FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- Science has outgrown the human mind and its capacities to process information.
- The universe's expansion rate is different depending on where you look.
- 'Five-dimensional' glass discs can store data for up to 13.8 billion years.
- If we’re going to Mars, we’ll have to figure out how to create a net-zero trash world.
by John L. Petersen
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks
Join us September 15-16 in Berkeley Springs
NYT best-selling author Dr. Bruce Lipton is coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 15th and 16th of September. It will be an event that should not be missed.
One of the most insightful and exciting communicators in the world about the previously unknown role the brain and consciousness play in producing health and wellbeing, Lipton will be giving a full two-day long series of presentations on how you can change your future by changing your mind.
The venue is relatively small, so only 200 fortunate individuals will participate in this relatively intimate affair. The interest in Dr. Lipton’s presentations is so great that already one-fifth of the available tickets have been spoken for.
I was with Bruce two weeks ago in British Colombia and he was very much looking forward to being with us. Here’s a quick report.
For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with Dr. Lipton’s work, this short taste highlights some of his groundbreaking ideas.
This is a special opportunity that seldom is available in small, resort communities like Berkeley Springs, so we are very much looking forward to having Bruce with us.
You can get complete information on this event at TransitionTalks.org.. There is complete information on local lodging and restaurants at the site as well.
Do come and be with us if you can. It will be a weekend that will not be forgotten.
PostScript Interview with Penny Kelly
In June, Transition Talks featured Penny Kelly, author, teacher, speaker, publisher, personal/spiritual consultant, and Naturopathic physician. For those who missed her talk, check out these video interviews:
Here’s the Key to the Future of Work – (Fast Company – January 29, 2018)
The AEI is a standardized test, implemented 10 years ago, in 2035, to replace the SAT. It has become a globally accepted metric for aptitude and projected performance in the modern workplace. Colloquially called “the Qs,” the AEI tests three variables: Adaptability quotient (AQ); Emotional quotient (EQ); and Intellectual quotient (IQ). While each “Q” matters, the AEI weights AQ the most. Strong scores in adaptability mean that you’re eligible for the “salaried track,” which leads to a three-year contract with an employer that commits significant sums toward your retraining every one to six months. With lower scores, you must rely on the “gig track,” which can mean more flexibility and higher near-term rewards, but only short-duration contracts and no supported retraining. There is no inherent safety net if you bet too long on the wrong gigs in dying industries instead of continually refocusing on emergent needs. Welcome to the future. In the late 1990s, we witnessed an emotional intelligence boom, with scholars and psychologists led by Daniel Goleman arguing that we’d been over-indexing on IQ instead of prioritizing the “people side” of smart. In business, the concept of EQ was course altering, taking even Goleman by surprise, “particularly in the areas of leadership and employee development,” as he reflected in 2012. But while EQ is important, it’s only one leg of the stool. I subscribe to psychologist Carol Dweck’s “growth mind-set”: IQ and EQ aren’t fixed properties but can be developed through dedication and hard work. I believe AQ works similarly: Some of us are born with more potential to adapt, but each of us can get better at it over time. We all have that friend who loathes change and another who thrives on new experiences. We’re already aware that AQ exists and varies from person to person, but we’re not talking about it enough–and don’t have a compelling way to test or improve it. To help fix that, it’s worth looking at a few examples of how AQ plays out at societal, organizational, and individual levels.
Science Has Outgrown the Human Mind and Its Limited Capacities to Process Information – (AlterNet – July 6, 2018)
Science is in the midst of a data crisis. Last year, there were more than 1.2 million new papers published in the biomedical sciences alone, bringing the total number of peer-reviewed biomedical papers to over 26 million. However, the average scientist reads only about 250 papers a year. Meanwhile, the quality of the scientific literature has been in decline. Some recent studies found that the majority of biomedical papers whose results were irreproducible. The twin challenges of too much quantity and too little quality are rooted in the finite neurological capacity of the human mind. Scientists are deriving hypotheses from a smaller and smaller fraction of our collective knowledge and consequently, more and more, asking the wrong questions, or asking ones that have already been answered. One promising strategy to overcome the current crisis is to integrate machines and artificial intelligence in the scientific process. Machines have greater memory and higher computational capacity than the human brain. Automation of the scientific process could greatly increase the rate of discovery. It could even begin another scientific revolution. That possibility hinges on one question: Can scientific discovery really be automated? This article suggests that the answer to that question is “yes” and proposes ways in which it might be accomplished.
Earth's Oldest Color Dates Back More Than 1 Billion Years – (Live Science – July 10, 2018)
Bright pink is the world's oldest-known color, according to new research. Researchers extracted the pigment from bacteria fossils preserved in rocks under the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, West Africa. Inside those teensy bacteria, the scientists found chlorophyll — a pigment used today by plants for photosynthesis — dating back to about 1.1 billion years ago. That's about 600 million years older than similar chlorophyll fossils found previously, scientists reported in the new study. Chlorophyll is what gives modern plants their green color, though the fossilized chlorophyll in the cyanobacteria samples was dark red and deep purple in its concentrated form, the scientists reported. When they pulverized the fossils to analyze the bacteria molecules, the researchers distilled the colors to find a brilliant pink. This colorful remnant suggests that ancient sunlight-eating organisms cast a pink tint to a long-gone ocean, said lead study author Nur Gueneli, of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU). Chlorophyll this ancient is preserved only under exceptional circumstances, study co-author Jochen Brocks, an associate professor with ANU's Research School of Earth Sciences, told Live Science in an email. First, dead organic matter — a bloom of cyanobacteria, for example — sinks quickly onto the seafloor. Once there, it must be isolated from any exposure to oxygen, which spurs decay, and then the rock that holds the material has to remain in one piece for a billion years, Brocks said. Even algae, one of the most ancient forms of life, was absent or scarce at the time of these chlorophyll-swallowing bacteria, the researchers wrote in the study. Try to imagine the Earth’s oceans all being pink.
