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Tokelau to shed diesel dependence
 

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Diesel-dependent Tokelau is still on track to become the first entirely solar-powered places on Earth in a project led by a New Zealand solar company.
All three atolls in the South Pacific dependency, a New Zealand territory, will have their own solar power system by the end of October, despite a slight delay switching on the first system.
Once the project is complete, Tokelau will be the first country to meet 100 per cent of its climate change obligations and will only need fossil fuel to power its fleet of three cars.
Lead contractor Powersmart Solar is helping Tokelau replace its diesel generators - which burn about 200 litres of fuel daily - with 4032 solar panels, 392 inverters and 1344 batteries.
Powersmart Solar director Mike Bassett-Smith said the company was proud to be leading the project because of the impact it would have on the well-being of the people of Tokelau.
"All across the Pacific there are clear issues with the current and expected future costs of electricity generated using diesel, not to mention the environmental costs and risks of unloading diesel drums on tropical atolls," he said.
"Energy costs underpin the economic and social development of these nations and making a positive impact on these issues is the single most important reason we started this business."
Tokelau has a population of about 1400 and they have access to electricity for between 15-18 hours a day.
The solar power systems will be capable of providing 150 per cent of the annual electricity demand without increasing diesel demand.
Companies from all over the globe tendered for the project and it was a "big win" for the Mount Maunganui-based company, Bassett-Smith said.
The first solar system on the atoll of Fakaofo was due to be switched on this week but had been postponed for up to two weeks.
Bassett-Smith said the delay would not affect the schedule of the installations on the other atolls, with the next system to be switched on in about six weeks.
Tokelau's isolation and the scale of the project meant the system required significant testing and development in Mt Manganui before it could be moved to the atolls.
The system would be able to withstand cyclone force winds of up to 230kmh.
Bassett-Smith said Powersmart Solar could monitor how it was performing remotely and work with the Tokelauans to diagnose any issues.
 

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Oh, znao sam da ćete u budućnosti jesti bube:
 
Future foods: What will we be eating in 20 years' time?
 

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Volatile food prices and a growing population mean we have to rethink what we eat, say food futurologists. So what might we be serving up in 20 years' time?
It's not immediately obvious what links Nasa, the price of meat and brass bands, but all three are playing a part in shaping what we will eat in the future and how we will eat it.
 
 
Rising food prices, the growing population and environmental concerns are just a few issues that have organisations - including the United Nations and the government - worrying about how we will feed ourselves in the future.
In the UK, meat prices are anticipated to have a huge impact on our diets. Some in the food industry estimate they could double in the next five to seven years, making meat a luxury item.
"In the West many of us have grown up with cheap, abundant meat," says food futurologist Morgaine Gaye.
"Rising prices mean we are now starting to see the return of meat as a luxury. As a result we are looking for new ways to fill the meat gap."
So what will fill such gaps and our stomachs - and how will we eat it?
 
   Insects, or mini-livestock as they could become known, will become a staple of our diet, says Gaye.
It's a win-win situation. Insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat and are a great source of protein, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. They also cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man.
 
Gaye is not talking about bushtucker-style witchetty grubs arriving on a plate near you. Insect burgers and sausages are likely to resemble their meat counterparts.
"Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers."
The Dutch government is putting serious money into getting insects into mainstream diets. It recently invested one million euros (£783,000) into research and to prepare legislation governing insect farms.
A large chunk of the world's population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet. Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand.
But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye, who is a member of the Experimental Food Society.
"They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock."
 
 Insect nutritional value /100g  Food source Protein (g) Calcium (mg) Iron (mg) Source: Montana State University Caterpillar 28.2 n/a 35.5 Grasshopper 20.6 35.2 5 Dung beetle 17.2 30.9 7.7 Minced beef 27.4 n/a 3.5
* Discover more about insects
* More on protein and healthy eating 
 Sonic-enhanced food 
It's well documented how the appearance of food and its smell influence what we eat, but the effect sound has on taste is an expanding area of research. A recent study by scientists at Oxford University found certain tones could make things taste sweeter or more bitter.
"No experience is a single sense experience," says Russell Jones, from sonic branding company Condiment Junkie, who were involved in the study. "So much attention is paid to what food looks like and what it smells like, but sound is just as important."
 
