Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

It’s not your fault, but it *is* your problem

May 25, 2007

Dealing with change is difficult.  I think it may be more difficult for the haves than the have-nots (even though really the haves are better prepared to deal with change in general), but that’s a different post.

This post is about global warming, basically, but not really.  It is really about my recent insight into the Volcano God.  We, as humans, seem to have a natural tendency to believe everything is our fault.  When mommy and daddy argue/get divorced, we feel it was our fault.  More primitive societies felt the various gods of the earth were angry with them when they experienced a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a drought, etc.

The equally natural human response is to attempt to appease the power you have offended (or destroy it, if you feel it is within your means to do so).  You throw a virgin into the volcano, you sacrifice a goat, you dance a special dance.

Add to that our willingness to accept statistically unsupported correlations (hey, there have been no quakes since we sacrified that goat!) and a short attention span (oh, a new quake, time for a new sacrifice since that worked last time) — as opposed to accepting that the sacrifice didn’t work at all.

Oh, and don’t forget the times we actually get it right (eating the moldy bread really DID make the illness go away).

Anyway, blend the above and you get Homo Sapiens of the 21st century who are easily convinced it is their fault there is an ozone hole or global warming, and that it is their actions which are needed to solve it (let’s dump huge amounts of iron into the sea to cause algae blooms to sop up some CO2… no way can THAT have any adverse reactions.)

By the way, have you READ the warnings on the Celebrex package?  Basically it’s “Given the high probability this drug will kill you, SOME doctors feel that for CERTAIN patients, the rewards may actually outweigh the risks!” (on TV, this is read aloud breathlessly as if it is exciting good news, while beautiful calming images play in the background).  I dunno.. if that’s the most positive marketing message I am legally allowed to make for my product… would I continue to sell the product?

Anyway, I just wanted to say we’re all too easily convinced large problems are entirely our fault and that there is something weird we should do about them (it’s your hairspray!  The Ozone gods are offended!).  When it seems quite possible that large changes happen completely outside our control and we really need to be thinking more about dealing with it.  Doing some of that adapting that we’re famous for.  This would, for example, be a terrific time to secure a water supply for our future… which, in addition to hoarding our rain, probably means looking at that big ol’ ocean and figuring out how we might drink it.

 Now, again, I don’t want to be interpreted as saying we have no responsibility for the CO2 we emit as a species, nor whether it is on net a good thing or a bad thing (at what point are we staving off an ice age? What’s worse anyway, inundated coastlines or a mile of ice on Chicago?), though I suspect it is a bad thing.  I am just impressed by our willingness to accept blame and pray at the temple of priests willing to lay that blame upon us, and take our tithes in response.

Now, speaking of that terrific graph in “An Inconvenient Truth” — of inferred atmospheric CO2 over the ages and the sudden exponential rise during recent times.  I have to comment on the (mentioned, but dismissed) fact the graph mixed CO2 samples from multiple sources.  For most of the graph it was ice core data, and showed a ‘natural cycle’ over the last 600K years (I don’t think the movie made an attempt to explain those cycles), then at the end they added actual atmosphere samples. 

I think there might have been some apples and oranges in that mix.  For example, we don’t exactly know what the relationship is between actual CO2 in air, and what gets trapped (and held) in an ice core for zillions of years.  Perhaps the Atmospheric measurement is always much higher than what gets trapped in the ice.  Perhaps the top layers of ice can’t hold the signal effectively since they are still weakly coupled with the atmosphere.  What caused the prior sudden onsets? I dunno.  Anyway, it seemed suspicious to mix the data, as if the ice data alone didn’t support the thesis.  But it does making a chillingly powerful chart.

If you look at the shape of the ancient CO2 pulses, do they look sinusoidal, implying a pattern we have no control over (such as long term energy fluctuations in the sun, or the passage of our solar system around the galaxy) or do they look organic (which I would think would be exponential growth followed by malthusian collapse).  I think they looked more sinusoidal, but I haven’t seen the chart since thinking that, so I don’t really remember.

OK, just looked at it again and… dunno.  Actually looks more like sudden onset followed by decay.  That and we were already on a steep rising slope before the human-generated CO2 hits the scene, so change looks like it is well on the way. 

Anyway, it’s our problem to deal with/react to, no matter what triggered it.

Cigar-Shaped UFOs

October 25, 2006

Pardon me if I already documented this elsewhere.  And before I begin let me state my own personal UFO religious affiliations.  I believe the universe is big enough to have other life out there than can use radio, lasers, and space ships.  Whether they have visited us in the last hundred years is, sadly, doubtful.  I can’t imagine it would be inexpensive for them to do so, so if they did, they would likely have a purpose in mind.  And I doubt they have a Prime Directive of non-interference (in the Star Trek sense), so I am pretty sure their presence would be obvious, and whether they meant to or not, their arrival would probably be disastrous for us (in the way that Europeans visiting Polynesia brought a de-stabilizing force, Or to America to displace the Native Americans, who presumably displaced the Neanderthals before them, etc.)

But hey, maybe.  But as to their being wildly smarter than us.. My feeling about an Alien Race that was so smart it could cure cancer, and yet refused to do so, is similar to my feelings about a God who would threaten you with eternal damnation for believing in some other god.  My vision of God is of a friendly force who just wants us to play nice with each other, and is not particularly concerned about how many friends he has on his MySpace page.  I expect that of my aliens, as well.  Unless they are just here to eat us, in which case I just remind them that we taste like chicken, and that chickens don’t know how to use radio, lasers, or SpaceShips, so they are a better choice for attack.  Hmm, wait a minute, cow mutilations… Are they just taking the Porterhouses?

