Tuesday, March 20, 2012

meanwhile, cognitive elites further augment their electronic medical records

TechnologyReview | Back in 2000, when Larry Smarr left his job as head of a celebrated supercomputer center in Illinois to start a new institute at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of California, Irvine, he rarely paid attention to his bathroom scale. He regularly drank Coke, added sugar to his coffee, and enjoyed Big Mac Combo Meals with his kids at McDonald's. Exercise consisted of an occasional hike or a ride on a stationary bike. "In Illinois they said, 'We know what's going to happen when you go out to California. You're going to start eating organic food and get a blonde trainer and get a hot tub,' " recalls Smarr, who laughed off the predictions. "Of course, I did all three."

Smarr, who directs the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology in La Jolla, dropped from 205 to 184 pounds and is now a fit 63-year-old. But his transformation transcends his regular exercise program and carefully managed diet: he has become a poster man for the medical strategy of the future. Over the past decade, he has gathered as much data as he can about his body and then used that information to improve his health. And he has accomplished something that few people at the forefront of the "quantified self" movement have had the opportunity to do: he helped diagnose the emergence of a chronic disease in his body.

Like many "self-quanters," Smarr wears a Fitbit to count his every step, a Zeo to track his sleep patterns, and a Polar WearLink that lets him regulate his maximum heart rate during exercise. He paid 23andMe to analyze his DNA for disease susceptibility. He regularly uses a service provided by Your Future Health to have blood and stool samples analyzed for biochemicals that most interest him. But a critical skill separates Smarr from the growing pack of digitized patients who show up at the doctor's office with megabytes of their own biofluctuations: he has an extraordinary ability to fish signal from noise in complex data sets.

On top of his pioneering computer science work—he advocated for the adoption of ARPAnet, an early version of the Internet, and students at his University of Illinois center developed Mosaic, the first widely used browser—Smarr spent 25 years as an astrophysicist focused on relativity theory. That gave him the expertise to chart several of his biomarkers over time and then overlay the longitudinal graphs to monitor everything from the immune status of his gut and blood to the function of his heart and the thickness of his arteries. His meticulously collected and organized data helped doctors discover that he has Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease.

a post antibiotic era means an end to modern medicine as you know it

care2 | What would the world look like if an injury from a minor infection could kill you? Where bacterial illnesses like strep had no treatment? Where the risk of infection made it too dangerous for simple, routine surgeries such as hip replacements? Where the risk of infection would be great enough to render chemotherapy useless?

According to Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, this could soon be reality. At a meeting with infection disease experts in Copenhagen, she stated simply that every antibiotic in the arsenal of modern medicine may soon become useless due to the rise of antibiotic resistant diseases. The Independent quoted her explaining the ramifications:

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

She continued: “Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our first-line antimicrobials.

“Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.

“For patients infected with some drug-resistant pathogens, mortality has been shown to increase by around 50 per cent.

“Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake.”

Around the world, more and more pathogens are spreading which don’t respond to any known antibiotic drugs. In India, there has been a recent outbreak of drug-resistant TB. And in the US, the CDC warns that a new strain of gonorrhea is on the rise – and it is resistant to most forms of antibiotics. The agency warns that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing outbreaks of untreatable STIs. (And the fact that sex education in the US rarely warns teens how to adequately protect themselves from STIs probably won’t help.)

So why is this happening? There are a couple of troubling reasons – the first that Chan points to is the heavy use of antibiotics in livestock. In the US, a full 80% of the country’s antibiotics go to farm animals, not human beings. And the FDA has done little to discourage this. The only solution here is to go vegetarian/vegan, or start paying more for organic (not “natural”) meat, eggs, and dairy that have never been exposed to antibiotics.

The other reason is just depressing: there’s no money to be made, apparently, in developing new antibiotics.

drug-resistant "white plague" lurks among rich and poor

Reuters | On New Year's Eve 2004, after months of losing weight and suffering fevers, night sweats and shortness of breath, student Anna Watterson was taken into hospital coughing up blood.

It was strange to be diagnosed with tuberculosis TB.L- an ancient disease associated with poverty - especially since Watterson was a well-off trainee lawyer living in the affluent British capital of London. Yet it was also a relief, she says, finally to know what had been making her ill for so long.

But when Watterson's infection refused to yield to the three-pronged antibiotic attack doctors prescribed to fight it, her relief turned to dread.

After six weeks of taking pills that had no effect, Watterson was told she had multi-drug resistant TB, or MDR-TB, and faced months in an isolation ward on a regimen of injected drugs that left her nauseous, bruised and unable to go out in the sun.

"My friends were really shocked," Watterson said. "Most of them had only heard of TB from reading Victorian novels."

Tuberculosis is often seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras - evoking impoverished 18th or 19th century women and children dying slowly of a disease then commonly known as "consumption" or the "white plague".

But rapidly rising rates of drug-resistant TB in some of the wealthiest cities in the world, as well as across Africa and Asia, are again making history.

London has been dubbed the "tuberculosis capital of Europe", and a startling recent study documenting new cases of so-called "totally drug resistant" TB in India suggests the modern-day tale of this disease could get a lot worse.

