Friday, December 19, 2008
for God, to me, it seems,
is a verb
not a noun,
proper or improper;
is the articulation
not the art, objective or subjective;
not the abstraction "love" commanded or entreated;
is knowledge dynamic,
not legislative code,
not proclamation law.
not academic dogma, not ecclesiastic canon.
Yes, God is a verb,
the most active,
connoting the vast harmonic
reordering of the universe
from unleashed chaos of energy.
And there is born unheralded
a great natural peace,
not out of exclusive
but out of including, refining, dynamic balancing.
Naught is lost.
Only the false and nonexistent are dispelled.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Brickley Engine, The
By CLIVE THOMPSON
The auto industry worldwide is scrambling for ways to make cars consume less gas, but mostly it pursues the same few concepts — like making cars lighter and smaller, using alternative fuels or creating hybrid designs that use electricity. Mike Brickley has another idea: why not rethink the internal-combustion engine itself?
Five years ago, Brickley, a self-taught “engine inventor” in Austin, Tex., decided to give it a try. He realized that one of the biggest drags on engine efficiency is friction: whenever two parts interact with each other, they generate heat and drain energy out of the system. So he began designing a new type of engine that reduced friction by doing away with several traditional parts. In the Brickley Engine — as he calls it — there are no piston skirts and several fewer crankshaft and crankpin bearings.
What’s more, the cylinders are connected through a pinned joint that rotates a comparatively small amount. The resulting device has a curious, flattened appearance: two sets of pistons face away from each other and punch in opposite directions, joining in the center to drive the engine’s shaft.
This configuration produces 35 percent less friction than a regular engine. Brickley projects that this would give the engine up to 20 percent better mileage than a regular car.
If you were to burn diesel fuel in the Brickley Engine, it would use almost 50 percent less fuel than a normal gas-powered engine, with greatly reduced emissions. “It’ll work in anything that burns fuel — trains, tractors, automobiles, you name it,” he says.
A nation of Brickley-equipped vehicles could satisfy the Kyoto Protocol’s demands for greenhouse-gas reduction several years in advance.
Brickley received a patent for the engine last year and this year began working on a prototype to place in a compact car — to prove that his design performs as well as his calculations predict
But one big question remains: Can Detroit really embrace such a weird new engine — especially when the Big Three are collapsing? “It’s not great timing,” Brickley admits. In the quest for fuel efficiency, the real engineering challenges may not be physics but politics.
Source: Year in Ideas 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A brief summary of ideas laid out in a new futurist book, Technology’s Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society, by William E. Halal:
2010: The World Online. The decade should continue to focus on intelligent advances in information systems and e-commerce. The world in 2010 is almost certain to be smarter, faster, and fully wired, setting the stage for the breakthroughs to come.
2020: High-Tech Arrives. This decisive period should see major breakthroughs in high tech. Green business, alternative energy, and other practices are likely to ensure ecological sustainability. AI should permeate life, and the next generation of quantum/optical computing will permit huge advances in telemedicine, virtual education, and e-government. Biotech should mature, providing personalized medicine, genetic therapy, cancer cures, and other advanced health care.
2030: Crisis of Maturity. Industrialization will reach most developing nations at this point, with as many as 5 billion people living at modern levels of consumption. Although technological powers will be vast, intercultural conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and threats of environmental collapse are likely to grow into such challenges that they force a global shift in consciousness.
2040-2050: Global Order. Civilization has withstood the Fall of Rome, World Wars I and II, and threats of nuclear holocaust, and it will probably survive globalization. The challenges facing civilization are likely to be resolved to form a modernized, fairly harmonious globe, somewhat like a far larger and more diverse version of the United States or European Union. Local wars, ecological disasters, and other mishaps will continue, of course, but limited to the normal dysfunctions of any social system.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
It is supposed to represent a resolution of both public and private debts.
However, since it is not redeemable for gold, silver, or anything else which actually exists, but rather for itself only - 95% of the money in circulation DOES NOT REPRESENT ANYTHING.
A mere 5% of money on the planet represents value.
Money gains its power through its consideration as legal tender by the courts. That is, the law will not enforce other forms of debt resolution, if money has been offered.
By removing currency from a gold standard format, money has now become the representation of debt, and thereby synonymous with debt. Money is debt and debt is money.
Money therefore only represents money other people owe banks or the government because they are the only ones who can issue debt.
And, since governments and banks are the sole lenders, they therefore are the sole producers of money.
People are used to hearing about the government printing money, but the banks in practice do the same thing millions of times every day.
Moreover, how much money (debt) can be issued, that is, if it is entirely in the hands of the government and banks to do so?
Well, if there is nothing tangible, like the amount of gold it has to be based on, even loosely - what could the limits be?
Furthermore, the amount of money in the world is never the same at any given moment because if money is debt, then every time someone takes out a loan or opens up a credit card account, creating debt, more money is generated - yes from nothing.
There are thus no limits to the amount of money that can be issued.