'Ghost Particle' Found in Antarctica Provides Astronomy Breakthrough – (CNN – July 12, 2018)
For the first time, scientists have been able to trace the origins of a ghostly subatomic particle that traveled 3.7 billion light-years to Earth. The tiny, high-energy cosmic particle is called a neutrino, and it was found by sensors deep in the Antarctic ice in the IceCube detector. Neutrinos are referred to as ghostly because they are extremely volatile, or vaporous, particles that can pass through any kind of matter without changing. They have almost no mass. They can travel through the most extreme environments, like stars, planets and entire galaxies, and remain the same. Before the new studies, only two sources had been found: the sun and a supernova. Cosmic rays, discovered in 1912 by physicist Victor Hess, are the most highly energetic particles in the universe, bombarding Earth from space. But these rays have puzzled scientists ever since their discovery. Where do they come from, and what creates and launches them? Neutrinos can help answer that question, because they carry unique information about where they were created. Scientists and observatories around the world were able to trace the neutrino to a galaxy with a supermassive, rapidly spinning black hole at its center, known as a blazar. The galaxy sits to the left of Orion's shoulder in his constellation and is about 4 billion light-years from Earth. Scientists say the discovery heralds a new era of space research, allowing the use of these particles to study and observe the universe in an unprecedented way. And the finding suggests that scientists will be able to track the origin of mysterious cosmic rays for the first time. Doug Cowen, a founding member of the IceCube collaboration and Penn State University professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics, said, "For 20 years, one of our dreams as a collaboration was to identify the sources of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, and it looks like we've finally done it!" A combination of observations and data across the electromagnetic spectrum, provided by observatories on Earth and in space, makes this a prime example of how "multimessenger" astronomy is helping make discoveries possible.
Universe's Expansion Rate Is Different Depending on Where You Look – (Space.com – July 13, 2018)
The universe's rate of expansion keeps getting stranger. New data continues to show a discrepancy in how fast the universe expands in nearby realms and more distant locations. The study's researchers said this "tension" could mean we need to revise our understanding of the physics structuring the universe, which could include exotic elements such as dark matter and dark energy. New measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gaia space telescope together showed that the rate of expansion nearby is 73.5 kilometers (45.6 miles) per second per megaparsec. This means that for every 3.3 million light-years a galaxy is farther away from Earth, it appears to move 73.5 kilometers per second faster. But the more distant background universe, according to previous measurements from the Planck telescope, is moving somewhat slower at 67 kilometers (41.6 miles) per second per megaparsec. In fact, the discrepancy between the two measurements keeps getting wider as the researchers refine their work. The new data shows a wider gap between the measurements that is about four times the size of their combined uncertainty — a value that reflects their level of confidence in the results — team members said in a statement. "At this point, clearly it's not simply some gross error in any one measurement," lead author Adam Riess, a senior member of the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which manages Hubble operations, said in the statement. "It's as though you predicted how tall a child would become from a growth chart, and then found the adult he or she became greatly exceeded the prediction. We are very perplexed," added Riess, who is also an astronomy and physics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Mysterious Light Seen around a Newly Forming Star; Here’s What Astronomers Think It Means – (Medium – May 18, 2018)
Looking at a protoplanetary disk around a young star holds the key to discovering how planets are formed. 600 light years away, the star CS Cha, in the small southern constellation of Chamaeleon, is a low-mass, binary star system in the process of forming. While looking for planets, scientists stumbled on something they’d never seen before. We’re still investigating, but it may turn out to be that we’re witnessing the birth of a brown dwarf: a failed star. Wherever you have a molecular cloud of gas that’s massive enough, you have the potential to form a new star. If that cloud gets cool enough, it’ll start to collapse, with the largest initial imperfections attracting the most matter. CS Cha is one such newborn system, where the center region consists of a binary star system that’s in the process of forming. Surrounding the stars is a dusty disk: exactly what we’d expect for a newly-forming star system. Using the SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers measured the system, its disk, and the surroundings in great detail. They were searching for new planets in general, but what they found appears to be even better than a newborn planet.
World's First 3D Color X-Rays of Human Body Produced Using CERN Technology – (Interesting Engineering – July 13, 2018)
A new bioimaging technique using a sensor chip developed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN has resulted in the creation of a scanner that can produce 3D color X-rays of the human body. These new images have the ability to clearly show the details of a patient's bones, lipids and soft tissue as well as other elements such as disease markers. The X-rays have the potential to allow doctors in the future to detect health conditions along with bone damage. The system relies on CERN's Medipix technology, considered to be the most advanced chip today capable of detecting each individual particle hitting a pixel. “This technology sets the machine apart diagnostically because its small pixels and accurate energy resolution mean that this new imaging tool is able to get images that no other imaging tool can achieve," explained Phil Butler in the CERN statement. The machine works by combining spectroscopic information acquired by the Medipix3 enabled detector with algorithms set to generate 3D color images. The detector identifies the different energy levels of each element in the human body and the machine translates that information visually into different colors.