"We can't afford this genie to get out of the bag. Because once it has, I don't know how we'll control TB," said Ruth McNerney, an expert on tuberculosis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

peacetime martial law?

beforeitsnews | This Executive Order was posted on the WhiteHouse.gov web site on Friday, March 16, 2012, under the name National Defense Resources Preparedness. In a nutshell, it's the blueprint for Peacetime Martial Law and it gives the president the power to take just about anything deemed necessary for "National Defense", whatever they decide that is. It's peacetime, because as the title of the order says, it's for "Preparedness". A copy of the entire order follows the end of this story.

Under this order the heads of these cabinet level positions; Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Defense and Commerce can take food, livestock, fertilizer, farm equipment, all forms of energy, water resources, all forms of civil transporation (meaning any vehicles, boats, planes), and any other materials, including construction materials from wherever they are available. This is probably why the government has been visiting farms with GPS devices, so they know exactly where to go when they turn this one on.

Specifically, the government is allowed to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate. They decide what necessary or appropriate means.

UPDATE: BIN reader Kent Welton writes: This allows for the giving away of USA assets and subsidies to private companies: "(b) provide for the modification or expansion of privately owned facilities, including the modification or improvement of production processes, when taking actions under sections 301, 302, or 303 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2091, 2092, 2093; and (c) sell or otherwise transfer equipment owned by the Federal Government and installed under section 303(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2093(e), to the owners of such plants, factories, or other industrial facilities."

What happens if the government decides it needs all these things to be prepared, even if there is no war? You likely won't be able to walk into a store to purchase virtually anything because it will all be requisitioned, "rationed" and controlled by the government. Construction materials, food like meat, butter and sugar, anything imported, parts, tires and fuel for vehicles, clothing, etc. will likely become unobtainable, or at least very scarce. How many things are even made here in the USA any more?

forget the money, follow the "sacredness"...,

NYTimes | Self-interest, political scientists have found, is a surprisingly weak predictor of people’s views on specific issues. Parents of children in public school are not more supportive of government aid to schools than other citizens. People without health insurance are not more likely to favor government-provided health insurance than are people who are fully insured.

Despite what you might have learned in Economics 101, people aren’t always selfish. In politics, they’re more often groupish. When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves. We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.

The key to understanding tribal behavior is not money, it’s sacredness. The great trick that humans developed at some point in the last few hundred thousand years is the ability to circle around a tree, rock, ancestor, flag, book or god, and then treat that thing as sacred. People who worship the same idol can trust one another, work as a team and prevail over less cohesive groups. So if you want to understand politics, and especially our divisive culture wars, you must follow the sacredness.

A good way to follow the sacredness is to listen to the stories that each tribe tells about itself and the larger nation. The Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith once summarized the moral narrative told by the American left like this: “Once upon a time, the vast majority” of people suffered in societies that were “unjust, unhealthy, repressive and oppressive.” These societies were “reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation and irrational traditionalism — all of which made life very unfair, unpleasant and short. But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies.” Despite our progress, “there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation and repression.” This struggle, as Smith put it, “is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”

This is a heroic liberation narrative. For the American left, African-Americans, women and other victimized groups are the sacred objects at the center of the story. As liberals circle around these groups, they bond together and gain a sense of righteous common purpose.

Contrast that narrative with one that Ronald Reagan developed in the 1970s and ’80s for conservatism. The clinical psychologist Drew Westen summarized the Reagan narrative like this: “Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way.” For example, “instead of requiring that people work for a living, they siphoned money from hard-working Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens.” Instead of the “traditional American values of family, fidelity and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex and the gay lifestyle” and instead of “projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform and burned our flag.” In response, “Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.”

This, too, is a heroic narrative, but it’s a heroism of defense. In this narrative it’s God and country that are sacred — hence the importance in conservative iconography of the Bible, the flag, the military and the founding fathers. But the subtext in this narrative is about moral order. For social conservatives, religion and the traditional family are so important in part because they foster self-control, create moral order and fend off chaos. (Think of Rick Santorum’s comment that birth control is bad because it’s “a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”) Liberals are the devil in this narrative because they want to destroy or subvert all sources of moral order.

Actually, there’s a second subtext in the Reagan narrative in which liberty is the sacred object. Circling around liberty would seem, on its face, to be more consistent with liberalism and its many liberation movements than with social conservatism. But here’s where narrative analysis really helps. Part of Reagan’s political genius was that he told a single story about America that rallied libertarians and social conservatives, who are otherwise strange bedfellows. He did this by presenting liberal activist government as the single devil that is eternally bent on destroying two different sets of sacred values — economic liberty and moral order. Only if all nonliberals unite into a coalition of tribes can this devil be defeated.

do you believe in magic?

questioneverything | These days I try to tune out what is going on in the Republican primary race because, to be blunt, every candidate is a joke and everything I've heard any of them say to date has been ludicrous. Especially about energy and the economy. More than that, I am heartbroken that so many citizens in this country can actually buy into any of this dribble. To be fair, however, the Democrats and the current administration haven't got it much better. They seem to be a little more realistic when it comes to understanding the oil/gasoline price problems, but they still don't seem to get the underlying dynamic that is driving us all off the cliff. Right now they are working hard to put the best spin on the recent economic data that seems to show the economy in recovery, even if slowly. But spin is all it is. As long as oil hovers north of $100 per barrel, we are all going to be adapting downward for a long time to come.

For example there is a lot of hot air circulating in the left political arena and in the MSM about jobs starting to show improvement. And it appears to be true that the raw numbers of jobs, even across many sectors, is either increasing or the loss is slowing. What they don't tell you is that the average wage rates for these new jobs is much less than what the old jobs (in the same sector) had paid. People aren't complaining. They are just happy to have a job. What the newly hired, as well as most Americans in the low and middle classes, are doing is cutting back on non-essentials. The recent run up in gas prices on the coasts is aggravating this. GDP growth remains sluggish even while the stock markets seem to be soaring. The left wants everyone to believe that the economy is recovering as we plunge into the political season. But, in fact, it is only adjusting. People are lowering expectations and adapting to a lower overall cash flow.

Meanwhile the underlying true cause of this contraction dynamic goes without recognition. As the world shifts from traditional crude oil liquids to the kind of gunk we get out of Alberta's tar sands, the net energy per capita continues its downward spiral. Peak conventional oil is being compensated in volume by bringing on more non-conventional and energy expensive volumes just to keep up appearances. Usable energy, that is the kind that does useful economic work, is the basis for the economy. Purchasing power relies on having enough energy to produce real goods and useful services and the amount of useful energy derived from non-conventional (like deep water) oil cannot replace what we had from conventional. No feasible amount of biofuels will make up the difference either.

But what about natural gas? The word on the street is that we have enough NG for 100 years at present use rates. The President said so. The NG companies say so. The investment bankers say so. The MSM says so. All we have to do is convert everything to NG and away we go!

There is a little known fact about NG, especially the kind you can only get out of the ground by horizontal drilling and hydro-fracturing the shale rocks. First the difference between technical recovery and financially-feasible recovery is significant. The MSM (and everybody else) likes to quote the reserve estimates based on the former. They choose to use this much higher number because they believe the technology to make it economic is just around the corner. Ask any of these advocates about the latter and they will look at you cross eyed. To them technically recoverable is the number that counts. Also what they do not know is the production dynamics of the non-conventional wells. It is true that these wells, when they produce (which isn't even close to 100% of drills), they produce at a much greater initial level than conventional wells. A fair amount of the hype about NG comes from this observation. But they never follow with the fact that these same wells have a much faster decline rate. In fact it looks like the decline rates of such wells is so fast that the total volume of actual NG recovered is much less than the initial burst would have predicted based on conventional wells. In other words, there is a big fanfare of production followed by wimpy results. I would bet the NG companies will not be publishing that to their investors.

The net energy per capita of all forms of fossil fuels is in decline. Even coal is costing more to get to the power plants. And if emission requirements gain any teeth (not really likely) then the costs of producing electricity with coal will climb and it will NEVER go down again.

The economy can grow as long as net energy is growing. There are only two ways that will happen. If the total volume of raw energy (fossil fuels) is growing rapidly then the total net will also grow. Or, if someone were to figure out how to reverse the decline in energy return on energy invested (EROI) then that would boost the net return from any amount of raw energy extracted. As that might entail finding a loophole in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and as no one who knows anything about the physics expects that to happen, that avenue is probably not going to work out. There is a third way we might experience growth of net energy on an individual level, and that is if the population would stop growing, and in fact, decline. Well peak oil (and the same phenomenon covering NG and coal) pretty much puts the cabash on the first way. The second would require an act of God. And the fourth is biologically impossible — we are still animals. So, since the net energy is destined to decline so is the economy. Simple physics.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

competing visions of a computer-controlled future

Spiegel | Federico Faggin has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, but he's still living la dolce vita in classic Italian style in his magnificent house on the edge of Silicon Valley. The elderly Faggin answers the phone with a loud "pronto" and serves wine and antipasti to guests. Everything about him is authentic. The only artificial thing in Faggin's world is what he calls his "baby." It has 16 feet -- eight on each side -- and sits wrapped in cotton in a cigarette case.

About four decades ago, Faggin was one of the first employees at Intel when he and his team developed the world's first mass-produced microprocessor, the component that would become the heart of the modern era. Computer systems are ubiquitous today. They control everything, from mobile phones to Airbus aircraft to nuclear power plants. Faggin's tiny creation made new industries possible, and he has played a key role in the progress of the last few decades. But even the man who triggered this massive revolution is slowly beginning to question its consequences.

"We are experiencing the dawn of a new age," Faggin says. "Companies like Google and Facebook are nothing but a series of microprocessors, while man is becoming a marginal figure."

The Worrying Speed of Progress
This week, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Google chairman Eric Schmidt opened CeBIT -- the digital industry's most important annual trade fair -- in the northern German city of Hanover, there was a lot of talk of the mobile Internet once again, of "cloud computing," of "consumer electronics" and of "connected products." The overarching motto of this convention is "Trust" -- in the safety of technology, in progress and in the pace at which progress unfolds.

This effort to build trust seems more necessary than ever, now that those who place their confidence in progress are being joined by skeptics who also see something dangerous about the rapid pace of development.

In his book "The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future," American computer scientist Martin Ford paints a grim picture. He argues that the power of computers is growing so quickly that they will be capable of operating with absolutely no human involvement at some point in the future. Ford believes that 75-percent unemployment is a possibility before the end of the century.

"Economic progress ultimately signifies the ability to produce things at a lower financial cost and with less labor than in the past," says Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. As a result, he says, increasing effectiveness goes hand in hand with rising unemployment, and the unemployed merely become "human waste."

