April 9, 2012
Life’s Little Mysteries
By Adam Hadhazy
In the first “Back to the Future” movie, all it took to travel through time was 1.21 gigawatts and a flux capacitor (packed into a DeLorean sports car for style points). Despite centuries of dreams and decades of bona fide research, flux capacitors remain beyond our grasp, as do any other time travel-enabling devices.
From a pure physics point of view, travel into the future is not at all impossible and in fact happens all the . . . time. With all due respect to Doc Brown, however, backward time travel stacks up as a much tougher proposition.
“We can travel at different rates to the future,” said Seth Lloyd, a professor of quantum mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “To go into the past and mess around with it, that’s more controversial.”
My watch or yours?
For a real, everyday example of time travel, consider the satellites of the Global Positioning System. Were it not for built-in calibrations, the GPS atomic clocks would gain 38 microseconds over terrestrial timepieces every day, throwing off their location accuracy by several miles. “Clocks on Earth tick a tiny bit slower than satellites out in space,” said Lloyd.
The reason: time dilation, as described by Einstein’s two theories of relativity. According to the special theory, the faster an object moves relative to another object, the slower it experiences time. For GPS satellites zooming around Earth at nearly 9,000 mph (14,000 kph), this effect cuts seven microseconds off their clocks daily (relative to clocks on Earth).
The second effect, explained by the general theory of relativity, involves gravity. Clocks closer to the center of a gravitational mass, such as Earth, tick more slowly than those farther away. GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles (20,100 km) above the ground, and as a result have 45 microseconds tacked onto their clocks per day. The net result of the two relativistic phenomena is 38 microseconds, which engineers have accounted for with GPS technology.
April 2, 2012
By Thierry Meyssan
Although Kofi Annan’s track record at the UN is an indisputable success in terms of management and efficiency, he has been sharply criticized for his political shortcomings. As Secretary General, he aspired to bring the Organization into line with the unipolar world and the globalization of U.S. hegemony. He called into question the ideological foundations of the UN and undermined its ability to prevent conflicts. Notwithstanding, he is today in charge of resolving the Syrian crisis.
Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan, has been designated by Ban Ki-moon and Nabil El Arabi as joint special envoy to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. With Annan’s extraordinary experience and shiny brand image, his appointment was welcomed by all.
What does this top international official really represent? Who propelled him to the highest-ranking positions? What were his political choices, and what are his current commitments? These questions are met with a discreet silence, as if his previous functions were in themselves a guarantee of neutrality.
His former colleagues praise him for his thoughtfulness, his intelligence and subtlety. A very charismatic personality, Kofi Annan left a strong imprint behind him because he did not behave simply as the “secretary” of the UN, but more like its “general,” by taking initiatives that revivified an organization that was mired in bureaucracy. All that is known and has been repeated ad nauseam. His exceptional professional qualities earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, although this honor in theory should have been bestowed for personal political commitment, not a management career.
Kofi and his twin sister Efua Atta were born on 8 April 1938, into an aristocratic family of the British colony of the Gold Coast. His father was the tribal chief of the Fante people and the elected governor of Asante province. Although he opposed British rule, he was a faithful servant of the Crown. With other notables, he took part in the first decolonization movement, but looked upon the revolutionary fervor of Kwame Nkrumah with suspicion and anxiety.
In any event, Nkrumah’s efforts led to the independence of the country in 1957 under the name of Ghana. Kofi was then 19 years old. Though not involved in the revolution, he became vice-president of the new National Student Association. It was then that he was spotted by a headhunter from the Ford Foundation who incorporated him into a program for “young leaders.” From there, he was invited to follow a summer course at Harvard University. Having noticed his enthusiasm for the United States, the Ford Foundation offered to sponsor his complete studies, first in economics at Macalester College in Minnesota, followed by international relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.
After the Second World War, the Ford Foundation, created by famous industrialist Henry Ford, became an unofficial instrument of U.S. foreign policy, providing a respectable facade for the activities of the CIA.
Kofi Annan’s overseas study period (1959-1961) coincided with the most difficult years of the African-American civil rights movement (the start of Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign). He saw it as an extension of the decolonization he had witnessed in Ghana, but once again did not get involved.
Impressed with Annan’s academic achievements and political discretion, his U.S. mentors opened for him the doors of the World Health Organization, where he landed his first job. After three years at WHO headquarters in Geneva, he was appointed to the Economic Commission for Africa based in Addis Ababa. However, not sufficiently qualified to pursue a career at the UN, he returned to the United States to take up management studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1971-1972). He then attempted a comeback in his home country as director of tourism development, but found himself perpetually at odds with the military government of General Acheampong; he gave up and returned to the United Nations in 1976.
