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Volume 21, Number 16 - 8/15/18 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog  


FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Researchers may finally have discovered the reason elephants hardly ever get cancer.
  • At a hacker convention, it took an 11-year-old hacker just 10 minutes to change election results on Florida’s website.
  • An underwater mausoleum as been designed to support coral reef regrowth.
  • The national average cost of a date today -- consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine, and two movie tickets -- is $102.32.


PUNCTUATIONS
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:








THINK LINKS



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

How Companies Make Millions Charging Prisoners to Send an Email – (Wired – August 3, 2018)
Prisons are notoriously low-tech places. But urged on by privately owned companies, like JPay, facilities across the country are adding e-messaging, a rudimentary form of email that remains disconnected from the larger web. Nearly half of all state prison systems now have some form of e-messaging: JPay’s services are available to prisoners in 20 states, including Louisiana. On the surface, e-messaging seems like an easy and efficient way for families to keep in touch—a quicker 21st century version of pen-and-paper mail. Companies like JPay cover the price of installing the systems; prisons pay nothing. And, the argument goes, closer family connections are a win-win for prisons and inmates. In the outside world there are numerous companies offering free email accounts—Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Mail.com—but inside prisons companies charge a fee, a token JPay calls a “stamp,” to send each message. Each “stamp” covers only one page of writing. Want to send photos of a nephew’s graduation, a niece’s prom dress or a new baby? Each picture costs an additional stamp. A short video clip? That’ll be three stamps. With the postal service, stamp prices are fixed, but JPay’s stamp prices fluctuate. Shortly before Mother’s Day, for instance, a stamp cost 35 cents; the price rose to 47 cents the following week. For a few hundred dollars, prisoners can skip kiosk lines by buying a tablet—a relatively expensive purchase that tends to lock them into JPay’s services. Inside prisons, e-messaging companies are quietly building a money-making machine virtually unhindered by competition—a monopoly that would be intolerable in the outside world. It’s based in a simple formula: Whatever it costs to send a message, prisoners and their loved ones will find a way to pay it. And, the more ways prisoners are cut off from communicating with their families, the better it is for business. Which means that stamp by stamp, companies like JPay—and the prisons that accept a commission with each message— are profiting from isolation of one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. With prisoners typically earning 20 cents to 95 cents an hour in jobs behind bars, the cost of keeping in touch most likely falls to family members and friends. Prison commissaries have always turned a small profit by selling paper, envelopes, and stamps. But with few recurring costs, e-messaging is a much more lucrative enterprise—and not just for JPay. In 2014, more than 14.2 million e-messages were sent over the service. With many prisons reaping a roughly 5-cent commission per message, prison systems that use JPay stand to collect $710,000 on e-messages alone. As use of e-messaging increases, these numbers stand to balloon. In Michigan, for example, imprisoned users send 800,000 to one million messages through JPay each month.

What Does Google Know About You: A Complete Guide – (TheBestVPN – July 9, 2018)
Google might just know you better than anyone. Thanks to the data the tech giant collects in order to sell ads, Google has a wealth of information on you — from what you look like to where you live and where you’ve traveled. The corporation may even be able to guess your favorite food. Just how does Google know all of this? Jump to our infographic for a quick overview of everything Google knows about you, or check out our full guide by clicking on the icons in the article. Google is much more than a search engine. It’s through its apps, internet-related services, acquired companies and more that the technology company collects data on you. In the article, we’ve broken down the most common app, product or service Google uses to track data, as well as an overview of the specific data collected. See also: Google Search Knows Where You Were Even If You Disabled Location History.

A University Is Putting 2,300 Echo Dots in Student Living Spaces – (GizModo – August 15, 2018)
When students of Saint Louis University begin their fall semester this month, they’ll notice a new addition to the campus—hundreds of glowing blue hockey-puck robots. The university has announced it will “deploy more than 2,300” of the devices throughout student living spaces, including in “every student residence hall room and student apartment on campus.” Arizona State University put Echo Dots in student spaces last year, but SLU’s new initiative seems to be the first time a university has put an Echo Dot in all student living quarters. The SLU Echo Dots, running on Amazon’s Alexa for Business platform, will be modified to answer 100-plus SLU-related questions about things like library hours, basketball games, campus events, and university office locations. The funding for the Echo Dots came thanks in part to a partnership with Amazon and university capital funding. SLU is using Amazon Alexa for Business platform so the Echoes are going to be attached to a central SLU system and not individual accounts. SLU claims Alexa does not keep recordings of asked questions. The SLU system apparently does not keep personal information on users, and “all use currently is anonymous.” Amazon did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment on SLU’s use of the devices and privacy concerns that may come with having a voice-controlled device in student living spaces. If a student does not want an Echo Dot in their dorm —and their roommate feels the same—the university site advises them to “unplug the device and store it in a safe location.” If they lose the Echo Dot, they may face a charge.



NEW DISCOVERIES

NASA Spotted a Vast, Glowing 'Hydrogen Wall' at the Edge of Our Solar System – (Live Science – August 9, 2018)
There's a "hydrogen wall" at the edge of our solar system, and NASA scientists think their New Horizons spacecraft can see it. That hydrogen wall is the outer boundary of our home system, the place where our sun's bubble of solar wind ends and where a mass of interstellar matter too small to bust through that wind builds up, pressing inward. Our host star's powerful jets of matter and energy flow outward for a long stretch after leaving the sun — far beyond the orbit of Pluto. But at a certain point, they peter out, and their ability to push back the bits of dust and other matter — the thin, mysterious stuff floating within our galaxy's walls — wanes. A visible boundary forms. On one side are the last vestiges of solar wind. And on the other side, in the direction of the Sun's movement through the galaxy, there's a buildup of interstellar matter, including hydrogen. And now NASA researchers are pretty sure that New Horizons, the probe that famously skimmed past Pluto in 2015, can see that boundary. What New Horizons definitely sees is some extra ultraviolet light — the kind the researchers would expect such a wall of galactic hydrogen to produce. That replicates an ultraviolet signal the two Voyager spacecraft — NASA's farthest-traveling probes, which launched in the late 1970s — spotted all the way back in 1992. However, the researchers cautioned, that signal isn't a sure sign that New Horizons has seen the hydrogen wall, or that Voyager did. All three probes could have actually detected the ultraviolet light from some other source, emanating from much deeper in the galaxy, the researchers wrote. But Alice, the instrument on board New Horizons responsible for this finding, is much more sensitive than anything the Voyagers had on board before beginning their own journey out of the solar system. And Alice is expected to function 15 to 20 more years.

