entering argument in mind, I jumped into The Turning Point two nights ago . . . and got surprised.

They pitch the book thus: “The greatest shift in history! Gregg Braden’s newest book offers a thrilling and hopeful journey into our vastly changing world and demonstrates how surviving can become joyous thriving,” so I wasn’t startled when it started with all of the usual, sweeping Braden – big pictures painting all of the change that is in the works and how the whole system is changing. Climate change, financial shift, new perspectives – all of the converging, contributing factors.

Gregg is a good writer who builds a lot of his imagery around personal stories and things that he’s borrowed from other writers, so the futurist in me was firmly onboard and enjoying the ride: This is a really unusual time to be living. We don’t have any precedent for effectively anticipating and dealing with what seems to be inbound . . .

But then he shifted. It was as though he reached a . . . turning point. He started to become practical. It wasn’t more of the mind candy that I was expecting, but Braden the engineer began to emerge. He was not just describing what he was seeing and understanding, but he was starting to talk about what to do about it – in systems terms. In substantive systems terms.

His underlying premise was pretty simple: we have the social tools to deal with this epical shift. We don’t need a bunch of new things . . . that sadly, aren’t here yet. No, we’ve got all we need – we just have to utilize what’s in our toolbox in a different way.

Now, on one hand, that could sound a little trite and gratuitous. We’re sitting here staring in the face “the greatest shift in history”, which is accelerating faster every day – and the tools that gave us the dysfunction that surrounds us are the same ones for getting us out of this mess.

Sure.

But then, if you think about it (and as I’ve said many times in talks), there’s the notion that the organism is providing us with the capabilities to negotiate this evolutionary jump – just in time. Whether it is the Internet/global brain that is emerging, a new generation of kids with capabilities that we (older folks) don’t have, energy breakthroughs that will get us away from fossil fuels, et. al., there are all kinds of converging capabilities that could clearly lead to a new world. Why, therefore, couldn’t the most of us also have the personal abilities to surf the incoming waves of change?

Gregg characterizes this basic trait as resilience – the ability to bounce back and reconfigure one’s self after a significant disruption – and then step-by-step, he starts walking through the whole human system of systems, describing, in very practical and actionable ways, what we can all be doing to essentially reinvent ourselves over time as the inevitable waves of change pound our shore.

He talks about detailed, personal approaches to resilience and then organizational and community initiatives, always with insightful lists of steps to be considered. It’s all pretty tight stuff. Not much fluff and hand waving.

The Turning Point is nothing if not a hopeful book. It converts what looks like a writhing, overgrown jungle of global activity that is clearly populated by wild animals, into a lighted path through the underbrush. Gregg’s is not an effort to map the particular road we’re all on and describe what our clear destination will be, but instead he tells us how to build a protective bubble of mindsets and processes around us that will allow us navigate (and explore) with confidence – regardless what turns there are in the path – and what might be on the backside of them.

The Turning Point is an important book that deserves to be read a couple of times at least. It’s a personal handbook for very uncertain times that tells us how to prepare ourselves for the biggest game of all time with what is already close at hand.

You can get it here.



THINK LINKS



NEW REALITIES

Nanoparticles Found to Violate Second Law of Thermodynamics – (GizMag – April 3, 2014)
The second law of thermodynamics is the one that makes perpetual motion machines impossible. It states that the entropy – the measure for the disorder of a system – of any isolated system cannot decrease spontaneously, with the system evolving towards the state of maximum entropy (favoring disorder). But researchers from three universities have theoretically proposed and then demonstrated that a nanoparticle in a state of thermal non-equilibrium does not always behave as larger particles might under the same conditions, with implications for various fields of research. The team has shown that a nanoparticle trapped with laser light temporarily violates this law. This seeming violation of universal law is transient, something that the researchers first derived as a mathematical model of fluctuations expected at the nanoscale. To test their theorem, scientists at the University of Vienna, the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich trapped a nanosized silica sphere with a radius of less than 75 nm in a laser "trap." Not only was the particle held in place, but could be precisely measured in three different directions, important when your particle is so small that 10,000 of them could line the width of a pinhead.

