Harvesting Solar Rays in Space

When in distress we often look towards the heaven to find an answer to our problems. West coast energy giant, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is doing the same. They are heading towards heaven to trap the sources of renewable energy. This company’s main operations are in San Francisco and northern California. They are trying to get approval from US regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from solar panels located in space. There is nothing new in this proposal. Pentagon conducted a study on similar lines in 2007. Pentagon study concluded that satellite based solar power is feasible but not economical. It will cost a leg for potential consumers. But PG&E and its partner Solaren that will build the solar panels, quash those fears. They assure that their costs will be comparable to rates for other lines of renewable power. But how? They are not answering that! But Solaren claims it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable within the next seven years.
Solaren CEO Gary Spimak said, “While a system of this scale and exact configuration has not been built, the underlying technology is very mature and is based on communications satellite technology.” For over 45 years, satellites have collected solar energy in Earth orbit via solar cells, and converted it to radio-frequency energy for transmissions to Earth-receive stations.”

2012 Science or Superstition (VOSE)

Report: 350 Vancouver cops make over $100,000 a year

Almost 350 Vancouver Police Department members were paid more than $100,000 in 2008, a new report has found. [Crisis?! What crisis?]
And two unidentified regular VPD members earned roughly $225,000 each, the report by researcher Daniel Fontaine states.
That’s in contrast to Premier Gordon Campbell’s $175,000 pay cheque, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s $135,000 and most provincial court judges.
A veteran constable is entitled to $89,900 regular pay per year.
“Some policemen are making far in excess of any elected official,” said Fontaine, a one-time aid to former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan who obtained his figures through a freedom of information request. Fontaine said overtime is endemic in the Vancouver force and overtime perks are even used to entice new prospects onto the force.

Robocall case sheds light on a secretive industry

·A former employee of Transcontinental Warranty, which is accused of making illegal recorded calls, says workers could be fired for divulging the firm's name.
The despised robocall companies that send out illegal recorded calls nationwide to try and get people to buy car warranties or apply for credit cards are among the most secretive operations outside the CIA.
Employees are told they can be fired merely for mentioning the name of their employer.
But court documents filed this month in a Federal Trade Commission case against a Florida company -- Transcontinental Warranty Inc. -- provide what authorities say is a look inside a telemarketing operation that used widespread recorded calls and misrepresentations in selling its product.
A declaration from a former employee describes how he was supposed to go through hundreds of calls in a shift, trying to sell auto service warranties, which the FTC said typically cost $2,000 to $3,000, without giving up too much information about the company, especially if consumers became combative or suspicious.
"Transcontinental's company motto was 'Hang up. Next,' " said Mark Israel, who worked the evening shift with about 30 other operators at company headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale. "Essentially, this meant that if the consumer did not readily go along with the scripted telemarketing pitch, I should immediately hang up."

Mayan underworld filled with gifts, sacrifices to gods


Xibalba was a Maya name for the underworld, home of the gods of death and disease. Caves, not the lofty pyramids left behind by the ancient Maya, were the entrances to Xibalba. And here, in caves like this one, they left sacrifices — plates, bowls and captive's remains — as offerings to the gods.
"One of the things that Maya would do, particularly when they made offerings in caves, was smash things, because to the Maya, things that we consider inanimate, they consider animate. And if you use them in a ritual it was important to smash the vessel to release the spirit," says archaeologist Jaime Awe, director of Belize's Institute of Archaeology. He was standing in the cave before an array of bowls, broken or incised with holes, just as they had been left a thousand years before.
For more than four millennia, Maya conducted rituals in caves like Actun Tunichil Muknal, where Awe led teams to explore starting in 1993. The descendants of the ancient Maya, who abandoned their pyramid-adorned ceremonial centers by 1050 A.D., still perform rituals today in caves in Mexico's Yucatan. In a recent paper in the Latin American Antiquity journal, Awe and colleagues presented evidence from caves like this one that drought played a role in the famed collapse of the ancient Maya. "We've had to map everything in these caves," Awe says.
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The Coming Superbrain

The notion that a self-aware computing system would emerge spontaneously from the interconnections of billions of computers and computer networks goes back in science fiction at least as far as Arthur C. Clarke’s “Dial F for Frankenstein.” A prescient short story that appeared in 1961, it foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems.
Today, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious attention from NASA and from Silicon Valley companies like Google as well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from next-generation search engines to machines that listen or that are capable of walking around in the world. A.I.’s new respectability is turning the spotlight back on the question of where the technology might be heading and, more ominously, perhaps, whether computer intelligence will surpass our own, and how quickly.
The concept of ultrasmart computers — machines with “greater than human intelligence” — was dubbed “The Singularity” in a 1993 paper by the computer scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. He argued that the acceleration of technological progress had led to “the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.” This thesis has long struck a chord here in Silicon Valley.