As a result, the calculable number of money in existence is in constant flux, always on the rise whether lending occurs or loans are defaulted (except when no lending occurs across the board. But, this has never happened because central government banks are always lending, even when banks are hard-pressed).
This places the world economy is an incredibly unstable position.
For, this means that 95% of the loans which are issued by banks are based solely on promises of other borrowers to pay back their loans - and it is THIS promise that the entire world economy depends on for its survival.
The wormhole continues.
An important result of this is that when people are asking for loans, and banks are lending them, a lot of money is being created (albeit out of thin air). More money grows the economy and when the economy grows people's quality of life improves.
In this scenario, the modern day money system seems quite brilliant. We are simply growing prosperous out of our own will to become prosperous!
However, there are three fundamental flaws in an economy where money is debt and debt, money.
For our modern-day economy to exist people cannot pay off all their debts.
This is because the debt is used as leverage to produce loans and credits that are the core source of money. If no one had debt, the economy would shrink to only 5% of its current size (remember that 95% of all current money represents debt). Without debt - there would be virtually no money.
However counterintuitive this may be, because shedding debt is good for personal finances - this is not the case for the economy as a whole.
The second flaw is people cannot pay off zero of their debt either.
If everyone defaulted on their loans, banks would replace borrower's debt with lender's debt. It is not sustainable for money to be manufactured by the bank on the basis of money the bank owes itself. It cannot be leveraged to create loans. Banks wouldn't be able to lend and the government could only last so long on its own. New money would effectively disappear (though the demand for it certainly would not).
The final flaw is our economy cannot sustain itself unless people are lending and consuming debt, perpetually and at an ever-increasing rate - and sometimes this just doesn't happen.
People deposit their money in the bank under the belief that it will be safe at all times. But, if other people who the bank is lending to cannot pay back their loans, this threatens the the banks liquidity, or cash reserves, which although the federal government covers up to $250,000 of deposits, can eventually leave banks unable to lend without risking their very existence and directly impeding economic growth.
Now, it is inevitable that at some time large numbers of people will both default on loans and yank their money from the bank.
This leaves banks with little to no issuable debt, and because debt is money, little to no money.
When vast sums of money vanish in a matter of days banks cannot lend and the economy is left in tatters.
Ergo, it seems, to have a profitable economy a magic balance must be stuck between some debt being paid, some debt not being paid, and there being an extraordinary faith that consumers can cover and bankers can issue more debt than the day before, and way more debt than could ever be paid off at once, everyday.
To add salt to the wound, it is worth noting that most debt carries with it interest as well as the principal balance.
Since the amount of money in existence is only based on the principal, new debt must be manufactured to pay for the interest off the old debt.
This has to occur because without interest, banks could not cover operating costs, and could not lend.
So debt is created to pay for debt. And because that debt ALSO carries with it interest, the cycle never ends. It is incessant.
Our position is thus an ever precarious one: Debt or Poverty.
Or, in the words of the Credit Manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Georgia:
This is a staggering thought.
We are completely dependent on the Commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar in circulation, cash or credit. If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.
We are, absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is.
For more watch this: What Money Is.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
'It appears that a simple creature like a beetle provides us with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing,' says study leader Michael Bartl, an assistant professor of chemistry and adjunct assistant professor of physics at the University of Utah. 'Nature has simple ways of making structures and materials that are still unobtainable with our million-dollar instruments and engineering strategies.'
Researchers are seeking photonic crystals as they aim to develop optical computers that run on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons). Right now, light in near-infrared and visible wavelengths can carry data and communications through fiberoptic cables, but the data must be converted from light back to electricity before being processed in a computer.
The goal -- still years away -- is an ultrahigh-speed computer with optical integrated circuits or chips that run on light instead of electricity.
'You would be able to solve certain problems that we are not able to solve now,' Bartl says. 'For certain problems, an optical computer could do in seconds what regular computers need years for.'"1
When computers gain the ability to process data at 186,00 miles per second, the question then becomes:
Will we have reached the roof of the speed at which anything can travel, atom or AVI?
Or, will we manifest a schema for breaking Einstein's cosmic constant, the speed of light, bringing humanity to a level of interaction beyond the known laws of today's physics?
1Diamond-Like Crystals Discovered In Brazilian Beetle Solve Issue For Future Optical Computers
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The New York Times reports that "Oil prices have nearly doubled in a year," and furthermore, "As demand continues to outpace the growth in oil supplies, analysts expect little relief in prices. A shortfall in supplies over the next two years will probably send oil to $150 to $200 a barrel, Goldman Sachs said in a new report.
Analysts’ forecasts for the price of gasoline over the next few years run as high as $7 a gallon."
This sounds pretty ominous. I am praying that they are overestimating. But, I know in my heart analysts, economists, and reporters typically underestimate these numbers. One can only hope that this time we experience the exception rather than the rule.
However, evidence for such positivity is scarce. For according to the above quoted NY Times article published just six days ago, "the government said it expected gasoline prices to peak at a national average of $3.73 a gallon in June, just as the summer driving season kicks off." And yet, we're barely half way through May and we've already hit that mark.
