Neil Rieck
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Hi-tech Community of Laptops and Lederhosen (Leather Pants)
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  1. Scientists call for BREXIT cooperation
    LEADING scientists from across Europe have written to UK and EU leaders, urging them to agree a BREXIT deal that preserves scientific cooperation. The letter was signed by 29 Nobel laureates, including Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, and six winners of the Fields Medal, the biggest prize in mathematics. According to the society, the UK received €8.8 billion out of a total of €107 billion of EU research grants between 2007 and 2013. Many of the largest grants are given to consortia that span countries. “Creating new barriers to such ease of collaboration will inhibit progress, to the detriment of us all,” the letter says. The Francis Crick Institute, a medical research centre in London, revealed this week that 78 per cent of the EU scientists working there said they would be less likely to stay in the UK after BREXIT. This print article appeared on the web under the headline “Nobel laureates sign letter expressing BREXIT concerns”Larger article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2183679-scientists-should-use-their-clout-to-get-a-less-bad-brexit-for-all/
  2. NASA/JPL lands another test vehicle on Mars: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/
  3. Ask anyone on the street "tell me something about Christopher Columbus" and you will usually get the answer "he discovered the world was round". But this answer ignores the fact that scientists knew the world was round more than 1732 years before that. Although there was much philosophical speculation by Greeks like Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle, Eratosthenes (Era-tost-en-eez) performed a scientific experiment in 240 BC to prove Earth was spherical. Could this be one reason why people on the street do not believe in anthropogenic climate change even though 97% of peer-reviewed scientists say otherwise?
    --- --- --- --- ---
    Young people with little to no understanding of science might wish to start here: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/greenhouse-effect/
  4. A black elephant event is a cross between a "black swan" - a rare, low probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications - and "the elephant in the room: a problem that is widely visible to everyone, yet that no one wants to address, even though we absolutely know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences. Currently there are a herd of environmental black elephants gathering out there" - global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, and mass biodiversity extinction, just to name four. Yet somehow this has not penetrated the mass consciousness of Washington D.C. or the Republican party. "During the cold war we wrote a blank check to deter a low-probability event (nuclear war) with high-consequence" observed Robert Litwak. "Now we won't even spend a nickel [tax] on gasoline to deter a high-probability event (climate change) with high consequence"
    Page-158 of: Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman
  5. 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.
  6. If you are tired of the current political divisiveness where politicians refute arguments by shouting "fake news" then this book is for you. The Art of Logic (2018) Eugenia Cheng.
  7. BREXIT: the Disaster Movie! :: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAK-gSYtv3w
    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
  8. They STILL haven't dropped the other shoe. The "Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C" contains terrifying forecasts about what will happen when we reach an average global temperature one-and-a-half degrees C higher than the pre-industrial average. (We are now at +1 C.) But it still shies away from talking about the feedbacks, the refugees and mass death. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ordered this special report in 2015, after the Paris climate agreement effectively admitted that the traditional target — stopping the warming before it reaches two degrees C higher — had been set too high. By then, really bad things would already be happening. So all the countries that want to stop the warming before it goes runaway (everybody except the United States) formally kept the "never exceed" target of +2 C, but said that governments should "aspire" to stop the warming earlier, at +1.5 C. And they asked the IPCC to figure out how hard that would be. The answer, revealed at a meeting in South Korea last Sunday, is: very hard. We have effectively wasted the past 30 years, since the climate change threat first became known, and there is now very little time left. In order to skid to a halt, brakes on hard, before we hit +1.5 C, we will have to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by almost half (45 per cent) in the next 12 years. To cut emissions that fast by 2030, we would have to decide to close down all the remaining coal-fired power plants within the next two years. It would take the next decade to get that done and get the same energy from expanded renewable sources (water, wind and solar), leaving us just on track to reach zero emissions by 2050. Climate scientist John Skea, who worked on the report, summed it up: "Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes." Changes of a scale that people would readily accept if they faced an imminent invasion by Nazis or Martians — but that they are less willing to make when their whole environment is at risk. Humans are funny that way. The report is a bracing dose of realism in many ways. It effectively says that we can't afford to go anywhere near +2 C. It talks bluntly about the need to end all fossil fuel use, reforest vast tracts of marginal land, and cut down on meat-eating. It even admits that we will probably have to resort to geo-engineering — "solar radiation management," in the jargon. So far, so good. At least it's being honest about the problem — but only up to a point. "Not in front of the children" is still the rule for governments when it comes to talking about the mass movements of refugees and the civil and international wars that will erupt when the warming cuts into the food supply. And they still don't want to talk openly about the feedbacks. The governments take climate change very seriously these days, but they worry that too much frankness about the cost in lives of going past 1.5 C will create irresistible pressure on them to take radical action now. In the ensuing struggle between the scientists and the politicians, the executive summary always gets toned down. What got removed from the summary this time was any mention of "significant population displacement concentrated in the tropics" at +2 C (i.e. mass migrations away from stricken regions, smashing up against borders elsewhere that are slammed shut against the refugees). Even worse, "tipping points" are barely mentioned in the report. These are the dreaded feedbacks — loss of Arctic sea ice, melting of the permafrost, carbon dioxide and methane release from the oceans — that would trigger unstoppable, runaway warming. They are called "feedbacks" because they are self-reinforcing processes that are unleashed by the warming we have already caused, and which we cannot shut off even if we end all of our own emissions. If you don't go into the feedbacks, then you can't talk about runaway warming, and going to 4, 5 or 6 C higher average global temperature, and hundreds of millions or billions of deaths. And if you don't acknowledge that, then you will not treat this as the emergency it really is.
    Gwynne Dyer (2018-10-14)
    comment: Gwynne Dyer's book 'Climate Wars' was published ten years ago in 2008. Unfortunately, almost every word in it is still true.
  9. 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D99qI42KGB0
  10. If you are worried about the rise of populism in western politics, or are worried about the next economic crash then I suggest you read the book: America: The Farewell Tour (2018) Chris Hedges. If you do not have the inclination to read another book at this time, then watch one of these video interviews with the author.
  11. 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.
  12. Climate's Surprise Effect on Plants: NO ONE expected this. In the longest-running experiment of its kind, plants that were supposed to thrive in higher carbon dioxide levels have instead done less well. The finding suggests plants won’t take up as much CO2 in the future as climate models assume – potentially leading to greater warming in the long term. “To get this result is startling,” says Peter Reich at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, whose team ran a 20-year study of how high CO2 levels affect grasslands. This study shows we must be cautious when predicting how complex systems behave, he says. “There could be surprises.” Plants make themselves out of the carbon they get from CO2. For most of Earth’s history, levels of the gas in the air were higher than today, and the planet was hotter. But 30 million years ago, CO2 levels fell and the ice ages began. Low CO2 is a huge problem for plants because the enzyme that captures the molecule often grabs hold of oxygen instead – a mistake that wastes lots of energy. The lower that CO2 levels fall, the more often this mistake occurs. But some plants, known as C4 plants, have evolved a solution. They concentrate CO2 in their cells, effectively recreating the ancient atmosphere. These plants outcompete normal “C3” plants. Just 3 per cent of plant species on land – mostly grasses – are C4, but they make up a fifth of plant biomass. It was thought that C4 plants wouldn’t grow more if CO2 rises, but C3 plants would. This idea was well on its way to becoming a “scientific fact”, as it has been seen in many short experiments in which plants have been exposed to higher levels of CO2. It is also what Reich saw during the first 12 years of his study, which involves more than 300 grassland plots planted with C3 and C4 plants. But then C3 plants grown in higher CO2 began producing less biomass than the same plants grown in ambient CO2. Meanwhile, the C4 plants grown in higher CO2 started outperforming those grown in normal levels (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9313). “It’s a result that contradicts well-established theory,” says Belinda Medlyn at Western Sydney University in Australia. “It is indeed surprising.” Further studies by Reich and his team suggest a reason. In high-CO2 air, less nitrogen is available to the C3 plants while more is available to the C4. They think this may be because the extra CO2 is affecting either the symbiotic fungi associated with the roots of plants, or the soil microbes that break down organic matter and release the nitrogen. If they are correct, land areas are likely to soak up less carbon in the future, as most plants are C3. The findings shouldn’t apply to crops fertilised with nitrogen, though. “I really think the study should be replicated elsewhere, though I’m not aware of such a long-running experiment anywhere else,” says David Ellsworth, also at Western Sydney University. Satellite studies show Earth is getting greener due to climate change, but for complex reasons. For instance, trees are sprouting in northern regions where it used to be too cold for them.
  13. The 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Quote: "Politics and religion are obsolete. The time has come for science and spirituality".
    Often quoted by Arthur C. Clarke as one of his favorite remarks of Jawaharlal Nehru, (who was attempting to nudge India into the direction of non-violence and tolerance), some of the earliest citations indicate that Nehru may himself been either quoting or paraphrasing a statement of Vinoba Bhave.

