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  1. Waterloo site (Ontario, Canada) tests a new way to heat, cool buildings
    comment: local resident, David Hatherton, has been doing this since the 1980s with D.L. Hatherton and Associates (Kitchener) which was associated with manufacturer WaterFurnace of Indiana, and the 1990s with Earth Systems (Kitchener) which manufactured equipment in Huron business park, and the 2000s with NextEnergy (Elmira)
  2. Cracking nuclear fusion will depend on A.I.
    comment: I was surprised to learn about all the progress made by various countries. For example, in 2018 China's EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) sustained a plasma temperature of 15 million C for 100 seconds. Germany's Wendelstein-7-X is now active and is expected to run for 30 minutes in 2021.
  3. May-4, 2020 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Kent State Shootings where the US National Guard killed 4 students and wounded 9 others on a university campus. Although the soldiers claimed they were protecting themselves, at least one student was shot in the back. Click here to read more at CNN. Then read this:
    Decades Later, No Justice for Kent State Killings
  4. author: Gwynne DyerThe Russian president has just done something none of these other men would or even could do. He has written a 9,000-word essay on the risk to world peace to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. He had it published in the leading American foreign policy magazine, The National Interest.

    Donald Trump writes in tweets with more exclamation marks than a 13-year-old girl’s diary. Nobody knows for sure whether his very limited vocabulary is due to concern for his intended target audience, or to his own gradual mental decline. (Look at interviews from 20 years ago, and he was still using long words and speaking in complete sentences.) China’s president, as witnessed in his philosophical masterpiece, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” is a fluent writer of the ‘langue de bois’, the ‘wooden language’ of abstractions, slogans, bad metaphors and can’t be used by sub-Marxist thinkers and other ideologues. The Chinese call it ‘konghua’ (empty speech), and Xi is a master of the art. They speak a non-Marxist version of the langue de bois at the École nationale d’administration (ÉNA — National School of Administration), the finishing school for most French politicians. It’s still stilted twaddle, and President Emmanuel Macron is an énarque, so he sometimes sounds out of touch — but he can also speak and write human. So can Boris Johnson, part-time prime minister of the United Kingdom. He even wrote a whole book about how much Winston Churchill resembled him, and he can talk just like a character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, so he’s no slouch in the literary department either. But none of these world leaders can hold a candle to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. The Russian president has just done something none of these other men would or even could do. He has written a 9,000-word essay on the risk to world peace to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and published it in the leading American foreign policy magazine The National Interest. Putin called it ‘The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of the Second World War,’ which presumably refers to the end of the war in early May of 1945, but that was obviously last month. Instead, he scheduled publication for this week, because June 22 is the date when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. He wanted to write this piece so badly that he deliberately mixed up the dates. One of his objectives is to rectify the ignorant omission of any mention of Russia’s leading role in defeating Nazi Germany in the Anglo-American celebrations of the anniversary last month. Russians are sensitive on this subject, because, as Putin points out, one out of seven Russians was killed in the war (27 million people) compared to one in 127 British (less than half a million) and one in 320 Americans (the same). He also spends some time defending the Nazi-Soviet pact to conquer and share out Poland, the three Baltic states and parts of Finland and Romania, which fired the starting gun for the Second World War in 1939. This is a futile, thankless task that every Russian leader is condemned to perform for at least another generation. So far, so predictable, you might say, but the concluding third of Putin’s essay is quite different. It is an almost desperate plea for the preservation of the international order embodied in the rules of the United Nations and especially of the Security Council, which has kept the peace between the nuclear-armed great powers for such an astoundingly long time. He writes: “The victorious powers … laid the foundation of a world that for 75 years had no global war, despite the sharpest contradictions … What is veto power in the UN Security Council? To put it bluntly, it is the only reasonable alternative to a direct confrontation between major countries.” “(The veto) is a statement by one of the great powers that a decision is unacceptable to it and is contrary to its interests and its ideas about the right approach. And other countries, even if they do not agree, (accept this position), abandoning any attempts to realize their unilateral efforts. So, in one way or another, it is necessary to seek compromises.” Putin is right: the United Nations is not a naively idealistic organization, and the Security Council is brutally realistic about how to keep the peace between nuclear powers. It has done so successfully for 75 years, but it is now threatened by the rival, non-negotiable nationalisms of many countries and the growing isolationism of the United States. Rather like the 1930s, in fact. Putin is not older or naturally wiser than the other leaders, but he is Russian and KGB-trained, so he remembers the history a lot better. He is actually scared, and he’s probably right to be.