The Times also reports that "Some private analysts have gone beyond the Energy Department’s forecasts, predicting that gasoline will surpass $4 a gallon this summer." But at the rate we're currently going, I think we're primed to be there before summer even begins (June 21st)!
I think I have chosen the most expensive summer to travel across America...smart.
Read the NY Times article
See the AAA's national gas estimates
This is pretty horrifying.
Have teenagers missed the unequivocal point that without freedom of speech and press there is no freedom at all. For I know teenagers of all people value independence and liberty...I mean isn't that what those hectic years are all about, liberating oneself from one's parents?
So why this disconnect?
Exactly what America have these teens grown up in that could allow for this myopic and inane comprehension of the relationship between freedom, human rights, and communication on such a massive scale to exist, and, persist?
Is this a sign of a tired, weak, mindless parental populace drifting to institutions like the government to tell them and their children what to know, say, and do, so they don't have to breech the perceived security of their ignorance and think for themselves?
Whatever it is, if there is any war worth fighting, it is the battle to preserve/augment the quality of the minds of a future America against fecklessness, dogma, idiocy and indolence.
What kind of parent are you, or are you going to be? Don't become one of these. Don't become yet another member of humanity that slows down the healthy evolution of our species because you're too scared to push the static boundaries of your psychic comfort for truth and intelligence.
(Incidentally, if you are a parent and this is the first time you have really thought about this, it may already be too late for you.)
Read the rest of Gore Vidal's article in the Huffington Post: President Jonah
More on the survey itself: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6888837/
Monday, May 12, 2008
A 100,000+ privately contracted company has been operating beyond any rule of law for several years now in Iraq. Their dead (perhaps around 800+ people) aren't counted. And when they kill innocents and "friendlies" they are not adjudicated, so they pay no penance and are thus awarded more contacts. This inevitably leads to more deaths of harmless women and children that incite the hatred which breeds new insurgents. And so, you can see, the cycle is fecklessly perpetuated, a cycle mind you, that pays some in spades.
No one even knew half of the war was being fought by companies that are essentially corporate mercenaries whose primary obligation is to their shareholders. That is, until Blackwater showed up on the news all the sudden because one of these wrongful deaths got out on tape to the world media at large. Since then, they have been under fire in US courts and under long senate investigations related to wrongful deaths, gang rape and other such horrors. Yet, few know more about them and these wrongful death incidents now, than a year ago - and they are opening a "training camp" facility in the hills of North California.
The immunity and elusiveness of gun-for-hire like entities such as Blackwater begs all sorts of ominous questions.
Is this the army of the future? And if so, will America be safer, held of higher esteem abroad, and make new friends and new ground in the so-called "war on terror" as a result?
I don't think so. When the government dubs massive, cutting edge weapon-equipped, ex-Navy Seal-stocked super-armies immune to law, the more violent - and more deadly - the places they operate in become, for friend and foe, at home and abroad. For, who has control over them?
If you assess this analysis as overstating important truths and facts - please let me know. But, at least watch this video first:
Saturday, May 10, 2008
After about 20 minutes of training, people feel like they're playing a video game but are actually mouse-clicking in the name of medical science. The free program is at http://fold.it/.
'We're hopefully going to change the way science is done, and who it's done by,' said Popovic, who presented the project today at the Games for Health meeting in Baltimore. 'Our ultimate goal is to have ordinary people play the game and eventually be candidates for winning the Nobel Prize.'
Proteins, of which there are more than 100,000 different kinds in the human body, form every cell, make up the immune system and set the speed of chemical reactions. We know many proteins' genetic sequence, but don't know how they fold up into complex shapes whose nooks and crannies play crucial biological roles.
Computer simulators calculate all possible protein shapes, but this is a mathematical problem so huge that all the computers in the world would take centuries to solve it. In 2005, Baker developed a project named Rosetta@home that taps into volunteers' computer time all around the world. But even 200,000 volunteers aren't enough.
'Long-term, I'm hoping that we can get a significant fraction of the world's population engaged in solving critical problems in world health, and doing it collaboratively and successfully through the game,' David Baker, a UW professor of biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, said. 'We're trying to use the brain power of people all around the world to advance biomedical research.'
Foldit includes elements of multiplayer games in which people can team up, chat with other players and create online profiles. Over time the researchers will analyze people's moves to see how the top players solve puzzles. This information will be fed back into the game's design so the game's tools and format can evolve."
(A sample of protein folding variations)
“'This is really the first detailed picture ever obtained of the molecular mechanism behind the regulation of light harvesting energy,' Fleming said. 'We believe we will soon be in position to build a complete model of the flow of energy through the photosynthetic light harvesting system that will include how the flow is controlled. This model could then be applied to the engineering of artificial versions of photosynthesis.'”
And why would humans want to control photosynthesis?
