Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fun With Home Brew Pharmaceuticals and 3D Printing


Earlier, I had written about the coming revolution of 3D printing (“The Revolution Will Be Printed”) in which I surmised a number of considerations regarding 3D printing – among them:

* As hardware costs drop (which inevitably they will) 3D printing equipment will become more commonplace;

* 3D Printers will likely empower the average consumer to make their own items, ranging from toys and gadgets to replacement parts for their common household items;

* the possibility of 3D Printer Cooperatives – that is, consumers coming together – will also become likely as consumers can pool their resources to purchase and create more extensive items going beyond just common household items;

* the economy is going to change as a result of 3D printing.

I still stand by my discussions and predictions – and now note that a new wrinkle has been added: applying 3D printing toward pharmaceutical development.

Nikki Olsen, a writer for the IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies) recently reported on a new and (explosively) overlooked development:

Professor Lee Cronin, Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and his team have built what they call “reactionware”, “special vessels for chemical reactions which are made from a polymer gel”. These vessels are distinct from laboratory vessels such as beakers because in addition to housing chemical reactions, they are part of the chemical reaction itself. Chemicals are simply added to the polymer gel and 3D printed into the matrix. For instance, materials such as carbon could be printed into a vessel matrix to make the chamber itself conductive. More sophisticated chambers could contain mazes of chemical components in sequence, creating individual units that serve as multistage reaction chambers.

So what? A bunch of chemists are using 3D technology to build some reaction chambers and other fancy bottles and tubes used in chemistry. Big deal.

Actually, it’s much, much more than that:

Vessels that have chemicals built-in to drive the reaction have long been used in large-scale chemical engineering. 3D printing technology makes these technologies feasible at the laboratory scale, as well as enables scientists to more readily experiment with reaction chamber techniques. Such experimentation, argues Cronin, will invariably lead to the refinement of chamber processes, as well as novel means to utilize reaction chambers in production. In addition, chamber technology will enable production of compounds previously yet to be synthesized. For instance, Cronin and his team have used reactionwear for synthesis of the previously unreported organic heterocyclic compound C21H17BrN2O. Cronin writes: “It’s a new way for chemists to think, and it gives us very specific control over reactions because we can continually refine the design of our vessels as required”.

Whoops; there goes the pharmaceutical industry.

As Olsen reports:

Cronin and his team envision a day when production of pharmaceuticals for the average consumer could be as simple printing off a polymer chamber, using purchased “ink”(polymer solution mixed with other chemicals), and then putting the subsequent matrix in the microwave to produce the drug. Cronin puts forth that “Perhaps with the introduction of carefully controlled software ‘apps’, similar to the ones available from Apple, we could see consumers have access to a personal drug designer they could use at home to create the medication they need.

But the most significant implication of reactionware has to do with how it simplifies both the laboratory and chemical creation process – in particular, for individuals outside of industry. Using 3D printing technology and CAD software, miniature, simplified laboratories can be created, and thus chemical creation becomes more accessible to those outside formal laboratory settings. One use of major interest here being individually directed drug design and production.

Okay, so let’s get this right: we’re looking at the creation of an entirely new sub-industry: the establishment of polymers specifically refined to interact with 3D printers to create specified drugs / pharmaceuticals. This could be a globally based industry, whereby subscribers could, through credit card or PayPal, order their polymers and have them mailed to their doorstop into their waiting 3D Printer and voila! here’s Aunt Gertie’s prescription for her migraines or cancer treatment.

And why stop there?

The creation of ready-made CAD files will enable individuals without specialized knowledge to print off reactionware designed for drug creation. The individual would follow simple instructions, which could involve the addition of easy to access chemicals, the use of custom electrodes, as well as safe and simple distillation procedures. The ability to simplify drug creation in such a way for non-experts/those without laboratory skills creates a novel kind of accessibility to chemical creation. 

