Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Hi-tech Community of Laptops and Lederhosen (Leather Pants)
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Latest atmospheric CO2 data
Historically, Earth's natural CO2 levels
oscillate between 180 and 280 ppm

  1. 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
  2. Officially, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization ) requires member counties to spend 1% of their annual GDP to purchase military arms for themselves so they will be able to contribute to collective self defense. In 2014 members verbally agreed to increase this amount to 2% by 2024. BTW, 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). Meanwhile, the EU (European Union) requires that member countries contribute 2% of GDP to Research & Development which includes CERN (one organization of many). And this got me thinking: one organization is committing to weapons of defense which could also be used as weapons of war (witness the recent aggressive action of NATO member "Turkey") while the other is committing to the peaceful sharing of knowledge. And then I read this in the 23-November-2019 issue of NewScientist

    “THE organization shall have no concern with work for military requirements and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available.” The second sentence of the second article of the “Convention for the Establishment of a European Organization for Nuclear Research”, signed by 12 countries on 29 September 1954, was a statement of visionary idealism in a world less than a decade on from the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such admirable principles led to the vast particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, that is now better known as CERN. The model championed by its founders, of peaceable scientific collaboration across borders with results freely available to all, has more than proved its worth. It can be measured not just in the contribution of CERN researchers to our understanding of the building blocks of reality, which culminated in the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, but also the technological spin-offs. Most notable of these was the World Wide Web, developed in the lab by Tim Berners-Lee and released to the world in 1993. Others include medical, computing and imaging technologies that have benefited humanity as a whole. CERN’s boss Fabiola Gianotti is right to be proud of the spirit of common human purpose her organisation embodies (see “CERN boss: Big physics may be in a funk, but we need it more than ever”). Its work relies on combining expertise from across theoretical and experimental science, technology and engineering to solve cutting-edge challenges. As Gianotti points out, that often involves cooperation between scientists from countries whose leaders refuse to sit down and talk to each other. Click here to read more
  3. author: Gwynne DyerThe fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 years ago on Saturday, was one of the best parties I ever went to, and certainly the longest. But it was also quite frightening, because nobody knew what was coming out of the box next. There had been scary moments in Germany during the Cold War, of course, with Soviet troops in the eastern part and troops from practically every western country in the western part, but a divided Germany had become part of the landscape. The Associated Press Files Germans from east and west stand on the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Nov. 10, 1989. For many people on both sides, in fact, it was a quite satisfactory landscape. As François Mauriac once said: "I love Germany so much I’m glad there are two of them." For the older generation of Europeans, Germany had always been the problem (two world wars), and the post-1945 division of the country was a kind of solution, since it kept foreign troops in both parts of Germany. They weren’t formally occupation forces anymore, but they served as a sort of guarantee nevertheless. And now, in November 1989, that solution was collapsing. On a brief visit to Moscow just weeks before the wall came down, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher told Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader: "We do not want the reunification of Germany. It would lead to changes in the (post-1945) borders that would undermine the stability of the entire international situation." Indeed, Thatcher added, Gorbachev should ignore any statements to the contrary by the West. The NATO alliance might have to make pro-reunification statements to keep its German partner happy, but the other members didn’t really want to abandon the postwar settlement and "de-communize" eastern Europe. But she was wrong about that. Most of the senior politicians in what was not yet called the European Union understood that German reunification was a risk that had to be accepted. There was a new German generation in charge, and you had to trust them. Western Europe’s other leaders also understood that "de-communizing" eastern Europe might finally deliver the free and democratic Europe that should have followed the victory over Hitler in 1945, and they had the steady support of U.S. president George H.W. Bush in both those choices. But it really was a gamble, and it might all have gone wrong. A reunited Germany could once again have used its wealth, numbers and central position to seek domination over Europe, as it had done under both the Kaisers and the Nazis. The countries of eastern Europe, freed from Russian rule, might have ended up as a string of squabbling tinpot dictatorships, as most of them did when they first got their freedom after the First World War. The main reason it didn’t all end in tears was the European Union, a more comprehensive version of the existing European Economic Community that was negotiated in 1990-92 and declared in 1993. Creating the EU (and giving it a common currency, the euro) provided a structure big and strong enough to contain a united Germany and not be dominated by it. It also saved the former "satellite" countries of eastern Europe from a potentially ugly fate. The EU countries had all the things that Poles, Slovaks and Bulgarians longed for: prosperity, personal freedom and democracy. And although it is not a charitable institution, the EU decided to let the eastern European countries join, provided that they also became law-abiding and relatively uncorrupt democracies. So that’s exactly what they did. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not lead automatically to the benign reunification of Germany. It created the opportunity for positive change, but making it happen took clear thinking and hard political work. The happy outcome in eastern Europe was not some quirk of fate, either. It was the product of social engineering on an international scale. There is no "German question" today. It has been solved. The economies of eastern European countries are far bigger than they were 30 years ago (four times bigger for Romania, six times for Poland), and average incomes are catching up. In 1990, Poles earned only a quarter of what Germans did; now it’s almost two-thirds. There are some problems with populist/nationalist regimes in Poland and Hungary at the moment, but it’s still far better there politically than it ever was before 1989. It’s better everywhere — so why is the United Kingdom, the second-biggest member of this organization that has put an end to centuries of war and tyranny in Europe, now planning to leave the EU? Because the English don’t get it. Britain is an island that hasn’t been successfully invaded for almost a millennium, so they don’t realize that the EU is primarily about preserving democracy and keeping the peace. They think it’s just an economic deal, and a lot of them believe (mistakenly) that they can get a better deal elsewhere. They are, as Napoleon allegedly remarked, "a nation of shopkeepers." (Actually, it was Adam Smith who said it first.) A nation of shopkeepers who haven’t even noticed that their shops are closing down.
  4. How many trees are there on Earth? Space missions to measure planet's biomass including GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation)
    Read more:

