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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
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General interest science moved here
NATO OTAN moved here

400ky of atmospheric CO2

Natural CO2 levels oscillate from 180 to 280 ppm every 120K years

  1. A few thoughts on Education. First off, you might wish to listen to this podcast (heard on NPR) which informs the listener how government-sponsored education transformed China from a very backward country to a modern juggernaut (caveat: this history ends with Mao so does not contain any information from the second educational wave instituted by Deng Xiaoping which I personally witnessed in Boston more than 40 years ago when I was training as a computer engineer.
    comments: If you agree with me that an educated society is the primary factor in becoming/remaining relevant in the modern world, then:
    (1) why do western governments institute austerity programs which result in defunding public education?
    (2) why do western governments support sectarian (religious-based) education?
    (3) why do western governments allow home schooling where many parent secretly focus on a religious-based education? (only desirable if you want to produce a society of priests and nuns)
    (4) why do western governments allow investors to make a huge amount of money on student loans, which only serve to temper higher levels of education? (perhaps "education" and "health care" should be run without market-place incentives)
    (1) Sal Khan of Khan Academy on 'How I Built This' (42-min) speaks about using A.I. to help teachers educate students. This is not a magic bullet since it requires all students to have access to an internet-connected computer.
    (2) Advanced Placement (many times just known as "AP")
  2. Electoral Reform.
    Fair Vote Canada
    This chart uses Canada as an example of what went wrong in 2015 where Liberal votes (39%) were overrepresented in parliament while all others (61%) were underrepresented. Take note that on the world stage, not a single democracy formed, or reformed, since world-war-2 has selected first-past-the-post. Many countries adopted Proportional Representation 
    To learn more:
    Canada fairvote.ca
    UK makevotesmatter.org.uk
    USA fairvote.org
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_electoral_systems_by_country
    2. University of Waterloo professor, Byron Weber Becker, has published a set of computer simulations based upon historical voting statistics. These simulations indicate that the Alternative Vote (AV) scheme used in Australia is worse than first-past-the-post. Caveats: note that Alternative Vote is just first-past-the-post with ranked ballots. BTW, this scheme was used in Alberta approximately 100 years ago.
    3. Andrew Coyne: The Way Forward on Electoral Reform in Canada and What’s Wrong With How We Vote?
    4. John Cleese (Monty Python) discusses FPTP problems in Britain
    5. History shows that costly errors are usually associated with majority wins because fewer people are involved in decision making. Food-for-thought: British politicians of all parties agreed to quietly work together under Churchill during WW2. Everything went well (politically speaking) until the end of the war when party bickering resumed. If Britain had adopted proportional representation, then I suspect:
      Britain would have applied to join the EU in 1952 rather than 1962 (they joined in 1973) Winston Churchill won a majority government in 1951
      there would have been no Suez Canal crisis in 1956 Anthony Eden won a majority government in 1955
      there would have been no Falklands War in 1982 Margaret Thatcher won a majority government in 1979
      there would have been no BREXIT David Cameron won conservative majorities (2010, 2015)
  3. I have come to the conclusion that economists running national banks have no clue as to what they are doing.
    First an aside: Last year when I drove my automobile out of a parking lot, I stepped on the brake pedal but nothing happened. I then applied much more force which achieved the desired result. After that, I slowly drove my auto to a mechanic who informed me that while my front brakes were working, my back brakes were totally shot (rust had eaten though the hydraulic brake lines). Three cheers for dual brake systems!
    Now back to the economics: Many national banks are trying to control of inflation by raising the prime lending rate (they hope that a small artificial recession will allow them to regain control of the economy). Unlike my automobile example, national banks have applied the metaphoric brake pedal numerous times but have not achieved the desired result, so they dither for a time, read their tea leaves, then try again. As of May-2023, American bankers have tried this ten times but none have asked the question: "what has changed to prevent this interest rate raise from working?" IMHO they are overlooking the obvious: "they think" there is only one meaningful money supply (theirs) but overlook the fact that huge pools of capital exist in corporations. Here are two: (1) Some North American automobile manufacturers are offering 1.5% interest rate loans (on the full MSRP) which are more than 5% lower than a rate from a blank. (2) Many larger American companies (who pay little-to-no taxes because they see themselves as multi-nationals) are sitting on huge pools of off-shore capital which is moved in-and-out of the economy, irrespective of the prime lending rate. BTW, some of these companies have trillion dollar valuations making them bigger than most banana republics. Anyway, permit me to state the obvious: huge companies, not paying their taxes while sitting on a lot of offshore cash was almost unheard of thirty years ago. That was a time when the common citizen only used the word billion.
    My worry: In his book Capital in the Twenty First Century (which is meant to be a modern reinterpretation of Adam Smith) the author informs that a fundamental principle of capitalism is to provide 5% annual return on investment. This is always in the back of my mind whenever I hear that a bank intends to raise interest rates above 5% (the USA is currently sitting at 5.25% while Britain just went to 6%)
  4. David Suzuki is retiring from the CBC television program “The Nature of Things” after hosting 44 seasons.
    https://gem.cbc.ca/the-nature-of-things/s62e13 (45-min video)
    p.s. Fans of Canadian music will first hear, then see, Neil Young (the only member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young still publishing music)
    comment: as both "a science junkie" and "a CBC junkie" I am already mourning the loss. BTW, “The Nature of Things” will continue but with a different host.
  5. This 1980 quote by author-educator Isaac Asimov (PhD Biochemistry) now perfectly describes modern life in North America where citizens become misinformed by accessing social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat) or politically biased news outlets (like Fox) run by publishing billionaires (like Rupert Murdoch). The graphic reads:
    "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 (Newsweek, 21 January 1980) 

