My Burma Meme Spreads to 17,000 Web Pages in just one week!

I’ve been tracking the progress of my Burma protest meme. In just under one week it has spread to almost 17,000 web pages and it continues to grow. (For the latest number, click here). It’s great to see the blogosphere pick this up, and I’m glad to be able to do something to help raise awareness of this important human rights issue.

This meme is also an example of an interesting new way to spread content on the Web — whether for a protest or an ad or any other kind of announcement. It’s kind of like a chain letter, but via weblogs. There are many different ways to structure these memes with varying levels of virality and benefit to participants. For some earlier work I’ve done on meme propagation on the Web see my GoMeme experiments from a few years ago. In those experiments I created a series of memes that spread widely through the blogosphere, based on different viral messages, surveys, and benefits to participants. Other people then tracked the statistics of the memes as they spread. It turned out to be a very interesting study of superdistribution of content along social networks.

Dangerous Situation in Burma Developing

The nation of Myanamar (Burma) is currently ruled by a repressive and corrupt military dictatorship. Past attempts to bring about democracy have met with violent crackdowns by the government, usually against unarmed civilians. In one past incident, approximately 3000 protesters were killed by the military.

Now a new situation is developing that could rapidly lead to mass civilian casualties, if the international community does not intervene in time. Led by thousands of Buddhist monks, approximately 100,000 Burmese civilians marched to demonstrate their support for democracy in Burma.

So far the military has not reacted with violence, but there are growing warning signs that this may happen soon. The international community, and all people who believe in freedom, should stand up and support the brave citizens of Burma who are putting their lives at risk for the principle of democracy, a principle which unfortunately is eroding worldwide according to a recent study.

A Bottle That Purifies Enough Water for a Year

This is a really great invention — a hand held water bottle that can purify a year’s worth of water. It removes not only parasites and bacteria, but also viruses. It was just announced recently at a defense industry tradeshow and was a big hit among military commanders who need a better way to get water to their troops. Beyond that it could be a lifesaver in disaster areas and in developing countries where finding clean water is a daily struggle.

Rogue Nodes Turn Tor Anonymizer Into Private Listening Post

A security researcher has figured out a novel way to compromise the security of messages traveling in the Tor anonymizer network. Messages in the Tor network are encrypted as they travel from node to node to their final destination. But the last node has to decrypt the messages before it can deliver them to their final destination on the Internet. Many Tor users mistakenly believe their message remains encrypted through the entire Tor network, when in fact this is not the case: the last node must decrypt them. The researcher simply ran a few of these nodes and was able to read all unencrypted last-node traffic that came through them. This included sensitive communications of many government embassies around the world. The researcher believes that intelligence agencies around the world are already taking advantage of this weakness to eavesdrop on Tor traffic. Interestingly, when he pointed this security hole out to some of the embassies that were sending non-secure message they didn’t respond or even appear to understand the problem. Read more here.

New Wireless Power Technology — No More Wires!

A group of physicists at MIT have come up with a new model for beaming wireless power to mobile devices, such as computers or cell phones. It promises to do for power, what wireless ethernet hubs do for network connectivity.

I’ve been interested in wireless power ever since I first read the biography of Nikola Tesla in the early 1990’s. Tesla was perhaps the most important inventor of the 20th century — he singlehandedly invented much of what enables the modern electrical power grid today. He also pioneered radio, and many other technologies. But his greatest dream was wireless power. He believed he had discovered a way to beam electricity to any point on earth and embarked on several ambitious projects to test and commercialize his appraoch. But sadly his projects were never completed due to funding problems and interference by competitors and investors who had conflicting business interests. By the end of his life Tesla was a lonely and forgotten man, feeding pidgeons in the park.  At his death, many of his lab notebooks were confiscated and classified as Top Secret by the US military — never to be seen again — (and at least some this confiscated information was later used as the foundation for the Star Wars particle beam weaponry program). The greatest electrical genius in history was just too far ahead of his own time.

Tesla’s work has still not been fully understood or replicated today. But what remains unclassified is a treasure trove of invention of great relevance to the world we live in today.  In 2003 I blogged an article, called "I Want Wireless Power" outlining why I want this technology. Another great article about this opportunity is here.

British Ministry of Defense Chief Resigns; Cites Concerns About UFO's

Ok, here’s a very unusual news item:

During his time as head of the Ministry of Defence UFO project, Nick
Pope was persuaded into believing that other lifeforms may visit Earth
and, more specifically, Britain.

His concern is that "highly credible" sightings are simply dismissed.

