World Transformation    
"A friend is a gift you give yourself. (Robert L. Stevenson)"
 Bioneering Into the Future
From Sounding Circle: Bioneering Into the Future
Matt Wheeland, AlterNet
October 16, 2003
Viewed on October 17, 2003

For the next five days, Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area will be overrun by leading lights in environmental activism and progressive politics. The 13th annual Bioneers Conference will once again showcase inspiring solutions to the world's pressing problems.

Where else but at Bioneers could you meet a man who uses mushrooms to clean up hazardous waste; hear a 24-year-old supermodel and a tree-sitter turned environmental spokeswoman discuss youth activism; and learn how urban areas are turning abandoned city blocks into abundant garden plots?

Founded in 1990 by Kenny Ausubel, Bioneers is an organization that can hold many such ideas under its umbrella. And because the group is focused primarily on solutions, Bioneers conferences are inspiring, joy-filled occasions to learn about progress on social and environmental issues, as well as meet other forward-thinkers who are making change happen in their communities.

Brahm Ahmadi, a co-founder of the People's Grocery in West Oakland, Calif., has been attending the Bioneers conference for several years. This year, he will be part of a panel discussing how urban agriculture can revitalize urban areas economically and ecologically. "The main benefits we get from Bioneers are continued contact with and inspiration from the work of others," Ahmadi said.

Those contacts have played a key role in furthering Ahmadi's work. Thanks to people and ideas encountered at Bioneers, the People's Grocery has begun work on bioremediation for polluted areas of West Oakland.

The idea of bioremediation is simple: Use nature's various tools to clean up humanity's messes. Some of this year's Bioneers presenters have spent their lives developing bioremediation techniques. John Todd, president of Ocean Arks International, has created methods of using contained ecosystems like fish and coral to purify sewage and wastewater. John Stamets has pioneered the field of mycoremediation, using mushrooms to break down industrial and chemical spills.

While bioremediation is still in its infancy, the Bioneers conference allowed residents of West Oakland to access information that would otherwise not be available to them. The primary methods for bioremediation involve going through the EPA, which requires large-scale and capital intensive projects unavailable to low-income areas and nonprofit groups.

"Bioneers has the potential for democratizing this sort of information," Ahmadi says. Thanks to the conference, his organization is able to learn about low- and no-cost methods to expand their work. With each new year of growth, Bioneers is able to reach more communities and stimulate more change.

Bioneers founder Kenny Ausubel anticipates even faster growth in coming years. "The prospects for growth are limitless and global," Ausubel says. "Bioneers is an elegant model because what it does is tie into and support local organizing efforts."

One key aspect of Bioneers' expansion is the Beaming Bioneers program, now in its second year. The first Beaming Bioneers program reached four locations around the U.S. and one in Toronto. This year's conference will be broadcast to 12 locations.

These satellite conferences promoted local organizing and allowed groups that couldn't travel to Marin to interact with conference attendees. Already, three countries have asked to participate in future conferences, and more sites in North America will surely come online.

Among the many highlights of this year's sold-out conference include "What is Socially Responsible Business" with Paul Hawken, Ben Cohen and Susan Davis; "Mitigating Global Warming" with Jared Blumenfeld and Elisa Lynch; "Genetic Engineering: Giving Biology the Business" with Lawrence Bohlen, Percy Schmeiser, Andrew Kimbrell and Ronnie Cummins; and "Reining In the Power of Giant Corporations" with Kevin Danaher, Jeff Milchen, and Ilyse Hogue.
[ | 18 Apr 2004 @ 15:18 | PermaLink ]

 Discovery may spur cheap solar power
From Sounding Circle: Discovery may spur cheap solar power
Thursday, October 2, 2003

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- A major European chip maker said this week it had discovered new ways to produce solar cells which will generate electricity twenty times cheaper than today's solar panels.

STMicroelectronics, Europe's largest semiconductor maker, said that, by the end of next year, it expected to have made the first stable prototypes of the new cells, which could then be put into production.

Most of today's solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity, are produced with expensive silicon, the same material used in most semiconductors.

The French-Italian company expects cheaper organic materials such as plastics to bring down the price of producing energy. Over a typical 20-year life span of a solar cell, a single produced watt should cost as little as $0.20, compared with the current $4.