    A cult of ignorance
  6. From Anti-Government to Anti-Science: Why Conservatives Have Turned Against Science.
    article: https://direct.mit.edu/daed/article/151/4/98/113706/From-Anti-Government-to-Anti-Science-Why
    In this essay, we argue that conservative hostility toward science is rooted in conservative hostility toward government regulation of the marketplace, which has morphed in recent decades into conservative hostility to government, tout court. This distrust was cultivated by conservative business leaders for nearly a century, but took strong hold during the Reagan administration, largely in response to scientific evidence of environmental crises that invited governmental response. Thus, science (particularly environmental and public health science) became the target of conservative anti-regulatory attitudes. We argue that contemporary distrust of science is mostly collateral damage, a spillover from carefully orchestrated distrust of government.
  7. Ignorance abounds in the era of social media where people offer opinions on topics they know nothing about.
    • woke became popular in US African American music community during the 1930s and means "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination". So today, anyone who is anti-woke could technically be guilty of "racial prejudice".
    • critical race theory (CRT) is an academic critique of race theory (like eugenics, "race theory" is now considered pseudo science).  Since "race theory" was used by the German NAZI party during the 1930s and 1940s to justify murder, then anyone who criticizes CRT could technically labelled a supporter of NAZI murder. Click here to learn more about this at NPR.
    • lots of political types want to ban books and/or takeover control of libraries. They seem to have missed the lesson that " book bans" are always on the wrong side of history, and that banned titles are always more sought after. (psst: want to look at a banned book?)
    • I still can't believe the number of people (many of them who identify as religious) who think that "sex" and "gender" mean the same thing. Sex (hardware of the body) is a label based upon physical observations at birth (not 100% accurate since 1-2% of babies are born with unambiguous or undifferentiated genitalia) or chromosomal tests. Gender is best thought of as software of the brain (which can develop differently from the body). I was totally unaware of this stuff until the release of this 1970 Hollywood movie, staring Raquel Welch, where she plays the role of a transexual woman. Hugh Hefner shone light on this topic in a 1978 issue of Playboy Magazine. comment: Perhaps some of the current cultural confusion begins here because there is no such thing as transsexual since the post-op person would never be able to change their chromosomes -OR- reproduce via copulation. Anyway, medical professionals inform that only 1-2% of society is gay, and only 1% of that group seeks transgender surgery. This puts transgender statistics at 1 in 10,000 which seems to me to be a tiny number compared to the noise generated by politicians who are more interested in culture wars than traditional political issues like keeping people employed
    • Dog Whistle statements allow bigots and racists to hide in plain site:
      • Antisemites avoid the label by hurling their criticisms against George Soros.
      • Homophobes avoid the label by hurling their criticisms against transgenders.
      • Racists avoid the label by hurling their criticisms against CRT (critical race theory) or other proxies like Obama's citizenship, etc. (this latter item was a favorite of Donald Trump and many voters fell for it)
  8. Why I disconnected from social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) starting 15-Jan-2023. The following items describe some of the contributing factors:
    update: After 8 months, my social media strike continues.
  9. The Atlas of Impunity is the name of a publication which ranks countries by five dimensions of impunity: unaccountable governance, abuse of human rights, economic exploitation, conflict and violence, and environmental degradation. Visit the next link to learn more: https://www.eurasiagroup.net/live-post/atlas-of-impunity-2023
  10. Sea Level Rise is rising faster (one proof of global warming)
    sealevel rise over 30 years