Likewise, in their book "Race Against the Machine," Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), argue that, for the first time in its history, technological progress is creating more jobs for computers than for people.

software-defined networking

TechnologyReview | Yet today, even with seemingly cost-effective cloud services available from the likes of Amazon, most companies still choose to operate their own computing resources—whether for corporate e-mail or financial trading—as if they were homeowners relying on generators for electricity. One reason they resist cloud computing, Casado says, is that network architecture is too decentralized to reconfigure easily, which leaves the cloud insecure and unreliable. Cloud computing providers tend to run entire data centers on one shared network. If, for example, Coke and Pepsi both entrusted their computer systems to one of today's public cloud services, they might share a network connection, even though their data stores would be carefully kept separate. That could pose a security risk: a hacker who accessed one company's data could see the other's. It would also mean that a busy day for Coke would cause Pepsi's data transfers to slow down.

All of that changes when Nicira's software is installed on the servers in a data center. The software blocks the applications or programs running on the servers from interacting with the surrounding network hardware. A virtual network then takes over to do what a computer network needs to do: it provides a set of connections for the applications to route data through. Nicira's virtual network doesn't really exist, but it's indistinguishable from one made up of physical routers and switches.

To describe the power this gives to cloud administrators, Casado uses a Hollywood reference. "We actually give them the Matrix," he says. The movie's Matrix manipulated the brains of humans floating in tanks to provide the sensation that they were walking, talking, and living in a world that didn't exist. Nicira's version pulls a similar trick on the programs that reside on a server inside a data center, whether they are running a website or a phone app. In practice, this means that administrators can swiftly reprogram the virtual network to offer each application a private connection to the rest of the Internet. That keeps data more secure, and Coke's data crunch would affect Coke alone. It also lets the cloud provider set up automatic controls that compensate for events like sudden spikes in demand.

Ben Horowitz, a partner in the investment firm Andreessen-Horowitz, says he and his partner Marc Andreessen, a cofounder of Netscape, quickly realized that Nicira was delivering something long overdue in computing. "The total lack of innovation in networking compared to operating systems or storage had been bothering us for a while," he says. "It was holding back the industry." After meeting Casado, Horowitz invested in Nicira and joined its board. He saw in Nicira echoes of VMware, a company that helped set off the cloud computing boom and has a market capitalization of $40 billion. VMware's software creates virtual computers inside a server, boosting the efficiency of data centers and driving down the cost of servers. Nicira's software promises a similar instant upgrade to what a data center can do, by removing the efficiency bottleneck imposed by networks.

système D

Black Market
Created by: BusinessDegree.net

doomsday has its day in the sun...,

NYTimes | Television has long been full of “Americans” (“American Restoration,” “American Chopper,” “American Hoggers”) and “Extremes” (“Extreme Marksmen,” “Extreme Makeover,” “Extreme Couponing”) and “Tops” (“Top Gear,” “Top Chef,” “Top Shot”). In recent weeks, though, an interloper has staked a claim: “Doomsday.”

Last month the National Geographic Channel introduced “Doomsday Preppers,” a Tuesday-night reality series about people who are stockpiling, arming and otherwise preparing for some kind of apocalypse. Last week it was the Discovery Channel’s turn. Its new “Doomsday Bunkers,” on Wednesday nights, is about Deep Earth Bunker, a company that builds underground getaways for the types of people seen in “Doomsday Preppers.”

Watch either show for a short while and, unless you’re a prepper yourself, you might be moderately amused at the absurd excess on display and at what an easy target the prepper worldview is for ridicule. Watch a bit longer, though, and amusement may give way to annoyance at how offensively anti-life these shows are, full of contempt for humankind.

“Doomsday Preppers” introduces an array of end-of-civilization types who at first seem surprisingly varied. These preppers live all over the country, in rural areas, suburbs and cities. Each has a different reason for turning a perfectly adequate home into a canned-food warehouse or building an escape hideaway (or bug-out location, to use the prepper term) in the mountains. One expects the North and South Poles to swap places, one a global economic collapse, one “an electromagnetic pulse that will disable the transportation system of the United States.”

But the people on this show and the customers of Deep Earth Bunker are more alike than diverse. Who knows how representative these shows are of the prepper universe, but the people they feature are disproportionately white. They can’t speak for long without employing that cliché involving excrement and a fan. And whatever their religious beliefs might be, something “Preppers” doesn’t generally explore, most of them put their real faith in firearms.

“Preppers” and “Bunkers” are both full of footage of people firing or lovingly cradling their weaponry, which in many cases is frighteningly extensive. (You really don’t want the guy in last week’s “Preppers” living next door; in addition to a house full of ammunition, he has stockpiled 50 gallons of gasoline, an unsettling combination.) One notable exception was Kathy Harrison, a New England woman profiled on a recent “Preppers.”

“It’s easy to feel a little left out of the prepper community if you live in New England and if you’re not fairly right wing and conservative politically,” she said in the segment. “But I just don’t spend my time worrying about stockpiling guns and ammunition, because our security comes not from stockpiling weapons but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each others’ backs.”

A noble sentiment. But the unmistakable impression left by these programs is that what these folks want most of all is not to protect their families — the standard explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing — or even the dubious pleasure of being able to say to the rest of us, “See, I told you the world was going to end.” What they want is a license to open fire.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

are you humans meant to have language and music?