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life – (Live Science – July 27, 2018)
In Siberia, melting permafrost is releasing nematodes — microscopic worms that live in soil — that have been suspended in a deep freeze since the Pleistocene. Despite being frozen for tens of thousands of years, two species of these worms were successfully revived, scientists recently reported in a new study. Their findings, published in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, represent the first evidence of multicellular organisms returning to life after a long-term slumber in Arctic permafrost, the researchers wrote. The worms from the permafrost samples represented two known nematode species: Panagrolaimus detritophagus and Plectus parvus. After defrosting the worms, the researchers saw them moving and eating, making this the first evidence of "natural cryopreservation" of multicellular animals, according to the study. However, the nematodes weren't the first organism to awaken from millennia in icy suspension. Previously, another group of scientists had identified a giant virus that was resuscitated after spending 30,000 years frozen in Siberian permafrost. (Don't panic; amoebas are the only animal affected by this ancient attacker.)



GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/BIOTECHNOLOGY

Scientists Reverse Aging-associated Skin Wrinkles and Hair Loss in a Mouse Model – (Medical Express – July 20, 2018)
Wrinkled skin and hair loss are hallmarks of aging. What if they could be reversed? Keshav Singh, Ph.D., and colleagues have done just that, in a mouse model developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. When a mutation leading to mitochondrial dysfunction is induced, the mouse develops wrinkled skin and extensive, visible hair loss in a matter of weeks. When the mitochondrial function is restored by turning off the gene responsible for mitochondrial dysfunction, the mouse returns to smooth skin and thick fur, indistinguishable from a healthy mouse of the same age. "To our knowledge, this observation is unprecedented," said Singh, a professor of genetics in the UAB School of Medicine. Importantly, the mutation that does this is in a nuclear gene affecting mitochondrial function, the tiny organelles known as the powerhouses of the cells. Numerous mitochondria in cells produce 90% of the chemical energy cells need to survive. In humans, a decline in mitochondrial function is seen during aging, and mitochondrial dysfunction can drive age-related diseases. A depletion of the DNA in mitochondria is also implicated in human mitochondrial diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, age-associated neurological disorders and cancer.

Brain Discovery Could Block Aging's Terrible Toll on the Mind – (Science Daily – July 26, 2018)
Aging vessels connecting the brain and the immune system play critical roles in both Alzheimer's disease and the decline in cognitive ability that comes with time, new research reveals. By improving the function of the lymphatic vessels, scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have dramatically enhanced aged mice's ability to learn and improved their memories. The work may provide doctors an entirely new path to treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease, age-related memory loss and other neurodegenerative diseases. The research is the latest from the lab of pioneering neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, whose team discovered in 2015 that the brain is surrounded by lymphatic vessels -- vessels science textbooks insisted did not exist. It turns out that the lymphatic vessels are essential to the brain's ability to cleanse itself. The researchers' new work gives us the most complete picture yet of the role of these vessels -- and their tremendous importance for brain function and healthy aging. Kipnis, the chairman of UVA's Department of Neuroscience, and his colleagues were able to use a compound to improve the flow of waste from the brain to the lymph nodes in the neck of aged mice. The vessels became larger and drained better, and that had a direct effect on the mice's ability to learn and remember. "Here is the first time that we can actually enhance cognitive ability in an old mouse by targeting this lymphatic vasculature around the brain," Kipnis said. "By itself, it's super, super exciting, but then we said, 'Wait a second, if that's the case, what's happening in Alzheimer's?'" The researchers determined that obstructing the vessels in mice worsens the accumulation of harmful amyloid plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's. This may help explain the buildup of such plaques in people, the cause of which is not well understood.

A Harvard Scientist Thinks He Has a Gene Test for Heart Attack Risk. He Wants to Give It Away Free. – (Forbes – August 13, 2018)
A Harvard scientist thinks he's reached a new milestone: a genetic test that helps identify people who are at high risk of having a heart attack. "I think--in a few years, I think everybody will know this number, similar to the way we know our cholesterol right now," muses Sekar Kathiresan, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Initiative at the Broad institute and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Not everyone else is so sure. "I think it's a brilliant approach," says Harlan Krumholz, the Harold H. Hines Jr. professor of cardiology at Yale University and one of Kathiresan's collaborators. But he worries about whether Kathiresan's tests are ready to compete with the plethora of diagnostic tests, from AI-boosted CT scans to new types of "bad" cholesterol proteins, that are on offer. And he worries about cost. There is no commercial version of the gene test. But the very idea that such a test is not only available, but also near, is the result of a cresting wave of new genetic science, the result of large efforts to gather genetic information from millions of volunteers. The number in question is what is called a polygenic risk score. Instead of looking for one miswritten gene that causes heart attacks, or, for that matter, other health problems, geneticists are increasingly looking at thousands of genetic alterations without even being sure what each does. In the case of Kathiresan's polygenic score, the test looks for 6.6 million single-letter genetic changes that are more prevalent in people who have had early heart attacks. See also: Multigene test may find risk for heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.