    Global mean sea level has risen 101 millimeters (3.98 inches) since 1992 and continues to do so at 3.9 mm (0.15 inches) per year.

    • nineteenth century average rate of rise: 1.4 mm per year.
    • twentieth century average rate of rise: 1.7 mm per year.
    • current "satellite measured" rate of rise is: 3.9 mm per year.
    • multiplying by 100 yields 390 mm (39 cm or 15 inches) per century.
    • recall that distance over time is known as velocity (or speed); and that an increase in velocity over time is known as acceleration. Since the rate of sea level rise (speed) is increasing then we can say that sea level rise is accelerating (much worse than simply increasing)
    • this measurement is vertical, but beaches are sloped which means much more flooding during high tides and storm surges.
    • 39 cm (15 inches) per century is a guaranteed minimum BUT it appears that the annual rate has now passed 4.0 mm per year.
  11. Sea-level rise(continued): IPCC projections While it is difficult to measure Earth's daily average temperature (consider: day-night cycles; seasonal changes) then do annual trend analysis (consider: daily weather events; decadal weather events like El Niño and La Niña), it is much easier to measure the effects of warming as seen in sea-level rise. Most climate-change skeptics stand down after viewing data showing average annual sea level rate-of-rise more than doubling from 1.7 mm per year to 3.9 mm per year in just one century (much of the original data came from military sources)
    additionally: The content of this scientific paper from Denmark ( https://os.copernicus.org/articles/17/181/2021/ ) is much more troubling. The first line of the abstract reads: "Recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) imply that global mean sea level is unlikely to rise more than about 1.1 meters within this century but will increase further beyond 2100". This statement infers that a rise of one meter (39 inches) by the end of this century is within the scope of possibility. Then from this IPCC 2021 summary we read one very troubling line: "Sea-level rise by 2100 is likely to be from half to one meter, but two to five meters is not ruled out, as ice sheet instability processes are still poorly understood."
    1964 quote from Rachel Carson: “We live in an age of rising seas. In our own lifetime we are witnessing a startling alteration of climate.”
  12. POLIDIOT (political idiot) is a label applicable to both citizens and politicians who insist their "political opinion" is superior to "empirical fact" (this includes politicians who advocate for cryptocurrenices). To those people I present this quote from 1936: will work for food

    "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. There are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest."

