July 7th, 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Heinlein. The Heinlein Society is planning on publishing a Centennial Reader made up of contributions from people who may have known or felt Heinlein’s influence in their personal or professional lives. “We are looking for stories, anecdotes, or scholarly essays on Heinlein's works.” Pass word along. Pay it forward.
Danone, one of the largest dairy food and water producers in the world, is forming a joint venture with Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank to form what Yunus calls a "social business enterprise." By truly marrying the interests of corporations with economic development, the model calls for corporations to "draw on microcredit-funded businesses to incorporate nonprofit models into their bottom-line operations, seeking not just revenue but social returns, and returning the profits to the communities where they operate."
Addiction, Lie Detection and Infection
An unusual study of people with brain damage, caused in most cases by a stroke, suggests the compulsion to light up might be driven by the same little studied brain region, the insula, that helps us make sense of hunger pangs, nervous twitches and all sorts of visceral body signals. If only some high level types would see the need to study addiction as a GENERAL TRAIT OF HUMAN NATURE. Alas.
Polygraph tests are notoriously unreliable, yet thousands of employers, attorneys, and law-enforcement officials use them routinely. Could an alternative system using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technology that indirectly measures brain activity, better detect deceit? The U.S. government is certainly interested. "The great danger is that something like fMRI is adopted as a means of lie detection and becomes the standard before it has been scientifically evaluated for this purpose..."
I would add a second danger. That elites of government, commerce and wealth will gain access to such techniques before the masses can use them reciprocally.
The discovery, announced last week, that the H5N1 bird flu virus is widespread in cats in locations across Indonesia has refocused attention on the danger that the deadly virus could be mutating into a form that can infect humans far more readily.
And let me pass along some cool items collated by Ray Kurzweil...
EEStor claims that its system, a kind of battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety. Such a breakthrough would have the potential to radically transform the transportation sector
Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran believes that "other awareness" may have evolved first and then, counterintutively, the same ability was exploited to model ones own mind--what one calls self awareness.
Space experts have worried that a speeding bit of orbital debris might one day smash a large spacecraft into hundreds of pieces and start a chain reaction, a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.
Bio-era released “Genome Synthesis and Design Futures: Implications for the U.S. Economy”. The report 1) examines the present state of biological technologies and places them in the context of technological revolutions from the past 100 years, 2) examines economic and market impacts of biological technologies in three sectors important to the U.S. economy, biofuels, vaccines, and chemicals, and 3) develops four scenarios exploring the consequences of certain technological developments and of governmental policy.
Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices.
Blinkx's technology allows users to search more than seven million hours of Internet video to find exactly the clip they want. It employs speech recognition, neural networks, and machine learning to create transcripts, allowing for the words spoken in the videos to be searched.
Then there are some ruminations on interstellar travel.
An article about the eerie tendency of human beings to “recognize” faces almost anywhere.
On the Edge
And now, from “RU Serious”... a new book True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology, and Consciousness with contributions from luminaries like Jaron Lanier, Cory Doctorow, Jamais Cascio, John Markhoff etc.
The volume “looks at the wild changes that may be coming to the human species during the 21st Century. In a series of interviews, author/host RU Sirius explores a series of (r)evolutions in disciplines ranging from the evolution of clean energy to the possibilities of endless neurological ecstasy; from open-source free access to nearly everything under the sun to self-directed biotechnological evolution; from psychedelic culture mash-ups to the possibilities of a technological singularity that alters not only humanity but the entire universe. In 2007, True Mutations takes up where his earlier book (with Rudy Rucker) Mondo 2000: A User’s Guide to the New Edge left off. I hope these playful, informative, occasionally skeptical, frequently trippy, and sometimes funny conversations turn you on to new ways of thinking about these sometimes scary and definitely wiggy times and inspire new forms of creative work and play among those who read it.”
And now to the ridiculous: I recently received, by old fashioned US post, a bit of junk mail for an organization selling books and promoting "geocentricity." Their wares supposedly reveal "what scientists haven't been telling you for four centuries" -- naughty scientists! - that "written evidence and ancient witnesses around the world record a time when an unusually long span of daylight or night occurred. But scientists cannot explain why this event did not cause massive earthquakes or coastal flooding."
In case you can think of an explanation, Mr. Scientist, heed the words of the website http://www.geocentricity.com that whenever astronomy and the Bible differ, "it is always astronomy ... that is wrong."