And he complains that the project he once ran is now "virtually closed" down, leaving the country "wide open" to aliens.

Mr Pope decided to speak out about his worries after resigning
from his post at the Directorate of Defence Security at the MoD this
week.

"The consequences of getting this one wrong could be huge," he said.

Read the rest here.  I have several thoughts about this  news and what it might mean… 

Continue reading

Excellent Strategic Analysis of North Korean Crisis

This article in the Atlantic Monthly presents the best analysis I’ve seen of the strategic situation on the Korean penninsula, and various US options (and potential mistakes to avoid). It’s really a fascinating read, and quite educational, for anyone concerned about what might happen in that arena.

US Banking System Collapse in 2008?

I recently listened to a talk by Dr. David Martin, given at the Arlington Institute, a think tank I advise. You can listen to it here. It takes some patience to get to the main point — but you will be rewarded with a mind-blowing new perspective on what may unfold in the next few years.

Dr. Martin describes why he predicts a very likely total collapse of the US Banking system in 2008.  Even more surprising is that he explains how the only hope for bailing out the US economy at that time may in fact be Muslim financial institutions — the financial entities of the Muslim world — because they are the most cash rich entities on the planet, and unlike our banks they are not exposed to intangible asset risks.

In other words, as Dr. Martin explains, if for no other reason than this, we should think twice before bombing Iran and the rest
of the Middle East back to the Stone Age — they may in fact be our
economy’s only hope and we may soon be in dire need of their help. This is a radical hypothesis, but based on very realistic data and in particular, new laws that are going into effect in the global banking world in January, 2008. On the other hand this could be Y2K all over again.

In any case, this is one of the more intriguing ideas I’ve come across in a long time. Please listen to the talk and then share it with other people. Dr. Martin’s hypothesis may or may not be correct, but it certainly should be heard by more people so that it can be debated and brought to the attention of global decisionmakers as soon as possible.

Water Powered Car — Too Good to Be True? Video.

OK this is a clip from Fox News, which is not normally a source that I consider to be factual or trustworthy — but it cerrtainly is an interesting story. The video clip profiles an inventor who has developed a novel method of converting water to useful fuel. He powers a welding torch and a car in the video. It’s pretty interesting to watch. What is most strange to me is that although his welding torch can generate enough heat to burn holes in rock, the tip of the torch stays cool enough to touch. Check it out.

Scenario: What would Happen if US got in a War with China?

This is a very interesting scenario showing how China could potentially trounce US forces in a single, calculated strike. While it doesn’t consider the option that US would retaliate nonconventially, shifting the game to a new playing field, it certainly makes a compelling case for China winning in a conventional conflict in their territorial waters at least. The author concludes by suggesting the US has two options — continue seeking world domination and eventually face such a situation, or take a different approach altogether and seek to lead the world in medicine, fighting poverty, and helping emerging countries — a strategy which the author believes would win the hearts and minds of people around the world, leading to longer-term gains for the US than a strategy that seeks leadership through military dominance.

Continue reading

Russia Plans to Mine Helium-3 On Moon

The head of the Russian space corporation, Energia, has been quoted as stating that Russia is planning on setting up a permanent mining base on the moon to mine Helium-3. Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope of helium that is rare on earth but plentiful on the moon. It is an ideal fuel for nuclear fusion. It can also be used to make next-generation weapons. Some have predicted a new energy frontier focused on helium-3 in the coming century.

New Quantum Propulsion Being Researched By Air Force

A radical new form of propulsion is being researched that may enable travel from Earth to Mars in 3 hours, and travel to nearby stars in just 80 days. The system is based on a novel quantum theory termed Heim quantum
theory (HQT).

The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is
based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could
potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and
journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a
report in today’s New Scientist magazine.

The
theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that,
according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim
in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust
for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would
slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster,
allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic
field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

The US air force has expressed an interest in the idea and
scientists working for the American Department of Energy – which has a
device known as the Z Machine that could generate the kind of magnetic
fields required to drive the engine – say they may carry out a test if
the theory withstands further scrutiny.

Professor Jochem Hauser, one of the scientists who put forward the
idea, told The Scotsman that if everything went well a working engine
could be tested in about five years.

However, Prof Hauser, a physicist at the Applied Sciences University
in Salzgitter, Germany, and a former chief of aerodynamics at the
European Space Agency, cautioned it was based on a highly controversial
theory that would require a significant change in the current
understanding of the laws of physics. (Source)

It is interesting to note that this
theory shares a similar physical picture, namely a quantized spacetime,
with the recently published loop quantum theory (LQT) by L. Smolin, A.
Ashtektar, C. Rovelli, M. Bojowald et al. [11, 24-28]. LQT, if proved
correct, would stand for a major revision of current physics, while HQT
would cause a revolution in the technology of propulsion. (Source)

Links for further reading on this subject.

Big Thinkers' Most Dangerous Ideas

The Edge has published mini-essays by 119 "big thinkers" on their "most dangerous ideas" — fun reading.

The history of science is replete with discoveries
that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally
dangerous in their time; the Copernican and
Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious.
What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think
about (not necessarily one you originated)
that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

 

NASA Makes Plans to Deflect Possible Asteroid Hit in 2036

This just in

NASA has outlined what it could do, and in what time frame, in case a
quarter-mile-wide asteroid named Apophis is on a course to slam into
Earth in the year 2036. The timetable was released by the B612
Foundation, a group that is pressing NASA and other government agencies
to do more to head off threats from near-Earth objects.

The plan runs like this: Eight years from now,
if there’s still a chance of a collision in 2036, NASA would start
drawing up plans to put a probe on the space rock or in orbit around it
in 2019. Measurements sent back from the probe would characterize
Apophis’ course to an accuracy of mere yards (meters) by the year 2020.

If
those readings still could not rule out a strike in 2036, NASA would
try to deflect the asteroid into a non-threatening course in the
2024-2028 time frame by firing an impactor at it — using this year’s Deep Impact comet-blasting probe
as a model. Experts would start planning for the "Son of Deep Impact"
mission even before they knew whether or not it was needed.

New Russian Stealth Fighter Uses Plasma Shield

The Russian air force has invented a next-generation stealth technology based on surrounding the aircraft with a plasma shield that completely disperses radar waves. This technology offers significant benefits over existing stealth technology and also enables higher-performance aircraft since the shape no longer has to be altered to achieve stealth.

Idea for Safer Submarines

I’ve been following the drama of the stranded Russian mini-sub. One of the main problems is that they have limited oxygen, which doesn’t give the rescue team much time to retrieve the sub. This got me thinking and I came up with a simple idea that could make all submarines safer: Every submarine should have an external valve hookup so that pressurized air can be pumped into the cabin from an external source. This valve design should be a universal standard that every navy and coast guard agrees on, so that all submarine rescue teams have compatible equipment for it. When a submarine is stranded on the sea floor, the first thing rescuers would do is to send down a remotely piloted drone with an air supply line. The drone would locate the external air valve and attach the air supply line to it. Once attached, a rescue ship on the surface would begin pumping appropriately pressurized air into the submarine’s cabin, which would relieve the time pressure caused by dwindling native oxygen supplies in the submarine. This air supply valve could also house a wireline communications hookup for two way communications between surface teams and the submarine crew.

Fascinating Article — Surviving a Nuclear Attack on Washington DC

This article is very interesting not only because it provides an unusually detailed scenario of what would happen if a nuke was detonated in the Washington DC area, but also because it provides counter-intuitive guidance for how to survive such a situation, as well as information about new medical treatments for helping both first-responders and victims to combat radiation sickness. Let’s hope nothing like this ever happens!

Wireless Quantum Crypto Announced

A system for wireless quantum cryptography has been announced by BBN. This is curious: I wonder how they manage the key exchange? They could be using a laser, I suppose, but that would only be line of sight, or would require airborne reflectors. Another possibility would be the EPR effect, but if they actually built a transmitter based on that they would probably win the Nobel Prize, so I’m doubtful. It will be interesting to learn more. Also, I wonder what the reaction will be over at MagiQ.

Who Inserted Mutated Human Flu Virus in South Korean Pig Virus?

In a worrying development, part of a mutated human influenza virus related to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was found in a virus in pigs in South Korea. The question is, how did this happen and what does it indicate? It couldn’t have taken place naturally and may be evidence of the early-stages of a  bioterror attack.

Chinese Hackers Target Tibetans

A recent article on Boing Boing reports the most recent round of Chinese cyberattacks on the Tibetan government in exile.

China has increasingly aimed its sophisticated cyberwar teams at the low-tech, peace-loving Tibetans. I know dozens of Tibetan lamas and their staffs and they all use PC’s — and none of them know anything about viruses, firewalls, trojan horses, etc. They are sitting ducks for this kind of attack (maybe they should all use Macs? Fewer/no viruses! That would be a great PR move for Apple).