ScienceDaily answers, "Through photosynthesis, green plants are able to harvest energy from sunlight and convert it to chemical energy at an energy transfer efficiency rate of approximately 97 percent. If scientists can create artificial versions of photosynthesis, the dream of solar power as the ultimate green and renewable source of electrical energy could be realized."
Interestingly, plants have a photon sensitivity so acute that according to Graham Fleming, the lead researcher in this study, plants "will even respond to the passing of clouds overhead.”
This is remarkable, however, it has been one of the main obstacles in the way of utilizing photosynthesis to quell vast energy consumption demands. That is, we cannot base our world on a system that's energy capacity would fluctuate with the presence and density of cloud cover, or on the other hand would overheat on really hot days - power delays and outages would be widespread.
This would virtually wipe out the global energy crisis, and impede new torrents of human created carbon dioxides from cooking Earth much further.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
"with each broken shoelace out of one hundred broken shoelaces, one man, one woman, one things enters a madhouse"
a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there -
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
and the phone bill’s up and the, market’s
and the toilet chain is
and the light has burned out -
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
so be careful
by Charles Bukowski
- "The Crunch"
- "So you want to be a writer?"
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Of Mice and Men at 16
At 16, I was not able to appreciate the unmistakable harshness of what really is the average human's life. That is to say, I knew people starved to death half way across the world, I knew there were dictators, and so on. But these are the extremes.
I did not recognize small silent suffering. For I didn’t know the man who spends his whole life toiling to no tangible end – working to work. I did not recognize wretched solitude. For I did not know he who spends his existence hopelessly drift..At 16, I was not able to appreciate the unmistakable harshness of what really is the average human's life. That is to say, I knew people starved to death half way across the world, I knew there were dictators, and so on. But these are the extremes.
I did not recognize small silent suffering. For I didn’t know the man who spends his whole life toiling to no tangible end – working to work. I did not recognize wretched solitude. For I did not know he who spends his existence hopelessly drifting through the mass of humanity unable to connect with another – living only for himself.
These experiences being so far from the life of a middle class high school student enjoying himself and his youth, I first understood the story of Of Mice and Men as a comedy, albeit tragic at times.
Of Mice and Men at 23
Reading it a second time, however, a year after graduating from college, months after working in Child Inpatient Psychiatric Services, and hundreds of hours of studying international affairs, my perception of this book has notably changed.
This time, I also laughed. But instead of laughing at misery, I laughed at hope, that is, Lennie’s dogged hope to beat work and live off the fat of the land. For even after killing Curly’s wife with his bare hands, Lennie pressed George to tell him about how they were going to have their own piece of land where they would be their own bosses and where he could tend the rabbits. Such indefensible optimism tickled my funny bone. At 16, I appreciated such seemingly impervious positivity.
So at 16 I found misery amusing and hope serious, while at 23 I found misery serious and hope amusing – interesting.
Ergo, it appears on the second go-around I understood Steinbeck’s work as a tragedy, though not without comedy.
The Ice-axe and the Mirror
Kafka said “A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,” and I agree with this notion. But after a second read, years and years later, a book may become a mirror through which to observe and survey the ever-evolving nature of our thawing and unfrozen seas, illuminating the very reverberations of the axe’s stroke.
This is one of my favorite character descriptions in Of Mice and Men (see if you can figure who it is):
“There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke...His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.”
(It's Slim, "the jerk line skinner")
Friday, May 2, 2008
"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" - and if they are not?
Reading the February/March 2008 edition Scientific American Mind, I ran into a rather illuminating piece, called "Popular Delusions," on the prevalence of misconceptions the American masses seem bound to behold.
If we are to ever evolve past this limited and disadvantageous plateau of human understanding, identifying the source is the first step. Once identified, we are considerably more likely to move out of the dank tunnels of ignorance and into a place where we see ourselves as we actually are.
"According to polls conducted in 2003 and 2007, Americans held several misperceptions about the war in Iraq. For example:
- In March 2003, only 35 percent of Americans correctly perceived that most people in the world at large were opposed to the decision to go to war with Iraq.
- In May 2003, 22 percent of Americans said that Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops.
- In September 2003, 24 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. has found evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
- In 2007, 33 percent of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks."1
If you still would like to refute this, read the following quote and then click here: "On
The Source of our Delusions
The most illustrative and flabbergasting part of this Scientific American Mind article is that "Among those who used Fox News as their primary news source, 80 percent held one such erroneous view." In comparison," 55 percent of CNN watchers, 47 percent of print newshounds and only 23 percent of the PBS-NPR audience believed in at least one such myth."
I think the facts are indisputable here and suggest that unless one genuinely diversifies their news intake, especially with at least one publicly-funded body, they may find that up to 80% of what they believe on a specific issue is total farce.
Is Ignorance Bliss?
For, let us not forget the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson: "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,"3 and if they are not?
We are likely to end up in more and ever-worse debacles than the Iraq War - Iraq may in fact be just a piece of the result of a generally ignorant American people and politicos.
1 "Popular Delusions."February/March 2008. Scientific American Mind.
2 Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
3 Thomas Jefferson Quotes
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The key is in the surprising shape of human sweat ducts. Professors Yuri Feldman and Aharon Agranat together with Dr. Alexander Puzenko, Dr. Andreas Caduff and PhD student Paul Ben-Ishai have discovered that the human skin is structured as an array of minute antennas that operate in the 'Sub Terahertz' frequency range.
This discovery is based on investigations of the internal layers of the skin that were undertaken using a new imaging technique called 'Optical Coherent Tomography.' Images produced by this technique revealed that the sweat ducts, which are the tubes that lead the sweat from the sweat gland to the surface of the skin, are shaped as tiny coils. Similar helical structures with much larger dimensions have been used widely in as antennas in wireless communication systems. This made the investigators consider the possibility that the sweat ducts could behave like tiny helical antennas as well.
In a series of experiments, the team measured the electromagnetic radiation reflected from the palm skin at the frequency range between 75GHz and 110GHz. It was found that the level of the reflected intensity depends strongly on the level of activity of the perspiration system. In particular, it was found that the reflected signal is very different if measured in a subject that was relaxed, and if measured in a subject following intense physical activity.
In a second set of measurements it was found that during the period of return to the relaxed state, the reflected signal was strongly correlated with changes in the blood pressure and the pulse rate that were measured simultaneously.
The researchers believe the discovery could theoretically help remotely monitor medical patients, evaluate athletic performance, diagnose disease and remotely sense the level of excitation – which could have significant implications for technology in the biomedical engineering, anti-terror and security technology fields.
The initial results of the research were published last week in the prestigious scientific journal The Physical Review Letters. The publication aroused significant interest among scientists, physicians and science writers."1
1"'Tiny Radio Antennas' Under Skin Could Act As Remote Sensors Of Humans' Emotional, Physiological State"
Sunday, April 27, 2008
In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky.
'We cannot afford it,' said a corn buyer at Kato Kagaku, a Japanese maker of corn starch and corn syrup.
The main reason some Japanese and South Korean makers of corn starch and corn sweeteners are buying biotech corn is that they have dwindling alternatives. Their main supplier is the United States, where 75 percent of corn grown last year was genetically modified, up from 40 percent in 2003.
In the United States, wheat growers and marketers, once hesitant about adopting biotechnology because they feared losing export sales, are now warming to it as a way to bolster supplies. Genetically modified crops contain genes from other organisms to make the plants resistance to insects, herbicides or disease. Opponents continue to worry that such crops have not been studied enough and that they might pose risks to health and the environment.
'I think it’s pretty clear that price and supply concerns have people thinking a little bit differently today,' said Steve Mercer, a spokesman for U.S. Wheat
The group, which once cautioned farmers about growing biotech wheat, is working to get seed companies to restart development of genetically modified wheat and to get foreign buyers to accept it.
Even in Europe, where opposition to what the Europeans call Frankenfoods has been fiercest, some prominent government officials and business executives are calling for faster approvals of imports of genetically modified crops. They are responding in part to complaints from livestock producers, who say they might suffer a critical shortage of feed if imports are not accelerated.
Whatever importance biotechnology can play in the long run, food shortages are making it harder for some buyers to avoid engineered crops."
The tone of the original NY Times article does not read as this post does, I simply rearranged the order of paragraphs and cut a few others out because I felt the original merely brushed by what is critical in this discussion.
For the question is not if genetic food will broach feedstock barrels, grocers, and restaurants, or when, because this has been happening for years already (remember: 75% of US corn is GM) - it is what - what are the consequences to food markets, the hungry, our environment, and our bodies, when someday soon 75% or more of what we consume is made of "DNA from one organism, modified in a laboratory, and then inserted it into the target organism's genome to produce new genotypes or phenotypes."
Furthermore, as long as men, women, and children are allowed to die of starvation when there is extraordinarily more than enough food to feed every human on Earth - the primary agricultural issue should be radically rearranging our heinous world food system to stop this from happening, 'less we chalk up human society as a failure.
The microbes are ten times older than any previously discovered living organism and may reopen the debate about the origins of life on Earth.
The bacteria were found in salt crystals buried almost 609 metres (2,000 feet) below ground at a cavern in south-east New Mexico, US.
Bacteria are known to adapt to harsh conditions by forming resistant structures called spores.
They can exist in a state of suspended animation for long periods.
Dr Russell Vreeland, from West Chester University, Pennsylvania, and colleagues, made the latest discovery.
'There are a lot of people who believe that organisms can survive long-term, particularly the spores themselves,' Dr Vreeland told BBC News Online. 'We have provided the strongest evidence that in fact these things could survive for extremely long periods of time.'
'We're 250 million years and counting as far as the survival of an organism goes in a crystal.'
Origins of Life
The crystals were in a drill sample taken from an air intake shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the world's first underground dump for radioactive waste left over from making nuclear weapons.
When they were extracted from the crystals in a laboratory and placed in a nutrient solution, the micro-organisms revived and began to grow.
