PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 113/2003 - 27 November 2003
"FORGET GLOBAL WARMING, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF FUEL"
-------------------------------------------------------------------

        ** Happy Thanksgiving to all American CCNet members **

 
Today, we all know that meteorites originate in space. But until 200 years ago
the scientific establishment considered this an outrageous notion, despite the
mountain of evidence quite literally falling at their feet. Space was empty and
rocks did not come from the sky - to declare otherwise was superstition or madness.
     --Mark Pilkington, The Guardian, 27 November 2003


The controversy with respect to genetic engineering and plants will go down as
the biggest hoax of the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the
21st century because there are no valid reasons other than ideology that would
prevent any of this stuff from going forward.
     --Robert Goldberg, UCLA, 26 November 2003


People from a cross section of the society have expressed their concern over
the controversy regarding sighting of Eid moon and called for evolving a new
system to end it once and for all. Interviews with people belonging to various
fields of life, show that they are not happy with the ongoing controversy as
they are still unsure as to what decision they should follow. Gohar Rehman, a
schoolteacher, criticized the Ulema for creating doubts in the minds of the people.
      --Dawn, 26 November 2003


(1) SOLUTION FOR KUIPER BELT MYSTERY?
    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) News, 26 November 2003

(2) SPACE STATION STRUCK BY SPACE DEBRIS?
    BBC News Online, 27 November 2003

(3) HOT ROCKS
    The Guardian, 27 November 2003

(4) ASTRONOMICAL CONTROVERSY ROCKS MUSLIM FAITHFUL 
    Dawn, 26 November 2003

(5) ROYAL (DOOM SOON) SOCIETY: FORGET GLOBAL WARMING, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF FUEL
    Toronto Star, 26 November 2003

(6) REALITY CHECK: ARE WE REALLY RUNNING OUT OF OIL?
    NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS, 29 January 2003

(7) EUROPE WANTS FRANCE TO HOST NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR
    BBC News Online, 25 November 2003

(8) FOODS FOR THE FUTURE
    Daily Bruin, 26 November 2003

(9) AND FINALLY: VOTING BY NET PROXY?
    ABC News, 2 September 2003

(10) UNDER THE BOTTOM LINE
     Number Watch, 25 November 2003


============
(1) SOLUTION FOR KUIPER BELT MYSTERY?

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) News, 26 November 2003
http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/Kuiper.htm

Pushing out the Kuiper belt

Boulder, Colorado -- November 26, 2003 -- A new study by researchers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur provides an explanation for one of the more mysterious aspects of the population of objects beyond Neptune. In doing so, it provides a unique glimpse into the proto-planetary disk from which the Solar System's planets formed. Results will be published in the November 27 issue of Nature.

The Kuiper belt is a region of the Solar System that extends outward from Neptune's orbit, containing billions of icy objects from kilometers to thousands of kilometers across. It was discovered in 1992 and, since that time nearly 1,000 objects have been cataloged. Some of these objects are very large - the largest having a diameter of more than 1,000 kilometers.

As astronomers have studied this structure, a mystery has unfolded. Like most of the planets in the Solar System, the large Kuiper belt objects are believed to have been formed from smaller objects that stuck together when they collided. For this process to have worked in the distant regions beyond Neptune, the Kuiper belt would have to contain more than 10 times the amount of material than is in the Earth. However, telescopic surveys of this region show that it currently contains roughly one-tenth the mass of the Earth, or less.

To solve the puzzle, researchers have been searching for several years for a way to remove more than 99 percent of the Kuiper belt's material. However, Dr. Harold Levison (SwRI) and Dr. Alessandro Morbidelli (Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur of Nice, France) describe in their article, "Forming the Kuiper Belt by the Outerward Transport of Objects During Neptune's Migration," that the Kuiper belt may not have lost much mass at all.

"The mass depletion problem has been sticking in our throat for some time," says Levison, a staff scientist in the SwRI Space Studies Department. "It looks like we may finally have a possible answer."