Discover | What do ironing and hang-gliding have in common? Not much really, except that we weren’t designed to do either of them. And that goes for a million other modern-civilization things we regularly do but are not “supposed” to do. We’re fish out of water, living in radically unnatural environments and behaving ridiculously for a great ape. So, if one were interested in figuring out which things are fundamentally part of what it is to be human, then those million crazy things we do these days would not be on the list.

But what would be on the list?

At the top of the list of things we do that we’re supposed to be doing, and that are at the core of what it is to be human rather than some other sort of animal, are language and music. Language is the pinnacle of usefulness, and was key to our domination of the Earth (and the Moon). And music is arguably the pinnacle of the arts. Language and music are fantastically complex, and we’re brilliantly capable at absorbing them, and from a young age. That’s how we know we’re meant to be doing them, i.e., how we know we evolved brains for engaging in language and music.

But what if this gets language and music all wrong? What if we’re not, in fact, meant to have language and music? What if our endless yapping and music-filled hours each day are deeply unnatural behaviors for our species? (What if the parents in Footloose* were right?!)

I believe that language and music are, indeed, not part of our core—that we never evolved by natural selection to engage in them. The reason we have such a head for language and music is not that we evolved for them, but, rather, that language and music evolved—culturally evolved over millennia—for us. Our brains aren’t shaped for these pinnacles of humankind. Rather, these pinnacles of humankind are shaped to be good for our brains.

But how on Earth can one argue for such a view? If language and music have shaped themselves to be good for non-linguistic and amusical brains, then what would their shapes have to be?

They’d have to possess the auditory structure of…nature. That is, we have auditory systems which have evolved to be brilliantly capable at processing the sounds from nature, and language and music would need to mimic those sorts of sounds in order to harness—to “nature-harness,” as I call it—our brain.

And language and music do nature-harness, a case I make in my third book, Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella, 2011). The two most important classes of auditory stimuli for humans are (i) events among objects (most commonly solid objects), and (ii) events among humans (i.e., human behavior). And, in my research I have shown that the signature sounds in these two auditory domains drive the sounds we humans use in (i) speech and (ii) music, respectively. Fist tap Dale.

nigeria: oil cuts as delta erupts

allafrica | As the government contends with a Boko Haram militia determined to make the north ungovernable, a new round of attacks has erupted in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Apart from the financial damage of a new Delta crisis, it adds to the government's credibility problem. As a government led by Niger Deltans, it was expected to pacify and then start developing the region.

Addressing the ecological and socio-economic devastation in the Delta would realistically take decades; local communities expect their government to make palpable progress with investment and job programmes. There is little sign of that happening: instead, local political feuds and vendettas are being pursued with the help of militant groups. Some of the worst clashes are between rival factions of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The latest violence there, in President Goodluck Jonathan's political base, threatens the government's amnesty deal with militants and costs the economy as much as a million barrels of oil per day. Nigeria was producing some 2.7 mn. barrels per day in February, compared with its potential of 3.7 mn. bpd. Industry sources say there's no prospect of hitting 3.7 mn. bpd in the near future, mainly because of insecurity.

Over half of production is now offshore and better protected from attack. Now, the rise in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is also changing security calculations at sea. Of current production, a further 140,000 bpd are lost to elaborate schemes of bunkering and oil theft run by militant groups and pirates, according to Royal Dutch Shell. For now, the biggest pressure is around the onshore oil fields operated by Shell and Chevron. Offshore piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is growing, posing risks to international shipping along one of the continent's busiest routes. Small, agile gangs in speedboats board vessels, raid them for oil and other cargo and move on (AC Vol 52 No 21, From Delta militias to piracy). Insurance premiums are rising. Piracy is an international problem under investigation by the United Nations (AC Vol 52 No 20, The Security Council lands a new African problem).

Uganda, AFRICOM, and the Kony Boogeyman

corbettreport | When oil executives announced the discovery of the largest onshore oil reserves in the Lake Albert region of Uganda in July 2009, the landlocked, oft-neglected East African nation of Uganda went from relative obscurity to a key partner for multi-national oil conglomerates.

Although buoyed by the news, the people of Uganda were naturally cautious, having seen how oil finds in Nigeria and Angola have brought more violence, bloodshed and instability than peace or prosperity.

These worst fears of Ugandans were lent further credence late last year, when President Obama announced he would be deploying US troops on the ground in Uganda, ostensibly to help capture Joseph Kony, the charismatic leader of a small rebel force that has been accused of murders, rapes and kidnaps in Uganda for decades. The timing of the deployment, however, coming at the exact same time as accusations that some of the highest officials in the Ugandan government were guilty of accepting bribes from international oil companies, only further confirmed that the deployment had less to do with Kony, an elusive figure who in fact left Uganda six years ago, and more to do with the securing of American oil interests.

For years, American interests in Africa have been increasingly threatened by China, the resource-hungry fast-growing second-largest economy in the world. America and its allies have noted with increasing dismay China’s growing economic cooperation with Africa, including its vast investment in the infrastructure for oil exploration, drilling and transportation in countries like Libya and Sudan. In recent years, China has been building up its relations with Uganda, and just last month the newly-appointed Chinese ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali, announced a series of measures to increase ties with the soon-to-be oil-rich African nation, including the granting of tariff free exports, and investments in transportation projects, power plants, and infrastructure.