Neanderthal ‘Minibrains’ Grown in Dish – (ScienceMag – June 20, 2018)
Until now, researchers wanting to understand the Neanderthal brain and how it differed from our own had to study a void. The best insights into the neurology of our mysterious, extinct relatives came from analyzing the shape and volume of the spaces inside their fossilized skulls. But a recent marriage of three hot fields—ancient DNA, the genome editor CRISPR, and "organoids" built from stem cells—offers a provocative, if very preliminary, new option. At least two research teams are engineering stem cells to include Neanderthal genes and growing them into "minibrains" that reflect the influence of that ancient DNA. Alysson Muotri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, and his team have coaxed stem cells endowed with Neanderthal DNA into pea-size masses that mimic the cortex, the outer layer of real brains. Compared with cortical minibrains made with typical human cells, the Neanderthal organoids have a different shape and differences in their neuronal networks, including some that may have influenced the species's ability to socialize. "We're trying to recreate Neanderthal minds," Muotri says. Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, expects the work to draw skepticism because it's so difficult to figure out which genetic differences are “functionally relevant,” and the organoids only represent the early stage of brain development. “Organoids are far from being able to tell us how adult brains function,” says Pääbo, who led the team that deciphered the Neanderthal genome by rescuing DNA from their bones. His group has also started to make organoids with Neanderthal brain genes, but he stresses that the technique can introduce unintended mutations. Muotri has developed the modern human brain organoids to the stage where his team can detect oscillating electrical signals within the balls of tissue. They are now wiring the organoids to robots that resemble crabs, hoping the organoids will learn to control the robots' movements. Ultimately, Muotri wants to pit them against robots run by brain Neanderoids.
Swift Gene-Editing Method May Revolutionize Treatments for Cancer and Infectious Diseases – (New York Times – July 11, 2018)
For the first time, scientists have found a way to efficiently and precisely remove genes from white blood cells of the immune system and to insert beneficial replacements, all in far less time than it normally takes to edit genes. If the technique can be replicated in other labs, experts said, it may open up profound new possibilities for treating an array of diseases, including cancer, infections like H.I.V. and autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Because the technique is so new, no patients have yet been treated with white blood cells engineered with it. “The proof will be when this technology is used to develop a new therapeutic product,” cautioned Dr. Marcela Maus, director of cellular immunotherapy at Massachusetts General Hospital. That test may not be far away. The researchers have already used the method in the laboratory to alter the abnormal immune cells of children with a rare genetic condition. They plan to return the altered cells to the children in an effort to cure them. Currently, scientists attempting to edit the genome often must rely on modified viruses to slice open DNA in a cell and to deliver new genes into the cell. The method is time-consuming and difficult, limiting its use. Patients with a few rare blood cancers can be treated with engineered white blood cells — the immune system’s T-cells — that go directly to the tumors and kill them. This type of treatment with engineered white cells, called immunotherapy, has been limited because of the difficulty of making viruses to carry the genetic material and the time needed to create them. But researchers now say they have a found a way to use electrical fields, not viruses, to deliver both gene-editing tools and new genetic material into the cell. By speeding the process, in theory a treatment could be available to patients with almost any type of cancer. “What takes months or even a year may now take a couple weeks using this new technology,” said Fred Ramsdell, vice president of research at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco.
The Surgical Glue That Can Repair an Injury in 60 Seconds – (Forbes – October 8, 2017)
Repairing an injury to a blood vessel or an organ after traumatic internal injury, especially involving the lung, is typically done by sutures, stapling devices or electrocautery with specialized surgical instruments. Time is of the essence as patients can rapidly lose large amounts of blood, predisposing them to shock, which places organs at risk for viability as time goes on. Now, one research group may have solved the problem with development of a new tissue glue derived from proteins naturally present in the human body--offering hope that one day this approach could be utilized as an intraoperative tool, on the battlefield, as well as in emergency departments. Part of what makes the discovery such a breakthrough is that it is biocompatible, made from a highly elastic hydrogel sealant derived from a human protein which has been configured to react to ultraviolet (UV) light. Referred to as “MeTro”, (methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin), it is a protein derived from the elastic fibers that make up human tissue. The researchers have used MeTro in trials involving rats and pigs, successfully using the compound to seal surgical incisions in blood vessels. When researchers applied the glue to a wound and then placed it under UV light, the wounds sealed in 60 seconds, without rupture or leaking around the area of injury. The glue was effective in sealing wounds without interfering with the natural motion of the lungs (inflation and deflation) or the skin after its application, according to the findings of the study. The gel is not yet ready for prime time, but will be a serious contender if future testing in humans is successful.
Chile to Become First Country in the Americas to Ban Plastic Bags – (EcoWatch – May 31, 2018)
Chile is set to become the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags to help protect the environment and especially the ocean. Congress unanimously approved the measure. The bill was initially designed to outlaw plastic bags in Patagonia, but was later extended nationwide. The law will apply to all major retailers within a year, while smaller businesses have two years to comply, The Santiago Times reported. Before entering into force, all retailers are allowed to provide a maximum of only two plastic bags to consumers for their purchases. The Environment Ministry's website shows that Congress members have worked on this initiative for about a decade. The vast majority (about 95%) of surveyed Chileans across all age groups approved of the plastic bag ban. According to the (Chilean) Association of Plastic Manufacturers, Chile uses more than 3.4 billon plastic bags annually, or roughly 200 bags per person per year. About 97% of those plastic bags end up in landfills or in oceans, where they take centuries to degrade.
Indonesian Study into Health Risks of Microplastics – (BBC News – May 8, 2018)
Indonesian scientists have launched the largest ever study into whether tiny plastic particles can affect human health. They are investigating the presence of plastic in seafood while also tracking the diets of 2,000 people. There is no evidence yet that ingesting small pieces of plastic is harmful but potential impacts cannot be ruled out. Plastic pollution has become so severe in Indonesia that the army has been called in to help. While public attention is focused on larger items like bags and bottles choking rivers and canals, there is emerging scientific concern over the long-term implications of smaller and less visible pieces known as microplastics. The project is being undertaken in Semarang, an industrial port city of 1.7 million people, on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Java. Led by food technologist Inneke Hantoro, the aim is to understand how much plastic is contained in seafood, how much of it people eat and whether a safe level of consumption can be devised. Her initiative is a response to US plastics researcher Jenna Jambeck and colleagues concluding that Indonesia was the world's second largest contributor of plastic waste to the oceans after China.