  5. If you agree that that "a healthy, professional news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy" then please visit https://www.ink-stainedwretches.org/
  6. "The idea that quantum measurement involves an almost magical transformation is now dead"
    Comment: quantum mechanics will always be weirder that classical mechanics but it now appears the multi-worlds interpretation is now dead. In fact, it is not even necessary. Personally, I always disliked the multi-worlds interpretation for these two reasons:
    1) if more than just a mathematical tool, the energy demands to support such a thing were too large (in fact, they were infinite)
    2) it sent a signal to the non-scientific public that it was acceptable for them to believe in fantastic non-verifiable hypotheses because scientists were doing the same
  7. Rammstein - North American tour
  8. author: Gwynne DyerTrump and his anti-Chinese bigotry:  When the real delay happened, it had nothing to do with when China reported the disease. The point is that Western countries did nothing serious about the pandemic for an astonishing two months after that It was completely predictable that U.S. President Donald Trump would try to blame China for the fact tens of millions of Americans are unemployed and more than 80,000 Americans have already died of COVID-19. His polling numbers are down and the election is only seven months away. What else was he going to do? Blame himself? That’s why we’re now getting the good old “Yellow Peril” defence, fresh from the late-19th century. As a memo sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to Republican candidates put it: “Don’t defend Trump. Other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.” The novel coronavirus now spreading death across the world certainly originated in China. The Chinese government itself said so before it started prevaricating after Trump began using China as a scapegoat. There was at least a week’s delay in late December when officials in Wuhan didn’t report the outbreak to Beijing, fearing they would be blamed for alarmist or simply for letting it happen. That’s when Dr. Li Wenliang wrote in a private WeChat group: “7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported [to hospital] from Huanan Seafood Market.” It wasn’t really severe acute respiratory syndrome. It was a new coronavirus closely related to SARS, which had caused a much smaller, but lethal epidemic in 2002. But Wuhan officials didn’t want to believe it and, on Jan. 3, Li was warned by local police to stop “making false comments on the internet.” Six days later, the first person in Wuhan died of what we now call COVID-19. On the same day, Jan. 9 , the World Health Organization (which Trump now vilifies as “China’s public relations agency”) announced that China had reported the emergence of a new coronavirus like those that caused the SARS and MERS epidemics. So, there was at least a week when Chinese officials at the local or national level had the information and hesitated to publish it, partly because they weren’t sure yet themselves. But only two days later, Chinese scientists published the full genetic sequence of COVID-19 so researchers everywhere could start working on potential treatments and vaccines. Other East Asian countries that had experience of SARS understood the seriousness of the WHO warning and promptly began diligent testing, tracing and isolation of infected persons. As a result, they never had to go into lockdown (South Korea has had 250 deaths; Taiwan had six). China did a partial lockdown, but is now up and running again. But then the real delay happened — and it had nothing to do with when China reported the disease. The point is that Western countries did nothing serious about the pandemic for an astonishing two months after that. Trump boasts that he banned travel from China to the United States early, but in fact, the United States was the 41st country to declare such a ban, on Feb. 2. And it was a very leaky ban, affecting only non-U.S. citizens. Another 40,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents flew in from China during the next two months, many not being checked for coronavirus at all. Italy started locking down some municipalities in the country’s badly hit north in late February, but no European country went into national lockdown until March 9. The United Kingdom waited a further two weeks after that, until March 24. The United States never did a national lockdown, but most states had physical-distancing policies in place by early April. Those even longer delays explain why the U.K. and the U.S. are on track to be the two countries with the highest COVID-19 death rates, but why did they all wait so long? Why weren’t they at least setting up comprehensive testing, tracing and contacting systems and making more ventilators and protective clothing back in January? Did they think they were exempt? That’s probably what they did think — and their people are now being punished for their governments’ arrogance. But Trump’s attempt to shift the blame for a huge U.S. death toll and a looming economic disaster onto China is utterly cynical and false. The problem wasn’t a week’s delay in China; it was a couple of months’ delay in America. If it should turn out that the first human infections with COVID-19 were due to a leak from the biosafety level 4 Wuhan Institute of Virology, not at the Huanan Seafood Market in the same city, it changes nothing. BSL4 labs (there are about 20 in the world) routinely work with dangerous viruses, because otherwise we’d never develop defences against them. An accidental leak from a BSL4 lab would be a rare and very serious mistake, but that’s probably not what happened in Wuhan. In any case, it’s clear no hostile intent was involved. The U.S. national intelligence director's office has determined COVID-19 “was not manmade or genetically modified.” That will not stop Trump from scapegoating China, even at the risk of causing a new Cold War. Never mind the fate of the world — it’s the fate of Trump’s presidency that’s at stake here.
  9. StarTalk: Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us why we celebrate Earth Day

