World Transformation    
"Until You Know Who You Are, It's About What You Have...Once You Know Who You Are, What You Have Will Mean Little...Only Then Will What You Have Be Worth Anything... --Bhaktaviirya"
 Academic turns city into a social experiment
From Sounding Circle: Academic turns city into a social experiment

Mayor Mockus of Bogotá and his spectacularly applied theory
By María Cristina Caballero
Special to the Harvard News Office

Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge and found it: to be in charge of, as he describes it, "a 6.5 million person classroom."

Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá; he was successful mainly because people in Colombia's capital city saw him as an honest guy. With an educator's inventiveness, Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children who mugged and stole. It was a city perceived by some to be on the verge of chaos.

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called "Supercitizen." People laughed at Mockus' antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.

Mockus, who finished his second term as mayor this past January, recently came to Harvard for two weeks as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics to share lessons about civic engagement with students and faculty.

"We found Mayor Mockus' presentation intensely interesting," said Adams Professor Jane Mansbidge of the Kennedy School, who invited Mockus to speak in her "Democracy From Theory to Practice" class. "Our reading had focused on the standard material incentive-based systems for reducing corruption. He focused on changing hearts and minds - not through preaching but through artistically creative strategies that employed the power of individual and community disapproval. He also spoke openly, with a lovely partial self-mockery, of his own failings, not suggesting that he was more moral than anyone else. His presentation made it clear that the most effective campaigns combine material incentives with normative change and participatory stakeholding. He is a most engaging, almost pixieish math professor, not a stuffy 'mayor' at all. The students were enchanted, as was I."
[ | 6 May 2004 @ 09:14 | PermaLink ]

 Earth On Verge Of Sixth Mass Extinction
From Sounding Circle: Earth On Verge Of Sixth Mass Extinction - Scientists
By Roger Highfield
The Telegraph
UK 3-18-4

An accelerating decline in species, in particular a fall in butterflies, provides the first hard evidence that the Earth is on the verge of a sixth mass extinction.

There have been at least five over the past 500 million years, with the biggest occurring 250 million years ago.

Scientists report today that species diversity is falling fast and, contrary to current opinion, insects are particularly hard hit. This indicates that scientists may have underestimated the magnitude of the pending extinction.

If they are correct, the Earth is heading for the first global wipeout with an organic cause, with humans the dominant agent of destruction. Earlier extinctions were triggered by volcanism, cosmic impacts and other physical causes.

"The warning is there for all to see - we are poised on the verge of the sixth extinction crisis," said Dr Sandy Knapp of the Natural History Museum. "Britain, by virtue of its well-known and well-studied biodiversity, is the canary for the rest of the globe."

Around 28 per cent of our 1,254 native plant species have significantly fallen in abundance in the past 40 years, 54 per cent of the 201 native bird species over two decades, and 71 per cent of our 58 butterfly species over the same period, according to the milestone comparative study published in the journal Science, led by Dr Jeremy Thomas of the Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Dorchester.

"One form of life has become so dominant on Earth that, through its over-exploitation and waste, it eats, destroys or poisons the others," he said. "It is accelerating, this decline, and we are going to lose more than we lost in the past 20 years."

The team's study used data collected by scientists and 20,000 volunteers scouring the countryside and could only have been done here, where more is known about diversity than anywhere else.

Until now, the idea that the world is undergoing a sixth mass extinction, with the loss of species rising to 100 times normal rates, has rested on studies of a relatively small portion of the world's plants and animals.

Population information about insects, which make up approximately half of all known species on Earth, has been particularly sparse and talk of a mass extinction was "an enormous extrapolation", said Dr Thomas.

Now this gap has been filled, as Dr Thomas and colleagues analysed six surveys covering virtually all of the native plant, bird and butterfly populations over the last 40 years, including one he helped to conduct 25 years ago, revealing the impact of pollution, habitat loss and degradation.

Dr Thomas said his team was surprised butterflies had fared so poorly, a discovery with global implications. "This provides the first objective support, for any group of insects, for the hypothesis that the world is experiencing the sixth major extinction event."

Over 20 years, the ranges of approximately 70 per cent of all butterfly species declined to some degree, many severely. Shadier woodland floors, resulting from changing management, have harmed caterpillars of the high brown fritillary, causing a "frightening" 71 per cent drop, for example. Loss of grasslands have harmed the blues, such as the Large Blue.