OK, back to my story.  If I were a self-respecting alien, why oh why would I make my flying saucer “cigar-shaped”?  Giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming their different biology would excuse the phallic references, it is just a silly unromantic shape for a flying saucer and I refuse to believe any UFO reports that include that reference.

Except that I saw some.

It was a long time ago now (which is why I am sure I told this story on line very recently and I apologize for bringing it up again).  I was in the back yard trying to appreciate what was supposed to be a really good meteor storm.  But I live in a light-polluted area and there was a bit of a foggy mist, so I could only see the very very brightest of them (one of which was actually pretty cool.  Actually had a greenish tint and I felt I could see some tumbling/spinning and maybe even heard a bit of a sound from it.  Not so cool if it had subsequently smashed into my house, of course, but enough to make me happy to have stood out in the cold for hours.

Anyway, sometime during this experience, I suddenly saw a fleet of metallic, cigar-shaped, glowing, UFOs flying in formation high above my house. It was just like in all the UFO reports and it left me dumbfounded.  Here was something I could not logically believe was happening, and yet it was.  It lasted less than a minute as some number of them zoomed overhead and then they were gone. It was amazing, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience the sense of awe and amazement (did I mention it was amazing?) I did that night.

But in my heart I knew it couldn’t have really been UFOs and eventually I realized what it really was — Birds.

It was just a flock (formation) of birds doing their normal birdy acrobatic stuff as they moved towards their birdy destination.  I claim they were birds with whitish underbellies but dark wings, flying not as high up as it looked (hence they looked like much larger objects), illuminated from below (neighbor’s yard lights) and seen through a light mist (further obscuring any sense of their wings and making their illuminated bodies appear to ‘glow’ as opposed to just reflect light.

I’m pretty sure that’s what it really was, and not that I am just seeking an explanation. But my point is that even though I am fairly good at telling what a bird is normally, that at the time of the event they did NOT appear to be birds.  The illusion of their altitude and size made them non-birds, as did the glow and the lack of visible flapping wings.  But their actual behaviour was very bird-like and I appreciated that at the time.  Anyway, at the time of the event the whole thing just felt completely inexplicable.  It was… awesome.

Anyway, I generalize from that to claim that ALL cigar-shaped UFO sightings are actually birds.  (mixed with people’s odd ideas as to what shape a cigar is.  I think of a cigar as being cylindrical, but I accept lots of people consider them ovals.  Which I guess is more accurate than a cylinder, but it would be a very FAT cigar in this case.  But definitely not saucer-shaped.)

Cathode Ray Tubes – Asbestos of My Generation

June 27, 2006

So, asbestos started out as a good thing, made buildings less likely to explode into flames.  It was only later that we realized it was killing the people who were breathing it.

I declare that sitting in front of a CRT for 35+ years has exposed my face to countless attacks by high energy particles. And probably a million people just like me, and we’ll probably all end up with cataracts to boot.

But our economy until fairly recently has been completely dependent on CRTs, so it was not in our interest to be told they actually could hurt us.  Sure, on occasion they tell us that the low frequency (60 hertz) radiation can be damaging, but that’s just a plausible deniability coverup. “Well, we had SOME idea something was wrong” when they only warned us about something none of us felt particularly afraid of.

But if they had said “Oh, you’re staring into an xray machine with a little bit of glass that filters out almost all of it!” I think we would have shown more alarm.

Anyway, now that we are all converting to Liquid Crystal (just got my first official 20″” CRT replacement from DELL and it’s totally fab!) it is almost time for the truth to get out, and the lawsuits to begin.

OK, this conspiracy theory is not one of my favorites, because I suspect it might actually be true, and I am not looking forward to going blind.

The Truth Behind Fluoridation

June 27, 2006

Might as well toss out one of my many conspiracy theories.  This one is about state-sponsored fluoridation of the public water supply that was all the rage in the 50s and 60s.

First my base justification of the conspiracy factor.  Think of how natural this sounds: A republican semi-wartime government that adds fluoride to the water so as to improve the dental health of the citizens.

That just doesn’t sound plausible to me.  If our government were all that worried for us, why not universal health care or at least some inducement to have us eat more vegetables.

So, then, after 9/11 when they started getting us to worry about a ‘dirty bomb’ attack, they mentioned that they had stationed large supplies of special pills all over the country.  I choose to believe these pills contained fluoride because it has some magical property that causes radioactive things in the body to get ‘leeched out’ by sufficient amounts of fluoride in the blood.

So, the REAL reason for the fluoridated water back then was because of all the above ground bomb testing and groundwater contaminated from enrichment activities!

Well, so at this point, some of you might want to point out that the pills in question are actually iodine, not fluorine, and thus my whole conspiracy theory is undercut by being based on one colossally incorrect fact.

Well, that’s the whole CHARM of a conspiracy theory! It has to have one or more blatant points of ignorance within it.

Another factoid is that some government construction project in the area was quoting an extra billion dollars (I exaggerate) as part of a water distribution pipeline, in order to pay for filters to remove *naturally occurring* fluoride.  So maybe THAT’s the conspiracy theory.. Someone wanted to get paid to add fluoride that was already there!

Well, one way or another, you KNOW there was a conspiracy!