    From an online comment:

    Winner of 8 awards, "Silent Spring" is the history making bestseller that stunned the world with its terrifying revelation about our contaminated planet. No science-fiction nightmare can equal the power of this authentic and chilling portrait of the unseen destroyers which have already begun to change the shape of life as we know it. "Silent Spring" is a devastating attack on human carelessness , greed and irresponsibility. It should be read by every American who does not want it to be the epitaph of a world not very far beyond us in time.”---Saturday Review quote about Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring", which was published in 1962!!! This book was required reading when I was in school in the 60s. Rachel Carson must be turning in her grave.

  10. Podcast with Charles Fishman author of One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew us to the Moon
  11. The other day I was playing the video game adventure "THE LAST OF US" (2014) by Naughty Dog and Sony. Joel's daughter, Sarah, is reading an Austin Texas newspaper with this headline: "ADMITTANCE SPIKES AT AREA HOSPITALS! 300% INCREASE DUE TO MYSTERIOUS INFECTION!" This got me thinking that because of the way that Trump and his administration f'd up the COVID-19 crisis by first declaring it a hoax, the video game might be renamed: "THE LAST OF U.S."
    Then later that same week I heard Joel say this "Yeah, everyone barricaded themselves in their homes. Then supplies started runnin' low. That's when you saw what people are really capable of."
  12. When I was a teenager in the 1960s, many people (except medical and legal professionals) aspired to be scientists, engineers, technologists or technicians. It seemed that everyone was reading magazines like Scientific American, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. A real "can do" attitude existed everywhere in our society. For example, when President John F Kennedy announced America's intention to visit the Moon before the end of the decade, naysayers complained that the goal was impossible because the technology did not exist. Meanwhile, once funding was in place, other "can do" engineers and scientists simply created the technology. Both the internet and "personal computers" are two spin-off technologies which were never dreamed of by anyone when Kennedy publically gave his moon shot speech in 1962 but by the mid 1970s it appeared that everyone was building computer kits (like the Altair 8800 or the Heathkit H8) or were buying personal computers (like the Apple-2 or the Radio Shack TRS-80). Within 5 years it seemed that everyone was reading Byte magazine and/or attending nightly college courses to learn computer programming and/or digital electronics. Life today is much different. It appears to me that life this side of 1995 is considerably different with many people aspiring to be politicians, political advisors, political aids, or just political pundits with a YouTube channel. The "can do" attitude has been replaced with a "can't do" political divisiveness with wannabe millionaires calling for taxes cuts and austerity (why should I be expected to pay for that?). Just at a time when humanity has become dependent upon science and technology, western civilization has decided to replace scientific facts with political opinion.
    Now watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D99qI42KGB0
  13. I am still surprised about all the conspiracy theories and scaremongering regarding the fifth generation wireless technology colloquially known as 5G. Some of the conspiracy theories come from the United States and are unfairly directed at the Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huauai. Imagine my surprise while reading page-12 of the 2020-03 issue of Scientific American where I learned that the American FCC is intending to auction 5G spectrum in the 24-GHz band at levels which will interfere with the detection of a 23.8-GHz signal emitted by natural water vapor. According to many organizations including NASA and NOAA, this would result in as much as a 77 percent reduction in "water vapor data" which would introduce a 2-3 day delay in weather forecasts. This would throw the USA's satellite-based forecasting abilities back to 1980 levels. Read the article here:
  14. Darwin's Apostles
    All modern people with a passing interest in science will love reading this new book: Darwin's Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues
    • Review by Harriet Hall MD https://www.skepdoc.info/darwins-apostles-the-battle-continues/
      quote: Our world is under threat, and science is our only hope. At the end of this book, the authors say, “Sadly, we live in an era when the idea of scientific truth itself is being disparaged by some of the most powerful people in the world…Today’s tenacious evolutionary biologists, climate scientists, and even national park employees are showing themselves to be some of the unlikely heroes of our time. They will need their apostles too. Their apostles are us.”
    • My Review: here
  15. Science is Bigger Than Politics. Neil deGrasse Tyson on The rise (and fall?) of America (from Abraham Lincoln's founding of the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, to the US currently leading the world in the Nobel Prize count (a third of which we owe to immigrants), America was built on science. What happens when we doubt and defund it?
    Transcript: I have to chuckle a little bit when I'm approached by anybody, but in particular journalists, and say, “Are scientist worried that the public is in denial of science or is cherry-picking it?” And I chuckle not because it's funny but because they're coming to me as a scientist when they should be going to everyone. Everyone should be concerned by this, not just scientists. In fact, scientists will just continue as they're doing. You might withdraw funding, but then there isn't any science done—okay. You are transforming your civilization if you choose to either stand in denial of science or withdraw science funding from those who are actually doing the research. Everything we care deeply about that defines modern civilization pivots on innovations in science, technology, engineering and the math that is the foundational language for it all. Everything: transportation, your health, your communication through smart phones that talk to GPS satellites to find out where Grandma is. To make a left turn to find her address or the nearest Starbucks. Whatever is your need, whatever is your want, the emergent innovations in science and technology are not only enabling it, they are creating for you solutions to challenges you always lived with but never thought that they could be solved. The message is clear: if you do not understand what science is and how and why it works—by the way, I'm not even blaming you. I look back as an educator, I look back to K through 12, kindergarten through 12th grade, and I say there's something missing there. If you, as an educated adult, can say, "This is what these scientists agree to, but I don't agree with them." If that sentence even comes out of your mouth it's like: oh my gosh. Okay, well, we live in a free country, you can say and think what you want. I'm not even going to stop you. But if you rise to power and have influence over legislation and that legislation references what you think science is but is not, that is a recipe for the unraveling of an informed democracy. So I'm not even going to blame you. It's not your fault. Click here to read more
  16. George Clooney speaks against Rampant DUMBF**KERY on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
    • If you see the world through the prism of politics then this message is for YOU!
    • If you are an American, Canadian, or British politician then this message is for YOU!
    • If you think you are smarter than climate scientists or vaccine scientists then this message is for YOU!
    • If your idea of "doing research" involves looking up stuff on the internet then this message is for YOU!
    • if you think the world is less than 10,000 years old then this message is for YOU!
    • UDUMASS - United to Defeat Untruthful Misinformation And Support Science
  17. Officially, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization of 1949) requires member countries to spend 1% of their annual GDP to purchase military arms for themselves so they will be able to contribute to "collective self defense" (the original threat was Joseph Stalin and his USSR). Despite the fact that the USSR ceased to exist in 1991, NATO members in 2014 agreed to increase spending to 2% of GDP by 2024. comment-1: the combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total and many people wonder if this is desirable or sustainable (think about that during your Christmas quiet time). comment-2: The USA and Canada also contribute to NORAD (North American Air Defense)

    Meanwhile, the EU (European Union) requires that member countries contribute 2% of GDP to peaceful R&D (Research and Development) and this got me thinking: One organization supports the creation of weapons of defense (which could also be used offensively; witness the recent aggressive action of NATO member "Turkey" against the Syrian Kurds) while the other is committed to the peaceful exploration and sharing of scientific knowledge.