On average, these insects disappeared from 13 per cent of areas they once occupied. "That's the opposite of what people thought 20 years ago: that insects were much more resilient because they could fly about," Dr Thomas said.

In a second study published today in Science, Carly Stevens, a doctoral student at the Open University and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Huntingdon, and colleagues recorded the abundance of plant species in 68 grasslands in upland areas.

She reports "strong evidence" of a decline in species richness, for instance in species such as heather, harebells and eye-bright.

Nitrogen pollution is the most likely cause: excess nitrogen can allow a few species, especially grasses, to grow fast and crowd or shade out their neighbours. The nitrogen is the result of agricultural fertilisation and fossil fuel combustion.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.
[ | 4 May 2004 @ 14:43 | PermaLink ]

 The Future of Business
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Dave Pollard has a nice piece on The Future of Business.
Let's step back now from the perspective of the knowledge worker and look at how the business environment for corporations has changed in 2015. In the early 2000s, large corporations that were once hierarchical end-to-end business enterprises began shedding everything that was not deemed ‘core competency’, in some cases to the point where the only things left were business acumen, market knowledge, experience, decision-making ability, brand name, and aggregation skills. This 'hollowing out' allowed multinationals to achieve enormous leverage and margin. It also made them enormously vulnerable and potentially dispensable.

As outsourcing accelerated, some small companies discovered how to exploit this very vulnerability. When, for example, they identified North American manufacturers outsourcing domestic production to third world plants in the interest of 'increasing productivity', they went directly to the third world manufacturers, offered them a bit more, and then went directly to the North American retailers, and offered to charge them less. The expensive outsourcers quickly found themselves unnecessary middlemen. Now in 2015, the result is what Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger, two Internet experts, have called a World of Ends -- which in its business application means a disintermediated world where specialized businesses contract directly with each other to bring the benefits of globalization and the free market to consumers. The large corporations, having shed everything they thought was non 'core competency', learned to their chagrin that in the connected, information economy, the value of their core competency was much less than the inflated value of their stock, and they have lost much of their market share to new federations of small entrepreneurial businesses.
Various forward-looking management gurus, like Tom Peters have been talking about this kind of change in the business and job world for a while. Everything will become more loosely connected and changing faster. No lifetime position in a stable company. Everybody will need to be able to market themselves, and will be likely to work on a succession of projects in the form of virtual companies that come together ad hoc to deal with a certain opportunity and that might well disband right afterwards. The change goes all the way up and down. Everybody has to think like an entrepreneur, constantly learning and looking for new opportunities. Constantly working their network, keeping up their repuation.
- Your networks are critical: Your success will depend on who you know, but not necessarily who you know well. Because of a phenomenon known as 'the strength of weak links', your future employer, employees, customers and business partners are all likely to be two or three degrees of separation away from those you know personally. Who your associates know is probably more important, therefore, than who you know directly.

- You need to know how to run a business, from start-up to dissolution. Not the sheltered academic skills of large corporate administration, but the down-and-dirty skills of entrepreneurship, where every decision is make-or-break. Your network can help here, too. You're probably three times as likely to be self-employed or unemployed in 2015, as you are to be an employee of someone else, so you'll need these skills.
All of it is of course both scary and exciting. And there are other possibilities of course, but this is quite likely how the capitalistic society is evolving. So, unless something fundamental changes, we'll all have to pay attention. If you'll keep thinking like a good employee you'll be more likely to be expendable and unemployed. If you think like a business person, and you get together a package of goods that the world actually needs - it might all be great. You might have as much chance of succeeding as any multinational company.
[ | 4 May 2004 @ 14:43 | PermaLink ]