How to Edit a Human – (1843 – August/September, 2018)
In 1987, almost unnoticed, a scientist in Japan spotted an oddity in the genome of a bacterium found in the human gut: a repeating sequence of genetic code, roughly palindromic, in the bacterium’s DNA. If you read along it, this code would appear in one section, then there would be an incomprehensible sequence of code, then it would appear again, and so on. The oddity was noted and the world moved on. The planet is not short of oddities. Six years later a Spanish researcher spotted the same repeating structure in a microscopic organism from a different part of the living world. Since the common evolutionary ancestor of these two organisms came hundreds of millions of years earlier, it seemed significant that both had this structure. For 20 years, that was where it remained. The sequence gained its awkward name: Clustered Regularly Interspersed Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR. The first breakthrough in establishing the importance of CRISPR came when scientists identified the code that lies between the repeats. It turned out that these sequences appeared elsewhere too: in the genetic code of viruses that had attacked these microbes. Evolution doesn’t create such unlikely coincidences without a purpose. There was a logical conclusion: microbes were storing the viral code to defend themselves against the viruses. CRISPR seemed to be not just a code but a tool, that both held crucial intelligence on bacteria’s viral enemies and used this intelligence to defeat them. That was when the curiosity became a business proposition – bacteria can be worth a lot of money. For decades scientists aspired to modify the code of life. This article recounts the story of Jennifer Doudna, who, along with Emmanuelle Charpentier, succeeded in figuring out how CRISPR could be used to edit a gene and modify DNA. In the next five to ten years, CRISPR plants will almost certainly reach supermarkets. Soon after we will probably see CRISPR people in our hospitals – treatments that use CRISPR to correct genetic conditions in adults such as sickle-cell disease or inherited blindness. Eventually, a CRISPR baby will be born. The technology is too easy for that not to happen. There is no world government to stop its use; many argue no one should do so anyway. At the point that baby emerges, perhaps modified to evade a particular disease or perhaps even to look a particular way, theoretical debates will become real.

Elephants Hardly Ever Get Cancer, and We May Finally Know Their Secret – (Science Alert – August 15, 2018)
For years, scientists have tried to figure out why elephants are so good at not getting cancer. In 2015, researchers estimated their cancer mortality rate stood at just under 5%, compared with the 11% to 25% for the human body. That study also found a potential clue to the elephant's anti-cancer superpower in the form of a gene called TP53. Like most anti-cancer genes, it makes a product that detects DNA damage and tells the cell to either fix it or close shop. Most mammals have two copies of the gene. Elephants have twenty, suggesting they're well prepared to spot the threat of cancer early and act on it at a moment's notice. Understanding the complex ways such tumour-suppressing genes work in large, long-lived animals isn't easy. You can breed numerous generations of mice in a lab, but studying cancer in a creature that takes two years to give birth and lives as long as we do required some creative thinking from the researchers. Geneticist Vincent Lynch and his team took an expedient approach by taking tissue samples from elephants and diminutive relatives such as the manatee and the kitten-sized hyrax, and attacking them with carcinogens that damage cell DNA. "The elephant cells just died; they were entirely intolerant of DNA damage in a way their relatives' cells were not," says Lynch. "Because the elephant cells died as soon as their DNA was damaged, there was no risk of them ever becoming cancerous." There were already hints that TP53 was at work, but there had to be more to the story.




ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Humans Have Depleted the Earth’s Natural Resources with Five Months Still to Go in 2018 – (Quartz – August 1, 2018)
The Global Footprint Network (GFN) has been assessing just how much of the Earth’s resources we use, from water to clean air, and the day each year when our species overshoots the planet’s ability to annually regenerate itself. Humans have been overshooting nature’s annual budget since the early 1970s. Every year, the overshoot date keeps creeping up. In 2018, it’s August 1. Every minute past overshoot day is the equivalent of drawing down capital rather than living off interest. “One year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet, even using conservative data sets,” states GFN. To calculate the date, GFN divides the planet’s biocapacity (ecological resources generated each year) by the totality of humanity’s demand on those resources. It uses 15,000 data points collected by the United Nations for each country going back to 1961, which can be categorized into four main factors, says the GFN: how much we consume, how efficiently we make stuff, our population, and nature’s productivity. You can explore the full dataset here.

Scientists Puzzle Over Changes in the North Atlantic – (TruthDig – July 26, 2018)
Europe can relax: the glaciers will not return. The North Atlantic circulation may resume its former pace and the Gulf Stream slowdown could be coming to an end. But that may not be entirely good news. Global warming could also be about to accelerate, according to new research into one of oceanography’s most enigmatic phenomena, the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. New studies of all the data so far by an ocean scientist and a mathematician say that what affects North Atlantic circulation may not be driven by man-made climate change. A new study of the data available exposes other possibilities. In the first place, climate scientists have direct measurements of the circulation strength only from 2004, and the decline measured since then has been 10 times more than anyone expected. Perhaps the slowdown could be just part of a regular, rhythmic cycle that happens independently of anything humans have done to trigger global warming, researchers say in the journal Nature. There are signs that the decline is already ending. If this happens in a natural cycle – and not all climate scientists and oceanographers will agree – it is one that lasts for many decades: 60 to 70 years. But oceanographers don’t have the more than 60 to 70 years of measurements needed to confirm this pattern. “We have about one cycle of observations at depth, so we do not know if it is periodic, but based on the surface phenomena we think it’s very likely it is episodic,” said Ka-Kit Tung, a mathematician at the University of Washington in the US. “The good news is that the indicators show that this slowdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation is ending, and so we shouldn’t be alarmed that this current will collapse any time soon. The bad news is that surface temperatures are likely to start rising more quickly in the coming decades.”

Couple’s Ashes Buried in Underwater Mausoleum – (St. Lucia News – August 11, 2018)
The cremains of Buel Payne, a former Coast Guard member, and Linda Payne, who grew up on the water and loved boating, will rest 3 miles off the coast in a memorial reef modeled after the lost city of Atlantis, among impressive lion statues and ornate gates and pillars that are encrusted with sea life. It took nearly four years for multiple government agencies to sign off on this underwater mausoleum, which is designed to encourage a healthy ecosystem. Roughly a decade later, the Neptune Memorial Reef is home to the cremated remains of 1,500 people, and any snorkeler or scuba diver can visit. The Paynes are the first to be memorialized in the reef’s expansion, which opened this summer and will make room for an additional 4,000 memorials over 16 acres, about 40 feet deep. Placements start around $1,500 and can go up to $8,000, with the priciest placements for specialized shapes like sea turtles and stingrays or for prominent spots throughout the city like the lions. With reefs struggling worldwide against coral bleaching and other threats, the memorial’s builders are providing coral a head start. The concrete structures offer a high pH level, enabling sea creatures to flourish. “We’re seeing animals here that we haven’t seen before. Ones that have been missing for a long time,” says Jim Hutslar, the reef’s operations director and one of the founders. “We actually found a long spine sea urchin that was considered extinct in the Caribbean Sea.”

