Thursday, April 6, 2017

Friday Thinking 7 April 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9


Loopy - A Tool For Systems Thinking

Many African governments are making real progress on delivery – often with the help of powerful performance management and monitoring systems reporting directly to national leaders. Jim Murphy of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change reports from a meeting of minds in Nairobi

If you ask Mary Adeola Olererin, the Head of the Delivery Unit in Nigeria’s Kaduna State, why she thinks delivery matters, she will tell you that even a Rolls Royce needs engine oil. In other words, the best vehicles in the world won’t go anywhere if the little things are not taken care of. The same is true of government.

For most people, government business feels abstract. Committees, commissions, legislation and parliamentary votes are the staple diet of politicians and civil servants. I have my own experience from nearly two decades in the UK Parliament and I know that politics can sometimes be bureaucratic drudgery. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that government, when done well by people committed to positive change, remains one of the most potent forces society has at its disposal. It deserves our support.

This summer, the first new railway in Kenya for decades will open to the public. It connects Nairobi and Mombasa, two of the fastest-growing cities on the planet. Last week, I stood in the new multi-million dollar Nairobi terminus alongside a dedicated government team. Their persistence and vision had turned a project plan into over 600 kilometres of railway that will carry 22 million tonnes of freight a year. The economic impact can be huge – not just boosting trade but also helping to develop small towns along the route as they look to become commuter hubs.

The reason for mentioning a railway is to make a point not about trains or transport, but about government. This project is an example of effective government in action; and, put simply, effective government changes lives.

The innovation coming out of Africa

behavior is an emergent property—it arises from large groups of neurons working together, and isn’t apparent from studying any single one. You can draw parallels with the flocking of birds. Biologists have long wondered how they manage to wheel about the skies in perfect coordination, as if they were a single entity. In the 1980s, computer scientists showed that this can happen if each bird obeys a few simple rules, which dictate their distance and alignment relative to their peers. From these simple individual rules, collective complexity emerges.

But you would never have been able to predict the latter from the former. No matter how thoroughly you understood the physics of feathers, you could never have predicted a murmuration of starlings without first seeing it happen. So it is with the brain. As British neuroscientist David Marr wrote in 1982, “trying to understand perception by understanding neurons is like trying to understand a bird’s flight by studying only feathers. It just cannot be done.”

A landmark study, published last year, beautifully illustrated his point using, of all things, retro video games. Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording examined the MOS 6502 microchip, which ran classics like Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, in the style of neuroscientists. Using the approaches that are common to brain science, they wondered if they could rediscover what they already knew about the chip—how its transistors and logic gates process information, and how they run simple games. And they utterly failed.

How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners

The Soviet Union had amazing mathematicians, scientists and engineers. Names like Andrey Kolmogorov and Lev Landau are still spoken of with reverence in technical circles. The Russians beat the U.S. into space twice, and for a time had the best missiles and fighter jets in the world. And yet in the 1980s, Russians were standing in lines for bread.

The moral of this story is that without good institutions, an economy can’t translate technology into wealth. Economists love to say that in the long run, productivity is determined by technology, but for the citizens of the USSR and many other dysfunctional countries, that long run never arrived. If you want to raise productivity, you need to focus some attention on the quality of your country’s institutions -- for example, how markets are set up and regulated or how contracts are made and enforced.

Seeking the Cure for American Economic Sclerosis

Security in the age of complex networks - who knows where this will take us? AI, automation, crowdsourcing, open-source - every light has at least one shadow.

The Rise of the Hacker Industrial Complex

We continue to put our faith and finances in networks that are increasingly difficult to protect.
What does it look like to commit a cybercrime? My guess: You’re probably conjuring up an image of some technology-savvy 20-something trawling the “dark web” in a dimly lit basement.

But at New America’s Cybersecurity conference on Monday, Niloofar Howe, chief strategy officer and vice president of RSA, dispelled that image. During a discussion on the new place of hackers in the global economy, the audience watched in awe as Howe, live on stage, did a simple search on Facebook to show us how easily she — and anyone else — could access someone’s stolen credit card information on social media. (And just for good measure, she showed us again, the second time on Twitter.)

This was key to her argument: that anyone can be a hacker nowadays, and that anyone can profit from these crimes, such that it’s now morphed into an “industrial complex.” Or in other words, the widespread use of the Internet, and the proliferation and democratization of data, has let cybercrime become accessible to all.