 National Debt
From Ming the Mechanic: More on the U.S. national debt, from Al Martin Raw, the article "Scoreboard 2003". Seems to be in the member area, but somebody sent me an e-mail copy.
The total national debt of the United States on a fully realized basis, inclusive of federal, state, county and local debt stood at a record $20.613 trillion (83.73% of said debt having been created from 1981-92 and from 2001 to present.) The total public and private indebtedness of the United States ended the year 2003 at $39.384 trillion. The total public and private assets of the United States ended the year 2003 at $26.134 trillion. Thus, the United States by the end of 2003 has a negative net worth of approximately $13 trillion. The total debt service of the United States ended the year 2003 at 309.4% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). These are numbers never before seen. This is a higher debt to gross domestic product ratio than any other country on earth, which still services its debt.
Doesn't sound good. I'd like to see some other sources on that, of course. The periods he's mentioning, 81-92 and 2001 to the present, where 83.73% of the debt were generated is when Reagan and the two Bushes have been presidents.
[ | 3 May 2004 @ 13:48 | PermaLink ]

 Night Tears - Oriah Mountain Dreamer
From Sounding Circle: Night Tears

There is a crying
that happens at night
that does not come
while the light is with us.
There are things that cannot
be evaded
once the sun goes down.
Small nocturnal creatures
with sharp white teeth
silently gnaw at the edges of
belly and heart
when the darkness descends
and the void inside
grows larger.

It can split you open.

And the bone
in the centre of your chest
like the cracked wishing bone
from the turkey breast.

And if we are strong enough
to be weak enough
we are given a wound
that never heals.
It is the gift
that keeps the heart open.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer © 1995
[ | 3 May 2004 @ 13:48 | PermaLink ]

 How to deal with national debt
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Here's another history lesson, from an article at Common Dreams, "How Will Bush Deal With the Deficits? Connecting the Dots to Iraq" by Robert Freeman. It is about how George W. Bush's government turned a budget surplus towards a now rapidly growing number of trillions of dollars of debt, with no plan for dealing with it in sight. No country has ever been this much bankrupt, but it is nevertheless interesting to look at how others historically have dealt with such situations.
How, then, does a nation deal with debts that so greatly outrun its ability to pay? There are basically only five strategies. All are unappealing. Most are calamitous.

The most difficult strategy is, not surprisingly, the honest one: raise taxes and pay your bills. This is what King George III did following the Seven Years War with France in 1763. England had quadrupled its national debt in fighting the War and needed money to pay it off. It turned to the richest people in the realm, the Colonists, and began taxing paper, glass, paint, lead, and, of course, tea. The result, as we know, was the American Revolution.

It was the same strategy-raising taxes on the rich-that Louis XVI attempted in 1789. The French national debt had grown 10 fold under the pharoic opulence of Louis's grandfather, Louis XIV. Louis called the nobility and the clergy together and told them they would have to ante up. They, after all, had been exempted from taxes by Louis XIV in order to buy their complicity in his autocratic reign. Indignant, they refused to pay, precipitating the French Revolution, the most explosive upheaval to established government in the last thousand years.

A second strategy to deal with excessive debts is simply to print money. This is what Weimar Germany did to address the crushing debt imposed by the vengeful Treaty of Versailles. Before it was over the government had inflated the money supply by over a trillion times, leading some to comment that it was a waste of ink to put it onto paper worth so much less than the ink itself. The German middle class, whose assets were held at fixed amounts in government pensions, was destroyed. The collapse gave direct rise to Adolph Hitler.

A third strategy for dealing with onerous national debt is to sell off national assets. This is one of the first strategies the IMF imposes on third world countries that have gotten behind in their payments to western banks. Government-run industries, from telecommunications to water systems, are "privatized" and the country's natural resources are sold off to the highest foreign bidder. This is what Great Britain was forced to do in the aftermath or World War II.

Two world wars in only 30 years had ravaged the British economy and the pound sterling. Facing collapse at home (and revolution abroad), the government surrendered almost all of its colonies, from India and Pakistan to Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These had been among the greatest wealth-producing properties of modern times, the ones that had made the British Empire what it was. Their loss left Britain a second-rate power with only misty memories of its once imperial greatness.

A fourth strategy for dealing with excessive debt is to repudiate it. This was used for centuries in the early days of the modern world and was revived two years ago by Argentina which brazenly refused to pay some $110 billion in debts it had accumulated over prior decades. More ominously, it was this strategy that was used by the Bolsheviks after they took power in the Russian Revolution.

The new communist government refused to be bound by the debts of the overthrown Romanovs. But the French had loaned heavily to the Russian government for decades before World War I and now were left in a lurch. A cascading series of defaults from one bank to another caused a liquidity crisis on the continent, ultimately setting off the Great Depression.