Why I am Afraid of Global Cooling – (Nexus – July 18, 2018)
The other day I (the author of this article) happened upon this piece, which describes recent measurements of ice mass and ice extent gains in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland, along with cool surface and tropospheric temperatures. My heart sank. This is what I’ve been worried about for several years now as I’ve seen cracks spread in the global warming consensus. Partisans of each side will no doubt hasten to explain to me how I’ve been duped by the other, but my purpose here is not to establish the correctness of one viewpoint over another. Instead, I intend to illuminate something that gets lost in what has become a highly polarized and politicized debate: “business as normal” is ruining the planet – regardless of whether the climate is warming or cooling. Here are some of the changes that have happened just in my lifetime: Fish biomass has decreased by more than half. The number of monarch butterflies has dropped by 90%. Deserts have expanded on every continent. Coral reef extent has declined by half. Mangroves in Asia have declined 80%. The Borneo rainforest is nearly gone, and rainforests globally cover less than half their former area. And all over the world, flying insect biomass has plummeted, by as much as 80% in some places. None of the above can be directly attributed to climate change. Most are caused by “land use changes” and resource extraction. Over the last twenty years practically every environmental issue has either been hitched to the climate change wagon, or relegated to secondary status. That sucks the oxygen out of the room for any other issue. It also usurps the other, non-climate reasons for opposing things like fracking, pipelines, the proliferation of plastic, loss of biodiversity, toxic waste, etc. – reasons that do not require adherence to a highly politicized and hard-to-prove scientific theory.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Microsoft’s Undersea Data Center Now Has a Webcam with Fish Swimming Past 27.6 Petabytes of Data – (The Verge – August 9, 2018)
If you’ve always wanted to watch fish swim past a data center with 27.6 petabytes of storage, stop surfing around as you’re in luck. Microsoft has taken the oppor-tuna-ty to install a webcam next to its undersea data center, offering live views of just how well the metal container is rusting and the hundreds of fish suddenly interested in cloud data and artificial intelligence. The software maker originally sunk a data center off the Scottish coast in June to determine whether the company can save energy by cooling it in the sea itself, or if it should leave it to salmon else. Microsoft has been experimenting with undersea data centers for years, and the current installation in the Orkney Islands will be deployed for around five years. There are 12 racks with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes (27,600 terabytes) of storage, enough to store at least 5 million copies of Finding Nemo. The data center is powered by a giant undersea cable that also connects it back to the internet, and the findings could mean the company will scale this project up to more powerful data centers in the future. The webcam itself isn’t just in place to watch a load of carp, Microsoft is observing the environmental conditions near its data center as part of the experiment. If you’re interested in watching the live feed you should dolphinitely check it out over at Microsoft’s Project Natick site. Sorry about the fish puns. Whaley sorry.

Alphabet Will Bring Its Balloon-Powered Internet to Kenya – (Futurism – July 19, 2018)
In 2013, Google unveiled Project Loon, a plan to send a fleet of balloons into the stratosphere that could then beam internet service back down to people on Earth. And it worked! Just last year, the project provided more than 250,000 Puerto Ricans with internet service in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The company, now simply called Loon, was the work of X, an innovation lab originally nestled under Google but now a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. And it’s planning to bring its balloon-powered internet to Kenya. Loon has announced a partnership with Telkom Kenya, Kenya’s third largest telecommunications provider. Starting next year, Loon balloons will soar high above the East African nation, sending 4G internet coverage down to its rural and suburban populations. This marks the first time Loon has inked a commercial deal with an African nation.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

How Houseplants Could Save Us from Toxic Buildings – (Fast Company – August 16, 2018)
Biophilia—the act of fostering human connections to nature through design—is touted to boost wellness and encourage deeper care for the environment, a conciliatory remedy for the artificial world we’ve created around us. Beyond the aesthetic and feel-good zen, though, there could soon be another case for designing plant life into buildings. A team of scientists at the University of Tennessee suggests that plants could be easily engineered with biosensors to function as home health detectors–acting like the canaries in the coal mine for human inhabitants that could be harmed by toxic materials and pollution. the team thinks that houseplants could be genetically engineered to react to variances—changing the color or fluorescence of its leaves, for example, upon detecting changes in toxic gases, molds, or emissions—and effectively alert residents of unseen dangers. With growing awareness of the harmful effects of VOCs in building materials, and how off-gassing can be a serious problem in architecture, their vision offers a helpful salve for the problems of industrial manufacturing. The houseplants of our future, they suggest, would act as our first line of defense. While the concept remains under development—Neal Stewart, a plant sciences professor; his wife, Susan; and Rana Abudayyeh, an interior architecture professor are actively pursuing grants to bring these types of “smart” plants to schools, offices, and homes—it promises a wide range of possibilities for interior environments, from individual plants to whole architectural systems, like dense plant walls. In the not-so-distant future, engineered plants might even replace the function of something like a Nest gadget, without the fuss or threat of cybersecurity.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Eating Insects, Like Crickets, Could Be Good for Your Gut – (KIRO7 – August 9, 2018)
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison recently conducted a study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, to determine how eating insects, which contain vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, could affect the human body. To do so, they examined 20 healthy adults, aged 18 and 48, for about six weeks. For the first two weeks, half of the group ate a controlled breakfast, while the other group had a morning meal that contained 25 grams of powdered crickets in muffins and shakes. For the following two weeks, all of the participants ate normally. Then, for the last two weeks, those who began with a normal diet had the cricket meal and those who started with the cricket meal had normal food. Throughout the trial, the scientists collected blood samples, which were tested for blood glucose and enzymes associated with liver function, and stool samples, which were tested for inflammatory chemicals associated with the gastrointestinal tract. They also asked the subjects to complete three gastrointestinal questionnaires throughout. After analyzing the results, they said the participants did not report any significant gastrointestinal changes or side effects. The researchers also noted they did not see any changes to overall microbial composition or changes to gut inflammation. However, they did notice an increase in a metabolic enzyme associated with gut health and a decrease in an inflammatory protein in the blood called TNF-alpha, which has been linked to depression and cancer. Furthermore, they saw an uptick in the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria like Bifidobacterium animalis, a strain linked to improved gastrointestinal function.