This is a 20 min read - but well-worth the time for anyone interested in an impartial and factual analysis of the current ‘Post-Truth’ media environment.

Information Wars: A Window into the Alternative Media Ecosystem

Conspiracy Theories, Muddled Thinking, and Political Disinformation
For more than three years, my lab at the University of Washington has conducted research looking at how people spread rumors online during crisis events. We have looked at natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes as well as man-made events such as mass shootings and terrorist attacks. Due to the public availability of data, we focused primarily on Twitter — but we also used data collected there (tweets) to expose broader activity in the surrounding media ecosystem.

Over time, we noted that a similar kind of rumor kept showing up, over and over again, after each of the man-made crisis events — a conspiracy theory or “alternative narrative” of the event that claimed it either didn’t happen or that it was perpetrated by someone other than the current suspects.

Most importantly, this work suggests that Alex Jones is indeed a prophet. Seriously, as I read through dozens of these alternative media websites and dug DEEP into their content, I realized that there is an indeed an information war being waged. Three years ago, our lab decided these conspiracy theories were too marginal and salacious to be the focus of our research. Almost that it was beneath our dignity to pay attention to and promote this kind of content. What a terrible mistake that was. It seems to me that we weren’t the only ones who made it. It is (past) time we attend to this (as researchers and designers of the systems that conduct this content). I hope it is not too late.

More news related to everything that can be automated will be.
“The conclusion is that even if overall employment and wages recover, there will be losers in the process, and it’s going to take a very long time for these communities to recover,” Mr. Acemoglu said.

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they’ve declared a different winner: the robots.

The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.

The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts.

But that paper was a conceptual exercise. The new one uses real-world data — and suggests a more pessimistic future. The researchers said they were surprised to see very little employment increase in other occupations to offset the job losses in manufacturing. That increase could still happen, they said, but for now there are large numbers of people out of work, with no clear path forward — especially blue-collar men without college degrees.

There are many who feel the Algorithmic Intelligence (AI) will enhance human ability - other feel there is a lot to fear. This is an interesting perspective.

Computers learn to cooperate better than humans

Computers can do more than win at chess—a new algorithm now allows them to best humans at cooperative games like “prisoner’s dilemma.”
For the first time, computers have taught themselves how to cooperate in games in which the objective is to reach the best possible outcome for all players. The feat is far harder than training artificial intelligence (AI) to triumph in a win-lose game such as chess or checkers, researchers say. The advance could help enhance human-machine cooperation.

Twenty years ago, a supercomputer bested the then–reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov. More recently, AI researchers have developed programs that can beat humans at more computationally demanding games, such as Go and poker. But those are all winner-take-all or “zero-sum” games, in which one player wins and everybody else loses. Researchers have done less work on cooperative games in which the goal is for players to work together to optimize the outcome for everyone involved—even if logic demands that a player could improve his or her personal outcome by “betraying” the other players.

Jacob Crandall, a computer scientist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and colleagues wanted to see whether machines could learn to play such games. So the researchers got humans and computers together to play computerized versions of chicken, prisoner’s dilemma, and another collaborative strategy game called “alternator.” Teams consisted of two people, two computers, or one human and one computer. Researchers tested 25 different machine-learning algorithms, AI programs that can improve their performance by automatically searching for correlations between their moves and results.

To the scientists’ chagrin, no algorithm was capable of collaborating. But then they turned to evolutionary biology for inspiration. Why not, they thought, introduce a key element of human cooperation—the ability to communicate? So they added 19 prewritten sentences—such as “I’m changing my strategy,” “I accept your last proposal,” or “You betrayed me,” —that could be sent back and forth between partners after each term. Over time, the computers had to learn the meaning of these phrases in the context of the game using their learning algorithm.

This time, one of the 25 algorithms, dubbed S# (pronounced S sharp), stood out. When given a description of a previously unknown game, it learned to cooperate with its partner in just a few turns. And by the end of the game, the machine-only teams worked together almost 100% of the time, whereas humans cooperated an average of about 60% of the time. “The machine-learning algorithm learned to be loyal,” Crandall says.

Here’s a great signal for why self-driving cars will eventually make things better.