    I think it is safe to say that military spending shifts the emphasis from "R" to "D" but people today forget that World War 2 was won by the countries with the smartest research scientists. Everyone knows that creation is more difficult than destruction but most rational people would agree it is worth the effort. Perhaps humanity's future would be better off if half the money allocated to military spending was diverted to scientific research. Perhaps this could be written into the next NATO agreement.
    comment-3: it was candidate Trump who, in March 2016, declared NATO as expensive while obsolete. Perhaps now is the time to get rid of it.
  18. My few thoughts about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo-11 moon landing.
    Meanwhile, I celebrated this anniversary by reading this book about the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) titled: SUNBURST and LUMINARY: An Apollo Memoir by Don Elyles (software engineer at MIT's Instrumentation Lab which is now known as Draper Laboratory )
  19. I just heard this on the CBC radio program IDEAS which I publish as food-for-thought: Reclaiming Marxism in an Age of Meaningless Work
    comment: While it is true that Marx published some wacky stuff (the communist manifesto first springs to mind), Marx's description of how capitalism failed Europeans of the 1840s (after the promises  by Adam Smith in the middle to late 1700s) sounds very familiar to how extreme capitalism is failing most people today, except the very rich. In Marx's time, he worried that the very rich "didn't ever think about the rest of humanity" and I fear the same is true today. Listen to the program at least once even if you don't agree with everything that is presented. At least you might get a handle on some of the ideas of the economic theory known as Marxism.
  20. beach covered with one-time use plasticThe European Union announced that they will ban one-time use plastic products by 2021. This includes: stir-sticks, drinking straws, cutlery, soft-drink containers, and shopping bags.

    They stated:  if something isn't done now, then by 2050 there would be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

    Canada announced it will follow Europe's lead and also ban single-use plastics by 2021.

    Comment: Most people would agree that using petroleum (a non-renewable resource) to create single-use plastic products (drinking straws, knives, forks, spoons, coffee cup lids, and cream containers) is wasteful as well as stupid. This is made worse by the fact that less than 9% of all plastic is recycled with the remaining amount going to land fills or, eventually, the ocean. Did you know that those resin identification codes imprinted upon plastic products is almost useless? Numbers "1" and "2" can be easily recycled while numbers "3" through "7" can only be recycled with great difficulty so are usually shipped elsewhere or discarded.
    Ecologic Brands1) Almost all powered protein supplements are retailed in large, heavy (thick) plastic containers so view the container pictured to the right. This is not a plastic bottle. It is a much lighter, crushable cardboard container employing a thin plastic bag to protect the powered protein inside (too bad they have not yet ditched the plastic lid). Although the protein is from Bodylogix, the container was manufactured by Ecologic Brands. Click here, here and here to learn more.

    2) Question: What's wrong with these pictures of two competing toothpaste products? Answer: the second product employs more waste plastic in the lid which YOU pay for then discard. Suggestion: always buy the product with the smallest ecological foot print.
    crest colgate

    coffee creamer3) More Insanity: Manu people drink multiple cups a coffee each day then throw in one to two creamers each time. Now you have really got to think about this one: an inexpensive biologically replaceable resource (cow's milk) is served up in a one-time use plastic made from a non-renewable resource (petroleum). Suggestion: until dairy producers move their product into cardboard containers, we must reduce or eliminate the use of plastic creamers

  21. Commenting on Huawei: It appears to me that people in the west only support capitalism when the west wins. When a Chinese company, like Huawei, becomes the next Nortel, then ridiculous conspiracy theories are invoked. IIRC, Huawei was one of many companies that bid on the sale of intellectual property, as did Apple, Google, Blackberry and others. Huawei was not one of the winners which forced it to increase its own R&D operations (estimates put Huawei R&D in 2019 at a massive 40% of net income). People claim that Huawei steals IP but this ignores the fact that many experts agree that Huawei is 19-24 months ahead of everyone else on 5G. Anyway, western companies accuse each other of the all the time of IP theft. For example, Apple is constantly in court for stealing IP (witness Broadcom – Qualcomm). Other western companies are no better (Apple has sued Google; Facebook is currently suing Google). The CEOs of these western companies justify this by saying "this is just the way business in done ".

    On a related note, Huawei telephone hardware is nothing more than a special-purpose programmable computer made in China which is almost always installed along with a CISCO firewall. Firewall transactions are almost always logged and monitored so someone would need to show me proof that spy packets were seen going back to China (or show how packets could flow from China back to the west for any nefarious purpose). On top of all that, Apple manufactures their equipment at Foxconn in China. Same place where Microsoft manufactures the Xbox One and Sony manufacturers the PlayStation4. HP desktops are manufactured by Megatron in China. So why is Huawei being singled out? Shouldn’t Trump blocks the imports of all these companies as well? Heck, many of these consumer and small business appliances are seldomly protected by firewalls.