The Case for Working With Your Hands

[...] Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts. What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive. “Dilbert,” “The Office” and similar portrayals of cubicle life attest to the dark absurdism with which many Americans have come to view their white-collar jobs.
When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy’s poem “To Be of Use,” which concludes with the lines “the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.” Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.
A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.” I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.
The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience. I have a small business as a motorcycle mechanic in Richmond, Va., which I started in 2002. I work on Japanese and European motorcycles, mostly older bikes with some “vintage” cachet that makes people willing to spend money on them. I have found the satisfactions of the work to be very much bound up with the intellectual challenges it presents. And yet my decision to go into this line of work is a choice that seems to perplex many people.

The Age of Nice: Back by Popular Demand


“We are now in an age of nice,” said Eric G. Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University, who, as the author of “Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy,” qualifies as a professional curmudgeon. But even Mr. Wilson sees no end of smiley faces. He cites as avatars of a new niceness the Obama administration, which has been criticized for being too friendly to some repressive world leaders; advocates of political correctness who still hold sway in many public forums; and the director-writer-producer Mr. Apatow, whose era-defining comedies feature “nice guys who finish first — a great hope for non-threatening puerile males,” Mr. Wilson said.
“There’s more spark to nice — it is really in,” said Graceann Bennett, the director of strategic planning at the Chicago office of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. She said clients are shying away from the arch and sardonic campaigns that were in vogue when the economy was flush. Ogilvy recently pitched an ad for Truvia, a new sweetener, showing two mounds of white powder meant to suggest female breasts, one more perfectly shaped than the other. The proposed tagline: “The difference between real ones and fake ones is obvious.”
Niceness in the culture spikes when the real world is full of trouble, theorized Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of “Pay It Forward,” the 1999 novel that gave a marketable name to the idea of doing good deeds for strangers with the expectation that they would then do the same for others. (The book inspired a 2000 movie starring Kevin Spacey and a charitable foundation, run by Ms. Hyde.)
OperationNice.com links to news articles about good deeds and asks bloggers to take an oath of niceness. The blog was created 10 months ago by Melissa Morris Ivone, a 28-year-old graphic designer in Cinnaminson, N.J., who was inspired after a stranger held the door for her in an elevator. She wanted to create an oasis of good vibes online.

Animals can tell right from wrong

·Animals possess a sense of morality that allows them to tell the difference between right and wrong, according to a controversial new book
Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.
Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.
But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are "hard-wired" into the brains of all mammals and provide the "social glue" that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.
He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress.

[And, on a similar note...]
Thousands of bees trap employees inside New York store
A New York shop had to be closed for hours with its employees trapped inside after it was surrounded by a swarm of bees. According to US TV station WABC, thousands of bees clustered around the shop on Saturday afternoon. A sign in the window read: "Look! … closed due to bee infestation." Most passers-by avoided the GameStop store near Union Square, one of the city's busiest shopping areas. A man dressed in normal clothing managed to lure many of the bees into a box before a bee specialist arrived and used the scent of a queen bee to collect the remainder. The bees were taken to hives upstate.
[Source: guardian.co.uk]
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La Nueva Mentalidad Económica

La restricción del crédito impulsa los préstamos entre particulares
·Algunas firmas intermediarias ofrecen a través de internet un interés inferior al del mercado bancario
·Las empresas de financiación rápida también han dado el salto a la red con tipos de más del 40%

