Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Type 1

Just read a terrific article titled Toward a Type 1 Civilization by Michael Shermer.

"In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.

Based on our energy efficiency at the time, in 1973 the astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that Earth represented a Type 0.7 civilization on a Type 0 to Type 1 scale. (More current assessments put us at 0.72.) As the Kardashevian scale is logarithmic -- where any increase in power consumption requires a huge leap in power production -- we have a ways before 1.0.

Fossil fuels won't get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us to Type 1."

To get an in depth view of the Kardashev Scale, click on the Dyson Swarm graphic. The information rocks.

Enjoy

The question, as asked before in BRT, is Do We Have the Will?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Q & A

Question: Is the Federal Reserve part of the government?
Answer: No, it's the US central bank privately owned by bankers and run for bankers or in more formal fashion, "The Federal Reserve System (also the Federal Reserve; informally The Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. Created in 1913 by the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, it is a quasi-public (government entity with private components) banking system[1] composed of (1) the presidentially appointed Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C."

Question: What is Fractional Reserve Banking?
Answer: It's a Federal Reserve mechanism that allows affiliated US banks to loan out money at a 10/1 ratio to the amount of deposits in the bank, something gambling casinos cannot do in the running of their businesses as they must have enough cash on hand to cover all the winnings their customers make on any given day. In banking parlance, this is called 100 percent reserve banking where loans are fully covered by on hand cash, something that never happens in any bank allied to the Fed in the US. Because of FRB, banks generate money from nothing due to the fact the promise to pay off a loan is considered as "good" as cash which enables banks to create more loans to other people at the Fed's approved 10/1 ratio. (Note: Each loan can be ramped up 10/1.) Upon learning this little known fact about banking, one readily surmises that interest on loans becomes the real money maker here, not the principal, a concept that escaped yours truly for many years until now.

Click on Paul Gagnon's explanation as to why Money as Debt, forms the basis of our very strange financial system this country has had since 1913. It will blow you away.

Addendum. Click here to read Mike Whitney's latest blurb about banks. It will warm the
cockles of your heart.



Question: What is a hedge fund?
Answer: “Hedge funds are investment pools that are relatively unconstrained in what they do. They are relatively unregulated (for now), charge very high fees, will not necessarily give you your money back when you want it, and will generally not tell you what they do.

Ok...

Question: What was the Glass-Steagall Act?
Answer: "The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and included banking reforms, some of which were designed to control speculation.[citation needed] Some provisions such as Regulation Q that allowed the Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates in savings accounts were repealed by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. Other provisions which prohibit a bank holding company from owning other financial companies were repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.[1]

Question: What is Investment Banking?
Answer: "Investment banks help companies and governments raise money by issuing and selling securities in the capital markets (both equity and debt), as well as providing advice on transactions such as mergers and acquisitions. Until the late 1980s, the United States and Canada maintained a separation between investment banking and commercial banks."

Oh...in essence, hedge funds, banks and investment banks can work together to generate $ in all kinds of ways including...

Question: What is Sub Prime lending?
Answer: A type of loan that is offered at a rate above prime to individuals who do not qualify for prime rate loans. Quite often, subprime borrowers are often turned away from traditional lenders because of their low credit ratings or other factors that suggest that they have a reasonable chance of defaulting on the debt repayment.

For mortgages, houses, as everyone knows, are used as collateral for all categories of buyers. As long as the housing market was hot, sub primers could sell their houses at a profit (to pay off their loans) and move on while SP lenders reaped enormous profits even though the financial base on which their monies were made consisted of vapor at best. When the housing market collapsed, the now worthless SP securities of deposit, which were converted into Collateralized Debt Obligations (aka Toxic Waste) and plugged into many different kinds of derivatives, (somewhat risky financial instruments sold to investors designed by hedge funds, investment banks and banks, among others, to generate additional income) not only destroyed entities like Bear Sterns and Fannaes Mae & Mac but also polluted investment portfolios located in countries all over the world.

Question: Who is Henry Paulson Jr.?
Answer: "Before coming to Treasury, Paulson was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1974 in the Chicago Office and became a partner in 1982. From 1983 until 1988, Paulson headed up Investment Banking Services for the Midwest Region and became Managing Partner of the Chicago Office in 1988. In 1990, he was named Co-head of the firm's investment Banking Division, and in 1994 he rose to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer. In 1998, he was named Co-Senior partner, and with the firm's public offering in 1999, became Chairman and CEO."

Question: Who is Ben Bernakie?
Answer: Dr. Bernanke has already served the Federal Reserve System in several roles. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2002 to 2005; a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia (1987-89), Boston (1989-90), and New York (1990-91, 1994-96); and a member of the Academic Advisory Panel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1990-2002).

Question, What is the current economic situation?
Answer :
Bernakie: "The economy continues to face numerous difficulties, including ongoing strains in financial markets, declining house prices, a softening labor market, and rising prices of oil, food, and some other commodities....The deteriorating performance of subprime mortgages in the United States triggered turbulence in domestic and international financial markets as investors became markedly less willing to bear credit risks of any type....Many financial markets and institutions remain under considerable stress, in part because the outlook for the economy, and thus for credit quality, remains uncertain."

To read another view on the economy, click here.

Question: How can Fannie Mae and Mac be saved?
Answer: - The Mother of all Bailouts
Ron Paul talks about the bailout out of the housing industry and how it really just destroys the dollar and adds enormously to the debt.

Also, slipped into the bill, was the stipulation that ALL credit card transactions must now be reported to the IRS.


Any questions?

Had to add one last blast on Q &A. Click on Uncle Sam to read William Grieder's gem, Economic Free Fall? to see why trouble awaits us all as we move toward the abyss of 2009.