Levison and Morbidelli argue that the proto-planetary disk from which the planets, asteroids and comets all formed had a heretofore unanticipated edge at the current location of Neptune, which is at 30 astronomical units (AU, the average distance between the Sun and Earth), and that the region now occupied by the Kuiper belt was empty. All the Kuiper belt objects we see beyond Neptune formed much closer to the Sun and were transported outward during the final stages of planet formation.

Researchers have known for 20 years that the orbits of the giant planets moved around as they formed. In particular, Uranus and Neptune formed closer to the Sun and migrated outward. Levison and Morbidelli show that Neptune could have pushed all the observed Kuiper belt objects outward as it migrated.

"We really didn't solve the mass depletion problem, we circumvented it," says Levison. "According to our work, the void beyond Neptune was probably devoid of objects."

However, in this model, the region interior to 30 AU contained enough material for the Kuiper belt objects to form. The mechanisms employed by Neptune to push out the Kuiper belt only affected a small fraction of the objects. These became the objects seen by astronomers; the rest were scattered out of the Solar System by Neptune. This new theory explains many of the observable features of the outer Solar System, including the characteristics of the orbits of the Kuiper belt objects and the location of Neptune.

"One of the puzzling aspects of Neptune's migration is why it stopped where it did," says Morbidelli. "Our new model explains this as well. Neptune migrated until it hit the edge of the proto-planetary disk, at which point it abruptly stopped."

NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris funded this research.

For more information, contact Maria Martinez, Communications Department, (210) 522-3305, Fax (210) 522-3547, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

=============
(2) SPACE STATION STRUCK BY SPACE DEBRIS?

BBC News Online, 27 November 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3242712.stm
 
The American-Russian crew of the International Space Station say their craft may have hit an object in orbit.

American Michael Foale and Russian Alexander Kaleri reported hearing a metallic crushing sound, apparently from an unoccupied part of the station.

Russian space officials said there appeared to be no damage to the outside of the craft or change in air pressure inside, and that the two men were safe.

Mr Foale and Mr Kaleri arrived on the ISS last month and leave next April.

Thanksgiving

Michael Foale, the station's commander, and Alexander Kaleri said they heard the sound as they were completing their breakfast and cleanup period.

Although no damage has been found, mission controllers are still trying to determine what happened.

The US Department of Defense monitors the ISS's orbit for space debris using radar. If it forecasts that a close approach may occur the ISS can move out of the way.

Michael Foale, who was born near Louth in Lincolnshire, is no stranger to space station impacts. He was onboard the Mir space station in 1987 when a Progress supply tanker crashed into it - one of the most dangerous incidents to have ever taken place in space.

The latest incident appears to be minor. Foale and Kaleri are carrying on with their planned duties which include a light work schedule and a Thanksgiving holiday meal.

Copyright 2003, BBC

===========
(3) HOT ROCKS

The Guardian, 27 November 2003
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/farout/story/0,13028,1093642,00.html

Mark Pilkington

Last week the Earth passed through the dust tail of comet Tempel-Tuttle, as it does every November, resulting in the Leonid meteor shower.
 
Today, we all know that meteorites originate in space. But until 200 years ago the scientific establishment considered this an outrageous notion, despite the mountain of evidence quite literally falling at their feet. Space was empty and rocks did not come from the sky - to declare otherwise was superstition or madness. Even in 1768, when a scientist found a still-smoking rock on the ground, it was decreed that it must have been struck by lightning.

As late as 1771, the statements of scientists from Paris to Sussex who observed a meteor hurtling across the Channel could not sway orthodox opinion. But the mood was changing. By 1794, the German astronomer Ernst Chladni had amassed evidence to show that meteorites did indeed come from space. Adding weight to his testimony, British chemist Edward Howard noted in 1802 that these "aerolites" shared similarly unusual compositions, including the presence of nickel, which had first been extracted in 1751.

