Friday 24th of May 2024

the carrot cakes versus the nuclear bombs...

carrots cakes

In the days leading up to Woodstock, posters and advertisements pronounced the music festival—held 50 years ago on 15 to 18 August 1969—as an “Aquarian exposition.”


The watery descriptor, derived from astrology, was popularized 2 years earlier by the hit musical Hair. As the American pop music group The 5th Dimension sang in “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” in the new era, “Peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars.” Many people, especially those associated with the counterculture, welcomed the dawning of a New Age that would be guided more by “mystic crystal revelation” than traditional science.

But the Age of Aquarius was also the Age of Apollo. And in the summer of 1969, just a month before the Woodstock festival, hundreds of millions of people watched American astronauts walk on the surface of the Moon and return safely to their home planet. Science and technology—from new materials to digital computers to precision navigation—had made this feat possible, not hippie mysticism. NASA administrator Thomas Paine proclaimed the success of the Apollo program as the “triumph of the squares—the guys with computers and slide rules.”

A half-century later, the confluence of the Ages of Aquarius and Apollo presents historians of science with a challenge. How do we reconcile one of the 20th century's most impressive technoscientific achievements with bucolic images of young Americans frolicking in Woodstock's muddy fields?


Since 1969, meanwhile, many once-radical ideas have filtered into the mainstream, their groovy roots forgotten. For example, many of today's trends toward sustainability and “green design” emerged out of countercultural experiments in communal living. “Artisanal” and “organic” foods, which clutter shelves these days everywhere from nationwide grocery store chains to tiny neighborhood co-ops, likewise stem from concerted efforts back in the 1970s to evade conventional consumerism and pursue a novel blend of countercultural aspirations and entrepreneurship.


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When science was groovy

W. Patrick McCray, David Kaiser

Science  09 Aug 2019:

Vol. 365, Issue 6453, pp. 550-551




improving well-being with magic mushrooms...

Johns Hopkins Medicine is launching a new psychedelic research center where scientists will test the potential of so-called magic mushrooms and other drugs to treat some of the toughest mental health and addiction challenges.

The center, announced Wednesday, is believed to be the first center in the United States and the largest in the world to focus on drugs still better known as symbols of 1960s counterculture than serious medicine.

The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine is being funded by a $17 million donation from a group of private donors. Since federal funding cannot be used for such research, the center needs private support.

The Hopkins center’s research will focus on applications of the drugs for treating opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and depression, among other diseases.

“Psychedelics are a fascinating class of compounds,” said Roland Griffiths, the center’s director and a professor of behavioral biology in the Hopkins School of Medicine.

“They produce unique and profound change in consciousness," he said. “The center will allow us to expand on research to develop new treatments for a wide variety of psychiatric disorders. And it will allow us to extend on past research in healthy people to improve their sense of well being.”


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See also: homo sapiens... in from the big bang to strippers...

when fakes fakes outdo the real fakes...

Celebrities and top politicians have repeatedly been targeted by deepfake creators either to demonstrate the progress that artificial intelligence technologies are making, cast a shadow on their image, or just have fun. While deepfakes are still easy to spot, this is about to change drastically, posing new threats to humankind, experts warn.

Deepfakes could be weaponised to trigger international conflicts as “a pretext to strike first and go to war", the CEO of video verification company Amber, Shamir Allibhai, told The Daily Star, against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric towards Iran and news from North Korea about nuclear tests.

“Countries may even manufacture 'evidence' with deepfakes as a pretext to strike first and go to war. Or a third country creates and distributes deepfakes to provoke conflict between two of its enemies", he argued.

The tech expert suggested that if various countries’ militaries do not come up with tools to verify future sophisticated fakes, including videos with national leaders’ digital doppelgangers, real wars could break out.

"Imagine that a President declares war on a foreign country. The foreign country sees the declaration but is the recording real? Fake? Should the foreign country pre-emptively strike in the event it is real? Or did the foreign country actually create the fake video as a pretext for war and to justify it to their citizens and the international community?” he theorised.

He pointed to Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programme, which was not proven to exist, and noted that countries have to be more sceptical, as the time when a video could be trusted has passed. According to him, editing both audio and video is “almost as easy as editing text in Word”, so one will soon be able to make a person say or do anything on video. He noted that some states are already not strangers to using fake imagery for propaganda “in an attempt to boost their people’s morale or to sow fear amongst their enemies”, without naming names.

Top politicians have repeatedly become the targets of deepfakes for demonstration purposes. Recently, MIT Technology Review Editor-in-Chief Gideon Lichfield transformed himself into Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to demonstrate new real-time deepfake technology. The journalist turned the presentation into an improvised interview, in which he played both parties. However, the deepfake, who spoke in Russian with a thick American accent, could hardly be called a very realistic forgery of Russia’s president, even though he bore a certain resemblance with Vladimir Putin.


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Back in 2006, Channel Ten Australia was the first TV channel to used the technology:


IF YOU’RE not aware of David Tench, he was an animated talk show host who appeared on Australian TV for less than six months in 2006.

And by animated I don’t mean he was full of life, he was literally animated.

During the 16 episodes of David Tench Tonight which aired on Channel 10, the wacky host grilled stars including Pat Rafter, Ronan Keating, The Wiggles and Julia Gillard.

Then the show was axed.

Now, 10 years later, the man who played David Tench has opened up to about the bizarre show and has revealed which celebrity guests weren’t easy to deal with.

Drew Forsythe said he wasn’t convinced he was the right person for the role when he was approached by Andrew Denton, the brains behind the show.


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then came the vertical carroty farms...

It's brunch time in the not-too-distant future. You're in your favourite cafe and you have a craving for pancakes.

You know they're delicious because you order them all the time: fluffy and light with a slightly carroty taste.

Hardly a health food, but at least they're easy on the environment — they're made with organic eggs and 100 per cent locally-sourced bacteria.

The bioreactor that produces the flour is only a block away.

Like many people, you're worried about the size of your carbon footprint, so it's good to know that none of the main ingredients had to be shipped or flown in.

The coffee is good too — from a boutique plantation in an old converted office block just down the road.

It's expensive, but it's worth paying a little more to make sure the produce you eat and drink is grown right here in the city.

Your friend orders the pork and fennel sausages with a side salad — from the rooftop farm above the cafe.

She often feels guilty about the amount of meat she consumes. But at least the pig she's eating was raised on micro-algae, not soybean. So, a small chunk of the Amazon is still standing because the trees in that area weren't cut down to make way for yet another enormous soya plantation.

Eating pancakes made from bacterial flour and animals raised on unicellular photosynthetic micro-organisms might seem a little out there, but these ideas are currently being explored by scientists as part of a new approach to farming called controlled environmental agriculture (CEA).

And CEA, some agricultural researchers argue, could be the best way of reducing the environmental destruction associated with modern farming, which is both land and resource intensive.

The veggie patch goes high-tech

CEA represents a small but growing dimension of agriculture.

It's attracting huge investment, particularly in the United States where venture capitalists see gains to be made in a high-tech process known as vertical farming.

Vertical farms look like a cross between a factory and a laboratory.

Plants are grown indoors on trays, often stacked up to 30 tiers high.

Everything about the indoor environment is governed by sensors and automation, but the crucial ingredient is the artificial lighting.

"All the vertical farms operating today are using a type of lighting called LEDs, which stands for light emitting diode," says Jeffrey Landau, the director of business development at Agritecture, an urban agriculture consultancy.

"Different types of crops prefer different types of lighting. So, your leafy greens, your vegetative crops prefer light towards the blue side of the spectrum.

"Whereas your fruiting and flowering crops, they will want something more along the red spectrum of lighting."

Each variety of plant has its own tailored lighting recipe, allowing them to photosynthesise for much longer periods of the day — up to 18 hours at a time.

In practical terms, that means more crop yields.



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