    comment: Both politics and religion are divisive; often resulting in conflict which many times results in violence. Liberals and Conservatives talk past each other with closed ears and minds. Meanwhile, Catholics blame protestants for the "big schism in Christianity" while ignoring their role in the larger East-West Schism where Rome attempted to excommunicate the Eastern Orthodox world. I still do not understand how some Christians can be anti-Semitic while being ignorant of the fact that Jesus was a Jew; one who was NOT trying to start a new religion. I do not understand how many Christians are able to support violence of any kind, including war, when they know that Jesus professed non-violence. Two thousand years after Jesus, the world appears to be more violent which prompts me to believe that the only path forward is to replace "Politics and Religion" with "Science and Spirituality"
    comment-2: If the Eastern church is orthodox then doesn't that make the Western church (and everything that descended from it) unorthodox and heretical?
  16. X-Files for Nerds: 2018-02-28 episode (that's Feb-28 for you Yanks) of The X-Files was titled "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" which is base64 for "Followers". But I am surprised that no one is talking about the base64 error seen at the start of the program. It reads "VGhlIFRydXRoIGlzIE91dCBUaGVyZQ=" which translates to "The Truth is Out There" but there are two problem. First, the base64 encoding algorithm requires that "one-to-three characters always be encoded by four" and this means padding. So the resultant base64 message should have read "VGhlIFRydXRoIGlzIE91dCBUaGVyZQ==" (notice the second equals sign?). You can verify this at anyone of the online base64 encode-decode sites (here is one example) or do it on your own computer "from the command line" if the full OpenSSL package is installed. Secondly, I think  "THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE" is always displayed in uppercase.
  17. quote: You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, 'Look at that, you son of a bitch'
    Edgar D. Mitchell - Apollo 14
  18. 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.

