A World of Wonders and Worries

From the vitally important… See the most significant article of 2011: The Capitalist Network that Rules the World.  Consider how Adam Smith himself would have disapproved of the consolidation of total economic power into the grip of just a few hundred people… and Karl Marx would be rubbing his hands right now, murmuring yessssss! I’ll discuss this further, soon. Those of you who have read EARTH – or studied any history at all – know where this leads. Proving that the present generation of aristocrats ain’t anywhere near as smart as they think they are.  (More politics at-bottom.  But first lots of science & cool stuff.)

To the way-cool fun James Erwin posted a 350 word what if story, Rome, Sweet Rome, about a U.S. Marine battalion plopped into the Roman Empire… went off for a meal… and came back to find “viral” had a whole new meaning. Thousands were writing for more. Within a day he had an agent. By week’s end he had sold movie rights!  And when I re-tweeted this? Mr. Erwin tweeted back “In my next work, they’ll have to fight off 2,000 Holnists. Honored by the retweet.”

Hey James, my man, keep up the what-if spinning!  Great stuff.

…to “it’s about time!  Remember in EARTH where people use brain scanners to achieve meditation feats like monks, faster and easier?  Two brain-training games tested at Stanford University have proven remarkably successful at preventing depression in at-risk teenagers before it starts. A generation ago it was called “biofeedback” and seemed to show real promise. Now, this may just be the start of some long-delayed powers… and challenges to wisdom.

== Fighting back with light ==

One way a man dealt with suspicions from the FBI: by logging his own life: posting every flight, every trip, every detail online, by flooding the world… and the surveillors… with personal data, photos of his meals, travel itineraries, receipts, logs of people met. Here is Hasan M. Elahi’s rationalization: You Want to Track Me? Here You Go, F.B.I!

In an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up. Information agencies operate in an industry that values data. Restricted access to information is what makes it valuable. If I cut out the middleman and flood the market with my information, the intelligence the F.B.I. has on me will be of no value. Making my private information public devalues the currency of the information the intelligence gatherers have collected.

“My activities may be more symbolic than not, but if 300 million people started sending private information to federal agents, the government would need to hire as many as another 300 million people, possibly more, to keep up with the information and we’d have to redesign our entire intelligence system.”

An interesting experiment and believe me, as author of The Transparent Society, I am sympathetic with transparency-oriented experiments in spilling accountability upward.  Still, in the end I find this all rather silly.  Oh, the fellow has found a way to turn lemons into lemonade and he -personally – will probably never be bothered again, because he has become a quasi-public-figure.  In the end, this is a stunt. It is not “sousveillance” at all. Of course the state and corporations will adapt and Moore’s Law style surveillance AI will learn to cope with such floods.

== And more… ==

The ACLU issued a document clarifying your right to photograph in public. “When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Police may not delete  your photographs or video under any circumstances.” I’m moderate about the state looking at us, but we must be militant about looking back.

And see this: The Justice Department Wants To Be Able To Lie In Response To Freedom Of Information Requests. Federal agencies would be able to deny the existence of documents they choose to withhold.

Rather than just recording what you think will happen, PredictionBook allows you to record just how sure you are that it will happen. Not quite as sophisticated as what I meant by a Predictions Registry, but it’s getting closer.  WIll some volunteers try it and report back? Another such site is Longbets: The Arena for Accountable Predictions.

New data from a national math test show that U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders have made slight gains since 2009, but only 35 to 40 percent of the students tested showed proficiency in math.

== More Science! ==

Could the brain be using electromagnetic fields to communicate between hemispheres — the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness proposed by Johnjoe McFadden (School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey)?  Now Neuroscientists at Caltech have made a puzzling finding: people born without a corpus callosum (which links the two hemispheres of the brain) still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains. This occurs in approximately one of every 4000 live births. The typical corpus callosum comprises almost 200 million axons  — the largest fiber bundle in the human brain. (I was at Caltech when Roger Sperry started working with the split brain….)

A research team at Georgia Tech has discovered how to do exactly that, using a smartphone accelerometer — the internal device that detects when and how the phone is tilted — to sense (very nearby) keyboard vibrations and decipher complete sentences with up to 80 percent accuracy.

Quantum cryptography — which uses the quantum states of photons to encode information for transmission — exploits the fact that measurements cannot be made of a quantum system without disturbing it. It was thought impossible for an eavesdropper to intercept a quantum encryption key without disrupting it and triggering alarm bells. But “uncrackable” quantum cryptographic systems can in fact be cracked by using lasers to “blind” photon polarization detectors and force them to detect fake quantum-entanglement correlations, falsely indicating that a key is certified as secure.

Scientists generated a strain of mouse in which all the senescent cells can be purged by giving the mice a drug that forces the cells to self-destruct. Rid of the senescent cells, the Mayo Clinic researchers reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, the mice’s tissues showed a major improvement in the usual burden of age-related disorders. They did not develop cataracts, avoided the usual wasting of muscle with age, and could exercise much longer on a mouse treadmill.

Re consciousness, this from childhood chum Daniel Packman: “ It is interesting to see two different evolutionary routes to increased mental capacity: apes & company with bolted on stuff like the prefrontal lobes and parrots with a more fully developed reptilian brain. Both lead to some of the same thought processes so perhaps higher thought processes are an emergent inevitability of complexity.”

Ah, the power of words to kill…Four times, Captain Kirk talked evil computers into committing suicide. In Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, enemies exposed to the dour views of Marvin the Paranoid Android choose to commit suicide. Doctor Who manages this trick as well, as does Oedipus, when he solves the mystery of the sphinx. Here’s a compilation of the ways monsters and enemies have been talked to death…

==The Political Lamp is Lit ==

See, all-too clearly, the effects that Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan would have on the middle and upper classes.  Class War has already been declared.  And, as Warren Buffett said “my class is winning.”

Folks.  Order this T-Shirt.  Seriously. “Scudder for President 2012.”  People will ask you about it.  You’ll explain. They will come away wanting to (1) read Heinlein and (2) do anything in their power to prevent it.

The Earth’s surface is warming, after all, says a team of researchers who sought to investigate claims that flawed data and methods had skewed existing analyses of global temperature trends. “When we began this, I didn’t know whether we would see more warming than people had previously seen, or less. I knew that some skeptics had raised legitimate issues that needed further study,” said Muller, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’ve done that study now, and I think I’m surprised that the results agree with previous groups.”

Alas, the fact that the group is located at Berkeley means it will simply be shrugged off by those who need to consider it most.

Why is the CIA withholding its own report on Climate Change?

And finally….

Researchers at University College in London find brain structure differences in young adults with varied political beliefs.  “We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala. These results were replicated in an independent sample of additional participants. Our findings extend previous observations that political attitudes reflect differences in self-regulatory conflict monitoring [4] and recognition of emotional faces [5] by showing that such attitudes are reflected in human brain structure. Although our data do not determine whether these regions play a causal role in the formation of political attitudes, they converge with previous work [4, 6] to suggest a possible link between brain structure and psychological mechanisms that mediate political attitudes.”


1 Comment

Filed under politics, science

One response to “A World of Wonders and Worries

  1. TCH

    Fairly interesting.

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