530 Free Online Programming & Computer Science Courses – (FreeCodeCamp – April 30, 2018)
Six years ago, universities like MIT and Stanford first opened up free online courses to the public. Today, more than 800 schools around the world have created thousands of free online courses. The author of this article has compiled a list of 530 such free online courses For this, he leveraged Class Central’s database of around 10,000 courses. The article includes each course’s average rating. Many of these courses are completely self-paced. Courses into the following categories based on their difficulty level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
'Five-dimensional' Glass Discs Can Store Data for Up to 13.8 Billion Years – (The Verge – February 16, 2016)
Photographs fade, books rot, and even hard drives eventually fester. When you take the long view, preserving humanity's collective culture isn't a marathon, it's a relay — with successive generations passing on information from one slowly-failing storage medium to the next. However, this could change. Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK have created a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures in glass. A standard-sized disc can store around 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at temperatures of 190°C. That's as old as the Universe, and more than three times the age of the Earth. The method is called five-dimensional data storage, and was first demonstrated in a paper in 2013. Since then, the scientists behind it say they've more or less perfected their technique, and are now looking to move the technology forward and perhaps even commercialize it. To understand why these discs can store so much information for such a long time, it's best to compare them to a regular CD. Data is read from a normal CD by shining a laser at a tiny line with bumps in it. Whenever the laser hits a bump. it's reflected back and recorded as a 1; whenever there's no bump, it's recorded as a 0. These are just two "dimensions" of information — on or off — but from them, CDs can store anything: music, books, images, videos, or software. But because this bumpy line is stored on the surface of the CD, it's vulnerable. 5D discs, by comparison, store information within their interior using tiny physical structures known as "nanogratings." Much like those bumpy lines in the CDs, these change how light is reflected, but instead of doing so in just two "dimensions," the reflected light encodes five — hence the name. The changes to the light can be read to obtain pieces of information about the nanograting's orientation, the strength of the light it refracts, and its location in space on the x, y, and z axes. These extra dimensions are why 5D discs can store data so densely compared to regular optical discs.
Inside China's Incredible 'Fake Cities': Replicas of the World's Greatest Landmarks – (Newsweek – July 12, 2018)
In China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang sits a 354-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower surrounded by 12 square miles of Parisian-style buildings, fountains and landscaping. Tianducheng—also known as “Sky City”—opened its doors to the public as a luxury housing estate in 2007 with capacity to accommodate more than 10,000 residents. But it remained largely unoccupied as Chinese citizens’ rejected its bizarre theme and undesirable location. In 2013, a video surfaced showing the town’s long-empty boulevards and Eiffel Tower overgrown with weeds. As the Chinese economy began to boom in the 1990s, duplicating Western architecture became a fad, as citizens increasingly wanted homes that conveyed success and wealth on a global scale. Starting in the early 2000s, “fake” cities and knockoff global cultural landmarks have sprung up in all corners of the country. In Hebei, two hours north of Beijing, lies a version of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, eerily similar to the American West. The resort town—where wealthy Chinese city inhabitants go for vacation—has a town square, cowboys, a church and Route 66 running through it. Thames Town in the Songjiang District of Shanghai looks like a caricature of London's boroughs. Its rowhouse streets are paved with cobblestone, and have red telephone booths, cathedrals, guards dressed in British uniforms and a statue of Winston Churchill. In recent years, Beijing’s attempts to limit the spread of these “weird, oversized and xenocentric” architectures have been in vain. In 2016, China’s State Council released a document that required all new buildings to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” President Xi Jinping, who initially called for the end of “weird architecture,” spearheaded the directive after the rapid expansion of Chinese cities and increased urbanization resulted in a surge of strange buildings, including doughnut-shaped skyscrapers and a phallic-shaped high rise. The order also banned gated communities and nonpermitted developments.
Now You Can 3D Print an Entire Bike Frame – (Fast Company – June 12, 2018)
In a workshop in Silicon Valley, the startup Arevo is 3D printing samples of its first generation of bikes. A custom robot prints the company’s carbon fiber-embedded material using a process that can print in all dimensions, rather than just building layers like a standard 3D-printer–making it strong enough to print large objects like bikes or parts of an airplane. (The company plans to make a variety of industrial components, but chose to start with bikes to demonstrate its technology.) Since the robot does all the work, there are no labor costs, it’s feasible to manufacture in the U.S. or Europe and avoid the carbon footprint of shipping bike componets across the ocean. The manufacturing process also has a lower environmental footprint. Right now, most carbon fiber bikes are made in a high-energy process that involves baking the frame in a huge oven for hours or days. “There’s a number of problems with that,” says Arevo CEO Jim Miller. “It’s costly to do. It’s very energy intensive. It is incredibly environmentally unfriendly. If you see any composite today, whether it’s on a car or an airplane or a bike, there’s no way to recycle that. They basically put it in a landfill.” The new material, a thermoplastic embedded with carbon fiber, is durable enough that the company says the bike may last longer than usual, also helping reduce its environmental impact (the material is five times stronger than titanium, and a third of the weight). When the bike reaches the end of its life, the material can be reused. “You basically grind [it] up, and you can use that to reprint something else,” says Miller.