The final piece in the puzzle came in 1803 when French scientist Jean-Baptiste Biot saw stones falling from a fireball over Normandy. Faced by such a wealth of evidence, the prevailing orthodoxy was finally, if reluctantly, swayed.

Yet ancient cultures were undoubtedly familiar with meteorites. By about 4000BC, the Egyptians and Sumerians, who both associated the rocks with the heavens, were extracting their iron for ritual weapons and objects. Meteorite worship was practised for centuries all over the world - famously at the temples of Apollo at Delphi (below) and Diana at Ephesus. Many believe the Hadschar al Aswad - the black stone in the Ka'ba wall at Mecca, venerated for centuries before the time of Mohammed -is actually a meteorite.

Copyright 2003, The Guardian

=============
(4) ASTRONOMICAL CONTROVERSY ROCKS MUSLIM FAITHFUL 

Dawn, 26 November 2003
http://www.dawn.com/2003/11/26/local7.htm

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Nov 25: People from a cross section of the society have expressed their concern over the controversy regarding sighting of Eid moon and called for evolving a new system to end it once and for all.

Interviews with people belonging to various fields of life, show that they are not happy with the ongoing controversy as they are still unsure as to what decision they should follow.

Abdul Ahad, a shop owner at Bank Road, called for using modern technology to resolve the issue. He said in this scientific age, the Muslims should take advantage of the technology and evolve a system so that there should be no controversy regarding sighting of moon.

He was of the view that all Muslims should celebrate Eid on one day as it would help create unity among the Muslim world. He said for this purpose, the government should convene a meeting of the Muslim scholars from all over the world to develop a consensus and find the solution to the problem.

Mohammad Daud, who supervises a library in a university, said a calendar system should be implemented in the country and the whole nation should follow it. He said when scientists could tell the exact time even in seconds of sun and moon eclipses then sighting of moon was not a big issue. "When we know that at what time Mars will come near the Earth again after hundreds of years and when Halley's comet will be visible, then why this controversy?", he questioned.

Gohar Rehman, a schoolteacher, criticized the Ulema for creating doubts in the minds of the people. He said when Muslims could not celebrate Eid on one day in one country then how could they talk about unity in the Muslim world.

He expressed his surprise that when there was only difference of few hours in the timings of different countries, then how could the difference of days occur when it came to celebrate Eid.

Mr Khalid, a retired government employee, called for reconstituting Ruet-i-Hilal Committee which should also include scientists and weather experts.

Mr Tanveer, a photographer, on the other hand, called for abolishing the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and reconstituting a special committee with scientists as its members without inclusion of Ulema.

Izhar Amrohvi, the parliamentary secretary of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, opposed the idea of abolishing Ruet-i-Hilal Committee. He, however, said there should be such committees in each province and the federal government should not interfere in their decisions.

He was of the view that Islam allowed fasting and Eid celebrations only after sighting of moon. He said if the federal government stopped interfering in provincial matters then this controversy could end.

Copyright 2003, Dawn

=============
(5) ROYAL (DOOM SOON) SOCIETY: FORGET GLOBAL WARMING, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF FUEL

Toronto Star, 26 November 2003
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1069801808730&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154

Worldwide oil, gas production expected to peak in 2020
Only solution to impending shortage will be higher prices

PETER CALAMAI
SCIENCE REPORTER

OTTAWA-Forget about hydrogen fuel cells, wind power, nuclear reactors and even global warming. The real energy crisis is that worldwide production of oil and natural gas will peak by 2020, warn some of the country's top experts.

And the only solution will be higher energy prices, from the gas pumps right through to household electricity.

That stark forecast was delivered here yesterday at a crystal ball session on energy and the environment organized by the Royal Society of Canada, the national academy for top achievers in the arts, sciences and humanities.