    comment: no one "likes" the idea of printing up money, but you would not like the alternative. Recall that very little was done after the crash of 1929; this resulted in a decade of hobos (homeless men looking for work), soup kitchens, and people wearing signs reading "will work for food"
  13. Two decades of misinformation and COVID-19
    science meets stupidity Misinformation 1: The Republican-dominated US Congress of 1987 eliminated the FCC Fairness Doctrine citing a violation of the right to free-speech by corporations (did the framers of the constitution ever intend corporations to have the same rights as people?) This enabled politically biased outlets, like Fox News (Cable TV) and Rush Limbaugh (Syndicated Radio), to play fast and loose with the truth. Americans today seem unaware of the fact that one-sided political propaganda in Germany triggered world-war-2
    Misinformation 2: Since the rise of the world-wide-web (1991) and mobile social media (2007) society has witnessed an ever increasing amount of bad science from non-experts on both sides of the political spectrum (vaccine hesitancy is one example). As advertising revenue moved online, many print publishers went out of business which triggered societal problems. Recall that newspapers could be sued under libel laws for publishing misinformation, so they employed editors and journalists to provide "best effort reporting" of "best-effort fact-checked information". Internet media sites are protected from lawsuits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (created in 1996 to help start internet businesses) so they check nothing which allows them to cut costs by eliminating jobs (even though they are incredibly rich and pay virtually zero taxes)
    Comments: Herbert Spencer published Principles of Biology in 1864 which is the first book containing the phrase Survival of the Fittest. We now live in the age of Survival of the Smartest which requires every citizen to be able to separate "fact from fiction", or "fact from political opinion", or "fact from religious dogma". Since many people are unable or unwilling to do this, then many are going to die prematurely. Thinking they are "politically right" will result is many becoming "dead wrong". Now click COVID-19 deaths by country then click top-of-the column "Deaths/1 million" to reorder the table by that metric. Why did the USA (rank=15) do so badly compared with their neighbors Mexico (39) and Canada (82)? Could this have anything to do with the fact that a modern interpretation of the American first amendment right to free speech, as it applies to billionaire big tech companies (Twitter, Facebook, Threads, YouTube, etc.) protects the dissemination of misinformation?   
  14. Half of us are as dumb as rocks
    I enjoy listening to the CBC radio program / podcast Under The Influence which tells past stories from advertising industry. Episode S10E14 compares the marketing success of the McDonald's Quarter Pounder with the marketing failure of the A&W Third of a Pounder. During post-failure analysis, marketers discovered that more than half the people in the focus groups were confused about which was the better deal. Consumers genuinely thought McDonald's was the better deal because they believed that a quarter pound was more than a third of a pound because 4 is larger than 3.
    comment: makes we wonder how much of our Neanderthal DNA is active. Please think about this the next time you decided to pontificate on subjects like politics, the economy and vaccines.
  15. China in the news
    This video shows China moving forward on many Chinese infrastructure projects while we watch vested interests in the North American fossil-fuel industry doing their best to maintain the status quo.
    comments: this video was created by Bloomberg and is titled Why China’s Lead on EVs Has Been a Long Time Coming. Even if you disagree with the title, this video shows that a significant change is already taking place in the world's most populated country. China is no longer a country of bicycle riders. I am sometimes shocked when I see modern video from places like Japan, South Korea or China where their societies seem to be moving in the direction of The Jetsons while everything in the North America seems to be decaying.
  16. Commenting on Huawei: It appears to me that western society only supports capitalism "when the west wins". When a Chinese company, like Huawei, becomes the next Nortel, then ridiculous conspiracy theories are invoked. Huawei was one of many companies that bid on the sale of Nortel's intellectual property, as did Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM (Blackberry), Google 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) so it should come at no surprise that Huawei is 18-24 months ahead of their competition in the field of 5G wireless. Simple logic shows that Huawei could only achieve parity if they were stealing I/P. Did I mention that their 5G hardware is 90% less expensive than anything from their competition?
    food-for-thought: according to the 2022 book Chip War, Huawei employed 100 IBM consultants for more than a decade with the intent that "Huawei could operate with IBM efficiency"