New AI Algorithm Beats Even the World's Worst Traffic

Only 10 percent of cars would have to be connected for it to work.
The height of individual vs. collective irrationality has to be automobile traffic. We build roadways around the assumption that we as individual human actors will behave in ways that appear to reward those behaviors at the level of individuals but wind up harming the collective's goal of moving many cars through a limited amount of space as quickly as possible. Witness how a single greedy merge, for example, can send out a cascade of brake lights leading to a further wave of merges, some of which will themselves be greedy (careless). There really is no truly individual behavior in traffic and yet people are people.

Fixing this is among the promises of driverless cars. If we can push humans and their tendencies out of the loop, and put cars under the control of cooperative AI systems, we might just be able to nuke traffic, or at least severely mitigate it. Imagine: less congestion, less pollution, fewer accidents, less roads, and more time spent not driving. That's the pitch, anyhow, but the actual systems remain largely future-tense, even as driverless cars ease into the present.

To this end, computer scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a new intelligent routing algorithm that attempts to minimize the occurrence of spontaneous traffic jams—those sudden snarls caused by greedy merges and other isolated disruptions—throughout a roadway network. It's both computationally distributed and fast, requirements for any real-world traffic management system. Their work is described in the April issue of IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence.

This is an amazing signal of the virtual as the real - how reality is only what is mediated by sensors and algorithmically assembled in our neural net - imagine in a few decades?

Virtual lemonade sends colour and taste to a glass of water

When life hands you digital lemons, make virtual lemonade.
A system of sensors and electrodes can digitally transmit the basic colour and sourness of a glass of lemonade to a tumbler of water, making it look and taste like a different drink. The idea is to let people share sensory experiences over the internet.

“People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media – what if you could upload the taste as well? That’s the ultimate goal,” says Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore.

Ranasinghe and his team used an RGB colour sensor and a pH sensor to capture the colour and acidity of a freshly poured glass of lemonade. This data was sent to a special tumbler in another location that was filled with water. An electrode around the rim of the tumbler mimicked the sourness of the lemonade by stimulating the drinker’s taste buds with a pulse of electricity. LED lights replicated the colour.

For a while Google Glass seemed like it would be as common as a smartphone - but the cultural yuck factor of ubiquitous recording made them not ready for prime time. However, they haven’t disappeared.
“Before the arrival of smart glasses for in-cabin applications, we had to decipher complex drawings and convert imperial measurements into metric measurements in marking the position of the equipment on the cabin floor,” said C√©dric Gardon, Airbus’ industrialisation technical manager for flight test installation. “We were surprised at how much time we saved. The operation used to require three people and three days; now it requires one single operator and six hours.”

Airbus Uses Smart Glasses to Improve Manufacturing Efficiency

The aerospace industry tends to lead the way when it comes to finding manufacturing applications for emerging technologies. Whether it’s using drones for quality assurance or 3D printing the world’s most famous nozzles, if a cutting-edge technology can be used to improve manufacturing efficiencies, you can bet you’ll find it in aerospace first.

Take augmented reality (AR), for example. Airbus technicians have been using “smart glasses” developed in partnership with Accenture to enable millimeter-precise positioning during the cabin installation marking process.

The head-mounted technology features a camera to scan barcodes so the user can see specific cabin plans and information based on individual customer requirements, in addition to viewing the marking zone. The glasses also feature an offset screen that displays navigation icons and other AR items. In addition, when the mark has been made, its location is checked by the tool to validate the operation.

The smart glasses were initially used on series-production A330s on the Toulouse, France final assembly line. The success of that program led to the deployment of smart glasses technology in mounting flight test equipment last year on the No. 2 A330neo. The company will also deploy the smart glasses this November aboard the No. 3 A330neo aircraft.

Here’s a great breakthrough.
“At first I had to think really hard to get it to do stuff,” says Kochevar. “I’m still thinking about it, but I’m not recognizing that I’m thinking about it.”

This Paralyzed Man Is Using a Neuroprosthetic to Move His Arm for the First Time in Years

To reverse paralysis, scientists wired a man’s brain to his muscles using electronics.
William Kochevar of Cleveland can slowly move his right arm and hand. No big deal—except that the 56-year-old had been paralyzed from the shoulders down since a bicycling accident ten years ago.

The setup that is allowing Kochevar to move his arm again is a “neuroprosthetic” involving two tiny recording chips implanted in his motor cortex and another 36 electrodes embedded in his right arm.

Now, during visits he makes to an Ohio lab each week, signals collected in his brain are being captured and sent to his arm so he can make some simple voluntary movements. “I was completely amazed,” says Kochevar.

With scientists looking on and monitoring banks of electronics, he was eventually able to drink out of a coffee cup and feed himself mashed potatoes, although he needs to rest his arm on a mechanized harness to do so. “The biggest thing that I can’t do is move my arm up and down by myself,” he says.

The search for immortality continues.

Purging the body of 'retired' cells could reverse ageing, study shows

Findings raise possibility that a future therapy that rids the body of senescent cells might protect against the ravages of old age
Purging retired cells from the body has been shown to undo the ravages of old age in a study that raises the prospect of new life-extending treatments .

When mice were treated with a substance designed to sweep away cells that have entered a dormant state due to DNA damage their fur regrew, kidney function improved and they were able to run twice as far as untreated elderly animals.

The team are now assessing whether the mice also live longer and are planning a series of safety studies in humans with the ultimate goal of testing whether getting rid of so-called senescent cells could help reverse a range of age-related disorders.

The discovery adds to a wave of new findings hinting at the possibility of a future in which doctors can treat ageing itself, rather than trying to combat the host of diseases that come along with it.

Such a scenario is now supported by science, according to Peter de Keizer, the 36-year-old scientist who led the latest work at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “Maybe when you get to 65 you’ll go every five years for your anti-senescence shot in the clinic. You’ll go for your rejuvenation shot,” he said. “That I can envision when we reach that age.”

Ray Kurzweil claims that the longer we live the longer we will be able to live. Here’s another signal of the emerging potential of extending life expectancy beyond what we imagine today.
What’s even more interesting about rapamycin, however, is its reputation as the most consistent way to postpone death, at least in laboratory species. It lengthens the lives of flies, worms, and rodents, too. Feed the compound to mice and they live 25 percent longer, on average.
A study is under way in Seattle to see if rapamycin extends the lives of pet dogs.

Is This the Anti-Aging Pill We’ve All Been Waiting For?

A drug derived from an Easter Island bacterium extends the life of lab animals. People could be next.
Can a pill make you younger?
One of the few drug studies ever carried out in an attempt to address this question was reported by Novartis on Christmas Eve 2014. The company had sought to see whether giving low doses of a drug called everolimus to people over 65 increased their response to flu vaccines.

It did, by about 20 percent. Yet behind the test was a bigger question about whether any drug can slow or reverse the symptoms of old age. Novartis’s study on everolimus, which looked at whether the immune system of elderly people could be made to act younger, has been called the “first human aging trial.”

Last week a Boston company, PureTech Health, said it was licensing two drug molecules, and the right to use them against aging-related disease, from Novartis and making the research the basis of a startup company, resTORbio. The company says it will further test whether such drugs can rejuvenate aged immune cells.

The drug Novartis tested is a derivative of rapamycin, a compound first discovered oozing from a bacterium native to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, and named after it. Thanks to its broad effects on the immune system, rapamycin has already been used in transplant medicine as an immune-suppressant and a version is sold by Novartis as the anticancer prescription Afinitor.

More on the domestication of DNA - maybe this is scary.
We knew that interactions between the different types of stem cell are important for development, but the striking thing that our new work illustrates is that this is a real partnership – these cells truly guide each other

Scientists create artificial mouse ‘embryo’ from stem cells for first time

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have managed to create a structure resembling a mouse embryo in culture, using two types of stem cells – the body’s ‘master cells’ – and a 3D scaffold on which they can grow.
Understanding the very early stages of embryo development is of interest because this knowledge may help explain why a significant number of human pregnancies fail at this time.

Once a mammalian egg has been fertilised by a sperm, it divides multiple times to generate a small, free-floating ball of stem cells. The particular stem cells that will eventually make the future body, the embryonic stem cells (ESCs) cluster together inside the embryo towards one end: this stage of development is known as the blastocyst. The other two types of stem cell in the blastocyst are the extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells (TSCs), which will form the placenta, and primitive endoderm stem cells that will form the so-called yolk sac, ensuring that the foetus’s organs develop properly and providing essential nutrients.