University of British Columbia professor Bill Rees, widely known for devising the ecological footprint method of measuring environmental impact, predicted that social and political shock waves will be felt worldwide when oil production peaks.

Analysts forecast that production from both conventional oil and sources like Alberta's tar sands will start declining around 2017, with natural gas production peaking soon afterwards, Rees said.

"Canada is not responding. Since 1990, energy use in Canada has gone up by 20 per cent and last year our fossil fuel use went up by 4 per cent," he told the meeting. A 4 per cent annual increase means a doubling in 18 years.

"That's an absolute travesty of logic," Rees said.

Rees and other experts took issue with the more benign energy outlook presented by Don Johnston, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Johnston, a cabinet minister in the Pierre Trudeau era, argued that a huge expansion of nuclear power would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and slow the rate of climate change. Most questions about nuclear power could be solved by technology once countries were past the political and economic hurdles, he said.

But many people simply don't trust assurances from the nuclear industry, Johnston acknowledged - including his own wife.

"Whenever I tell her all the good things about nuclear, she says: `They lied.'"

Several speakers expressed skepticism about the much ballyhooed "hydrogen economy" linked to fuel cells as a new power source for vehicles.

"Is it worth setting in motion this huge research and development effort just so we can keep our automobiles?" asked Richard Gilbert from the Centre for Sustainable Transportation in Toronto.

Gilbert said it was more sensible to redesign communities to make maximum use of tracked transit, such as streetcars and light rail, because these could be powered by electricity from any source.
"We can be reasonably clear that we're going to have a lot less energy than we have now," he said.

The Royal Society session also heard warnings that the looming challenge from declining oil and gas production is being obscured because governments in Canada are preoccupied with the Kyoto response to climate change.

"Kyoto is a distraction," Gilbert said of the multinational agreement for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Copyright 2003, Toronto Star

===========
(6) REALITY CHECK: ARE WE REALLY RUNNING OUT OF OIL?

NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS, 29 January 2003
http://www.ncpa.org/pub/bg/bg159/

by David Deming

Oil is a nonrenewable resource. Every gallon of petroleum burned today is unavailable for use by future generations. Over the past 150 years, geologists and other scientists often have predicted that our oil reserves would run dry within a few years. When oil prices rise for an extended period, the news media fill with dire warnings that a crisis is upon us. Environmentalists argue that governments must develop new energy technologies that do not rely on fossil fuels.
The facts contradict these harbingers of doom:

World oil production continued to increase through the end of the 20th century.

Prices of gasoline and other petroleum products, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they have been for most of the last 150 years.

Estimates of the world's total endowment of oil have increased faster than oil has been taken from the ground.

How is this possible? We have not run out of oil because new technologies increase the amount of recoverable oil, and market prices - which signal scarcity - encourage new exploration and development. Rather than ending, the Oil Age has barely begun.

History of Oil Prognostications 

The history of the petroleum industry is punctuated by periodic claims that the supply will be exhausted, followed by the discovery of new oil fields and the development of technologies for recovering additional supplies. For instance:

Before the first U.S. oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, petroleum supplies were limited to crude oil that oozed to the surface. In 1855, an advertisement for Kier's Rock Oil advised consumers to "hurry, before this wonderful product is depleted from Nature's laboratory."
 
In 1874, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation's leading oil-producing state, estimated that only enough U.S. oil remained to keep the nation's kerosene lamps burning for four years.

Seven such oil shortage scares occurred before 1950. As a writer in the Oil Trade Journal noted in 1918: "At regularly recurring intervals in the quarter of a century that I have been following the ins and outs of the oil business[,] there has always arisen the bugaboo of an approaching oil famine, with plenty of individuals ready to prove that the commercial supply of crude oil would become exhausted within a given time - usually only a few years distant....

How Much Oil Is Left? 

Scaremongers are fond of reminding us that the total amount of oil in the Earth is finite and cannot be replaced during the span of human life. This is true; yet estimates of the world's total oil endowment have grown faster than humanity can pump petroleum out of the ground.