The new solar cells would even be able to compete with electricity generated by burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas, which costs about $0.40 per watt, said Salvo Coffa, who heads ST's research group that is developing the technology.

"This would revolutionize the field of solar energy generation," he said.

ST's trick is to use materials that are less efficient in producing energy from sunlight but which are extremely cheap.

This would revolutionize the field of solar energy generation.
-- ST researcher Salvo Coffa

Coffa said the materials should be able to turn at least 10 percent of the sun's energy into power, compared with some 20 percent for today's expensive silicon-based cells.

"We believe we can demonstrate 10 percent efficiency by the end of 2004," Coffa said.

Following that, ST and others would need to develop production technologies to make solar cells and panels in large quantities to achieve the $0.20 per watt target, he said.

"Our target is fixed at $0.20," said Coffa, who expects no major technological difficulties in going from prototypes to mass-produced commercial products.

Renewable energy is an essential part of research for ST, which says its chip and material expertise can be used to develop future solar cells and fuel cells.

ST said three weeks ago it had found a new way to produce tiny yet extremely efficient fuel cells that could power a mobile phone for 20 days.
[ | 17 Apr 2004 @ 23:59 | PermaLink ]

 Giordano Bruno, Renaissance Philosopher
picture From Ming the Mechanic: My friend Lionel suggested I'd probably like Giordano Bruno, who's a now relatively little known Italian renaissance philosopher from the 16th century. At least I had never heard of him, but he's been very famous or infamous in various periods.

And, indeed, I like him. Here's a good overview of what he was about: The Forgotten Philosopher, which I'll include at the bottom too. He was apparently quite a bit ahead of his time, a pioneer semanticist and epistemologist.

He wrote, for example, about the "shadows of ideas", about how ideas and words are always imprecise approximations of something more real. Like Korzybski centuries later, he took up battle against Aristotelian thinking that makes everything much too black and white.
"This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the universe, and the observer is always at the center of things."
He dreamt about an infinite universe with an infinite number of inhabited worlds, united in a single interpenetrating unity. A place where God and Nature couldn't possibly be considered separate entities.
"The universe comprises all being in a totality; for nothing that exists is outside or beyond infinite being, as the latter has no outside or beyond."
And he defended loudly the right to think about such things, to dream, to question reality, search for one's own answers, and to philosophize about what it all means. Which is summarized in the slogan he coined:
"Libertes philosophica"
Here is a list of his writings.

Giordano was a major non-conformist thinker of his time. Which of course didn't sit well with the Catholic church. So, somebody inevitably turned him in to the Inquisition, which failed to make him recant in the slightest, and as a dangerous heretic he was eventually burned at the stake in 1600, as a martyr for free thinking and universal unity.
[ | 17 Apr 2004 @ 23:59 | PermaLink ]  More >

 Nature's Oldest Drug Is Now the World's Newest Pharmaceutical
From Sounding Circle: Nature's Oldest Drug Is Now the World's Newest Pharmaceutical

Pubdate: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 Source: The North Bay Bohemian(CA) Copyright: 2003 Metro Publishing Inc.
Author: Mari Kane GW Pharmaceuticals

Relief in Pill Form


Beckie Nikkel does not consider herself a "sufferer" of multiple sclerosis because she has learned to deal with the disease by taking control of the medicine she takes. Five years ago, the 50-year-old Santa Rosa grandmother was taking a dozen different meds, some to counteract the side effects of others, and her next step would have been to use a baclofen pump to stop the muscle spasms, which would have rendered her legs useless. That's when she turned to cannabis and became active with the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana. In late September, she joined a convocation of activist organizations in Washington, D.C., to lobby congress and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society about cannabis.

"I used to use a vaporizer, but now I do more ingesting of cannabis nectars and candy," she says, referring to THC-laden pops distributed privately. "Those suckers work wonders, but I would love to have other natural options, especially if they were covered by insurance."

Though the federal government's stance against all things cannabis continues to thwart the efforts of Nikkel and many others, research in Europe--where the climate is remarkably milder when it comes to marijuana--is pushing forward.