NASA Team Finds Pristine 3-Million-Year-Old Landscape under Greenland Ice Sheet – (Daily Galaxy – April 22, 2014)
Glaciers and ice sheets are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything — vegetation, soil and even the top layer of bedrock. So a team of university scientists and a NASA colleague were greatly surprised to discover an ancient tundra landscape preserved under the Greenland Ice Sheet, below two miles of ice. The finding provides strong evidence that the Greenland Ice Sheet has persisted much longer than previously known, enduring through many past periods of global warming. Greenland is a place of great interest to scientists and policymakers because the future stability of its huge ice sheet — the size of Alaska — will have a fundamental influence on how fast and high global sea levels rise from human-caused climate change."The ancient soil under the Greenland ice sheet helps to unravel an important mystery surrounding climate change," said Dylan Rood, a co-author on the new study, from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre and the University of California, Santa Barbara. "How did big ice sheets melt and grow in response to changes in temperature?" The new discovery indicates that even during the warmest periods since the ice sheet formed, the center of Greenland remained stable. "It’s likely that it did not fully melt at any time," Bierman said. This allowed a tundra landscape to be locked away, unmodified, under ice through millions of years of global warming and cooling. "Some ice sheet models project that the Greenland Ice Sheet completely melted during previous interglacial periods. These data suggest that did not happen," said co-author Tom Neumann, a cryospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Human Skin Grown in Lab Can Replace Animal Testing – (BBC News – April 24, 2014)
A team led by King's College London has grown a layer of human skin from stem cells - the master cells of the body. Stem cells have been turned into skin before, but the researchers say this is more like real skin as it has a permeable barrier. It offers a cost-effective alternative to testing drugs and cosmetics on animals, they say. Scientists have been able to grow epidermis from human skin cells removed by biopsy for several years, but the latest research goes a step further. The research used reprogrammed skin cells - which offer a way to produce an unlimited supply of the main type of skin cell found in the epidermis. They also grew the skin cells in a low humidity environment, which gave them a barrier similar to that of true skin. Research and toxicology director Troy Seidle said: "This new human skin model is superior scientifically to killing rabbits, pigs, rats or other animals for their skin and hoping that research findings will be applicable to people - which they often aren't, due to species differences in skin permeability, immunology, and other factors."

Why Chocolate Is Good for Us – (New York Times – April 24, 2014)
In recent years, large-scale epidemiological studies have found that people whose diets include dark chocolate have a lower risk of heart disease than those whose diets do not. Other research has shown that chocolate includes flavonols, natural substances that can reduce the risk of disease. But it hasn’t been clear how these flavonols could be affecting the human body, especially the heart. New findings from Virginia Tech and Louisiana State University, however, suggest an odd explanation for chocolate’s goodness: It improves health largely by being indigestible. Researchers at Louisiana State reached this conclusion after simulating the human digestive system in glass vessels. The “stomach” and “small intestine” broke down and absorbed some of the cocoa. But while many of the flavonols previously identified in chocolate were digested in this way, there was still plenty of undigested cocoa matter. Gut bacteria in the simulated colon then broke that down further into metabolites, small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and known to reduce cardiac inflammation. Finally, the last undigested cocoa matter began to ferment, releasing substances that improve cholesterol levels. Sadly, Dr. Neilson points out that cocoa is not a chocolate bar, something whose added ingredients and processing reduce the number and type of flavonols, increase calories (cocoa itself has very few) and possibly change the response of gut bacteria to the cocoa. “The evidence does not show that you can eat a chocolate bar every day and expect to improve your health.”

We're Constantly Bathed in Artificial Light -- Is it Wreaking Havoc on Our Health? – (AlterNet – April 23, 2014)
If you live in the developed world, darkness can be hard to find. Our plugged-in, 24-7 lifestyles deliver a barrage of not just technology, but also light. All the time. And this may have negative health consequences that scientists are only just beginning to understand. A study done in Israel found, “Women living in neighborhoods where it was bright enough to read a book outside at midnight had a 73% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those residing in areas with the least outdoor artificial lighting,” wrote Ron Chepesiuk in Environmental Health Perspectives. “Our thoughts are that you want brighter, blue-shifted light in the morning and regular good old-fashioned white light during the day, and you want red-shifted, dimmer light in the evening,” said George Brainard, a professor at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Medical College and director of its Light Research Program. He is helping to design lighting for the astronauts at the space station and he believes we may see some of that technology and design elements trickle down to those of us on Earth. “I believe that all of architectural lighting will change and change dramatically within our lifetimes, because the traditional values didn’t take into account the biological-behavior consequences of lighting,” said Brainard. “Now when I attend meetings with the Department of Energy and the lighting industry, it is increasingly appreciated that future designs must factor in the health consequences of lighting.”