Estimates of the total amount of oil resources in the world grew throughout the 20th century:

In May 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the world's total endowment of oil amounted to 60 billion barrels.

In 1950, geologists estimated the world's total oil endowment at around 600 billion barrels.

From 1970 through 1990, their estimates increased to between 1,500 and 2,000 billion barrels.

In 1994, the U.S. Geological Survey raised the estimate to 2,400 billion barrels, and their most recent estimate (2000) was of a 3,000-billion-barrel endowment.

By the year 2000, a total of 900 billion barrels of oil had been produced. Total world oil production in 2000 was 25 billion barrels. If world oil consumption continues to increase at an average rate of 1.4 percent a year, and no further resources are discovered, the world's oil supply will not be exhausted until the year 2056.

Additional Petroleum Resources.

The estimates above do not include unconventional oil resources. Conventional oil refers to oil that is pumped out of the ground with minimal processing; unconventional oil resources consist largely of tar sands and oil shales that require processing to extract liquid petroleum. Unconventional oil resources are very large. In the future, new technologies that allow extraction of these unconventional resources likely will increase the world's reserves.

FULL PAPER at http://www.ncpa.org/pub/bg/bg159/

=============
(7) EUROPE WANTS FRANCE TO HOST NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR
 
BBC News Online, 25 November 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3239806.stm

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 

The European Union has chosen France as its preferred location for a nuclear reactor that scientists hope will revolutionise world power production.

It will cost billions to build the fusion machine which releases energy in a similar way to the Sun's furnaces.

Scientists say the new reactor will be the first to give out a lot more power than it consumes on initial ignition.

International partners in the immense engineering project include Canada, the US, China, Japan, Russia and Korea.

Well placed

A final decision on the siting of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) should come in December at a meeting of officials involved in its planning.

The EU candidate, Cadarache, in southeastern France, is likely face stiff competition from Rokkasho in Japan.

The plant, wherever it is constructed, is expected to generate thousands of jobs.

Spain had initially put forward its own choice of Vandellos but then fell in line with its EU partners when research ministers agreed it could host the administrative headquarters for the European arm of the Iter project.

Europe believes it stands a good chance of hosting the fusion plant.

A recent report, chaired by Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, said "either (European) site would be likely to win the international site selection".

Star power

The Iter project is the latest stage in the decades-long quest to develop fusion power.

In conventional nuclear power plants, heavy atoms are split to release energy. But in a fusion reactor, energy is harnessed by forcing the nuclei of light atoms together - the same process that takes place at the core of the Sun and makes it shine.

Advocates say commercial fusion plants of the future could be cheap to run and environmentally friendly, with much less radioactive waste produced.

However, developing the necessary technology is proving very expensive and time-consuming.

To use fusion reactions as an energy source, it is necessary to heat a gas to temperatures exceeding 100 million Celsius - many times hotter than the centre of the Sun. At these temperatures, the gas becomes a plasma.

Under these conditions, the plasma particles, from deuterium and tritium, fuse to form helium and high speed neutrons.

A commercial power station will use the heat generated by the energetic neutrons, slowed down by a blanket of denser material (lithium), to generate electricity.

The fuels used are virtually inexhaustible. Deuterium and tritium are both isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium is extracted from water and tritium is manufactured from a light metal, lithium, which is found all over the world.

One kilogram would produce the same amount of energy as 10,000,000 kilograms of fossil fuel.

Iter would be the world's largest international cooperative research and development project after the International Space Station.

Its goal will be to produce 500 megawatts of fusion power for 500 seconds or longer during each individual fusion experiment and in doing so demonstrate essential technologies for a commercial reactor.

Copyright 2003, BBC

===========
(8) FOODS FOR THE FUTURE

Daily Bruin, 26 November 2003
http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/articles.asp?id=26533

By Joie Guner
DAILY BRUIN CONTRIBUTOR
jguner@media.ucla.edu

By the year 2050, there will be 9 billion humans inhabiting the world - a population that will require a 100 percent increase in the production of food to stave of starvation.

A symposium on Friday entitled "Foods for the Future," organized by UCLA Extension in collaboration with the David Geffen School of Medicine, addressed this issue among others concerning the bioengineering of food

"This symposium is geared to educating the university community and the public about trying to improve plants for human health and nutrition," said Robert Goldberg, co-coordinator and professor in the department of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA.

Experts on this subject from around the country spoke on issues ranging from oral vaccines, the enhancement of foods through vitamins, and the elimination of allergens to regulation of bioengineering foods and the benefit of such products to developing countries.

Goldberg gave a presentation that mapped out the origins of agriculture and its progress into modern day food. He showed how humans have been genetically altering food to improve its quality for 10,000 years. The improvement continues today.

With the advent of biotechnological gene modification, scientists like Eliot Herman of the United States Department of Agriculture have made far-reaching advances.

"You can use biotechnology to totally remove an intrinsic food allergen which causes problems for very large numbers of people," Herman said in a speech at the symposium.

Herman uses suppression technology in order to clone allergen genes and reinserts these genes into normal soybean plants. Consequently, the plant gets irritated and thinks a virus is invading, so it eliminates the proteins that cause allergies.

Channapatna Prakash, the director of the Center for Plant Technology at Tuskeegee University, delivered a presentation on the uses of bioengineered foods in developing countries.

"Many developing countries have a lot of malnourishment because of a lack of certain vitamins and minerals in the crops that they eat, such as rice," Prakash said. "This technology has potential for genetic fortification to boost the level of vitamins and nutrients in the food."

He cited the lack of vitamin A in the diet of many in developing countries, which leads to blindness in half a million children each year.

By bioengineering the vitamin A gene from carrots or daffodils and putting it into rice, scientists take an enormous step toward solving the problem.

Yet the major concern in developing countries is not solely the lack of nutrition - it is the lack of actual food itself.

"(Biotechnology) can increase productivity on the farm by cutting losses that we have already in developing countries due to diseases and pests and weeds," Prakash said.

"Technology has the potential to make our crops hardier by trying to provide them with a level of insulation against these factors," he added.

However, Prakash said countries should implement biosafety regulations that are "very science-based without too much bureaucratic red tape" before bioengineered food can be used.

Goldberg said that by sticking to a "science-based" solution to the lack of nutrients and food in developing countries, "miracle plants" can be created.

Such "miracle plants" could potentially be used as oral vaccines, said Charles Arntzen, a professor at Arizona State University - a method preferred over needles by organizations like the World Health Organization.

"The machinery of protein production in plants ... is slightly tweaked to cause a new protein to accumulate in plant cells," Arntzen said. "This new protein is designed so that it acts as an oral vaccine when a dried sample of the plant is consumed."

These advancements can be hampered by activists who believe that bioengineered food is poisonous or unhealthy, Goldberg said.

"The controversy with respect to genetic engineering and plants will go down as the biggest hoax of the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century because there are no valid reasons other than ideology that would prevent any of this stuff from going forward," Goldberg said.
 
==========
(9) AND FINALLY: VOTING BY NET PROXY?

ABC News, 2 September 2003
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/FutureTech/techtv_computervote030902.html

By Andy Jordan, Tech Live

Sept. 2-  Face it, you're more concerned with who was voted off the latest reality television show than where California governor [...] Arnold Schwarzenegger stands on health care. 
 
A futurist at a pioneering new technology school in Italy has envisioned a piece of software that could help you weed through all the political issues without picking up a newspaper, visiting a Web site, or even, someday, stepping into a voting booth.

Jason Tester, 25, has spent the last two years in the foothills of the Italian Alps in a small town called Ivrea. At the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, a very new school built to develop new products and services, the Stanford-educated American has been studying where the U.S.'s form of democracy is headed.

"People are used to technology in their voting now. I just wanted to see what happened when you take that further," he says. And he admits he's worried about the trend toward touch-screen voting machines and other technology-enhanced voting mechanisms.

You might call him the George Orwell of voting technology, since Tester has been playing devil's advocate on just how drastically high-tech balloting could alter our our right to civic representation.

A Virtual Voting Agent

He built a prototype for what he thinks could be the future of voting: an agent that mines your online and other computer habits to extract a political ideology, and then makes voting recommendations - or more omniously, even casts the ballots for you.

He calls it "Constituty," and it could act as a sort of McVoting for the masses. No knowledge of politics required. Indeed, no knowledge of candidates required, either.

Constituty would look at the Web pages you surf, your online bank account, and even keywords and emoticons in your instant messages. If it spotted the words "smog day" next to "environment" and a frowning emoticon, for instance, it would conclude that you care about the environment.

Guiltless Civic Duty?

Tester says customizing software is paving the way for a real Constituty.

"There are bits and pieces of customizing and profiling software out there, just nothing's been applied to voting," he says. "It's the last sacred space."

But Tester believes that final sacrosanct arena could be breached - under the guise of increasing voter turnout.

"I think the service, if it existed, would try to play upon the guilt people feel for not voting," he says.

Elaborate, Frightening Theories

Tester has started a Web site, AcceleratedDemocracy.net, to create a forum on the future of technology, voting, and democracy. The site graphically features Tester's entire Orwellian theory of future voting, when Constituty can be bought off store shelves and will work like the old Microsoft "Clippy" word processor application helper.

In one of four futuristic scenarios laid out on the site, Constituty recommends candidates for the user and then offers to place a vote, whether or not the user asks for more information on how Constituty arrived at its decision.

In another scenario, location-based voting demands a voter spend time in the woods in order to vote on a ballot measure to save a certain park.

In the "Exercise Your Vote" scenario, voting power is given only to those who are informed on candidates or issues, and rewards them with political payback after votes are cast via cell phone or PDA, or even at ATM-like voter kiosks.

Finally, as Tester sees it, voters could track candidates' performance on how well they fulfill, or fail, on campaign promises.

Each scenario is possible, says Tester, given the way so-called smart agent technology is progressing.

Technology, the Great Unknown

But Stanford computer science professor David Dill isn't convinced the technology is ready, or will be anytime soon.

"I hope he's wrong about that being a likely scenario," Dill scoffs.

Dill started his own Web site, VerifiedVoting.org, to rally support for the idea of building a type of paper receipt or other type of verification from computer-tallied voting. As his Web site says, the goal is to avoid voting debacles like the 2000 presidential election, and electronic voting isn't the answer, yet.

Needless to say, Dill isn't too psyched on Tester's prediction for the future.

"To have a computer program try to guess how you're going to vote when who knows what kind of logic it's using, and who programmed that agent, is well beyond anything I would consider acceptable," Dill says.

So why did Tester do it?

A cautionary tale, perhaps. He considers where we're headed is "the downfall of democracy - one-click voting when you barely know who you're voting for."
 
Copyright 2003 TechTV, Inc. All rights reserved.

=============
(10) UNDER THE BOTTOM LINE

Number Watch, 25 November 2003

Sunday November 23rd - a dark day, with the rain hammering down in the proverbial
stair rods from dawn to dusk. Nothing unusual for autumn in South West England,
you might think. Nevertheless, it makes the weather forecast in The Sunday Times
interesting reading: "Early cloud will clear to leave a largely bright day with
spells of sunshine. However, some early mist or fog may linger during the day."
To reinforce the message there is a nice little map with symbols of the sun coyly
peeping out from behind light clouds. This from the people who confidently proclaim
they know what the climate is going to do in one hundred years time.
     -- http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2003%20November.htm


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