1. A personal milestone of sorts. Almost exactly 100 years ago, my grandfather was fighting at the horrific Battle of Mukden (called one of the worst battles in human history) during the Russo-Japanese War. I'm told he was a draftee in the Czar's army... though I've always had this affinity for Japanese culture (and I am to be guest of honor at the World Science Fiction Convention, in Yokohama, Japan in 2007). So who knows? Maybe he was on the other side. In any event, that shows just what slow breeders we are in my family. Sol Brin. My grandfather. Yeesh.
(It's through him that the trail to a common ancestor with Google's Sergey gets tantalyzingly close. A rare name in the same part of Lithuania/Poland/Russia...)
2. Speaking of primitive war conditions, you'll be hearing a lot of scary tales about how we are due for a Bird Flu Pandemic. While this cannot be excluded and research should be funded with all deliberate care, there are many reasons to believe that much of the "pandemic" talk is salesmanship by groups wanting emergency-driven contracts. Above all, comparisons with 1918 are absurd. That pandemic incubated in WWI trenches, about the worst human habitations ever created, among men debilitated by stress and cold and damp, and who started out much less healthy than the average person is today. Even when the disease reached home (wreaking real devastation), it hit a population crowded into much smaller and more closely packed living conditions and especially hurt the poor. (Today's poor live very differently, at least in the States.)
Another factor, which will pull some of the strength out of any new pandemic, is even more basic than starting health: antibiotics. The 1918 pandemic virus was similar to the more standard influenza virus in that the majority of those who perished died not from the primary attack of the flu but from secondary infections -- typically bacteria or fungal -- that triggered pneumonia. While antibiotics are hardly a silver bullet and they are useless against viruses, they raise the simple possibility of treatment for bacterial or fungal illnesses.
In any event, talk of an "imminent" pandemic is just silly. We have no way of predicting when the necessary mutations will occur, allowing human-to-human spread.... something as yet not seen in the H5N1 virus. But certainly it seems no more likely this year than during any of the last six. What will REALLY be worrisome is when, on crowded Asian farms, this virus spreads from birds to pigs. At that point, the threat will become very scary.
3. A Foresight Institute Headline: Sunny Future for Nanocrystal Solar Cells News source: ScienceDaily ...Imagine a future in which the rooftops of residential homes and commercial buildings can be laminated with inexpensive, ultra-thin films of nano-sized semiconductors that will efficiently convert sunlight into electrical power and provide virtually all of our electricity needs. This future is a step closer to being realized, thanks to a scientific milestone achieved at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
"We obviously still have a long way to go in terms of energy conversion efficiency," said Ilan Gur, a researcher in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and fourth-year graduate student in UC Berkeley's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, "but our dual nanocrystal solar cells are ultra-thin and solution-processed, which means they retain the cost-reduction potential that has made organic cells so attractive vis-a-vis their conventional semiconductor counterparts." http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051023122429.htm
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/MSD-nanocrystal-solar-cells.html
4. Finally, Can the beat of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas? Can one little idea make a big difference in the lives of thousands of people?
Says Max More: "I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Wingbeat Project—a social entrepreneurship venture designed to gather the best ideas for positive social change and share them with the world.
"Here’s how it works: each month, the Wingbeat Project will announce a new topic or social problem. Visitors will be invited to submit ideas for addressing the social problem, along with a contribution that helps us keep going in our grassroots efforts. At the end of each month, we will choose a winner from the best ideas, and the winner will receive a cash award."
There are a few overlaps, conceptual, with my EON Project. Still, look this up at: http://www.wingbeat.typepad.com/