Addicted to Risk

“Ignore those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop worrying, and keep shopping.” – Naomi Klein, TEDTalk I appreciate Naomi’s voice in the conversation on sustainability vs. risk as we enter the era of “extreme energy.” This is a compelling talk about “master narratives” which may challenge you to reconsider your preconceptions. Her overview on the Alberta Tar Sands is especially powerful. “Just when we understand that we must live off the surface of our planet – off the power of sun, wind, and waves – we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest carbon-emitting stuff imaginable… This is how Jared Diamond and others have shown that empires commit suicide – by stepping on the accelerator at the exact moment they should be putting on the brakes… Life is too precious to be risked for just any profit… We need different  

Quantum Teleportation

If this experiment turns out to be accurate (doubtful), I believe it will be the discovery of the century, equivalent in many ways to Einstein’s theories. Luc Montagnier, who shared the Nobel prize for medicine in 2008 for his part in establishing that HIV causes AIDS, says he has evidence that DNA can send spooky electromagnetic imprints of itself into distant cells and fluids. If that wasn’t heretical enough, he also suggests that enzymes can mistake the ghostly imprints for real DNA, and faithfully copy them to produce the real thing. In effect this would amount to a kind of quantum teleportation of the DNA. Two adjacent but physically separate test tubes were placed within a copper coil and subjected to a very weak extremely low frequency electromagnetic field of 7 hertz. The apparatus was isolated from Earth’s natural magnetic field to stop it interfering with the experiment. One tube contained a fragment of DNA around 100 bases long; the second tube contained pure water. After 16 to 18 hours, both samples were independently subjected to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method routinely used to amplify traces of DNA by using enzymes to make many copies of the original material. The gene fragment was apparently recovered from both tubes, even though one should have contained just water. DNA was only recovered if the original solution of DNA ” whose concentration has not been revealed “ had been subjected to several dilution cycles before being placed in the magnetic field. In each cycle it was diluted 10-fold, and “ghost” DNA was only recovered after between seven and 12 dilutions of the original. It was not found at the ultra-high dilutions used in homeopathy. Physicists in Montagnier’s team suggest that DNA emits low-frequency electromagnetic waves which imprint the structure of the molecule onto the water. This structure, they claim, is preserved and amplified through quantum coherence effects, and because it mimics the shape of the original DNA, the enzymes in the PCR process mistake it for DNA itself, and somehow use it as a template to make DNA matching that which “sent” the signal (arxiv.org/abs/1012.5166). “The biological experiments do seem intriguing, and I wouldn’t dismiss them,” says Greg Scholes of the University of Toronto in Canada, who last year demonstrated that quantum effects occur in plants. Yet according to Klaus Gerwert, who studies interactions between water and biomolecules at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, “It is hard to understand how the information can be stored within water over a timescale longer than picoseconds.”  

Watson vs. Jennings

The best game show contestant on the best game show ever (Ken Jennings on Jeopardy) will soon compete against IBM’s Watson-class computer. Watson is favored to win. Today’s Watson technology requires a large room full of hardware. In 15 years, this same computing power will sit on a desktop. As we approach Turing-class computing (2050?), the power of today’s Watson computer will seem as quaint as the Sperry-Univac is today. I can envision a day when we no longer define religion in terms of having the “right knowledge.” I’m thinking David Hayward could do a cartoon showing three of the world’s leading religious thinkers as Jeopardy panelists – a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist – while Watson provides far deeper and more nuanced answers – even what we would call wisdom. And why not? With the entire written history of world religions (and every other branch of knowledge) in its memory (think Internet 2050), and thousands of increasingly nuanced processing algorithms at its disposal, it’s only a matter of time (perhaps 2 or 3 generations) before “epistebots” and “theobots” surpass the best human experts in their ability to parse and disseminate specific knowledge and even wisdom. Consider that this “entire body of human knowledge and wisdom” will one day be on every global desktop, in every language, in every home and mobile device, instantly accessible in deeply interactive and immersive ways we cannot imagine today. This is good news for religion, and humanity in general. As we are released from the need to define ourselves by tribal knowledge, we begin to define ourselves more relationally, more collectively, more empathically, more humanly. Even the perception of “enemy” must change as we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger global family. As we relax our desire and need for intellectual power, we can focus more on what makes us uniquely human:  our childlike awe and wonder at the universe and our ability to feel and act with greater compassion, empathy, and love towards other people, and all creation. “You have to understand all the nuances, all the regionalisms, slang and shorthand to play the game, to get the clues.” – Harry Friedman, Executive Producer,  

