FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Are Children Suffering from "Nature Deficit Disorder"?

Clearly, the more time children spend indoors with technology like video games and television, the less time they're spending outside, getting in touch with nature. Now, studies are suggesting that children are beginning to suffer from "nature deficit disorder," leading to hyperactivity, obesity and attention deficit. These studies point to this as a growing health threat... yet recommend that kids spend more time outdoors to foster their creativity and challenge their intellect.

Source: World Future Society

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wicked Weather May Be in Our Future

Droughts... floods... heat waves... bugs! That's some of what many regions in the world will have more of in the years to come, thanks to global warming.

A study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research has found that the western US, the Mediterranean region and Brazil are especially vulnerable to changing weather patterns brought on by a warmer atmosphere. The results could be longer dry spells followed by torrential rains, as well as deadly heat waves caused by warmer nights that do not allow daytime heat to dissipate. Also, more rain combined with more days with above-freezing temperatures could lead to more insect infestations.

The news, however, is not entirely grim. Many regions of the world will see a longer growing season from a milder climate.

Source: AP (via Breitbart.com)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Space as a Battlefield

Through Star Wars and other works of science fiction, we have become so accustomed to thinking about space-based warfare that the Bush Administration's recently revised National Space Policy comes as little surprise.

Aside from encouraging research and free enterprise in space, the policy declares America's right to defend space against anyone "hostile to US interests." It also rejects US participation in future arms control agreements that would attempt to limit or ban space weaponry.

Despite the concerns of critics, the Bush Administration denies that the purpose of the new National Space Policy is to develop space weapons. Rather, according to National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones, the policy merely "reflect[s] the fact that space has become an even more important component of U.S. economic, national and homeland security." Additionally, the idea of militarizing space is nothing new, with serious discussions on the matter dating back to at least the Clinton years.

TIE and X-Wing fighters won't be duking it out in Earth orbit anytime soon, but the policy speaks to the importance of space and very real concerns about space warfare. According to the National Reconnaissance Office, China recently aimed a ground-based laser at a US satellite... an act that could have destroyed the satellite given a powerful enough laser. As such devices become increasingly powerful, and potentially fall into the hands of rogue states like North Korea or terrorist groups, the need to protect our space-based infrastructure will quickly move from the theoretical to the critical.

Source: Washington Post

Monday, October 16, 2006

Laser TV

Just when you got used to the idea that plasma and LCD were television's state-of-the-art technologies, an entirely new approach is emerging. Earlier this month, Mitsubishi unveiled a prototype for a 50-inch laser TV.

By using laser technology, the TVs can display more colors than plasma or LCD sets. What's more, wide-screen laser TVs use less energy than other technologies, and may sell for less than $1,000 when available.

Speaking of which, don't expect laser TVs to be on Santa's sleigh this year. At the earliest, laser TVs won't reach the consumer market until next year's holiday season.

Source: Red Herring

Disease Database

When fighting diseases, physicians, pharmacists and geneticists don't always speak the same languages. Even when they do, finding treatments is a painstaking trial-and-error process. Now, a new database promises to match drug compounds with disease symptoms, helping researchers identify potential treatments much more quickly than before.

The Connectivity Map, a database being developed by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Broad Institute, uses gene-expression signatures as a common meta-language to link the behavior of certain compounds with their effects on cells.

Already, the Connectivity Map is credited with helping to identify treatments for prostate cancer and leukemia. The ultimate goal of the Broad Institute development team is to include all 1,400 drugs that are currently approved by the FDA.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New News?

Could Jon Stewart's The Daily Show be the model for news programming of the future? Why not?, says a study by the University of Indiana that has found that The Daily Show is as substantive as any conventional news program -- perhaps more so.

Political heavy-hitters such as Sen. John McCain and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have made recent appearances that have become newsworthy themselves, and Stewart's humor helps make important issues relevant in a way a "straight" delivery can't. Moreover, the show often picks up significant stories that the mainstream media miss. Add to that the Daily Show's popularity among college students and other highly educated, highly informed young viewers, and all the makings of a new wave in newscasting are in place. If the "Big Three" news ratings continue to fall, they may want to catch that wave.

Source: Huffington Post

Study Says US Rich in Renewable Energy

Oil prices are coming down for the moment, but that's hardly reducing exploration into wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. And the US has great potential to harness such energy, according to a recent report the the Worldwatch Institute.

The American land mass ideal for generating wind power, and solar cell and biodiesel production has increased exponentially since 2000. Currently, the state of California gets over 30% of its energy through renewable sources (though renewable energy in the US overall is only 6% of total consumptions).

Worldwide, investment in renewable energy has reached nearly $180 billion since 1995. In addition to being clean and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, renewable energy also boosts economies. In Germany, which has a campaign to achieve energy independence, renewable energy projects have created 20,000 jobs in the past three years... not to mention lessening the volatility of imported oil dependence.

Source: Worldwatch Institute

Teleportation Moves Closer to Reality

Long a staple of science fiction, teleportation is rapidly becoming a reality, if only on a small scale.

In the past, scientists have managed to transport atoms and light short distances. Now, researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark have conducted experiments that use light as a transmitter of information between matter.

The Copenhagen experiments have teleported information only a few feet, but the researchers are confident that the distances can be expanded. Although teleporting large objects and individuals a la Star Trek is a very long way off at best, the transmission of quantum information has applications in transmitting digital information in new and powerful ways.

Source: News.com.au

Harnessing PlayStations to Fight Disease

Sony's PlayStation 3 is expected to be one of the hot must-have items this holiday season... and it might have an unexpected benefit for public health.

The Internet-ready game device contains a powerful Cell processor -- the same model used in IBM's supercomputers -- as well as ample hard drive space (up to 60GB), inspiring a project by Stanford University to harness the power of all these online PlayStations.

The project, Folding@home, is similar to the seti@home initiative that utilized the processing cycles of idle PCs to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. In this case, the project has created a distributed computing system out of idle computers to run complex calculations and simulations so that scientists can analyze proteins related to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and other challenging diseases.

The project, active since 2000, has 1 million CPUs online. One estimate is that a network of 10,000 PlayStations would increase the speed of conventional calculations by a factor of five. A network of 100,000 machines would make it 50 times faster.

To participate, PlayStation users should visit this page on the Folding@home site. Windows, Linux and Mac users can also download software to participate.

Source: CNN.com

Temperatures in Northeast Could Rise by 12 Degrees by 2100

Cool, crisp New England weather could become a thing of the past if climate warming trends continue unchecked. A two-year study by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment has found that, by 2100, the average temperature in the Northeastern US could rise by 12 degrees F (nearly 7 degrees C).

Typically, cities in the Northeast have only a couple of days each year when temperatures reach 100 degrees F. If the warming trends continue, days of triple-digit temperatures could increase to anywhere between 9 and 28 days... making New England weather feel more like that of the Deep South. And imagine what the South will feel like!

The good news in the report, however, is that a reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by only 3% could reduce this warming trend. In one low-emission scenario, the temperatures could rise as little as 3.5 degrees F.

Source: Reuters

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

At Georgia Church, ATM Means "Automatic Tithing Machine"

Anyone who attends church knows the embarrassment of not having cash on hand when the collection plate is being passed. If you're one of those, Pastor Marty Baker of the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Georgia, feels your pain.

That's why he has installed "giving kiosks" that allow any of the congregation's 1,100 members to make an offering via credit or debit card. The kiosks allow members to donate to specific church funds, and print out a receipt as well as send a confirmation via e-mail.

Baker debuted what he calls his "ATMs for Jesus" in early 2005, and is now marketing them to churches across the country through a firm called SecureGive. With an eye toward future trends, Baker sees the kiosks as a solution for a "post-cash society," for members who are willing to give, yet who increasingly rely on credit or debit cards in place of cash.

Baker has run into some challenges in promoting the kiosks, such as resistance from older congregation members, congregations that discourage credit card use (the machines can be set to accept only debit cards), and those who feel that not passing the collection plate takes away from the worship experience.

Source: L.A. Times

Monday, October 02, 2006

Capping Greenhouse Gases Could Cost $1 Trillion

The continued emission of harmful gases by industrialized countries, combined with the growth of emissions by developing economies, will double the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050. Reducing these emissions and their environmental consequences is possible, but it would come with a price: $1 trillion over the next several decades.

The estimate, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, considers the cost of helping to convert world economies to cleaner fuels, as well as aggressive overall energy reduction, without inhibiting the growth of emerging economies.

One trillion dollars is a lot of money... but it is minimal compared with the environmental catastrophe that would ensue if carbon emissions were left unchecked. "It is implicit from our findings that a trillion dollars certainly is a cost worth incurring," said John Hawksworth, the chief economist at PwC and author of the report.

Source: The Independent