Saturday, November 29, 2014

Global Warming and Future Generations

All of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1997, the year that climate change skeptics claim warming trends stopped. Quantifying the degree of global warming has required world wide data collection on land, sea, air and from orbit in space. Mere isolated local and regional observations did not give the big picture.

Some locales may seemingly benefit from climate change in the short term future. But as global warming trends strengthen, the weather patterns will continue to shift in bigger ways as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate and amplification mounts. All in all, a warmer planet will alter the lives of every plant and animal species on Earth --
including our own, the Naked Ape.

Meanwhile, fearful conservatives in all walks of life cling to their antiquated views on life and choose not to realize the dangerous situation we are all in together. Indeed, their shortcomings may ultimately prove to be disastrous by prolonging the length of time that we seriously procrastinate. The momentum of CO2 buildup continues to increase. And even if we do manage to reverse our course, global warming will continue regardless because the existing level of greenhouse gases won't magically decrease overnight. Indeed, we can only slow the rate of increase. In short, we're really screwed.

Our descendants for many generations will live on a warmer planet regardless of what we do now. How much warmer depends on what we do or don't do in the future. We will survive, but the future generations may very well hold us in great disdain for our miserable lack of foresight and for our greedy expediency.

Global Warming: Deniers Doth Protest Too Loudly

Global warming is a terrifying possibility. The prospect of such a long lasting climatic effect inflicted upon Earth by our ignorance is horrifyingly terrible. To not feel the fears contained within this real possibility is called "denial".

Denial is one of three basic human defense mechanisms. When running or hiding isn't an option, we "stick our heads in the sand". The trouble with that is that we leave our posteriors exposed and ourselves in a very vulnerable position.

With the issue being one that requires group action in order to remedy the result of actions made in error because of insufficient knowledge, to not pursue a corrective course would be a sin -- the sin of omission. And to consciously further misuse and abuse the world that God gave us is a sin beyond redemption -- James 4:17.

HL Tauri: Planets Early Stage Formation Seen

"For decades, astronomers have worked with supercomputer simulations of the basic laws of gravity, fluid and gas dynamics and radiation transport to create physically consistent models of what protoplanetary disks should look like as they evolve over time. The mechanism of planet formation has also been explored through a variety of calculations and physics-based models."

Now we have pictures on great clarity confirming what a solar system looks like as young planets first begin to form:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Over Sized Pickups and SUVs: Un-American?

Over sized SUVs and pickup trucks irk me. Their behemoth size creates hazards in parking lots and on crowded roads. If you consider the 5% rule that one in twenty persons is of questionable competency, then that really adds up. My wife's friend was ran off the road by one of these "bad boys" who momentarily drifted into her lane (she's okay, but her car is not).

If you apply the five percent rule to people who drive undersized vehicles like Smart cars 'aka' mini vehicles, you are bound see them doing stupid things also. But the consequences are much less likely to be as hazardous to others.

When you consider the purchase price and fuel consumption costs of the biggest vehicles on the road and the fact that most of them (at least where I live) are used as single passenger transports, then I'd say that this is a waste of resources. True, it's their right. But when our national well being is weakened by serious trade deficits, I feel that our military expenditures on overseas ventures are being somewhat wasted on these self-indulgent behaviors of 'mama's boys' and 'daddy's girls' who likely never had to serve their country. Conspicuous "over consumption" is not in line with the conservative and patriotic ideals that I believe in.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Choose Life

We consciously and actively choose to become better human beings (or not). We choose to either apply what we learn or laggardly allow inertia to hold sway. Freedom of Choice is an inescapable responsibility in everything we think, feel and do.

Choose not to decrease soot emissions and breathe dirty air, then watch cancer and other health issues increase. Treat women as chattels and lose their productive abilities. Lie to yourself and others so that you can hide your deficiencies and stifle your personal growth.

Cause and Effect is unavoidable. It's called Reality. Denial or failure to recognize the Truth becomes neurosis and then psychosis. Unanswered opportunities become challenges and then crises. Whether the issue is trade deficits or gingivitis, negligence is self destructive whether it's at the personal level or the international level.

Individually and as groups we can consciously commit to courses of action that are rational and wise. Then we can alter those directions as feedback from our actions occurs. The failure to take action in the first place because we are paralyzed by fear is called the "sin of omission".

Choose life.