The Six-Day Skyscraper

As China increases their ownership of U.S. debt (at a rate now exceeding $1 billion per DAY), they are also methodically leapfrogging us in terms of everyday technologies. A good example is China’s Broad Construction Company (www.broad.com). They can now build a fifteen story hotel that meets our best green energy standards. And they can build it in SIX DAYS. From Broad’s Chinese website: Level 9 Earthquake Resistance: diagonal bracing structure, light weight, steel construction, passed level 9 earthquake resistance testing. . 6x Less Material: even though the construction materials are much lighter(250kg/m2) than the traditional materials(over 1500kg/m2), the floors and walls are solid with surefootedness, airtight and sound-proofing. . 5x Energy Efficient: 150mm thermal insulation for walls and roofs, triple glazed plastic windows, external solar shading, heat insulation, fresh air heat recovery, LED lighting, yearly HVAC A/C energy consumption equivalent to 7 liters oil. [ed., i doubt that last figure] . 20x Purification: after 3 levels of purification, the purification efficiency for fresh air reaches 95%-99.9%; air exchanged 1-2.5 times per hour, and indoor air is 20x cleaner than out door air. . 1% Construction Waste: all components are factory made, construction waste, mainly package materials, result from on site set-up only and amount to 1% of the total weight of the building. . This is the first building in human history which combines almost all environmental friendly, comfortable and secure elements. So, we call it: Sustainable  

High Intensity / Super Slow

Some months ago, a friend told me about a newer book called Body by Science by Doug Mc Guff, an emergency room physician. McGuff claims that we can make sustained, significant improvements in both strength and overall health in just 12 minutes a week. Twelve minutes? If I hadn’t heard positive comments about this protocol from someone I respect, I would have dismissed it out of hand. (McGuff blogs here) I’ve always shied away from gyms because, frankly, I’m not interested in budgeting hours each week pumping iron. But a thirty minutes each week? I can commit to that. And that includes driving from my office to the gym and back (!) I’ve never been on a weight lifting routine in my life, so I wasn’t certain what to expect. I’ve now been active on McGuff’s protocol since April 2010 and am happy to report that it WORKS. Moreover, McGuff’s book is an excellent lay resource on the latest science in muscle physiology. Truly a fascinating read on how muscles develop, and how to maximize the growth response. Turns out that long hours of modest weight lifting is terribly inefficient. We now know that the physiology of muscle growth favors short, high intensity activity. In order to grow, muscles must be stressed into sustained failure — the metabolic point at which a muscle group drops in strength potential by roughly 40% and simply cannot support its original starting load. This failure is recognized by a hot, burning sensation and a psychological response that says “I can’t do this any longer!” The most important muscle improvements occur during this intensive period of increasing failure (I’m reminded of the poet Rilke, who said the purpose of life is to be defeated by ever greater things). And just as importantly, after a muscle reaches failure, it must be given ample time to recover and grow. This healing time varies between genotypes but is, on average, about one week. I’m becoming more familiar with my own optimal healing period, and I think it may be closer to ten days. According to McGuff, any additional weight work during the healing period is effectively wasted, offering little additional benefit. The point of all this is to achieve a deep inroad into the targeted muscle groups. Only by “inroading” will muscles grow. The technique McGuff uses to achieve inroading is called Super Slow / High Intensity training.  It’s very simple:  do each strength training exercise very slowly, perhaps 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down, and continue without stopping. Even when the muscle becomes “spent” we keep pushing as hard as possible for another 30 second or so, even though we can no longer move the weights. We keep track of both the actual weight lifted and the time under load (TUL). I have changed nothing else in my lifestyle since beginning this once-a-week, 15 minute gym protocol seven months ago. In those seven months, I have spent a total of roughly four hours actual weight lifting. My average “super slow” weight lifting strength has increased on average over 30%. When I started on this protocol in April, I acquired an Omron Body Composition Scale to track my progress. I’m most happy about the increase in skeletal muscle, and the decrease in body fat. Allow me to share my progress. APRIL 2010 OCTOBER 2010 Upper Arm  14″ Thigh 23″ Gut 41″ Body Fat 21.6% 17.5% Visceral Fat  7  5-6 Skeletal Muscle 34.9%  38.0% As is normal, my first 12-14 weeks saw the greatest strength improvements. Since then, positive change has come slower, but progress continues. As McGuff notes, genetics plays a primary role in determining our response to muscle inroading. Everyone responds differently, but I’m convinced that everyone will benefit. This is a program I can stick with for the rest of my life. Here’s a good example of a typical Super Slow / High Intensity weekly workout. A grand total of ten minutes. Note how quickly he moves from one exercise to the next: this is essential to achieve maximum metabolic inroading. His TUL on first set is  

POW-r Algorithms

Twelve years ago, some friends and I got together with the intent of developing the most musically neutral and dynamically accurate audio bit length reduction algorithms. As we completed the code, many of the audio industry’s golden-eared engineers and producers reviewed our work favorably. We soon after became the world’s #1 software for audio bit length reduction. The software is called POW-r, which is an acronym for “psychoacoustically optimized word-length reduction.” Most professional audio recording today uses DAWs, PC-based “digital audio workstations.”  Digitized audio is stored in software bit chunks called “words.” Most DAWs today default to 24-bit word lengths (although internal processing may be twice that or more). Each bit represents a 6dB change in “audio voltage.” More bits equals higher acoustic dynamic range. A higher dynamic range equates to more realistic sound reproduction. The common CD stores digital audio in 16-bit word lengths. And this is the problem: when transferring native 24-bit audio from the DAW onto a 16-bit CD, we lose 8-bits, or 48dB! What does 48dB sound like? It’s the difference between normal conversation (65dB) and a live rock concert (115dB), or the difference between a softly played piano (75dB) and a forte symphony orchestra (120dB). How do you get the full impact of a 24-bit studio recording (potentially 144dB*) onto a CD which can only represent 96dB? Enter the unique software algorithms called POW-r. Our code was created in the real world of symphony orchestras, of which I have engineered hundreds of recordings. We tested numerous iterations of the software in real-world acoustics, carefully comparing musical results until we found optimal subjective performance. Today, POW-r remains the world’s #1 word-length-reduction solution, both for CD and MP3 bit preparation. Most of the top DAW companies license POW-r (Apple Logic, Avid ProTools, Cakewalk Sonar, Magix Samplitude and Sequoia, Ableton Live, Pyramix, and many others). It’s been estimated that POW-r is now used on over 400 million CDs and downloads annually. (* in practice, studio recordings rarely achieve 144dB dynamic range, and home playback systems can rarely offer much more than 110dB, if that. What’s worse, most music today is played back into ear buds, with a dynamic range rarely exceeding 90dB, and that assumes a very quiet environment and high quality playback  

SafePlug!

Just an update on our Safeplug invention. So far this year, we have signed multiple OEM “rebranding” deals that will see the installation of Safeplug “Smart Energy” technology in a number of consumer, commercial, and industrial applications. These applications include electric vehicle charging stations, pay-per-use / point-of-sale receptacle stations, and residential + commercial construction and retrofit. In 2009, Safeplug won the prestigious CES Innovation Award and was invited to unveil the technology at TED2009. Since then, Safeplug technologies have been listed in Scientific American’s “Top 10 Tech Toys” and Fast Company’s “10 Radical World Changing Ideas” – with more coming soon. New Radical Julia Moulden writes in the Huffington Post, “Imagine a world where every plug could talk to the Internet. Where your appliances, plugged into their outlets, suddenly became intelligent and could talk, so that you could monitor and optimize their activities and control them remotely. It’s not science fiction anymore… TALKINGplug, a new device powered by Zerofootprint [Safeplug technololgy] is now available. Already described by Fast Company as “better than the smart meter” and included on Scientific American’s Top 10 gadgets of 2009, TALKINGplug is revolutionary and will change the way we measure and manage our energy.” From the Safeplug website, The SafePlug 1202 Smart Energy outlet has a unique design.  It contains standard Demand Response features such as a Zigbee SE radio and Zigbee SE Metering cluster and Demand Response cluster functions.  However, it also includes a Fire and Shock Hazard monitor and a RightPlug address tag monitor.  The fire and shock hazard monitor continuously detects the top ignition causes including overloaded appliances, bad wire junctions in walls, series arcing, and open neutral conditions. The RightPlug tag (www.rightplug.org) reader enables the SafePlug 1202 SE outlet to ensure a successful Demand Response event by confirming the start and end of the DR event and participation by the  

Communication Wants to be Free

From TED’ster David Pogue at today’s New York Times, on Google’s new Gmail Voice Calling service. There will come a day, probably within two generations, when most global-interpersonal communication may be included as part of a common virtual access fee, like a water bill.  Effectively, free. What Voice Calls from Gmail does is open up another variation, one that strikes even closer to the “free calls from a phone, to a phone” ideal. Now it’s free calls “from a computer, to a phone.” At the moment, you can’t use this new feature until you download and install a special plug-in for Mac or Windows. But you can’t help wondering: What if Google released an app like that for Android phones, or the iPhone? Well, I’ll tell you what. At that point, you could, for the first time in history, make unlimited free phone-to-phone calls. We’re tantalizingly  

The Vanishing Interface

The tools that connect us are increasingly temporary. With each new technology, the distance between humanity shrinks or, in some cases, disappears. And not just physical distance, but all distances — time, feedback systems, meme spread, tribal and ideological identity … much of what defines us individually is accelerating collectively. Moore’s Law tells us that computers will continue to get more powerful, shrink in size, and converge to near-zero cost. Within generations, the “devices” we use to connect to this emerging network will become a generic and transparent part of life, integrated into clothing, furniture, walls, vehicles, and anything else we encounter throughout our day. This evolution took another big step with India’s Ministry of Human Resources Development announcement of a $35 tablet in the works.  This isn’t a full-featured computer, but rather a cloud device. As more and more heavy lifting is done in the cloud, tablets such as this become a common user-interface. Yet in a few generations, the idea of “tablet” will seem quaint, as connective technologies become an invisible part of everyday life, and perhaps even part of human biology. The cloud, of course, is where virtual tools and all but the most sensitive information will eventually reside, with all people and cultures having equal and immediate access. The cloud includes communication protocols that will eventually offer a seamless language bridge for all data (text, speech, visual, etc.). It really won’t matter what language we write or speak — the intelligence of the cloud will make virtually all human symbolism understandable to everyone, at any time, in real-time. Anyone on the planet will connect with anyone else without the historical barriers of language, time, or border. This assumes, of course, that the Internet(s) remain free from overt government or commercial restrictions (see prior post, China, Iran, etc.). The distance between us will continue to collapse (cost, size, ubiquity) until we literally become the interface, if we chose  

Fake Net Neutrality

Derek Turner has an important op-ed piece up today at cnet. I encourage you to read it and take action with your elected officials. I have. “There are currently closed-door meetings taking place between phone and cable behemoths, and the biggest Internet companies, to craft a “compromise” deal that could carve up the Internet for them and leave consumers and smaller competitors behind. If the fix is in, it won’t be long before they launch a PR campaign presenting this scheme as some kind of middle ground far from the “radical fringe.” But buyer beware: This could be fake Net neutrality. This fake Net neutrality will be a huge loss for consumers and online entrepreneurs, who will have to stand by and watch as these industry giants turn the vibrant marketplace that is the open Internet into something that looks more like cable TV, where consumers face high prices and few choices. If policymakers don’t put in place safeguards to ensure robust development of the open Internet, we would be allowing the few companies that can afford it to buy admission access to a new fast lane, while newcomers to the online marketplace would be stuck within the constraints of the existing platform. For those who care about preserving the Internet as a level playing field, this means establishing real Net neutrality–clear and unambiguous rules that keep the Internet free and open, not just for large companies with deep pockets able to pay for priority, but for consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs