7 Stories That Will Shape the Next 10 Years and Beyond

1. You can’t fool Mother Nature: If you’re a man who feels more tired than you used to, if you’re experiencing a waning interest in sex and if your muscles seem to be disappearing, you may have declining testosterone levels. That is a normal fact of life for men as they age.

But many men are fighting back by convincing their doctors to prescribe testosterone therapy. And that may be a very bad idea.

A National Cancer Institute study published on Jan. 29 reiterates results from an earlier study that taking testosterone tempts a heart attack. More than 55,000 men were studied for 90 days before receiving a prescription for testosterone therapy and for 90 days afterward. Their increased risk of heart attack — specifically, a myocardial infarction — went up by 36% overall. For men over 65 years of age, that risk doubled.

In other words, a man over 65 taking testosterone is more than 70% more likely to have a heart attack within 90 days of starting treatment than a similar person who does not get the therapy. That’s a scary number.

The study was published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed international online journal of science. A study of men in the Veterans Affairs health care system published in November showed a 30% increase for risk of stroke, heart attack and death among those taking testosterone therapy. About 3% of men in the United States 40 and older receive testosterone therapy.

2. So if the Earth isn’t flat, what is? A new digital sky survey from the Sloan Foundation has measured the distances between galaxies within 1% of error. The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey used the Apache Point Observatory in southeast New Mexico.

By bringing distances down to such a fine degree of accuracy, astronomers can make other calculations and deductions about the universe.

One that immediately popped out is a near certainty that the universe is extraordinarily flat. And that has implications: It suggests the universe is also very long — infinitely long, actually, extending forever in time and space.

3. Coffee Watch, Part 1: (Starting this month and then every month until we want to pull our hair out, we’ll drop in on the maddeningly contradictory world of coffee research.) This month, coffee is good for you. Compared with someone who doesn’t drink any coffee, a person who drinks six cups of coffee a day is 33% less likely to contract Type 2 diabetes. And the kicker is it doesn’t matter if it’s decaf. So says a study in the February issue of Diabetes Care. Twenty-eight studies involving more than a million participants were reviewed.

The results were the same for both sexes, and significant results were obtained by people drinking only one cup of coffee a day. Chances of getting Type 2 diabetes drinking only one cup a day are reduced 9%.

Further studies are necessary to know why coffee has this effect, say the authors. But one of the researchers, Dr. Frank B. Hu, at Harvard’s Public Health School, conjectured it might have something to do with chlorogenic acid, a phenolic compound in coffee that reduces sugar absorption in the blood and reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Nonetheless, the authors warn that a bad diet and lack of exercise are still likely to cause Type 2 diabetes no matter how much coffee you drink. And while we’re on the subject, another new study from McGill University shows that if your partner/spouse has Type 2 diabetes, you’re 26% more likely to get it.

4. The 2015 Honda Fit, completely redesigned and re-engineered, was introduced a couple of weeks ago at the Detroit Auto Show. Hidden among its many new tech features, like back seats that fold into the floor, was a delightful present — an inexpensive built-in navigation system.

With the purchase of a $60 app, Honda allows smartphones to feed maps and GPS software like Google Maps directly into the car’s center screen.

Passengers can pinch and sweep on the screen just as they can on the smartphone, and it even links to Siri voice commands on iPhones. Anyone who has used Honda’s ridiculously expensive built-in nav system, which I find cumbersome and cranky and not intuitive, should shout for joy.

Why buy a $1,500 built-in navigation system when you could download the HondaLink app for $60, and upgrade your phone and GPS system all at the same time?

5. Earth to Jade Rabbit — You Overslept! China recently marked a national first when it successfully launched and landed its first lunar probe called Yutu, which means Jade Rabbit. The landing on Dec. 14 was the first time something from Earth had soft landed on the moon since 1976. The solar-powered rover couldn’t roam during the moon’s two-week night and needed to be put into hibernation mode before temperatures dropped to minus 290 degrees F. Apparently, something went wrong with attempts to hibernate the rover, and mission controllers feared the worst — that it was permanently frozen in place. Jon Stewart devoted an entire show to the rover’s plight.

While initial attempts to revive the rover failed, in the full dawn of a new moon day, with temperatures headed up and sunlight reaching the rover’s solar panels, controllers reported that Jade Rabbit had finally awoken.

However, it still suffers a “mechanical control abnormality,” according to the Chinese space agency. Hopefully, that won’t affect its ability to roam, because the scientific experiments aboard could add significant new knowledge about our neighbor, not to mention its survey of what’s worth mining up there. Moon race for precious metals, anyone?

6. A Good Asteroid? There are more than a million asteroids between Mars and Jupiter and hundreds of thousands that are big enough for Earthlings to worry about if one breaks out of orbit, as they tend to do, and heads toward us. At least 200 of the asteroids in this belt are the size of the asteroid that collided with Earth and caused a great extinction 66 million years ago, wiping out 75% of all the species on Earth, including the dinosaurs.

Vesta, second only to Ceres as the largest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, has recently been photographed by the NASA spacecraft Dawn. The craft will arrive at Ceres in a year. 

A big asteroid is usually not a good asteroid because it could collide with another asteroid, be thrown into a new orbit and eventually head our way.

Ceres is the largest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is big enough, at 600 miles across, to be thought of as a dwarf planet, like Pluto.

It is not in an orbit that threatens Earth at the moment and we have a new reason to be interested in it. Analysis of data from a European infrared observatory called Herschel shows that Ceres is spewing water vapor into space. That means water on Ceres, lots of it. Because it’s cold on Ceres, most of the water there is likely to be ice and most of that below the surface. Nonetheless, temperatures at Ceres’ equator can be warm enough to melt ice.

Why do we care? Because where there’s water, there can be life. And because an exciting NASA probe called Dawn, launched way back in 2007, is headed there right now and will arrive at Ceres in one year — March 2015.

Icy planetoids like Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and now Ceres, could become filling stations of hydrogen and oxygen for future astronauts. They could use solar energy to break down ice into its components for rocket fuel.

7. Blame it on your credit card company: Suppose I told you that not one of those 40 million Target customers should have had their credit cards hacked? Credit cards everywhere else on the planet have encryption chips in them that scramble your data as soon as a shop inserts your card into a reader. And they have had these chips for years.

EMV “smartcard” tech (a joint effort of Europay, MasterCard and Visa) was invented in the ’90s and released during the ’00s in most developed countries. Recent theft may push issuers to finally offer smartcards in the U.S.

Even Canadians have them. Credit cards elsewhere are called smartcards. Which makes our cards… stupid? I finally got tired of not being able to use my American credit cards easily in other parts of the world, so I ordered a chip-based smartcard from Diners Club, which is owned by the Bank of Montreal. The cards can be used anywhere that retailers accept MasterCard.

That’s all for now!

Best Regards,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: The next generation of exciting new technology is coming online all the time. And for in-the-know investors, that translates to huge profits. Stephen Petranek has made it his mission to be one of those investors… and to help educate other investors on how to play the trends accordingly. He’s also a regular fixture in the FREE Tomorrow in Review email edition, which you can sign up for, right here.

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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