From Brewery to Bakery: A Flour That Fights Waste – (New York Times – June 25, 2018)
For some people, beer is the perfect end to a workday. For Bertha Jimenez, it’s the start of a new way to eliminate food waste. Brewing relies on grains, typically malted barley, which are first soaked in hot water. This step releases sugars that are crucial to the later production of alcohol. Once those sugars are released into the liquid, the grain is discarded – millions of pounds of used grain, every day that could have other uses. While some is repurposed as animal feed, compostable products or heating fuel, little has been exploited for its value as food. But Ms. Jimenez, 35, has created a small start-up, Rise Products, that converts the grain into a flour that is finding its way into sustainable bakeries and kitchens in New York and as far away as Italy. The potential for recycling beer waste first came into the cross hairs of Ms. Jimenez, an immigrant from Ecuador, while she was working toward her doctorate in 2015 at the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University. Today, the Rise Products team makes its flour in a commercial kitchen in Long Island City, Queens. The grains are dried in an oven, then ground, milled and sifted into a fine flour — all by hand, which is why it costs $8 a pound wholesale, and $16 retail. The price will drop, the partners say, when they raise more money, move to a bigger space and automate the process. Rise Products makes two kinds of “Super Flour” sourced from craft breweries in New York City. The light flour is made from spent grain used in ale or pilsner production, and the darker brown version comes from porter or stout. Because of the growing interest in reducing waste, many chefs and bakers are already eager to work with what the team is calling its “Super Flour.” Joel Gamoran, the national chef for Sur La Table stores, loved the scent of the Rise flour when he first opened a bag last summer. “It totally has this insane, nutty profile that you don’t get from flour,” he said. Because brewing removes sugars, Rise flour has one-third the carbohydrates of traditional all-purpose flour; because it’s made from barley, it has twice the protein and 12 times the fiber.
Pink Pineapples and Healthy Fries: The New GM Foods Made for You – (New Scientist – May 23, 2018)
From health benefits to increased flavor and longer shelf-life, discover the new generation of GM foods designed with the consumer in mind. The Innate potato is less prone to bruising and consequent black spots. When fried, it also produces less acrylamide, a substance suspected of causing cancer, than conventional spuds do. People with celiac disease could soon have their cake and eat it. At least two groups worldwide are editing out the genes for the gluten proteins that damage the guts of people with this digestive disorder. One GM wheat is undergoing clinical trials in Spain. Pink pineapples are pink because they accumulate lycopene, the pigment that makes tomatoes red, instead of converting it into yellow beta-carotene as normal pineapples do. The US gave the green light for this variety to be eaten in December 2016, but it is yet to go on sale. Lycopene is thought to have various health benefits. The pink pineapples are also said to be sweeter – and add a twist to a pina colada.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
The US Military Released a Study on Warp Drives and Faster-than-light travel. Here's What a Theoretical Physicist Thinks of It. – (Business Insider – May 14, 2018)
Spoiler: Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, said “There's zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes or the next 1,000 years are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that." But the article is still worth reading for two reasons: this is where present-day military thinking is trending and, to quote Arthur C. Clark, “If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong.” Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth. Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the propulsion category, titled "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions." The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or "dark energy," a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.
Documents Show Private Intelligence Web behind Global Surveillance Program – (Truth Dig – June 5, 2018)
Internal documents obtained by the Grayzone Project (and embedded after this article) show how Cambridge Analytica’s UK-based parent company, SCL group, conducted a surveillance operation in Yemen called Project Titania. The initiative relied on psychological profiling, “strategic communications campaigns,” and infiltration of foreign operatives into indigenous communities through unwitting local partners whom they were instructed to deceive. According to the materials detailed here, Project Titania was to be implemented by SCL “on behalf of Archimedes.” Archimedes is a US-based private contractor that advertizes its ability to provide “Systems Integration, Engineering, and Mission Support solutions to government and businesses worldwide.” The partnership between SCL and Archimedes highlights the seamless web of relationships between private intelligence firms and Western governments engaged in counter-intelligence activities in the Middle East. These large scale surveillance operations have been conducted without the knowledge of the Western public or input from elected officials, and would have remained mostly unknown had a series of leaks and hacking operations not placed them in the public domain. In a recent exchange at the US State Department, spokesperson Heather Nauert confirmed that the US government had provided SCL with lucrative contracts to advance its propaganda goals on the international stage. Nauert acknowledged that in late 2016, the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center was granted a $120 million budget to wage war on online ISIS recruitment and Russian “disinformation.” (Editor’s note: This is a relatively complex article that does a good job of connecting the dots between low-profile areas of the corporate world and various government agencies.)
Poland Is on the Verge of Forcing Nearly Half its Supreme Court Judges Out – (Think Progress – July 3, 2018)
Poland is on the verge of removing nearly 40% of its Supreme Court judges, as a new law, which requires judges to retire at the age of 65 and also expands the Supreme Court significantly, is set to comes into force. The law, introduced earlier this year by the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), would not only force the instant dismissal of 27 of the 74 judges, but would also expand the court to 120 judges. In effect, this would give PiS power to reshape two-thirds of the country’s Supreme Court. The Polish government has insisted that its changes seek to reform a corrupt and inefficient system, with judges that date back to the Communist era. Supreme Court judges, however, say that it signals Poland’s slow descent into authoritarianism. The European Union has accused the Polish government of enacting laws that “interfere significantly” in the judiciary, and has given it one month to answer its concerns. The Polish government also plans to introduce a “disciplinary chamber,” which will allow the government to re-open any case in the past 20 years and have it reviewed by new, government-friendly judges. The judicial reforms are just the latest examples of Poland’s worrying slide towards far-right authoritarianism. Under party head Jarosław Kaczyński and Prime Minister Beata Szydło, PiS has moved not only to consolidate control over the judiciary but the media as well. The party also tried to institute a near-total ban on abortion, but that failed after thousands took the streets in opposition — although PiS did curtail access to emergency contraception. The far-right stance of PiS has also made it extremely popular with white supremacists. In November, more than 60,000 people gathered, including racists from Slovakia, Hungary, and Spain, for a far-right march with messages like “Europe Will Be White” and “Clean Blood.”