Red Planet

There's a scene in the Sci Fi flick Red Planet that never ceases to amaze anyone who has seen the move. Val Kilmer takes out a portable computer and pulls out a flexible transparent display to align the device to prominent Martian landmarks to determine where they are. When unrolled, the screen immediately turns on to show our intrepid hero the way to go. When Kilmer's done using the system, the screen rolls back into the hardware and the explorers continue on their way. Until now, this kind of imaging magic has never been done in practical fashion. (BRT - Form Factor)

"The researchers have overcome a major obstacle in producing transistors from networks of carbon nanotubes, a technology that could make it possible to print
circuits on plastic sheets for applications including flexible displays and an electronic skin to cover an entire aircraft to monitor crack formation."

Addendum: Sony has done very cool flexible TV prototypes but practicality was not part of the equation.

Addendum 2: Click here to get more information on a tech that will change the form factor for all things digital.

Minority Report beckons.

Heavy Connections

Water, water everywhere. We know what it is, right? Well...it depends.

For example, water cannot be compressed, it's less dense when frozen and it exists in three states (gas/liquid/solid) within a very moderate temperature range and, according to researchers, quantum effects are the reasons why.

"Water is a remarkable liquid — for example it has unusually high surface tension and it becomes less dense when it freezes. Quantum physics, through its effects on the hydrogen bonds, could be playing a significant role in water’s weirdness, Soper says. “Probably all the properties of water are affected by the hydrogen-bond length.”

Another substance with magical properties is graphene, an unrolled nanotube that exhibits characteristics equally as bizarre and wonderful as H20.

“Our research establishes graphene as the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel,” Hone said. “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.”

When varying amounts of electric current is applied to graphene via an STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope), unusual properties emerge.

"The carbon atoms in graphene are arranged at the corners of hexagons, as in chicken wire, with three of each atom's four electrons involved in molecular bonds with its neighbors; these are sigma orbitals that lie in the plane of the material. The remaining electrons are in pi orbitals extending above and below the plane. The hybridization of the pi orbitals spreads across the graphene sheet, and the unconfined electrons are free to move as high-speed "relativistic quasiparticles," so-called Dirac fermions which act as if they have no mass."

Last but not least, click here to learn why graphene has become the Wonder Boy of Quantum and Condensed Matter physics.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Last Roundup

Do you really want to read something scary? If so, check out the excellent Radar article, The Last Roundup, a primer on how the BA turned surveillance into an art form.

"The Continuity of Governance program encompasses national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces. In short, it's a road map for martial law"

The part that really rocks my world is the implication of just how easy it would be to eliminate the Constitution if another 9/11 happens as the security system, built in sync with the surveillance environment, is ready to do the deed if the right circumstances arise.

"Let's imagine a harrowing scenario: coordinated bombings in several American cities culminating in a major blast—say, a suitcase nuke—in New York City. Thousands of civilians are dead. Commerce is paralyzed. A state of emergency is declared by the president. Continuity of Governance plans that were developed during the Cold War and aggressively revised since 9/11 go into effect. Surviving government officials are shuttled to protected underground complexes carved into the hills of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Power shifts to a "parallel government" that consists of scores of secretly preselected officials. (As far back as the 1980s, Donald Rumsfeld, then CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and Dick Cheney, then a congressman from Wyoming, were slated to step into key positions during a declared emergency.) The executive branch is the sole and absolute seat of authority, with Congress and the judiciary relegated to advisory roles at best. The country becomes, within a matter of hours, a police state."

The stuff of dreams continues with the recent Salon articles detailing the Bush Administration's historic abuse of power with particular emphasis on again, you guessed it, unbridled surveillance, the linchpin for all dictatorships whether it be 1984, Soviet Russia or the emerging superpower, China.

To get another take on spying US style, click on the above image to get specifics on how various US agencies work together to get the goods on us with impeccable coordination. After reading this, one learns Enemy of the State has nothing on how the real thing works in the real world. To read BRT's analysis, click here, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

RIP


Fourth Amendment - Search and Seizure

Amendment Text | Annotations

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reach Out & Touch Someone

This is why I will never buy an iPhone.

Any Questions?

Jamming

Jamming's been around for a LONG TIME...

"Iegor Reznikoff of the University of Paris reports that the most acoustically resonant place in a cave -- where sounds linger or reverberate the most -- was also often the place where the pictures were densest.

And when the most-resonant spot was located in a very narrow passageway too difficult for painting, red marks are often found, as if the resonance maximum had to be signified in some way. This correlation of paintings and music, Reznikoff says, provides "the best evidence for the ritualistic meanings of the paintings and of the use of the adorned caves."

Now I know where Do Wop comes from. :)

In the Eye of the Beholder

In the eye of the beholder now has scientific backing according to the recent article posted in Science Daily. "Letting your imagination run away with you may actually influence how you see the world. New research from Vanderbilt University has found that mental imagery—what we see with the "mind's eye"—directly impacts our visual perception.

"We found that imagery leads to a short-term memory trace that can bias future perception," says Joel Pearson, research associate in the Vanderbilt Department of Psychology. and lead author of the study. "This is the first research to definitively show that imagining something changes vision both while you are imagining it and later on."

Visual perception, as one should expect, is also influenced by culture as seen by a prescient study done in the mid sixties titled The Influence of Culture on. Visual Perception. Click on the title to see why it's such an awesome read (Note: it's in PDF). Another informative take on this fascinating topic can be done by clicking on the grid.
Of course, to see the artistic side, Escher comes to mind...


as does Huxley.


Enjoy