  5. After reading James Lovelock's recent book titled Novacene I have come to the conclusion that the arguments by some to keep the fossil fuel business going now appear to be as misguided as arguments to keep the whale oil business going.
    Quote from page 116: It is horrific that our leaders, almost all of whom are wholly ignorant of science and engineering, are encouraging the development of fill-this-blank. Their ignorance is compounded by an inability to reject the advice of lobbyists whose sole aim seems to be to profit from whatever can be made to seem an environmental hazard.

  6. Question: Why has no other country tried to leave the EU ? Answer: in part, unlike most modern states, Britain does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments and conventions. This whole thing relies upon the good behavior of civilized politicians (which appear to be mostly absent in the past decade).
  7. A new movie from producers James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. Click this link then click the "watch trailer" button
  8. On Contact: Dismantling security tales – Host Chris Hedges talks to Dr. Charles Derber about how the capitalist state uses fear bolstered by racism as a tool to control the people, and through their efforts to abolish civil liberties, crush dissent and extinguish democratic space. Derber is the author of a new book, ‘Moving Beyond Fear: Upending the Security Tales in Capitalism, Fascism and Democracy,’ with Yale R. Magrass.
  9. 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)
  10. 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.
  11. Okay so here's what I don't understand: The United States claims to be a Christian nation. It also claims to be a purveyor of democracy and yet it is best friends with Saudi Arabia (a theocratic absolute monarchy without elections who citizens were been behind the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington -and- recently murdered Jamal Khashoggi) while it dislikes Iran (a presidential republic with elections). To make matters worse, America sells military hardware to the Saudis who use it to attack countries like Yemen. If you claim to be a Christian then you need to ask yourself what Jesus would think about all this? Check out this bible quote:

    Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
    BTW, it is the United States who is in violation of the 2015 non-nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran, not Iran. Most observers agree that this agreement worked well until the United States unilaterally exited the deal in 2018 then followed up with economic sanctions. It is this political action taken by the United States which is making the world a more dangerous place to live. Because of the unwarranted sanctions, Iran had no choice other than to resume uranium refinement in order to bring the US back to the table then drop the economic sanctions.
  12. Donald Trump may have popularized the phrase Fake News but questionable journalism has been with us for a long time (see: Yellow journalism) and in many instances has been used to justify military action. So here is a small table of some recent examples
    Year Reported Event True/
    1898 Attack on USS Maine false Spanish-American War
    1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident false Vietnam War
    2003 Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction false Iraq War
    2011 Libyan rape allegations false NATO intervention into Libya (creates ISIS)
    comment: Wikileaks informs us that Hillary Clinton (as Secretary of State) triggered the NATO military intervention into Libya (although it happened under Obama's presidency so history will leave him to blame). Under the current American administration, Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State) and John Bolton (National Security Advisor) appear to be pushing for a military attack on Iran. If this happens, historians will blame Donald Trump.
    update-1: Kudos to President Trump for not listening to hawkish advisors urging him to attack Iran. He cancelled his attack orders on Iran when one advisor said that at least 150 Iranians would die
    update-2: The US military claims to have just shot down an Iranian drone. How do they know it was Iranian? No one has shown any photos and it appears that no one has confiscated any drone wreckage for analysis. Of course, it is entirely possible that another state actor (Saudi Arabia or Israel) was flying the drone in the region attempting to pull the Americans into another military conflict (see Gulf of Tonkin incident just above)
  13. Ecologic BrandsCanada has just announced following the lead of Europe in banning single-use plastics by 2021. This is a good thing because 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 and stupid. This is made worse by the fact that less than 20% 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.

    Notice the powered protein 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 haven't 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.

    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
  14. 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 block 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.
  15. Bertrand RussellThe whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

    Bertrand Russell
  16. 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.
  17. Debt and Tyranny
    About 200 years ago, Scottish professor Alexander Fraser Tytler said (paraphrased): that no democracy can survive much more than 200 years without collapsing from its own debt. He went on to say that this is the natural consequence once people discover that they can vote for the politicians who give them the most gifts; and the politicians know it. He also said tyranny always follows.
    comment-1: As of 2018 the the American Federal debt sits at 21 trillion (21 followed by twelve zeros) dollars. Meanwhile, the Canadian Federal debt sits at slightly over 630 billion dollars (provincial debt puts total debt well over 1 trillion)
    comment-2: Anyone with a basic understanding of economics will quickly realize that servicing this debt will divert a huge amount of money away from desired social programs. For example, 2% of 21-trillion, compounded annually, is 420-billion (America). Meanwhile, 2% of 1-trillion, compounded annually, is 20-billion (Canada).
    comment-3: Most people in the west, including me, prefer democracy over communism. And yet, China seems to be doing a lot better. Let's put the debt-to-GDP ratio aside for a moment and only consider population size versus total debt: China's population is four times larger than America's while China's debt is four times smaller at 5 trillion. Therefore, China's debt-to-population ratio is ~ 16 smaller.
  18. 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 20 cm (~ 8 in) between 1900 and 2000 which equates to 2 mm per year. Radar measurements by satellites show the new value as 3.2 mm per year (and rising). So even if you do not accept the values published in this recent article, sea level is absolutely guaranteed to rise an additional 32 cm (~ 12 in) between 2000 and 2100. Remember that this rise is vertical.
    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 128 units past 280 which is taking 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 melting which causes the ocean levels to rise albeit slowly. The industrial age increased co2 from 280 to the current value of 408 so can we assume that we will see the oceans rise another 128 feet? Remember that this only assumes that "one foot" was an accurate starting point because 1.2 might be more accurate -AND- that co2 levels stay at 408 ppm which seems very unlikely

  19. Excerpt from Episode 8 of The Anthropocene Reviewed:  Climate change is probably the biggest challenge facing humans, and I fear people of the future will judge us harshly for our failure to do something about it. They will likely learn in their history books—correctly—that as a species we knew that carbon emissions were affecting the planet’s climate back in the 1970s, and they will learn—correctly—about the efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to limit carbon emissions, efforts that ultimately failed for complicated and multifaceted reasons that I assume the history books of the future will have boiled down into a single narrative. And I suspect that our choices will seem unforgiveable and even unfathomable to the people reading those history books. Charles Dudley Warner is known for one other quote. “It is fortunate,” he wrote, “that each generation does not comprehend its own ignorance. We are thus enabled to call our ancestors barbarous.”
  20. Economists' dogmas don't always add up (from New Scientist Letters):
    In comparing the opinions of economists with those of the general public, Pascal Boyer makes an interesting point (22 September, p 40). But from there he works on the assumption that the economists are right. As a scientist, I prefer to use observation rather than opinion in my work, and the 2008 global financial crisis is enough to make one suspicious of economists. Let's take one of Boyer's examples: “While 69 per cent of the public saw excessive executive pay as a reason the economy wasn't doing better, just 12 per cent of economists did.” Yet in the two powerhouses of the post-war economy, Germany and Japan, executive salaries are much lower than in the US, UK and Australia.
    continued on page-52: New Scientist (27 October 2018)
    comment: during post-WW2 reconstruction, both Germany and Japan were advised by Americans to place upper limits on executive income. During their powerhouse decades these countries limited executive pay to 20 and 25 times the average wage of rank-and-file employees.
  21. BREXIT: the Disaster Movie! ::
    comment: we're going to give the British people what they voted for, but if anything goes wrong it will be the fault of the European Union
    Americans might want to watch this new Netflix movie titled: The Great Hack
  22. 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 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:
  23. 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.
  24. beach covered with one-time use plasticThe European Union has just 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 that if something isn't done now, then by 2050 there would be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
  25. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 16 times larger: There’s even more plastic in the Pacific than we thought. At least 79,000 tons of plastic are floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That’s four to sixteen times as much as was estimated by two studies in 2014. The Garbage Patch is an area of 1.6 million square kilometers between Hawaii and California. There, floating debris – from microscopic particles of plastic to large pieces like ropes and fishing nets – is carried by currents and accumulates. Similar patches exist in other oceans. Researchers gathered data from aerial surveys and nets towed by ships, and fed it into a computer model. This showed there is around one kilogram of plastic per square kilometer in the outer regions, rising to more than 100kg/km2 near the center. Earlier studies probably greatly underestimated the mass of plastic because they were not as comprehensive. For instance, they had to rely on spotting flotsam from boats, rather than on aerial surveys. But the team that carried out the latest study says there has also been a real increase in the mass of plastic.
  26. powel and haley
    Colin Powell and Nikki Haley selling
    religious war at the United Nations.
    Deism offers us an opportunity, right now, to, as Thomas Paine wrote about the American Revolution, "begin the world over again." This is much more important than most people realize. Why?

    Objectively looking at our world today, we see there are literally billions of people who believe man-made books that are steeped in ancient fear, ignorance and nonsense while claiming to be God's communication with humanity. Books which promote religious violence on a global scale and which teach that The Supreme Intelligence/God ordered people to commit acts of genocide against their neighbors. Is it any wonder our world today suffers from so much religious violence?

    All of the Abrahamic "revealed" religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have "holy" scriptures which promote religious violence. The Abrahamic "revealed" religion that arguably has the most influence on US government policy makers, policy makers who have the very real ability to start wars, is Judaism. This is due primarily to the raw political power of the Israel lobby and to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament based neoconservative movement.

    These two powerful and influential organizations were successful in getting US politicians from both parties to start the Iraq War for the benefit if the Jewish state of Israel. They are now working, in much the same way as they did 15 years ago to start the Iraq War, to get US politicians to start a war for the same reasons against Iran.

    Fifteen years ago Lawrence Wilkerson was US Secretary of State Colon Powell's chief of staff. He was involved in helping Powell sell the lie that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction in order to win support for a US war against Iraq. Wilkerson has written an important article in the New York Times about the parallels between that successful effort to start the Iraq War and the current effort to start a war against Iran. (Click here for an article about the pro-Israel editorial policy of the New York Times.)

    When we stop and realize the religious basis for the Iraq War and for the desired war against Iran, the vital importance of Deism becomes clear. If enough people were educated about Deism and held Deistic beliefs instead of nonsensical and harmful beliefs promoted by the "revealed" religions, it would be much more difficult for the powers that be to wage religious wars, and we would have a much better world for ourselves and for future generations.

    comment: only uneducated bumpkins are anti-Semitic. The author of this blurb is criticizing Zionism
  27. 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
  28. Artificial Neural Nets
  29. Science is Bigger Than Politics - Neil deGrasse Tyson on: Science, Abraham Lincoln, Immigrants, Immigrant Nobel Prizes, Protectionism, Science Denial, and the Fading of America (this side of Y2K)

    The downfall of Islam - Neil deGrasse Tyson (5:58 video) (13:45 video)
    Comment: I post this because the rise of Christian religious fundamentalism in North America appears to be following a similar path to that of Islam after Al-Ghazali almost a millennia ago. Does any rational person believe that a deity will answer prayers to save us from ourselves? It is more likely that we are meant to use the natural gifts we have been given to workout solutions for ourselves.
  30. Okay so here's what I don't understand: The United States claims to be a Christian nation. It also claims to be a purveyor of democracy and yet it is best friends with Saudi Arabia (a theocratic monarchy without elections) while it dislikes Iran (a theocratic democracy with elections). To make matters worse, America sells military hardware to the Saudis who use it to attack countries like Yemen. If you claim to be a Christian then you need to ask yourself what Jesus would think about this?
  31. 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
  32. 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
  33. In 2014, NATO member countries agreed to increase the amount they spend on military defense to 2% of GDP within a decade (caveat: The 2% target is described as a guideline; There is no penalty for not meeting it). EU member countries are required to invest 2% of their GDP in EU scientific R&D (Research & Development). 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.
  34. Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? No, me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data. Creationists, for example, dispute the evidence for evolution in fossils and DNA because they are concerned about secular forces encroaching on religious faith. Anti-vaxxers distrust big pharma and think that money corrupts medicine, which leads them to believe that vaccines cause autism despite the inconvenient truth that the one and only study claiming such a link was retracted and its lead author accused of fraud. The 9/11 truthers focus on minutiae like the melting point of steel in the World Trade Center buildings that caused their collapse because they think the government lies and conducts “false flag” operations to create a New World Order. Climate deniers study tree rings, ice cores and the PPM of greenhouse gases because they are passionate about freedom, especially that of markets and industries to operate unencumbered by restrictive government regulations. Obama birthers desperately dissected the president’s long-form birth certificate in search of fraud because they believe that the nation’s first African-American president is a socialist bent on destroying the country. Click here to read more.
    Quote: There is research indicating that misinformed people rarely change their minds, even when presented with facts. They merely pursue alternative facts which creates a stupidity feedback loop. Read more here: Religion in politics
  35. Skeptic Magazine ( ) contains a story about a contest Alfred Russel Wallace entered in 1870 to prove the Earth was round. (see: 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
  36. 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?
  37. Two neat quotes from Winston Churchill which seem at odds with conservative talk-radio programs
    • The independence of the courts is, to all of us, the guarantee of freedom and the equal rule of law... It must, therefore, be the first concern of the citizens of a free country to preserve and maintain the independence of the courts of justice, however inconvenient that independence may be, on occasion, to the government of the day.
    • On August 17, 1949, on the occasion of the first session of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Sir Winston Churchill expressed the wish that once an agreement on Fundamental Human Rights was achieved on a European level, it would be possible to create an International (European) Court before which any violation of such rights might be submitted for judgment by the civilized world.
  38. Facts, Theory, Hypothesis, Law: Explained!
    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)
  39. 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"

    1. algebra with fruitThis graphical algebra problem employs picture symbols rather than x, y and z. Calculate the answer.
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
    2. "All flowers need water. All roses need water. Therefore, all roses are flowers". Is this logically true?
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
    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?
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
    4. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
    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?
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
    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?
      (hover your mouse here to reveal the answer)
  40. 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.
  41. 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. Audio: 53:59
  42. 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.
  • Thomas PaineHumanity's coming Dark Age
  • STEM Book Recommendations (Dark Age antidote?)
  • Thomas 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

Visit the Dilbert Zone... Dilbert Zone:

Personal e-mail: Neil Rieck

Spirits In The Material World

There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution

We are spirits in the material world

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
They subjugate the meek
But it's the rhetoric of failure

We are spirits in the material world

Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it's something we can't buy
There must be another way

We are spirits in the material world

The Police (Ghosts in the Machine)

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth/Minbari war. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal, to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call - home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5. - Commander Sinclair
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