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Basic Income Could Work—If You Do It Canada-style – (Technology Review – June 20, 2018)
The town of Lindsay, northeast of Toronto, Canada, is at the heart of one of the world’s biggest tests of a guaranteed basic income. In a three-year pilot funded by the provincial government, about 4,000 people in Ontario are getting monthly stipends to boost them to at least 75% of the poverty line. That translates to a minimum annual income of $17,000 in Canadian dollars (about $13,000 US) for single people, $24,000 for married couples. Lindsay has about half the people in the pilot—some 10% of the town’s population. The trial is expected to cost $50 million a year in Canadian dollars; expanding it to all of Canada would cost an estimated $43 billion annually. But Hugh Segal, the conservative former senator who designed the test, thinks it could save the government money in the long run. He expects it to streamline the benefits system, remove rules that discourage people from working, and reduce crime, bad health, and other costly problems that stem from poverty. Such improvements occurred during a basic-income test in Manitoba in the 1970s. People far beyond Canada will be watching closely, too, because a basic income has become Silicon Valley’s favorite answer to the question of how society should deal with the massive automation of jobs. This momentum figures to keep building as AI and robotics make even more inroads. But there’s an important difference between that vision for a basic income and the experiment in Ontario. The Canadians are testing it as an efficient antipoverty mechanism, a way to give a relatively small segment of the population more flexibility to find work and to strengthen other strands of the safety net. Even if a basic income turns out to be a flexible and efficient government program, it’s not clear that it would be a great way to respond to technological unemployment. Over and over again, people in Lindsay said it won’t reduce people’s demand for jobs. As a practical matter, the Ontario trial doesn’t pay enough to eliminate most people’s need to work or to rely on family for support. But even if a richer payout were feasible, that wouldn’t change the philosophy of the program. Basic-income supporters want to improve the odds that people will take better care of themselves and their families. They want a humane and dignifying way of helping people who simply can’t work. But they also argue that most people generally want and expect to work. “It’s not supposed to be welfare for people displaced by technology,” says one of the basic-income advocates, Mike Perry, who runs a medical practice in Kawartha Lakes.
This Gym Is Made from 2 Tons of Seized Knives — and It's Being Used to Stop Kids from Joining Gangs – (Business Insider – February 11, 2018)
The nonprofit, Steel Warriors, transformed 2 tons of seized knives, sourced from the police, into an outdoor gym in London. The charity uses fitness to keep youths away from gangs. "We wanted to create a space that would allow people to have more confidence in their bodies, so they wouldn't necessarily feel like they would need a weapon on the streets," said Steel Warriors cofounder Ben Wintour. The charity is partnering with trainers who have experience with knife crime as role models for youths. One of those trainers is Derrick Twum who grew up in New York in a gang environment and served 14 years in prison because of knife crime. Exercise helped him turn his life around and he now runs a fitness club in London, M.E.M. Fitness. Steel Warriors hopes to expand the initiative and build other gyms like this across London. See embedded video clip.
Meet the Biohackers Who Are Transforming Their Own Bodies – (YouTube – May 1, 2018)
Grinders are people who apply the hacker ethic to improve their own bodies with do-it-yourself cybernetic devices or introducing chemicals into the body to enhance or change their bodies' functionality. Every year, some of them meet in California’s remote Tehachapi Mountains for Grindfest, a weekend dedicated to the merger of man and machine. They are transhumanist in the most literal sense. Grinders want to transcend their human form to become part machine—to be cyborgs. 4 minute video clip. See also: 8 Bold Biohacks That Blur the Line Between Human and Machine.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
SpaceX Launched a Flying Robot Head That Will Befriend Lonely Astronauts on the Space Station — and Later Spy on Them – (Insider – June 29, 2018)
SpaceX has launched a Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station. In addition to supplies, the spaceship will deliver an artificially intelligent robotic head to astronauts. The 11-pound robot is called Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON). CIMON can fly around and will use IBM Watson software to talk with an animated face and interact with astronauts. "CIMON will be the first [artificial intelligence]-based mission and flight assistance system," Manfred Jaumann, a payload engineer at Airbus (which helped build the robot), said. He added that CIMON will be "a free flyer, a kind of flying brain" that will interact with, aid, and learn from astronauts. The CIMON project aims explore how astronauts get along with artificially intelligent beings for extended periods of time, according to NASA's pre-flight briefing materials. CIMON was created primarily by the German Aerospace Center, in collaboration with IBM, the European Space Agency, and other partners. At first, the robot's only friend will be German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who launched to the space station on June 6. CIMON's team trained the robot to recognize Gerst's voice via microphones and his face using cameras. In orbit, the machine will follow Gerst around like a puppy, using an air-propulsion system. CIMON can interpret data, respond to commands, solve problems, and generally be a useful little robot without any internet connection — a tricky problem in space. In addition to helping with experiments, CIMON is equipped with sensors that can alert astronauts to dangerous conditions when they're not near a computer console. Ultimately, CIMON will monitor space station astronauts to help assess their emotional states and psychological "group effects," said Matthias Biniok, the lead Watson architect in Germany. "Social interaction between people and machines, between astronauts and assistance systems equipped with emotional intelligence, could play an important role in the success of long-term missions," Airbus said.