The bacterium, known as Bacillus strain 2-9-3, resembles modern-day Bacillus organisms found in the Dead Sea.
The bacterium also raises questions about how life began on Earth.
It has re-opened an old debate: whether it is possible for life in the form of DNA or dormant microbes can be carried by asteroids or comets, or drift in interstellar clouds, to fall and colonise suitable planets such as the Earth.
Travelling at the speed of light, the nearest star to the Earth would take 4.2 years to reach and the nearest galaxy 2.2 million years.
But even huge distances like these might be within reach for bacteria that live for 250 million years.
'Once you're out to that distance then you are easily within the time period necessary for a rock to be blown off Mars, for instance, or even from a planet on a nearby star, and for that rock to travel to the Earth,' said Dr Vreeland.
He said his personal belief was that life did start on Earth, but the discovery meant it was theoretically possible for life to travel between planets."
Read the full article: Alive...after 250 million years
Friday, April 25, 2008
Hear the whole unbelievable story:
Thursday, April 24, 2008
One of the things I find most fascinating about the interstellar realm is how much its nature can mirror a single living organism on Earth. For one could maintain that galaxies qualify, even in a biologist terms, as living things.
Galaxies are born, and move and grow, and eat, and excrete, and reproduce, and attain a level of homeostasis, evolve, and inevitably die.
So why don't we see galaxies in our biology books? Just because they are not made of organic cells?
Some definitions of life include viruses and they are acellular. Plus, viruses don't metabolize either. Perhaps then, someday, we will see galaxies in 10th grade biology textbooks.
We are Not Alone
Nevertheless, doesn't this reclassification of taxonomy have the potential to drastically alter our self-perceptions as individuals as well as a species?
Don't we become the ants and the galaxies the humans when we examine the cosmos in this fashion?
And furthermore, don't we answer one of the most insatiable and fundamental questions to ever exist: Are we alone?
For if we consider galaxies to be living things, then not only are we sure we're not alone anymore, but we know that we actually live within, on, and amongst billions of other living things.
Some evidence toward this theory is that galaxies eat.
Did you know that our cosmic crib, the Milky Way, is eating another galaxy as we speak, churning up its stars and dust and gases, making itself full with delicious space objects and accessing the energy within them, as say, me with pizza?
If you really think about it, this means we live amidst, or more accurately, inside the belly of a cannibal. In fact, the final frontier is really just a cannibal's firepit.
Top of the Food Chain?
That said, where on the cosmic food chain are we exactly?
According to ScienceDaily.com, "it looks as if our Milky Way will be subsumed into its giant neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, resulting in an elliptical galaxy, dubbed 'Milkomeda,' the new home for the Earth, the Sun and the rest of the Solar System in about two billion years time. The two galaxies are currently rushing towards each other at approximately 500,000 kilometres per hour."1
Therefore, interestingly, when viewing galaxies as living systems, not only are humans removed from the top of the biological food chain, but so is the galaxy in which we reside.
Note: I understand that this post is a stretch and may anger biologists as well as astrophysicists, but as a curious person I found this supposition way too interesting and metaphorically rich to not at least purpose in non-technical terms to whoever may stumble upon my blog.
This is particularly clear when one notes that, per year, a typical American puts 4.4 tones of CO2 in the air with their motor vehicle, while they put a whopping 60 tones of CO2 into the atmosphere with their food consumption.
However, a food's eco-friendliness appears ever-more complex. That is, it turns out based on a comprehensive study by the US Food & Drug Administration, it may be better for one to buy food from a little farther away if the production of that food is more carbon-neutral than your local offering. This is because 83% of the CO2 put out by food consumption is not how far it travels, which is about 11%, it is what it takes from start to finish to grow/raise it.
Let us play devil's advocate here. Say you are trying to lead a green life and yet you know your local farmers use crude oil to run every instrument and aspect of their farming facility while they don't recycle at all, and the next closest farm which uses biofuels and recycles much of its waste is too far away to make it environmentally sensible. What do you do?
OnEarth.org suggests a solution in its article, "Must I Throw Out the Whole Hog?"
"A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year."
Deciding if and how to eat ecologically can be considerably confusing and frustrating, but this post and these few tips may make it somewhat easier to swallow changing your diet for our planet. Bonappetit!
More info on eco-eating:
"Food Footprint: Minimizing Greenhouse Gases"
Source:"Do Food Miles Matter"
"If left unchecked, global world food shortages could set the world back seven years in the fight against extreme poverty"
It's being called the "Silent Tsunami." In three years, prices for the basic staples that feed the world—wheat, rice and corn—have risen by a staggering 83%. For people in the developing world, affording enough food to eat is becoming a daily struggle for survival.
The New York Times is reporting that in
In the face of this suffering, we cannot be silent.
Last week, I asked you to send a message to President Bush and urge him to make solving this hunger crisis a priority on the G8's poverty-fighting agenda at its summit this July in
Just yesterday, we learned that Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda has sent a letter to the other seven leaders of G8 nations adding the hunger crisis on the agenda for the G8 summit. It's a critical first step and shows that our concern is being heard. Now we need to hear from President Bush and work to keep the focus on this ongoing crisis.