There, he held various positions, initially within UNEF II (the peacekeeping emergency force established to supervise the cease fire between Egypt and Israel at the end of the October 1973 war), then as Director of personnel at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It was at this time that he met and married Nane Lagergren Master, his second wife. The Swedish lawyer is the niece of Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest during World War II. Wallenberg is famous for having saved hundreds of persecuted Jews by issuing them protective passports. He also worked for the OSS (forerunner of today’s CIA) as a liaison with the Hungarian resistance. He disappeared at the end of the war, when the Soviets allegedly captured him to stem US influence in the country. In any event, Kofi Annan’s successful marriage opened the doors that he could not have passed through on his own, especially those of Jewish organizations.
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar chose Kofi Annan as Assistant Secretary-General in charge of human resources management and staff safety and security (1987-90). With the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, 900 UN employees remained stranded in that country. Kofi Annan was able to negotiate their release with Saddam Hussein, a feat that boosted his prestige within the Organization. He was then successively put in charge of the budget (1990-92) and peacekeeping operations under Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1993-96), with a brief interlude as a special envoy for Yugoslavia.
According to Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Kofi Annan failed to respond to his many appeals and carries the primary responsibility for UN inaction during the genocide (800,000 dead, mainly Tutsis, but also Hutu opponents).
A similar scenario was repeated in Bosnia, where 400 peacekeepers were taken hostage by Bosnian Serb forces. Kofi Annan remained deaf to the calls of General Bernard Janvier and allowed the perpetration of predictable massacres.
In late 1996, the United States vetoed the reappointment of the Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary General, regarded as dangerously Francophile. They succeeded in imposing their candidate: a senior official from within the international organization itself, Kofi Annan. Far from playing against him, his failures in Rwanda and Bosnia blossomed into assets after he candidly confessed to them and promised to reform the system so that they wouldn’t recur. He was elected on this basis and took office on 1 January 1997.
February 23, 2012
End The Lie
By Madison Ruppert
“John McCain in an evil man. Let’s not forget he was one of the major players at getting the NDAA signed. Please vote this man out of office.” –KTRN
During the Senate’s major hearing on cybersecurity last week, Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, announced that the Republicans in the Senate would introduce a bill to compete with S. 2105, also known as the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.
McCain seeks to give the NSA and the military previously unimaginable powers over civilian networks, even further expanding the ludicrous power over American citizens given to the military under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).
This is similar to the conclusions drawn by a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which unsurprisingly had a long list of corporate “advisers” who would directly benefit from such a centralization.
Although, even the legislation as it is currently being considered follows the study’s recommendations by putting the power in the hands of DHS. McCain would apparently rather see that power in the military’s hands.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 is currently being supported by the chairmen of not only the Senate’s Homeland Security committee but also the chairs of the commerce and intelligence committees as well.
The current bill is cosponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California.
McCain spoke out against rushing the debate on this legislation and instead called for widening the role of the National Security Agency (NSA) in cybersecurity matters domestically.
On the February 16 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee McCain said that the fact that similar legislation has been introduced in the past by Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, in the past does not mean that this new bill should be rushed to a vote.
“To suggest that this bill should move directly to the Senate floor because it has ‘been around’ since 2009 is outrageous,” McCain said.
“First, the bill was introduced two days ago. Secondly, where do Senate Rules state that a bill’s progress in a previous congress can supplant the necessary work on that bill in the present one?”
April 27, 2010
Imagine something between a computer game and a pet that helps makes you slim. One inventor did just that and came up with Autom — a robot that will look dieters in the eye and tell them what they need to hear.
Users can have daily conversations with the 38-centimetre-tall (15-inch) robot, which will crunch calories and provide feedback and encouragement on their weight-loss progress.
For those who hate manuals — there isn’t one. Switch Autom on and it’s ready to go.
Its blue eyes open and its head swivels as a computer inside its head allows it to search for a human face in front of it and maintain eye contact.
“Hello, I’m Autom! Press one of the buttons below to talk to me,” it says in a robotic female voice with an American accent. “I’m ready to get started. Let’s keep working together.”
Users tap their details onto the robot’s screen in response to its spoken questions about weight, diet, exercise regime and goals and over time it builds up a knowledge of the dieter’s strengths and weaknesses to tailor its questions and advice accordingly.
The information is also processed to provide graphs on their progress and habits over time.
The brainchild of Cory Kidd, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a doctorate in human-robot interaction, Autom hits the US market later this year, retailing for about 500 dollars.
The 80-billion-dollar US weight loss market has already been targeted by Nintendo with its Wii Fit and My Weight Loss Coach games but Kidd is banking on Autom offering dieters a more personalised way of using technology to slim down.
It is a so-called sociable robot, a new generation of robots that adapt their behaviour in order to interact with humans.
Autom looks fairly simplistic, with a head and neck attached to a rectangular box-shaped body on two stumpy legs. Its face has no nose and only the hint of a mouth.
But the cutting-edge field of human-robot interaction combines insights from the social sciences as well as technology and medicine
“It draws heavily on human psychology — so understanding how we as people interact with one another,” Kidd told AFP. “It relies on cues that people use in everyday communication.”