But now, just as China makes its overtures toward Uganda to gain a potential toehold in the region and access to the as-yet-untapped oil wealth, a new video about Joseph Kony has suddenly gone viral online, having been viewed 10s of millions of times in just a week, and changing the focus of the American foreign policy debate toward greater US military involvement in oil-rich Uganda. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it suggests that the only way to capture Kony is to maintain an American military presence in the region.

It wasn’t long before Ugandans themselves took to social media to try to inject their own voice into the debate.

But such words of caution have fallen on the deaf ears of a public who believe that the problem of Kony is a simple one requiring an equally simple solution: more American troops. Just this week, a new bill was introduced in Congress that would see an expansion in regional forces in Africa.

What the film’s well-meaning supporters, many of them youth activists rallying behind a political cause for the first time, don’t realize, is that the Kony film, whether wittingly or not, is accomplishing what years of Pentagon propaganda could not muster: public support for an expanded American military role in Africa.

The process of setting up a unified American military command for the continent of Africa began in 2006, with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forming a committee to advise on the formation of AFRICOM. Officially established in October 2008, AFRICOM’s mission statement is to “strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa.” In reality, this provides a convenient excuse for maintaining and expanding a permanent American military presence in the region.

Friday, March 16, 2012

mission: mind control

Broadcast by ABC in 1979, this documentary examines our government's (then) 30 year human experimentation for mind control. This is a great investigative report of the mind control efforts from the past and it should make you wonder how our Congress could have dropped the ball in letting this go on after 1977. You won't see this much truth from the mainstream media today.

Fair use reporting.

Now it's 60 + years since the experiments started, mind control has grown much larger & sophisticated with technological advances worse than anything that Orwell ever dreamed of. This video is about how it was back in 1979 after only 30 years of experiments.

how your cat is making you crazy..,

TheAtlantic | No one would accuse Jaroslav Flegr of being a conformist. A self-described “sloppy dresser,” the 53-year-old Czech scientist has the contemplative air of someone habitually lost in thought, and his still-youthful, square-jawed face is framed by frizzy red hair that encircles his head like a ring of fire.

Certainly Flegr’s thinking is jarringly unconventional. Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

An evolutionary biologist at Charles University in Prague, Flegr has pursued this theory for decades in relative obscurity. Because he struggles with English and is not much of a conversationalist even in his native tongue, he rarely travels to scientific conferences. That “may be one of the reasons my theory is not better known,” he says. And, he believes, his views may invite deep-seated opposition. “There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers [of my scientific papers] may have been offended.” Another more obvious reason for resistance, of course, is that Flegr’s notions sound an awful lot like fringe science, right up there with UFO sightings and claims of dolphins telepathically communicating with humans.

But after years of being ignored or discounted, Flegr is starting to gain respectability. Psychedelic as his claims may sound, many researchers, including such big names in neuroscience as Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, think he could well be onto something. Flegr’s “studies are well conducted, and I can see no reason to doubt them,” Sapolsky tells me. Indeed, recent findings from Sapolsky’s lab and British groups suggest that the parasite is capable of extraordinary shenanigans. T. gondii, reports Sapolsky, can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator. Even more amazing is how it does this: the organism rewires circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal. “Overall,” says Sapolsky, “this is wild, bizarre neurobiology.” Another academic heavyweight who takes Flegr seriously is the schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey, director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, in Maryland. “I admire Jaroslav for doing [this research],” he says. “It’s obviously not politically correct, in the sense that not many labs are doing it. He’s done it mostly on his own, with very little support. I think it bears looking at. I find it completely credible.”

What’s more, many experts think T. gondii may be far from the only microscopic puppeteer capable of pulling our strings. “My guess is that there are scads more examples of this going on in mammals, with parasites we’ve never even heard of,” says Sapolsky.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


mirit.ru | Significance of scientific theory is determined by its ability not just to explain logically and clearly what and how happens, but also to show the ways and means of practical application of those ideas the theory expounds. That’s where rhythmodynamics beats all modern hypotheses, theories and paradigms as it reveals the essence, the mechanism of basic phenomena and shows how the new understanding can be applied in concrete areas.

The new revised and extended version of Yuri Ivanov’s book gives a definite model account as to: how systems self-organize; what inside-matter processes trigger and maintain the bodies’ motion by inertia; how bodies in gravitational field form their propensity to free fall; what energy flow is; what the speed of this flow is and what it depends on.

A new understanding of space dimensions is given; the notions of ‘amplitudeless’ and ‘frequency’ space have been introduced and defined; coordinate axes of these dimensions have been introduced too. A possible cause of red shift among distant objects in the Universe (Alice’s effect), and the cause of self-propulsion of isolated molecules are examined.

Besides, interpretation of the results of the famous Michelson’s interferometer experiment is given which is based on the ‘standing waves’ compression’ phenomenon. Application aspects concerning energy production and new ways of motion in space are inspected.

Rhythmodynamics surprising compatibility with other scientific approaches is explained by the absence of unfamiliar or vague notions and ideas in its foundation. Waves and wave sources are present more or less in all known theories of physics, therefore all the effects, phenomena and laws described y rhythmodynamics are automatically true in those theories.

The book is provided with a DVD containing films, a library of rare books, teaching materials and demonstration programs.