The Revival of Cancer Immunotherapy – (Technology Review – April 7, 2014)
New medicines that shrink tumors and have beneficial effects lasting for months to years in some cancer patients are helping breathe new life into an old idea: using a patient’s own immune cells to attack malignant cells. Several drug makers are trying to prove the safety and efficacy of new medicines that harness the body’s own lines of defense. Merck, for one, is testing an immune-modulating compound in patients with metastatic, or spreading, melanoma. Merck’s compound is an antibody, a Y-shaped biological molecule that grabs onto a specific protein. The target protein normally prevents immune cells from attacking cancer. By blocking the activity of that protein, the antibody frees the immune cell to fight the disease. Numerous other pharmaceutical companies are also developing antibodies to release such brakes on the immune system. Although researchers express excitement about the potential for immune-modulating medicines to combat cancer—some experts even use the word “cure”—many caution that it will take time to fully understand how well the treatments are working.

Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View from the Swiss Medical Board – (New England Journal of Medicine – April 23, 2014)
In January 2013, the Swiss Medical Board, an independent health technology assessment initiative under the auspices of the Conference of Health Ministers of the Swiss Cantons, the Swiss Medical Association, and the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, was mandated to prepare a review of mammography screening. As we (the team conducting the assessment review) embarked on the project, we were aware of the controversies that have surrounded mammography screening for the past 10 to 15 years. When we reviewed the available evidence and contemplated its implications in detail, however, we became increasingly concerned. First, we noticed that the ongoing debate was based on a series of reanalyses of the same, predominantly outdated trials. The first trial started more than 50 years ago in New York City and the last trial in 1991 in the United Kingdom. None of these trials were initiated in the era of modern breast-cancer treatment, which has dramatically improved the prognosis of women with breast cancer. Could the modest benefit of mammography screening in terms of breast-cancer mortality that was shown in trials initiated between 1963 and 1991 still be detected in a trial conducted today? Second, we were struck by how nonobvious it was that the benefits of mammography screening outweighed the harms. See also an article in the British Medical Journal from February, 2014: “Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study (CNBSS study): randomized screening trial.”


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Climate Professor Quits Biased Global Warming IPCC – (Principia Scientific – April 9, 2014)
Dutch Professor Richard Tol has resigned from the Climate Panel of the UN. Professor Tol disagrees with the negative conclusions of the latest UN climate report. The consequences of climate change are being systematically over-estimated, according to him. “The Panel is directed from within the environment lobby and not from within the science." The UN IPCC presented its fifth climate report in Yokohama at the end of last month. The IPCC says if there are no changes in world-wide climate policies then the chance of calling a halt to further warming of the earth will be lost, says  the report's most important conclusion and warning. But, according to Professor of Climate Economy Tol, the tone of the report is grossly "alarming and apocalyptic". The consequences of climate change are being over-estimated. "This over-estimation is encouraged by the self-selection of authors and references within the Panel" Tol said.

The Great Lakes Are Still Almost Half Frozen and It Could Affect the Environment for Years – (Huffington Post – April 17, 2014)
Though more than a month has passed since ice coverage on the Great Lakes reached a near-record high, the amount of ice that still remains could have a big impact on the environment in the months -- and years -- ahead. As of April 16, 37.1% of the lakes remain covered in ice. While that's way down from a high of 92.2% in early March, and the second-highest ice cover since recording began in 1973, it's still an unprecedented amount of ice to have at this time of year. The historic ice coverage is causing some problems. U.S. Coast Guard cutters were needed to create a route to Marquette, Mich., along the shores of the 64-percent-frozen Lake Superior, so that coal could be delivered from Duluth, Minn., allowing the local mining industry to continue operationss. The ice is also being blamed for an "unprecedented" number of duck deaths in the region and there is a risk of major disruptions to the fish ecosystem due to delayed egg laying.

