Volume 20, Number 14 - 09/15/17 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog  


FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Soon after the Big Bang, the universe went completely dark. Now researchers propose how light came into existence.

  • The Zika virus is being used to treat aggressive brain cancer.

  • NFL footballs will have data-collecting RFID chips this season.

  • Scientists have found that humans experience 27 distinct categories of emotion, thereby challenging the long-held assumption in psychology that human emotions fall into just six main categories.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Mary Rodwell coming to Berkeley Springs

October will be a special month for Transition Talks because Mary Rodwell, from Australia, is coming to talk to us about children who have very distinct memories from previous lives on other planets, flying craft, and dimensions. Mary is an extraordinary, internationally known authority on “experiencers”, those folks who have interacted with aliens, other dimensions, etc.

Here’s my description of her talk:



Here’s a link to one of Mary’s talks on YouTube. Check this out . . . and then come to see her live!



She’ll be here in Berkeley Springs on the 21st of October at 1PM at the Ice House.

Get complete information here: TransitionTalks.org

See you there!


Hanging On for Dear Life

We’ve often heard about different aspects of the epic change that is transpiring on this planet. At this point, we’re actually watching (and experiencing), nothing less than the implosion of the old system and the emergence of a new one – one that will be the platform for and characterize the new era.

As this transitional freight train accelerates toward the horizon, legacy institutions (by definition), lose capability and effectiveness. Yielding to the cracks and failures in the national and international organizations that have heretofore monitored and controlled all of our lives, these huge institutions are increasingly scrambling for new initiatives and policies that will maintain their control of the undulating systems that influence how we live.

We could visit any number of the basic sectors that fundamentally shape who we are and catalog the shoots of new ideas and possibilities that are sprouting through the fissures in the foundations – think electric cars, legal marijuana, same-sex marriage, life extension, blockchain, stem cells, genetic engineering, internet-of-things, new spirituality, and guaranteed minimum income, to name a few.

At the same time we’re watching the corrosive, slow-motion failure of familiar edifices: national politics, geo-politics, education, environment, privacy, healthcare, police departments, families, communities, et.al.

But they’re not going quietly. The police are militarizing, healthcare is buying government agencies, politicians are blaming Russia, others are fingering the U.S., environmentalists are trying to legislate changing the climate by calling a gas required to sustain life a poison, and Donald Trump is toying with the future the US by stomping on the sprouts and fertilizing the weeds.

The big game, though, is with the high-leverage parts. In an effort to maintain the dependency that they have fostered with the public, the Powers-That-Be have moved in giant resources and pulled out all stops to marshal the engagement of the media and communications providers to control and manipulate our understanding of reality.

This genuinely Orwellian move comes right out of the book. The truth is fake, the government defines reality, and – Ministry of Truth-like –the media proliferates the official “true” message (almost like they might be owned by the invisible puppet masters). Of course, the purveyors of “fake news” are persecuted to block out the sunlight and maintain the climate of fear that sustains their control.

In “1984” they didn’t have the Internet, but George knew what they’d do. It’s slightly different now, but in 2017 instead of hiding their methodology, they’re publishing it!

Here’s what Facebook is doing: Facebook Introduces Measure to Block Advertisements From Sites That Share Fake News. So, the question is, Who gets to define “fake news”? Well, Facebook, of course . . . which has been funded by the CIA.

Then, there’s Google. Check this out.

“The war on truth has reached a fever pitch as Google has made it their mission to annihilate the independent media. The ‘New Media’ lead by the likes of Infowars, Breitbart, Natural News and many other great independent sites will have an uphill battle when it comes to getting their content in front of readers. Google has announced they will be doubling down on their ‘Orwellian’ practice of making stories disappear from their monopolistic search engine. Outlined in their Gestapo like 160-page handbook, Google describes exactly how they plan to suppress any information they deem unfit for readers. Highlighted at the bottom of page 108 Google states:

● Pages that directly contradict well established scientific or medical consensus for queries seeking scientific or medical information, unless the query indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.

● Pages that directly contradict well-established historical facts (e.g., unsubstantiated conspiracy theories), unless the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”

Read rest of article


It’s not just ideas that they’re censoring, it’s also people. Google, without any obvious outside oversight or involvement maintains 9 different blacklists.

“Google, Inc., isn't just the world's biggest purveyor of information; it is also the world's biggest censor.

“The company maintains at least nine different blacklists that impact our lives, generally without input or authority from any outside advisory group, industry association or government agency. Google is not the only company suppressing content on the internet. Reddit has frequently been accused of banning postings on specific topics, and a recent report suggests that Facebook has been deleting conservative news stories from its newsfeed, a practice that might have a significant effect on public opinion – even on voting. Google, though, is currently the biggest bully on the block.” Read rest of article


This effort on the part the powers that be to use Google, Facebook and the rest of the media that they control to tamp down the ideas and people that they find unpalatable is either quite dumb . . . or rather smart.

It’s dumb if they don’t understand the implications, writ large, of their activities, but if, on the other hand, they understand what they are doing then, for them for the short term it may make sense.

Here’s how that works.

The evolution of our species is defined by the progress that it makes in raising itself up to new levels of consciousness and the sophistication and effectiveness of the tools that it develops to make life more humane. (It’s more than that, but those are arguably the major vectors.)

The currency of progress in both of those areas is ideas – there are no advancements in the evolution of humanity without an ongoing emergence of fresh and creative ideas about new ways to look at our reality and build tools. When ideas flourish, humanity advances.

Said another way, if the purpose of human life is to contribute to the advancement of the species, that only happens in a direct relationship with the facilitation of creativity and innovation that emerges from within the global society.

So, if you have any interest at all in the overall advancement of humanity, it is really dumb to stifle creativity and new ideas . . . no matter how you do it.

All seminal new ideas start outside of the box – far removed from the conventional wisdom. They emerge from the rough and tumble world that is not constrained by “well established understanding” because, of course, if it is “well established”, it is not new. The whole idea of progress means that new ideas and understandings supersede those that have previously been thought to best describe the subject at hand . . . because they are found to be inadequate and obsolete in the face of the new idea.

Stifling creativity is therefore a crime against humanity. It is a crime against the most fundamental purpose of this human experience. It keeps us from progressing in our approach to the divine. So it’s dumb (at the very least).

But what if your objective was to suppress the evolution of the species? What if what you really wanted was to maintain the status quo – keep people oppressed and in fear – because human evolution would be an existential threat to you and your group that sustained itself from using the present dysfunction?

In that case, from that myopic point of view, it would be smart for you to manipulate the environment – Truman Show-like – to keep people from understanding that there was a greater world with greater possibilities outside of the artificial “container” that you had contrived. It would be smart. Wrong, but smart.

So the question, I guess is: Are all of these efforts to fundamentally manipulate humanity – seemingly converging from different directions at the same time – dumb or smart? Do these folks really know what they are doing or is it just the predictable response of humans not wanting to change?

If you come down on the side that they probably know what they’re doing then . . . who are they?

Happily, there are counter reactions in the works. One is a new network without the censorship of Google and Facebook.

What Is the Commodity Ad Network

The Commodity Ad Network is a network of creative minds — bloggers, website owners, content creators. Minds that go against the powers that be, who speak out against the corruption of governments and corporate structures. The Commodity Ad Network is here to serve those people who, if given the chance, are capable of changing the thought processes of millions of other minds all over the world. Continue . . .


Then others, like in this Fast Company piece, Don’t Be Scared About the End of Capitalism; Be excited to Build What Comes Next, are looking at change as being inevitable and starting to visualize what the resulting new world might look like. A much better idea, I’d say.




THINK LINKS



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Who Vladimir Putin Thinks Will Rule the World – (CNN – September 2, 2017)
On the first day of the new school year in Russia, students learned an important lesson directly from their president -- who he thinks will rule the world. Speaking to students during a national "open lesson" from the city of Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country that takes the lead in the sphere of computer-based artificial intelligence (AI) will rule. "Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind," said Putin. "There are huge opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to foresee today." "Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world," he said, adding that it would be better to prevent any particular "pair of hands" from achieving a monopoly in the field. If Russia becomes the leader in the development of artificial intelligence, "we will share our technology with the rest of the world, like we are doing now with atomic and nuclear technology," said Putin. More than a million schoolchildren around Russia were expected to watch the televised open lesson online, titled "Russia Focused on the Future," according to the Kremlin. See also: Elon Musk predicts World War III (due to AI).



NEW DISCOVERIES

Scientists Are Closing in on Warm Caves under Antarctica Which Could Support Life – (Business Insider – September 8, 2017)
Australian scientists investigating ice caves under Antarctica’s glaciers say they are so warm they could support animals and plants. Around Mount Erebus, an active volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica, steam has hollowed out extensive cave systems. Dr Ceridwen Fraser from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society says forensic analyses of soil samples from these caves has revealed intriguing traces of DNA from algae, mosses, and small animals. "It can be really warm inside the caves, up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit in some caves," Fraser says. "You could wear a T-shirt in there and be pretty comfortable. There’s light near the cave mouths, and light filters deeper into some caves where the overlying ice is thin." Most of the DNA found in the caves is similar to DNA from plants and animals found elsewhere in Antarctica but not all could be fully identified. The next step will be to take a closer look at the caves and search for living organisms. Co-researcher Professor Craig Cary, from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, says previous research found that diverse bacterial and fungal communities lived in Antarctica’s volcanic caves. "The findings from this new study suggest there might be higher plants and animals as well," Professor Cary said.

Researchers Propose How the Universe Became Filled with Light – (PhysOrg – August 30, 2017)
Soon after the Big Bang, the universe went completely dark. The intense, seminal event that created the cosmos churned up so much hot, thick gas that light was completely trapped. Much later—perhaps as many as one billion years after the Big Bang—the universe expanded, became more transparent, and eventually filled up with galaxies, planets, stars, and other objects that give off visible light. That's the universe we know today. How it emerged from the cosmic dark ages to a clearer, light-filled state remains a mystery. In a new study, researchers at the University of Iowa offer a theory of how that happened. They think black holes that dwell in the center of galaxies fling out matter so violently that the ejected material pierces its cloudy surroundings, allowing light to escape. The researchers arrived at their theory after observing a nearby galaxy from which ultraviolet light is escaping. "The observations show the presence of very bright X-ray sources that are likely accreting black holes," says Philip Kaaret, professor in the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy and corresponding author on the study. "It's possible the black hole is creating winds that help the ionizing radiation from the stars escape. Thus, black holes may have helped make the universe transparent." But how would a black hole, whose intense gravitational pull sucks in everything around it, also eject matter? The quick answer is no one knows for sure. Black holes are hard to study, in part because their immense gravitational pull allows no light to escape and because they're embedded deep within galaxies. Recently, however, astronomers have offered an explanation: The jets of escaping matter are tapping into the accelerated rotational energy of the black hole itself. For more black hole mysteries, see: Black hole models contradicted by hands-on tests at Sandia’s Z machine.

Human Footprints from 5.7 Million Years Ago May Rewrite Evolution History – (International Business Times – September 1, 2017)
Scientists say they may have found human footprints in Greece that date back to a time when it is commonly believed our ancestors were still only in Africa, potentially changing our ideas of how the species evolved and dispersed. The footprints, found embedded in rock in an area called Trachilos on the Greek island of Crete, are 5.7 million years old, according to a study in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. They “show hominin-like characteristics” — the creature that made the tracks walked on two legs using the soles of its feet; had five toes, with the innermost ones more developed than the outer digits; and did not have any claws. The researchers also noted “the presence of a distinct ball in some of the tracks.” Analysis suggests the animal that made the tracks was an ancient member of the human family, but Crete is not within geographical area where our ancestors were known to roam 5.7 million years ago. Another problem is that previously collected fossil evidence suggests that human ancestors had more ape-like feet for more than a million years after this time period, which clashes with the new findings. Because there was no connection between Crete and the coast of Africa, if the tracks were indeed made by a human ancestor, it wouldn’t just expand the range of hominins from Africa to Greece — the expanded range would also at minimum have to include the Levant, Asia Minor and the southern Balkans to transport the prehistoric humans all the way there, the scientists said. See also: Experiments Show How Neanderthals Made the First Glue.





GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/BIOTECHNOLOGY

New Class of Drugs Targets Aging to Help Keep You Healthy – (CNN – September 5, 2017)
Researchers have turned the spotlight on a new class of drugs that they say could "transform" the field of medicine -- and the drugs work by targeting aging. "This is one of the most exciting fields in all of medicine or science at the moment," said Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of the new paper. As we age, we accumulate senescent cells, which are damaged cells that resist dying off but stay in our bodies. They can affect other cells in our various organs and tissues. Senolytic drugs are agents capable of killing problem-causing senescent cells in your body without harming your normal, healthy cells. Senescent cells play a role in many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and blindness, Kirkland said. Therefore, senolytic drugs are a possible treatment approach for such diseases. In 2015, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic, including Kirkland, identified this new class of drugs. They described how senolytic drugs can alleviate symptoms of frailty in mice and extend the length of time the mice are healthy as they grow old. Fourteen senolytic drugs have been discovered and are being actively studied, 11 of which Kirkland's colleagues and their collaborators found, he said. As for how soon he thinks human clinical trials might commence, Kirkland said doctors could have an idea of how well senolytic drugs work for serious health conditions in about a year and a half or two years.

Zika Virus Used to Treat Aggressive Brain Cancer – (BBC News – September 5, 2017)
Until now, Zika has been seen only as a global health threat - not a remedy. But latest research shows the virus can selectively infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous (stem cell-type) cells in adult brains. Zika injections shrank aggressive tumors in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed. Human trials are still a way off, but experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumors. The Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the lab. Healthy stem cells are found in abundance in baby brains, which probably explains why regular Zika can be so damaging to infants, say the researchers. Adult brains, however, have very few stem cells. This means Zika treatment should destroy only the cancer-causing brain stem cells without causing much collateral damage. As an extra safety precaution, the team, from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have already begun modifying the virus to make it more tame than regular Zika.

'Pen' Identifies Cancer in 10 Seconds – (BBC News – September 7, 2017)
A handheld device can identify cancerous tissue in 10 seconds, according to scientists at the University of Texas. They say it could make surgery to remove a tumor quicker, safer and more precise. And they hope it would avoid the "heartbreak" of leaving any of the cancer behind. Tests suggest the technology is 96% accurate. The MasSpec Pen takes advantage of the unique metabolism of cancer cells. Their furious drive to grow and spread means their internal chemistry is very different to that of healthy tissue. The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water. Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis. The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer - equipment that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second. It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer. The challenge for surgeons is finding the border between the cancer and normal tissue. In some tumors it is obvious, but in others the boundary between healthy and diseased tissue can be blurred. The pen should help doctors ensure none of the cancer is left behind. The technology has been tested on 253 samples as part of the study. The plan is to continue testing to refine the device before trialing it during operations next year.

Probiotics Can Prevent Sepsis in Infants, Study Shows – (Science Daily – August 16, 2017)
Sepsis is a severe complication of bacterial infection that results in around one million infant deaths worldwide each year, mostly in developing countries. It occurs when the immune system stops fighting germs and begins to turn on itself and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40% at a cost of only $1 per infant. Pinaki Panigrahi, M.D., Ph.D., professor, epidemiology and pediatrics, Center for Global Health and Development, and his colleagues in the College of Public Health, led the international research team. The results reflect a culmination of 15 years of research and could seriously impact infant health worldwide. The special mixture included a probiotic called Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC-202195 combined with fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), an oral synbiotic preparation developed by Dr. Panigrahi. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics with an FOS supplement that promotes growth and sustains colonization of the probiotic strain. FOS, naturally found in breast milk and such plants as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke and others, is food for the probiotic bacteria.

Human Embryo Editing Study Shows We Still Have a Lot to Learn about CRISPR – (Technology Review – September 1, 2017)
The first human embryos edited in the U.S. appear to have had a faulty gene repaired—but now a debate is raging as to what actually happened. In late July, MIT Technology Review broke the story about the work, in which researchers edited about 150 early-stage embryos using the CRISPR gene-editing technique. The team revealed that it was able to successfully eliminate a genetic mutation that causes a deadly heart condition. Importantly, the results suggested the edits occurred with a far higher level of precision than anyone else had managed before in embryos. One of the study's authors, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, talked of clinical trials being near at hand. But questions have emerged about how, exactly, the faulty gene was removed. It has been suggested—and many have subsequently agreed—that it's possible that CRISPR could have been making much larger deletions of the embryos' DNA than the original researchers claimed. If that's true, then the faulty gene would fail to show up when Mitalipov's team went looking for it, but the embryos could have a great deal of genetic damage besides. Without ruling out this possibility—or else figuring out another way to avoid so-called "off-target" effects—it would be irresponsible to suggest that CRISPR-edited embryos be implanted and allowed to grow into children.

The Protein That Can Make Your Heart Think You Exercise – (New Atlas – August 9, 2017)
When it needs to pump more blood, the heart can grow in a good way in response to exercise and pregnancy, but after a heart attack, swelling of the heart muscles can lead to further complications. Now, Canadian scientists have found that a protein called cardiotrophin 1 (CT1) can essentially trick the heart into the good kind of growth, and reduce the bad kind. In the study, researchers from the Ottawa Hospital, Carleton University, and the University of Ottawa tested the effects of CT1 on the hearts of mice and rats, both healthy and damaged, as well as lab-grown heart cells. The results showed that heart muscle cells treated with CT1 grew more blood vessels, formed longer, healthier fibers, and could pump blood better. The protein was also able to dramatically improve function in damaged hearts, no matter which side of the organ was affected. "This experimental therapy is very exciting, particularly because it shows promise in treating both left and right heart failure," says Duncan Stewart, co-senior author of the study. "Currently, the only treatment for right heart failure is a transplant. And although we have drugs that can reduce the symptoms of left heart failure, we can't fix the problem, and left heart failure often leads to right heart failure over time." The researchers are currently seeking patents for treating heart conditions with CT1, and are hoping to soon test the protein in human patients.

Genetically Engineering Pigs to Grow Organs for People – (Atlantic – August 10, 2017)
The idea of transplanting organs from pigs into humans has been around for a long time. And for a long time, xenotransplants—or putting organs from one species into another—has come up against two seemingly insurmountable problems. The first problem is fairly intuitive: Pig organs provoke a massive and destructive immune response in humans—far more so than an organ from another person. The second problem is less obvious: Pig genomes are rife with DNA sequences of viruses that can infect human cells. In the 1990s, the pharmaceutical giant Novartis planned to throw as much $1 billion at animal-to-human transplant research, only to shutter its research unit after several years of failed experiments. Quite suddenly, however, solving these two problems has become much easier and much faster thanks to the gene-editing technology CRISPR. With CRISPR, scientists can knock out the pig genes that trigger the human immune response. And they can inactivate the viruses—called porcine endogenous retroviruses, or PERVs—that lurk in the pig genome. And now, scientists working for a startup called eGenesis reported the birth of 37 PERV-free baby pigs in China, 15 of them still surviving. The black-and-white piglets are now several months old, and they belong to a breed of miniature pigs that will grow no bigger than 150 pounds—with organs just the right size for transplant into adult humans. (Editor’s note: If you only have time for one article here, read this one: the implications are more extensive than one might at first think. Hint: Significant impact on the medical economics of organ transplant.)

Internal Clock Is Discovered in a Living Human Cell – (Alphr – September 11, 2017)
We know cells dramatically change their shape and size during a lifetime. But this is the first time the changes have been seen over short time periods. The research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), opens up the possibility for us to learn about how and when diseases start. "Previously, a precise point of a cell in its life cycle could only be determined by studying dead cells," said Alexandra Zidovska, senior author of paper, from New York University. "However, with this discovery, which shows that the nucleus exhibits rapid fluctuations that decrease during the life cycle of the cell, we can enhance our knowledge of both healthy and diseased human cells." The researchers studied the nucleus of the living cells, and saw a part of it, known as the nuclear envelope, flickering over a period of a few seconds. This has not been possible before due to limitations in measurement, but a new fluorescent microscope meant it was possible. During the lifetime of the cell, the amount the cell changes in shape during these ‘flickers’ also gets smaller. This means measuring the fluctuations can give away the age of the cell. “This process can serve as an internal clock of the cell, telling you at what stage in the cell cycle the cell is," said Zidovska.




ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Plastic Fibers Found in Tap Water around the World – (Guardian – September 5, 2017)
Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health. Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analyzed by scientists. The research tested 159 samples using a standard technique to eliminate contamination from other sources and was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world, including from Uganda, Ecuador and Indonesia. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibers found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates. European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibers found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe. The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood. Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted a different research study said there were two principal concerns: very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens that microplastics can harbor. “If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure,” she said. “Once they are in the nanometer range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.” The Orb analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size, 2,500 times bigger than a nanometer.

Antidepressants Found in Fish Brains in Great Lakes Region – (Daily News – September 1, 2017)
Holy mackerel — those are perky perch. Researchers have found concentrations of human antidepressants in 10 kinds of fish in the Niagara River, which links Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. Active ingredients in Zoloft, Prozac and other happy-pills were discovered to be built up in the brains of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, walleye, bowfin, steelhead and yellow perch. The source of the contamination: wastewater. “These active ingredients from antidepressants, which are coming out from wastewater treatment plants, are accumulating in fish brains,” according to Diana Aga, Ph.D, a professor at the University of Buffalo. “It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned,” Aga added. Another concern is that the drugged-out fish’s behavior could change. “Other research teams have shown that antidepressants can affect the feeding behavior of fish or their survival instinct,” said Aga. While scientists note that the levels of antidepressants in the fish don’t pose a danger to people who eat them, they said more research is needed to understand what amount of antidepressants poses a risk to animals, as well as the impact of drug interactions.

This Is How Much of Your Life Air Pollution Is Stealing from You Based on Where You Live – (Quartz – September 11, 2017)
Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk humans face, according to the World Health Organization, but what does that mean for you? Researchers have put together a map based on new findings that show, depending on where you live, how many years of life that gritty air is stealing. In China, the “airpocalypse” is shortening the Chinese lifespan by more than three years, while in India, air pollution can cut a person’s lifespan by four years on average (and nearly a decade for someone in the capital New Delhi). Things aren’t looking good for the US either, if you live in California. A global team of scientists from the US, Israel and China examined pollution data from 154 Chinese cities 1982 to 2012 and compared it with mortality data covering 78 million people from 2004 to 2012. They found a strong link between reduced life expectancy and air pollution, as measured by PM10, a form of particulate matter that can lodge deep in lungs and cause respiratory disease.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs against Yankees – (New York Times – August 5, 2017)
For decades, spying on another team has been as much a part of baseball’s gamesmanship as brushback pitches and hard slides. The Boston Red Sox have apparently added a modern — and illicit — twist: They used an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees and other teams. Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter. The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’s stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout and then relaying a message to players, who may have then been able to use the information to know the type of pitch that was going to be thrown, according to the people familiar with the case. Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the people said. The commissioner’s office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to some players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks. Stealing signs is believed to be most effective when there is a runner on second base who can watch what hand signals the catcher is using to communicate with the pitcher and then relay to the batter any clues about what type of pitch may be coming. In recent years, as cameras have proliferated in major-league ballparks, teams have begun using the abundance of video to help them discern opponents’ signs. Some clubs have had clubhouse attendants quickly relay information to the dugout from the personnel monitoring video feeds. The information has to be rushed to the dugout on foot so it can be passed to the runner while he is still on second base. The Red Sox seemed to shorten this communications chain — and more quickly get the information to the runner on second and the hitter at the plate — by sending information electronically to team members in the dugout. The Red Sox told league investigators that team personnel scanning instant-replay video were sending the pitch signs electronically to the trainers, who then passed the information to players.

The Smartphone’s Future: It’s All About the Camera – (New York Times – August 30, 2017)
For a clue as to what the smartphone of the future might look like, turn your attention to the device’s cameras and the software and sensors that make them tick. Here’s a peek into how the camera may come into play: As soon as you pick up your gadget, it will see you and know you are the owner and unlock the screen. Overseas, you will be able to point the camera at a restaurant menu to translate items into your native language. When shopping for furniture, you can point your phone camera at your living room floor and place a virtual rendering of a coffee table down to see how it looks and move around and peek underneath it. For the last few years, we have become accustomed to unlocking our smartphones by scanning our fingerprints or entering a passcode. The next horizon for smart phones is augmented reality. Blair MacIntyre, a research scientist who is working on augmented reality for Mozilla, the organization that makes the Firefox web browser, said augmented reality has huge potential when it matures. He envisioned people being able to take a tour of a natural-history museum, pointing their smartphone cameras at a fossil exhibit to bring a dinosaur back to life. But he said that augmented reality on smartphones was a stopgap to the inevitable: wearing data in front of your face at all times through some kind of headset. “If you look at science fiction, a lot of it has this characteristic of being always on and serendipitous,” he said. “You get a lot closer to that when you get a head-mounted display.” Until that happens, smartphones are about to become much smarter. (Editor’s note: While the camera features and apps for augmented reality may be the next wave of smarter phones, ultimately the smart phone may include the equivalent of your government issued identity card; replace all of your cash, credit and debit cards; and act as your “ticket” to any service – e.g. airline tickets, concert tickets, health care services. )



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Big Energy Backs Hydrogen Power Storage – (Bloomberg – September 5, 2017)
The secret to switching the global energy system entirely to renewables may lay in the universe’s most abundant substance. Hydrogen has drawn backing from big energy companies from Royal Dutch Shell Plc to Uniper SE in addition to carmakers BMW AG and Audi AG. They’re supporting research into how the element can be used to store energy for weeks or even months beyond what lithium-ion batteries can manage. While industry’s investment in hydrogen is small at just $2.5 billion over the last decade, the work offers an answer to the elusive question of how electricity could be kept for use in the future. Batteries increasingly are shifting power from day to night, but they tend to go flat after a few weeks. Hydrogen can be kept indefinitely in tanks. That would allow, for example, voltage collected from solar panels in the summer to be used in winter. To date, the energy industry has focused mainly on hydrogen’s potential in fuel cells, which use the element in a chemical reaction to generate electricity. On power-storage, most of the money is going into batteries like the lithium-ion cells widely used in mobile phones and laptop computers. But those tend to lose charge if not topped up and discharged frequently. Hydrogen storage is attractive because it preserves energy for longer periods. If hydrogen could be made to store energy cheaply enough, it would allow utilities to scale back on fossil fuel plants by making it easier for the grid to handle intermittent power flows from wind and solar farms. For example, about $3.4 billion of revenue was lost in China last year because wind farms were forced to remain idle because of congested electric lines.



TRANSPORTATION

China Looks at Plans to Ban Petrol and Diesel Cars – (BBC News – September 10, 2017)
China, the world's biggest car market, plans to ban the production and sale of diesel and petrol cars and vans. The country's vice industry minister said it had started "relevant research" but that it had not yet decided when the ban would come into force. "Those measures will certainly bring profound changes for our car industry's development," Xin Guobin told Xinhua, China's official news agency. China made 28 million cars last year, almost a third of the global total. Both the UK and France have already announced plans to ban new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, as part of efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. Chinese-owned carmaker Volvo said in July that all its new car models would have an electric motor from 2019. Geely, Volvo's Chinese owner, aims to sell one million electric cars by 2025.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Australians Urged to Eat More Kangaroos as Population Booms – (CBS – September 11, 2017)
Many people would likely point to the kangaroo as the most recognizable symbol of Australia. Officials in Australia are now making a very odd request regarding the country’s national animal: please eat more of them. According to local reports, kangaroos have seen their population boom over the last decade. The number of marsupials on the continent has jumped from 27 million in 2010 to nearly 45 million in 2016. The hopping inhabitants now outnumber humans in Australia by 24 million — or by a two-to-one margin. Officials are now worried that the next drought in the country will cause a massive ecological disaster as millions of the grazing animals could starve and die. “They’re just devouring anything we’ve got grass wise, they’re starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots,” farmer Garry Hannigan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Kangaroo carcasses are used for their hides and leather which are regularly exported. The low-fat, marsupial meat reportedly sees much less demand because of the continuing stigma about eating Australia’s native creature. “After all, it’s our national emblem,” an Australian resident told reporters.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Hackers Gain Access to Hundreds of Global Electric Systems – (CNet – September 5, 2017)
Researchers from Symantec, a security company, found evidence that hundreds of power grid sites across the US, Turkey and Switzerland were hit in a massive hacking campaign they are calling Dragonfly 2.0. The campaign, which started as early as 2011, included malicious emails sent to targets who worked in the energy industry, Symantec said. The first attacks quieted down in 2014, but started back up again in December 2015, with a phishing email disguised as a New Year's Eve party invite. Symantec warned that hackers now have login credentials and access to multiple power grids around the world, with the potential to cause blackouts. Attacks on critical infrastructure pose a massive threat to nations due to their ability to cause immediate chaos, whether it's starting a blackout or blocking traffic signals. These systems are often vulnerable because of antiquated software and the high costs of upgrading infrastructure. Eric Chien, a technical director at Symantec, said they "don't expect to see a blackout tomorrow," but with Dragonfly 2.0's hacks, it's "technically possible." Symantec found evidence that hackers were taking screenshots of documents from multiple electrical companies that included machine descriptions and locations. The descriptions apparently noted that many machines could be accessed remotely, potentially leaving them open to cyberattacks. Dragonfly's attacks increased throughout 2016 and 2017, said Symantec. Hackers sent malicious emails that pretended to be about business concerns and created a fake Flash update that could install a virus on victims' computers, potentially giving hackers remote access. So far, the hackers appear to be using the access for espionage, to gather secret documents and possibly plan out a future attack.




GLOBAL RELATIONS

China Sees New World Order with Oil Benchmark Backed by Gold – (Asia Nikkei – September 1, 2017)
China is expected shortly to launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold in what analysts say could be a game-changer for the industry. The contract could become the most important Asia-based crude oil benchmark, given that China is the world's biggest oil importer. Crude oil is usually priced in relation to Brent or West Texas Intermediate futures, both denominated in U.S. dollars. China's move will allow exporters such as Russia and Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan. To further entice trade, China says the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The existence of yuan-backed oil and gold futures means that users will have the option of being paid in physical gold, said Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, a gold-based financial services company based in Toronto. "It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either," Macleod said.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Facebook Says It Sold Political Ads to Russian Company During 2016 Election – (Washington Post – September 6, 2017)
Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it has discovered it sold ads during the U.S. presidential election to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings. Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said. A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said. Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election to help elect Trump, including by using paid social media trolls to spread fake news intended to influence public opinion. Even though the ad spending from Russia is tiny relative to overall campaign costs, the report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States — a question some Democrats have been asking for months.

NFL Footballs to Have Data-collecting Chips This Season – (ESPN – September 7, 2017)
The NFL has expanded its data-collection program to include chips in every football used during the 2017 season, according to Zebra Technologies, the company that will provide the hardware. The chip weighs 3 grams and is built in during production, according to Jill Stelfox, Zebra's vice president and general manager of location solutions. The data, generated by radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips built into each ball, will be targeted for use by broadcasters as part of the league's Next-Gen statistics program. It will also be studied by the NFL competition committee, but at this point the information is not precise enough to assist officials with touchdown calls, marking the football for first downs and determining whether the ball has passed through the sideline. NFL players have been wearing shoulder pads with similar technology during games since 2014. The chip acts in part as an accelerometer, providing data such as the speed of the football, its spin and whether it is moving in a spiral or end-over-end. The Next-Gen program will experiment with using the information in tandem with player-tracking data. Teams get access to information for their own player tracking, which most coaches interviewed over the past year have largely opposed.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Famous 600-Year-Old Nova Pinpointed in Modern Day – (Space – August 30, 2017)
After decades of hunting, astronomers have tracked down the origin of a nova first recorded by Korean royal astrologers nearly 600 years ago. This finding is the oldest-known example of such a stellar explosion with an accurately pinpointed location, the new study's researchers said, and it could help shed light on the nature of novas, and on the way that about three-quarters of all stars evolve. On March 11, 1437, Korean astronomers detected what seemed like a bright new star in the night sky. As recorded in the "Veritable Records of the Reign of King Sejong," a detailed chronicle of the reign of a king who ruled Korea from 1418 to 1464, the explosion lay close to a star in what is now thought of as the tail of the constellation Scorpius. The outburst, now known as Nova Scorpii AD 1437, was seen for 14 days before vanishing. The study's researchers sought to find out what the nova looks like now — but to do that, they needed to pinpoint its location in the modern sky. When the researchers first looked about three decades ago where the records seemed to say the nova was, they could not find it: "It turns out we were looking in the wrong place," said study lead author Michael Shara, curator in charge of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York."When it comes to analyzing ancient records, it can be a challenge interpreting them correctly." When we relaxed our criteria as to where to look in the constellation, we found the nova in 90 minutes." Archival photographic plates from Harvard University also revealed that in the 1930s and 1940s, this binary system gave off brief, smaller, dimmer eruptions known as dwarf novas. These findings support an idea that Shara and his colleagues proposed about 30 years ago — that binary systems that give off classical novas also give off dwarf novas, and are not separate entities, as some had previously suggested, Shara said. The time scale to go from a classical nova to a dwarf nova looks to be somewhere between two and five centuries."

Pains of Giving Birth to Stars Gives Heft to Elliptical Galaxies – (Register – September 11, 2017)
The rate of star formation might play a bigger role in affecting a galaxy's shape than previously thought, according to a recent study. Galaxies, a smattering of dust, gas and stars glued together by gravitational attraction, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Edwin Hubble's classic "tuning fork" diagram describes four different types: ellipticals, disk-like lenticulars, spirals and irregular galaxies. The lack of a defined structure and a large bulge where old stars and gas are concentrated have led scientists to believe that ellipticals are formed when two smaller galaxies merge together. But a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal shows that a burst of star formation will cause a galaxy's center to puff up in size. The concentrated material dominates the galaxy's evolution, and over time it mellows out to become an elliptical or lenticular galaxy.




STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

1 in 5 Men Drop Out of the Labor Market Because of Drugs – (Fortune – September 7, 2017)
The opioid epidemic is also an economic crisis, especially for males, according to new research from renowned Princeton University economist Alan Krueger. In fact, Krueger's research indicates that 20% of the drop in men's labor force participation is attributable to the drugs. The opioid and prescription painkiller scourge claimed 33,000 American lives in 2015 alone. It has particularly ravaged rural areas in the Northeast, Appalachia, and the Midwest. Some employers in those regions have openly said they are struggling to find sober job applicants. Krueger's new study puts a number on the anecdotal evidence. His paper examines the causes behind the significant drop in U.S. labor force participation—particularly among American men. "Labor force participation has fallen more in areas where relatively more opioid pain medication is prescribed, causing the problem of depressed labor force participation and the opioid crisis to become intertwined," wrote Krueger. The study points out that work force participation among men fell 3.2% in 2014-2016 compared with 1999-2001. While controlling for a number of variables, Krueger examined county opioid prescription rates against labor force data in those areas, concluding that "the increase in opioid prescriptions [over the past 15 years] could account for perhaps a 0.6% point decline in male labor force participation, which is 20% of the observed decline in this period."

American Dads Are Getting Older, New Stanford Study Says – (Mercury News – August 30, 2017)
American fathers keep getting older, raising the prospect of increased birth defects but also greater economic and emotional security for U.S. families, according to new research from Stanford University’s School of Medicine. The average age of the fathers of newborns in the United States has climbed by 3.5 years over the past four decades, growing from 27.4 years in 1972 to 30.9 years in 2015, said the study — the nation’s most detailed analysis ever of paternal age. The number of newborns whose fathers were over age 40 has more than doubled over the past four decades. Those births now make up nearly 9% of births in the U.S. The share of fathers who were over age 50 rose from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent. Similar trends are well-established in women. Because the average age of mothers of newborns has been edging up even faster than that of fathers, the gap between them has been shrinking, from 2.7 years in 1972 to 2.3 years in 2015, the study found. Women are delaying pregnancy due to educational and career goals, as well as greater access to contraception. Late fatherhood has been linked to higher rates of chromosomal abnormalities, neurocognitive disorders and spontaneous abortions. It’s estimated that the male germline, which creates sperm, develops two new mutations every year. But older fathers are also more likely to have better jobs and more resources. That makes them more likely to have stable lifestyles and more likely to live with their children and, thus, be more involved in child-rearing.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Petcube Play Lets You Interact with Your Pet Remotely from a Smartphone – (Dezeen – April 2, 2017)
Petcube Play is an indoor camera compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones. It features a built-in laser toy and two-way audio, as well as more advanced features to monitor a pet's activity. This small device allows users to talk to, play with and watch their pets when apart, for the reassurance that they are happy and safe at home. There is also the option of autoplay if the user is too busy to manually control the device. The three-inch-wide device has advanced camera features, including 24/7 video recording and night vision, along with sound and motion detection that notifies users of any prominent movements or disturbances. Petcube works to improve pets' lives with technology. Petcube believes that collectively these features have the potential to save a pet's life, should it be in danger in an owner's absence. Play is the next generation of its original pet cam product, and follows on from Bites, an all-in-one camera with built-in treat dispenser.

Advances in AI Are Used to Identify Sexual Orientation – (Economist – September 9, 2017)
Artificial intelligence boil down to a superhuman ability to spot patterns in large volumes of data. And AI’s power to pick out patterns is now turning to fairly intimate matters. Research at Stanford University by Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang has shown that machine vision can infer sexual orientation by analyzing people’s faces. The researchers suggest the software does this by picking up on subtle differences in facial structure. With the right data sets, Dr Kosinski says, similar AI systems might be trained to spot other intimate traits, such as IQ or political views. Images of men and women were downloaded from a popular American dating website which makes its profiles public. The images were then fed into a piece of software called VGG-Face, which spits out a long string of numbers to represent each person; their “faceprint”. The next step was to use a simple predictive model, known as logistic regression, to find correlations between the features of those faceprints and their owners’ sexuality (as declared on the dating website). When the resulting model was run on data which it had not seen before, it far outperformed humans at distinguishing between gay and straight faces. When shown one photo each of a gay and straight man, both chosen at random, the model distinguished between them correctly 81% of the time. When shown five photos of each man, it attributed sexuality correctly 91% of the time. The model performed worse with women, telling gay and straight apart with 71% accuracy after looking at one photo, and 83% accuracy after five. In both cases the level of performance far outstrips human ability to make this distinction. Using the same images, people could tell gay from straight 61% of the time for men, and 54% of the time for women. But the study has limitations. Outside the lab the accuracy rate would be much lower. Dr Kosinski says he conducted the research as a demonstration, and to warn policymakers of the power of machine vision. In parts of the world where being gay is socially unacceptable, or illegal, such software could pose a serious threat to safety. Dr Kosinski is at pains to make clear that he has invented no new technology, merely bolted together software and data that are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. For a further (and excellent) discussion of the real-world implications and limitations of deep learning coupled with the current degree of nearly ubiquitous surveillance, see: AI that can determine a person’s sexuality from photos shows the dark side of the data age.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Casinos Aren’t Enough as Native Tribe Makes Deal on Drug Patents – (Bloomberg – September 9, 2017)
For one Native American tribe, the money’s not in the casino anymore. Patents are the future. Drugmaker Allergan Plc has said it will transfer intellectual property on a blockbuster drug to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, in order to avoid attacks on the medicine’s patents. For the tribe, it’s a new revenue stream that could lead to more down the road. “Our options beyond the casino are few and far between so an opportunity like this is attractive to us, because we have a lot of unmet needs for our community,” said Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s general counsel Dale White. The agreement will pay the tribe $13.75 million, plus $15 million a year in annual revenues, according to Allergan. There are 13,000 Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe members nationwide, and they own a six-mile-by-six-mile square piece of land in a sparsely populated part of upstate New York. The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort, is one of the tribe’s main sources of revenue. It’s open 24 hours a day, has 1,600 slot machines, 30 table games and a poker room, according to the website. The attraction for a drug company is simple: The tribe has sovereignty, setting it apart from some legal proceedings -- such as expedited patent reviews. For Allergan, it can serve as a small legal island guarding its valuable intellectual property. Restasis’s patents are under attack on two fronts, and moving the rights may shield them on one side. Last year, the drug -- which treats chronic dry eye -- brought in $1.49 billion in sales.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant – (New York Times – August 30, 2017)
In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized. The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates. But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar. Word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors. Those worries seemed to be substantiated a couple of days later, when Ms. Slaughter summoned the scholar who wrote the critical statement, Barry Lynn, to her office. He ran a New America initiative called Open Markets that has led a growing chorus of liberal criticism of the market dominance of telecom and tech giants, including Google. In an email from Ms. Slaughter to Mr. Lynn, Ms. Slaughter wrote that “the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways.” In the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, Ms. Slaughter accused Mr. Lynn of “imperiling the institution as a whole.”

How the NSA Identified Satoshi Nakamoto – (Medium – August 26, 2017)
The ‘creator’ of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, is the world’s most elusive billionaire. Very few people outside of the Department of Homeland Security know Satoshi’s real name. In fact, DHS will not publicly confirm that even THEY know the billionaire’s identity. Satoshi has taken great care to keep his identity secret employing the latest encryption and obfuscation methods in his communications. Despite these efforts (according to my source at the DHS) Satoshi Nakamoto gave investigators the only tool they needed to find him — his own words. Using stylometry one is able to compare texts to determine authorship of a particular work. Throughout the years Satoshi wrote thousands of posts and emails and most of which are publicly available. According to my source, the NSA was able to the use the ‘writer invariant’ method of stylometry to compare Satoshi’s ‘known’ writings with trillions of writing samples from people across the globe. By taking Satoshi’s texts and finding the 50 most common words, the NSA was able to break down his text into 5,000 word chunks and analyse each to find the frequency of those 50 words. This would result in a unique 50-number identifier for each chunk. The NSA then placed each of these numbers into a 50-dimensional space and flatten them into a plane using principal components analysis. The result is a ‘fingerprint’ for anything written by Satoshi that could easily be compared to any other writing. The NSA then took bulk emails and texts collected from their mass surveillance efforts. First through PRISM (a court-approved front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts) and then through MUSCULAR (where the NSA copies the data flows across fiber optic cables that carry information among the data centers of Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and Facebook) the NSA was able to place trillions of writings from more than a billion people in the same plane as Satoshi’s writings to find his true identity. The effort took less than a month and resulted in positive match. Why go to so much trouble to identify Satoshi? My source tells me that the Obama administration was concerned that Satoshi was the creation of a state actor — and that Bitcoin might be weaponized against us in the future.

Emoji Fans Take Heart: Scientists Pinpoint 27 States of Emotion – (UC Berkeley News – September 11, 2017)
A new UC Berkeley study challenges a long-held assumption in psychology that most human emotions fall within the universal categories of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. Using novel statistical models to analyze the responses of more than 800 men and women to over 2,000 emotionally evocative video clips, researchers identified 27 distinct categories of emotion and created a multidimensional, interactive map to show how they’re connected. “We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video,” said study senior author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and expert on the science of emotions. Moreover, in contrast to the notion that each emotional state is an island, the study found that “there are smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration,” Keltner said. “We don’t get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected,” said study lead author Alan Cowen, a doctoral student in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. “Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought.” The article never lists exactly 27 named emotions, but it does offer the following: admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, contempt, craving, disappointment, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, envy, excitement, fear, guilt, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, pride, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, surprise, sympathy and triumph. See also this article for photographs of one man’s face as he experiences 25 of those emotions.



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

Need a Happiness Boost? Spend Your Money to Buy Time, Not More Stuff – (NPR – August 28, 2017)
Money can't buy happiness, right? Well, some researchers beg to differ. They say it depends on how you spend it. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that when people spend money on time-saving services such as a house cleaner, lawn care or grocery delivery, it can make them feel a little happier. By comparison, money spent on material purchases — aka things — does not boost positive emotions the way we might expect. Think of it as a way to buy back what has become for many Americans a scarce resource: free time. Yet, in a culture where many people are quick to buy the latest model phone, a big-screen TV or a fancy pair of shoes, those same people are often resistant to spending money on time-saving services. "Contemplating paying somebody else to do something you're perfectly capable of doing yourself may provoke feelings of guilt," says Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study. "Buying yourself out of [tasks] like mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom — these were pretty small, mundane expenditures, and yet we see them making a difference in people's happiness," Dunn says. But how much happier? A separate part of the study helped to answer this question. The same researchers surveyed a group of 6,000 people across a wide range of income brackets in the U.S., Canada and Europe. "What we found is that people who spent money to buy time reported being almost one full point higher on our 10-point ladder, compared to people who did not use money to buy time," Dunn explains. People from across the income spectrum benefited from "buying time," she adds. "Moving people up on the ladder of life satisfaction is not an easy thing to do," Dunn says. "So, if altering slightly how people are spending their money could move them up a full rung, it's something we really want to understand and perhaps encourage people to do."

Alien-Like Blob Found in Lake is Actually a Living Thing – (Gizmodo – September 1, 2017)
Recently a “Blob” – a large, gelatinous mound looking somewhat like a naked brain – was found in a pond near the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, Vancouver. While it might not look like something from Earth, the Blob is very much alive—and it contains multitudes. The alien-looking lumps are actually colonies of tiny marine invertebrates called Pectinatella magnifica were first found in the pond back in mid-August. Upon further inspection, the team found the pond was actually rife with these weirdoes. Pectinatella magnifica are members of the phylum Bryozoa, which dates back roughly 500 million years. Here’s how the Blob forms: one tiny Pectinella magnifica will reproduce asexually, and the process will keep repeating itself until there’s an entire colony. It consumes microscopic organisms in the water, filtering it as it feeds. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a freshwater Bryozoan presence “usually indicates good water quality.”



JUST FOR FUN

Who Knew Slugs Could Be So Romantic – (YouTube – February 10, 2010)
This video clip is from the BBC "Life in Undergrowth”. You might be surprised by the complexity – and even elegance – of slug mating.



A FINAL QUOTE

We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up until now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future. – Max Planck



A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, 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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