About the author: Yuri N. Ivanov, Doctor of Science, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Science, Director of the scientific-technical center STC "MIRIT"

Publishing house ‘Energia’, Moscow

field resonance "propulsion" concept

NASA | ABSTRACT - A new propulsion concept has been developed based on a proposed resonance between coherent, pulsed electromagnetic wave forms and gravitational wave forms (or space-time metrics). Using this concept, a spacecraft "propulsion" system potentially capable of galactic and inter-galactic travel without prohibitive "travel times" has been designed. The "propulsion" system utilizes recent research associated with magnetic field line merging, hydromagnetic wave effects, free-electron lasers, laser generation of megagauss fields, and special structural and containment metals. Research required to determine potential, field resonance characteristics and to evaluate various aspects of the spacecraft "propulsion" design is described.

The field resonance "propulsion" concept has been developed utilizing recent research into causes of solar flares, magnetic substorms, black holes, quasars, and UFOs.
The concept is based on two assumptions:

(1) Space-time is a "projection" of a higher dimensional space in much the same way that a hologram is a projection or a subset of our space-time reality,
(2) A relationship exists between electromagnetic / hydromagnetic fields and gravitational fields - that is, Einstein's long sought for unified field theory can be developed. Mathematical relationships have been developed and theoretical concepts have been proposed to describe the causes and effects associated with the assumptions, but experimental data is required to develop the correct theoretical basis for the assumptions (Rachman and Dutheil, 1979). Specific research in a number of areas is needed and will be described later.

There does exist, however, some astrophysical data which tends to support these assumptions.

For example, astronomers have speculated that a relationship may exist between black holes and quasars (white holes). The energy and matter which leaves space-time in a black hole may reappear at a white hole at some distant space-time point.
For this transfer of energy from one space-time point to another to occur, some type of hyperspace or higher dimensional space (4th & 5th) is required. Assumption 2 may be the cause of the large amount of energy released in solar flairs.
In sunspot regions where solar flairs occur, the 2-3 thousand gauss magnetic fields are configured such that the positive and negative polarities are in close proximity with each other. Where the positive and negative magnetic field lines are nearly anti-parallel a process called magnetic field line merging can take place.

In this process the oppositely directed field lines break and re-connect expelling fields and plasma out from the sides. As a result magnetic energy is converted into kinetic energy.

The magnetic field line merging process has been proposed as the most likely explanation for solar flare eruptions. However, some flares can release energy which equals 10% of the suns' total output in a second. This large amount of energy is difficult to achieve with the magnetic field line merging concept.

Thus it may be that the configuration of the magnetic fields and associated hydromagnetic waves (oscillation of field lines) may induce a "resonance" with gravitational fields resulting in a release of gravitational as well as magnetic energy.

It is well known that the geometrical relationships of the magnetic fields (and thus the field gradients) are more important to the production of solar flairs than the magnitude of the field strength.

A strongly convoluted boundary between magnetic polarities results in a high probability for large and frequent flares. Another fact of interest is that hydromagnetic waves generated by solar flare have been observed to propagate across the chromospheric surface and trigger flares in other sun spot regions.

Alfven waves, which appear to be the dominant wave form involved, change only the geometry of the field lines. This effect also indicates that the initiation of solar flares definitely depends on geometrical relationships as do the properties of space-time and gravitational fields.

Magnetic field line merging has also been used to explain the interaction of the solar wind (and associated fields) with the Earth's magnetic fields at the magnetopause and the generation of magnetic substorms which often are triggered by solar flairs.

The magnetic fields line merging process is also an essential part of the field resonance "propulsion" concept.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

spontaneous energy focusing in fluids and solids

ucla |A spectacular example is provided by sonoluminescence which is the phenomenon where by sound is channelled into light. In this effect a diffuse uniformly applied sound wave propagating through water can be observed to spontaneously focus its energy by over a factor of one trillion to generate a very short flash of ultraviolet light. A similar effect can be observed in the flow of water through a converging pipe. At flows which achieve velocity variations of about a meter/second bubbles form in the constriction and then emit picosecond bursts of ultraviolet light as they collapse downstream [flow cavitation].
Another example of energy focusing relates to the everday experience of generating a spark upon touching a door-knob after rubbing one's shoes on a carpet. In the laboratory a controlled realization of frictional-electricity is realized by moving glass relative to mercury. A motion of only a millimeter per second leads to the repetitive acceleration of electrons to at least 1% of the speed of light. Furthermore these electrons are emitted in bursts which are again measured in picoseconds.
Turbulence is another well known example of energy focusing. Here the phenomenon is referred to as intermittency. When a fluid is sufficiently agitated so that the effects of nonlinear dynamics overwhelm the damping effects of viscosity the motion becomes turbulent. The turbulence is not uniform being characterized by regions of unexpectedly violent and quiescent motion.
We also believe that the commonplace effect of friction is an example of the concentration of energy density, or stress. Here a pressure that is uniformly applied to a macroscopic body focuses down to tiny junctions where it reaches levels of one million atmospheres.
None of the above problems has been explained nor is there a generic understanding of the tendency of nature to form structures and focus energy off-equilibrium. In some instances models with many input effects have been generated that can parametrize a portion of the existing data, but these models become quite weak when challenged to make a prediction.
Finally it must be emphasized that these unsolved problems in physics are fundamental. Since no-one has yet succeeded to derive fluid mechanics from the first principles of quantum mechanics [or Newton's Laws] these emergent theories are, as my thesis adviser George E. Uhlenbeck was fond of emphasizing, just as fundamental as the reductionist's so-called first principles of physics.

how acoustic levitation works

howstuffworks | Unless you travel into the vacuum of space, sound is all around you every day. But most of the time, you probably don't think of it as a physical presence. You hear sounds; you don't touch them. The only exceptions may be loud nightclubs, cars with window-rattling speakers and ultrasound machines that pulverize kidney stones. But even then, you most likely don't think of what you feel as sound itself, but as the vibrations that sound creates in other objects.

