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NEW TOWN UTOPIA by Christopher Ian Smith Kickstarter

Posted: October 20, 2016 at 11:38 pm

New Town Utopia is a documentary feature film that explores the original utopian dreams of a post-war British New Town Basildon, Essex – and compares this to the modern concrete reality.We’re close to finishing production, and after four years of serious hard work, have hundreds of hours of footage ready to be crafted into a poetic, challenging film.

It is a meditation on British social history that asks the question: do people make the place or does a place make the people?

An audiovisual journey through art, architecture and memory, the story is brought to life through the thoughts, performances and work of artists from the town.An inspirational group of characters persevering in the face of austerity, adversity and personal battles.

These are individuals driven by an unwavering desire to help their community through poetry, music, sculpture and puppets.

After WW2, New Towns were designed as social ‘Utopias’ in the model of Thomas More’s vision – to create a new type of citizen, a healthy, self-respecting, dignified person with a sense of beauty, culture and civic pride.

Basildon, the largest of the first wave of New Towns, was invested with these hopes and aspirations. However, 60 years on, art and culture are almost a distant memory.The town plans, public art and architecture, once thought so progressive, are vilified in the face of a struggling local economy and fragmented communities.

New Town Utopia questions how this dream has faded over time. In doing so, it explores the influence of environment and architecture on our psyche, and the impact of austerity on our towns and communities. In an environment where support for art and culture is at an all-time low, this film contemplates and celebrates the unceasing power of creative spirit.

The team behind New Town Utopia includes Essex-raised Producer-Director Christopher Ian Smith and Executive Producer Margaret Matheson (Sleep Furiously, Scum, Sid and Nancy).

So far,New Town Utopia has only been made possible through the kindness, time and talent of a dedicated crew with belief in the project.

Now we need to raise the money to finish the film – this requires a wide range of specialist skills, technologies, facilities and time to make it happen, including:

These campaign funds will also contribute to the distribution and marketing of the film. Were already in a great place with significant followers on Facebook, Twitter (2.5k) and Instagram (6.4k) without anyone having seen the film. There is a large community of people out there, with a strong interest in documentary, social history art and architecture.

Whats more, any money we raise above the target will contribute to the distribution of the film and outreach activities, including screenings for communities around the UK – using the film to build awareness of issues that face our towns and their people.

Your gratefully received contributions will be exchanged for a range of unique rewards relating to the film. This includes perks such as:


2016 marks the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia and the 70th anniversary of the New Towns Act.New Town Utopia hopes to shine a light on some of the current challenges for Basildon, New Towns and other towns in the UK facing economic, social and cultural changes. We hope the film will have a positive impact on Basildon and the films distribution strategy will incorporate community action initiatives and projects involving Basildon and other New Towns.

The New Towns movement did not end in the 50s… New Towns continue to be built across the world with similar hopes, dreams and challenges and are often cited as the cure for housing crises around the globe. If we did it again how can we make it work?

Whether you make a contribution or whether you spread the word. Every little counts!You can also:


There are several key risks and challenges that the film faces ahead. Producing a feature film is a considerable undertaking with many moving parts. It will take a lot of time, thought, dedication and talent to see it through.

1. New Town Utopia has a small crew of dedicated people its a labour of love – so a key risk is that those involved have to move onto other projects in order to pay their bills. The funds raised by this campaign will ensure that this dedicated team can focus on getting this film over the line.

2. Time is also a challenge. We want to finish the film in 2016, as after four years of production its time to move onto the next stage which is finding an audience and making an impact. Most importantly, the content of the film is incredibly timely as we look at how we deal with globalisation, Brexit and the housing crisis. New Town Utopia is a window into a real community and how a ‘top-down approach to planning, management and politics has an impact on this place and its people.

The funds from this campaign will ensure a focus on delivering the film for festivals and distribution in 2017.

3. Even when the film is completed its tough to get it seen. As the way we watch and consume films is changing, there are many ways an audience can find a film. It’s crucial that New Town Utopia gets exposure through key film festivals. This will then hopefully lead to screenings on TV, Netflix or similar. We will also look to build buzz and awareness of the film through community screenings and online activity.

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Gambling Addiction: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Posted: October 13, 2016 at 5:36 am

What is gambling addiction?

For the most part, gambling in moderation is a socially acceptable behavior. Gambling addiction is another story. If left untreated, a gambling addiction can negatively affect your financial situation, relationships, and other aspects of your life.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, problem gambling affects more than 2 percent of Americans. If you have a gambling addiction, you may feel an uncontrollable urge to buy lottery tickets, visit casinos, play slot machines, bet on sports, or gamble online. The specific type and frequency of your gambling behavior may vary. But in general, you will be unable to control that behavior. You will continue gambling, even in the face of negative social, financial, or legal consequences.

The majority of people with gambling addictions are men. But this type of addiction can also affect women.

People with addictions often try to hide their condition, but a gambling addiction can be difficult to conceal. You may need frequent access to casinos or online gambling pools. Even if you gamble at home when no one is around, your addiction may begin to show itself in other areas of your life.