 For those with DIY attitudes, this technology opens the door to personal drug synthesis for treating illness, as well as experimentation and augmentation – creating novel drugs for these purposes, and tailoring them to their individual desires.

So now we’re potentially talking about several new developments:

* Chemical ‘moonshiners’: a whole new underground industry as we can expect the pharmaceutical industry to raise high holy hell about this development (and probably, as we read this, their lobbyists are quietly lining up outside various elected officials to discuss this development);

* As a side development, we could see new drug dependencies arise from 3D printers. Think crack was bad? Imagine the potential for new designer drugs geared to ‘capture’ clients in new and potentially dangerous ways;

* As history has shown, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to put the genie back into the bottle. Likely, this new form of 3D printing will grow rapidly – quietly at first – but will soon appear in odd places, such as off shore industrial complexes or third world countries with cheap labor as the profit potential for the regular pharmaceutical industrial complex is too great to be ignored.

* As with any new technology, unexpected uses and individuals will get involved – and with that, the 3D Printing technology will start appearing in places not fully monitored or regulated. After all, how hard would it be to ‘relocate’ a 3D printer or two, or a dozen out of a ‘regulated’ factory,…?

* And irony will ultimately play a role: failing full control of this development, we could expect increasing pressure regarding to expanding governmental regulation and health coverage from the pharmaceutical industry (!) as the pharmaceutical industry will not, despite their best efforts, put a lid on this development and will need to regroup and tap into new ‘secure’ funding sources – i.e., governmental contracts and service delivery.

*And lastly, we could see a drop in the cost of pharmaceutical development as 3D printing offers a cheaper means to develop and produce pharmaceuticals in massive quantities.

But gee, you say: surely there are ways and means to stop this kind of thing from spreading and remaining unregulated – right?

Mm, guess again – as Ms. Olsen rightfully pointed out:

…legislation such as the “Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005” (an act regulating the purchase of pseudoephedrine) will become less effective in preventing the production of illicit substances, since more and more, those wishing to consume such substances would be able to create them themselves, only purchasing small amounts of precursor substances. Attempts to regulate the sharing of CAD designs and instructions will also be ineffective. Regulatory agencies might attempt forcing central sharing hubs of CAD designs and instructions to shut down; however, exchange of this type of information is easily done over P2P anonymous networks, using decentralized currencies such as Bitcoin (methods used by online drug purchasing hub Silkroad). In addition, the printing hardware itself requires no special parts and is easy to obtain. Cronin and his team, for instance, are using a modified, commercially available, 3D printer.

Again, recalling my earlier posting about this matter, I point to another analogy: the gun industry. Once made, a gun is likely to appear in multiple hands and used in ways and means beyond it’s intended purchased use.

Same would go for 3D Printed designer drugs.

Ultimately, it all comes down to mutual concern and care: individuals who are given full access to the drugs they need and the health care they require will not see a need to go through the route of ‘underground’ 3D printer designer drugstores. Similarly, those with jobs and stable income will be less likely to go the route of ‘moonshining’ chemicals while expanding education will make more folks aware of the pitfalls – and potential – offered in this new and exciting development.

Just as some ‘negative’ aspects of human nature never change, so too do positive solutions still remain in front of us, waiting for us to utilize them.

To read this excellent article, please visit:

To read more of Ms. Olsen’s exceptional reporting, check out:

The Inherent Surprise of Erosion


So this is how democracy ends? With a whimper and not a bang?” – from the movie, The Revenge of the Sith

Several years ago, during one of his jaunts to the Cannes Film Festival, George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) made a rather striking entrance when he arrived with a number of actors dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers, marching in full unison across the press floor in all their intimidating glory. This event was done as part of Lucas’ introduction to the then newly released movie, ‘The Revenge of the Sith’ wherein the story revolved around the collapse of the ‘Old Republic’ and the formal establishment of ‘The Empire’. Lucas then went on to give a brief speech underlying his concerns about how similar developments were taking place in the United States – that of a dying Republic being recast into something more sinister.

The point is made: democracy is not something to be taken for granted, and things change.

And it’s happening here and now.

As part of this blog, we discuss trends of the future; unfortunately, the possibility that we will be living under a formal dictatorship is one trend that could potentially happen within our lifetime, and with that development, the end of our traditional notions of american democracy and individual freedoms. Decay and erosion don’t just happen overnight: they take time. But like a rotting tree, everything seems fine on the outside until a big storm comes along and knocks it down.

With the holidays, much has been made in regards to the ‘financial cliff’ along with a bunch of other news items – such as the Mayan calendar, end of times, etc. But during the past month, a quiet revolution has already taken place: the virtual elimination of the 5th Amendment – our right to due process.

No, this posting isn’t some tea party rant, militia madness or mother earth / liberal whining: it’s right there in black and white.

It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act, and it’s now in committee about to go on the United States Senate floor for a full vote. As reported in the New York Times the other day ( what this act states is that:

Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects, according to Congressional staff members familiar with the negotiations.

The Senate approved that amendment — sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — in a surprise vote last month. While it appeared to be a rare step to bolster protections for domestic civil liberties, rights groups opposed it because it did not cover other categories of people so they feared that it would implicitly open the door to using the military for domestic police purposes.

So assuming this bill passes, the military can act within matters and jurisdictions formally pertaining to domestic concerns; now anyone can be shipped off to ‘holding cells’ without any right of legal due process or protection.  No phone call to your lawyer: no Miranda rights. Literally, if you are so deemed as a threat, you could be taken from your home, place of work, school or wherever – never to be seen unless it is so deemed permissible.

And it gets worst: this is coming from those whom you’d think would actually keep this kind of thing from happening:

Of the four main negotiators on the defense bill, only one of the Democrats, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), opposes domestic indefinite detention of Americans. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), believes detaining Americans without charge or trial is constitutional, and only voted for the Feinstein amendment because he and some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate convinced themselves through a convoluted legal rationale that Feinstein’s proposal didn’t actually ban the practice. Both of the main Republican negotiators, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) believe it’s constitutional to lock up American citizens suspected of terrorism without ever proving they’re guilty.

This legislation was also noted by The Atlantic Monthly, who also reported ( that this movement is becoming more and prevalent within the higher levels of thought and actions amongst our elected officials. Fear and greed now pervade much of our government: the fear of appearing soft on terrorism and the potential profit in the expansion of tremendous market services catering to such fear.

So what? We’re not terrorists – right?

Problem with legislation like this is that there are too many opportunities for abuse. Now, the Occupy Movement membership coud be arrested as enemy combatants acting in a seditious manner and taken away into cramped cells in a similar manner to the miserable schmucks who flew those planes into the World Trade Center.

Don’t like your neighbor or your boss? Now, if you’re convincing enough, you could drop a dime and have him/her taken away: make up a story where you are convinced that he/she is involved in nefarious acts threatening the security of our country.  Or (as another example) one writes a blog critical of actions and decisions made by the elected officials – only to find their lives “disrupted” by a visit from their local military personnel.

Sounds paranoid? It’s happened before: just look up U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950’s and the ‘red scare’ paranoia of the time – and this before we had the NSA (National Security Agency), modern computer technology and 911.

There are few things as stifling to social and technological advancement as a dictatorship. To be sure (at first) things go along nicely but as history has shown dictatorships function within the strict context of control – and with that, any new tech ideas or notions (such as Internet freedom) will likely be stifled and/or suppressed owing to the need for control. Over time, the cycle becomes self-fulfilling: a republic ultimately degenerates into a dictatorship with rising social inequality, facing the likelihood of social unrest, collapsing infrastructure and crippled economic and business growth (save for a very select few) owing to governmental funding geared far more on controlling its citizenry, rather than encouraging socio-economic growth and individual empowerment and education.

In effect, a Third World Country.

Funny how this legislation isn’t making major news anywhere; not even The Daily Show or The Colbert Report is making any mention of this.