The Bittersweet Study, conducted by Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, found the taste of food could be adjusted by changing the sonic properties of a background soundtrack.
"We're not entirely sure what happens in brain as yet, but something does happen and that's really exciting," says Jones.
Sound and food have been experimented with by chef Heston Blumenthal. His Fat Duck restaurant has a dish called the Sound of the Sea, which is served with an iPod playing sounds of the seaside. The sounds reportedly make the food taste fresher.
But more widespread uses are developing. One that could have an important impact is the use of music to remove unhealthy ingredients without people noticing the difference in taste.
"We know what frequency makes things taste sweeter," says Jones, also a member of the Experimental Food Society. "Potentially you could reduce the sugar in a food but use music to make it seem just as sweet to the person eating it."
Companies are also increasingly using the link between food and sound in packaging. One crisp company changed the material it used to make packets as the crunchier sound made the crisps taste fresher to consumers. Recommended playlists could also appear on packaging to help enhance the taste of the product.
Jones says the use of sound is even being applied to white goods. Companies are looking into the hum fridges make, as a certain tone could make people think their food is fresher.
 
 Lab-grown meat 
Earlier this year, Dutch scientists successfully produced in-vitro meat, also known as cultured meat. They grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, which were said to resemble calamari in appearance. They hope to create the world's first "test-tube burger" by the end of the year.
The first scientific paper on lab-grown meat was funded by Nasa, says social scientist Dr Neil Stephens, based at Cardiff University's ESRC Cesagen research centre. It investigated in-vitro meat to see if it was a food astronauts could eat in space.
 
Ten years on and scientists in the field are now promoting it as a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of putting meat on our plates.
A recent study by Oxford University found growing meat in a lab rather than slaughtering animals would significantly reduce greenhouse gases, along with energy and water use. Production also requires a fraction of the land needed to raise cattle. In addition it could be customised to cut the fat content and add nutrients.
Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University, says he wants to make lab meat "indistinguishable" from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. Stephens, who is studying the debate over in-vitro meat, says there are on-going discussions in the field about what it should look like.
He says the idea of such a product is hard for people to take on board because nothing like it currently exists.
"We simply don't have a category for this type of stuff in our world, we don't know what to make of it," he says. "It is radically different in terms of provenance and product."
 
Algae
 
 
Algae might be at the bottom of the food chain but it could provide a solution to some the world's most complex problems, including food shortages.
It can feed humans and animals and can be grown in the ocean, a big bonus with land and fresh water in increasingly short supply, say researchers. Many scientists also say the biofuel derived from algae could help reduce the need for fossil fuels.
 
Some in the sustainable food industry predict algae farming could become the world's biggest cropping industry. It has long been a staple in Asia and countries including Japan have huge farms. Currently there is no large-scale, commercial farm in the UK, says Dr Craig Rose, executive director of the Seaweed Health Foundation.
"Such farms could easily work in the UK and be very successful. The great thing about seaweed is it grows at a phenomenal rate, it's the fastest growing plant on earth. Its use in the UK is going to rise dramatically."
Like insects, it could be worked into our diet without us really knowing. Scientists at Sheffield Hallam University used seaweed granules to replace salt in bread and processed foods. The granules provide a strong flavour but were low in salt, which is blamed for high blood pressure, strokes and early deaths. They believe the granules could be used to replace salt in supermarket ready meals, sausages and even cheese.
"It's multi-functional," says Gaye. "And many of its properties are only just being explored. It such a big resource that we really haven't tapped into yet."
With 10,000 types of seaweed in the world, including 630 in the UK alone, the taste of each can vary a lot, says Rose.

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A ovo?
 