West Virginia's Toxic Spill Water Will Be Pumped Into Wells Beneath Ohio – (GizModo – April 22, 2014)
The geology of the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes makes the land around them particularly suitable for an ugly task: hazardous waste disposal. There, hundreds of injection wells, each up to 10,000 feet deep, contain the chemical leftovers from steel mills, wastewater treatment, and more. Soon, one such well will be home to the MCHM-laced water from West Virginia's recent chemical spill. There, the toxic waste will stay contained underground—we hope, at least, because no one can say for sure. The 60,000 gallons of contaminated water—vacuumed up from the Elk River after the spill—will be trucked over state lines and injected into Vickery Environmental's wells. The company currently operates four Class I injection wells in Vickery, Ohio, and deals with waste from as far away as Tampa. The tainted water will be shot into the earth, under multiple layers of impermeable rock, into the sandstone of the Mount Simon formation. Injection wells are considered the safest—or, put another way, the least worst—method of disposing of hazardous waste we don't want to dump in rivers or on land. The toxins aren't supposed to seep through impermeable rock layers. But as a in-depth ProPublica investigation into injection wells has revealed, it happens—even with Class I wells that are the most tightly regulated. At two other Class I wells in Ohio, for example, the deadly chemical phenol had risen 1,400 feet through rock, threatening aquifers. Such a leak is rare, but it illustrates the unintended consequences of punching deep holes into the earth.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Cellphone Data Spying: It's Not Just the NSA – (USA Today – December 8, 2013)
The National Security Agency isn't the only government entity secretly collecting data from people's cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not. The records, from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, reveal, among other facts that at least 25 police departments own a Stingray, a suitcase-size device that costs as much as $400,000 and acts as a fake cell tower. The system, typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood, tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police. In some states, the devices are available to any local police department via state surveillance units. The federal government funds most of the purchases, via anti-terror grants. See also: Police Departments Conceal Phone Tracking Equipment From Courts Police departments across the nation have been trying to conceal their use of cellphone tracking equipment from local courts because of nondisclosure agreements that allow the departments to use the devices on loan - as long as they promise the manufacturer they will keep it a secret.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root – (New York Times – March 11, 2014)
In many American suburbs, outward signs of life are limited to the blue glow of television screens flickering behind energy-efficient windows. But in a subdivision of one bedroom community outside Phoenix, amid precision-cut lawns and Craftsman-style homes, lambs caper in common green areas, chickens scratch in a citrus grove and residents roam rows of heirloom vegetables to see what might be good for dinner. The neighborhood is called Agritopia, and it’s one of a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. The real estate bust in 2008 halted new construction, but with the recovery, developers are again breaking ground on farm-focused tracts. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enticing thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food. Sixteen of Agritopia’s 160 acres are certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community’s 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Danish Island Powered by Renewables is Creating Followers Worldwide – (Nation of Change – April 7, 2014)
At first glance, the small Danish island of Samso doesn’t look like a place that would attract international fame. With less than 4,000 inhabitants living on under 115 square kilometers of land, it's not exactly a geopolitical player. But a visit to Samso reveals an island with outsized ambitions for moving into a clean energy future – and others around the world is starting to take notice. Here, wind turbines are aligned in straight rows in the ocean that surrounds the island. Solar panels dot the roofs of houses and farms everywhere, as well as parks. Initiatives have involved the local population and private investors in helping Samso realize its green, clean energy potential – and since 2005 it has been producing more electricity than it consumes, all from the sun and wind. At the same time, Samso gets more than 70% of its heating power from biomass, solar and high-efficient heating pumps that extract heat from the air. Wood chips, hay and other non-fossil fuel sources employed in central heating systems and energy efficient renovations have drastically reduced fossil fuel use across the island.

Biofuels: Entrepreneur Places Big Bet on Algae – (EE News - April 9, 2014)
Paul Woods has done the math, and the magic number is $1.27. The entrepreneur behind Algenol has calculated it'll cost that much to produce a gallon of algae fuel using his technology. It's a cost that will allow Algenol to compete in a marketplace dominated by petroleum. And it's the number that'll make recycling industrial carbon dioxide turn a profit. Woods says he's pumped $200,000 of his own money into the company and hired some of the world's best scientists to see that his math is correct. Algenol is backed by a $25 million Department of Energy grant and a $10 million grant from Lee County, Fla. Breaking into commercial production of advanced biofuels has eluded many companies. In the algae industry, most companies have turned to smaller markets, such as nutrition supplements and cosmetics, finding them more profitable in the short term than the fuel market, where payoffs are unclear and competition from the oil industry is fierce. If it's successful, Algenol will be the first algae company to commercially produce all four major fuel products -- ethanol, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Scientists Discover How to Generate Solar Power in the Dark – (Atlantic – April 15, 2014)
The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic. Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking. The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a ways off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching. Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle,” MIT researchers said. “Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time.” To liberate that energy all you have to do is expose the molecules to a small amount of light, heat or electricity and when they switch back to the other shape the emit heat. “In effect, they behave as rechargeable thermal batteries: taking in energy from the sun, storing it indefinitely, and then releasing it on demand,” the scientists said.

Flowing Salt Water over Graphene Generates Electricity – (Ars Technica – April 14, 2014)
In recent years, scientists have investigated generating electrical power using nano-structures. In particular, they have looked at generating electricity when ionic fluids—a liquid with charged ions in it—are pushed through a system with a pressure gradient. However, the ability to harvest the generated electricity has been limited because it requires a pressure gradient to drive ionic fluid through a small tube. But scientists have now found that dragging small droplets of salt water on strips of graphene generates electricity without the need for pressure gradients. Chinese researchers grew a layer of graphene and placed a droplet of salt water on it. They then dragged the droplet across the graphene layer at different velocities and found that the process generated a small voltage difference. In addition to being the first to demonstrate this effect, the scientists found a linear relationship between the velocity and the generated electricity. The faster they dragged the droplet across the graphene strip, the higher the voltage they generated. The scientists also found that the voltage increased when multiple droplets of the same size were used at once. 


TRANSPORTATION

Nissan Uses Ultra-Ever Dry for First Self-cleaning Car – (GizMag – April 25, 2014)
Nissan is currently testing out a prototype that it says could make car washes a relic of the past. The test car benefits from a new nano-paint treatment that repels dirt and grime. The automaker is putting the car through the dirty wringer to see how well it holds up in the real world. Nissan says it is the first automaker to apply a super-hydrophobic, oleophobic industrial treatment called Ultra-Ever Dry to a vehicle body. The treatment is designed to repel all water-based and some oil-based liquids using a protective top layer of air. When a car runs through a muddy puddle, the treatment will purportedly prevent that mud and road grit from sticking to the body, keeping it car wash-fresh. Check out the video clip!



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Think You Know What a Farmer Looks Like? Think Again. – (Yes – April 17, 2014)
The number of women who were named as the principal operator of an American farm or ranch increased by nearly 30% between 2002 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Women composed about 14% of principal farm operators in 2007, and that percentage has held steady since then, according to the preliminary 2012 census released in February. Women-operated farms are generally smaller and less profitable than farms whose principal operator is male, according to the new census data. Seventy-five percent of American farms grossed less than $50,000 in 2012; for farms with a female principal operator that figure was 91%. About 69% of U.S. farms were smaller than 180 acres in size; for farms with a female principal operator that figure was 82%. But it’s not just a picture of women farmers barely scraping by. Census data from 2007 showed that women were more likely than men to operate farms with a diversity of crops, and to own a greater percentage of the land they farmed. Women farmers also tended to sell food directly to the consumer rather than to large food-processing corporations—an approach that the United Nations report has found to be important for improving food systems.

French Parliament Bans Cultivation of GM Maize – (Reuters – April 15, 2014)
France's lower house of parliament adopted a law prohibiting the cultivation of any variety of genetically modified maize, saying it posed a risk to the environment. France adopted a decree last month to halt the planting of Monsanto's insect-resistant MON810 maize, the only GM crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union. The law also applies to any strain adopted at EU level in future, including another GM variety, Pioneer 1507 developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical, which could be approved by the EU executive later this year after 19 out of 28 member states failed to gather enough votes to block it. The law adopted by the French National Assembly is similar to one rejected by the Senate, upper house, in February when it was deemed unconstitutional. The ban on GM maize will head back to the Senate for approval, but even if it is rejected again, the National Assembly would have the final say.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

How America’s Wars Came Home with the Troops – (Nation  of Change – April 18, 2014)
Since 2002, soldiers and veterans have been committing murder individually and in groups, killing wives, girlfriends, children, fellow soldiers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, and -- in appalling numbers -- themselves. Most of these killings haven’t been on a mass scale, but they add up, even if no one is doing the math.  To date, they have never been fully counted. The first veterans of the war in Afghanistan returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002.  In quick succession, four of them murdered their wives, after which three of the killers took their own lives. When a New York Times reporter asked a Special Forces officer to comment on these events, he replied: “S.F.’s don’t like to talk about emotional stuff.  We are Type A people who just blow things like that off, like yesterday’s news.” In 2012, in Laredo, Texas, federal agents arrested  four soldiers who had formed a private hit squad offering their services to kill members of rival drug cartels. “Wet work,” soldiers call it, and they’re trained to do it so well that real Mexican drug cartels have indeed been hiring ambitious vets from Fort Bliss, Texas, and probably other bases in the borderlands, to take out selected Mexican and American targets at $5,000 a pop.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

The CIA in Kuwait: Parallels to a 9/11 Suspect – (Washington’s Blog - April 7, 2014)
“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” There are good reasons to believe that some 9/11 suspects were involved in previous deep state operations. For example, evidence suggests that Stratesec manager Barry McDaniel and Carlyle Group director Frank Carlucci might have participated in the Iran-Contra crimes. There are also interesting links between several 9/11 suspects and Ted Shackley, a leader of the “CIA within the CIA.” Shackley was close friends with Frank Carlucci and had a long, close relationship with Richard Armitage, whose State department provided express visas to the alleged hijackers. After leaving the CIA in 1979, Shackley formed his own company, TGS International, which appeared to be focused on obtaining access to places like Kuwait and Iran. TGS functioned as a broker for Boeing 747 aircraft, attempted to sell various goods to Iran, and did construction work in Kuwait. Several of TGS’ shareholders were Iranian exiles, including former SAVAK agent Novzar Razmara. At the same time, Shackley took part in the Reagan campaign operation that resulted in the American hostages in Iran being held until Reagan was inaugurated in 1981. Following this, Shackley and some of his former CIA friends, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord, became involved in the Iran-Contra affair. This article offers some interesting background information that is usually too far in the background to be visible.