If you have a gambling addiction, you may display some or all of the following behaviors:

You may also experience the following consequences from your gambling addiction:

People with gambling addiction dont always gamble frequently. But when they do start gambling, they may be unable to stop.

When you have a gambling addiction, an area of your brain called the insula may be overactive. This hyperactive region may lead to distorted thinking. This can cause you to see patterns in random sequences and continue gambling after near misses.

Your brain may respond to the act of gambling in the same way that an alcoholics brain responds to a drink. The more you feed your habit, the worse it will become.

With the right treatment, gambling addiction is manageable. Unlike someone with a food addiction, you dont need the object of your addiction to survive. You simply need to learn how to develop a healthy and balanced relationship with money.

Its important for you to quit gambling completely, since even occasional gambling can lead to a relapse. A program of recovery can help you develop impulse control. In general, gambling addiction is treated with similar methods as other addictions.

Although not frequently required, some people find that they need the structure afforded by an inpatient program at a treatment center to overcome a gambling addiction. This type of program may be especially helpful if youre unable to avoid casinos or other gambling venues without help. You will need to stay in the treatment facility for a set amount of time, anywhere from 30 days to an entire year.

Outpatient treatment programs are more commonly used by people with gambling addictions. In this type of program, you will attend classes at a facility. You may also attend group sessions and one-on-one therapy. You will continue to live at home and participate in school, work, or other daily activities.

Gamblers Anonymous (GA), or other 12-step programs, may also help you overcome your gambling addiction. This type of program may be especially helpful if you cant afford more intensive rehabilitation options. It follows the same model as Alcoholics Anonymous, helping you build a support network of other recovered gambling addicts. You may meet with group members one or more times per week.

In addition to group counseling or support sessions, you may also benefit from one-on-one therapy. Gambling addiction can stem from deeper emotional or avoidance issues. You will need to deal with these underlying issues in order to change self-destructive patterns, including your gambling addiction. Counseling gives you a place to open up and address these problems.

In some cases, you may need medication to help you overcome your gambling urges. Your gambling addiction might result from an underlying mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder. In these cases, you must learn to manage the underlying condition to develop better impulse control.

Dealing with the financial consequences of gambling is sometimes the hardest part of the recovery process. In the beginning, you may need to turn over financial responsibilities to a spouse or trusted friend. You may also need to avoid places and situations that can trigger your urge to gamble, such as casinos or sporting events.

If you suspect you or someone you love has a gambling addiction, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you find the information and support you need. Several organizations also provide information about gambling addiction and treatment options. They can help guide you to local or online support services.

You may find the following organizations and resources helpful:

Like any addiction, compulsive gambling can be difficult to stop. You may find it embarrassing to admit that you have a problem, especially since many people gamble socially without developing an addiction. Overcoming the shame or embarrassment that you feel will be a big step on the road to recovery.

A recovery program, one-on-one counseling, medication, and lifestyle changes may help you overcome your gambling addiction. If you dont treat your gambling problem, it can lead to serious financial issues. It can also negatively affect your relationships with family members, friends, and others. Effective treatment can help you avoid these consequences and mend your relationships through recovery.

Were unable to offer personal health advice, but weve partnered with trusted telehealth provider Amwell, who can connect you with a doctor. Try Amwell telehealth for $1 by using the code HEALTHLINE.

If you’re facing a medical emergency, call your local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

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National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:48 am

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Learnmore…

Now Available – 2015 Mathematics in Puerto Rico Take a look atthe results of the 2015 Spanish-language NAEP mathematics assessment administered to public school students in Puerto Rico. Learn more …

Story Map of NAEP data on MapED 2015 NAEP data has been added to MapED – a dynamic data mapping tool that provides geographic context to NCES, Census and other education demographic datasets. Learn more …

Now Available – 2016 DBA Tutorial VideosThe 2016 Digitally Based Assessment (DBA) interactive tutorial videos are designed to teach students about the system and the tools they use to take the NAEP assessments.Learn more …

Check out our blogNAEP Plus! We invite you to engage in conversations with us as we examine NAEP results more deeply, share developments in our assessments, and keep you up-to-date on our activities. Learn more …

May 17, 2016: The Nation’s Report Card: 2014 Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment

April 27, 2016: The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and Reading at Grade 12

NAEP Results on Your Mobile Device! Now available for download through the Apple App Store and Google Play. Be sure to download the latest report: 2013 Mathematics and Reading. Learnmore…

Share NAEP by Social Media and Email! Want to share NAEP content, news, or data on Facebook, Twitter, or by email? Now you can by using the social media icons located in the top right corner of each page.

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Ron Paul says he is disappointed in Gary Johnson, suggests …

Posted: October 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Onetime Republican presidential candidate and noted libertarian movement leader Ron Paul said during an interview Monday on Fox Business Network that he is disappointed in Libertarian presidential nominee Gov. Gary Johnson (N.M.) and suggested he might consider voting for Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

Former Texas Rep. and onetime Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (Image source: Fox Business Network)

The former Texas congressman said that he is telling his past supporters to vote for whomever they want in November and that it probably wont matter much

Paul told the hosts that he is disappointed with the performance of the Libertarian leaders and later floated Stein as an alternative because, if you have a sincere progressive and I know them, Ive worked with them they say, Well, one of the most important issues for me is civil liberties and a change in our foreign policy.

Paul also said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton could run as a Republican since these parties dont mean a whole heck of a lot.

He later told MSNBC that his remarks shouldnt be construed as an endorsement of Stein because he hasnt endorsed anybody.

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7 Things You Should Know About Tor | Electronic Frontier …

Posted: September 25, 2016 at 7:19 am

Updated: July 1st at 6:30PM to add information about traffic correlation attacks.

We posted last week about the Tor Challengeand why everyone should use Tor. Since we started our Tor Challenge two weeks ago we have signed up over 1000 new Tor relays. But it appears that there are still some popular misconceptions about Tor. We would like to take this opportunity to dispel some of these common myths and misconceptions.

One of the many things that we learned from the NSA leaks is that Tor still works. According to the NSA “Tor Stinks”slides revealed by the Guardian last year, the NSA is still not able to completely circumvent the anonymity provided by Tor. They have been able to compromise certain Tor users in specific situations. Historically this has been done by finding an exploit for the Tor Browser Bundle or by exploiting a user that has misconfigured Tor. The FBIpossibly in conjunction with the NSAwas able to find one serious exploit for Firefox that lead to the takedown of Freedom Hosting and exploit of its users. Firefox was patched quickly, and no major exploits for Firefox affecting Tor users appear to have been foundsince. As the Tor developers noted in 2004, if someone is actively monitoring both your network traffic and the network traffic of the Internet service you’re communicating with, Tor can’t prevent them from deducing that you’re talking to that service. Its design does assume that at least one side of the connection isn’t being monitored by whomever you’re trying to stay private from.

We can conclude from this that Tor has probably not been broken at a cryptographic level. The best attacks on Tor are side-channel attacks on browser bugs or user misconfiguration and traffic correlation attacks.

One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that Tor is only used by criminals and pedophiles. This is simply not true! There are many types of people that use Tor. Activists use it to circumvent censorship and provide anonymity. The military uses it for secure communications and planning. Families use Tor to protect their children and preserve their privacy. Journalists use it to do research on stories and communicate securely with sources. The Tor Project website has an excellent explanation of why Tor doesn’t help criminals very much. To paraphrase: Criminals can already do bad things since they will break laws they have much better tools at their disposal than what Tor offers, such as botnets made with malware, stolen devices, identity theft, etc. In fact using Tor may help you protect yourself against some of these tactics that criminals use such as identity theft or online stalking.

You are not helping criminals by using Tor any more than you are helping criminals by using the Internet.

Another common opinion that we hear is that Tor was created by the military and so it must have a military backdoor. There is no backdoor in the Tor software. It is true that initial development of Tor was funded by the US Navy. However, it has been audited by several very smart cryptographers and security professionals who have confirmed that there is no backdoor. Tor is open source, so any programmer can take a look at the code and verify that there is nothing fishy going on. It is worked on by a team of activists who are extremely dedicated to privacy and anonymity.

As far as EFF is aware, no one in the US has been sued or prosecuted for running a Tor relay. Furthermore we do not believe that running a Tor relay is illegal under US law. This is, of course, no guarantee that you won’t be contacted by law enforcement, especially if you are running an exit relay. However EFF believes this fact so strongly that we are running our own Tor relay. You can find out more about the legalities of running a Tor relay at the Tor Challenge Legal FAQ. However, if you are going to use Tor for criminal activity (which the Tor project asks that you not do) you can create more problems for yourself if you get prosecuted. Criminal activity also brings more scrutiny on to Tor making it worse for the public as a whole.

You might think that because it is privacy software Tor must be hard to use. This is simply not true. The easiest way to get started with Tor is to download the Tor Browser Bundle. This is a browser that comes pre-configured to use Tor in a secure manner. It is easy to use and is all you need to start browsing with Tor. Another easy way to use Tor is with Tails. Tails is a live operating system that runs on a DVD or thumb drive. Tails routes your entire Internet connection through Tor. And when you shut it down, Tails forgets everything that was done while it was running.

It is true that Tor is slower than a regular Internet connection. However, the Tor developers have been doing a lot of hard work to make the Tor network faster. And it is faster today than ever before. One of the best things that can be done to speed up the Tor network is to create more relays. If you would like to contribute to making the Tor network faster, you can check out our Tor Challenge

Tor is not perfect; you can destroy your own anonymity with Tor if you use it incorrectly. That’s why it is important to always use Tor Browser Bundle or Tails and make sure that you keep your software up to date. It is also important to remember that if you log into services like Google and Facebook over Tor, those services will still be able to see your communications within their systems. Additionally Tor users should be mindful of the fact that an adversary who can see both sides of their connection may be able to perform a statistical analysis to confirm that the traffic belongs to you.

Tor is some of the strongest anonymity software that exists. We think that it is important to dispel misconceptions about it so that the public can be more informed and confident in its usefulness. There are many great reasons to use Tor and very few reasons not to. So get started with Tor, and take back your privacy online.

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Live longer and better with these five immortality herbs …

Posted: September 16, 2016 at 5:18 am


A great number of the most effective herbs are known as adaptogens, which assist the body in its natural task of maintaining homeostasis – the delicate state of balance necessary to survival and healing. A body out of balance is considered to be in “negative homeostasis,” a condition in which the restorative (anabolic) and degenerative (catabolic) systems of the body may not function properly,eventually leading to experience symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight fluctuation and impaired libido. But adaptogens help the body adapt to and compensate for change. In a person with high blood sugar, for example, an adaptogenic herb might help to lower glucose levels in the body; whereas, in a person with low blood sugar, the herb would help to raise them.

Because of this ability to improve the body’s stress response, adaptogenic herbs can literally add years to a person’s life. Here are a few you should know:

Remember that medicinal herbs can have reactions with some medications and certain health conditions. Those who are pregnant, nursing or who have autoimmune conditions may be especially vulnerable to complications. Be sure to seek counsel from a health professional before you begin any new herbal protocol.

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What is DNA? | DNA Encyclopedia

Posted: September 14, 2016 at 1:08 am

In order to truly answer the question of What is DNA? one has to go back to the elementary or high school biology classes.

DNA is the complex chemical that carries genetic information.

DNA dictates life in two manners:

There are elements called chromosomes in each cell of the human body. To be more precise, each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Youll be astonished to know that some 50 to 100 thousand genes are held within these chromosomes. Since each of these genes could take value from one of the two values of its parent cells, hence you can imagine the possible variability in this structure.

These genes are made up of what is called DNA that is Deoxyribose Nucleic Acids. Apart from these genes that carry essential genetic information and only account for 2% of DNAs structure, the rest of the 98% of DNA is still a mystery.

Biologists call it junk DNA as there are no known proteins or traits that are coded or built by this part of DNA. This junk DNA, as well as the genetic information-carrying part only, varies in structure owing to the presence of four nucleotide bases throughout the DNA in differing order and sequence.

Think of these four nucleotide bases in DNA as letters that form an alphabet. Just like the way the order of letters determines the meaning of the word that is formed, the sequence of these nucleotide bases concludes what information is available for the production of proteins that consequently take an active part in the formation and growth of the body.

Most of the DNA is present within the nucleus of the cells. This is known as nuclear DNA. Mitochondria also hold a modest quantity of DNA, which is termed as mitochondrial DNA. The latter is useful in tests related to someones distant maternal lineage.

What is great about DNA is that it has a very autonomous self-replication mechanism in action. The replication process makes use of the two strands of DNA. Each of these strands acts as a template and after going through a series of steps is converted into dual stranded DNA once again. This replication is very important because when the cell divides, the newly formed cell requires the same set of instructions for it to function and grow and the replicated DNA serves this purpose.

Summing up the answer for what is DNA, it could easily be said that its a well-designed program spanning thousands of lines of codes that has instructions for everything that the cell needs to perform.

DNA, no matter how short the acronym sounds, is a vast topic that requires serious dedication of time and energy before one can grasp what it is and how it affects the life within and around us.

This article sets the foundations for a series of articles in which we will cover various aspects of DNA, the concepts, the technology and its applications. Right now, without going into the peculiar details, we are only going to briefly introduce these topics. You can think of it as a short glossary for DNA terminology.

Learning about DNA starts with a sound knowledge of what is it made up of and how these chemicals interact with each other to form a structure that builds a DNA molecule. You have to look carefully at what essential functions DNA performs in the cell that it is located in, by the way, its present in each cell of human as well as a body of living organisms.

In most basic terms, DNA is the master plan of life that works all the way from inception to growth. It holds all of the hereditary information and passes it from generation to generation.

Once you have encountered the double helix structure of DNA, as proposed by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, you should move on to advance topics like DNA replication. DNA replication tells us that each DNA is able to produce an exact copy of itself and this is made possible with the help of DNA polymerase, an enzyme that takes an active role in the process. Youll also come across DNA synthesis, which is an artificial technique to produce copies of DNA and is based on the concept of DNA replication.

While DNA holds all of the information required for the cell to perform its actions and produce the essential proteins, it is important to note that DNA doesnt interfere directly with the elements of cytoplasm outside the cell nucleus and disseminates this useful information through a messenger RNA. This is done through a process called DNA transcription.

The buzz words that have really boosted the popularity of DNA among the masses are DNA cloning and DNA testing. Who has not heard of Dolly, the first ever cloned animal? DNA testing, owing to a large number of social, commercial and forensic uses, has drawn the attention towards further studies and research in DNA.

DNA is the short term for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. Almost every cell in an individuals body has the same DNA, as the DNA is located in the cell nucleons. People, most of the times, learn what is DNA and its importance for the human body, in school.

Anyway, properly understanding what DNA is, is always important, mostly if you are working in areas in which DNA results have importance on the evolution of some cases. For starter, to understand what is DNA, you need to know that it contains all the information used in the development and functioning of all living organisms.

What is the structure of DNA, is also a common question that people seem to ask?

Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases and more than 99 percent of them are the same, for all individuals. Another important aspect of what is DNA is that it can replicate and make copies of itself. The use of DNA linked information has become more important in science and medicine, as researchers have found that it can be used to cure diseases, or better said to avoid babies from inheriting diseases their parents are suffering from. This currently, is considered to be a major goal for scientists, who are searching for treatments, cure and also for prevention when it comes to genetic conditions. DNA becomes even more important for people who think that such risks are higher in their particular cases.

Researchers aim to detect individuals who are predisposed to develop such diseases and that means that scientists can find treatments, to be used for the purpose to prevent genetic conditions. DNA is simple to understand, but the way DNA functions is more complex.

The discovery of DNA, in fact, revolutionized both science and medicine, having numerous effects on other linked domains, such as legal and social areas. Samples of DNA are, all the times, taken from the scene of a crime, and it is a safe way to find and convict criminals, being an accepted and trusted evidence in court.

What is DNA can be easily answered when you understand that it transfers hereditary information from one generation to another, determining, at the same time, the structure of cells.

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The Zeitgeist Movement – RationalWiki

Posted: September 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm

The Zeitgeist Movement is a grass-roots international network promoting a change[1] in the current spirit of the time (hence the name “The Zeitgeist Movement”) that was formed in response to Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist: Addendum documentary. Basically a modern re-hash of the Technocracy movement, their ideas are derived from multiple sources, primarily The Venus Project and Buckminster Fuller. Indeed, the movement’s Activist Orientation Guide defines itself as “the activist arm of the Venus Project”[2], despite their split with the Venus Project in April 2011.[3] They consider themselves to be a “sustainability advocacy organization.”[4] The community is largely concentrated on the internet and have their own live broadcasting shows.[5][6]

The Zeitgeist movement is organised into various different ‘chapters’ across more than 50 different countries, though just how active these chapters are is probably only known to those involved in them [7] and differs greatly from chapter to chapter. Recordings of most chapter meetings are freely available online, where all types of chapter related matters like activity are discussed. A quick glance at some chapter websites reveals they have at least some presence in certain university societies and at the local level. Nevertheless, most of their forum posting seems to be discussions about the movement’s philosophy and what activists intend to do in the near future. It is however difficult to measure if the movement achieves its goals seeing their sole intention is to be an educational movement[8] and “spread awareness,” one could suspect they do seeing new chapters are added on a monthly basis (see chapter list on the website) and the userbase on the different Facebook pages[9] show an increase.

The organization is based on undirected whining about capitalism, accompanied by a belief that somehow computers should be used excessively to do all future resource planning for the purpose of maximum efficiency and sustainability, and that shortly robots will be doing most work – in summary something one could call techno-utopianism.

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Live Free or Drown: Floating Utopias on the Cheap | WIRED

Posted: September 3, 2016 at 11:36 pm

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Patri Friedman wants to make it easy for anyone to build an independent country: “If we make one seastead, there’s room for thousands.” Photo:Dustin Aksland

Several dozen conference-goers are filing into the Mendocino Room of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Burlingame, a San Francisco suburb, arming themselves with coffee and muffins as they shuffle to their seats. It’s the kind of scene that occurs dailyif not hourlyin the Bay Area, where techies and businesspeople forever squeeze into drab meeting rooms to discuss how they are going to change the world. But even by local standards, the attendees gathered here are chasing a dream so grand and exotic it makes the typical Internet confab look like an OSHA seminar. Anyone can build a game-changing social-network platform or a virtual community or a set of open APIs. But the people here want to start a nonmetaphorical revolution by creating their own independent nations. In the middle of the ocean. On prefab floating platforms.

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At 9:12 am, Patri Friedman stands up to address the group. A former Google software engineer, Friedman is 32 but comes off much younger, with close-cropped hair and a slightly nasal voice. He is executive director of the Seasteading Institute, the nonprofit he founded in April 2008, and this is the group’s first major event. He surveys the room, taking in a cross section of Silicon Valley culture: A white-haired nanotech millionaire in a suit sits next to a grad student in a Transformers T-shirt. If you were to break down the audience into high school classifications, you’d find a couple of hippies and goths, a few hipsters, and several preppies. The rest would definitely be at the nerd table. The male-female ratio is 7 to 1. “This isn’t enough to create a whole new civilization,” Friedman says. “But this is a seed.”

The morning sessions from the first annual Seasteading conference, held in Burlingame California on October 10th.

Friedman and his followers are not the first band of wide-eyed dreamers to want to build floating utopias. For decades, an assortment of romantics and whack jobs have fantasized about fleeing the oppressive strictures of modern government and creating a laissez-faire society on the high seas. Over the decades, they’ve tried everything from fortified sandbars to mammoth cruise ships. Nearly all have been disasters. But the would-be nation builders assembled here are not intimidated by that record of failure. After all, their plans are inspired by the ethos of the modern tech industry, where grand quixotic visions are as common as BlackBerrys, and they see their task not as a holy mission but as something like a startup. A couple of software engineers came up with an innovative concept, then outsourced it to a community and let the wisdom of the crowd improve on it. They scored financing from a top-tier venture capitalist and assembled a board of directors. They will be transparent, blogging their progress. If they failwhich, let’s face it, is the most likely outcomethey will do so quickly, in time-honored Valley fashion. But if they succeed, they have one hell of an exit strategy.

Friedman launches into what he calls “my standard rant”a spiel about government’s shortcomings and why they’re so hard to repair. In his eyes, government is a sclerotic monopoly that can count on high customer lock-in thanks to inertia and the lack of alternatives. “Government is an inefficient industry because it has an insane barrier to entry,” he says. “To compete with governments on existing land, you have to win a war, an election, or a revolution.” He points to the democracy that emerged from the American Revolution as the last successful rollout and attributes the subsequent dry spell to the lack of uncolonized space on the map. “We’ve run out of frontier,” he says.

But there’s still one virgin realm left, and it covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface.

The purpose of the Seasteading Instituteand of this gatheringis to figure out how to make aquatic homesteads a reality. But Friedman doesn’t just want to create huge floating platforms that people can live on. He’s also hoping to create a platform in the sense that Linux is a platform: a base upon which people can build their own innovative forms of governance. The ultimate goal is to create standards and blueprints that can be easily adapted, allowing small communities to rapidly incubate and test new models of self-rule with the same ease that a programmer in his garage can whip up a Facebook app. “You could roll your own government out of pieces copied from all the societies around you,” Friedman says. “Google set my standards for how fast something should grow. This has potential to exceed those standardsif we make one seastead, there’s room for thousands.”

You’re ready to move to the middle of the ocean. What will your new digs look like? The Seasteading Institute hired Marine Innovation & Technology, an oil rig designer, to sketch out a $50 million, 20,000-ton platform with multistory living quarters and helipads.

1// Living Platform

2// Water Supply

3// Foot Tanks

4// Engine Room

Illustration: Kate Francis

Friedman’s optimism is easier to buy into if you ignore the history of previous would-be nation builders. There was Operation Atlantis, created by Ayn Rand admirer Werner Stiefel in the late 1960s. Stiefel, who made a fortune selling dermatology products, devoted his life to creating a sovereign society with the freest markets imaginable. He started with a ferro-cement boat that made a single successful voyage on the Hudson River. He erected a system of seabreaks near the coast of Haiti but was run off by president Fran7ois Duvalier’s gunboats before he could put land on it. He bought an oil rig and tried to anchor it between Cuba and Honduras, where it was destroyed by a storm. Stiefel died in 2006 with little more than a sporadically published newsletter to show for his efforts.

In 1971, real estate millionaire and committed libertarian Michael Oliver dumped large quantities of sand on two coral reefs in the South Pacific and dubbed it the Republic of Minerva, a land with “no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism.” Minerva was soon invaded by the nearby kingdom of Tonga, and it dissolved back into the ocean shortly thereafter.

The Oceania city project, a plan for a vast floating settlement off the coast of Panama, emerged in 1993. The founders took out a two-page ad in Reason, a libertarian magazine, promising to free prospective residents from governments “entangled in bureaucracy, corruption, and the free lunch philosophy.” The project was disbanded the following year due to lack of interest and funds. “The Libertarian party is small in number and too few members have the financial resources to bankroll their beliefs,” founder Eric Klien wrote on Oceania’s Web site.

Other projects still exist as hypothetical concepts. There’s the Freedom Ship, a mile-long floating tax haven, which will come into being just as soon as its organizers can drum up the $10 billion needed to build it. (They’ve accused their former president of absconding with the first $400,000 they raised.) The concept of failed aquatic libertarian havens has even entered the pop consciousness, providing the setting for the blockbuster videogame BioShock.

Wayne Gramlich will never move to the middle of the oceanhis wife forbids it. But when the former software engineer, who has been “on sabbatical” since the late 1990s, stumbled across the Oceania Web site about a decade ago, he was both enthralled by the vision and dismayed at the execution. An early Sun Microsystems employee who worked on browser security at the dawn of the World Wide Web, he thought what was needed was a dispassionate perspectivea realistic plan to build floating autonomous countries. “Oceania had a lot of pretty pictures, pretty concept art, but that was it,” he says. In 1998 he wrote a modest proposal, SeaSteadingHomesteading on the High Seas, to get beyond the grandiloquence. “Big and expensive projects will have a very difficult time attracting the requisite capital,” Gramlich wrote. An engineer at heart, he tried to devise a way to build islands on the cheap. His report outlined how thousands of empty 2-liter soda bottles could be used to create a floating platform.

That sounded like paradise to Friedman when he saw the paper on Gramlich’s site. He had always been interested in big-picture socioeconomic theories. The son of libertarian legal theorist David Friedman and grandson of the Nobel Prize-winning free-market economist Milton Friedman, Patri had until then expressed his worldview mainly through his lifestyle: engaging in “radical self-expression” at Burning Man, experimenting with drugs, living in intentional communities with several other families, and maintaining a polyamorous relationship with his wife. His BMW 328i has a customized license plate: FRRREAK.

Friedman had read about money holes like Oceania and considered them too fantastical to bother with. But the relative practicality of Gramlich’s ideas appealed to the software engineer in him. Here was a simple kludge for a floating platform that might be affordable. And if it could work, Friedman would love to be among the first settlers to live on the open sea. “My dad and grandfather write about stuff,” he says. “What interests me is doing something.” He sent an email to Gramlich, and the two discovered that they lived a few miles apart in Sunnyvale, California. In late 2001, they began to collaborate on a new paper on seasteading. They posted everything online, including their notes to each other. (Friedman coded a Perl script that would allow anyone to submit comments on each paragraph.)

Over the next couple of years, Friedman and Gramlich assembled a 150-page book on the logistics of seasteading. Their guidelines were intensely pragmatic, explaining everything from how to fend off barnacles (a “continuous discharge of low-level chlorination”) to how to fend off foreign navies (“sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles like the Chinese Silkworm are fairly cheap and quite effective”). They described the least far-fetched, least expensive design for a safe seastead they could findthe floating spar. The hypothetical dwelling looks like a giant dumbbell standing on end, with a large steel ballast underwater and a 48,000-square-foot platform suspended above, where 120 people could live. They estimated it could be built for about $3 million. “That’s the same price as a nice house in San Francisco,” Friedman says. (Their design has since evolved, as shown at above.)

Gramlich and Friedman’s online tome captured the imagination of like-minded geeks, who peppered it with suggestions and criticisms. It was also brought to the attention of millionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, who shared Friedman and Gramlich’s dissatisfaction with land-bound governments. Thiel was a cofounder of PayPal, and he viewed that company as a way to further his libertarian idealsa way to move money around the world as 1s and 0s without the involvement of nations or their currencies. After selling PayPal to eBay and walking away with a reported $55 million, Thiel started the hedge fund Clarium Capital, which made a fortune earlier this decade by correctly betting that oil prices would rise and the dollar would weaken.

Thiel has invested in Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Slide. He has also donated $3.5 million to Aubrey de Grey’s Methuselah Foundation, which seeks to extend longevity, and given money to the campaigns of small-government conservatives like Ron Paul.

“Peter wants to end the inevitability of death and taxes,” Friedman says. “I mean, talk about aiming high!”

Last April, Thiel pledged a $500,000 investment and installed his right-hand man, Joe Lonsdale, as chair of the Seasteading Institute. “Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that seasteading was an obvious step toward encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public-sector models around the world,” Thiel said in a statement at the time. Three months after the wire transfer went through, Friedman left his job at Google.

Friedman is quick to acknowledge that not everyone will share his vision. “At first blush, this all sounds kind of crazy, and to see the potential beyond thatthat’s pretty awesome,” he tells his fellow enthusiasts at the seasteading conference. “There’s a lot of good craziness in this room!”

The afternoon sessions from the first annual Seasteading conference, held in Burlingame California on October 10th.

But good craziness alone will not make seasteads work, and most of the day is spent discussing the nuts and bolts of creating a floating community. First is the question of structure. “The ocean is a harsh and corrosive environment,” Friedman says. In addition to rust and barnacles, there’s wave motion, which is disorienting in the best of times and potentially fatal during a storm. The Seasteading Institute hired Marine Innovation & Technology as a consultant to solve these problems. Naval architect Alexia Aubault takes the lectern to describe the results of wave-motion analyses her engineering firm performed. To protect the organization from frivolous infringement lawsuits, she is barred by the institute’s lawyer from showing off the refined design until a patent gets filed. (That has since been done.)

And that’s just one of the legal torpedoes that seasteaders must dodge. According to the UN’s Law of the Sea, the jurisdiction of traditional nations extends up to 200 miles from shore, an exclusive economic zone within which countries can control fishing and mineral rights and police polluters. Friedman hopes there will someday be self-sufficient seasteads that can thrive on the high seas, beyond the purview of any country. But for the near future, he concedes, they’ll probably need to remain near shore and operate like cruise ships, which are bound by the laws of the country where they’re registered. Most governments won’t attack these kinds of vessels as long as they behave. “At this point, it matters who you piss off,” he says. (Raymond Peck, a former Reagan administration official, has agreed to do further research for the institute on the Law of the Sea.)

At 11 am, attendees break up into small groups to brainstorm business models. Seasteaders can depend on like-minded benefactors for only so long. Ultimately, these nations will need to pay the bills. Friedman notes that some enterpriseslike euthanasia clinicswould incense local authorities, but almost all the ideas attendees come up with would capitalize on activities that skirt existing laws and regulations: Fish farming and aquaculture. Prisons. Med schools. Gold warehouses. Brothels. Cryonics intakes. Gene therapy, cloning, augmentation, and organ sales. Baby farms. Deafeningly loud concerts. Rehab/detox clinics. Zen retreats. Abortion clinics. Ultimate ultimate fighting tournaments.

During the Seasteading conference, Vince Cate showed video of a floating prototype of his own design: The WaterWalker, a tripod lashed to three soccer balls.

(Lonsdale has his own ideas. “Bazooka bikini bachelor parties,” he says. “You get there and a Lithuanian model hands you a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.”)

But in the end, the seasteaders may face an even more fundamental challenge. During an afternoon session, Friedman asks, “How many people here know how to sail?” Few hands go up. He says plans are under way to offer group instruction at discount rates.

The first annual seasteading conference adjourns at 6 pm. A kayaking trip around the bohemian houseboat community just off Sausalito has been scheduled for the following morning, but it is canceled because of high winds.

Forbes Island isn’t really an island at all but a 5,000-square-foot, 700-ton sea vehicle decked out with palm trees, a white-sand beach, and a lighthouse. A houseboat designer named Forbes Kiddoo, inspired by the science fiction of Jules Verne, spent five years building it. In 1999, he converted it into a restaurant that today floats near San Francisco’s kitschy Pier 39, serving $35 rack of lamb to tourists who watch sea lions flop around on the nearby docks. Tonight, the eatery is hosting the Seasteading Institute’s post-conference dinner.

Kiddoo himself ferries the seasteaders from shore to restaurant in a tiny pontoon boat. On the way over, he explains that obtaining clearance for his island was a nightmare. “I had to get city, county, state, and federal permits,” he says, shouting to be heard over the bellowing of sea lions. “I had to deal with the ADA, the ABC I had to become a merchant marine captain.”

Houseboat designer Forbes Kiddoo gives a tour of his manmade island. The structure, now converted into a restaurant, was host to the Seasteading Institute’s post-conference dinner last October.

Afterward, in the island’s bar, Friedman seems happy with how the event went, though he says some of his plans will have to be scaled back. He had wanted to hold a floating festival dubbed Ephemerisle on Fourth of July weekend; it was to be a sort of Burning Man on the high seas, where everything is permitted. But several conference attendees expressed concern about the logisticsand advisabilityof a free-floating bacchanal of guns and drugs. He’ll still host some sort of gathering to test a few miniature floating-island prototypes but expects it to be held in San Francisco Bay, not out on the open sea. “It’ll probably take a few iterations to get there,” he says. “But at least we’re doing something.”

Eventually, the seasteaders move to the Tahiti Room, which has a lovely moonlit view of Alcatraz. Chatter around the table gets louder as the wine flows, but the subject matter remains wonky. “The interesting issues are social and legal,” says Mikolaj Habryn, a site reliability engineer at Google. “You’ll get slavery. You’ll get drug dealing. Maybe there’ll be polygamous Mormons. The first people involved will inevitably be those who want to do things they can’t do on land, and we have to deal with that.” A ship passes, and even though Forbes Island is firmly moored a few hundred feet from shore and separated from the bay by a breakwater, the restaurant sways so much that some diners have to breathe deeply and focus on the horizon to settle their stomachs.

At the other end of the table, Patri Friedman raises his glass to make a toast. “I want to see us all at the 10th Annual Seasteading Conference,” he says, implying that he expects it to take place on an actual seastead, not in an Embassy Suites or a floating theme restaurant. “It’ll be in a bigger room, there will be a better view, it won’t move up and down as much, and there’ll be a better wine selection and better things to smoke!”

Friedman is joined by a raucous round of toasts. “To Peter Thiel for financing this!” “To having more women here!” “To being on the water!” “To freedom!”

Friedman wraps it up: “To being crazy in a good way!”

Senior editor Chris Baker (chris_baker@wired.com) wrote about Star Wars continuity in issue 16.09.

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Home – Illinois Tech Robotics

Posted: August 27, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Interested in robotics? Then get involved with Illinois Tech Robotics, a student organization focused on countless varieties of competitive and noncompetitive robotics!

On March 11th and 12th, 2016, Illinois Tech Robotics competed in the 29th annual Midwest Regional Design Competition (formerly the Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition). We entered four robots: Icarus, Goliath, Fenrir, and Roslund. Fenrir, our gravity drive robot, and Icarus, our quadcopter, competed in the qualifying rounds, Roslund made it to the quarter-finals, and Goliath took home the championship. (In the past, Fenrir and Goliath have also won demolition rounds.)

ITR volunteered at the FTC Illinois State Championship on February 27th, and at the FRC Midwest Regional on March 31st through April 2nd. These competitions, organized by the FIRST youth robotics program, allow high schoolers to design, build and compete with their own robots: students’ brainstorming, prototyping and robot building are tested in a series of competitions in the arena. The events combine fun and real-world appeal; prominent colleges offer scholarships to contestants, and corporations and even NASA serve as sponsors.

On October 17th, ITR won the 11th annual Pumpkin Launch. Mach 3, the third generation of our centripetal force trebuchet, came in second for accuracy and first for distance (hurling pumpkins over 200 feet forwardsand 100 feet backwards, which we hope to remedy in Mach 4).

ITR at the 28th Annual Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition

New members should sign up for our organization on HawkLink to receive information about meetings and other club activities. Each project also has its own mailing list. Please contact the project lead for information regarding project specific communications.

You can also recieve news and photo updates from our Facebook Page. Like us and share us with your friends!

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