$5 Million Grant Awarded by Private Foundation to Study Immortality
 

--- Quote ---RIVERSIDE, Calif. — For millennia, humans have pondered their mortality and whether death is the end of existence or a gateway to an afterlife. Millions of Americans have reported near-death or out-of-body experiences. And adherents of the world’s major religions believe in an afterlife, from reincarnation to resurrection and immortality.
Anecdotal reports of glimpses of an afterlife abound, but there has been no comprehensive and rigorous, scientific study of global reports about near-death and other experiences, or of how belief in immortality influences human behavior. That will change with the award of a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. It is the largest grant ever awarded to a humanities professor at UC Riverside, and one of the largest given to an individual at the university.
“People have been thinking about immortality throughout history. We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death,” said Fischer, the principal investigator of The Immortality Project. “Much of the discussion has been in literature, especially in fantasy and science fiction, and in theology in the context of an afterlife, heaven, hell, purgatory and karma. No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology and philosophy.”
The John Templeton Foundation, located near Philadelphia, supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will.
Half of the $5 million grant will be awarded for research projects. The grant will also fund two conferences, the first of which will be held at the end of the project’s second year and the second at the end of the grant period. A website will include a variety of resources, from glossaries and bibliographies to announcements of research conferences and links to published research. Some recent work in Anglo-American philosophy will be translated for German philosophers who, in the last 30 years, have been increasingly studying the work of American philosophers.
UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White said Fischer’s research “takes a universal concern and subjects it to rigorous examination to sift fact from fiction. His work will provide guidance for discussion of immortality and the human experience for generations to come.  We are extremely proud that he is leading the investigation of this critical area of knowledge.”
Noting Fischer’s renown as a scholar of free will and moral responsibility, Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said, “There is perhaps no one better suited to lead a multidisciplinary research project on the question of immortality and its social implications. The Templeton Foundation’s generous support will enable scholars from across the world to come to UCR to investigate how the question of immortality affects all cultures, albeit in different ways.”
Anecdotal reports of near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences and past lives are plentiful, but it is important to subject these reports to careful analysis, Fischer said. The Immortality Project will solicit research proposals from eminent scientists, philosophers and theologians whose work will be reviewed by respected leaders in their fields and published in academic and popular journals.
“We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions,” Fischer said. “Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife.”
Fischer noted that while philosophers and theologians have pondered questions of immortality and life after death for millennia, scientific research into immortality and longevity are very recent. The Immortality Project will promote collaborative research between scientists, philosophers and theologians. A major goal will be to encourage interdisciplinary inquiry into the family of issues relating to immortality — and how these bear on the way we conceptualize our own (finite) lives.
One of the questions he hopes researchers will address is cultural variations in reports of near-death experiences. For example, the millions of Americans who have experienced the phenomenon consistently report a tunnel with a bright light at the end. In Japan, reports often find the individual tending a garden.
“Is there something in our culture that leads people to see tunnels while the Japanese see gardens?” he asked. “Are there variations in other cultures?” What can we learn about our own values and the meanings of our finite lives by studying near-death experiences cross-culturally (as well as within our own culture)?
Other questions philosophers may consider are: Is immortality potentially worthwhile or not? Would existence in an afterlife be repetitive or boring? Does death give meaning to life? Could we still have virtues like courage if we knew we couldn’t die? What can we learn about the meaning of our lives by thinking about immortality?
Theologians and philosophers who examine various concepts of an afterlife may delve into the relationship between belief in life after death and individual behavior, and how individuals could survive death as the same person.
“Many people and religions hold there is an afterlife, and that often gives people consolation when faced with death,” Fischer said. “Philosophy and theology are slightly different ways to bring reason to beliefs about religion to evaluate their rationality. If you believe we exist as immortal beings, you could ask how we could survive death as the very same person in an afterlife. If you believe in reincarnation, how can the very same person exist if you start over with no memories?
“We hope to bring to the general public a greater awareness of some of the complexities involved in simple beliefs about heaven, hell and reincarnation, and encourage people to better understand and evaluate their own beliefs about an afterlife and the role of those beliefs in their lives.”
For example, “We think that free will is very important to us theologically and philosophically. And heaven in the Judeo-Christian tradition is supposed to be the best place. Yet we arguably wouldn’t have free will in heaven. How do you fit these ideas together?”
At the end of the project Fischer will analyze findings from the Immortality Project and write a book with the working title “Immortality and the Meaning of Death,” slated for publication by Oxford University Press.
The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians, and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

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 Sci-Fi writers of the past predict life in 2012 

