Archive for the ‘Things that shape the future’ Category

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The Monica Lewinsky scandal was a political-sex scandal emerging from a sexual relationship between United States President Bill Clinton and a then 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The news of this extra-marital affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal on all charges (of perjury and obstruction of justice) in a 21-day Senate trial.
In 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a graduate of Lewis & Clark College, was hired to work as an intern at the White House during Clinton’s first term. The two began a sexual relationship.
As Lewinsky’s relationship with Clinton became more distant and after she had left the White House to work at the Pentagon, Lewinsky confided details of her feelings and Clinton’s behavior to her friend and Defense Department co-worker Linda Tripp, who secretly recorded their telephone conversations. When Tripp discovered in January 1998 that Lewinsky had signed an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying a relationship with Clinton, she delivered the tapes to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who was investigating Clinton on various other matters, including the Whitewater scandal, Filegate, and Travelgate.

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What does it take to produce a world-changing breakthrough? Humans try again and again to arrive at a formula. These days, the X-Prize Foundation sponsors competitions in areas such as space travel and genomics, with a mission, it says, “to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” As far back as 1714, meanwhile, the British government pursued this same so-called “market approach” to sparking innovation, offering a king’s ransom, £20,000, to solve the seemingly intractable longitude problem. Sailors could not accurately determine their longitude at sea, limiting exploration and resulting in deadly shipwrecks.

Part of the problem with the market approach, though, is that humans aren’t always imaginative enough to know what we need. Eighteenth-century British leaders knew they needed to figure out longitude. But the vast majority of discoveries are at least semi-accidental.

Given the serendipity behind so much innovation, it may seem like folly to predict who will change the world–but we’re doing it anyway, if for no other reason than to spark creative discussion. We’ve looked far and wide to come up with our 10 revolutionaries. They’re young thinkers and scientists whom you’ve probably never heard of, doing work that is radically new and potentially world-changing. Together, they might transform medicine and computing, pollution and poverty, and our understandings of the brain and the cosmos–in short, they really could change the world.

While researching these innovators, we didn’t stumble upon a magic formula for producing breakthroughs. But we did get a good idea of where to look for innovation–and a good idea of just how many methods of fostering it have been tried.


Everyone agrees that we need new ways to meet the energy demands of the future, but there’s little consensus on how to do it. Nuclear fission? Cleaner coal? Bio-diesel? Bruce is one of a small handful of researchers suggesting an entirely different road. Nature has its own incredibly efficient way of producing power from the sun–photosynthesis–so why not put it to work? “Essentially, you grow a power plant in a field or in a fermenter,” says Bruce.


No, we aren’t quite to the point of “beam me up, Scottie,” but last October, Cirac teleported stuff in his lab. The “stuff” in question was information (more technically, a “quantum state”), and Cirac managed to instantly transfer it across a distance of half a meter without it touching anything in between.


While politicians tend to espouse solutions like “more aid” or “more trade,” entrenched poverty is a great lingering economic mystery. Duflo designs studies to figure out which kind of aid projects work, and which don’t. She was among the first development economists to evaluate aid projects using randomized trials, long the gold standard in scientific testing.


Eggan is leading the way to a world where stem cells–which have tremendous medical promise because of their potential to replace any damaged cell in the body–could be made without destroying embryos. Eggan is also becoming one of science’s more outspoken voices, defending the necessity of pursuing embryonic cell research through all available means as a way of understanding scourges like diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease.


When you buy shares in a company, you get to vote on corporate decisions. Likewise, when you invest in Hanson’s movie-making project, you get a say in the script, the casting, the cinematography, the filming and the editing. He believes not only that it’s a viable new business model, but that high-quality cinema will result — and he’s showing early signs of success.


Last year the borough of Tamaqua, Pa., passed an unprecedented law giving ecosystems legal rights of their own. Yes, you read that right. The trees, rivers, mountains and all the little critters that live in them have rights just like people. Linzey drafted the law, and is working on passing more ordinances around the country. His efforts fly in the face of thousands of years of Western legal precedent that treats nature strictly as property.


A scientist asks you to recall a memory, gives you a pill and alters your recollection. It sounds like a scene from the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the sci-fi romance in which ex-lovers have their memories of one another erased. But it’s exactly what Nader is doing with folks who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (rape survivors, war veterans and the like). The method does not aim to actually erase bad memories, but it can significantly reduce the severe pain of traumatic memories. His work could revolutionize how doctors treat epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder and even drug addiction.


If the laws of physics as we know them are correct, the vast majority of the universe–some 96% of it–consists of invisible, mysterious stuff known as “dark energy” and “dark matter.” Tegmark’s ambition is nothing less than to map and measure the entire universe, including these “dark” bits.


Science fiction is rife with intelligent, self-aware computers, from the benevolent “Mike” of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress to the murderous HAL 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But before we can actually design and build super-smart machines like those in our books and movies, we need to better understand the nature of human intelligence. That’s where Tenenbaum comes in. He’s using a combination of mathematical modeling, computer simulation and behavioral experiments to explain how people learn new things.


“We program cells like robots,” says Voigt. He’s at the forefront of a group of young researchers working to deliver on the profound promise of genetic engineering: Rebuilding living organisms to fight disease, make bio-fuels and solve industrial problems. To do this, Voigt works hard to understand what “commands” are programmed on the DNA of simple organisms like the E. coli bacteria. Then he changes the commands so the organism does his bidding.

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Friends – Six young people, on their own and struggling to survive in the real world, find the companionship, comfort and support they get from each other to be the perfect antidote to the pressures of life.


ER – Michael Crichton has created a medical drama that chronicles life and death in a Chicago hospital emergency room. Each episode tells the tale of another day in the ER, from the exciting to the mundane, and the joyous to the heart-rending. Frenetic pacing, interwoven plot lines, and emotional roller-coastering is used to attempt to accurately depict the stressful environment found there. This show even portrays the plight of medical students in their quest to become physicians.



Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld stars in this television comedy series as himself, a comedian. The premise of this sitcom is Jerry and his friends going through everyday life, discussing various quirky situations that we can all relate to (especially if we live in New York). The eccentric personalities of the offbeat characters who make up Jerry’s social circle contribute to the fun.



I Love Lucy – Cuban Bandleader Ricky Ricardo would be happy if his wife Lucy would just be a housewife. Instead she tries constantly to perform at the Tropicana where he works, and make life comically frantic in the apartment building they share with landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz. The first major show to be put on film rather than kinescope.


The Sopranos – An innovative look at the life of fictional Mafia Capo Tony Soprano, this serial is presented largely first person, but additional perspective is conveyed by the intimate conversations Tony has with his psychotherapist. We see Tony at work, at home, and in therapy. Moments of black comedy intersperse this aggressive, adult drama, with adult language, and extreme violence.


The Simpsons – The Simpsons are a very politically incorrect family. Homer works with pride in a nuclear power plant run with more regard for profit that safety. His wife is Marge, a kind of supermom. They have three kids: Bart, an underachiever (“and proud of it”), Lisa (who is as serious and responsible as Bart isn’t), and Maggie.


The Cosby Show – Long running popular comedy television series about the Huxtable family. Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable and Clair Huxtable, a happily married couple, are raising their children (Sondra, Denise, Theodore, Vanessa, and Rudy). The two oldest daughters eventually graduate from college and get married (Sondra to Elvin and Denise to Martin).


The X-Files – This television series follows the adventures and lives of FBI agents investigating those cases that involve the paranormal or previously unsolved (especially by conventional means). FBI Special Agents Mulder, Scully, Doggett and Reyes work to uncover forces within the United States of America government that would violate people’s rights, alien creatures and monsters alike that attack and other mysteries.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy is sixteen years old and is the “chosen one” . She gets to kill vampires because it is her destiny to do so. She had a bad reputation at her old school in Los Angeles because she had burned the gym down. The principal at her new school at first rips up her records, and then tapes her records back together again. Buffy tries to explain that the gym at her old school had to be burned down because it was full of vampires! Buffy and her mom just want a fresh start in their new, suburban California home, where the good part of town is half a block away from the bad part of town. In her new high school, Buffy meets an eccentric librarian who knows that Buffy is the “chosen one”. At first, the librarian scares her away by showing her a book about vampires, but then she returns to the library, knowing that the librarian can help her out with fighting off vampires and other supernatural things.


Star Trek: The Next Generation – Settled in the 24th century and 78 years after the adventures of the original crew of the starship Enterprise this new series is the long awaited successor to the original Star Trek series from the 1960’s. Under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard the all new Enterprise NCC 1701-D travels out to distant planets to seek out new life and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

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“If Everyone Cared” is the fourth single worldwide released from Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons, and the fifth and sixth single released in Australia and the U.S. respectively (“Animals” was only released in Australia and the U.S., and “Rockstar” only in the UK and U.S.).
The band worked on the video for it with director, Dori Oskowitz. The video for “If Everyone Cared” is not like most videos, or any other video the band has done. It begins with Nickelback in the studio playing the song. Scenes of this are intercut with images and videos of past social justice and human rights events, essentially when an individual “cared” and ended up changing the world. The people shown are Betty Williams, who led a march of 35,000 women to the gravesites of three Northern Irish children after witnessing their deaths, Bob Geldof starting up Live Aid, Peter Benenson igniting what would become known as Amnesty International, and Nelson Mandela leading South Africa to its first democratic election, (which would end the racist apartheid regime that had divided the country for 46 years). The video ends with a quote from Margaret Mead that reads “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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“Yes We Can” is a song inspired by a speech delivered by Barack Obama following the 2008 New Hampshire primary, derived from the union catchcry “Yes we can”. The song was released on February 2, 2008 by the Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am on Dipdive.com and also on YouTube under the username ‘WeCan08’. Interspliced with footage from the speech, the song features appearances by numerous celebrities (mostly musicians, singers and actors) in support of Senator Obama’s 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. The song was produced by will.i.am; the music video was directed by Jesse Dylan, the son of singer Bob Dylan.

Although the lyrics are entirely quotations from Sen. Obama’s concession speech in the New Hampshire primary, the Obama campaign had no involvement in its production. The viral music video, shot in a sparse black-and-white, features Barack Obama’s image in collage fashion; the performers comprise a veritable Greek chorus echoing his words in a hip-hop call-and-response manner as his voice plays in the background. The music video (which Time magazine later characterized as “brilliant”) premiered on the national media on ABC News Now’s What’s the Buzz entertainment program on February 1, 2008. On February 2 it was featured on the Obama campaign’s community blog, and later promoted as a viral video by the campaign on its website.

The song is in English, except the phrase “Yes, we can” in Hebrew at the 1:09 and 1:44 minute marks, Spanish at 1:17 and 1:57, and American Sign Language at 2:04.

Since the original posting on YouTube, the video has been re-posted a number of times by other users and as of February 15th, 2008, the video had been watched a combined total of over 9.30 million times between all of the postings. It has also been viewed over 3.80 million times on Dipdive, for a combined web total of over 13.1 million viewings.

It also inspired the spoof songs “john.he.is” and “No You Can’t” satirizing the Republican candidate John McCain..

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The September 11, 2001 attacks (often referred to as 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States.

On that morning, nineteen terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. Each team of hijackers included a member who had undergone some pilot training. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175) into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower (1 WTC and 2 WTC), resulting in the collapse of both buildings soon afterward and extensive damage to nearby buildings. The hijackers crashed a third airliner (American Airlines Flight 77) into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft (United Airlines Flight 93) attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Aside from the 19 hijackers, 2,973 people died as an immediate result of the attacks, and the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to WTC dust. Another 24 people are missing and presumed dead, bringing the total number of victims to 2,998 — most of whom were civilians.

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