    I think it was Deng Xiaoping who once said "The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth". Since modern electronics is dependent upon rare-earth materials then it should be no surprise that Chinese-made electronics is much less expensive. Speaking of Deng for a moment, in the mid-1980s I was attending school in the Boston area where it appeared to me that Chinese students were everywhere. Apparently, Deng was sending a million Chinese students to the USA every year to receive a top-quality western education paid for by China (one of my more-gifted Chinese class mates was accompanied by two minders who were there to ensure that he returned to China). Unlike Mao, Deng saw great value in education and realized that this was the best way forward for China. Thirty five years later, China has moved more than 350 million Chinese citizens from poverty into the middle class. This number is greater than the current population of the USA so is it any surprise that China is doing well? Meanwhile, there is a movement in the west to label "an educated person" as "an elite". It seems to me that the world has flipped.
  22. Now here's a smart idea. The European Parliament (EU) just voted to end daylight savings time in 2021
    The main reason given was that Europe's closest trading partners, China and Russia, do not shift their numerous number of time zones, and having Europe change its clocks twice annually was bad for business between all. But as a computer programmer and system admin, I can tell you that not having your computer systems change their internal clocks is a huge advantage.
  23. co2 across the ice agesChildren born now could live to see the oceans rise well over 1 m (3.2 ft) by 2100. Even conservative forecasts of sea level by 2100 are now rising above the meter mark for high emission scenarios. The last report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013 concluded that sea level could rise between 0.3 and 1 meter by 2100 depending on how much carbon dioxide we emit. Now a study by Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London has added 0.2 meters [to the IPCC report]. “Our likely range is about 20 centimeters higher” says Edwards. Other studies have come to similar conclusions. In fact, the IPCC is set to up its projections: according to a leaked version of an upcoming IPCC report, sea level will rise by as much as 1.3 meters by 2100. In the US alone, a 0.9 meter rise in sea level rise would displace 4 million people. Global average sea level has already risen around 0.3 meters since 1880. There are three key questions about what happens next: How much higher will the sea rise for a given amount of warming? How fast will it rise? And will the loss of some ice sheets become unstoppable once set in motion, as several recent studies suggest? The only way to find out is by looking at the past and using computer models. But our knowledge of past sea level changes is poor, and computer models of ice sheets are relatively new and crude, so there are huge uncertainties. The 2013 IPCC estimate of up to 1 meter assumes hardly any contribution from Antarctica. However, as the report itself acknowledged, many researchers think the unstable West Antarctic sheet could start to lose a lot of ice long before 2100. continued here...

    1) according to tide gauges by sea-faring nations, sea level increased by 19.5 cm (~ 7.7 in) between 1870 and 2004 which equates to 1.44 mm per year. Radar measurements by satellites show the new value as 3.3 mm per year. So even if you do not accept the fact that the rate-of-rise is accelerating, sea level is absolutely guaranteed to rise an additional 33 cm (~ 13 in) in the next 100 years but remember that this rise is vertical. Beaches are sloped which means that tide-surges will make things a lot worse much sooner.
    2) Ocean rise should not be a surprise to anyone educated in ice ages where CO2 levels normally bounce between 180 ppm (when in an ice age) vs. 280 ppm (when in an interglacial). Why? During an ice age a lot of water accumulates in glacial ice. But humanity's industrial age has pushed co2 levels more than 130 units past 280 which is pushing "the melting of ice" to a totally new place. Had we known this earlier, then none of us would have built large cities so close to the coast. I fear that Venice Italy stands as a symbol for American cities like New York, San Francisco and Miami to only name three of many.
    3) Some climatologists have hypothesized that sea level on Earth (where water covers 70% of the globe) has a near-linear relationship with co2 levels where 100 pm translates into ~ 100 ft. When I first heard this I was skeptical of the units and values until I later learned that "one foot" was just their lowest starting point. But where did they get that number? Well, is now commonly accepted that humans walked to North America via the Bering Straight at a time when the ocean level was much lower than it is today. These migrations happened numerous times so it is difficult to determine the exact time periods BUT some ancient human artifacts have been located 120 ft below the current surface. So here's what worries me: let's assume that an increase in co2 levels triggers new melting which causes the ocean levels to rise even more. The industrial age increased co2 from 280 to the current value of 410 so can we assume that we will see the oceans rise another 128 feet?

  24. In his latest book titled Light of the Stars, astronomer Adam Frank presents convincing information that variable 'L' in the Drake Equation should be changed from "self destruction through nuclear war" to "self destruction though climate change". He argues that even if some extraterrestrial civilizations had never developed nuclear weapons (as humanity did), all would eventually grow to a size where their collective actions would change their climates, and possibly outstrip their natural resources. This is an extrapolation of the predator-prey model (described in the book) which was previously used to model the collapse of various civilizations where local people outstripped their resources (Easter Island, The Mayans, etc.)

    comment-1: What does this say about what humanity is currently doing to planet Earth? In the era of mutually assured destruction (MAD), a large number of western citizens advocated for nuclear de-escalation because the thought of an accidental conflict seemed too great. Today, many people seem to think that a healthy economy is more important than a healthy biosphere. In fact, many people with financial ties to the old economy are actively working to speed the collapse by denying that the climate is warming or that is is human induced.
    comment-2: Many climate deniers do not believe it is possible for modern humans to change Earth's atmosphere. And yet, it was the action of microscopic stromatolites (cyanobacteria) that added oxygen to Earth's atmosphere ~ 3.5 billion years ago.
  25. Computers speak a simple language known as binary. The lexicon is built from digital 0s and 1s, so the “C” letter at the start of this box would be represented as an elaborate code: “01000011”. The dominance of binary is partly due to computers being built from transistors, electrical switches that either allow current to flow or not, and nothing in between. These two well-defined states stand in neatly for 0 and 1. But there’s a newer electrical component on the scene called a memristor (see main story). These devices are becoming more and more useful in computers built to mimic the brain, and they are plenty more versatile than the transistor. Rather than being simply on or off, they can adopt several different states of resistance. Last year, researchers led by Vikas Rana at the Peter Grünberg Institute in Jülich, Germany, got a set of memristors successfully performing calculations in a ternary language, which uses the digital equivalent of 0s, 1s and 2s. This means memristors could allow computers to compute much more efficiently. And it doesn’t have to stop at base 3; memristors can reliably adopt at least seven, and possibly more, resistive states.