Help us reach our new goal of 100,000 ONE members urging President Bush to rally the G8 to take emergency action against hunger and to invest in agricultural productivity in the developing world.
Click the link below to send the following petition to President Bush:
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Faster, Broader, but Less Deep
"What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua...that's the only name I can think of for it...like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.
The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks.
There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and 'best' was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now.
Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum."1
The Internet: Too Much Too Fast
It appears that perhaps the most substantial problem with man's greatest modern invention, the internet, is its potential to overstimulate and mire our individual minds, and thus, counties, states, countries, continents, and world, in a meaningless directionless morass.
Isn't this almost exactly the threat to human significance and evolutionary coherence Robert Persig is talking about above, 34 years ago, except with the more primitive mediums of radio and t.v.? For even then, the question of placing to much power, faith, and focus in one single form of media capable of monopolizing human communications and perceptions of knowledge was recognized.
Doesn't the internet pose to perhaps splinter human advancement at least in as much of a way as it mirrors the ever-complexer labyrinth of websites which is currently regarded as spearheading that advancement?
Self-Destruction or Hyper-Evolution?
Will we be subsumed by our greatest creation, losing our identity and value in the process?
We may very well become the internet. And if/when we do, it may be left to Google's algorithm's to become the unifying and directing force of humankind.
But what kind of people, body, entity would humanity be then? A spider trapped in its own obscenely intricate web?
Moreover, one may be able to someday credit the internet with the destruction of an intelligent human civilization, and thus perhaps, eventually, itself.
On the other hand, we may employ the same insatiable curiosity and immense ingenuity which created the internet to harness its power and shepherd us towards a discernible, focused, and advantageous future, where possibly the fruits of a Hyper-Evolution of Self-Evolution are realized.
Why does any of this matter?
These possible outcomes of the confluence of man and internet are obviously extremes, and maybe sweeping generalizations of those extremes, but as Moore's Law becomes one of the most influential force's in the human world, the human clock has no chance at keeping pace with the technological clock - that is - unless we thoughtfully speculate far ahead into possible futures to help compensate - right?
"In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession"
1 "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
Monday, April 21, 2008
Recently, a seemingly puny looking spruce tree was discovered in the Dalama province of Sweden that has been carbon-14 dated at around 9,550 years of age. In total, there are about 20 trees in this upper mountainous region of Sweden, all of which are approximately over 8,000 years old.
The oldest known trees prior to this discovery were bristle cone pines in North American estimated to be 4500 years old. Although still at about two thousand years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza, they are only half as old as their Swedish counterparts.
So how is it possible for a tree to continue to live after 9,550 years?
According to ScienceDaily, "these trees have survived harsh weather conditions [as well as any human interference they may have encountered in the remote mountains of Sweden] due to their ability to push out another trunk as the other one died."
In other words, when these spruce trees are decaying and dying they employ their remaining energy to grow another trunk as an alternate for when the main one is fully dead, and it is with this other trunk the tree remains. Continually repeating this process has allowed these extraordinarily resilient trees to survive over nine and a half millennia.
To give you some context here, the last Ice Age ended around 10,000 years ago, and, sometime around then human beings invented crop cultivation and the domestication of animals.
Ergo, couldn't we, fairly, dub this tree: the Tree of Man, or perhaps: the Tree of Civilized Man?
"This 9,550 year old spruce has been discovered in Dalarna, Sweden. A favourable climate has produced an upright trunk since the beginning of the 1940s."
Friday, April 18, 2008
Being able to travel faster than the speed of light would lead to a wide variety of bizarre consequences."
A Universe Beyond the Speed of Light
"For instance, an astronaut moving faster than it would theoretically arrive at a destination before leaving.
The scientists were investigating a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws.
Dr Nimtz told New Scientist magazine: 'For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of.'"
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
"'Expelled' calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed scholars who have been forced out of prestigious academic positions because they proposed Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin’s 150-year-old theories about the origins of life. Instead of entertaining a debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has moved to suppress the ID movement in a 'systematic and ruthless' way at odds with America’s founding principles, the film asserts."
Regardless of one's belief systems, anti-belief systems, or lack of belief systems, Ben Steins documentary coming out this Friday seems way too curious, and perhaps important, than one can turn their back to. Just watch some of the clip below.
Monday, April 14, 2008
"We now understand that along with international movements to save endangered species and the rainforests of the world, it is just as important for us to conserve the diversity of the world's crops for future generations," says Wangari Maathai.
Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist, continues,"The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation."
The "seed vault project" to which Maathai is referring is the construction of "The Svalbard Global Seed Vault." The purpose of the Seed Vault is to protect the livelihood of crops and food on Earth by preserving the agricultural biodiversity of hundreds of millions of seeds from hundreds of countries 130 meters deep in an arctic mountain.
