Pat's Sanitarium
Pat's Sanitarium
A retreat for the well-being of my mind from the insanity of the life that is mine.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Signs Of The Times 


Mood: Getting... sleepy...
Reading: Game theorists win Nobel again
Currently listening to: Be Quiet And Drive - Deftones
Quote of the day: "The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." - Paul Valery

So, yeah, i'm spending another late night in front of the computer. Not too much to report on aside since my actual weeks are rather bland by nature and are taken up, by the most part, with work. Did get to have an enjoyable lunch (and coffee) session today with Lisa, Huey Yee, Gareth and Chatts today though as well as managing to trounce the duo of Sneexe and Lisa in a 2 on 1 badminton match in the evening... :p

Anyhow, whilst perusing the vastness that is the web i came across the following news articles that i feel may have important influences on the near future or are reflective of the changing times in which we currently live in.

How will it all work out in the end i wonder?

As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound

With major companies and nations large and small adopting similar logic, the Arctic is undergoing nothing less than a great rush for virgin territory and natural resources worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Even before the polar ice began shrinking more each summer, countries were pushing into the frigid Barents Sea, lured by undersea oil and gas fields and emboldened by advances in technology. But now, as thinning ice stands to simplify construction of drilling rigs, exploration is likely to move even farther north.

Last year, scientists found tantalizing hints of oil in seabed samples just 200 miles from the North Pole. All told, one quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources lies in the Arctic, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The polar thaw is also starting to unlock other treasures: lucrative shipping routes, perhaps even the storied Northwest Passage; new cruise ship destinations; and important commercial fisheries.

"It's the positive side of global warming, if there is a positive side," said Ron Lemieux, the transportation minister of Manitoba, whose provincial government is investing millions in Churchill.

If the melting continues, as many Arctic experts expect, the mass of floating ice that has crowned the planet for millions of years may largely disappear for entire summers this century. Instead of the white wilderness that killed explorers and defeated navigators for centuries, the world would have a blue pole on top, a seasonally open sea nearly five times the size of the Mediterranean...

A look at a map of the globe with the North Pole at its center explains why a new frontier matters. Some countries that one might think of as being half a world part appear as startlingly close neighbors, and relatively speaking, they are.

In the days of empire, Rudyard Kipling called jockeying among world powers in Central Asia the Great Game. Christopher Weafer, an energy analyst with Alfa Bank in Moscow, says this new Arctic rush is "the Great Game in a cold climate." [Read more]

Truly, given the current rate of global warming and the fact that scientists are now saying that it is - for the forseeable future - inevitable that the Arctic cap will melt brings forth some exceedingly interesting changes in geopolitical strategies in regards to the Arctic routes.

An exceedingly detailed and well written article on the changes that will take place, their political, environmental, and economic impacts, and what the countries in question are doing right NOW to account for this new development. Make no mistake, this WILL happen - and soon.

Bird flu pandemic inevitable, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday warned that a pandemic of the bird flu strain lethal to humans is inevitable, and would likely kill between one and seven million people worldwide, Reuters reports.

Dr. Jai P. Narain, Director of WHO's communicable diseases department, took time out from a Southeast Asia health summit in Sri Lanka to tell the press: "We may be at almost the last stage before the pandemic virus may emerge. Whether the avian influenza pandemic will occur, that is not the question any more, [but] as to when the pandemic will occur."

The current human death toll in Asia from bird flu is 63 - 44 in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand, four in Cambodia and three in Indonesia. Of these, only Thailand has a pandemic preparedness plan, with "a stockpile of anti-viral drugs", explained Narain.

Bird flu has now reached six Russian regions and Kazakhstan, wiping out 14,000 fowl. Narain noted that "migrating birds posed a serious risk of spreading avian flu around the world and Asia was very vulnerable as winter approaches", adding: "The virus has been detected in migratory birds in some former Soviet states where these birds traditionally fly toward Asia to escape the cold winter months."
[Read more]

Given the cyclical nature of large scale influenza based outbreaks since the advent of global transportation networks i'm frankly not surprised at the above article's insistence that such a case is now an inevitability. One only really has to observe the increasing tempo of bird flu patterns globally to observe that such cases ARE spreading on a greater and greater geographical scale as migratory patterns carry our fair feathered friends to all ends of the earth (most recently to Romania). As such, it is only logical to assume a likewise proportional increase in the chance of H5N1 mutating into a human to human transmissible virus or, even worse, an airborne one.

Still, at least our current level of technology and relatively successful efforts at the governmental level in preparing for the worse (compared to 1918 at any rate) should significantly mitigate the effects somewhat. Kudos to the media on putting up the issue as a high priority one.

Hope you stocked up on flu shots and Sanofi-Aventis shares! ;)

Man-made diamonds sparkle with potential

The company doing this is Apollo Diamond, a tiny outfit started by a former Bell Labs scientist. Peer inside Apollo's stainless steel-and-glass machines, and you can see single-crystal diamonds literally growing amid hot pink gases.

This year, Apollo expects to grow diamonds as big as 2 carats. By the end of 2005, it might expand to 10 carats. The diamonds will probably start moving into the jewelry market as early as next year — at perhaps one-third the price of a mined diamond.

The whole concept turns the fundamental idea of a diamond on its head. The ability to manufacture diamonds could change business, products and daily life as much as the arrival of the steel age in the 1850s or the invention of the transistor in the 1940s.