Bernard Kerik: Prison System Broken, Needs Reform – (NewsMax – March 9, 2014)
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has seen the criminal justice system from both sides. He has helped send people to prison for long stretches, but he also has served three years for tax fraud and making false statements. "I know the system, and I know it's broken," Kerik said. Kerik said that when he entered federal prison, he expected to meet some very bad people. Instead, he found men who had received long sentences for non-violent, first-time drug offenses. One was in prison for selling a shark's tooth on eBay, and some were commercial fisherman who had caught above their limit. "Did they do something wrong? Maybe," Kerik said, but added, "We are turning regulatory issues into crimes."  And a felony conviction ends up being a life sentence even it's only a year and day, he said. Kerik taught classes while in prison, and told fellow inmates the importance of getting a GED. One man responded, "I am black, I am a convicted felon, and that GED isn't going to help me ever." Kerik said he knows men who went to prison on white collar crimes who have bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees who can't find work. "If they can't get hired, do you think that young man, that 21-year-old kid is ever going to get hired? Never. Never," he said. Prisoners get no education or life-improvement skills, he said. Instead, an inmate "learns how to steal, cheat, lie manipulate, gamble and fight. That's what prison is: It's a training ground for thuggery and criminality."

Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes in Washington – (Common Dreams – April 21, 2014)
Skip the intro to this article and jump to the middle: The members of the national security state, unlike the rest of us, exist in what might be called “post-legal” America. They know that, no matter how heinous the crime, they will not be brought to justice for it. The list of potentially serious criminal acts for which no one has had to take responsibility in a court of law is long, and never tabulated in one place. Consider this, then, an initial run-down on seven of the most obvious crimes and misdemeanors of this era for which no one has been held accountable. This article includes well documented coverage of all the activities mentioned in the title as well as: the destruction of evidence of a crime; the planning of an extralegal prison system; and perjury before Congress.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Ukraine’s Gold Reserves Secretly Flown Out and Confiscated by the New York Federal Reserve? – (NSNBC – March 15, 2014)
A Russian Internet news site Iskra (“Spark”) based in Zaporozhye, eastern Ukraine,  reported on March 7, that  “Ukraine’s gold reserves had been hastily airlifted to the United States from Borispol Airport east of Kiev”. This alleged airlift and confiscation of Ukraine’s gold reserves by the New York Federal Reserve has not been confirmed by the Western media. While the unconfirmed report regarding Ukraine’s gold reserves has not been the object of coverage by the mainstream financial news, the story was nonetheless picked up by the Shanghai Metals Market at  Metal.com. which states, quoting a report from the Ukrainian government, that Ukraine’s gold reserves had been “moved on an aircraft from … Kiev to the United States… in 40 sealed boxes” loaded on an unidentified aircraft. The unconfirmed source quoted by Metal.com, says that the operation to airlift Ukraine’s gold had been ordered by the acting Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk with a view to safe-keeping Ukraine’s gold reserves at the NY Fed, against a possible Russian invasion which could lead to the confiscation of Ukraine’s gold reserves.

Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl Calls for End to Blockade of Gaza – (United Nations Relief and Works Agency – april 14, 2014)
During his first official visit to the Gaza Strip, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl vowed to advocate strenuously to end the blockade of Gaza, to improve the quality of UNRWA services to the refugees and to stand against what he called the “collective punishment” suffered by the residents of the besieged Gaza Strip. During a press event at an UNRWA clinic in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, he said: “Nothing prepares you for Gaza; no amount of UN humanitarian reports, no amount of newspaper articles, no amount of human rights investigations. None of these can adequately convey what the people here are going through; the profound sense of isolation and the sheer scale and depth of the suffering.” He added that the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave were apparent to everybody. UNRWA currently provides aid to some 800,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip, as compared to some 80,000 in 2000, Mr. Krähenbühl said.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