Finally, there is plunder. When a nation's debt load becomes so huge it cannot plausibly reassure creditors regarding repayment, it must seek some source of wealth, any source, to keep the borrowed money flowing. This, naked predation, is what kept the Roman Empire alive for the last two hundred years of its existence. It is the strategy adopted by the Spanish Empire-silver and gold from America-and which eventually destroyed the vitality of its own merchant and civil servant classes.

Which, then, of the five above strategies will the U.S. adopt to deal with its exploding debt problem?

The author concludes, quite reasonably, I think, that Bush's answer will be a combination of solutions 3, 4 and 5. Sell off big chunks of assets to private interests, negate the responsibility for covering future social security, and go and plunder resources in other countries. Not pretty, but one might possibly keep it going for a while before anybody notices. At least until somebody else becomes president, who can then be blamed for it.
[ | 2 May 2004 @ 08:59 | PermaLink ]

 The Nature of Order
picture From Synergic Earth News: Raymond Kurzweil writes: The concept of the "order" of information is important here, as it is not the same as the opposite of disorder. If disorder represents a random sequence of events, then the opposite of disorder should imply "not random." Information is a sequence of data that is meaningful in a process, such as the DNA code of an organism, or the bits in a computer program. Noise, on the other hand, is a random sequence. Neither noise nor information is predictable. Noise is inherently unpredictable, but carries no information. Information, however, is also unpredictable. If we can predict future data from past data, then that future data stops being information. We might consider an alternating pattern ("0101010. . . .") to be orderly, but it carries no information (beyond the first couple of bits). Thus orderliness does not constitute order because order requires information. However, order goes beyond mere information. A recording of radiation levels from space represents information, but if we double the size of this data file, we have increased the amount of data, but we have not achieved a deeper level of order. Order is information that fits a purpose. The measure of order is the measure of how well the information fits the purpose. In the evolution of life-forms, the purpose is to survive. In an evolutionary algorithm (a computer program that simulates evolution to solve a problem) applied to, say, investing in the stock market, the purpose is to make money. Simply having more information does not necessarily result in a better fit. A superior solution for a purpose may very well involve less data. The concept of "complexity" is often used to describe the nature of the information created by an evolutionary process. Complexity is a close fit to the concept of order that I am describing, but is also not sufficient. Sometimes, a deeper order—a better fit to a purpose—is achieved through simplification rather than further increases in complexity. For example, a new theory that ties together apparently disparate ideas into one broader more coherent theory reduces complexity but nonetheless may increase the "order for a purpose" that I am describing. Indeed, achieving simpler theories is a driving force in science. Evolution has shown, however, that the general trend towards greater order does generally result in greater complexity. Thus improving a solution to a problem—which may increase or decrease complexity—increases order. (01/15/04)
[ | 1 May 2004 @ 08:59 | PermaLink ]

 The Athenian Agora
picture From Ming the Mechanic: George Dafermos wrote a large and very impressive document Blogging the Market - How Weblogs are turning corporate machines into real conversations. It is a deep overview of how weblogs relate to, integrate with, and change how business works, and, well, why it is a good thing. And I'm not done reading it, so I'll return to it. But in part George has some excellent historic overviews. Like, this description of the Agora in ancient Athens is well worth repeating.
In the city-state of Athens, about 3,000 years ago, Athenian citizens used to meet regularly at the “town centre” to announce projects, discuss politics and military affairs and decide on matters of common interest. What was so peculiar about this congregation – that came to be known as ‘agora’ – is that all Athenian citizens had the right to speak their own mind about almost anything and address their fellow citizens and when a decision had to be made, no one’s vote mattered more than someone else’s. And everything took place out in the open. No single Athenian was privileged in terms of public exposure and all opinions voiced at the agora were judged against their own merit. The ability to speak, raise objections, comment and criticise was equally distributed among all attendants and power to decide on the action to be taken based on what was previously debated was also equally distributed. Some embraced their fellow citizens’ ideas, and joined a civic coalition to take immediate action provided of course that they managed to convince the majority while others detached themselves emotionally from these very same ideas and went on to counter argue and oppose them. Conflict, enthusiasm, dispute and all sorts of verbal demonstrations of human emotions and feelings were evident and encouraged. Legendary war campaigns, marches to the battlefield and critical community issues related to, say, education, sports or arts, were decided in this way rather than at the headquarters of the army general or at the palace of the ruling king (besides, there was no king). And that is what Democracy means in Greek: the public holds the power reigns. However, the organisation of the agora conveyed also something else: that power shifted to where knowledge resided. Athenians were empowered by the abstract, yet real social infrastructure of the agora to publicly demonstrate their knowledge by means of articulating arguments in favour or against of certain propositions and on these premises, to gain the respect, the approval and the support of everyone engaged in the conversation. Yet it is striking how distant this archaic “town centre” looks from the one we are familiar with. Time went by and approximately 2,150 years ago ancient Greek forces were outperformed by the Roman army in the battlefield, and Athens was eventually taken over by the Roman Empire. The Athenian democracy and agora did not ever recover. Never again in human history had people had this staggering ability to collectively make decisions and collectively implement them.