Future Food: Growing Meat in the Lab – (Kurzweil AI – August 1, 2018)
Memphis Meats is a food technology research and development company. Their team grows sustainable animal meat in a lab — that tastes as good as farmed meats from livestock. Their lab crafted meat is nutritious, hygienic, plus cruelty free. The company made headlines with its historic taste test videos of the world’s first lab grown, chef prepared: fried chicken meat, duck meat, and beef meatballs. The lab grown meat is biologically exactly the same as the meat that comes from a farm animal. The meat is grown from cultured animal cells. Originally production cost of the cultured beef was $18,000 per pound. Production cost of the cultured poultry was $9,000 per pound. Memphis Meats has now reduced production cost to below $2,400 per pound. They’re planning on deeper cost reductions and making the product available to the public and food industry by year 2021.






SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

An 11-Year-Old Changed the Results of Florida's Presidential Vote at a Hacker Convention – (BuzzFeed – August 11, 2018)
Election hackers have spent years trying to bring attention to flaws in election equipment. The 26th annual DEFCON gathering was the second time the convention had featured a Voting Village, where organizers set up decommissioned election equipment and watch hackers find creative and alarming ways to break in. Last year, conference attendees found new vulnerabilities for all five voting machines and a single e-poll book of registered voters over the course of the weekend, catching the attention of both senators introducing legislation and the general public. This year’s Voting Village was bigger in every way, with equipment ranging from voting machines to tabulators to smart card readers, all currently in use in the US. In a room set aside for kid hackers, an 11-year-old girl hacked a replica of the Florida secretary of state’s website within 10 minutes — and changed the results. Before Russian hackers targeted the 2016 US election process, hacking voting equipment was a niche issue. The Voting Village has changed that. “As far as broad social impact,” said Jeff Moss, DEFCON’s founder, “it is Voting Village” that has achieved the most notoriety in the conference’s history. But that attention has brought pushback. The day before the conference began, ES&S, one of the largest providers of election equipment in the US, sent an email to its customers assuring them that while “attendees will absolutely access some voting systems internal components ... Physical security measures make it extremely unlikely that an unauthorized person, or a person with malicious intent, could ever access a voting machine,” the company said. (Editor’s note: What about “authorized” persons with intent?) See also: 4 in 10 Republicans think foreign election interference would be a minor problem — or no problem at all.

How to Survive America’s Kill List – (Rolling Stone – July 19, 2018)
When a U.S. citizen heard he was on his own country’s drone target list, he wasn’t sure he believed it. After five near-misses, he does – and is suing the United States to contest his own authorized execution. Bilal Abdul Kareem, born Darrell Lamont Phelps, grew up just north of the Bronx in Mount Vernon, New York. He did what lots of kids in his neighborhood were doing in the late Seventies and Eighties: He spent his time rolling on the floor laughing to comics like Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor. Later, after college at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, he decided to try stand-up himself. Over a decade later, after some major life changes – he’d converted to Islam and found himself working as a TV reporter in the Middle East under his new name, Bilal Abdul Kareem – he drew upon his stand-up experience to stay alive. In the waning days of the Battle of Aleppo, as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces closed in on the city, Kareem found himself in a room full of desperate Free Syrian Army rebels. “I was understandably nervous,” he remembers. “I was the only American inside of this very small area that was besieged.” The talk in the room turned ominous. “One of the guys said, ‘You know what? I heard you get $20,000 for kidnapping an American.’” Kareem pauses as he recalls the scene. He would have stood out in that crowd, as he does everywhere in the Middle East: a black New Yorker with a loud belly laugh. “You’ve got these nanoseconds to come up with some kind of response,” he explains. “You don’t want them to see you sweat.” All the eyes in the room turned toward Kareem. Would this American fetch $20,000? “Nah, man,” he said to his audience. “That’s just for the white ones.” The room roared with laughter. According to Kareem, in the summer of 2016, things began to explode around him with suspicious frequency. In the space of a few months, he survived five different attacks. In the first, the Syrian office of the controversial Islamist TV network he founded, On the Ground News, was hit by a missile. In the second, a stretch of road where he was setting up a film location became a sizzling crater moments after he walked up the street to look for a better view. It was in the third incident, he says, when he first saw an American drone overhead. He and his crew were shooting a story in a remote town in the Aleppo countryside. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article.)

The Pentagon Wants to Bring Mind-Controlled Tech to Troops – (Nextgov – July 17, 2018)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is selecting teams to develop a “neural interface” that would both allow troops to connect to military systems using their brainwaves and let those systems transmit back information directly to users’ brains. The Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology, or N3, program aims to combine the speed and processing power of computers with humans’ ability to adapt to complex situations, DARPA said. In other words, the technology would let people control, feel and interact with a remote machine as though it were a part of their own body. DARPA began studying interactions between humans and machines in the 1960s, and while technology that merges the two may sound far-fetched, the organization already proved it’s possible. Through its Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, DARPA created a prosthetic limb that disabled veterans can control using an electrode implanted in their brain. The system gives users “near-natural” arm and hand motion while transmitting signals that mirror a sense of touch back to their brain. Now the agency wants to create a similar apparatus for able-bodied service men and women that doesn’t require surgical implants. The N3 program is divided into two tracks: non-invasive interfaces that sit completely outside the body, and minutely invasive interfaces that could require users to ingest different chemical compounds to help external sensors read their brain activity. In both tracks, technologies must be “bidirectional,” meaning they can read brain activity and also write new information back to the user. The program is solely focused on designing an interface for humans to connect with technology, not the technology itself, but the use cases will likely be more high stakes than controlling prosthetic limbs. The interface could be used to help a pilot coordinate a fleet of drones with their thoughts or troops to control a remotely deployed robot by using their brain’s motor signals. Cybersecurity specialists might even be able to connect to the system to monitor different parts of a computer network with their physical bodies. Depending on how the interface is designed, that specialist might “hear” a cyberattack when it happens or “feel” it in the part of their body that corresponds to a section of the network.




TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

The Government Is Secretly Monitoring Ordinary US Citizens When They Fly – (Vox – July 29, 2018)
A previously undisclosed program specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base.” A TSA bulletin from March, states that the goal of the initiative, known as “Quite Skies”, is to thwart threats to commercial flights posed by “unknown or partially known terrorists.” All US citizens who come into the country are automatically screened for potential inclusion in Quiet Skies, and thousands of Americans have reportedly already been subject to surveillance at the airport and on their flights under the program. Travelers stay on the Quiet Skies watch list for up to 90 days or three encounters, and they’re never notified they’re on the list at all. It’s still unclear what merits being added to the watch list in the first place. The program lays out 15 rules to screen passengers, but the full checklist was not obtained by the Boston Globe and is reportedly a mystery even to the marshals who conduct the surveillance. Once US citizens are added to the program, marshals flying with them will track a number of behaviors, like whether subjects are “abnormally aware” of their surroundings, whether they display “excessive fidgeting,” a “cold penetrating stare,” or an “Adam’s apple jump,” and whether the individual sleeps during a flight. Revelations about the existence of the Quiet Skies program has spurred questions about the program’s legality and what exactly agents are looking for.

Amazon’s Worst Bargain Yet – (Common Dreams – August 2, 2018)
One element of Amazon’s business strategy has fallen under the radar, and this one could really bite where you live: its bid to dominate local government purchasing. In January 2017, Amazon won a contract with U.S. Communities, a purchasing cooperative made up of government agencies, school districts, and other public or nonprofit agencies. The cooperative wields the heft of its more than 55,000 members to negotiate better prices. With this contract, they can now opt to buy their goods through Amazon Business, which advertises greater product selection, free shipping, and pricing discounts. While the contract is a big boon for Amazon — a potential for $5.5 billion in sales over 11 years — recent analysis from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) seriously questions how good a deal the public is getting out of this. For one thing, the Amazon contract lacks the pricing protections that are usually standard in public procurement. Rather than relying on a catalog of fixed prices, governments are at the whim of Amazon’s dynamic pricing model, much like the “surge pricing” of ride-sharing services. The Amazon contract also makes it harder for agencies to buy from local vendors. ILSR notes that while local businesses can join Amazon’s Marketplace to compete for U.S. Communities contracting opportunities, Amazon takes a 15 percent cut. That’s enough, given the already thin margins of public procurement, to push many local businesses out of the running. For the 1,500 members that have signed onto this contract so far, that means a significant missed opportunity to help their local economies thrive. The good news is that a growing number of governments and nonprofits are realizing that getting the lowest bid isn’t the same as getting the best deal.




INTERNATIONAL TRENDS

France Votes Against Setting Minimum Age of Sexual Consent Amid Backlash – (Independent – May 17, 2018)
France has stopped short of setting a legal age of sexual consent following a heated debate in the National Assembly. While the lower house of parliament voted on a bill to toughen laws on the rape of children, lawmakers voted against setting at 15 the minimum age at which a minor cannot consent to a sexual relationship with an adult. As a result, there is still no law establishing a legal age of sexual consent in France. The bill makes sex between an adult and a minor under 15 illegal but accepts the possibility that a minor is capable of consenting to sex. In such cases, when the threshold for rape is not met, judges would classify the incident as "sexual assault" and offenders could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. However, if "the victim lacks the ability to consent" it would classified as rape and offenders would face up to 20 years in prison. The government was recently warned by France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, that setting a firm legal age of consent could be seen as violating an adult's presumption of innocence and as a result it could have declared the new law unconstitutional. Children and women's rights groups nonetheless criticized the lack of legislation, pointing to the recent decision by French courts to refuse to prosecute two men for the rape of 11-year-old girls because authorities couldn't prove coercion.

China Is Laying the Groundwork for a Post-American World Order – (Washington Post – July 27, 2018)
As the United States abandons the postwar multilateral system it once led, China is stepping into the breach, laying the groundwork for a post-American world order. We are already getting a glimpse of what is to come through China’s various initiatives, ranging from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to the Belt and Road project and the 16+1 group, which is developing Chinese-financed projects in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. China is also seeking to connect a global electricity grid powered by wind and solar as a means to sustain development while fighting climate change. This new order will not be like the old. At least for now, it is not multilateral but comprised of multiple bilateral relationships linked to the Chinese core. And given China’s “one world, many systems” perspective, it is based not on a convergence of values, but of interests. President Xi Jinping has cast these initiatives with a positive spin as building “a community of shared future for mankind.” The most cynical critics regard them as a thin fig leaf disguising China’s quest for global dominance and merely a means to find markets for overproduction as its domestic economy slows. To diminish the downsides, the proper stance would be for the West to join with China’s efforts at global development so that the process is more transparent and less corrupt, with terms that don’t foster debt traps and amount to creditor imperialism. The experience of the “clean, lean and green” AIIB, which many Western nations — though not the United States — have joined, shows that high standards can be imposed if the West is a participant instead of an outsider as the new order is being built.

PayPal Censors Journalists Who Criticize Israel – (Electronic Indifada – July 25, 2018)
An operative of Israel’s global censorship campaign has admitted to exaggerating claims of anti-Semitism in order to engineer crackdowns on supporters of Palestinian rights. In the latest instance, Benjamin Weinthal has apparently succeeded in persuading PayPal to close down the account of the French online publication Agence Media Palestine. This constitutes censorship as it denies journalists the means to raise money for their work and retaliates against them for ideas they express. Agence Media Palestine says it is considering legal action. Weinthal presents his efforts as reportage for The Jerusalem Post on the actions of companies like PayPal, but what he really does is instigate crackdowns by feeding information – by his own admission distorted – about those he is targeting. Weinthal is a “research fellow” at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, an American neoconservative group that works closely with the Israeli government, and which has attempted to smear the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights as linked to Hamas and Iran. In a 2016 conversation about Israel lobby activities taking place in Europe, Weinthal described how he persuades politicians to crack down on those he claims are anti-Semitic because of their criticisms of Israel. “You have to exaggerate to get these ideas across, because they don’t understand what contemporary anti-Semitism is, many of them,” Weinthal explained.While admitting that such smear tactics are a necessary part of his work, Weinthal took credit for getting journalists Max Blumenthal and David Sheen banned from the Bundestag, the German parliament, in 2014. Weinthal described how he sent “material” to German Green Party politician Volker Beck smearing Blumenthal – who is Jewish – as being like Horst Mahler, a former left-wing activist who became a Nazi. Weinthal also described how he has contacted PayPal and banks that provide services to civil society and human rights groups in order to pressure them to close accounts. He said that his work targets civic groups across France, Germany and Austria. See also: Canary Mission’s Threat Grows, from U.S. Campuses to the Israeli Border.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Ontario's New Conservative Government to End Basic Income Experiment – (Guardian – August 1, 2018)
Ontario’s new Conservative government has said it will scrap the province’s basic income pilot, calling it expensive and unsustainable – and bringing an abrupt end to North America’s first government-backed trial of the idea in decades. The previous Liberal government launched the pilot program last year, touting it as a unique three-year foray into a policy touted as a panacea to poverty, bloated bureaucracy and the rise of precarious work. The C$150m pilot recruited 4,000 participants across three regions of the Canadian province, ranging from people working in low-paying or precarious jobs to those on social assistance. Social scientists watched closely as the unconditional payments began to flow last year, tracking whether the funds would improve health, education and housing outcomes. Even at its launch, uncertainty hung over whether the multi-year project would survive Ontario’s June election. In April, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives said that the party would push forward with the trial. Months later, the party, led by Doug Ford, swept into government, buoyed by promises to lower gas prices, slash government spending and reintroduce “buck-a-beer”. Soon after, the new government seemingly reversed its position on basic income. Lisa MacLeod, the Ontario minister responsible for social services, announced the end of the pilot, which she described as “quite expensive”, adding that it was “clearly not the answer for Ontario families”. She did not back her stance with any data, despite being pressed by reporters. “It was certainly not going to be sustainable,” she said. “Spending more money on a broken program wasn’t going to help anyone.” Her government’s decision comes months after Finland said it would wind down its own trial of basic income, bringing an end to Europe’s first national, government-backed experiment.