The Tibetans just want the freedom to practice their religion without being disturbed. It would be really wonderful if the white-hat hacker community would volunteer their services to help the Tibetans defend themselves from this state-sponsored cyberterror.

Invisibility Shield Proposed

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have proposed a new approach to making objects invisible, by tuning special materials such that they cancel the scattering of light. The technology has a few drawbacks — it only works for specific wavelengths of light at various scales — but it’s a start. Objects that are rendered "invisible" by this technique neither absorb nor scatter light, and appear to be much smaller than their actual size, if they appear at all.

The Threat of Contaminated Money: Proposed Solutions

by Nova Spivack, Minding the Planet, http://www.mindingtheplanet.net

This news article reports that the FBI is investigating a situation in which mobsters deliberately contaminated their drug money with a virus in order to deter in-house theft by members of their organization. Several years ago, during the days of collective paranoia following 9-11, I started thinking about how to combat potential terrorist threats — and one of the threats I came up with was precisely this threat of contaminated money. Because money travels in a “viral” manner along social and economic networks it represents a perfect vector for spreading a contaminant. While the effects of such an attack would be minimal in terms of actual fatalities, they would potentially be enormous in terms of panic and disruption to our way of life.

I knew it was only a matter of time before this threat materialized somewhere in the world: Now it seems that an actual case has emerged. While the money in question did not represent a large sum, and although viruses (at least) have a relatively short shelf-life, it is an example of a scary new kind of threat that governments need to prepare to defend against. Below are some thoughts about a potential worst-case scenario and various countermeasures that could be implemented to protect against it.

Here is a hypothetical worst-case scenario: imagine what would happen if terrorists contaminated $30 million of small-denomination US dollar banknotes with weaponized anthrax (which can survive for a very long time outside of a lab) and then put those notes back into circulation in several major cities. A month later they then announce what they have done. By that point the contaminated notes have circulated through countless banks, ATM machines, cash registers, wallets, people’s clothing and homes — in short, a large scope of potential contamination exists. The public and the news media panic –suddenly nobody knows whether their $10, $20 and $50 bills are safe to touch, let alone use. People are advised not to use, touch or accept such notes. Leading health authorities go so far as to advise people to throw away or burn their money as well as anything that may have come in contact with it — their wallets, their credit cards, their clothing, etc. Furthermore even the act of coming into contact with potentially contaminated notes in order to dispose of them is risky –and so people don’t know what to do. People are advised to use credit cards for all transactions — but this cuts out anyone who doesn’t have a credit card as well as any business that doesn’t accept credit cards. Furthermore, since plastic credit cards may have come in contact with the contaminated notes in people’s wallets, they too are suspect and may be risky to use. Only telephone and Internet transactions are “hands off” enough to be completely safe. But not every consumer, nore very business, is capable of online payments for every single transaction they do. As a result the consumer economy grinds to a screeching halt.

Possible Countermeasures:

What is the solution? How can we prepare for, defend against, and mitigate such a situation?

My first recommendation is that banknotes should be regularly tested, according to a random sampling schedule, in several major cities, for the presence of potential contaminants. This is not so easy as it turns out that all banknotes carry a large amount of bacteria and other contaminants naturally. Therefore the testing must specifically look for unusual contaminants or unusually high levels of common contaminants.

Secondly, all banks, cash registers and ATM machines should at the very least have built-in UV emitters that destroy viruses and bacteria on any banknotes that pass through them. While this will not protect against radiological or chemical contamination it would protect against biological agents. Since most notes eventually pass through cash registers and ATM machines this measure would help to prevent the spread of any biological contaminant.

Thirdly, there should be a method for replacing contaminated banknotes on a large scale if necessary. Every banknote has an unique serial number. A system should be devised whereby people can bring their banknotes to a location that will take them and provide uncontaminated replacements. To accomplish this effectively, banks should be used as the distribution points for this process. Each bank should be provided with a system for in-taking potentially contaminated notes, logging their serial numbers, photographing them, and destroying them — and then issuing a replacement note to the customer.

Fourthly, as a short-term emergency solution there should be a system in place that can switch the entire nation or any city to digital cash immediately. To do this, every citizen and business should be provided with a free digital wallet that can be accessed via Internet or telephone. The owners of these wallets should be enabled to put money into them, and to transfer funds between them, and with draw money from them. Paypal would be a suitable infrastructure for this. This solution would not work for everyone — not everyone has a bank account or credit card or even a permanent address — but it would work for a large percentage of the population and for a short term would keep the economy running.

Hafnium Bombs – The Next Superweapon

Here is a fascinating article about DARPA’s "high risk, high payoff" quest to develop an exotic new Hafnium bomb — a new kind of weapon that emits huge amounts of gamma rays from a very small package. This thing packs the bang of a conventional nuke in a package as small as a hand grenade — and the gamma ray burst that results can penetrate deep into bunkers and through thick materials. Of course, it would really be a bad idea to toss a Hafnium grenade unless you could run incredibly fast. But that said, Hafnium weapons may be a big part of our future (or who knows, maybe they’re already part of our present?). Beyond military applications, it seems this technology could offer a very promising new non-fossil fuel energy source, if it weren’t so expensive to produce.

Fascinating US Air Force Teleportation Physics Study

It’s official, the US Air Force has looked seriously at teleportation. This recently released Air Force report details the history of teleportation science, the present state-of-the-art, as well as several new directions for research and an extensive bibliography. Fascinating reading!

Russian Doc Predicts Bird-Flu Will Kill 1 Billion; Possibly This Year…

A Russian academician has predicted that bird-flu will stem to humans and kill up to one billion people around the world within 6 months of an outbreak. He says it is highly probable that a pandemic could take place within the next year. There is no evidence cited for his claims however he refers to studies to this effect allegedly in hands of US authorities. We’ll be tracking this meme as it develops to see if it is credible. Please update here if you get further data. Editor’s Note: The World Health Organization is organizing an emergency summit to develop strategies to combat the threat of this potential pandemic.

The American Conservative Magazine endorses…Kerry?

Disclaimer: I try to keep this blog non-political. I am essentially a political centrist — I tend to judge each politician, plan and party on its merits rather than by any rigid ideology or party-line. I generally find most politicans, political plans and political parties to be less intelligent and less long-term-oriented than I would wish them to be. As a result, from my perspective, choosing among them is often a matter of choosing the lesser-of-evils. So by posting this article I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am a partisan person or that this site is partisan. Far from it. In fact, as you can probably see from this site’s content, having an open mind is one of my core values. I also have lots of friends on both sides of every major issue, and they’re all intelligent people whom I respect. There are liberal ideas that make sense to me and also a lot of conservative ideas that make sense to me. May the best memes win!

An article has just come out that is so significant I think it deserves wide exposure. The American Conservative Magazine — the voice of conservatives in America — has officially endorsed John Kerry instead of Bush. Now that’s unprecedented. It shows that there is a tremendous split taking place among conservative voters.

Read it yourself, here. It’s really something. I would be interested in hearing comments on this article from both conservatives and liberals.

More Rumors of Pre-Emptive Iran Strike

This article by a former NSA/NSC and Reagan-administration official adds further credence to the “October Surprise” theory that the White House may initiate a pre-election attack on Iran. It’s interesting because of the source, who is presumably both more reliable and more connected and “in-the-know” than the usual rumor sources on the Web. Let’s hope he’s wrong or that the action is cancelled.

A pre-emptive strike on Iran could quickly spiral out of control and involve other nations — for example Russia. Iran has a huge military and would be a much more serious opponent than Iraq. There is no immenent threat from Iran — there is time to solve the situation through diplomacy. Considering that we are currently losing the war in Iraq and facing severe troop shortages, I don’t see how we could fight another ground war against a country as powerful as Iran.

A further complication is that a limited strike on just the disputed nuclear installation would run a high risk of major retaliation by Iran against the US, Israel, our forces in Iraq and other allies. The only way to protect against that risk would be to NOT do a limited strike but rather to do an instant decapitation attack in order to wipe out any potential retaliatory capabilities. It seems unlikely that such an instant decapitation attack could have a high probability of success without the use of nuclear weapons. And this is what worries me. There is certainly a risk if Iran continues to build up its nuclear capabilities. But is this risk worse than the risks of a nuclear conflict in the region?

The USA is still the first and only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in the field of battle. Let’s hope we don’t use them again. If we do, I think we will certainly have lost all moral-imperative on the world stage. Nuclear weapons should never be used unless there is no alternative, and certainly not pre-emptively. To do so would set a terrible precedent, weakening our case against nuclear proliferation in other nations, and will make the world a more dangerous place.

If Russia and China witness us making a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran, why should they not think we might do the same against them? Actions speak louder than words. We have to be very careful and think about future generations, not just in our own country, but in others. While the danger of nuclear weapons being used by terrorists or against Israel is certainly something to combat, if we use those same weapons ourselves (which will inevitably result in mass civilian casualities no matter how careful we are) are we any better than the terrorists?