At the head of the new wave, British-based GW Pharmaceuticals stands out. Under government license and using plant strains developed by HortaPharm of Amsterdam (owned by expatriate Americans David Watson and Robert Clark), the company grows high-grade, finely tuned marijuana at a secret location in the south of England. With that crop, GW has isolated beneficial cannabinoids--the active ingredients of cannabis--and created a sublingual (under the tongue) spray for the treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Of course, Beckie Nikkel currently has no chance of getting her hands on the medicine legally. If she did, according to GW's three years of clinical trials, she could find relief from her neuropathic pain and muscle spasms, and she could get a more peaceful sleep. Her appetite would increase. If Betty Nikkel could get GW's medicine (a blend of two cannabinoids brand-named Sativex) through her insurance company, she could feel a lot better.

GW Pharmaceuticals hopes to gain approval from the British government for Sativex by the end of this year. In May, the company signed a lucrative marketing agreement with the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer to help them launch the product in Europe in 2004. So now, the world's first natural cannabis pharmaceutical maker has nowhere to go but up, yet the inevitable question remains, how high?

Cannabis may well be one of the world's greatest natural remedies. Human beings have long used cannabis to relieve symptoms of everything from nausea to pain. In fact, the human relationship to cannabis is so tightly ingrained in our physiology that special receptors have evolved in our brains to link to the chemical components of the plant.

Cannabis sativa, what we now know as "marijuana," officially entered the Western pharmacopoeia over one and a half centuries ago, during Victorian times, when cannabis medicines were administered in the form of tinctures. Queen Victoria is perhaps the most celebrated consumer of early cannabis tonics.

Having a record of no known cases of fatal overdose in the history of the world, the safety of marijuana is miles ahead of even aspirin. The biggest side effects of cannabis are euphoria and possibly paranoia. With its reputation of being one of the least toxic therapeutic substances on earth, the market potential for quality-assured, health-insured cannabis drugs has not gone unnoticed by pharmaceutical companies.

Marijuana is nothing without cannabinoids. These molecules of medicament are found in the millions of tiny, resinous pistils that shoot from the cannabis leaves. The mightiest cannabinoid of all is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), from which the famed euphoric effect is attributed. But cannabis therapy does not end with THC. All kinds of analgesic, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, antitremor, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, and appetite-stimulant benefits are derived from other, lesser known cannabinoids, such as cannabinadiol (CBD). GW Pharmaceuticals has combined THC and CBD to make Sativex.

"Our intention, once we have a product license application in the U.K., is to use the mutual recognition procedure to obtain approvals in other European Union member states, probably during 2004," says GW's spokesperson Mark Rogerson. "We will also be seeking to market the product in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The U.S. market is a longer-term objective."

Rogerson is not kidding when he says America is a market they'll have to wait for. The Bush administration and the Supreme Court remain in denial of marijuana's medical benefits, and the new DEA administrator Karen Tandy has indicated that raids against California compassion clubs will continue.

By contrast, Europe and Canada have made great strides toward marijuana decriminalization, efforts which often incur the wrath of the U.S. government. Once Sativex is approved in Europe, intrepid American patients who attempt to smuggle it home will have to answer to the customs man, just as if the drug were hashish.

"If [Sativex] has not been approved by the FDA, we would not let it enter the country," said U.S. Customs Service spokesperson Michael Fleming. "If it is prohibited entry, there could be civil and possible criminal penalties attached."

Click More for More
[ | 16 Apr 2004 @ 00:01 | PermaLink ]  More >

 Slow Light
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Researchers have shown than they can slow down light to a stand still, and even store its properties in atoms and then reconstitute the light later. And now other researchers have found that they can manufacture crystal that either slow down or speed up light.

It all reminds me of a science fiction story I read once where somebody had manufactured "slow glass". It would take something like 20 years for light to pass through a pane of glass like that. So, you would buy glass panes that had been standing around on the African savannah or in the Himalayas or something for years, and put them as windows in your house. And then, for years, you could look out at exotic wildlife walking about outside or breathtaking mountain views.
[ | 16 Apr 2004 @ 00:01 | PermaLink ]

picture The Library of Halexandria is an amazing resource put together by Dan Sewell Ward.
Halexandria is a Synthesis of new physics, sacred geometry, ancient and modern history, multiple universes & realities, consciousness, the Ha Qabala and ORME, extraterrestrials, corporate rule and politics, law, order and entropy, trial by jury, astronomy, monetary policy, scientific anomalies, and a whole host of other subjects ranging from astrology and astrophysics to superstrings and sonoluminesence to biblical and geologic histories to numerology, the Tarot, and creating your own reality. It is an attempt at bridging of the Age of Pisces and the Age of Aquarius.
Lots of informative and inspiring articles weaving together many different mystical subjects.
[ | 13 Apr 2004 @ 04:47 | PermaLink ]