October 8, 2014

Super Black Hole: Sagittarius A and G2

"In 1974, an unusually compact source of radio waves at the exact center of the Milky Way, some 26,000 light-years away. Named Sagittarius A, after the constellation where it appears in the sky, it hints of something strange: a trickle of X-rays from the same spot, tendrils of agitated gas surrounding it and, most telling, a small group of stars racing around madly for no obvious reason.
Tracking the motions of those stars enabled astronomers to estimate the mass of the unseen object directing the action. From there they built a convincing case that Sagittarius A* was in fact a black hole — the biggest one in the galaxy, with a mass 4.3 million times that of the sun and a diameter of about 25 million kilometers.... when Sagittarius A* was acting up, it was at least a million times as energetic as it is today. Put another way, it briefly shone as brilliantly as a million suns.
"In fact, other researchers may have already caught Sagittarius A* in the act of such a feeding frenzy, albeit on a much smaller scale. Every day or so, Chandra captures modest flare-ups during which the black hole brightens up to a factor of 160 for a few hours.... those events are burps caused when an asteroid or comet, at least 10 kilometers across, passes within about 100 million kilometers of the black hole, quickly getting shredded and consumed."
And now a large gas cloud known as G2 is whipping past the black hole at 10 million kph. It is the first time scientists have ever seen such a thing.... the black hole’s potent gravity has warped G2 into a long, snaking blob, with the leading part already coiled all the way around Sagittarius A*. At its closest, G2 will pass about 25 billion kilometers from the event horizon, far enough that it is unlikely to get entirely sucked in. But the cloud is so elongated that it will take a full year for all of it to clear the black hole, and there is plenty of room for surprise.
G2 might make fireworks another way, because Sagittarius A* is probably surrounded by smaller black holes. Much as hair collects around a bathtub drain, the most massive objects in the Milky Way tend to spiral downward toward the center. As a result, an estimated 20,000 black holes, each about the size of a city and containing a few times the mass of the sun, are thought to be circling Sagittarius A*. As G2 blows past that dark swarm, the smaller black holes may scoop up bits of loose gas and light up with bursts of X-rays that could be visible to Chandra or NASA’s NuStar space telescope.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Four Horsemen

The "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" ride whenever competition for resources and territory reaches a critical threshold. And there are those among us who welcome them as harbingers to the subsequent Second Coming of Christ. They believe we are now living in the latter days just prior to the Apocalypse and are quite willing to facilitate this event. Thus, they see no need to reverse population overgrowth in a proactive manner.

The Islamic State, an outgrowth of Wahhabi Muslim fundamentalism, is an answer to their prayers. At last, a definite sign of the anti-Christ. As for the Islamists, this Christian fundamentalist thrust is what they most desire to justify their Jihad. Behold, neither group is spiritually awakened enough to fully realize that God and Allah are the One and the same Supreme Being.

I write this on Nov. 11, 2014 Veterans Day

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Assisted Living: Adapting TV Remote Control for Dementia Patients and the Elderly

For the elderly (especially those with dementia), being able to watch TV independently is a challenge. One thing you can do to help is make the remote easier to use by minimizing unnecessary choices. When my mother first started having difficulty using the remote, I marked and color coded the buttons she needed. Then as her dementia progressed, I made cardboard cutouts and used painters tape (which sticks and re-sticks without residue) to affix them to the remote control. The very last thing I did was the superglue a fat plastic bead to the PLAY button for easy recognition.
Note: I had attempted to put photos here, but that did not work.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Global Warming: Climate Change Basics

Greenhouse gases slow down the escape of heat radiating from the Earth's surface. Greenhouse gases are increasing. The resulting average international temperature increases are marked by an upward shift in world wide weather patterns. When Milankovitch cycles, climatic patterns on Earth brought about by "orbital forcing", do finally begin to push towards naturally occurring global warming trends, these cycles will be amplified by our unnatural levels of greenhouse gases. Even if we had stopped releasing them yesterday, these gases will remain for millennia. So, what now then?

Keeping Savings In Cash Is Costly

Scott Burns says:

The purchasing power of our money is declining about 2% a year.

If you have been invested in a simple, traditional balanced fund that was a 60/40 mixture of stocks and bonds— such as the Vanguard Balanced Index fund that I mention regularly— your investment would have nearly doubled over the last 5 years. The recent 5-year annualized return was 13.23 percent.


The Space Between Is NOW

The "space in between" the past and the future is 'the now'.

When followers of Jesus asked Him for signs and about the timing of future events in Mark 13, He told them neither He nor the angels in heaven knew. Actually, Jesus already had told them where to concentrate their attention. At the beginning of His public ministry in Mark 1:15, Jesus announced what time it was for His and our generation: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand….”

The time is now and "always will be".

Caffeine: The World's Favorite Drug

The world's favorite drug is caffeine.