Previous attempts to grow embryo-like structures using only ESCs have had limited success. This is because early embryo development requires the different types of cell to coordinate closely with each other.

However, in a study published today in the journal Science, Cambridge researchers describe how, using a combination of genetically-modified mouse ESCs and TSCs, together with a 3D scaffold known as an extracellular matrix, they were able to grow a structure capable of assembling itself and whose development and architecture very closely resembled the natural embryo.

The domestication of DNA is also the beginning of new paradigms that include manufacturing, medicine, materials and computation.
The approach worked so well that the team built 113 different circuits, with a 96.5% success rate, they report today in Nature Biotechnology. As a further demonstration, they engineered human cells to produce a biological version of something called a Boolean logic lookup table. The circuit in this case has six different inputs, which can combine in different ways to execute one of 16 different logical operations.

Scientists turn mammalian cells into complex biocomputers

Computer hardware is getting a softer side. A research team has come up with a way of genetically engineering the DNA of mammalian cells to carry out complex computations, in effect turning the cells into biocomputers. The group hasn’t put those modified cells to work in useful ways yet, but down the road researchers hope the new programming techniques will help improve everything from cancer therapy to on-demand tissues that can replace worn-out body parts.

Engineering cells to function like mini-computers isn’t new. As part of the growing field of synthetic biology, research teams around the globe have been manipulating DNA for years to make cells perform simple actions like lighting up when oxygen levels drop. To date, most such experiments have been done in Escherichia coli and other bacteria, because their genes are relatively easy to manipulate. Researchers have also managed to link multiple genetic circuits together within a single cell to carry out more complex calculations in bacteria.

Here’s another signal of the emergence of a bio-manufacturing paradigm - likely to accelerate with the domestication of DNA.
Reduced graphene oxide is normally made with the help of powerful chemicals or extreme heat, but the microbe-produced version is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly, says Anne Meyer at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “The more you reduce [graphene oxide], the closer it is to graphene,” she says. “It’s very easy – it takes place at room temperature in some sugar water.”

3D-printed bacteria could make bespoke graphene-like materials

How do you make a bespoke material with graphene-like properties? By putting bacteria to work using a 3D printer.
Such bacteria could create brand new materials. For example, if you could use bacteria to print a substance resembling graphene – the 2D material made of single-atom layers of carbon – the end product might have similar desirable properties.

When placed on sheets of graphene oxide, certain bacteria can turn it into a reduced version of the compound, which shares many properties with graphene but is easier to produce in large amounts. The bacteria do this by pulling oxygen atoms off the material as they metabolise.

This is an interesting article - First as a notice to be careful about current services offering microbiome testing - but second as a signal to an inevitable shift in how we will be managing and assessing our health.
“The enthusiasm of their manufacturers simply goes well beyond where the science is right now,” says Rob Knight, a leading microbiome researcher and professor at the University of California, San Diego. Knight is the cofounder of the American Gut project, a crowdfunded study to map the human gut.

Gut Check: Scientists are Wary of At-Home Microbiome Tests

New services that sequence the bacteria in your digestive tract can provide only limited information for now.
The idea that different types of bacteria in the human gut play a role in health and disease is driving a new trend in consumer-oriented health-care kits.

Startups are offering new services to analyze the complex community of micro√∂rganisms that live in the digestive tract—called the microbiome. Customers receive test tubes in the mail and send them back with fecal swabs to be analyzed in a lab. The companies say they can do things like make diet recommendations and predict risk for certain diseases based on a person’s unique microbial makeup.  

While these tests could probably tell if you have a serious bacterial infection, scientists say they can’t yet diagnose patients with diseases and they are doubtful the tests can reliably provide the kind of personalized information their makers claim they will.

There are many ways to store cheap energy for later use or to regularize energy production. This is an interesting way to convert the ever increasing closure of coal mines.

Germany Is Converting a Coal Mine Into a Massive Renewable Energy Battery

Gemany is turning one of its old coal mines into a giant 'battery station' that will store hydroelectric power and provide energy to around 400,000 homes, with hopes of launching similar facilities across the country in the coming years.

After half a century of service, the Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in the north-west of the country is due to be shut down in 2018, when the task of getting it converted to a clean energy facility will begin.