If We’re Going to Mars, This Is How We’ll Have to Deal with Trash – (SyFy – July 8, 2018)
The unfortunate reality is that wherever there are humans, there is trash. NASA wants to figure out how to get rid of all those freeze-dried food wrappers (and everything else) way before we land on Mars or venture into deep space. The space agency just announced that it will be seeking concepts for trashing space garbage through its NextSTEP program, so they can find new ways to compact and process trash so the waste situation. Using the ISS, which sees literally tons of trash every year, as a testing ground for methods of waste management is the most obvious way to prepare for extended stays away from Earth. The floating space station already receives around 13 tons of supplies from cargo resupply missions every year, and periodically sends around 2 tons back to Earth in a commercial supply vehicle that either brings it to the surface or lets it burn up in the atmosphere. What NASA is looking for companies to come up with is a solution that can eliminate (bio) hazards and repurpose as much as possible. Companies selected for Phase A of the development will use their own resources to create a trash processing system concept. Design reviews with NASA will refine concepts until they are ready to be prototyped. Prototypes in this phase will be demonstrated on the ground. As soon as 2022, a flight unit to test these concepts will be built, and the candidates who pass to Phase B will demonstrate their system protos on this unit aboard the ISS. Mars and deep space will be an even greater challenge because astronauts will be too far from the home planet to receive regular shipments of supplies or send bulging trash bags back in cargo ships. The Heat Melt Compactor (top photo) is being developed to evaporate the water from trash before compacting it, and another emerging technology will turn trash into methane gas to use as rocket fuel.
Surgeon Reveals Why Texting Causes So Much Neck Stress – (Nexus – May 16, 2018)
Adults spend on average 700 to 1,400 hours per year reading and texting on their smartphoneS. This jumps up to about 5,000 hours for an average teenager. All of this looking down at the smartphone results in hours upon hours of bad posture with lots of undue neck stress. How much stress? Kenneth Hansraj, MD and Chief of Spine Surgery at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, asked just that. Through a series of calculations, he found that the typical texting position can increase the weight of the head by 5 times. The average head weighs about 10-12 pounds in the neutral position. But when we text, we do not hold our head in neutral. Typically, when we’re texting, the head starts tilting forward, and the shoulders slump forward, as well. A 15-degree tilt of the head creates 27 pounds of stress on the neck. Increase this to 30 degrees, and this jumps up to 40 pounds. When the head is tilted down 60 degrees, it creates 60 pounds of stress on the spine, equivalent to four adult-size bowling balls. Article includes drawings showing different degrees of head tilt. Solution: develop the habit of bringing your cell phone up to your face, not your face down to your phone.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
IBM Pits Computer Against Human Debaters – (New York Times – June 18, 2018)
IBM pitted a computer against two human debaters in the first public demonstration of artificial intelligence technology it's been working on for more than five years. The company unveiled its Project Debater in San Francisco on Monday, asking it to make a case for government-subsidized space research — a topic it hadn't studied in advance but championed fiercely with just a few awkward gaps in reasoning. "Subsidizing space exploration is like investing in really good tires," argued the computer system, its female voice embodied in a 5-foot-tall machine shaped like a monolith with TV screens on its sides. Such research would enrich the human mind, inspire young people and be a "very sound investment," it said, making it more important even than good roads, schools or health care. IBM says it is breaking new ground by creating a system that tackles deeper human practices of rhetoric and analysis, and how they're used to discuss big questions whose answers aren't always clear. As expected, the machine tends to be better than humans at bringing in numbers and other detailed supporting evidence. But it lacks tact, researchers said. And sometimes the jokes don't come out right.
Bike Riding Robot Can Cycle, Balance, Steer, and Correct Itself – (YouTube – January 19, 2017)
Japanese robot creator Masahiko Yamaguchi has built a robot that rides a bike just like a human. Robot and bicycle appear to be about 10 inches high and are probably radio operated (essentially a drone) – but what a technical accomplishment. See 34 second video clip.
Here’s Some Cryptocurrency. Now Please Use It. – (New York Times – July 1, 2018)
You may have seen the actor and part-time tech investor Ashton Kutcher present $4 million worth of digital coins called XRP to Ellen DeGeneres’s favorite charity on her talk show. Or maybe you saw Stephen Colbert announce a $29 million donation of XRP to schoolteachers on his late-night show. Ripple, a San Francisco company that is rolling in money thanks to last year’s run-up in the value of cryptocurrencies, was behind the giveaways. And it has quietly become one of the most valuable start-ups of the last decade thanks to the value of XRP, the digital token its founders created six years ago. (XRP cryptocoins are worth about fifty cents each.) Now comes the hard part: persuading people to use XRP for something other than speculative trading. It is an issue facing most of the still-young cryptocurrency industry. Ripple has created a $300 million fund that will pay companies to begin using XRP for its intended purpose — easing the transfer of money across international borders. Ripple recently announced another program, called Xpring, that will pay developers to build XRP-focused software. But few cryptocurrency projects have evolved to the point where anyone is using the tokens as anything other than an investment. The biggest legal concern facing many cryptocurrency projects is regulators in the United States categorizing their tokens as investment contracts, or securities. If projects like XRP and EOS get the security label, they will be subject to restrictions on trading and movement, making it even less likely that people will use the tokens for their intended purposes. Mr. Birla, Ripple’s head of product, is betting the first companies to use XRP will be remittance and money-transfer companies that have to pay banks to move money for them. XRP comes with few of the fees that banks charge and, while bank systems close on nights and weekends, the digital tokens can be moved any time. Several big money-transfer companies, including Western Union and MoneyGram, were doing pilot programs with XRP. The chief executive of Western Union said last month that its first few transactions with XRP had not shown any noticeable benefits over the company’s existing systems, but the company would continue trying it out.
Yes, Open Office Plans Are the Worst – (Tech Crunch – July 13, 2018)
If you’re endlessly distracted by your co-workers in the gaping open office space you all share, you’re not alone. Compared to traditional office spaces, face-to-face interaction in open office spaces is down 70 percent with resulting slips in productivity, according to Harvard researchers in a new study. Researchers followed two anonymous Fortune 500 companies during their transitions between a traditional office space to an open plan environment and used a sensor called a “sociometric badge” (think company ID on a lanyard) to record detailed information about the kind of interactions employees had in both spaces. The study collected information in two stages; first for several weeks before the renovation and the second for several weeks after. While the concept behind open office spaces is to drive informal interaction and collaboration among employees, the study found that for both groups of employees monitored (52 for one company and 100 for the other company) face-to-face interactions dropped, the number of emails sent increased 20-50% and company executives reported a qualitative drop in productivity. “[Organizations] transform their office architectures into open spaces with the intention of creating more [face-to-face] interaction and thus a more vibrant work environment,” the study’s authors, Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, wrote. “[But] what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).” While this study is far from the first to point fingers at open office space designs, the researchers claim this is the first study of its kind to collect qualitative data on this shift in working environment instead of relying primarily on employee surveys.
MedMen Is on a Marijuana Mission – (Fast Company – June 13, 2018)
MedMen has been called the “Apple” company of marijuana marketing. Selling weed need no longer be a “back alley business”. Instead, it can be done with sophistication of an Apple store – and in that case, this is what it looks like. The cannabis retailer has shops open in three states, including one on Manhattan's 5th Avenue. As legalized weed continues to grow in popularity, the company is showing no signs of slowing down. Need something special to go in that Gucci handbag you picked up at 725 5th Avenue? MedMen at 433 5th Ave. is not far away.
One Card to Rule Them All – (TruthStream Media – June 21, 2018)
“Welcome to your future.” This is a 4 minute video that imagines a world in which just one chip (in one credit-card sized piece of plastic) is the key to every relevant database that you are in on earth: your passport, driver’s license, medical records, birth certificate, insurance policies, voter registration, and more. Just one card – that’s all you’ll need. (Editor’s note: This video clip is satire with an agenda, however we recommend it for the ways in which it demonstrates technology connecting the dots.)
Asteroid Mining Could Be the Next Big Thing in Space – But We’re Not Ready – (The Next Web – June 30, 2018)
Recent developments in technology have enabled us to look at asteroids as a valuable resource for extracting minerals. How feasible would it be to extract minerals from an asteroid, given the huge amounts of fuel required in space missions, and the volume of minerals that spaceships can carry back to earth? That question will be answered as the necessary technologies progress in the space industry. But the mineral value of asteroids is indisputable. A major challenge facing this industry at this stage is the creation of a legal framework of property ownership for resources beyond our planet. Do products of mining belong to private companies or individuals investing in the act, or do we classify asteroids as property common to all countries, like trans-boundary ocean waters? While countries like the US and Luxembourg have passed bills giving companies the rights to resources they extract from asteroids or other celestial bodies, no international consensus has been arrived at in this regard. Many international space and legal experts are against the notion of individual nations holding the power to permit private organizations to mine in space. Tackling this problem involves taking another look of the Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967, with asteroid mining seeming a possibility. The treaty, ratified by nearly 100 countries, prohibits any nation from staking claim over celestial bodies or using them for military operations. While the OST has no mentioning of asteroid mining, some countries like Russia, Brazil and Belgium are opposed to the idea of extraction, since the process requires “national appropriation” of asteroids which is clearly banned by the treaty. So, some countries hold that there must be an international licensing body that oversees the global sharing of benefits from mining, before private entities jump into the space. To plug this gap between treaty obligations in space resource rights, and the policies adopted in individual countries, The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group was formed by the International Institute of Air and Space Law in December 2014 . The aim of the Working Group is to recommend a stringent space policy to the UN that takes into account space mining. The draft mainly calls for a sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of space resources, and the establishment of an international fund for space mining. But it also states that monetary benefit-sharing is not compulsory, and adds that operators should be encouraged, but not required to share benefits. With private companies eager to get started on drilling into asteroids, the need of the hour is to adopt a revamped international policy that supports fair utilization of resources from asteroids. See also: Japanese space probe to begin exploring asteroid Ryugu.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
37 Brilliant Home Repair Tricks – (YouTube – August 13, 2017)
Save time, money, aggravation or simply find a way to do something when you don’t have the right tool. Even if you have no interest in home repair, this 15 minute clip is worth watching for the ways in which it models creative repurposing of common stuff.
JUST FOR FUN
James Corden's 'Carpool Karaoke' with Paul McCartney – (June 22, 2018)
James Corden has taken all kinds of musicians out for a ride on his "Late, Late Show" Carpool Karaoke segment. But not have been quite as magical, mystical — or emotional — as a drive with former Beatle Paul McCartney. The two of them drove around the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool, where McCartney, 76, slipped in alongside him for renditions of classic tunes like "Penny Lane," "Blackbird" and "Drive My Car" (which seemed obligatory, given the circumstances). He also launched into a new hit, "Come On to Me," from his forthcoming album "Egypt Station." (Editor’s note: Trust me, this will leave you smiling.)
A FINAL QUOTE
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. – Sydney J. Harris
A special thanks to: 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.
Edited by John L. Petersen