In technology, the diamond is a dream material. It can make computers run at speeds that would melt the innards of today's computers. Manufactured diamonds could help make lasers of extreme power. The material could allow a cellphone to fit into a watch and iPods to store 10,000 movies, not just 10,000 songs. Diamonds could mean frictionless medical replacement joints. Or coatings — perhaps for cars — that never scratch or wear out.

Scientists have known about the possibilities for years. But they've been held back because mined diamonds are too expensive and too rare. And they're hard to form into wafers and shapes that would be most useful in products.

Manufacturing changes that. It's like the difference between having to wait for lightning to start a fire vs. knowing how to start it by hand.

"I'm just so completely awed by this technology," says Sonia Arrisonof tech analysis group Pacific Research Institute. "Basically, anything that relies on computing power will accelerate."

Arno Penzias, a venture capitalist and Nobel Prize winner for physics, says, "This diamond-fabrication story marks a high-profile milestone on an amazing scientific journey."
[Read more]

This isn't the first time that i've posted something on manufactured diamonds - anyone remember that LifeGem article? Still, the difference here is that they've found a way to increase their quality so that they are virtually flawless...

Don't underestimate the importance of this - cheaper 'created-on-demand' diamonds (which are of the same quality as the high quality ones mined today) for industrial purposes can, and will, very likely change the face of technology as we know it in the coming years. Think of the potential! A 10,000 movie iPod? No problem. ;)

Hrmmm... in much the same way as the Age of Steel transformed industry could we be on the cusp of an Age of Diamonds?

You need not be paranoid to fear RFID

If this sounds paranoid, take it up with IBM. The company filed a patent application in 2001 which contemplates using this wireless snooping technology to track people as they roam through ''shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, rest rooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc." An IBM spokeswoman insisted the company isn't really prepared to go this far. Patent applications are routinely written to include every possible use of a technology, even some the company doesn't intend to pursue. Still, it's clear somebody at IBM has a pretty creepy imagination.

And it's not just IBM. A host of other companies are looking at ways to embed surveillance chips into practically everything we purchase -- and even into our bodies. It's a prospect that infuriates Harvard graduate student Katherine Albrecht.

''I think the shocking part is they've spent the past three years saying, oh no, we'd never do this," Albrecht said. But instead of taking their word for it, Albrecht and her colleague, former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, began reading everything they could find on the subject. Now they're serving up the scary results of their research in a scathing new book, ''Spychips."

That's Albrecht's preferred name for a technology called radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. If you use a Mobil Speedpass to pay for gasoline, you're already using RFID. Your Speedpass contains a microchip and a small antenna that allows it to broadcast information to a receiver. The chip has no power source of its own. Instead, it picks up radio signals from an RFID chip reader, turns these radio waves into electricity, and uses the power to broadcast data to the reader.

Because they need no batteries, RFID chips can be made small enough to attach invisibly to practically anything. One company is even working on a way to print RFID chips onto newspapers, using electrically conductive ink.

Why is this so scary? Because so many of us pay for our purchases with credit or debit cards, which contain our names, addresses, and other sensitive information. Now imagine a store with RFID chips embedded in every product. At checkout time, the digital code in each item is associated with our credit card data. From now on, that particular pair of shoes or carton of cigarettes is associated with you. Even if you throw them away, the RFID chips will survive. Indeed, Albrecht and McIntyre learned that the phone company BellSouth Corp. had applied for a patent on a system for scanning RFID tags in trash, and using the data to study the shopping patterns of individual consumers.
[Read more]

IBM's RFID tags are very much in vogue these days (remember those 'Help Desk' ads on TV?) but there are very real and very worrying privacy concerns attached to it. Given the technological breakthrough of such trackers not requiring a source of power, the lack of legal precedents on the issue, and it being small enough to be embedded into ANYTHING you'd better trust your government and friendly neighbourhood corporations to not abuse it. Or else. ;)

Welcome to the 21st Century, citizen.

Gallup: Americans Now Support Interracial Dating

Americans of a certain age recall vividly when interracial dating was widely frowned on, and even led to the lynching of many black men. Those days have seemingly passed, however, according to a new Gallup Poll.

The results find that Americans of all races accept interracial dating by wide margins, with 95% of younger people (18-29) approving.

Putting these views into action, almost half of all Americans say they have personally dated a person of a different racial/ethnic group, again with younger people in the lead.

Somewhat fewer whites than blacks accept interracial dating, but their acceptance is still strong. By age, the breakdown ranges from the 95% in the younger group to about 45% of those 65 and over.

There is no longer even a double standard on the gender involved, with 71% of the entire sample approving a black man dating a white woman and 75% backing a white man dating a black woman.

In all, 69% of Hispanics say they have dated someone of a different racial or ethnic group, 52% of blacks say this and 45% of whites. There is some gender difference among blacks, with 64% of African-American men saying they have dated a non-black and 42% of black women saying this.

Among whites, 29% said they had dated a Hispanic, 24% an African-Amercian, and 18% an Asian.

The survey, part of Gallup's annual Minority Rights and Relations poll, was based on polling 2,264 adults.
[Read more]

THIS can only be a good thing. Cheers to the youth of America for being so open-minded about iterracial relationships! :)

Wow, have race relations come so far since the 60s? Actually, come to think of it, i wonder how the rest of the world is faring on this very same topic or interracial relationships...

Right thats about it from me. Time to zzz...


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Name: Patrick Pincon
Age: 27
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