“America as the No. 1 Warmonger”: President Jimmy Carter Talks about Race, Cable News, “Slut-shaming” and More – (Salon – April 10, 2014)
Jimmy Carter’s new book, A Call to Action, is an urgent and bold addition to a library of some two dozen books he’s written in his post-presidency, as one of our finest global citizens. It’s subtitled “Women, Religion, Violence and Power,” and Carter is unafraid to tackle controversial topics: sexual assault on campus and the military; religious leaders of all faiths who use sacred texts to justify oppression; punitive prison sentences weighted against the poor and against racial minorities; American drone wars and endless military operations. This article is a lightly edited transcript of an interview of Carter discussing his new book.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Fossil Signal from the Earliest Moments of the Universe Reveals New Unknowns – (Daily Galaxy – April 24, 2014)
"There have been hints for a while now that maybe something else is going on," says Stanford's Kavli Foundation Deputy Director John Carlstrom, who leads two other experiments that study the universe's first light. "Maybe we need to… allow some new physics in there. Maybe there are more neutrinos. Maybe they're more massive than we thought. Or maybe it's something none of us have thought of yet." Last month, scientists announced the first hard evidence for cosmic inflation, the process by which the infant universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in an instant. This almost unimaginably fast expansion was first theorized more than three decades ago, yet only now has "smoking gun" proof emerged when the world was stunned by announcement that a telescope at the South Pole had detected a cosmic fossil from the earliest moments of creation. The result could very well be what theorist Michael S. Turner, Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and the University of Chicago, calls a "crack in the cosmic egg," offering clues that even the most accepted theoretical assumptions contain inaccuracies. It's already clear that the result rules out many theoretical models of inflation—most of them, in fact—because they predict a signal much weaker than the one detected. In addition, the discovery also seems to disprove a theory that says that the universe expands, collapses and expands again in an ongoing cycle.



STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

Nearly 40% of Americans Can’t Come Up With $2,000 for Emergency – (CBS – April 8, 2014)
In the 2012 National Financial Capability Study by FINRA, 25,000 individuals were asked a series of questions about their finances and the amounts of debt they had. Nearly 40% of survey participants answered that they weren’t “confident” about coming up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month. The survey also found that almost 60% of individuals in the country did not have three months of emergency funds that they could access to cover an emergency. Only 20% of individuals surveyed reported that they strongly agreed to having too much debt when they answered a question about how much debt they have. The survey was put into the field roughly three years after the Great Recession.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

World’s First Graphene Speaker Already Superior to Sennheiser MX400 – (GizMag – April 15, 2014)
Graphene is frankly just showing off at this point. Not content with breezing in and smashing records in solar efficiency, kicking the butt of lithium-ion batteries, being the strongest known material in the Universe, and being 1,000 times more light-sensitive than any known camera sensor, now this supermaterial is having a crack at audio. With basically zero acoustic development, a graphene loudspeaker is already boasting a better frequency response curve than a set of Sennheiser MX-400s. The Sennheiser MX-400's are a ten-dollar set of earbuds, not some audiophile headset. But it’s a ten dollar earbud that’s taken a long time to develop, versus what may be the very first graphene speaker ever assembled. Will it ever hit the market? Well, that’s a different matter. But if and when mass production for this stuff becomes cheap and easy, pretty much every sector in engineering and technology will be set to take a giant leap forward.

Self-healing Polymer Restores Itself in Minutes – (GizMag – April 14, 2014)
Researchers at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a self-healing polymer that can mend itself and fully restore its mechanical properties in just a few minutes when heated at low temperatures. The material could be used to create self-repairing sealants, scratch-resistant paints, and more reliable fiber-reinforced plastic components. Self-healing polymers are extremely attractive materials, but creating the "ideal" polymer is far from easy. So far, scientists have either used a network of embedded microcapsules containing a healing agent (which can only heal the material a limited number of times), or used materials that can heal indefinitely because they are bound together by reversible chemical reactions (but need a large amount of energy as a catalyst). The research team headed by Christopher Barner-Kowollik used a third approach. They created a "switchable network" of crosslinked fibers or small molecules that are bonded by a reversible chemical reaction. The peculiarity of this material is that the fibers can be broken down into their constituents and then reassembled again when heat is applied. There are several key advantages to the new approach.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Philadelphia Revolution – (Public Banking Institute – no date)
An alternative banking structure in the making: the Keystone State is stepping up to help make pubic banking and American history. The Pennsylvania Project is leading the way. From the first, PA Project determined not to try for a state bank bill in the legislature, but instead to focus on municipal and county public banks, building broad support for a state public bank to follow. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest and the nation’s fifth largest city stepped up. Community leader Stan Pokras facilitated meetings of the first volunteers, and former counsel to City Council, Stan Shapiro, vice chairman of Neighborhood Networks, put together a series of meetings of neighborhood and community leaders. Then a hundred Philadelphia community and neighborhood leaders gathered for a day long workshop last October where our PBI colleague from New York City, Scott Baker walked them through the city’s Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR), to reveal that a city that can’t adequately fund public education is sitting on over $12 billion in investments, some part of which can be used to capitalize a public bank. A seasoned team has emerged to begin the work of drafting a business plan and legislation for a public bank of Philadelphia. Preparatory discussions are underway with members of City Council, the office of the mayor, the Controller and with business, banking, neighborhood, labor, civic and faith community leaders.

Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea – (Atlantic – April, 2014)
Not long ago, the pursuit of commercial self-interest was largely reviled. How did we come to accept it? It was not until the mischievous moralist Bernard Mandeville that someone attempted to gloss greed as anything other than a shameful motive. A name now largely lost to history, Mandeville became a foil for 18th-century philosophy when, in 1705, he first proposed his infamous equation: Private vices yield public benefits. And so it begins: greed is slowly transformed from a vice into the necessary handmaiden of social good. (Editor’s note: This article is useful background reading before diving into Thomas Piketty's Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century.)


PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

This Is How Empires Collapse – (Charles Hugh Smith - April 23, 2014)
This is how empires collapse: one complicit participant at a time. Before an empire collapses, it first erodes from within. The collapse may appear sudden, but the processes of internal rot hollowed out the resilience, resolve, purpose and vitality of the empire long before its final implosion. What are these processes of internal rot? Here are twelve of the most pervasive and destructive forces of internal corrosion. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this insightful and well articulated piece. As an uncomfortable exercise, read the piece and consider the ways in which you are a complicit participant.)

The New York Times Admits It Pushed Fabricated Evidence about Iraq, Syria and Ukraine – (Washington’s Blog – April 24, 2014)
The New York Times pushed fabricated evidence in the run up to the Iraq war. A year later, the newspaper apologized for its inaccurate, one-sided coverage. The U.S. and the New York Times claimed that Syria’s government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack … but that claim was debunked, and the New York Times was forced to retract it several months later. The alternative media, including Pulitzer prize winning reporter Seymour Hersh, has pointed out that it was the Syrians rebels – with the help of the Turkish government – did it). The U.S. and the New York Times stated that they had proof that Russian soldiers were the mysterious “masked men” seizing government buildings in Ukraine. But a couple of days later, based on reporting from the alternative media – especially Robert Parry, winner of the George Polk Award for National Reporting – they were forced into retracting that claim, and admitting that their “proof” was almost as flimsy as proof of Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”. The photographs in question were supplied by the US government. See also this article documenting a rare admission from the New York Times that it submits to Israeli state gag orders, fueling charges from critics that the globally-influential publication plays fast-and-loose with journalistic ethics to give favorable coverage to Israel.



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

The Adventure of the Missing Algorithm – (Huffington Post – April 21, 2014)
Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes recently engaged in an evening conversation in Georgetown during a brief period when Holmes was in the District because his “assistance had been solicited to investigate the performance of the country's sixteen intelligence agencies whose workings defy any logic known to mortal men.” (Editor’s note: The writing is elegant, the humor covert, and the logic flawless. Enjoy.)

Bonobo Or Boy Scout? Great Ape Lights Fire and Roasts Marshmallows – (Huffington Post – April 21, 2014)
Watch Kanzi, a bonobo monkey, build a fire, strike a match, light the fire, toast a stick of marshmallows and carefully start to eat a very hot marshmallow. This guy has got it down. (Editor’s note: We’re not sure that he knows how to avoid starting a brush fire, but we’re pretty sure he is adequately supervised.) And he is apparently a very gracious being; according to NBC, Kanzi has also learned to communicate with humans, using touchpads full of icon-like symbols and is said to have "remarkable empathy for his human handlers." See also: Growing up with tech makes young bonobos language-savvy (and see a photo of a baby bonobo in a diaper playing a children’s game on a tablet).



JUST FOR FUN

Penguin Dance Sweeps Saudi Arabia – (Wall St. Journal – April 11, 2014)
Here is an interesting peek into the latest Internet craze in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest consumers of YouTube and other online video shows.

A 13-year-old Eagle Huntress in Mongolia – (BBC News – April 14, 2014)
And speaking of birds, here is an exquisite photo-essay featuring Ashol-Pan working with a trained hunting golden eagle in Mongolia. This young woman has remarkable presence, beauty, and a very special connection with her eagle.



A FINAL QUOTE--

The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin



A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, 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.
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org




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Edited by John L. Petersen
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