None of this should come as any surprise, but (unless people act) there will come a moment when the hammer comes down and folks suddenly realize that this ain’t the country our grandparents knew. If we’re not careful, What was once a proud and strong oak tree, the Republic is now pretty much about to become broken kindling – politically, economically and socially.

It’s clear that 911 was the storm that brought everything down; but in the end, it’s still our fault.

Unless we act now, we will have let that bastard Bin Laden win.

Opening Our Minds May Be Much More Important Then Opening Our Eyes

220px-Shiva_Musée_Guimet_22971A fascinating test was recently done in which a confirmed blind gentlemen (blind, as in totally unable to see) was given a series of tests involving his walking through various obstacle courses along with being able to give his insight as to the emotional reaction on people’s faces.

Understand, the patent had a previous ability to see, but after having suffered a series of strokes which permanently damaged the portion of his brain involving sight, he was legally and completely blind.

So how was he able to go about his business and do his thing (albeit in a somewhat limited means)?

The patient possessed a rather unique development known as ‘blindsight”; a condition in which the patient suffers the loss of being able to cognitively ‘see’ things – as in being able to consciously and willfully see objects, people, places, things, etc. – but yet was not able to cogitate input data (so to speak) – i.e., what his eyes were seeing – as normal people do.

As the researchers at Tilburg University in the Dutch Republic (where this study was done) pointed out:

Because his stroke damaged only his visual cortex, his eyes remain functional and as a result can still gather information from his environment. He simply lacks the visual cortex to process and interpret it. Sight has changed for TN (the patient) from a conscious to a largely subconscious experience. He no longer has a definitive picture of his surroundings, but he has retained an innate awareness of his position in the world. He is, to some degree, able to see without being aware that he is seeing.

This begs a number of questions, not the least of which is: how prevalent is this condition?

We note in this case how the ability of somebody who is legally blind was able to (with limited means) function, but one cannot help but ask are there degrees of this condition? In other words, our brain functions as a means of interpretation of objects / events taking place via our eyes: arguably, would this not suggest that how our brain is ‘programmed’ or ‘wired’ also determines how we see the world – and to a far greater impact than was previously realized?

Sounds rather obvious, but with this ground breaking study it opens a whole new realm for the field of psychoanalysis in that we truly see the world as we wish it to be: this may explain why there is folk in this world who simply aren’t able to see things as you or I may see something – because they truly and literally cannot!

So the next time you encounter somebody who is being somewhat inflexible in their belief structure, show a little sympathy toward them: perhaps they are truly and simply blind to the world around them and need a little guidance and/or insight.

For more on this fascinating study, check out this link:

The Ultra Rich: They’re Not Like You or Me, But They Sure Make Things Interesting


At no time in human recorded history has the individual actions or decisions made by a select few carry such a tremendous impact upon the many. For good or bad, that’s the reality we face in today’s modern society – and we’d better deal with it.

We’re not talking about the court of Louis the 16th, or the reign of the Russian Tsar’s (although their impact, though no less great, is nowhere to compare with today’s rapid and worldwide spread, courtesy of technology: what one says or does can be, depending upon circumstance, felt worldwide in mere moments).  To be certain, some things will never change (as witnessed by the latest from the Borowitz Report, “Billionaires Warn Higher Taxes Could Prevent Them From Buying Politicians”: (; those who have the gold make the rules. ANd, as to be expected, those who have will continue to gather more and utilize their resources to protect their interests.

On the flip side, however, there’s the extreme (un)reality argued by the Tea Party adherents and funded by such luminaries as the Koch Brothers ( to the point where it’s clear that some of what is being issued is not rational (i.e., ‘leave your government hands off of my medicare!’), while an incredibly intolerant and vociferous minority act out against those who are in the majority. You know it’s not a good sign when the U.S. Senate Minority Leader actually goes forth and filibuster’s against his own bill for the simple purpose of being recalcitrant! (

This is becoming a problem.

The actions of these political extremists directly reflect and expose the true interests of the ultra wealthy and powerful. Extreme money seems to excuse those from acting above and beyond social norms and the law – witness as another example, John McAfee’s Guatemalan / Belize adventures, or (as previously discussed in this blog, “”) we also recall the actions of one notable wealthy individual who took it upon themselves to directly conduct actions which have an incredible long-term large-scale environmental impact that we’re only just now beginning to appreciate!

Those who have the gold make the rules, but the rules are there for a reason – and it seems that increasingly, these folks are forgetting the purposes for the rules in the first place.

Case in point: Derivatives.

Derivatives remain the most impactful inventions ever made in human history: a totally new way of viewing and manipulating the financial markets in ways and means that few – if anyone – can truly understand (including the advocates of such machinations) – and if anyone tells you they truly understand derivatives, they probably really don’t know what they’re talking about.

Derivatives are a damning example of a lack of social responsibility lending toward outright financial and political corruption. Derivatives were not to everyone’s benefit: witness the collapse of worldwide markets.  Somebody made some money – and odds are, it was only the few, leaving many to (in some cases, literally) starve. But despite this chaos and despite much of what has taken place in the past several years – the housing collapse, record unemployment and massive economic displacement – there still those who want more at the cost of those who just truly want.

Just as we cannot allow the tyranny of the majority to overrun the rights and respects of those in the minority, so too must the minority – regardless of their standing – learn to accept what has transpired and step aside to allow the majority to act. There is now, more than ever before, the need for constructive dialogue and intelligent action, otherwise the long-term prognosis is not a good one.

Rising social and economic instability is not for anyone’s long-term benefit; to be certain you can (assuming you’re in the right place at the right time) make a quick buck in such scenarios, but otherwise as history has shown the likely ultimate development to arise from continued socio/economic dislocation and the failure to recognize and respect the rule of law is not good,…


Shameless Self Promotion: My Upcoming Radio Interview


It’s official: I’m being interviewed on the Tom Riddell show this coming Monday, December 10th at 8pm in regards to my second book, “The Audio Sensory Guide to Schroedinger’s Cat”. 

This promises to be a fun evening as (among other things) we’ll be chuckling over some of my adventures ranging from talking and hanging out with the late Dr. Neil Armstrong, exploring the underground chambers of an abandoned SAC airbase to flying a plane after a (literally) five-minute lesson from somebody who was clearly an alcoholic (and who said that life has to be boring!).

To learn more about the interview, check out this link:

Also, to view the book directly, check out this link:

Lead us your ear and have a few laughs,…! And best of all, it’s free; can’t beat that!

An Idea Whose Time Is Returning: Trade Unions and Worker’s Rights

300px-1912_Lawrence_Textile_Strike_1You know things are getting serious when a staid, proper business journal as the Business Insider goes forth about the need for trade unions.

Business Insider for trade unions?

Don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourself:

As the Business Insider put it so aptly (and frankly, we couldn’t say it any better):

...we’ve developed inequality so extreme (within the United States) that it is worse than any time since the late 1920’s. Contributing to this inequality is a new religion of shareholder value that has come to be defined only by “today’s stock price” and not by many other less-visible attributes that build long-term economic value.

Like many religions, the “shareholder value” religion started well: In the 1980s, American companies were bloated and lethargic, and senior management pay was so detached from performance that shareholders were an afterthought.  But now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, it’s all about stock performance–to the point where even good companies are now quietly shafting other constituencies that should benefit from their existence.

Most notably: Rank and file employees.

Great companies in a healthy and balanced economy don’t view employees as “inputs.” They don’t view them as “costs.” They don’t try to pay them “as little as they have to keep them from quitting.” They view their employees as the extremely valuable assets they are (or should be).

Most importantly, they share their wealth with them.  One of the big problems in the U.S. economy is that America’s biggest companies are no longer sharing their wealth with rank and file employees.

Okay, excuse us while we pick up our jaws and brains from the floor.

What’s next? The Wall Street Journal spouting on about the need for universal healthcare? Forbes magazine calling forth for a worker’s socialist revolution? The dead rising from their graves!? Cat’s and dogs fornicating!?!

In retrospect, this should not come as a total surprise. The notion of having ‘happy employees’ is something business schools are increasingly expounding. Personally, we’re still waiting for a school of business thought based upon Sir Ernest Shackleton’s practice of teamwork. Shackleton was the Antarctic explorer whose ship was destroyed by their incessant iceflows of the South Pole and during the course of over a year, he and his band of explorers trekked across the frozen wastelands and eventually found help – and all without losing a single man as Shackleton believed his first priority was to his team and not just to an abstract goal of reaching the South Pole. As a result, Shackleton enjoyed tremendous loyalty and respect both amongst his peers and especially amongst his supporters and team members.

Wow; the notion of company loyalty and true teamwork; imagine that – what a radical idea,…!

A company is more than just its sales and product: somebody’s gotta make things, program software, deliver packages – and most of all, buy things as workers are more than just budgetary drains: workers are also buyers.

It’s this last point that’s been consistently overlooked for the past 40 or so years. You cannot have a capitalistic democratic representative society without a viable middle class. Without a middle class that’s able to buy things, pay for college, support their local government through property taxes and whatnot, well, you’ll just wind up with feudalism – or potentially, fascism (as Lenin put it more bluntly, “fascism is merely decayed capitalism”).

And naturally, at this stage of the discussion, the hairy old chestnut of ‘supply side economics’ comes to the fore – i.e., those who have the money will spend it to keep things going. Think again: it simply doesn’t work. The studies are numerous (but here’s a quickie that’s worth reading:

Bottom line: those who have money did so by undertaking what they thought best – through inheritance, wise investment policies, outright fraud or other tactics – and as anyone who’s familiar with human nature will tell you, those have money are not as willing to part with their money because, quite frankly, how do you think they got rich in the first place?


Supply side economic fails on the single vital point of human nature: one doesn’t get wealthy by spending their money, so what makes you think they’re going to be willing to spend money just to benefit others?

So where do we go from here? In order for any trade union to work it needs members – and right now, the problem facing many trade unions (or unions in general) is the fact that existing (as well as potential) members are afraid and intimidated. Union membership has declined dramatically over the past thirty years or so and the actions of larger entities (WalMart, for example) aren’t helping matters any by forcing employees into difficult choices – like, do what you’re told or you’ll lose your job.

To be blunt, in order for a trade union to function effectively, it needs active and energized members. Right now, people just aren’t quite angry enough to ‘man the barricades’, so to speak. Many folk are passive/aggressive: cowed into misery thinking there’s little they can do – and yet frustratingly, they have the option to make things better for themselves if they were to come together, focus, plan and act in a coordinated manner. The power of a ‘forced’ negotiation is something one cannot overlook: consider the impact of what Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.,…

Protesting tactics and organizational actions aside, one example of a viable trade union approach worth viewing in this regard is Europe – more specifically, the economic powerhouse of Germany, where trade union’s do not simply represent the workers: they also hold positions of prominence within corporate board directorships, participating with the captains of industry regarding day-to-day corporate governance and activity. In this manner, a win-win situation is attained: workers are represented at a higher corporate level while corporations have a better sense on what’s going on with the rank and file and are thus able to avoid work shortages, disputes or better still, develop mutually agreeable policies and procedures enabling businesses to ultimately be far more competitive in the worldwide marketplace.

And in another sense, through this approach the trade unions also have their hands dirty with regard to corporate activity as well, creating a sense of shared responsiblity (or guilt, depending on how you look at it).

And it seems to work.

We’re in this together; unless and until we recognize that fact, others are going to be eating our lunches – and breakfast and dinners – in the worldwide marketplace.