    Deng Xiaoping (pronounced "dung chow ping") 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 1985 I was attending school in Boston where it appeared to me that Chinese students were everywhere. Apparently, Deng had sent 1.3 million Chinese students out into the world to receive a top-quality western education paid for by China (one of my more-gifted Chinese classmates 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 total population of the USA so is it any surprise that China is doing well? Meanwhile, there is a tendency amongst some westerners to label "an educated person" as "an elite". It seems to me that the world has flipped.
  17. 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
  18. A conservative friend of mine was fond of asking me political questions (I am a centrist) then would cut me off mid-sentence before I finished answering. Apparently, he was the only conservative among his family of brothers, sisters and parents but had no problem thinking he was right (er, correct) 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 (larger in conservatives) and the anterior cingulate (larger in liberals), bias human perspective of the world.
    • Conservatives see most issues as "black-and-white" (or good-and-evil) and are more pessimistic while liberals see "shades of gray" and are generally more optimistic.
    • Conservatives are more fearful of others so are more easily encouraged to vote for POPULIST issues like "building the wall" or BREXIT (funny point: Britain had the lowest number of per-capita immigrants but had the highest political reaction against them)
    • Conservatives play politics as a team sport so will almost always "vote their party" while Liberals will split their vote choosing alternate parties (not very smart in first-past-the -post)
  19. When I was a student, I read an English translation of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. Then I later heard Margret Thatcher using the book to bash socialism, I wondered if she was reading a different translation (Hayek only published in German) since her quotes bore little resemblance to Hayek's book (was Thatcher paraphrasing?). Anyway, when Hayek slams socialism, he is referring to state-sponsored collectivism which is not the same thing as practiced (in one form or another) by most countries of the world except the USA. I recently stumbled onto this Hayek article titled Why I am Not a Conservative (excerpted from a 1960 book titled The Constitution of Liberty - I wonder if Thatcher knew about this).
  20. When I attended college in the early 1970s, many students seemed to be talking about Ayn Rand or quoting from her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. Years later I finally got around to reading the book which left me with these thoughts:
    1. Like George Orwell (1984) Ayn Rand knows how to tell a fictional dystopian story
    2. Rand's character John Galt seems to be a kinder (although equally ridiculous) version of Orwell's character Big Brother
    3. 1984 (which Orwell claimed is really about 1948 England) was published in 1949 while Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957 so perhaps this tells us something about the zeitgeist of those years
    4. Ayn Rand seemed to project a naive (childish?) view of industry vs government regulation. Did she really think that corporations would never do anything evil? Had she lived longer I would have loved to hear her ATTEMPT to defend the actions of the Big Tobacco for knowing the numerous health hazards associated with the use of their product then hiding them in order to make a buck; or that EXXON knew as early as 1977 that the burning of fossil fuels would cause climate change (they hid these reports then hired retired scientists working for politically motivated think thanks to deny such a thing was possible). It is possible that these large companies got the inspiration to do this from Rand's description of the fictional "State Science Institute" which was low on science while high on politics. I wonder if people who read this book are also skeptical of science and vaccines.
    Feb-2022: I noticed that Atlas Shrugged had been made into a three-part movie currently available on Amazon Prime Video. I watched them all in order; what a waste of my time; it was like a train wreck that I could not stop watching. Part 1 was okay; part 2 was corny; part 3 was just bad. BTW, my comments have nothing to do with the actors or set designers for these productions (which were all done with different actors for some reason); my comments have everything to do with the really bad childish story line that I thought would have repaired for life this side of Y2K; There must be something wrong with the human species when anyone takes this stuff seriously.
    Jan-2023: I just heard this pod-cast about Ayn Rand on NPR: https://www.npr.org/2022/12/22/1145107911/the-monster-of-we-2021
    comment: People who see the world through the prism of politics (or see the world in black + white) will love this. People who see the world in shades of gray may not.
"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 body and machine.
Click: 2001: A Space Odyssey @ Wikipedia
"a Feynman Diagram"
Feynman Diagram (animated) Feynman Diagram (static)
"All forces in the universe are mediated by particle exchange"
This Feynman Diagram describing "electron repulsion" depicts the movement of two electrons (1-to-3 and 2-to-4) in space and time. A virtual photon transfers energy between them (5-to-6) causing them to repel each other. To learn more:
1) brief explanation
2) detailed explanation
Legend: Y-Axis (up-down) is time while X-Axis (left-right) is space

Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Hosted by ionos.ca on a virtual private server.
My personal email is changing from n.rieck@sympatico.ca to n.rieck@bell.net