Saturday, January 31, 2015

Moment in History: John Kerry's Military & Academic Records

"John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 was hobbled by outrageous attacks on his war record, which Kerry might have been able to bury by releasing all his Navy records. He wouldn’t, until long after the race was over. Then reporters discovered that everything about his military career was exactly as Kerry had portrayed it. The only news was in his college transcript, which was included in the file and pretty dismal. I’ve always wondered if the entire course of modern American history would have turned out different if John Kerry had not wanted to conceal the fact that his academic performance at Yale was worse than George W. Bush’s."

Segmented Sleep "or" Insomnia?

"We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

"In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month.

"It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep…."


"…Today, most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light.

"This could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, he suggests.

"The condition first appears in literature at the end of the 19th Century, at the same time as accounts of segmented sleep disappear.

“For most of evolution we slept a certain way,” says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. “Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology.”

"The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too....."

Comment: unspoken is the need to make sure that you schedule your sleep/awake/sleep times and activities to allow for a sufficient total to be rested

Global Warming: Cryosphere Shrinking Dynamics

Today, about ten percent of Earth's land surface is covered by ice, in the form of glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets. These areas of ice grow and shrink in response to changing climate. (Glaciers at the height of the last ice age, some 20,000 years ago, covered much of North America and Europe.)

At the current rate of retreat, ocean levels will continue to rise no matter what we do about CO2 levels in the future. CO2 levels would not decrease at a significant level even if we suddenly stopped burning all fossil fuels. This means that current global temperatures are enough to melt all remaining glaciers within fifty years. Continuing temperature increases will force the huge Greenland ice sheet to raise sea levels by twenty feet before this century is out. The Antarctic ice sheet is showing dangerous signs of increased ice flow.

Watch a fascinating NOVA episode called "Extreme Ice":

Global Warming: Greenland Ice Pack Tells A Tale

"In the past, the cycle of ice ages and periods of warming were caused mainly by shifts in the earth's orbit around the sun, but now, humans seem to be driving these changes. Since the Industrial Revolution, our burning of fossil fuels has ratcheted up the output of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere. Temperatures are climbing, and the ice is melting faster than ever......"

"At the National Ice Core Lab, in Lakewood, Colorado, a giant freezer stores over 45,000 feet of ice, drilled from 34 sites around the cryosphere. Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, these ice cores are time capsules that allow us to peer deep into the history of ice......

is interesting, 'cause it has a couple of things you can see, right away. One is there are bubbles throughout here. These bubbles are little packets of air. It's these bubbles we can take out and measure CO2 and methane and nitrous oxide. It's the only medium that really collects the atmosphere itself.
The other thing you can see in here, quite clearly, is you can see the layers, and the thickness is going to tell you how much snow fell that year, so you get a couple of pieces of climate information and a dating scale, just out of visually looking at this ice core."
"Most importantly, scientists have identified a direct historical link between increases in greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, and steep rises in global temperatures.
At every peak, big rises in sea level followed as Greenland's ice sheet shrank.
The ice core records also reveal a particularly telling moment in Greenland's history. Roughly 125,000 years ago, temperatures rose by about seven degrees Fahrenheit; the entire southern portion of the ice sheet melted, and global sea levels rose by over 10 feet.
It was caused by a change in the earth's orbit around the sun, which increased temperatures and released carbon dioxide from the oceans.
The more recent ice core record shows the potential for a similar meltdown. Right now, greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are even higher than they were 125,000 years ago, higher than they've ever been in the last half-million years. Temperatures are already following suit."
The best and best explanation is the burning of fossil fuels.

Worthy Videos About Climate Change and Global Warming
“4.6 Billion Years of Earth’s Climate History: The Role of CO2” (24 min.):
For more, search “Richard Alley”.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wonderwerk Cave: Oldest Humanoid Campfire

Humans and our apelike ancestors have lived in Wonderwerk Cave for 2 million years.
The cave contains the earliest solid evidence that our ancient human forebears (probably Homo erectus) were using fire.

Researchers were trying trying to determine the age of sediments in a section of the cave where other researchers had found primitive stone tools. In the process, the team unearthed what appeared to be the remains of campfires from a million years ago — 200,000 years older than any other firm evidence of human-controlled fire..... when they saw carbonized leg and twig fragments. Then they discovered burned bits of animal bones as well. The bones’ sharp edges, and the excellent preservation of the plant ash, indicated that neither wind nor rain had ushered in the burnt material. The burning clearly had occurred inside the cave.

Then, when they ran an FTIR analysis on one of the sediment slices, the sample’s infrared signature showed that the cave material had been heated to between 750 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. That was just right for
a small fire made out of twigs and grasses.

This supported a theory of human origins called the “cooking hypothesis" which aimed to fill a gap in the story of how early hominins like Australopithecus — essentially, apes that walked upright — evolved into modern Homo sapiens. Evolutionary science shows that our distant progenitors (Proconsul) became bipedal 6 million to 7 million years ago. Archaeologists believe early hominins evolved bigger brains as they walked, took up hunting and developed more complex social structures. That process led to the emergence of Homo habilis, the first creature generally regarded as human, 2.3 million years ago. Yet H. habilis’ brain was only moderately larger than Australopithecus’, and its body retained many apelike features. No one knows why, just 500,000 years later (1.8 mya), a radically more advanced species — Homo erectus — emerged. Its brain was up to twice the size of its predecessor’s, its teeth were much smaller, and its body was quite similar to ours.
Wrangham credits the transformation to the harnessing of fire. Cooking food, he argues, allowed for easier chewing and digestion, making extra calories available to fuel energy-hungry brains. Firelight could ward off nighttime predators, allowing hominins to sleep on the ground, or in caves, instead of in trees. No longer needing huge choppers, heavy-duty guts or a branch swinger’s arms and shoulders, they could instead grow mega-craniums. The altered anatomy of H. erectus, Wrangham wrote, indicates that these beings, like us, were “creatures of flame.”
There was one major problem with this hypothesis, however: Proving it would require evidence of controlled fire from at least 1.8 million years ago, when the first H. erectus appeared......
Then came Wonderwerk. The ash-filled sediment that Goldberg and Berna found came from a spot approximately 100 feet from the entrance to the tunnel-like cave, too far to have been swept in by the elements. The team also found circular chips of fractured stone known as pot-lid flakes — telltale signs of fire — in the same area. These clues turned up throughout the million-year-old layer of sediment, indicating that fires had burned repeatedly at the site.....