The Ever-Evolving Art of the Coming-Out Video – (Wired – August 16, 2018)
While a number of athletes, politicians, and entertainers had made public announcements about their sexuality in the past, it was comedian Ellen DeGeneres—who came out in a series of hugely public interviews and whose character came out in a sitcom episode in 1997—who turned coming out into a cultural moment. At the time, many speculated that DeGeneres was jeopardizing her career, but 20 years later, it’s clear that her forthrightness fundamentally changed what coming out could look like for LGBTQ people. So, too, has social media. Whether it’s through a Facebook post or blog entry, countless people are using the internet as their vehicle to come out to loved ones—either as a substitute to coming out in person, or to precede a sometimes-difficult conversation. But YouTube has turned what used to be a private moment into one that is unabashedly, self-awarely public. Search “coming out” on YouTube and you’ll come across videos like Mills’ that have been seen by millions, alongside videos that have barely broken 1,000 views. And as the coming-out video continues to evolve, it has shifted from simple, personal testimonials to carefully produced videos that are created for the consumption of an online audience. Some of these videos are incredibly touching, while others are painful to watch—most often those involving people coming out to loved ones on camera—but all of them tug at the heartstrings.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Astronomers Discover a Free-range Planet with Incredible Magnetism – (Astronomy – August 3, 2018)
A bizarre rogue planet without a star is roaming the Milky Way just 20 light-years from the Sun. According to a recently published study in The Astrophysical Journal, this strange, nomadic world has an incredibly powerful magnetic field that is some 4 million times stronger than Earth’s. Furthermore, it generates spectacular auroras that would put our own northern lights to shame. The new observations, made with the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), not only are the first radio observations of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system, but also mark the first time researchers have measured the magnetic field of such a body. The peculiar and untethered object, succinctly named SIMP J01365663+0933473 (we’ll call it SIMP for simplicity's sake), was first discovered back in 2016. At the time, researchers thought SIMP was a brown dwarf: an object that’s too big to be a planet, but too small to be a star. However, last year, another study showed that SIMP is just small enough, at 12.7 times the mass and 1.2 times the radius of Jupiter, to be considered a planet — albeit a mammoth one. “This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failed star,’ and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets,” said Arizona State University’s Melodie Kao, who led the new study on SIMP. According to the most recent study, SIMP is not only gigantic by planetary standards, but it also possesses a magnetic field that is millions of times stronger than that of our home planet. And although this magnetic field helps SIMP produce stunning light shows, the auroras are not generated in the same way as they are here on Earth. On Earth, a similar process produces what we call the northern and southern lights; however, the charged particles that lead to Earth’s auroras primarily come from the Sun in the form of solar wind. On Jupiter, however, the charged particles mainly come from its moon Io instead of the solar wind. Since SIMP does not have a star bombarding it with wind like Earth does, the researchers believe that SIMP’s auroras may be produced more like Jupiter's, which means SIMP may have a moon.



STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

Rural America Faces a Crisis in Adequate Housing – (NPR – August 11, 2018)
Along the country roads that fan out from Ogallala, Neb., there are abandoned, weathered old farmhouses and collapsed barns, remnants of the hardscrabble settlers who first tapped the Ogallala aquifer and turned the dry, high plains into lush wheat and corn fields. Like a lot of the Midwest, western Nebraska slowly emptied out over the years, which is why a lot of locals say the current housing shortage is nothing short of a paradox. Economists say this phenomenon of "aging in place" is one of the main factors driving a shortage in housing nationwide. According to one analysis, people are living in their homes twice as long as they did before the Great Recession. Small towns like Ogallala are no exception to this trend. Ogallala's residents tend to skew older. And the town's remoteness and distance from a major power center like Omaha or Denver mean its problems with housing could be even harder to solve. "We're at a really pivotal point in rural America's development because you now are finding opportunities through technological advancements to be mobile as a workforce, to work from home for a company three states away," local businessman Jacob Hovendick says. As he sees it, rural America is close to rebounding but is stymied because there are so few places to live. Small towns like Ogallala are still considered risky investments by most outside developers. They can make a lot more money in cities where land and home values are even higher. Ogallala is learning this the hard way. Recently, the town struggled to find capital to redevelop a shuttered middle school into condos and apartments, to help ease the shortage. "The federal government is not coming to help us; the state government to a certain extent can't come help us," Hovendick says. "No one's coming to our rescue. We have to start helping ourselves." Nationally, rural housing experts say the same thing. You have to have a well-organized local group of leaders committed to raising money and getting things done, in this era where federal funding for rural development is trending down.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Growers Are Beaming over the Success of Lasers to Stave Off Thieving Birds – (NPR – August 12, 2018)
During every berry-picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before harvest. This year, some farmers are trying something new to scare away the thieving birds: lasers. Justin Meduri manages a large blueberry farm and cherry orchard outside Jefferson, Ore. Birds like both fruits. When he didn't take countermeasures, Meduri says the damage was "Inconceivable, huge. We had almost a 20 – 25%, maybe even 30% damage loss." Meduri says he previously hired a falconer to protect his fields. But the falcons were expensive, temperamental and sometimes flew away. Then last year, he became one of the first farmers in the U.S. to install automated lasers. "You're creating this kind of laser light show at 4 o'clock in the morning," Meduri says. "That's the time when birds come out." The lasers cross over in erratic patterns. The sweeping green laser beams emanate from what look like security cameras atop metal poles. A Netherlands-based company called Bird Control Group made the six lasers that Meduri first rented, then bought. The company's director of North American business development is Wayne Ackermann, who's based in the Portland area. Bird Control Group started out in Europe, for the most part using lasers to shoo pesky birds away from industrial sites and airports. In the U.S. market, the agricultural industry appears to be the most promising. Ackermann says some of his initial sales have come from farmers trying to appease neighbors. "One grower in eastern Washington was the first to bring this to my attention," Ackermann says. "He's a cherry grower and he said he was having a combative relationship with one of his neighbors." The silent lasers proved a friendlier — and sometimes better — bird repellent than traditional tools such as propane cannons or squawk boxes. The lasers are also friendlier than using poison or a 12-gauge shotgun. One automated laser unit costs about $9,500, which Ackermann says qualifies as "affordable" for commercial farms.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths – (TruthDig – July 25, 2018)
No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself. Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation. So … shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? No. We’re all choosing to continue on like this. Why? Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned. This article covers eight of them. There are probably hundreds. But (A) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society,” (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we are all busy. Here’s Myth No. 8—We have a democracy. If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. Following that one, there are 7 more. (Editor’s note: Even if you don’t like – and don’t agree with – what you read in this article, it’s well worth considering.)



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

Looking for Love: How Much Does the Average Date Cost in Your State? – (USA Today – August 10, 2018)
Dating is big business in the United States. According to a survey conducted by online dating service Match.com, the average unmarried American spent $1,596 on dating in 2016. Some 68% of surveyed men want to find love this year, and the proliferation of online dating applications has made it easier to meet more people, go on more dates, and ultimately spend more money. The average cost of a date today -- consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine, and two movie tickets -- adds up to $102.32. Many of the cost components of the average date vary by state, as well as factors such as taxes, travel costs, and overall costs of living, making dating far more expensive in some parts of the country than others. The article goes on to give the average cost of a date in each state and offers a great “date idea”. Our favorite for both cost and location: Waimea Canyon State Park, located in the scenic Island of Kaua'i -- it's free! But otherwise, Hawaii has the third highest average date cost in the nation: $239.95.

Shock Therapy for Snakebites – (New York Times – August 5, 1986)
A conversation in a London laboratory between an American missionary physician who practices in the Amazon and two tropical disease experts has led to a new electric shock therapy that saves the lives of snakebite victims but that defies scientific explanation. The treatment is delivered through modifications of what are popularly known as stun guns. It comes in the form of four or five high-voltage, low-current electric shocks. Each is painful and lasts one to two seconds. The shocks are given about five to ten seconds apart and are applied as close as possible to the site of the bites of snakes and such venomous insects as scorpions and ants. In 34 cases where there was evidence of venomous bites that had penetrated the skin of limbs, the current was applied within about a half hour. None of the usual serious medical complications developed and none of the patients died, the researchers said in a report on what could become a revolutionary treatment. Also, the pain of the poisonous bites disappeared within 15 minutes, according to the report in the July 26, 1986 issue of The Lancet, a leading medical journal published in London. The missionary physician and the tropical disease experts reported on treatment of the 34 patients in Ecuador. The patients did not receive the usual antivenom therapy for snakebites, one of the authors of the report said in an interview. The notion that electricity was a therapy for snakebites is widespread in Ecuador. Snakebite victims try to get to an engine in order to run a wire carrying electricity from its coil into the area of the bite. ''We don't understand that and it is very hard to come up with a good scientific hypothesis to account for the change,'' said one of the authors, Dr. Jeffrey F. Williams, an expert in tropical diseases at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Seven bite victims who refused the electric shock therapy suffered complications such as swelling, bleeding, shock and kidney failure. Two needed life-saving amputations. (Editor’s note: Yes, the date of this article is correct. Further poking around on the internet suggests that the reason electrical shocks work is that the current destroys the structure of the enzymes in the venom making it inactive. Apparently it has been documented to work on many different kinds of stings and bites, even necrotic spider bites.)



JUST FOR FUN

Qbits for Cubists: Robots Made These Incredible Works of Fine Art – (Furturism – July 13, 2018)
Hold still while Vincent van Bot paints your portrait. That’s right, sophisticated robots can now create works of art comparable (meaning generally in the style of) to the old masters. The RobotArt gallery has amassed an impressive collection to show what the world’s most creative androids and algorithms (and their creators) have come up with. The international contest, now in its third year, announced the top ten teams, all of which walk away with cash prizes for their creations. The teams used a number of different approaches, showing that there are a hell of a lot of ways to interpret “artwork created by robot.” The first-place team, CloudPainter, used a machine learning system to generate vivid, sometimes outlandish portraits and landscapes. Meanwhile, the bronze medalists from Thailand’s Kasetsart University built a robot that can mimic an artist. After recording the position, movement, and forces exerted on a painter’s brush, the team’s robot could precisely recreate the exact same artwork. Some teams used AI algorithms to generate and produce images while others built robots designed to mix new combinations of paints or create works indistinguishable from human-made artwork. But before we see BANKS-E out on the streets tagging its scathing political commentary or Android Warhol eating a cheeseburger, we’re going to need to see AI and robot technology improve a great deal. Right now, artificial intelligence systems excel at specific tasks, but they’re not conscious entities. Nonetheless, check out the images and see what art-bots can do.



A FINAL QUOTE

To predict the future, we need logic; but we also need faith and imagination, which can sometimes defy logic itself. - Arthur C Clarke



A special thanks to: Ellen Crockett, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org




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