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As part of the L, Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future award in 1987, a group of science fiction luminaries put together a text “time capsule” of their predictions about life in the far off year of 2012. Including such names as Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Algis Budrys and Frederik Pohl, it gives us an interesting glimpse into how those living in the age before smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi and on-demand streaming episodes of Community thought the future might turn out.
Written during the Cold War, many of the predictions reflect the anxiety of a time when universal nuclear armageddon was still a daily threat. In fact, Isaac Asimov began his prediction with what was a standard preamble of the time.
“Assuming we haven't destroyed ourselves in a nuclear war, there will be 8-10 billion of us on this planet – and widespread hunger.”
It’s some small comfort to know that the Earth today is neither a radioactive wasteland, nor is it yet as crowded as Asimov feared – although he wasn't far off. With most of us now living in cities, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the world's population hit seven billion in March of this year, (although the UN put the estimated date at September 2011). Unfortunately, he was on the money the latter prediction, with people in many parts of the world continuing to go hungry.
Meanwhile, Gregory Benford predicted that the population would never reach 10 billion, with negative consequences.
“There will have been major "diebacks" in overcrowded Third World countries, all across southern Asia and through Africa. This will be a major effect keeping population from reaching 10 billion.”
On the other hand, Benford was more optimistic regarding advances in manned spaceflight.
“Bases on the Moon, an expedition to Mars … all done. But the big news will be some problematical evidence for intelligent life elsewhere.”
It’s ironic that Benford's prediction of Moon bases and manned Mars expeditions happening 25 years in the future is still pretty close to how we see it today.
Algis Budrys submitted a dense prediction that revolved around a post peak-oil world.
“Because we will be in a trough between 20th-century resources and 21st-century needs, in 2012 all storable forms of energy will be expensive. Machines will be designed to use only minimal amounts of it.”
Cutting the power requirements of all manner of electronic devices – from light bulbs to supercomputers – has indeed become a major concern for manufacturers and consumers. Budrys believed the need to conserve energy would lead to an information-based society. This idea of an information society that is, in some ways, very like our own is echoed by Roger Zelazny in a sentence of herculean proportions.
“It is good to see that a cashless, checkless society has just about come to pass, that automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways, including telecommuting, that defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons, that population growth has also slowed and that biotechnology has transformed, agriculture and industry – all of this resulting in an older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier society possessed of more leisure and a wider range of educational and recreational options in which to enjoy it – and it is very good at last to see this much industry located off-planet, this many permanent space residents and increased exploration of the solar system.”
The world is certainly is going toward a cashless society, and biotechnology has seen huge advances in recent decades. Thanks to advances in medicine, populations in the developed world now live longer, healthier lives and population growth has indeed slowed in most developed countries. Defense spending has also declined (relatively speaking), but in response to financial pressures rather than a more conservative society.
Sadly, Zelazny's prediction of more leisure time hasn't eventuated. Instead of cutting working hours, technologies such as wireless Internet, smaller and more powerful laptops, tablets and smartphones now allow us to work anywhere and everywhere, so that work now encroaches on our so called leisure time more than ever before.
And while the whole space industry thing has yet to take off to the extent Zelazny predicted, recent developments from the private sector with commercial spaceflights set to launch in the near future and continuing exploration of the solar system, it appears he may only have been a little too optimistic in terms of time-frame.
However, Zelazny did hit the nail on the head with his foreseeing the e-book.
“I would like to take this opportunity to plug my new book, to be published in both computerized and printed versions in time for 2012 Christmas sales – but I've not yet decided on its proper title. Grandchildren of Amber sounds at this point a little clumsy, but may have to serve.”
Unfortunately, Zelazny died in 1995, but his books – including his popular The Chronicles of Amber series – are readily available in electronic format.
Jerry Pournelle missed the mark by not predicting that the Deep Blue computer would defeat world chess champion Garry Kasparov, but he did present this frightening prognostication – for writers, anyway.
“A computer will win the (John W.) Campbell (Jr.) and (L. Ron) Hubbard Awards.”
Tim Powers had an interesting take that is wrong on every count.
“Probate and copyright law will be entirely restructured by 2012 because people will be frozen at death, and there will be electronic means of consulting them. Many attorneys will specialize in advocacy for the dead.”
However, Russian media magnate Dmitry Itskov is attempting to make Powers' prediction a reality by 2045 with the "Avatar" Project.
A particularly interesting prediction comes from Frederik Pohl.
“(Y)ou live in a world at peace. Something like the World Court, as an arm of something like the United Nations, resolves international disputes, and has the power to enforce its decisions. For that reason, you live in a world almost without weaponry; and, because you therefore do not have to bear the crippling financial burden of paying for military establishments and hardware, all of you enjoy and average standard of living about equal to a contemporary millionaire's. Your health is generally superb. Your life expectancy is not much less than a century. The most unpleasant and debilitating jobs (heavy industry, mining, large-scale farming) are given over to machines; most work performed by human beings is in some sense creative. The exploration of space is picking up speed, both by manned colonization and robot probes, and by vast orbiting telescopes and other instruments. Deforestation, desertification and the destruction of arable land has been halted and even reversed. Pollution is controlled, and all the winds and the waters of the Earth are sweet again.”
Pohl goes on to call this an extremely improbable outcome, but he argues that if anyone is reading his predictions, that’s what happened. What’s interesting here is that some of what Pohl predicted did, to one degree or another, come to pass. Life expectancy is longer, standards of living did rise, robots are becoming more common in industry and agriculture, and the Hubble telescope and its successors are orbiting as you read this.
However, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which even the CIA missed predicting, made the whole U.N. running the world to avoid nuclear war thing moot. Meanwhile, the current situation in Syria and the ineffectiveness of the U.N. in dealing with it only illustrates how far off the mark he was in predicting a world at peace.
A prediction by Gene Wolfe sounds very familiar to any film-goer.
“Sports and televised dramas are the only commonly available recreations. The dramas are performed by computer-generated images indistinguishable (on screen) from living people. Scenery is provided by the same method. Although science fiction and fantasy characterize the majority of these dramas, they are not so identified.”
While we still have plenty of activities to partake in other than plonking ourselves down in front of the TV, – with technology even providing new ways to enjoy old ones – CGI characters, ubiquitous use of green screen and stories that are sci-fi, but not called that have all come to pass.
But of all the predictions, Gregory Benford’s is probably the most apt.
“I will be old, but not dead. Come by to see me, and bring a bottle.”
Benford is still alive and continues to write. He has a new novel coming out later this year, with more to follow.
Source: Writers of the Future
 

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