But, why go to such lengths for biodiversity of seeds? Why do we care if tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of seed genus dissolve into extinction?
We care because biodiversity in seed germs is vital to sustaining the fundamental foodstuffs humanity relies on for its ever-increasing sustenance needs. The fewer types of seeds or seed families within the basic human crop repertoire, the lesser the chance of their survival. This is particularly true during harsh seasons, when facing rapidly evolving diseases, and in the midst of various insect and pest swarms - all which, one might point out, are on the rise.
One of the primary reasons lack of biodiversity is a major blow to seeds, crops, and the foods we consume, is, as with humans, seeds are more robust when they breed across families, as opposed to within their own. Little holes or gaps in one family's DNA that are bound to occur from time to time during DNA replication can be filled in by the DNA of another family that does not possess such gaps, and vice versa. However, by allowing seed family populations to dwindle we will also limit the possibilities of this DNA fix - leaving crops more susceptible to the ills of nature and man, and with it, man to the ills of nature and man.
In addition, according to the Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Cary Fowler, "Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints, and for meeting the food needs of a growing population" - all present and worsening threats to human life on a global scale.
Herein Lies the Seeds of a Post-Apocalyptic Human World?
ScienceDaily points out that the Seed Vault not only protects biodiversity for the present day but that "the vault could also prove indispensable for restarting agricultural production at the regional or global level in the wake of a natural or man-made disaster."
That is, in the event of a nuclear holocaust, dino-size meteorite, or supermassive volcano - it is from these very seeds being planted in an iced-over mountain in the Arctic Circle today - a second chance for humankind may one day spring.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
This is the story of Xiabalba (pronounced Shhbulba) according to the movie The Fountain, by Darren Aronoskfy. This concept of Xiabalba led to a, if not the, central notion/message of his movie - "Death is the road to awe."
It sounds splendid, angelic, but it is farce. History tells us a very different story.
(Mayan depiction of Xiabalba)
In fact, Xiabalba is actually the Mayan underworld, ruled by two gods called, Hun Caquix, "One Death," and Vucub Caquix, "Seven Deaths." Furthermore, Xiabalba, when translated, means something akin to, "place of fright." This is not a likely title for the pearly gates is it?
This Xiabalba is clearly not the Mayan heaven Aronofsky presents.
Though, interestingly, according to Mayan historians, "Life in Xibalbá was similar to life on earth. Like humans, the death gods had wives and children, they feasted, played ball and conducted business. In their council house, One Death and Seven Death presided over a host of death gods whose names reflected the manner in which they killed people. Adjacent to the council house were a number of buildings known as the Six Houses.”
(Xiabalba Death Gods)
It is here, however, that the normal life on earth comparison dissolves. For in each of the Six Houses is a different test one may face in the underworld.
Maya scholars have gleaned from ancient texts, murals, and engravings that the Six Houses are, "The Darkness House, Shivering House, Jaguar House, Bat House, Blade House and Fire House." Each I'm sure is grueling in its own right. And for those who have to face all of the Six Houses - the horror can be no less than unfathomable.
When you die which Xiabalba do you want waiting for you...The Road to Awe or The Place of Fright?
Note: This is not a review of the movie The Fountain. To see such a review click here.
Text transcribed from The Fountain
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
"This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your Soul."
The text above is from Walt Whitman's masterly poetic titan, Leaves of Grass. You do not have to like poetry to enjoy Whitman's work here. In fact, you can even despise poetry and have this work flood your mind with unexpected triumphs and cyclonic epiphanies.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
In the fall of 1977, two Voyager spacecraft were released into the stars to explore the contents and activities of the cosmos and relay such data back to NASA. Upon those spacecraft, was a golden disc intended to present humankind to any would-be extra-planetary life of notable intelligence.
It was filled with music, earthly sounds, pictures, scientific and biological diagrams, mathematical equations, and greetings in over 50 languages, including one from US President Jimmy Carter.
What Earthly soundscapes and musical compositions did Carl Sagan and his prestigious panel at Columbia University chose to represent all of humanity?
Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F, "Gavotte en rondeaux," and The Well-Tempered Clavier, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Navajo Indians Night Chant, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14, Azerbaijan, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven's "Melancholy Blues," Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, First Movement, and String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, a Peru wedding song, an India raga,"Dark was the Night" by Blind Willie Johnson, and...see the full list.
The record is actually quite good, except, because it was in its nascence in 1977, one of today's most popular musical forms worldwide, Hip-Hop, was not included. That's not all the Golden Record is missing.
It has nothing about what are now the greatest human inventions: the Personal Computer and the Internet. There are now over 6.4 billion of us as opposed to 4 billion in 1975.2 We have found at least a few other extremely Earth-like planets. We can grow functional human organs in a laboratory.3 Plus, Pluto is not even a planet anymore!
Therefore, I purpose that perhaps its is time to update Mankind's message to deep space with current scientific knowledge, technology, culture, and human developments.
For does the original disc really accurately represent the human species as fully as it should anymore?