 The formula for telekinesis
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Via mysterious earth, this announcement from a physics researcher who says he's come up with the equation for demonstrating telekinesis:
TK = CFe + ZPE - SD - E+
It means that Telekinesis (TK) is the result of a sufficiently high amount of Iron in the brain (CFe), of a Zero Point Emotion (ZPE) state, not using energy on will power or imagination or anything, and it is reduced by any degree of Sleep Deprivation (SD), and reduced by any degree of excesss vitamin E (E+) as that reduces the iron.

Eh, hm, that's a bit silly, I think. Doesn't exactly translate into something I can easily use, although maybe he's right about those points. But I don't think we can consider that a scientific formula.

I'm all for telekinesis, and I've bent spoons, and done a couple of other "impossible" feats, like opening security locks with the wrong key. None of which I can easily repeat, but I do have a sense of the elements involved. Which is mostly a certain mental state which it isn't easy to create at will. Doing it with a group of people who create a common agreement that it is now possible - that helps. And some phenomenon of letting go and not investing any emotions or thoughts on the idea of failure.
[ | 13 Apr 2004 @ 04:37 | PermaLink ]

 Blind See With Sound
From Sounding Circle: BLIND SEE WITH SOUND
By Lakshmi Sandhana
BBC News Tuesday,
Ocotber 7, 2003

Michelle Thomas is learning to "see", not with her eyes but her ears.

Now she can also use a mobile camera phone to do it.

Blind since birth, Ms Thomas is able to recognize the walls and doors of her house, discern whether the lights are on or off and even distinguish a CD from a floppy disk after only a week using a revolutionary new system.

She is "seeing with sound".

Developed by Dr Peter Meijer, a senior scientist at Philips Research Laboratories in the Netherlands, the system is called The vOICe (the three middle letters standing for "Oh I See").

It works by translating images from a camera on-the-fly into highly complex soundscapes, which are then transmitted to the user over headphones.

Watch the 'spikes'

A wearable setup consists of a head-mounted camera, stereo headphones and a notebook PC.

In total it costs about $2,500. The software is available as a free download.

Meijer is bargaining on the brain's adaptive capacity.

He hopes that blind users will ultimately learn to mentally reconstruct the visual content of the live camera views, as carried by the soundscapes, so that they experience something akin to meaningful vision.

"Our assumption here is that the brain is ultimately not interested in the information 'carrier' (here sound) but only in the information 'content'," says Meijer.

"After all, the signals in the optic nerve of a normally sighted person are also 'just' neural spiking patterns. What you think you 'see' is what your brain makes of all those firing patterns."

Easy 'tongue'

Enabling users to get an audio snapshot of what is visually in front of them, The vOICe is taking a very different route from "bionic eyes" -- retinal and brain implants.

It is non-invasive, offering a higher image resolution (up to several thousand pixels) and does not necessarily rely on the visual cortex.

"Everything has its own unique sound and once you learn the principles involved you can know what you're seeing," says Thomas.

Right now brighter areas sound louder, height is indicated by pitch and a built-in colour identifier speaks out colour names when activated.

While it can't track fast cars or read small print efficiently, it does allow blind users to trace out buildings, read a graph and even watch television.

Comparing it in terms of difficulty to learning a foreign language, Meijer hopes that in the long run, users will become more "fluent" in the mental translation so that it becomes more like natural perception, without conscious effort.

Mobile vision

Kevin O'Regan, of the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) in Paris, France, and an expert in the area of sensory consciousness, is currently evaluating The vOICe.

He believes that if perfected, the software could at least partially evoke vision-like sensations in even the congenitally blind.

"The problem is that vision is a very high bandwidth system, and it's not clear whether we can achieve sufficient bandwidth via other modalities," he stated.

To suit user preferences, Blue Edge Bulgaria has developed a simplified but highly portable mobile phone version of The vOICe for the Nokia 3650 camera phone.

It is available as a free download at The vOICe site
[ | 12 Apr 2004 @ 18:46 | PermaLink ]

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