    Continued here: New Scientist (2 August 2017)

    Comment: quantum computing (as opposed to quantum communications) is the focus of much research because (entanglement aside) it primarily moves from two digital states (0+1) to three (0-middle-1) but most punters overlook the huge liquid nitrogen cooling tanks. It seems to me that memristor-based technology (with 7 or more states) might be a better candidate for certain applications like neural nets and artificial intelligence. Sci-fi author, Isaac Asimov, employed the phrase "positronic brain" as at literary device meaning "fill in the blank". I wonder if memristor technology could fill this roll
  26. Our culture is awash in lies, dominated by streams of never ending electronic hallucinations that merge fact and fiction until they are indistinguishable.  We have become the most illusioned society on earth.  Politics is a species of endless and meaningless political theater.  Politicians have morphed into celebrities.  Our two ruling parties are, in reality, one party - the corporate party.  And those who attempt to puncture this vast, breathless universe of fake news, designed to push through the cruelty and exploitation of the neoliberal order, are pushed so far to the margins of society, including by a public broadcasting system that has sold its soul for corporate money, that we might as well be mice squeaking against an avalanche, but squeak we MUST
  27. A conservative friend of mine was fond of asking me (I am a centrist) political questions then would cut me off mid-sentence before I finished answering because he didn’t value my (just starting) response. Apparently he was the only conservative amongst his family of brothers, sisters and parents but had no problem thinking he was right while they were wrong. How could this be? This thought rattled around in my mind until I stumbled across a book titled “The Republican Brain” which was positively reviewed by liberals and conservatives alike. The book contains several points which I will pass along here:
    • Size differences in two brain structures, the amygdala and the anterior cingulate, bias human perspective of the world. Therefore ...
    • Conservatives see things as “black and white” while liberals see “shades of gray”
    • Conservatives play politics as a team sport so will almost always vote their party while Liberals will split their vote choosing alternate parties (now you know how Trump got in)
    • Conservatives (larger amygdala) are more fearful of others so are more easily encouraged to vote for POPULIST issues like restricting immigration by voting for Trump or BREXIT (funny point: Britain had the lowest number of Syrian immigrants but apparently the highest political reaction against them)
    • Since conservatives only see things as black and white, they try (and sometimes succeed) in converting liberals over to their way of voting. It seems to me that the reverse never happens
  28. Skeptic Magazine ( http://www.skeptic.com/magazine/archives/20.3/ ) contains a story about a contest Alfred Russel Wallace entered in 1870 to prove the Earth was round. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace#Flat_Earth_wager for a less detailed version of the story)

    Every citizen today should read this story paying special attention to the reactions of his opponent, John Hampden, who believed data from Wallace’s experiment proved the Earth was flat. Wallace was declared the winner and so won 500 pounds but lost it all in court costs when Hampden would not stop personal attacks while refusing to acknowledge the evidence. Why would the courts allow this? Remember that this occurred in Victorian England at a time where many respectable people were séance-attending spiritualists. I find it difficult to understand that this could happen in the country of Isaac Newton approximately 150 years after Newton's death. The point I am trying to make is this: today’s climate change deniers claim to be on the side of Galileo but they are really Flat Earthers
  29. Isaac Asimov on PBS

    Isaac Asimov PhD

    "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

    -- Isaac Asimov (Column in Newsweek, 21 January 1980)

    Excerpt from Wikipedia: Isaac Asimov was an atheist, a humanist, and a rationalist. He did not oppose religious conviction in others, but he frequently railed against superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs that tried to pass themselves off as genuine science. During his childhood, his father and mother observed Orthodox Jewish traditions, though not as stringently as they had in Petrovichi, Russia; they did not, however, force their beliefs upon young Isaac. Thus he grew up without strong religious influences, coming to believe that the Torah represented Hebrew mythology in the same way that the Iliad recorded Greek mythology.

    NSR Comment: The "ignorance" quote now seems to apply to other English-speaking countries including Britain, Canada, and Australia to only name three of many.
    • why is it that English-speaking countries have less respect for science and scientists than other European countries?
    • why does this not apply to people from New Zealand and Tasmania ?
    • does the internet provide a venue where wacky people can meet up with other wacky people to share dopey ideas while trading conspiracy theories? Perhaps, but why are New Zealand and Tasmania immune?
  30. Facts, Theory, Hypothesis, Law: Explained!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqk3TKuGNBA
    1. Facts are observations
      • the Sun rises in the morning then sets in the evening
    2. Hypothesis (hypo-thesis literally means 'below thesis') is a proposed explanation; here are three of many:
      1. the Sun moves around the Earth (jump to step 3a)
      2. the Earth moves around the Sun (jump to step 3b) in circles
      3. all planets moves around the Sun in elliptical orbits (although they all have different elliptical eccentricities)
    3. Theory is the result of an experimentally tested Hypothesis; at this point a scientist will write, then publish, a thesis 
      1. experimental test of hypothesis 2a...
        • passes (until the era of precision measurements) so jump to step 4 to build models (mathematical, mechanical, computer-based, etc.)
        • fails during the era of precision measurements (Tycho Brahe) so go back to step 2 to develop hypothesis 2b
      2. experimental test of hypothesis 2b...
        • passes for a time (we have a theoretical understanding of the issue) so jump to step 4
        • fails during the era of evermore precise measurements so jump to hypothesis 2c
    4. Law is a detailed mathematical description
      • develop a model to test the hypothesis with greater precision (early physical models were machines; modern models employ computers)
      • many times, a successful theory produces yet-unobserved predictions (eg. Atomic Theory, Quantum, Theory of Gravitation)
      • improved observations (new facts) through newer instrumentation may force us back to step 2 (eg. General Relativity morphs into General Relativity)
  31. A.I. has been shifting from an "engineering discipline" ("expert systems" was their most visible practical success before IBM's Watson) to a "cognitive science" discipline for a while now. This shift has forced researchers to view the human mind from a different perspective. One proposal by Daniel Kahneman separates the human mind into two abstractly labeled modules colloquially referred to as system-1 and system-2 (or S1 and S2). S1 is a high-speed parallel processor evolved for avoiding predation by lions but also handles wrote intelligence (what is "2 plus 2"?) while S2 is a serial processor which deals with higher level procedural intelligence (what is "19 times 21"?).
    S2 requires more energy and concentration (not something you want to be doing while being chased by a lion) so idles until activated by S1.
    Notes for examples below:
    • Example 1: "S1 immediately engages S2 but fails to pass accurate information to S2 (causing S2 to make an error)"
    • Examples 2-5: "S1 will answer incorrectly without ever engaging S2"
    • Example 6: "S1 immediately engages S2; S2 employs a little algebra to compute the answer then notifies S1; S1 doesn't believe S2 so requests S2 to double-check; S2 repeats the solution then notifies S1; S1 still doesn't believe S2 so requests S2 to perform a detailed rationalization of where S1 had gone wrong"

    algebra with fruit
    1. This graphical algebra problem employs picture symbols rather than x, y and z. Calculate the answer. (answer)
      Calculation: 2 + 12 + 7 = 21 (one picture contains three bananas)
    2. "All flowers need water. All roses need water. Therefore, all roses are flowers". Is this logically true? (answer)
      S1 usually answers "yes" but this is logcially false as many things require water
    3. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? (answer)
      S1 usually answers 10 cents but the correct answer is 5 cents (Proof: 1.05 + 0.05 = 1.10)
    4. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? (answer)
      S1 usaully answers 100 but the correct answer is 5
    5. A patch of lily pads are found in a lake. Every day the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of it? (answer)
      S1 usually answers 24 but the correct answer is 47
    6. Three people check into a hotel room. The clerk says the bill is $30, so each guest pays $10. Later the clerk realizes the bill should only be $25. To rectify this, he gives the bellhop $5 to return to the guests. On the way to the room, the bellhop realizes that he cannot divide the money equally. As the guests didn't know the total of the revised bill, the bellhop decides to just give each guest $1 and keep $2 as a tip for himself. Each guest got $1 back: so now each guest only paid $9; bringing the total paid to $27. The bellhop has $2. And $27 + $2 = $29 so, if the guests originally handed over $30, what happened to the remaining $1? (answer)
      The misdirection in this riddle is at the end of the description, where a bunch of unrelated totals are added together, and the listener assumes these numbers should add to 30 (should be 27 after the 1 dollar refund)
  32. chloroplastThe computed World Human Population Limit
    A little math proves the current human population is already too large at 7.57 billion (this is a real-time counter BTW). Anything higher (caveat: humanity adds 1 billion every 12 years) is certainly out of the question. Why?

    Higher temperatures reduce the efficiency of photosynthesis resulting in a loss of agricultural productivity (biologists estimate a 10% drop for every degree increase). This is a shift in the direction of famine, disease (due to compromised immune systems), war (due to food and water shortages), and death. Since photosynthesis is required to replenish atmospheric O2 (oxygen), then we can expect O2 to drop as well. So I guess it should be no surprise that...

    Atmospheric oxygen levels have been dropping ever since measurements began in 1990. While CCS (carbon capture and storage) technologies promise to limit some CO2 releases, any burning of fuel will continue to consume atmospheric oxygen. So when calculating the optimum human population we also need to include the number of large internal combustion engines. (for now, just think about the number of ocean-going boats, jet airplanes, locomotive engines, and one billion functional automobiles). Now for one additional thought...

    Many people mistakenly believe higher CO2 levels "are good for plants" and "will trigger plant growth" (some people call CO2 the gas of life). First off, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen from 315 to 405 ppm (an increase of 28.5%) ever since direct annual measurement began in 1958 but humanity has not noticed any explosion of plant life to compensate for the increase (if we did, we might not have seen an increase in CO2 levels). Secondly, this schematic diagram of photosynthesis shows the first stage involves the photolysis of water by sunlight (this is the only place where oxygen is released to the atmosphere). This diagram is proof that sunlight (input 1) and H2O (input 2) are more important than CO2 (input 3) but each ingredient is considered a limiting factor to maximum photosynthetic productivity (it goes without saying that there is no release of oxygen on short days, cloudy days, or at night). The majority of plant life acquires water through roots rather than the atmosphere. Higher temperatures will evaporate a greater volume of water into the atmosphere making it bio-unavailable to plants. While more evaporation usually translates into more rain fall, higher temperatures will send it back into the atmosphere sooner.
  33. Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher (1632-1677). He was known for his radical views on religion and politics. As a young man, he was banned by his own religious community for his scandalous ideas. He made his living by grinding precision lens for scientists. He died young, at the age of 44, presumably from inhaling glass dust. Spinoza did not believe that God created the heavens and earth - the universe.  For Spinoza, God was equivalent to all of nature. He believed that "false religion" created superstition.  A "true religion," on the other hand, was liberating because it allowed freedom of thought. The Europe of 17th century was a place  of stifling religious orthodoxies, strife and war. Spinoza believed in freedom of thought and the principle of religious tolerance. Spinoza also had radical ideas about the nature of politics. He believed in democracy. He is credited with helping to shape the revolution in human thought known as The Enlightenment.
    CBC IDEAS host Paul Kennedy explores how Spinoza's thoughts on God, the universe, ethics and politics helped ignite the flame what became known as the Enlightenment.
    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/spinoza-1.2913483 Audio: 53:59
  34. RadiometerIn 1873, while investigating infrared radiation and the element thallium, the eminent Victorian experimenter Sir William Crookes developed a special kind of radiometer, an instrument for measuring radiant energy of heat and light. Crookes's Radiometer is today marketed as a conversation piece called a light-mill or solar engine. It consists of four vanes each of which is blackened on one side and silvered on the other. These are attached to the arms of a rotor which is balanced on a vertical support in such a way that it can turn with very little friction. The mechanism is encased inside a clear glass bulb which has been pumped out to a high, but not perfect, vacuum.
    • When sunlight falls on the light-mill, the vanes turn with the black surfaces apparently being pushed away by the light. But there is a problem with this explanation. Light falling on the black side should be absorbed, while light falling on the silver side of the vanes should be reflected. In that case the mill is turning the wrong way.
    • In 1901, with a better vacuum pump, Pyotr Lebedev showed that the radiometer only works when there is low pressure gas in the bulb but the vanes stay motionless in a hard vacuum. This is proof that the thermal properties of the low pressure gas are responsible for the motion, not the direct action of photons. Climate-Warming Food-for-thought: too much gas traps too much heat causing the machine to stop working.
    • The radiometer can also be made to rotate backwards in a refrigerator.
    • Other mistaken explanations for the radiometer: Since the black side of each vane would absorb heat from infrared radiation more than the silver side, then this would cause the rarefied gas to be heated on the black side.  In that case, the obvious explanation is that the pressure of the gas on the darker side increases with its temperature, creating a higher force on the dark side of the vane which thus pushes the rotor around.  Maxwell analyzed this theory carefully and discovered that, in fact, the warmer gas would simply expand in such a way that there would be no net force from this effect, just a steady flow of heat across the vanes.  So this explanation in terms of warm gas is wrong, but even the Encyclopedia Britannica gives this false explanation today.  A variation on this theme is that the motion of the hot molecules on the black side of the vane provide the push.  Again this is not correct, and could only work if the mean free path between molecular collisions were as large as the container, instead of its actual value of typically less than a millimeter.
    • The correct solution to the problem was provided qualitatively by Osborne Reynolds in 1879 in a paper to the Royal Society in which he considered what he called "thermal transpiration". To explain the radiometer, therefore, one must focus attention not on the faces of the vanes, but on their edges.  The faster molecules from the warmer side strike the edges obliquely and impart a higher force than the colder molecules.  Again, these are the same thermo-molecular forces responsible for Reynolds' thermal transpiration.  The effect is also known as thermal creep, since it causes gases to creep along a surface that has a temperature gradient.  The net movement of the vane due to the tangential forces around the edges is away from the warmer gas and towards the cooler gas, with the gas passing around the edge in the opposite direction.  The behavior is just as if there were a greater force on the blackened side of the vane (which as Maxwell showed is not the case); but the explanation must be in terms of what happens not at the faces of the vanes, but near their edges.
  • Humanity's coming Dark Age
  • STEM Book Recommendations (Dark Age antidote?)
  • Thomas PaineThomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote about many modern topics including "the importance of the separation between church and state" and "racial equality" (he proposed "abolishing slavery" 100 years before Lincoln). The following three titles are a "must read" for all modern citizens:
  • Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a self titled "moral philosopher" who developed economic theories with the intent of redistributing wealth to workers who were about to be displaced by the industrial revolution. Anyone reading Smith's books will come to the conclusion that American capitalism is based upon a synthesis of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin (survival of the greediest). Many things Americans attribute to Adam Smith are not found in his books (the 'invisible hand' is mentioned only once in a revised edition of WoN). What would he think about hedge funds and activist investors?  
  • The $2 Trillion Dollar War by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E Stiglitz
  •  Comparative Anthropology
  • the Enlightenment (my favorite topic)
Religion Health
TVO Logo Perimeter Institute Sentinel Mission Khan Academy Wikipedia Affiliate Button Way Back Machine science friday
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
A mysterious monolith awakens the imagination of humanity's distant ancestors.
A second monolith awaits humanity's giant leap to the moon. And in orbit around Jupiter,
a third monolith beckons humanity to transcend beyond the limits of of body and machine.
Click: 2001: A Space Odyssey @ Wikipedia

Feynman Diagram (animated) Feynman Diagram (static)
"All forces in the universe are mediated by particle exchange"
This "Feynman Diagram" (of electron repulsion) depicts the movement of two electrons (1 to 3 and 2 to 4) in space and time. A virtual photon transfers energy between them (5 to 6) causing them to repel each other.
To learn more:
1) brief explanation
2) detailed explanation
Legend: Y-Axis (up-down) is time while X-Axis (left-right) is space

Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Yes, this is the old "Laptops and Lederhosen" site