At Wonderwerk, team members plan to probe deeper, analyzing sediments up to 1.8 million years old, for evidence of fire. And they are using their cutting-edge detection methods at other early H. erectus sites as well.

Approximate timeline:
Proconsul 6+ MYA->
Australopithecus 3.9 MYA->
Homo habilis(fire&tool creator) 2.3 MYA ->
Homo erectus 1.8 MYA ->
Homo sapiens first beginning 400,000 years ago to present

Note: "Homo sapiens has always used fire as a tool / our species has always been augmented by the invention of artificially made fire and tools."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Good Times Ending?

I joined both environmental groups and groups to stop illegal immigration when environmental groups at least paid lip service to reducing growing population numbers and immigration control groups were also concerned about the environment. Now, I save my money and my time. Partisan politics and globalization needs hold such sway that the "perfect storm" seems inevitable to me. Unfavorable climate change, soil depletion, environmental pollution and resource degradation along with ocean acidification and the overpopulation which largely fuels these things are now unstoppable without a major attitude adjustment. Us humans had the opportunity to become more reasonable at the start of the Industrial Age, but we let our competitiveness and greed lead the way.
And since we have not really changed our way of thinking,seeing and doing things, our lack of understanding is bringing us closer and closer to the tipping point of a global crisis.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Global Warming: Are We Doomed?

Ancients stood on shore and watched the tall masts of ships appear and disappear over the horizon. They observed the shape of the moon. They, also, observed lunar and solar eclipses. The educated people who were astute knew that the Earth was curved, hence round. This, combined with other observations, enabled them to then calculate the size of the Earth. The average common man could have understood that the planet was round if it'd been explained properly, though he'd not have necessarily understood the geometry used to determine its size. The simple minded person would not have been able to comprehend these inferences.

Today, we see ancient glaciers and Greenland melting away, ocean levels rising, world temperatures slowly and steadily increasing as weather patterns shift. We observe increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the acidification of the oceans. We find that methane hydrate is gassing out from ever deeper depths of the ocean as well as from the melting tundra. The inference that increasing levels of greenhouse gases being released can only amplify the temperatures now and in the future is hard to ignore.

Evangelicals should note that though God promised us that he would not destroy mankind again, He did not indicate that He would stop us from destroying ourselves.

Moon: Why Same Side Always Faces Earth

The Moon has two distinct sides and one is always facing Earth. Why?

One reason is that the moon exhibits very slight oblateness with the fact that the “side” of the moon that faces Earth is bit larger than the side turned away from us. This is enough to cause this side to have greater mass, hence greater gravitational pull towards Earth.

Another factor to consider is the fact that
when a Mars-sized object, dubbed Theia, smashed into Earth over four billion years ago, it sent massive amounts of debris into space from both Theia's and the Earth's crust and mantle which had to have different densities. As the moon coalesced, the side facing the Earth received heat from our planet that was still radiating energy resulting from the collision and from the Earth's now exposed molten innards. This kept the near side of the moon from cooling as fast as the far side, thus resulting in the crust of the near side being thinner than the far side's. Then when large meteors impacted the moon on the near side, large lava flows occurred (which are not found on the far side). Crust is lighter than mantle or core material.

In short, the near side of the moon is larger and is denser than the far side. Hence it has the greater gravitational pull than the far side does.

Assisted Living: Room Temperature Issues

If your loved one is not able to manage controlling the thermostat, then you have to rely on the caretakers to do so. Generally speaking, they will do a good job --- but not always. I went to see my mother every single afternoon and occasionally found the temperature to be awful. So, I put a large digital display thermometer in her room. I taped over the display face so that you could only read the room temperature. Then I put up a big big sign stating the desired temperature range for all to see. Then when I called her in the evening and in the morning, I'd ask her to tell me what the digital number was. If necessary, I'd call the assisted living desk and advise them of the situation.

Once again, the usual problem with the caretakers was that they were new and unfamiliar. Assisted living facilities have a hard time retaining their better employees. And then there's the assisted living management's inexplicable tendency to rotate the caretakers. Thus, too many things "fall between the cracks", especially in the larger facilities.

Note: Level of spending is no assurance of increased quality of care. Smaller facilities that are on a single floor level are your best bet overall. And daily visits are most helpful.

Insidious Synthetic Marijuana, K2, Spice

Synthetic Cannabis Destructiveness

I greatly appreciate the Media now headlining details about the sale and abuse of synthetic cannaboids. As a retired secondary school teacher, I can attest to the foolish naievete of many teens that puts them in danger from easy access to such insidious "herbal incense" products. Until we take drastic legal measures to intensify our response to this, we will all continue to share the blame for the damage being wrought. Research the subject of Synthetic Cannabis. Recall your own youthful misdirections and then talk to the young people you know about this.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year Resolution vs One a Day At A Time

"Today is the day we have an opportunity to discard destructive old habits for healthy new ones, and with that in mind, let's share Dear Abby's often-requested list of New Year's Resolutions, which were adapted from the original credo of Al-Anon:"

If you do not change direction, you may wind up where you're heading: