The Middle East | An adventure in history, culture, and connection

The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel
When I visited Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, I didn’t go with any preconceived notions on what these countries would be like. As with most of my travel I went with an open mind and an open heart, ready to receive the experiences and adventures that a new part of the world would give me. What I found in this diverse Mediterranean-desert region was a mixture of people, history, and experiences, all delicately intertwined with past and current politics, all nearly impossible to separate.
By Vanessa Bassett

Old City of Acre, Israel
The first part of the trip brought me to Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Acre, all on the western coast of Israel. I would argue that all three cities are brief but important “background learning” for the cultural smorgasbord that lies ahead. Tel Aviv provides an impressive amount of art and history, folded neatly into small neighborhoods and unsuspecting streets. Haifa and Acre are home to the holiest sites in the Baha’i faith, and both cities contain other significant historic sites from crusader ruins to Christian mysticism. Because Haifa and Acre are further north and geographically closer to the border of Lebanon, you might notice more Lebanese and Arabic influences in the people, food, and culture of these cities. Personally I was very moved by the kindness of strangers in these places. Locals happily helped me decipher maps and welcomed me cheerily to their country.

The Western Wall and Temple Mount complex, Jerusalem
After wrapping up on the west coast, a short train ride east brought me to Jerusalem. Being a bit of a history buff I knew I was in for some impressive sites, but I was taken aback by just how rich, how rewarding, and how meaningful this visit was. Most of us know that Jerusalem shelters important historic and religious sites for Christians, Muslims, and Jews, but we aren’t always told how deeply intertwined these sites are in the daily lives of Jerusalem’s citizens. These three groups (in addition to several minority religious groups) interact with each other on a daily basis, passing in the streets, dealing in business, and living together just as those in less controversial cities might live. One of the most poignant moments for me was witnessing a Christian nun and a Muslim woman, both dressed in the clothing of their traditional faiths, stop to greet each other on one of the streets of Jerusalem’s old town. The women greeted each other with smiles and warm words, and kissed each other on the cheek before departing, each traveling in the opposite direction. To me, this was a perfect illustration of how the many cultures and people of the Jerusalem weave their lives together. Clearly these were both serviceful women devoted to their faith traditions, yet had found some common ground between them. What it was I will never know, but there was no mistaking their connection as one of familiarity and love.
The Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel
The Western Wall, Jerusalem

Old City of Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Young military service members
along the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem
During my stay in Jerusalem, I took a city bus to Bethlehem, which is located in the Arab state of Palestine. It was here that I experienced a similar mash-up of people and cultures that I experienced in Jerusalem, but with a more clearly dominant Arab-Muslim population, and no Jewish element that I could see. One of the most noticeable things to see on my arrival was the assembly of a giant Christmas tree in the middle of Manger Square, the traditional location revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. As I walked around the square, I saw monks of different monastic orders walking to and from the various churches in the area, clearly juxtaposed against the Arabic shopkeepers whose stores faced the square. I had positive and memorable interactions with the locals of Bethlehem. I was welcomed to their homeland, and felt safe walking around and seeing the different sites and storefronts. At one point I came to a small open air market, up the street from Manger Square. There were some small food stalls, and I stopped to get a falafel sandwich at one. The woman who served me was clearly Arab and Muslim, but greeted me in French. In my very limited French, I was able to convey “please” and “thank you” and make my falafely request. What I must impress upon you about this interaction is the warmth with which this woman smiled at me, and how the grace and open-heartedness with which she served me left a deep, indelible impression on my heart. Though it was a brief exchange, it is one that I recall as very human, and etched in compassion and understanding. It was such a clear reminder that humanity transcends borders, cultures, and politics, and that the richness of life is often contained in the heartfelt connections we have with others.

A monk at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestine

King Herod's fortress, Masada, Israel
My next stop was Masada, the remarkable desert fortress of King Herod, where Jewish rebels made their last stand against the advancing Roman army in AD 73. This site was another surprise, as I again came with no expectations, open to learning about the history of this significant place in Jewish history. This remarkable site wraps in its walls an event so significant, the eerie vibrations of its history seep out of the crumbling stone walls. The mass suicide of the rebel Jewish forces who retreated here haunts the silent mountaintop which tourists now daily walk and photograph. Being on top of this site, which the Jewish people hold so closely in their cultural memory, brought me face to face with the dynamic importance of this land which so many people call home.

Masada, Israel
The next stop on my Middle East trip was Jordan, to see the famed Nabataean city of Petra. After what I can only describe as a delightful border crossing experience where I was warmly greeted and joked with by friendly Jordanian border guards, I was welcomed by a tour guide and taken to the ancient city. While I acknowledge that I visited as a tourist, my experience in this Arabic country was nothing short of warm and hospitable, with an overall feeling of good cheer. I am an experienced enough traveler and a sensitive enough person to pick up on negative expressions in a host country. I have been in situations where I have felt unwanted and even unliked for being a tourist and an American. I can surely say that Jordan was not one of those places. There was a general acknowledgement of “yes, this is very much a tourist destination and we are in the customer service industry”, but more than that, Jordanian people seemed open and perhaps even mildly interested in who I was and where I was from. My answers to their questions were usually met with smiles and further friendly chatter. My time in Jordan was a wonderful introduction to a new culture that I had not experienced before.
The Monastery, Petra, Jordan
The Treasury, Petra, Jordan
Traveling to the Middle East was a wonderful, enriching, safe adventure, one which I would not hesitate to repeat should I get the chance. The people I met were diverse, yet it was easy to see that we are all humans having an expedition on this planet. Being in these special locations, so charged with history and emotion, enhanced my appreciation for the diversity of life. Being on the hallowed ground of so many different faith traditions has a way of imparting the weight and intensity of tremendous love and devotion that has been poured into them over the millennia. The treasure trove of this trip will stay with me for a long time to come.

New friends at the Treasury in Petra, Jordan


Each year, we change things up a bit and refresh the website with the PANTONE color of the year. For 2018, the PANTONE color of the year is Pantone 18-1838 Ultra Violet.

From the PANTONE press release:
"A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future."

"Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets."

The Future-ish PISA List

2017 PISA List addition, Shirley Ann Jackson. Image credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

PISA is a short but meaningful acronym associated with one of our most important and respected endeavors here at Future-ish, The Future-ish Public Intellectual Service & Advocacy (PISA) List. Some people say that public intellectuals have all but disappeared from our modern society. We strongly disagree. The Future-ish PISA List is a growing collection of people from around the world that we feel embody what it means to be a public intellectual.

Public intellectuals are individuals with extensive training and expertise in a particular discipline that speak or write publicly about their discipline to an audience outside their own field or industry. More importantly, they endeavor to relate their work to the larger social, economic, and political world around it. Albert Einstein, for example, was often asked to comment on art, politics, and religion in addition to his own work in physics. Public intellectuals are rigorous thinkers that offer their own ideas and opinions while still respecting the ideas and opinions of others. On rare occasions, public intellectuals are elected and/or are appointed to public office; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is such an example.

In establishing the Future-ish PISA List, we hope to inform and inspire many generations of scientists, designers, and cultural leaders to follow in Einstein's and Merkel's footsteps and become more involved in public service and advocacy, from participating in civic panels and writing editorials to serving as subject matter experts in the media and running for public office.

We update the PISA List each December. If you have suggestions for additions to the list, please send them to us at StudioF/at/future-ish/dot/com.

Individuals with an asterisk (*) have been elected or appointed to public office. Years in parentheses indicate year added to the list.

2017 additions to the PISA List
Jared Diamond
Harold Frazier
Neil Gershenfeld
Shirley Ann Jackson
Maya Lin
Patricia Williams

Full list as of December 2016
Qanta Ahmed (2012)
Maya Angelou (2007)
S. Haunani Apoliona (2012)
Rachel Armstrong (2015)
Janine Benyus (2010)
Sass Brown (2016)
Majora Carter (2014)
Noam Chomsky (2007)
Yvon Chouinard (2011)
Stephen Chu* (2011)
Jared Diamond (2017)
Esther Duflo (2015)
Michael Eric Dyson (2015)
James H. Fowler (2013)
Harold Frazier (2017)
Tulsi Gabbard (2016)
Neil Gershenfeld (2017)
Jane Goodall (2007)
Janet Gray (2011)
Timothy Gunn (2016)
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama (2012)
Stephen Hawking (2016)
Segenet Kelemu (2014)
Katherine Hamnett (2008)
James Hansen* (2011)
Tyrone Hayes (2008)
Bruce Jackson (2012)
Shirley Ann Jackson (2017)
Áile Jávo (2014)
Michio Kaku (2008)
Zafra M. Lerman (2016)
Maya Lin (2017)
Jane Lubchenko* (2010)
Oren Lyons* (2010)
Angela Merkel* (2008)
Akira Miyawaki (2014)
Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) (2011)
Feryal Özel (2013)
Pope Francis (2012)
Lisa Randall (2009)
Yvette Roubideaux* (2013)
Bobby Sanabria (2009)
Martha Schwartz (2012)
Noel Sharkey (2014)
Vandana Shiva (2009)
Amanda Simpson (2015)
Brian Sims (2016)
Cameron Sinclair (2010)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf* (2011)
Adam Stelzner (2012)
David Suzuki (2010)
Richard Swett* (2009)
Jason deCaires Taylor (2014)
David Tartakover (2012)
Tony Turner (2015)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (2007)
Ai Weiwei (2015)
Vivienne Westwood (2013)
Patricia Williams (2017)

Public Intellectuals in History
Elouise Cobbell* (2011)
Zaha Hadid (2011)
Wangari Maathai* (2010)

Cocktail Astronomy | Brahe's Marvelous Moustache

Image credit: Mads Nissen for

Here at Future-ish, we love astronomy and we love cocktails. So to prep our fans (and ourselves) for those stellar weekend cocktail conversations, we are pleased to offer our Cocktail Astronomy post each Friday.

This week we join our fans around the world in celebrating Movember, the annual moustache growing (well, we've seen a few ladies and gentlemen glue them on an "Mo" emergency of course) charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men's health issues, particularly prostate, testicular, and other forms of men's cancer.

We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the event than to raise a cocktail in honor of the very famous and very moustachioed 16th Century Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. Brahe made many discoveries in the fields of astronomy and alchemy, but he is most noted for his his incredibly accurate observations of our solar system and many stars, noting a supernova in 1572, and providing evidence that comets are heavenly bodies rather than weather related. Brahe's celestial mechanics and detailed star maps were later used by Johannes Kepler in his theories of planetary motion.

Musk Matters | Hyperloop

Hyperloop Alpha. Image credit: SpaceX/Tesla Motors

Bus too slow for you? Train too old-fashioned? Have you been waiting for the transportation system of the future? Look no further. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is on the way.
by Drue Johnson

The Hyperloop is essentially a high speed train designed to transport passengers and cargo, contained within a tube. Why the tube, you ask? The unique part about the Hyperloop is how it actually moves. By being sealed within a low pressure, near vacuum environment, these trains can move a lot faster in less time. The vacuum removes most of the friction from the area within the tube, which is what allows for quicker travel. The Hyperloop that Musk is designing is actually moved within that vacuum through the use of magnetism, which would draw the trains along the tracks without using fossil fuels.

Though the idea for an “atmospheric railway” has been around for quite some time, Musk began designing his version of the concept back in 2013. Citing his dissatisfaction with the California high speed rail project, he began envisioning a “fifth mode” of transport - the first four being cars, planes, boats and trains. In order to make it more palatable than the well-established modes of travel, he aspired to create something that would be safer, cheaper, more efficient, and more sustainable than all other vehicles to date. Given the lack of pretext for something like the Hyperloop, it remained little more than an idea for a few years.

Along with his company SpaceX, Musk has hosted several competitions over the years designed to get university teams involved with and pursuing a concrete version of something like the Hyperloop. The most recent one began in early September, and is due to take place sometime in the Summer of 2018. While Musk personally sat out of cultivating a real-life Hyperloop system, several other organizations have emerged in effort to create a high-speed, low cost, tubular transport. Though these other Hyperloop groups have successfully tested their systems, according to SpaceX's Hyperloop webpage, SpaceX remains the only entity to hold competitions designed “to advance the development of functional prototypes and encourage student innovation.”

As of late, Musk has been taken a bit more forward action on being directly involved with the creation of a Hyperloop system. Another one of his ventures, The Boring Company, has been developing cheaper and more efficient ways to build tunnels for travel underground. Tunnels like these would be a must for a convenient Hyperloop system, so his recent success with tunneling has pushed him back into the high-speed transport game. In fact, rumors have been swirling about that Musk had gained approval to start constructing a Hyperloop tunnel somewhere in Maryland. The rumors were bolstered by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s recent public announcement in support of the loop, but Musk quickly cleared the situation up. Responding to an APTA Twitter post, Musk tweeted “not ready to do a proper announcement yet, but maybe in a month or so. Maryland has been awesome to work with and just wanted to say thanks,” it seems that the deal isn’t completely done, but great things are definitely in the works.

NewsFusion | 045

Makerchair series, 2014. Joris Laarman Lab exhibit at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Photo courtesy of Joris Laarman Lab

NewsFusion for November 2017