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Volume 21, Number 12 - 6/15/18 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog  


FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Human cells resist gene editing by turning on defenses against cancer, ceasing reproduction and sometimes dying.
  • On average, Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness.
  • Scientists have developed an acoustic underwater "invisibility cloak".
  • The humanoid robot, “Atlas”, from Boston Dynamics can go for a swift jog through a yard and even leap over a log.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Penny Kelly returns to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks

Join us Saturday, June 23, 2018, 2 to 4 pm in Berkeley Springs

ETs, Consciousness, and The Nature of Reality

As we move closer to official disclosure of the fact that we are not the only beings in the universe, it becomes more and more important to prepare ourselves and consciousness to interact with other beings, many of whom have a much more advanced understanding of the true nature of reality.

This brings us to ask, “What do they know that we do not know? How do they manage themselves within this reality system? What is their understanding of the nature of reality?”

Join us for a deep look at information, technology, and perspectives held by beings that are waiting for us to join the greater community and that we must mature into before we can take on a greater role.

Penny Kelly is an author, teacher, speaker, publisher, personal and spiritual consultant, and Naturopathic physician. She travels, lectures, and teaches a variety of classes and workshops, and maintains a large consulting practice. She has been involved in scientific research and investigations into consciousness at Pinelandia Laboratory near Ann Arbor, MI.

Get complete details at TransitionTalks.org.


John Petersen to speak at Energy, Science and Technology Conference

I will be one of the keynote speakers at one of the foremost new energy conferences in the world, held in Idaho (near Spokane, Washington), on the 5th - 8th of July. ESTC is a marvelously interesting mix of researchers and inventors who are on the leading edge of “free” and alternative energy. It is always a most provocative time full of new ideas . . . and mind-blowing technology that really works. The revolution is starting there.

Here’s what some of the folks who attended last year had to say about their experience:



This is a really great conference, with ample opportunities to meet many very interesting people and hear sometimes amazing presentations about working technologies that trumpet the emergence of a new world. That’s what I’m going to talk about. Here’s the description of my talk.

New Energy: The Linchpin to Unprecedented Change and the Emergence of a New Era

We are full into the most extraordinary period of change ever experienced by humanity . . . and the acceleration will increase before things begin to settle down. Amazing breakthroughs and manipulations of our reality signal a transition the likes of which baffles conventional wisdom.

The endpoint is a new world populated by new humans – both fundamentally different from the familiar forms that we all grew up with. Many sources paint a picture of a world without war for millennia.

Futurist John Petersen will paint the big picture of what is going on, where it could be headed and why new energy is such a key piece of the extraordinary new world.


You can get complete information on the program at energyscienceconference.com. If this is of interest to you, there are only about 40 seats left, so register soon.

Hope to see you there.




THINK LINKS



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

MIT Creates World's First Psychopath AI by Only Feeding It Data from Reddit – (Complex – June 7, 2018)
The newest artificial intelligence creation of MIT researchers, named Norman, has been deliberately from “the darkest corners of Reddit,” and now all it thinks about is murder. It apparently wasn’t enough to name him after the creepy protagonist in Hitchcock’s Psycho, they had to go and create the “world’s first psychopath AI.” In order to test Norman’s psychological status after his Reddit binge, the researchers used Rorschach inkblots, which they claim “is used to detect underlying thought disorders.” Norman consistently saw horrifying and violent images in 10 different inkblots where a standard AI saw much more benign images. For example: a standard AI saw a “black and white photo of a small bird” where Norman saw a “man gets puled into a dough machine.” Similarly, a standard AI saw a “photo of a baseball glove” in the same inkblot where Norman saw a “man murdered by machine gun in broad daylight.” In another, standard AI saw a “person holding an umbrella in the air” and Norman saw a “man shot dead in front of his screaming wife.” There is a larger point to this experiment. The MIT researchers were trying to prove the point that “the data that is used to teach a machine learning algorithm can significantly influence its behavior,” and therefore, if you’ll use it to make any important decisions, the data you feed it matters. “When people talk about AI algorithms being biased and unfair, the culprit is often not the algorithm itself, but the biased data that was fed to it,” the researchers wrote. As The Verge notes, Norman is only the extreme version of something that could have equally horrifying effects, but be much easier to imagine happening: “What if you’re not white and a piece of software predicts you’ll commit a crime because of that?”

For a Glimpse of the Future of Money, Go to Switzerland – (Quartz – June 9, 2018)
Many people now rarely carry physical cash, instead relying on cards, apps, and the internet to pay for things, make investments, and manage their savings. Where does that money come from? This is on the minds of Swiss voters this weekend, as they go to the polls for a referendum on whether to adopt a “sovereign money” system. A victory on June 10 would result in a radical overhaul of banking as we know it, with commercial banks only allowed to lend out funds they have on hand, supplied solely by the central bank. It would put an end to the current practice of fractional-reserve banking, by which banks create money, in a sense, because they lend out more than they keep in reserves. (And those loans become deposits at other banks, which become loans…) The Swiss proposal, though unlikely to pass, is a radical departure from established practices in, of all places, the home of the most established banks around. But the Swiss aren’t the only ones thinking about new forms of money. Yes, this is where bitcoin comes in. The stateless, anonymous, decentralized promise of cryptocurrency is the opposite of the Swiss “sovereign money” plan. (Weirdly, Switzerland has also been pitching itself as a base for crypto trading. The Swiss are nothing if not pragmatic.) And so the relentless march of technological progress, coupled with shifting trends in policymaking, are expanding the scope of what we consider money. But what about all those anachronistic bills and coins? There’s a Swiss angle to this, too. As countries around the world phase out high-denomination banknotes in the interest of tackling the drug trade, money-laundering, and other illicit activities, the Swiss have doubled down. The 1,000-franc note (worth $1,015 at current rates) is one of the world’s most valuable strips of paper, and officials say there are no plans to limit its circulation. In fact, some have called for the introduction of a 5,000-franc note. (Follow up note: the referendum was soundly defeated but the article is still noteworthy for the questions it raises.)

A Leaked Internal Google Video Shows a Creepy Vision of How Data Could Be Used to Direct Human Decision-making – (Business Insider – May 18, 2018)
Google once created a creepy video that imagines a future where an evolving record of our online data could be used to direct human behavior. The video was made in 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at Google's ambitious research-and-development division, X. Drawing on theories of evolution and directly referring to Richard Dawkins' 1976 book, "The Selfish Gene," the basic premise imagines that people have an ever-evolving online data record, which Foster calls the "Selfish Ledger." In the future, he says this could be used so it "not only tracks our behavior but offers direction towards a desired result." Suggestions the eight-minute video offers up include 3D-printing personalized devices that collect more data, multigenerational transactions of data to help solve world problems including poverty and depression, and — perhaps most unsettlingly — Google-set targets for a "user's ledger." This could include moving people toward environmental goals by suggesting they buy local produce. A company representative said: "We understand if this is disturbing — it is designed to be. This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as 'speculative design' to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate. It's not related to any current or future products." Article includes link to the original video.



NEW DISCOVERIES

Scientists Realized East Antarctica Has Been Having Regular Earthquakes All Along – (Quartz – June 4, 2018)
For all the ways Antarctica is unique, scientists have finally realized one way in which it’s the same as every other continent on the planet: It experiences routine earthquakes. Previously, only eight earthquakes had been recorded in East Antarctica since 1982—odd, considering that every land mass on Earth is actually a tectonic plate floating on molten mantel. All land experiences routine wiggling, although most of it is undetectable without precise instruments. Geologists didn’t have a clear explanation why East Antarctica would be so still, although they theorized that perhaps it was because the weight of the ice sheet above subdued all seismic activity. But a research team found that over the course of 2009, there were no less than 27 earthquakes - all of which were between 2.1 and 3.9 on the Richter scale, classified as “minor” by geologists, and most of which probably couldn’t be felt – on the eastern part of the continent. The reason for the sudden spike? Seismic activity didn’t actually go up; it’s just that no one was looking for it before. The findings from the study don’t have a lot of implications for future work. No one expects East Antarctica to suddenly erupt in seismic activity. But it’s another step toward understanding the most mysterious continent on the planet.

Scientists Discover Bees Understand the Concept 'Zero or Nothing', Opening New Possibilities for AI – (Daily Galaxy – June 9, 2018)
"We've long believed only humans had the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown monkeys and birds have the brains for it as well. What we haven't known - until now - is whether insects can also understand zero,” Associate Professor Adrian Dyer, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Scientists have discovered honeybees can understand the concept of zero, putting them in an elite club of clever animals that can grasp the abstract mathematical notion of nothing. By demonstrating that even tiny brains can comprehend complex, abstract concepts, the surprise finding opens possibilities for new, simpler approaches to developing artificial intelligence. As well as being a critical pollinator, the honeybee is an exceptional model species for investigating insect cognition, with previous research showing they can learn intricate skills from other bees and even understand abstract concepts like sameness and difference. But bee brains have fewer than 1 million neurons - compared with the 86,000 million neurons of a human brain - and little was known about how insect brains would cope with being tested on such an important numeric skill. "This is a tricky neuroscience problem," he said. "It is relatively easy for neurons to respond to stimuli such as light or the presence of an object but how do we, or even an insect, understand what nothing is?” One of the problems in the development of artificial intelligence is enabling robots to operate in very complex environments, Dyer said. "Crossing a road is simple for adult humans, we understand if there are no approaching cars, no bikes or trams, then it is probably ok to cross," he said. "But what is zero, how do we represent this for so many complex object classes to make decisions in complex environments? If bees can perceive zero with a brain of less than a million neurons, it suggests there are simple efficient ways to teach AI new tricks."





GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/BIOTECHNOLOGY

Dogs Could Become the Next Source of a Deadly Flu Pandemic – (Science Alert – June 7, 2018)
Our best animal friends might not know it, but they could be putting us at risk from another influenza pandemic, researchers have warned. Key to the worrying prediction is the increasing diversity of flu within dogs, and new evidence that the virus can jump from pigs into canines. These developments match the build-up to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, which originated in birds. Left unchecked, a similar scenario could evolve with dogs as the link between the animal kingdom and human beings, according to the team behind the new study – though as yet there's no evidence of transmission between us and our canine pals. That follows the first identified case of a flu virus passing from a horse to a dog, fifteen years ago. Five years ago, scientists uncovered viruses jumping between birds and dogs. Now it seems we can add pigs to that list, and the timeline shows this is all happening relatively quickly. The researchers sequenced complete genomes for 16 influenza viruses sampled from 800 dogs in Southern China between 2013 and 2015. They found matches with certain types of swine flu, and new variations on existing canine flu viruses. "What we have found is another set of viruses that come from swine that are originally avian in origin, and now they are jumping into dogs and have been reassorted with other viruses in dogs," says one of the researchers, Adolfo García-Sastre, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai in New York.. "They are starting to interact with each other." The dogs involved in the study were all from a single region in China, which is one reason not to panic yet – the picture may not be the same worldwide. Another caveat is that for a pandemic to occur, the virus strain that jumps from dogs to humans would also have to be easily transmissible between people.

A Crispr Conundrum: How Cells Fend Off Gene Editing – (New York Times – June 12, 2018)
Human cells resist gene editing by turning on defenses against cancer, ceasing reproduction and sometimes dying, two teams of scientists have found. The findings, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, at first appeared to cast doubt on the viability of the most widely used form of gene editing, known as Crispr-Cas9 or simply Crispr. Jussi Taipale, a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and an author of one of two recently published papers, noted that the findings underscore the need for more research into the safety of Crispr, but they don’t spell its doom. Recently, Dr. Taipale and his colleagues set out to study cancer. They used Crispr to cut out genes from cancer cells to see which were essential to cancer’s aggressive growth. For comparison, they also tried to remove genes from ordinary cells — in this case, a line of cells that originally came from a human retina. But while it was easy to cut genes from the cancer cells, the scientists did not succeed with the retinal cells. Dr. Taipale and his colleagues discovered that one gene, p53, was largely responsible for preventing Crispr from working. p53 normally protects against cancer by preventing mutations from accumulating in cellular DNA. Mutations may arise when a cell tries to fix a break in its DNA strand. The process isn’t perfect, and the repair may be faulty, resulting in a mutation. When cells sense that the strand has broken, the p53 gene may swing into action. It can stop a cell from making a new copy of its genes. Then the cell may simply stop multiplying, or it may die. This helps protect the body against cancer. If a cell gets a mutation in the p53 gene itself, however, the cell loses the ability to police itself for faulty DNA. It’s no coincidence that many cancer cells carry disabled p53 genes.




ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Watch Lightning Spread across America in Unprecedented Satellite Video – (Independent – May 24, 2018)
Here is satellite video showing something we couldn’t see in any other way. This isn’t news, per se – but it’s pretty cool: a time-lapse video (running 46 seconds) of lightning spreading across the US as weather fronts move.

Hot News from the Antarctic Underground – (NASA – November 7, 2017)
A NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly in an earlier era of rapid climate change, and why it is so unstable today. The stability of an ice sheet is closely related to how much water lubricates it from below, allowing glaciers to slide more easily. Understanding the sources and future of the meltwater under West Antarctica is important for estimating the rate at which ice may be lost to the ocean in the future. Antarctica's bedrock is laced with rivers and lakes, the largest of which is the size of Lake Erie. Many lakes fill and drain rapidly, forcing the ice surface thousands of feet above them to rise and fall by as much as 20 feet (6 meters). The motion allows scientists to estimate where and how much water must exist at the base. Some 30 years ago, a scientist at the University of Colorado Denver suggested that heat from a mantle plume under Marie Byrd Land might explain regional volcanic activity and a topographic dome feature. Very recent seismic imaging has supported this concept. Mantle plumes are thought to be narrow streams of hot rock rising through Earth's mantle and spreading out like a mushroom cap under the crust. The buoyancy of the material, some of it molten, causes the crust to bulge upward. The theory of mantle plumes was proposed in the 1970s to explain geothermal activity that occurs far from the boundary of a tectonic plate, such as Hawaii and Yellowstone. The Marie Byrd Land mantle plume formed 50 to 110 million years ago, long before the West Antarctic ice sheet came into existence.

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles – (Guardian – April 16, 2018)
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof. John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process. “What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.” See also: A Huge Crowd Funded Machine Is about to Start Cleaning Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. – (New York Times – May 10, 2018)
Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio. A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. Some of those Berkeley researchers have now published a paper saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list. “We wanted to see if we could make it even more stealthy,” said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors. Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. “My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” he said.

With Net Neutrality Gone and Mergers Galore, It's a New Internet – (Axios – June 13, 2018)
The FCC' has rescinded of net neutrality regulations. And a landmark court decision has approved AT&T's merger with Time Warner, over the arguments of the Department of Justice. Together, these events of the last 48 hours could shape the internet for years to come. They open a path to a network that could be quite different from the freewheeling one you grew up with or first got to know in the 1990s or 2000s. Worst case: In this scenario, the giant companies that supply your internet access (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, et al.) try to outflank the giant companies that provide most of your online content and services (Google, Facebook, Apple et al.) — and consumers lose out. Here's how much will be in the hands of three companies: AT&T will own its own cellular, home broadband and telecommunications services, along with Time Warner and DirecTV; Comcast owns its own cable TV, broadband and fledgling cell service along with NBC Universal; and Verizon owns its own wired and wireless broadband, Fios TV service as well as AOL, Yahoo, HuffPo and other online brands. As New York state attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout tweeted, “Common sense tells you that this degree of concentrated power isn't right. These giant mergers tend to hurt workers and democracy, not just prices — they lessen the control of the little guy.” On the other hand, Daniel Lyons, associate professor at Boston College Law School, made the case that most vertical mergers are pro-competitive. "AT&T told a compelling story about the need to integrate to fend off upstarts like Amazon and Netflix, which are themselves vertically integrated content providers," he said.



TRANSPORTATION

Uber Applies for Patent to Spot Drunk Passengers – (BBC News – June 12, 2018)
Uber has applied for a patent to use artificial intelligence to determine how drunk potential passengers might be. The app used to summon rides could also feed other information to the driver, including a passenger's location, how accurately they are typing and even the angle they are holding their phone at. According to the application to the US patent office, the system would spot "uncharacteristic user activity". It could help drivers who do not want to pick up inebriated riders. But critics expressed concern that an app that could predict user behavior could be used by drivers wishing to prey on vulnerable passengers. CNN reported that more than 100 Uber drivers in the US had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the past four years, with 31 drivers convicted of crimes including false imprisonment and rape.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Anyone Fancy a Nice Glass of Cockroach Milk? – (Guardian – May 28, 2018)
Cockroaches are the latest fad in the superfoods craze. So-called cockroach milk – or post-natal fluid – is secreted from the critter in the form of crystals to nourish its 50 or so hatchlings – and humans could enjoy this nourishment too, according to researchers from the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India, who claim that the “milk” derived from the crystals boasts many nutritional benefits. This “milk” actually comes from a specific type of cockroach that can be found in Hawaii – the Pacific beetle cockroach – which, compared to other cockroach species that lay eggs, actually gives birth to live young. “The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the main researchers. This non-dairy alternative is said to taste rather like cow’s milk, but, given that a cockroach is significantly smaller than your average cow, it would take an army of the insects to make up one glass of milk. Also, according to the science news website Inverse, the cockroaches die in the process of extracting the fluid, thus making the whole enterprise “neither feasible or efficient”. The mass-market viability of insect products hasn’t stopped companies such as Gourmet Grubb from making imitation ice-cream with “entomilk” – a non-dairy milk made from sustainably farmed insects. The company says that entomilk is rich in protein content, as well as iron, zinc and calcium.

KFC Will Experiment with Faux-meat Fried Chicken in Britain – (Washington Post – June 6, 2018)
KFC in Britain is experimenting with a vegetarian version of the founder’s famous fried chicken. As part of a countrywide campaign to slim down, KFC UK is heeding the new guidelines issued by Public Health England, which recommends that British adults consume only 400 calories at breakfast and 600 apiece at lunch and dinner. KFC UK told the Daily Mirror, the British tabloid, that it plans to remove 20 percent of the calories “per serving” — which, remember, may be much smaller than your idea of a serving — by 2025. That’s a year later than PHE’s suggested deadline. The KFC experiment with faux fried chicken may be an earnest attempt to shrink the British waistline, but it also aligns with meatless items recently added to menus at McDonald’s and White Castle, two prime competitors in the fast-food category. Late last year, Mickey D’s introduced the soybean-based McVegan burger to restaurants in Sweden and Finland, and in April, the White Castle chain rolled out a surprisingly meaty slider featuring a plant-based patty from Impossible Foods. In part, these chains are adapting their menus in a simple attempt to attract millennials, the generation that has largely turned up its nose at traditional fast food companies. There’s no word on whether the KFC faux fried chicken, once its recipe is perfected and rolled out in Britain, will jump the pond to the United States. KFC USA did not immediately return a call for comment. A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the McVegan is still only available in Finland and Sweden. She had no information to share on a possible U.S. introduction.






SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Here's How Much Caffeine You Need, and When, for Peak Alertness – (Live Science – June 6, 2018)
A new algorithm, developed by U.S. Army researchers, takes into account people's sleep schedules and identifies how much caffeine they should consume, and when, to achieve optimal alertness. The researchers found that, by using this algorithm, they could improve people's performance on an attention task by up to 64%, even though people were consuming the same total amount of caffeine as they did before. (The algorithm may recommend, for example, a specific amount of caffeine at one time, and then a different amount later in the day.) The study also found that, by following the algorithm's dosing schedule, people could reduce their caffeine consumption by up to 65%, and still achieve the same level of performance. "We developed algorithms that work together, and they essentially allow us to determine, at the individual level, when and how much the individual should take caffeine to achieve peak performance at the desired time, for the desired duration," said study senior author Jaques Reifman, director of the DoD Biotechnology High Performance Computing Software Applications Institute at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The researchers have already used their technology to develop a web-based tool and a smartphone app, called 2B‐Alert, which can predict a person's alertness based on their sleep time and caffeine consumption. The web tool provides a result for the "average Joe," while the smartphone app learns over time how an individual responds to sleep deprivation and caffeine, Reifman said. Currently, the publicly available version of 2B-Alert doesn't tell people when and how much caffeine to take to achieve peak performance. This aspect of the work is still being validated in studies on U.S. soldiers. Article explains how the algorithm was gradually developed.

The Pentagon's $928 Million Hypersonic Weapons Program Is Now Shrouded in Secrecy – (CNBC – June 6, 2018)
As Russia and China continue their march toward fielding hypersonics, the Pentagon and its largest weapons supplier have shared limited details about their own efforts on similar weapons. After securing a $928 million U.S. Air Force contract to build an undefined number of hypersonic conventional strike weapons, a Lockheed Martin representative noted that the company will "not be able to host any interviews on this program" due to its sensitive nature. Multiple U.S. intelligence reports assess that Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle called Avangard, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020. The hypersonic weapon is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, is designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. Once launched, it uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere. Sources previously said Russia successfully tested the weapon twice in 2016. The third known test of the device was carried out in October 2017 and resulted in a failure when the platform crashed seconds before striking its target. Russia is expected to test its hypersonic glide vehicle again this summer.




TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

ICE Is Sending a Message to the World’s Asylum Seekers: The US Is No Place of Refuge – (The Nation – May 29, 2018)
By all national and international legal standards, seeking asylum is a lawful act, and asylum seekers should not be punished or detained for doing so. According to an analysis conducted by Yale Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, “administrative detention of asylum seekers beyond the time necessary to establish identity is an impermissible penalty under the Refugee Convention, except in the rare situations in which there are compelling reasons of safety or flight risk.” US regulations stipulate that asylum seekers can be paroled out of detention after passing a Credible Fear Interview if they “present neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding,” according to a 2009 ICE directive, which is still in effect. However, tens of thousands of asylum seekers, while checking neither of those boxes, languish in detention. In March the ACLU and others filed a federal lawsuit challenging the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers, asking the government to follow its own established policy guidelines. From February to September of 2017, 96% of asylum seekers at five ICE field offices, according to the lawsuit, were denied parole to let them make their case outside of detention. (Asylum seekers in detention are much less likely to secure attorneys, which translates to a vertiginous decline in asylum-grant rates.) In the El Paso sector during the same time period, 349 requests for release from detention were made, and all 349 of them were denied. Michael Tan, an ACLU attorney with the Immigrants’ Rights Project, described the “sweeping crackdown on parole” as a “mass deterrence policy.” On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration would separate asylum-seeking parents apprehended while crossing the border from their children. This was, in effect, a “formalizing of the zero-tolerance policy” that has been in place for months, according to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project. In April, The New York Times documented over 700 cases of children being separated from their parents. More recently, in just a 13-day span this month, 658 minor children were separated from their parents after they had crossed the border together. Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s inference in his announcement of the policy that only families crossing the border would face separation, even asylum-seeking family members presenting at a Port of Entry have been separated from one another.




GLOBAL RELATIONS

Why Canadian Milk Infuriates Donald Trump – (Guardian – June 10, 2018)
Trump has attacked Canada’s protected dairy industry before, calling it a “disgrace” and blaming it for widespread hardship among US farmers. Although the entire trade in dairy products between the two countries is worth less than US$600m, ideological division has sharpened the ongoing dispute. His negotiators have demanded the dismantlement of Canada’s openly dirigiste system of supply management in agriculture – a complicated nexus of production quotas and import tariffs designed to ensure Canadian dairy, egg and poultry farmers receive fair prices for their products. The dispute has acquired new urgency as the US dairy industry continues to suffer from a deep crisis of persistent overproduction, with farmers sinking into insolvency as farm-gate milk prices stick stubbornly below the cost of production. Last year, US farmers dumped almost 100m gallons of surplus milk. Recently, a surge in dairy-farmer suicides has caused national alarm, drawing attention to what the New York Times called “the widespread hopelessness afflicting the industry”. Meanwhile, just across the St Lawrence river in what free-trading Americans like to call Soviet Canuckistan, the dairy industry is thriving like never before – and like none other in the developed world. Family farms milking an average of 80 cows each have prospered under a heavily regulated system that supports prices at sustainable levels by restricting domestic overproduction and keeping imports at bay. In 2016, Canadian farmers received an average price of C$0.79 a liter for milk, compared with C$0.49 on average for US farmers. Supply management enjoys strong government support in no small part because the policy obviates the need to subsidize farmers directly in the manner of the US and the EU – the two greatest culprits behind the current world dairy glut. Supply management enjoys strong government support in no small part because the policy obviates the need to subsidize farmers directly in the manner of the US and the EU – the two greatest culprits behind the current world dairy glut. As the trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, has pointed out, trade data flatly contradicts the claim that Canadian supply management is ravaging US dairyland – either because it unfairly restricts imports or because it dumps a subsidized surplus in US markets. In 2016, Canada imported dairy products from the US worth five times more than the small amount it exported there. As a recent visitor to Wisconsin, “America’s Dairyland”, where low prices are forcing the closure of hundreds of dairy farms a year, Muirhead said he encountered no resentment against Canada among local farmers. “The president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union told me that what they really wanted was a supply-managed system like ours,” he said. Dairy deregulation has spread hardship wherever it has been implemented, Muirhead added. “Every single objective indicator says that in the case of dairy you cannot have a system that operates without production controls,” he said. “If you try, you’re basically consigning your farmers to a life of penury – or worse.”

Five Amusing Myths about the Iran Controversy – (Imaginative Conservative – May 13, 2018)
Not amusing at all really, but worth consideration. 1. Iran is the Leading State Sponsor of Terrorism. Mr. Trump was more lucid and forthright before becoming President when he bluntly wrote that Saudi Arabia is the “biggest funder” of terrorism. But now that Israel and Saudi Arabia have formed a temporary alliance of convenience against Iran, President Trump is willing to ignore his better instinct about our ally Saudi Arabia. Iran has never attacked the American homeland and was among the first countries to condemn the attacks of September 11. Without exception, every Islamic terrorist attack in the United States has been perpetrated by Sunni extremists who have been indoctrinated by the intolerant, anti-Western Wahhabi sect funded by the Saudi regime. From well before 9/11 and up to the present day, Saudi-taught and Saudi-inspired terrorists have remained the greatest threat to the United States. As with any myth, there is always a kernel of truth and it is undeniable that Iran has sponsored attacks on U.S. interests overseas—but only when it perceived them as legitimate responses to military aggression. The most obvious example of this was the 1983 suicide bombing of our Marine barracks in Lebanon in which 241 of our Marines lost their lives. While that attack was deplorable, what is usually left out of the narrative about that attack was that the United States was initially viewed by all sides as neutral, but eventually the White House chose sides in the ongoing civil war in Lebanon—never a good idea in any civil war—and started shelling Shi’a villages. Moreover, if we consider which state sponsor of terrorism is responsible for the most American deaths overseas, again Iran falls short. That label is more appropriately awarded to our other longtime ally Pakistan, which has funded and protected the Taliban and the Haqqani network who have killed or wounded thousands of Americans in Afghanistan. Followed by four more highly questionable “myths”.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

In Case You Are Wondering, Sex with Robots May Not Be Healthy – (Forbes – June 5, 2018)
Want to have sex with no strings attached? How about sex with wires attached (or at least wires involved)? Sex robots (or so-called sexbots) are not just coming, they are already here. But is this a good or a bad thing, asks a new editorial in BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, entitled "I, Sex Robot: the health implications of the sex robot industry". For the editorial, Chantal Cox-George from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Susan Bewley from King’s College London, both in the United Kingdom, reviewed the current scientific evidence behind the use of sexbots. Last September, Rhian Morgan, writing for Metro, covered 5 sexbots that are already on the market. These include Roxxxy, which can connect to WiFi and send you emails, just in case you don't already receive enough emails, and Harmony, which has parts that you can put through the dishwasher, because you don't want your sexbot to be dirty in that way. There's also Samantha, equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) that allows the robot to respond to kisses and orgasm. Morgan also mentioned a sexbot dating agency, called Lumidolls, which allows you to rent a sex robot for an hour or more, depending on your wallet. Article includes an embedded link to a National Geographic segment, in which television journalist Katie Couric meets Harmony. So far, the only sexbots on the market are female. However, male ones are apparently on their way later this year. The Third International Conference on Love and Sex with Robots already occurred on December 2017, in London, UK. Springer published the proceedings from this conference which include a paper by Rebekah Rousi entitled "Lying Cheating Robots – Robots and Infidelity." The future will likely bring a whole new line of products, services, and, of course, middle people such as sexbot counselors. After all, what could be more soul crushing than your sexbot cheating on you or saying, "not tonight I have a headache"? The article goes on to address the question implicitly posed by the title. However, many questions remain. Is a sexbot a medical device? How will sexbots be evaluated for safety? How will sexbot claims be vetted? What are the potential risks? What happens if a sexbot gets a virus (the computer kind) and starts physically harming you or calling you really bad names (if you are not into that sort of thing)?

These Towns Are Trying Out a Basic-Income Scheme and It’s Already Changing Lives – (Huffington Post – May 6, 2108)
Ontario’s basic income program, launched in April 2017, is currently operating in three towns ― Thunder Bay, Lindsay and Hamilton. The scheme has enrolled more than 4,000 low-income people living on less than CA$34,000 ($29,500) individually, or CA$48,000 as a couple. This includes those who are working, in school or living on financial assistance. For three years, single participants will receive up to CA$17,000 a year and couples will receive up to CA$24,000. Those earning any money will see their basic income amounts reduced by 50 cents for every dollar they make. Participants with disabilities are eligible for another CA$6,000 annually ― although they do need to wave goodbye to state disability support, which can work out to more money. A third-party research team will evaluate the effects on people’s physical and mental health, food security, stress and anxiety, housing stability, education and employment. Their responses will be compared against a control group — low-income participants who won’t receive the basic income but will fill out surveys about their life and well-being. if the basic income has any chance of widespread adoption in Canada, it will have to overcome bipartisan political opposition. But the biggest issue with a universal basic income is cost. Ontario’s government is nowhere near estimating what a provincewide scheme would cost, but in April the Canadian Parliament’s budget watchdog estimated that if Ontario’s scheme went nationwide, it would cost CA$43 billion a year. Proponents of the basic income say that what these studies fail to take into account are the savings government would see in other areas from a reduction in poverty. “Poverty is the greatest predictor of hospitalization and health problems,” Segal says. He points to research by University of Manitoba professor Evelyn Forget, who is credited with rediscovering a long-forgotten basic income experiment in Dauphin, Manitoba, in the 1970s. When the town’s residents were given a “mincome” for three years, use of the publicly funded health insurance system dropped 8%, Forget’s research showed. Given that Canada spent an estimated CA$242 billion on health care costs in 2017, a decrease of 8% nationally would amount to a savings of more than CA$19 billion on health care costs nationally, offsetting nearly half of the estimated cost of a basic income.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Simulated Moon Dust Kills Cells and Alters DNA, Signaling Trouble for Future Lunar Colonists – (GizModo – May 7, 2018)
Astronauts hoping stay on the moon for long-term missions have another reason to worry about moon dust: It could be quite harmful if inhaled, as demonstrated in a new study. We’ve long known that moon dust could cause trouble. During the Apollo missions, astronauts complained of sneezing and watery eyes after tracking dust from their spacesuits back into their ships. Scientists grew both human cells and mouse cells in the lab and exposed both to a simulated lunar dust. In both cases, the moon dust could kill the cell or damage the cells’ DNA. Moon dust isn’t like Earth dust. Without weather or an atmosphere, the lunar soil is dry and potentially electrostatically charged, according to the paper published last month in GeoHealth. And billions of years of bombardment from meteorites and micrometeorites may have pulverized it into teeny pieces. The research is limited since it used mock moon dust, both crushed and uncrushed. And the cells were grown in a culture, rather than inside living creatures. But this work confirms older research that suggests moon dust could be hazardous to health. The simulated dust killed cells and altered DNA, especially right after it had been crushed up into smaller, micrometer-scale pieces. But there were surprises too: The dust’s chemical reactivity, measured in its ability to create reactive oxygen species (a kind of molecule you might call a free radical) had nothing to do with how likely it was to cause damage. Basically, it’s unclear why the dust was harmful—perhaps it had something to do with the shape of the pieces, suggested study author Bruce Demple, a professor at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

Having Sex and Reproducing in Space Come with Serious Scientific and Ethical Problems. We May Need to Create a New Species of Human to Make It Work. – (Business Insider – June 2, 2018)
NASA and other space agencies — as well as individuals like Elon Musk— are actively working towards creating settlements on Mars. But before humans can attempt to establish long-term outposts on Mars or elsewhere in space, we have a lot to consider. Beyond the logistics of space travel, food, water, breathable air, and radiation, there's the question of human reproduction. If humans want to establish a long-term colony on Mars or elsewhere in space, we'll eventually need to be able to have children there. But reproducing in the vastly different Martian environment would be extremely complicated. All of the health effects people experience in space— exposure to radiation and changes in bone, muscle, and bodily fluids — would have effects on a developing fetus or young child. We may someday decide to edit human DNA to give people traits that could help them thrive on Mars. Eventually, that could lead to creating new species of humans. Assuming humans do someday try to reproduce in space, a host of other intriguing questions arise, the biggest of which is: How much we should use technology to transform humans living in space?

Scientists Solve Lunar Mystery with Aid of Missing Moon Tapes – (PhysOrg – June 7, 2018)
After eight years spent recovering lost moon data from the Apollo missions, scientists report in a new study they've solved a decades-old mystery of why the moon's subsurface warmed slightly during the 1970s. Scientists have wondered about the cause of the warming since soon after the Apollo missions started, when astronauts deployed probes on the moon to measure the heat coming from its interior. The lost data tapes recovered by the scientists filled in a record gap during the 1970s and helped the researchers pinpoint the source of the warming as the Apollo astronauts themselves. The astronauts disturbed the moon's surface soil by walking and driving a rover on it. As a result, the moon reflected less of the Sun's light back out to space, which raised the lunar surface temperature by 1-2 degrees Celsius (1.8-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) where it was disturbed. The new findings show it is almost impossible to deploy astronauts or instruments on the moon without disturbing its surface environment, information that could be valuable for future lunar missions, according to the researchers who published a new study detailing the results in the Journal of Geophysical Research. "In the process of installing the instruments you may actually end up disturbing the surface thermal environment of the place where you want to make some measurements," said Seiichi Nagihara, a planetary scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas and lead author of the new study. "That kind of consideration certainly goes in to the designing of the next generation of instruments that will be someday deployed on the moon."



STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

The Largest Health Disparity We Don’t Talk About – (New York Times – May 30, 2018)
Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness — a disparity larger than for race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. It’s a gap, unlike many others, that has been growing, but it receives considerably less academic study or public attention. National conversations about better mental health care tend to follow a mass shooting or the suicide of a celebrity. These discussions obscure a more rampant killer of millions of Americans with mental illness: chronic disease. We may assume that people with mental health problems die of “unnatural causes” like suicide, overdoses and accidents, but they’re much more likely to die of the same things as everyone else: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory problems. For doctors, two related biases are probably at play. The first is therapeutic pessimism. Clinicians, including mental health professionals, often hold gloomy views about whether patients with serious mental illness can get better. This can lead to a resigned passivity, meaning that certain tests and treatments aren’t offered or pursued. As Lisa Rosenbaum, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, writes: “Many of us have internalized the directive to seek a test or procedure only if ‘there’s something you can do about it.’ For mentally ill patients with medical illness, however, this principle often justifies doing nothing.” The second is a concept called diagnostic overshadowing, by which patients’ physical symptoms are attributed to their mental illness. When doctors know a patient has depression, for example, they’re less likely to think her headache or abdominal pain portends a serious illness. In a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Brendan Reilly, a physician at Dartmouth, describes his late brother’s devastating story. Over the course of months, he wrote, countless physicians, hospitals and rehab facilities missed the spinal cord damage that left him quadriplegic — instead variously ascribing his inability to move to his mental illness, his medications or his will. This isn’t an isolated event. Patients with mental illness are much less likely to undergo cardiac catheterization when they show heart attack symptoms. They’re also less likely to get standard diabetes care like blood tests or eye exams, or to be screened and treated for cancer.

A 'Wake-up Call' about What's Killing America's Young People – (CNN – June 1, 2018)
There has been a significant rise in accidental deaths, homicides and suicides among young people across the United States. The total death rate for 10- to 19-year-olds in the United States declined 33% between 1999 and 2013 but then suddenly soared 12% between 2013 and 2016, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rise in deaths is attributable to injury-related deaths, such as traffic accident fatalities, drug overdoses, homicides and suicides, as opposed to illness, such as cancer or heart disease. The new report was based on data from death certificates filed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1999 and 2016. Death certificates are generally completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners and coroners. Motor vehicle traffic fatalities accounted for 62% of these unintentional injury deaths, followed by poisoning (includes drug overdoses) at 16% and drowning at 7%. Those three methods of accidental deaths accounted for 85% of all unintentional injury-related deaths in 2016.

US Suicide Rates Increased More Than 25% Since 1999, CDC Says – (CNN – June 7, 2018)
But it’s not just young people. Suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%, the government report finds. More than half of those who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. “Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it's one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem -- and something that is all around us," Schuchat said. The other two top 10 causes of death that are on the rise are Alzheimer's disease and drug overdoses, she noted. Montana experienced about 29 suicides for every 100,000 people -- the highest in the nation -- compared with about seven people out of every 100,000 in the District of Columbia -- the lowest. As a whole, the nation saw 15 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 in 2016. "The most common method was firearm (roughly 50%), followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning," Schuchat said. "Opioids were present in 31% of individuals who died by poisoning." "Veterans made up about 18% of adult suicides but represent about 8.5% of the US adult population," Schuchat said, noting that not all veterans who died by suicide were recent veterans.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Device Could Make Underwater Objects Appear Invisible to Sonar – (BBC News – May 10, 2018)
It sounds like the type of tech a Bond villain would have, but scientists have developed an acoustic underwater "invisibility cloak". The device makes sound waves scatter around an object making it invisible to sonar detection. When a ship sends out a signal to detect objects in the ocean or to map the sea floor, the signal bounces back in a way that makes it appear as if the cloaked object isn't there at all. Amanda Hanford and her team at Pennsylvania State University in State College designed a 3ft -tall pyramid out of perforated steel plates that could do just that. The smart "metamaterial" they developed for use in the "cloak" forces sound waves to spread their energy around the object, making it undetectable to underwater sensors. Metamaterials are made of composite materials, such as metals or plastics, and have arrangements that give them novel properties.

Humanoid Robot That Can Run and Jump – (Time – may 11, 2018)
Engineering and robotics firm Boston Dynamics has released two new videos showing what their Atlas and SpotMini robots can do. In the first video, the humanoid Atlas robot goes for a swift jog through a yard and even leaps over a log. In the second, the dog-like SpotMini robot climbs up and down stairs. To steer properly, the robot was originally guided by an operator, but now the robot has mapped the area and uses cameras to navigate autonomously.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

The Homecoming of H-1B Rejects Is Turning India into a New Land of Opportunity – (Quartz – June 7, 2018)
A significant amount of highly qualified young talent from India is steadily abandoning the great American dream, thanks to president Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policy. The decision is made easier by the rising entrepreneurial wave in India. The number of US-based Indians seeking jobs back home grew more than 10-fold between December 2016 and March 2017, according to data from consulting firm Deloitte. And it is not just the US making the H-1B visa process very difficult. Countries including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and even Singapore are slowly shutting their doors to immigrant talent. The US loses out: “The bottom line is: If we turn away immigrant entrepreneurs, we lose out on US innovation, job creation, and competitive advantage longer term,” said Kate Mitchell, co-founder and partner at Scale Venture Partners and former chair of the National Venture Capital Association. After all, first-generation immigrants create about 25% of new firms in the US, with the share exceeding 40% in states like California and New York, according to William Kerr of Harvard Business School. And India is gaining: India’s startup ecosystem is currently the world’s third largest in terms of the number of firms, employing around 100,000 people. Slated to remain one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies for the next few years, the country is adding thousands of startups each year, and foreign investing majors like Tiger Global, Softbank, and Alibaba are pumping millions of dollars into the ecosystem.

Why Panera’s Experiment with Pay-what-you-want Dining Failed – (Fast Company – June 8, 2018)
In 2010, Panera’s nonprofit arm launched a new experiment: It opened a cafe in St. Louis that looked exactly like the company’s other restaurants, but customers could pay what they wanted for the items on the menu, or not pay at all. Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder and CEO at the time, had volunteered at food banks and wanted to offer a better experience for people who were struggling to eat. The new nonprofit restaurant, called Panera Cares, was designed to sustain itself by nudging middle-class consumers to pay a little extra for their meals. In January 2018, the St. Louis location closed. A location in Dearborn, Michigan, which also opened in 2010, closed in 2016. Locations in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago also failed. Only one cafe, in Boston, is left. Though the concept was designed to be self-sustaining, the restaurant operated at a loss. Why didn’t the idea work? In Yelp reviews of the cafes, the researchers saw that many consumers didn’t want to eat next to homeless people, and complained about the atmosphere. People who were food insecure also didn’t like it. Though the cafes were intended to provide dignity–people could pay as little as they could afford and weren’t supposed to be questioned about it or made to feel like lesser customers–it didn’t work that way in practice. The company asked customers to limit themselves to one discounted meal a week or to volunteer for an hour at the cafe to make up for a free meal. Conscious capitalism–a philosophy that Shaich and many other business leaders subscribe to–suggests that consumers will do good if given the opportunity. But that’s an unproven theory. Some consumers said they felt pressured into making donations. Others admitted that they used the restaurant to underpay even though they could afford more. Some similar restaurants have survived. SAME (so all may eat) Cafe, in Denver, the nonprofit restaurant that originally inspired Shaich, is still operating. EAT (everyone at the table) Cafe, in Philadelphia, has been serving pay-what-you-wish dinners for last two years. In Spain, guests eating breakfast and lunch at the Robin Hood restaurant foot the bill for others to eat dinner. Karma Kitchen, a volunteer-run project, hosts a series of donation-only meals. One of Panera Cares’ challenges may have been its brand; Shaich wanted to offer the same experience to food insecure guests as others would have at a regular Panera, but the similarity between the cafes made regular customers think that they weren’t getting the experience they expected. Others questioned the restaurant’s motives, asking whether it was a tax haven for Panera or a PR stunt. (Editor’s note: The article never quite says this but a good guess is that indeed the issue was trying to offer two very different restaurant models under one brand and one (too similar) name – customer expectations were not well managed and it was too confusing to everyone. This also suggests things about how to make the general idea work.)



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Don’t Drop the Top – (Green Tree Plastics website – no date)
Sometimes ideas fit together in a way that makes both of them better. The first link (above) is about the Green Tree Plastics Company Plastics in Evansville, IL, a company that transforms plastic lids and bottle caps into park benches. The company even recycles the bags the caps are delivered in as part of the process. "It takes 400 pounds (of caps and tops) for every one bench," Otte said. Now add to that the concept of “Buddy Benches”, a designated bench where a kid can sit during recess to indicate that he or she would like to be included – made from the recycled tops. And voila! Here’s a little history about Buddy Benches and what may have been the first one in the US: Kids don’t have to be lonely at recess anymore thanks to this little boy and his ‘buddy bench’.



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

Every Story in the World Has One of These Six Basic Plots – (BBC News – May 31, 2018)
In a 1995 lecture, novelist Kurt Vonnegut chalked out various story arcs on a blackboard, plotting how the protagonist’s fortunes change over the course of the narrative on an axis stretching from ‘good’ to ‘ill’. The arcs include ‘man in hole’, in which the main character gets into trouble then gets out again (“people love that story, they never get sick of it!”) and ‘boy gets girl’, in which the protagonist finds something wonderful, loses it, then gets it back again at the end. “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers”, he remarked. “They are beautiful shapes.” Thanks to new text-mining techniques, this has now been done. Professor Matthew Jockers at the University of Nebraska, and later researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab, analyzed data from thousands of novels to reveal six basic story types – you could call them archetypes – that form the building blocks for more complex stories. The Vermont researchers describe the six story shapes behind more than 1700 English novels as: 1. Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune, 2. Riches to rags – a fall from good to bad, a tragedy, 3. Icarus – a rise then a fall in fortune, 4. Oedipus – a fall, a rise then a fall again, 5. Cinderella – rise, fall, rise, 6. Man in a hole – fall, rise. The researchers used sentiment analysis to get the data – a statistical technique often used by marketers to analyze social media posts in which each word is allocated a particular ‘sentiment score’, based on crowdsourced data. Depending on the lexicon chosen, a word can be categorized as positive (happy) or negative (sad), or it can be associated with one or more of eight more subtle emotions, including fear, joy, surprise and anticipation. Do sentiment analysis on all the words in a novel, poem or play and plot the results against time, and it’s possible to see how the mood changes over the course of the text, revealing a kind of emotional narrative. While not a perfect tool – it looks at words in isolation, ignoring context – it can be surprisingly insightful when applied to larger chunks of text. The tools to do sentiment analysis are freely available, and much out-of-copyright literature can be downloaded from online repository Project Gutenberg. The BBC looked at some of the best-loved tales to try and find the six story types. The shortest story of them all, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling also happens to have the most complex structure.



JUST FOR FUN

Millennials Show Us What ‘Old’ Looks Like – (YouTube – April 8, 2016)
We all have notions as to how old “old” is and what it looks like. And a lot of those ideas are tired old stereotypes. Here’s a new look at “old” and a demonstration of just how well ideas can match and/or widely diverge from reality.



A FINAL QUOTE

Too often we forget that genius, too, depends upon the data within its reach, that even Archimedes could not have devised Edison's inventions. – Ernest Dimnet



A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Humera Khan, Diane Petersen, Robert Steele, 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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