The idea that something so intangible can lift objects can seem unbelievable, but it's a real phenomenon. Acoustic levitation takes advantage of the properties of sound to cause solids, liquids and heavy gases to float. The process can take place in normal or reduced gravity. In other words, sound can levitate objects on Earth or in gas-filled enclosures in space.

To understand how acoustic levitation works, you first need to know a little about gravity, air and sound. First, gravity is a force that causes objects to attract one another. The simplest way to understand gravity is through Isaac Newton's law of universal gravitation. This law states that every particle in the universe attracts every other particle. The more massive an object is, the more strongly it attracts other objects. The closer objects are, the more strongly they attract each other. An enormous object, like the Earth, easily attracts objects that are close to it, like apples hanging from trees. Scientists haven't decided exactly what causes this attraction, but they believe it exists everywhere in the universe.

Second, air is a fluid that behaves essentially the same way liquids do. Like liquids, air is made of microscopic particles that move in relation to one another. Air also moves like water does -- in fact, some aerodynamic tests take place underwater instead of in the air. The particles in gasses, like the ones that make up air, are simply farther apart and move faster than the particles in liquids.

Third, sound is a vibration that travels through a medium, like a gas, a liquid or a solid object. A sound's source is an object that moves or changes shape very rapidly. For example, if you strike a bell, the bell vibrates in the air. As one side of the bell moves out, it pushes the air molecules next to it, increasing the pressure in that region of the air. This area of higher pressure is a compression. As the side of the bell moves back in, it pulls the molecules apart, creating a lower-pressure region called a rarefaction. The bell then repeats the process, creating a repeating series of compressions and rarefactions. Each repetition is one wavelength of the sound wave.

The sound wave travels as the moving molecules push and pull the molecules around them. Each molecule moves the one next to it in turn. Without this movement of molecules, the sound could not travel, which is why there is no sound in a vacuum.

The Physics of Sound Levitation
A basic acoustic levitator has two main parts -- a transducer, which is a vibrating surface that makes sound, and a reflector. Often, the transducer and reflector have concave surfaces to help focus the sound. A sound wave travels away from the transducer and bounces off the reflector. Three basic properties of this traveling, reflecting wave help it to suspend objects in midair.

First, the wave, like all sound, is a longitudinal pressure wave. In a longitudinal wave, movement of the points in the wave is parallel to the direction the wave travels. It's the kind of motion you'd see if you pushed and pulled one end of a stretched Slinky. Most illustrations, though, depict sound as a transverse wave, which is what you would see if you rapidly moved one end of the Slinky up and down. This is simply because transverse waves are easier to visualize than longitudinal waves.

Second, the wave can bounce off of surfaces. It follows the law of reflection, which states that the angle of incidence -- the angle at which something strikes a surface -- equals the angle of reflection -- the angle at which it leaves the surface. In other words, a sound wave bounces off a surface at the same angle at which it hits the surface. A sound wave that hits a surface head-on at a 90 degree angle will reflect straight back off at the same angle. The easiest way to understand wave reflection is to imagine a Slinky that is attached to a surface at one end. If you picked up the free end of the Slinky and moved it rapidly up and then down, a wave would travel the length of the spring. Once it reached the fixed end of the spring, it would reflect off of the surface and travel back toward you. The same thing happens if you push and pull one end of the spring, creating a longitudinal wave.

Finally, when a sound wave reflects off of a surface, the interaction between its compressions and rarefactions causes interference. Compressions that meet other compressions amplify one another, and compressions that meet rarefactions balance one another out. Sometimes, the reflection and interference can combine to create a standing wave. Standing waves appear to shift back and forth or vibrate in segments rather than travel from place to place. This illusion of stillness is what gives standing waves their name.

Standing sound waves have defined nodes, or areas of minimum pressure, and antinodes, or areas of maximum pressure. A standing wave's nodes are at the heart of acoustic levitation. Imagine a river with rocks and rapids. The water is calm in some parts of the river, and it is turbulent in others. Floating debris and foam collect in calm portions of the river. In order for a floating object to stay still in a fast-moving part of the river, it would need to be anchored or propelled against the flow of the water. This is essentially what an acoustic levitator does, using sound moving through a gas in place of water.

By placing a reflector the right distance away from a transducer, the acoustic levitator creates a standing wave. When the orientation of the wave is parallel to the pull of gravity, portions of the standing wave have a constant downward pressure and others have a constant upward pressure. The nodes have very little pressure.

In space, where there is little gravity, floating particles collect in the standing wave's nodes, which are calm and still. On Earth, objects collect just below the nodes, where the acoustic radiation pressure, or the amount of pressure that a sound wave can exert on a surface, balances the pull of gravity.