    comment: only uneducated bumpkins are anti-Semitic. The author of this blurb is criticizing Zionism

    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.
  19. 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
  20. Artificial Neural Nets
  21. Excerpt from New Scientist letters: I congratulate Tiffany O'Callaghan for keeping the warning about the hazards of sugar alive and in our faces (New Scientist: 9 September, p 52). It's all too easy to say, “Oh, I know all that. One jelly bean won't hurt.” The undeniable science now is that it will hurt. Sucrose is the perfect slow poison – a 40-year poison. Not even Hercule Poirot could have connected the dots, the effect being so delayed. But sucrose is toxic; make no mistake. Before 1874, when the UK abolished a tax on sugar and was suddenly flooded with it, myocardial infarction was extremely rare in the literature. By 1900, we see the first myocardial infarction ever recorded. There was no name for type 2 diabetes before 1900 because it was so rare as to be considered a medical curiosity. By the early 20th century, there were over 30 million cases in sugar-rich countries. Nowadays, we don't have to wait 40 years to see sucrose's effects: childhood obesity is pandemic.
  22. 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
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHPfAtPiXXs (5:58 video)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvkBlpfbFJM (13:45 video)
    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 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.
  23. “HELLO, I’m Claude Shannon, a mathematician here at the Bell Telephone Laboratories,” says the lean man in a suit and tie as the camera zooms in and a jaunty jingle plays. It is 1952 and for engineers and mathematicians, Shannon is already a legend who needs no introduction. To the millions of viewers across the US, he is still unknown – but not for long. Shannon was in a promotional film to demonstrate Theseus, a wooden mouse with copper whiskers that was about to become a national sensation. Like its mythological namesake, the mouse was an expert at solving labyrinths. After finding its way through a metal-walled maze to a piece of metallic “cheese” by blind trial and error, Theseus (video) could recall the path and navigate the maze perfectly on its next try. It could even adapt if the maze’s walls were moved. As Shannon tells the camera, “solving a problem and remembering the solution involves a certain level of mental activity, something akin, perhaps, to a brain”. For the Americans watching, Theseus was astounding: nothing less than a thinking machine.

    Continued here: New Scientist (12 August 2017)

  24. Starting in the 1950s, the big three American TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) provided news as a non-profit service. The PBS News Hour started in 1975. CNN began offering 24 hour news in 1980. FOX NEWS and MSNBC both started in 1996. On slow news days, the big networks will fill the gap with political banter from talking-heads "which is not news". The pursuit of corporate profit was taken to extremes by Les Moonves of CBS who decided (during the presidential primaries) to preferentially air Donald Trump interviews because "It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS". Have you noticed that news content from PBS, BBC America, and RT America is totally different from big corporate for-profit networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX and MSNBC)? In fact, a lot of the Russian collusion theories seem to consume most of the bandwidth of for-profit corporate news outlets.
  25. 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? If you are a deist then you need to ask yourself if this makes sense at all.
  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 2-brothers 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 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
  28. 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.
  29. 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
  30. Isaac Asimov’s Favorite Story “The Last Question” read by Isaac Asimov
    http://www.openculture.com/2015/06/isaac-asimovs-favorite-story-the-last-question-read-by-isaac-asimov.html
    Here is the text in case you want to read along: http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html
  31. Isaac Asimov on PBS

    Isaac Asimov PhD
    (Biochemistry)

    "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: Fact: the "ignorace" quote now seems to apply to other English-speaking countries including Britain, Canada, and Australia to only name three of many.
    Questions:
    • 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?
  32. Carl Sagan on Global Warming (Cosmos Update - 1990)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ5u-l9Je0s
    quote: For our own world the peril is more subtle.  Since this series was first broadcast the dangers of the increasing greenhouse effect have become much more clear.  We burn fossil fuels like coal and gas and petroleum putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and thereby heating the Earth.  The hellish conditions on Venus are a reminder that this is serious business. Computer models that successfully explain the climates of other planets predict the deaths of forests, parched croplands, the flooding of coastal cities, the environmental refugees, widespread disasters in the next century unless we change our ways. What do we have to do? Four things ...
  33. A few neat quotes from Winston Churchill which are at odds with stuff I hear when passing by talk-radio programs
    • A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject
    • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
    • 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.
  34. 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 is a proposed explanation
      1. the Sun moves around the Earth (jump to step 3a)
      2. the Earth moves around the Sun (jump to step 3b)
    3. Theory is a tested Hypothesis
      1. test of hypothesis 2a...
        • passes (until the era of precision measurements) so jump to step 4 to build models (mathematical, mechanical, computer-based)
        • fails during the era of precision measurements (Tycho Brahe) so go back to step 2 to develop hypothesis 2b
      2. test of hypothesis 2b passes (we have a theoretical understanding of the issue) so jump to step 4
    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)
      • a successful theory produces yet-unobserved predictions (eg. Atomic Theory, Theory of Gravitation)
      • improved observations (new facts) through newer instrumentation may force us back to step 2 (eg. General Relativity)
  35. 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 Newtons' 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. 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)
  37. 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
  38. 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.
  39. I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
    John F. Kennedy (D)
    Sept. 12, 1960
  40. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
    April 16, 1953
  41. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness... The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance
  42. In 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.
    Observations/Explanations:
    • 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.
  43. Isaac Asimov PhD
    Isaac Asimov PhD
    Isaac Asimov = Hari Seldon?
     
    Back in 2004, Isaac Asimov (already dead for 12 years) sent all of humanity a message from 1988. Does this remind you of the posthumous messages sent by Hari Seldon to all of humanity? Click here for more information.
     
    p.s. this has nothing to do with the occult (nothing at this web site does)
  44. Folding@Home and BOINC. Learn how YOU can utilize spare resources on YOUR computer to cure human diseases by helping scientists discover how protein molecules fold and misfold. Isaac Asimov would have loved this (click the link to learn why).
  45. Guaranteed Human Life Extension - quantity as well as quality. This is not a joke or scam but it will cost you $6.00 per month and you must act now.
Humanity
  • Thomas Paine
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote many things including "the importance of the separation between church and state" and "racial equality" (he even 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 those people who were about to be displaced by the industrial revolution. After reading Smith's book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, I have 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 book. On top of this, Adam Smith is considered one of the founders of anti-mercantilist thought. I think it is safe to say that he would be against economic globalism.
  • The $2 Trillion Dollar War by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E Stiglitz
  • Humanity's Coming Dark Age
  • Comparative Anthropology
  • the Enlightenment (my favorite topic)
Religion Health
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"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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