There's a lot more, so read for yourself. But just be aware that there's a lot of people looking for how we might establish something like the Athenian Agora today on the Internet. And weblogs might possibly be one of the key pieces.
[ | 1 May 2004 @ 08:57 | PermaLink ]

 Biophotons And The Universal Light Code
From Sounding Circle: Biophotons And The Universal Light Code
By William F. Hamilton

I have been reading a book entitled The Field by Lynne McTaggert, a book that could revolutionize our view of the universe once again. One of the key notions in this book is the discovery of biophotons, a new study in the field of biophysics that could have a far-reaching impact on our ideas of life and consciousness in the universe.

What are biophotons and how were they discovered?

"Biophotons, or ultra weak photon emissions of biological systems, are weak electromagnetic waves in the optical range of the spectrum - in other words: light. All living cells of plants, animals and human beings emit biophotons which cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be measured by special equipment developed by German researchers.

This light emission is an expression of the functional state of the living organism and its measurement therefore can be used to assess this state. Cancer cells and healthy cells of the same type, for instance, can be discriminated by typical differences in biophoton emission. After an initial decade and a half of basic research on this discovery, biophysicists of various European and Asian countries are now exploring the many interesting applications which range across such diverse fields as cancer research, non-invasive early medical diagnosis, food and water quality testing, chemical and electromagnetic contamination testing, cell communication, and various applications in biotechnology.

According to the biophoton theory developed on the base of these discoveries the biophoton light is stored in the cells of the organism - more precisely, in the DNA molecules of their nuclei - and a dynamic web of light constantly released and absorbed by the DNA may connect cell organelles, cells, tissues, and organs within the body and serve as the organism's main communication network and as the principal regulating instance for all life processes. The processes of morphogenesis, growth, differentiation and regeneration are also explained by the structuring and regulating activity of the coherent biophoton field. The holographic biophoton field of the brain and the nervous system, and maybe even that of the whole organism, may also be basis of memory and other phenomena of consciousness, as postulated by neurophysiologist Karl Pribram and others. The consciousness-like coherence properties of the biophoton field are closely related to its base in the properties of the physical vacuum and indicate its possible role as an interface to the non-physical realms of mind, psyche and consciousness.
[ | 1 May 2004 @ 08:57 | PermaLink ]  More >

picture From Ming the Mechanic: There are quite divided opinions about what consciousness is and where it comes from. Arguments mostly arrive from quite divided assumptions about what the Universe is and where it comes from. One way I would simplify the views would be as follows.

You could assume that there's an external entity, which you can call God or something else, which intervenes in order to make things happen inside the universe. So that if something new happens, it is because God decided it was a good idea and introduced it.

You could also assume that the universe is a closed system. I.e. what is there is what is there, and when it evolves into new things it is because it is in its nature to do so. If hydrogen and oxygen turn into water, even the first time it happens, it is only because they have the emergent property to do so.

In my own somewhat controversial view of all this, I think there are many people who are confused about which camp they're in, or who really assume something different than what they think they do.

Let's look at consciousness. It is observable that there are entities here who have awareness, consciousness, the ability to think about things, including self-reflexively and abstractly. According to the first view, it would be because God suddenly one day said "Hey, I now decree that this mud henceforth will be conscious". According to the second view it would be because it would be perfectly logical, that the component parts merely evolved such a capability, based on the way they're put together, based on their pre-existing properties, and based on a natural sequence of events.