Las entidades financieras defienden que la restricción del crédito a familias y empresas responde más a la caída de la demanda que al endurecimiento de sus criterios de concesión. Pero los hechos parecen demostrar lo contrario. Los canales alternativos de financiación y los préstamos entre particulares viven un imparable resurgir en los últimos meses.
Se trata, en cierta manera, de un retorno a los orígenes, antes de la existencia de las grandes entidades y mercados de crédito. Pero con una gran diferencia: las relaciones físicas han sido sustituidas en buena medida por internet. Buena prueba de ello es Comunitae, una web que antes del verano comenzará a intermediar préstamos personales de entre 3.000 y 15.000 euros a un plazo de dos a cuatro años mediante un sistema de puja entre sus usuarios.
"Venimos del BBVA, una de las entidades más innovadoras del sector financiero mundial, y quizá por eso estuvimos predispuestos a valorar un modelo de negocio que ya existe en otros países", explica Arturo Cervera, fundador de la compañía junto a José Miguel Rotaeche.
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Los emprendedores se olvidan de la banca
No solo las familias han encontrado en los préstamos entre particulares a través de internet una solución para sus problemas de crédito. También los emprendedores y las pequeñas empresas empiezan a encontrar en la red una alternativa a unos bancos y cajas que les cierran las puertas.
Juan José Martínez y Jesús Cárdenas, dos ingenieros andaluces afincados en Madrid, son los fundadores de PartiZipa, una web en la que pequeños inversores prestan dinero a emprendedores para financiar proyectos empresariales concretos. "Estábamos cansados de los productos financieros opacos que no te permiten interactuar y en los que no sabes en qué inviertes. Un proyecto empresarial requiere un mínimo de 100.000 euros de capital, imposible para un pequeño inversor, pero pensamos que se podía juntar a 10 que pusieran cada uno 10.000", explica Martínez.
Otro mecanismo, aunque no por internet, son los business angels, "personas del mundo empresarial con capacidad de inversión, conocimientos y contactos" que aportan capital a emprendedores, explica Albert Colomer, tesorero de ESBAN. La entidad fomenta las redes --"su papel es ejercer de agencia matrimonial entre las partes"-- de estos inversores.
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JAK (el dinero no crece en los arboles)
Este es un blog para presentar el banco sueco sin intereses JAK, en español. También es un foro para leer y escribir sobre economía.
¿Un banco sin intereses en España?
La creacción de un banco sin intereses en España. Ese es el objetivo a largo plazo de este blog. Un banco sin intereses como alternativa a la banca convencional es igual de necesario en España que en Suecia y los suecos de JAK llevan 40 años demostrando que no es una utopía.
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"Viviremos de acuerdo con las necesidades, no con los deseos"

·Santiago Niño Becerra, economista. Doctor en Ciencias Económicas y catedrático de Estructura Económica del IQS, Universitat Ramon Llull
Ya lo dijo en el 2006: se avecina una megacrisis inevitable muy parecida a la de 1929, y lo llamaron alarmista. Hoy su libro, El crash del 2010 (Los Libros del Lince), va por la quinta edición. El resumen sería el siguiente: hundimiento de la economía entre el 2010 y el 2012. Estancamiento hasta el 2015 y una lenta recuperación hasta el 2020. "Pero al hipercrédito y al hiperconsumo no volveremos nunca". Se trata de un cambio de sistema y de mentalidad que implica una mayor consciencia de quiénes somos, dónde estamos, qué hacemos y qué valor estamos dispuestos a ofrecer; o eso o nos quedamos en casa viendo mucha televisión. A partir de ahora la pregunta básica será: ¿para qué?

LV-¿Lo peor está por llegar?
SNB-A mediados del 2010 es cuando verdaderamente empezará la crisis, cuando veamos que las medidas que se están tomando no funcionan.
¿Es inevitable?
Así es. El nivel de deuda es brutal, las entidades financieras tienen unos agujeros tremendos aunque no se quiera admitir, los recursos van a la baja y la capacidad de absorción de nuevos televisores, electrodomésticos, etcétera, se ha agotado.
¿Estamos ante una crisis del sistema?
Sí, porque dará lugar a un cambio que afecta al modo de organización y producción.
Entonces, ¿muere el capitalismo?
No por el momento, pero el reajuste será grave, como en la crisis del 29. Tras la gran depresión, se puso en marcha un nuevo modo de funcionamiento que hizo que las cosas fueran a más; pero se cometió un grave error al suponer que la cantidad de recursos (petróleo, minerales...) era inagotable.
Y comenzó el gran desperdicio...
Sí, y ahora hemos llegado a una situación en que ese modo de funcionamiento se ha agotado, ya no podemos ir a más. La recuperación de la crisis estará basada en la productividad y en la eficiencia, lo que significa que sobra y sobrará sin remedio mano de obra.
Ese decrecimiento ¿será para todos o sólo a partir de la clase media para abajo?
Para todos. El realmente rico será el que cree valor, el que tenga una altísima productividad. Si ahora la sociedad está escindida entre ricos y pobres, a partir del 2010 lo estará entre los que generan valor y los que no.
Los que generan valor son comprables.
Creo que las altísimas remuneraciones de ciertos directivos van a desaparecer. Un dólar colocado en subprime en el 2003 se convertía en 80 en el 2007, y eso no es valor.
¿Las grandes corporaciones internacionales serán los reyes del mambo?
Sí, van a más.
Esto es muy peligroso.
En tanto en cuanto la política va a menos, sí.
Las compañías que controlan productos básicos como gas, agua, electricidad, teléfono ¿seguirán abusando?
Si nos estrujan, consumiremos menos. La renta media va a bajar. El problema es el despilfarro: en Badalona hay un punto en el que se pierde el 50% del agua, y hay zonas de Nueva York en las que se pierde el 40%. Vamos a tener que ser eficientes.
Puro desperdicio.
Con la energía eléctrica pasa lo mismo: se habla de contaminación lumínica de las ciudades y a la vez de falta de energía eléctrica.
Hágame una foto del 2011.
En España, un país muy dependiente, la crisis será durísima por la estructura del PIB basado en el ladrillo, el turismo, el automóvil y en infraestructuras baratas ya insostenibles. O hay un cambio del modelo productivo capaz de absorber a toda esa población o vamos a una tasa de paro del 30%.
¿Cómo cambiar el modelo productivo?
Sin una cantidad impresionante de capital y un cambio de mentalidad brutal - que no se consigue ni en dos generaciones-,es imposible. Con el 2010 vamos a entrar en un parón de la actividad económica. No creo que quiebre ningún banco, porque el Estado los sostendrá, pero la gente no podrá sacar su dinero libremente porque si se vacían los bancos el Estado no podrá sostenerlos.
¿Y los servicios básicos?
Posiblemente, sostenidos por el Estado.
¿Regulación de consumo?
Sí, de materiales estratégicos, tanto a través del aumento de sus precios como de la restricción o denegación de su consumo. Cada persona podrá consumir un número determinado de litros de combustible al mes.
¿Se acabarán determinados productos en los supermercados?
No, porque un sector que irá a más será la logística. Los camioneros tendrán que estudiar sus rutas y se les facilitará combustible para cubrirlas, pero para salir el fin de semana no habrá. Es decir, la cultura del todo es posible a base de crédito se acabó, y eso tiene un impacto en el modo de vida.
No vivir endeudado es un gran cambio.
Entre 1997 y el 2007 los salarios reales en España crecieron sólo el 0,9%, y nadie protestó porque a la gente se le dio crédito. Esto se acaba.
Mucha televisión.
Sí, que la gente esté entretenida. En 1933 se levantó la ley seca, no me extrañaría que en el 2013 se legalizara la marihuana. Viviremos de acuerdo con las necesidades y no con los deseos. Impensable la renovación de vestuario cada temporada y ya está bajando el porcentaje de divorcios, todas esas cosas que antes generaban PIB.
¿Guerras por los recursos?
Se irá a un reparto mundial de los recursos.
¿Cuáles serán los sectores de futuro?
Biotecnología, logística, lo que yo llamo el sector R (recuperación, reciclaje, reparación) y la producción de ocio masivo. Tendrán trabajo los que realmente sean útiles, los que se hayan especializado, y habrá una megaélite con mentalidad gestora.
¿Y qué pasará con el tercer mundo?
La gente que consume y no genera lo tiene francamente mal.
¿Qué nos espera tras el capitalismo?
Estamos hablando del 2070. Hasta ahora, lo esencial ha sido el individuo. Vamos hacia un sistema grupal, consciente de que el todo es mayor que la suma de las partes, colaboraciones, asociaciones.
[Fuente: lavanguardia.es]