"For hundreds of years coffee was used in its raw form — astringent and bitter — boiled or rolled with animal fat into a crude approximation of energy pellets. People clearly were chomping the coffee berries for the buzz, not the flavor. Yes, modern coffee tastes great. But it is 400 years of selective breeding and refinements in growing, harvesting, roasting, and brewing that have taken it from its unappealing natural state to the aromatic, smooth, flavorful beverage it has become. And without the caffeine, nobody would have bothered with the plant in the first place."

"Arabica coffee is the species native to the mountains of Ethiopia, where it evolved with a blend of drenching rains, abundant sun, and a narrow band of acceptable temperature. Arabica is the smooth-flavored coffee Americans have come to love, the coffee that gourmet coffee connoisseurs swear by.

"The other common commercially grown coffee species is Robusta, which is heartier and more productive and can grow in warmer temperatures, out in the open at low elevation. Robusta beans are often blended into commercial coffees, like Folgers. But virtually all Colombian coffee is arabica."

"To brew Americans' average fix of nearly three cups of coffee daily, America imported 3.5 billion pounds of coffee in 2012, more than any other nation. The coffee Americans drink annually would fill more than 6,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

"If it's the flavor that makes us wild about coffee, why did our grandparents drink twice as much coffee as we do today? In those days the coffee was often roasted and ground long before it was consumed. And then it was run though a percolator, overextracting the bitter flavors. To most coffee lovers today, our grandparents' coffee was pure percolated plonk. It tasted worse, and they drank twice as much of it.

"For most of us, though, it's likely that we are interested not so much in a flavor experience as in a cup of coffee that is, more than anything, unobjectionable. If we phrase the question a bit differently — asking not what makes a good cup of coffee, but what makes a cup of coffee good — the answer is easy: caffeine.

"But most of us know little about caffeine. Even the most basic coffee distinction — between the robusta beans that become cheap diner coffee and the arabica beans that supply chic coffeehouses — is poorly understood. It's the lowly robusta that packs twice as much caffeine. Among the gourmet brews, people commonly perceive that a dark roast, with its strong flavor, has more caffeine than a mild-tasting, light roast. But that, too, is wrong. Because some of the caffeine has been burned off in the longer roasting, darker coffees have less caffeine than light roasts, bean for bean....."

Mecca Before Mohammed

While Mecca today is the holiest city to Muslims, it was an oasis town and major crossroads on Arab trade routes long before Muhammad's birth in the year 570.  Governed by merchants, it witnessed constant blood feuding among nomadic, kinship-based tribes that roamed the surrounding desert.  But for a month every year, desert clans declared a moratorium on fighting and embarked on a pilgrimage, descending on Mecca to trade and worship at the shrines of ‘360 polytheistic idols’. The city's religious focal point was a hollow stone temple, the Kaaba, surrounded by effigies but devoted to the powerful pre-Islamic god Allah (which in Arabic means "the god").

Improve Phone Security for the Elderly

Junk calls and telephone scammers are a real problem for everyone (especially the elderly). Different personal situations require different countermeasures.

Using a predictive call blocker is one way. It automatically cancels computer generated robo calls. Other calls from undesired numbers can be individually blacklisted by you after they register on the caller ID. As soon as you hook it up, your junk calls will be halved immediately. As you block more and more other numbers, the unwanted calls will taper off to almost zero.
[Note: My elderly mother couldn't properly block calls, so I reviewed the incoming call list each time I visited. Sometimes now it's a week before an unwanted number shows up.]

For more restrictive access, there is a White List Call Block that allows you to program in the only numbers you want to allow (and all others are blocked). In addition, you can arrange with the phone company to require a code be entered before long distance can be successfully dialed each time.

Other situations might require you to have only a princess style phone that you have superglued the buttons on.

Another take on this is to have the carrier drop long distance service
at your loved ones home (1-800#s are still dialable).

Use A-10s Against IS

The only warplane that can seriously counter IS advances is the A-10 " Warthog". When I hear of its use against IS fighters, then I'll take our stated desire to defend Iraq seriously. It's  the only fighter jet that can fly low and slow enough to tell friend from foe on the ground. And it is deadly.

Robots Learn To Lie

"In 2009, Swiss researchers carried out a robotic experiment that produced some unexpected results. Hundreds of robots were placed in arenas and programmed to look for a "food source," in this case a light-colored ring. The robots were able to communicate with one another and were instructed to direct their fellow machines to the food by emitting a blue light. But as the experiment went on, researchers noticed that the machines were evolving to become more secretive and deceitful: When they found food, the robots stopped shining their lights and instead began hoarding the resources — even though nothing in their original programming commanded them to do so. The implication is that the machines learned "self-preservation," said Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. "Whether or not they're conscious is a moot point."

An "age old question":