But many people who believe the latter will also try to deny that the consciousness is in fact an emergent property. If I say it a little differently: consciousness can only emerge if it has been there all along. Just like hydrogen and oxygen only can turn into water because they've been able to do that all along. If we use a controversial word for it, their design includes the capability to transform in such a manner.

Water can only happen because the universe possesses a water-ness. If you believe that such a capability suddenly happened and wasn't there before, you're a subscriber to the first worldview above, that there's an external agent who shows up and makes it happen.

Likewise, the universe can only manifest consciousness if it already possesses the capability for consciousness. Consciousness can only emerge if it all along has been an integral quality of the universe. We can discuss whether it was a latent quality or a continuously expressed quality, but it has to have been there, unless it suddenly came from the outside.

If the universe is a closed system, it of course gives some major problems of trying to explain where that came from. Even if we accept that there's no outside interference, but everything in the universe is just doing what is its nature to do, over billions of years, and that happens to have lead to human consciousness and MTV and the Internet and other interesting things, you can not avoid coming up with an answer to where such a brilliant evolutionary engine came from in the first place. If we assumed that the Universe actually evolved from a Big Bang 12 billion years ago, and everything that happened emerged naturally from the qualities inherent in whatever it was that exploded, it still does absolutely nothing in explaining how that something happened to be so exquisitely designed that extremely complex lifeforms would develop which would be self-aware and capable of developing advanced technology. Despite that it supposedly is a natural law that physical matter does the opposite, moving towards increased entropy.

The explanation that most often is used to avoid admitting that the universe possesses inherent intelligence is to invoke Randomity. I.e. to show how random events will carry along evolution. There are some big problems with that, however. What is called "random" usually just means that it is too hard to calculate which exact interactions between what produced what, and it is never just simple cause-effect relationships when one gets down to it. Some people think that Quantum Mechanics show that the universe is basically random. But it really just talks about uncertainty. Because you basically have to include all sub-atomic particles existing in 12 or so dimensions, in a possibly infinite number of parallel universes, in order to calculate what exactly will happen. Which is rather impractical at this point, so the actual outcomes of events, particularly very small ones, are for our purposes uncertain. To our limited view they seem "random" because we're incapable of understanding the whole system at one time at this point.

"Randomness" as such is essentially a variation of the external "God" in the first worldview at the top. I.e. believing in "randomness" influencing the universe in arbitrary ways has much of the same structure as believing in "God" influencing the universe in arbitrary ways. The difference is only in the labels people attach to it and to themselves. E.g. whether one thinks one's view is based on science or religion. Either way, we're in the field of religion if your model requires miraculous outside influences in order to hold together.

Ultimately the better model is probably some kind of synthesis. It isn't ultimately satisfying to just delegate the hard problems to some magical entity you can never understand, or to just deny that they even exist. Assuming that the Universal Intelligence is either entirely outside the universe, or that it doesn't exist at all - both fail to explain a lot of what we can experience here, and either one produces pretty depressing prospects for the future.

The more simple answer, to me at least, is that there's an infinite Omniverse there, and you're an integral part of it. It has the inherent capability to do everything that ever happened and ever will happen, and the scope of what can happen is infinite. Some of the inherent qualities are self-reflexive consciousness and the ability to evolve. It is vast, complex and mysterious, but ultimately completely logical and coherent. You can learn about it and understand it as deeply as you want, and it will readily divulge its secrets, but everything in it is connected with everything else, and all of it is continously evolving, so you'll probably never be done. And that's what makes it an infinitely continuing and expanding game.
[ | 30 Apr 2004 @ 16:59 | PermaLink ]

 Hemp - Could Save America
picture From Sounding Circle: Hemp - Could Save America
The Weed That Can Change The World
From Varied Sources


1) Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.

2) Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and US farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program.

3) Hemp Seed is far more nutritious than even soybean, contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is 35% dietary fiber. Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug. See

4) The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers which are among the Earth's longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose; the cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk is not psychoactive. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.

5) According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

6) Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops are applied to cotton.

7) Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and it's creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical byproducts.

8) Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. It can also be recycled more times.

9) Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard.

10) Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name just a very few examples.

For a Complete hostory and uses chart go to:
[ | 30 Apr 2004 @ 16:59 | PermaLink ]

 Letting go
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Via Chris Corrigan, some advice from Sogyal Rinpoche:
Let's try an experiment. Pick up a coin. Imagine that it represents the object which you are grasping. Hold it tightly, clutched in your fist and extend your arm, with the palm of your hand facing the ground. Now if you let go or relax your grip, you will lose what you are clinging onto. That's why you hold on.

But there's another possibility. You can let go and yet keep hold of it. With your arm still outstretched, turn your hand over so that it faces the sky. Release your hand and the coin still rests on your open palm. You let go. And the coin is still yours, even with all this space around it.

So there is a way in which we can accept impermanence and still relish life, at one and the same time, without grasping.

-- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, pp. 34-35

[ | 29 Apr 2004 @ 09:03 | PermaLink ]

 Plants give up their secret of splitting water
From Sounding Circle: Plants give up their secret of splitting water

Friday, February 06, 2004
By Reuters

WASHINGTON — Researchers said Thursday they had taken another step toward understanding how plants split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which may provide a cheap way to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel.

Producing hydrogen from water is the stuff of science fiction — and some comments by President Bush. But the team at Imperial College London and Japan Science and Technology Corp. in Yokohama said they had taken the best pictures yet of the plant structures that do it every day.

They used high-resolution x-ray crystallography to make an image of the tiny atomic splitter that separates the two hydrogen atoms from an oxygen atom in a water molecule.

"Results by other groups, including those obtained using lower resolution x-ray crystallography at 3.7 angstroms, have shown that the splitting of water occurs at a catalytic center that consists of four manganese atoms," said So Iwata of Imperial's Department of Biological Sciences.

"We've taken this further by showing that three of the manganese atoms, a calcium atom, and four oxygen atoms form a cubelike structure, which brings stability to the catalytic center," Iwata added in a statement. "Together this arrangement gives strong hints about the water-splitting chemistry."

Writing in the journal Science, Iwata and colleagues said they looked at a plant bacterium called Thermosynechococcus elongatus.

"Without photosynthesis, life on Earth would not exist as we know it," Jim Barber of Imperial's Department of Biological Sciences said in a statement. "Oxygen derived from this process is part of the air we breathe and maintains the ozone layer needed to protect us from ultraviolet radiation."

He continued, "Now hydrogen also contained in water could be one of the most promising energy sources for the future. Unlike fossil fuels it's highly efficient, low-polluting, and is mobile so it can be used for power generation in remote regions where it's difficult to access electricity."

Water has always seemed a logical source for hydrogen, but the only known feasible method to separate it, electrolysis, costs 10 times as much as natural gas and is three times as expensive as gasoline, Barber said.
[ | 29 Apr 2004 @ 09:03 | PermaLink ]

 Doors of Perception
picture From Ming the Mechanic:
We are born into a vast room whose walls consist of a thousand doors of possibility. Each door is flung open to the world outside, and the room is filled with light and noise. We close some of the doors deliberately, sometimes with fear, sometimes with calm certainty. Others seem to close by themselves, some so quietly that we do not even notice.

- Terry Teachout

[ | 28 Apr 2004 @ 08:19 | PermaLink ]

 The Whispering Wheel
picture From Sounding Circle: The Whispering Wheel

A new Dutch invention can make cars, busses and other vehicles no less than 50 percent more efficient and thus more environmentally friendly. Better still, the technology is already available; it all comes down to a smart combination of existing systems.

This winter, in the city of Apeldoorn, a city bus will be used to prove that the claims about the new invention are true. These are quite bold. E-traction, the company that developed the bus, boasts fuel savings of up to 60 per cent, with emissions down to only a fraction of the soot and carbon dioxide an ordinary bus would blow out of its tailpipe.

In addition, the test bus requires no adaptation, its drivers need no extra training and there'll be no discomfort for passengers. It will simply run on diesel, just like all the other buses, and it should be just as reliable. One thing however will be very different; the Apeldoorn bus hardly makes a sound, hence its nickname "the whisperer".

In-wheel engine
All this is made possible by an ‘in-wheel' electric engine, in fact nothing more than a normal electric engine turned inside out.

Complete Story HereThe Whispering Wheel
[ | 27 Apr 2004 @ 04:04 | PermaLink ]

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