Researchers from several German universities are working with private engineering firms and the government on the project, and have been running feasibility studies on the site since 2012. If the project is a success, more mines like this could be adapted.

McLuhan noted that ever since the first satellite was launched the earth became contained in a human-made environment and was now an art project. We’ve not been very good artists - but shapers we are.

Harvard Scientists Moving Ahead on Plans for Atmospheric Geoengineering Experiments

The climate researchers intend to launch a high-altitude balloon that would spray a small quantity of reflective particles into the stratosphere.
A pair of Harvard climate scientists are preparing small-scale atmospheric experiments that could offer insights into the feasibility and risks of deliberately altering the climate to ease global warming.

They would be among the earliest official geoengineering-related experiments conducted outside of a controlled laboratory or computer model, underscoring the growing sense of urgency among scientists to begin seriously studying the possibility as the threat of climate change mounts.

Sometime next year, Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a high-altitude balloon, tethered to a gondola equipped with propellers and sensors, from a site in Tucson, Arizona. After initial engineering tests, the “StratoCruiser” would spray a fine mist of materials such as sulfur dioxide, alumina, or calcium carbonate into the stratosphere. The sensors would then measure the reflectivity of the particles, the degree to which they disperse or coalesce, and the way they interact with other compounds in the atmosphere.

The researchers first proposed these balloon experiments in a 2014 paper. But at a geoengineering conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Keith said they have begun engineering design work with Arizona test balloon company World View Enterprises. They’ve also started discussions about the appropriate governance structure for such an experiment, and they plan to set up an independent body to review their proposals.

This is an interesting article - highlighting the growing importance of cities as arenas of institutional innovation and geopolitical actors.
“Madison’s historic commitment to 100 percent clean energy shows that we are determined to lead the way in moving beyond fossil fuels that threaten our health and environment,” Madison Common Council Alder Zach Wood said in a statement. “The benefits of a transition to 100 percent clean energy are many. These goals will drive a clean energy economy that creates local jobs, provides affordable and sustainable electricity, and results in cleaner air and water. I am proud to be a part of this council that has made the historic commitment that will lead our community to a more sustainable future.”

Madison, Wisconsin commits to 100% renewable energy

Madison just became the first city in Wisconsin and the largest city in the Midwest to commit to 100 percent clean energy in just the latest example of how President Donald Trump can’t stop the renewables revolution. The state capital and college town is the 25th US city to commit to the transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy following Tuesday’s city council vote. The vote allocated $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 for city operations to achieve goals of 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, including electricity, heating and transportation.

Abita Springs, Louisiana also voted on Tuesday to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The Sierra Club said that Madison and Abita Springs both committing to 100 percent clean energy demonstrates that there is bipartisan support across the country for a renewable energy future because liberal Madison voted for Hillary Clinton while conservative voters in Abita Springs went for Donald Trump.

This is a very short, very accessible article about recent developments (real and theoretical) in physics - worth the read - if only because of the clarity and the graphic chart of known particles.

Researchers Think Portals May Link Our Visible World With The “Dark Sector”

Long ago, physicists identified and categorized the components of the visible universe. Up until recently, 16 particles formed everything in the known universe. But now, thanks to the efforts of physicists at CERN working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), we have added another particle, the Higgs boson, to the Standard Model of physics.

However, there is an entire hidden — or dark — aspect of physics and our natural world for which the Standard Model just can’t account, even  with the Higgs boson. To put it plainly, all of the matter that is visible is not enough for the universe to behave as it does.

There has to be some kind of invisible matter and energy making all of what we can see possible. To account for this mystery, scientists theorized that there must be Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These would be made up of a completely different set of particles that we have yet to discover, probably because we simply do not know how to study them.

A new study by researchers from the Institute of Basic Science (IBS) in South Korea suggests that we have found the way to bridge the gap between the visible world and the dark sector of physics — portals.

Here an interesting online tool for systems thinking.

Loopy - A Tool For Systems Thinking

In a world filled with ever-more-complex technological, sociological, ecological, political & economic systems... a tool to make interactive simulations may not be that much help. But it can certainly try.

However you choose to use LOOPY, hopefully it can give you not just the software tools, but also the mental tools to understand the complex systems of the world around us. It's a hot mess out there.

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