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Neil Rieck
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Hi-tech Community of Laptops and Lederhosen (Leather Pants)
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Current Items of Interest
  1. Carl Sagan on Global Warming (Cosmos Update - 1990)
    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 ...
  2. Site Update:
    Most climate science information on this page has been moved here
    Humanity's Coming Dark Age (including the chart Rise and Fall of Empires) can be found here
  3. Anti-Vaxxers, Conspiracy Theories & Epistemic Responsibility: Crash Course Philosophy #14 (video 9:46)
    Includes the work of W. K. Clifford who stated things like this:
    1) "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything based upon insufficient evidence."
    2) "If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it — the life of that man is one long sin against mankind."
  4. Animation shows advance of climate change with horrifying clarity (1850-2016)
  5. A few neat quotes from Winston Churchill
    • 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.
  6. Reaping What We Sow :: WE ARE undoubtedly pumping ever more carbon dioxide into the air. But did you know that this also silently adds unwanted carbs to bread, cereals and salad and cuts vital protein and mineral content? This nutritional blow is now worrying the world’s most powerful nation. For the first time it forms a key finding in an official report on the health impacts of climate change in the US, drawn up by the Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and unveiled by the White House this week. Why would more CO2 mean poorer food? Photosynthetic organisms, such as plants, are the carbohydrate factories of the world. They convert CO2 and water into gigatonnes of starch and sugars every year. And every year since the industrial age began, we have steadily fed them more CO2. Plants respond by building more carbohydrates but less protein into tissues. This means a higher ratio of carbs to protein in plants, including key crops such as wheat, rice and potato. This is a double whammy: protein deficiency afflicts the developing world, while excess carbohydrate consumption is a worry in the obesity-riven developed world. This is not the only nutritional impact. To capture CO2, plants open pores in their leaves. These stomata let in CO2 but allow water out: plants compensate by sucking moisture from the soil. Transpiration, as this process is called, is a major hydrological force. It moves minerals essential for life closer to the roots, nourishing plants and ultimately us. But plants respond to high CO2 by partially closing stomata and losing less water. This reduces the flow of nutrients to roots and into plants. Less minerals but more carbs creates a higher carbs-to-minerals ratio in crops and food. In an elevated CO2 world, every serving of bread, pasta, fruits and vegetables delivers more starch and sugar but less calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, protein and other vital nutrients. Over a lifetime, this change can contribute to weight gain. Hidden hunger – the result of diets rich in calories but poor in vital nutrients – was mainly a developing world problem. But in 2002, New Scientist predicted that “elevated CO2 levels threaten to bring the… problem to Europe and North America”. Skepticism made it difficult to secure funding for testing this prediction and slowed progress by a decade. However, the conclusion is now unequivocal: rising CO2 depletes protein and minerals in most food that underpins human nutrition across the world. Sceptics {Skeptics} like to claim that rising CO2 is a boon because it boosts crop yields. But as US Department of Agriculture scientist Lewis Ziska put it “elevated CO2 could be junk food” for some plant species. There really is no such thing as a free lunch with climate change. -- New Scientist April 9-15, 2016
  7. I am currently reading two thought-provoking books which I recommend to people interested in physics and/or electronics (specifically RF theory). They are titled  Concerning the Discovery of the Æther (2015) and Æther Drift (2016). They currently cost $10 each at Amazon.com and I guarantee that the science nerds in your family will get more than $20 worth of enjoyment from them. In the 2016 book the author details his own experimental apparatus called The Granville Interferometer which is meant to follow up on the famously failed Michelson and Morley experiment.
  8. I just read an interesting article in Skeptic (vol 21, no 1, 2016) about the book Ruins of Empire (The Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires) written by Constantin-François Volney (1757-1820) and secretly translated into English by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in 1799.

    Quote (article): What would Volney say about the upsurge in violent religious extremism today? The answer is clear: Across the planet, an entire generation of young men and women are being convinced to give up the one thing that exists for sure - their own lives -- for something that had never been proven to exist -- the Afterlife. 

    Comment: Life this side of Y2K seems to be dominated with religious extremism; just the sort of thing Volney warned about 200 years ago. This reminded me of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire written by Edward Gibbon (1723–1792) which I had been determined to read until I learned that it was published in 6 or 12 volumes depending upon how you count them.
  9. Discovery of Motion (2006) John Granville. 533 pages.

    Comment: I have often lamented the passing of great explainers like Isaac Asimov while wondering "where are their replacements?". John Granville is one such candidate and I find his writing style the correct mix of "meat and potatoes" (a phrase from one of my early instructors who likened consuming information with consuming food; "too much meat" required a lot of work with limited enjoyment while "too many potatoes" went down easier but offered incomplete sustenance). Like Asimov, Granville includes a lot of supporting material and is not shy about publishing mathematical equations which you can skip over if you desire. Chapter 32 is titled "Speed of Light and the Æther Drift Paradox" describes experiments employed to "measure the speed of light" before the age of electronics. If you don't find these amazing then you have no sense of curiosity. Read more...
  10. Nuclear Fusion
    1. Fusion research is typically based on tokamak (easy to build; hard to control) or stellarator (harder to build; easier to control)
    2. First proposed by Lyman Spitzer in 1950, the stellarator was meant simulate conditions found in stars.
    3. German universities began work in the mid 1980s on a device named the Wendelstein 7-AS (Advanced Stellarator)
    4. Advances in computer technology in the early 2000s allowed them to develop computer models of how the plasma should flow. This allowed them to refine their design further until they began building the Wendelstein 7-X in 2005 which concluded in 2014
    5. recent news:
  11. Andrew Dressler (Texas A&M) on Satellite Temperature Measurement Errors
    Is it really a matter of "models vs. data" as some claim, or is is more an example of "models vs. models" because raw satellite data must first be run through a model-derived algorithm in order to infer the temperature.
    Now read this: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Satellite-record-vs-thermometers.htm
    Then this: http://www.remss.com/research/climate
  12. While recently reading a book about Erwin Schrödinger I stumbled across this paragraph about the German philosopher Schopenhauer which (I thought) helps to explain the actions of modern-day ideologues (both political and religious).
    In The World as Will and Representation and other works, Schopenhauer offered an explanation for the driving force of emotions that can lead to calamity. Drawing from the Hindu notion of karma and the Buddhist concept of suffering, he described how "will" is a universal force that compels people to carry out tasks. It is the desire that generates the action that brings out the inevitable. Just like other natural forces, it leads to predictable outcomes. However, the agents experiencing such compulsion fully believe it is their own volition producing the results. Neurotically, they can become immersed in their own longings, constantly unfilled, because whenever a goal is reached, a new desire bubbles up.

    Comment: if new desires were acted upon, this would be and example of an unattenuated positive feedback loop. Could this be the source of violence associated with political and religious extremism?
  13. With all due respect to the well minded people involved in COP21, I do not believe it is possible to get governments of capitalistic economies to ratify any international agreement to make carbon more expensive. Why? There is too large an incentive to cheat, and too much of a political lobby to retain the status quo. Most technical people have heard the old adage "if you can't raise the bridge then try lowering the river". Applying this to humanity's current dilemma means we need an international agreement to eliminate all government subsidies on carbon. At the same time the G20 or G7 (at the very least) should agree to subsidize the development of renewable energy technology. Someday soon the price of renewable energy would be lower than the price of carbon which (from a capitalistic perspective) means this problem would take care of itself.
  14. First a little Star Wars movie history. The first three movies (SW1-3 :: 1977-1983 :: EP4-6) are about episodes 4-6. The second three movies (SW4-SW6 :: 1999-2005 :: EP1-3) are about episodes 1-3. In my world sci-fi fans are split down the middle: some prefer the first three movies while others prefer the second three. There is no right or wrong here it's just a matter of preference (eg. some people hate Jar Jar Binks while others hate the Ewoks; some loved watching Yoda training Luke on Dagobah while others preferred the martial arts of Darth Maul; some thought the first three were targeted at kids while others thought the politics of the second three made them more appropriate for adults). SW7 (2015) follows the story SW3 (1983) and was co-written with Lawrence Kasdan (also co-wrote SW2 + SW3) so I suspect that half the audience will love it.

    comment: Okay so I just saw the film in 3D and can tell you all that SW7 is better than any the first three movies (1977-1983) but not better than any of the second three (1999-2005).
  15. 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)
  16. The latest issue of 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 Newton approximately 150 years after his 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
  17. In 2013, a survey of more than 4000 Canadian federal scientists found that 90 per cent felt they were not allowed to speak freely to the media, and 24 per cent said they had been directly asked to exclude or alter information. In a modern democracy, that’s a disgrace.
  18. A short video on Scientific Consensus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTJQPyTVtNA
  19. Science under Siege is a three part radio program aired on CBC Radio's Ideas with Paul Kennedy (this should be required learning for all citizens in the western world; it applies to Americans as well as Canadians). Here are the mp3 downloads: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/documentaries/the-best-of-ideas/
    while science does not appear to be under siege in mother Britain, the story is much different out in the colonies (America, Canada, and Australia). While I am not certain of the reasons, this chart may shed some light on the situation
  20. What are the  Blue Zones  ?
  21. I have recently been surprised by the quality of fan-created Star Trek episodes (alphabetically):
    • Star Trek Axanar (prelude is available now; the full movie will be available late 2015 or early 2016)
    • Star Trek Continues
    • Star Trek New Voyages
    • Star Trek Renegades
  22. Science is an endless search for truth. Any representation of reality we develop can be only partial. There is no finality, sometimes no single best representation. There is only deeper understanding, more revealing and enveloping representations. Scientific advance, then, is a succession of newer representations superseding older ones, either because an older one has run its course and is no longer a reliable guide for a field or because the newer one is more powerful, encompassing, and productive than its predecessor(s).
    Carl R. Woese
    source: http://mmbr.asm.org/content/68/2/173.full
  23. 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. Recent observations separate 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 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)
  24. Science is a way of thinking by Carl Sagan
    • www.sciencefriday.com/segment/12/27/2013/carl-sagan-science-is-a-way-of-thinking.html
    • www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iyFw8UF85A (clip - 2:33)
    • www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8HEwO-2L4w (full - 20:27)
    • Food for thought: I recently stumbled across this quote:
      "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." — Admiral Hyman G. Rickover
      which got me thinking about sectarian conflicts brewing throughout the world where just engaging in an open minded religion discussion can get you charged with apostasy then put to death. If Rickover's assertion is true then people who constantly refer to events or people "in their holy books" choose to be "not great minds"
    • It is a sad fact that the funding of the National Science Foundation is ten times smaller than the tax breaks given to religion in the USA
  25. Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)
    A 17th century lens grinder known for his precision optical work. But it was his philosophy that made this Dutch-Jewish thinker famous, then and now. 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/ideas/episodes/2013/08/02/spinoza-3/ - Audio: 53:59
  26. Enlightenment: Science in Sonnet Form

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQr9UE37GCs (a 90 second inspirational video)
    That knowledge, once a gem which few did see,
    in ignorant mystery lay neglected,
    'till hard won by thoughtful curiosity,
    and reasoned methodology perfected.

    Then, each new discovered jewel did catch the light,
    Illuminating treasures in cascade,
    and from each shinning fragment polished bright,
    a glittering crown of knowledge we have made.

    A crown for all to wear, that brings its bearer all;
    astronaut-astronomer, conqueror of disease,
    monarch of the quantum realm and more,
    tireless swimmer of genetic seas.

    Yet, after all these glories we have won,
    doubt not that still, the best is yet to come.
  27. chloroplastThe computed World Human Population Limit
    Simple math proves the current human population is already too large at 7.0 billion (other new numbers indicate an optimum number of 4.42 billion). Anything higher (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 395 ppm (an increase of 25.3%) 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.
  28. Near Earth Objects (comets and asteroids) are a clear and present danger to all human culture as well as Earth's current biosphere.
    1. If dinosaurs had developed technology then they could have protected themselves from the asteroid strike associated with Chicxulub Crater on the coast of Yucatan, Mexico.
    2. Humanity has developed the necessary technology but political-ideological pressures have neutered NASA's ability to proceed beyond primitive NEO detection.
    3. Developing and implementing planetary protection technology just may be an evolutionarily survival prerequisite (so Tea Party thinking will doom us all). Think of this as a protective immune system for the whole planet.
    4. NASA NEO links
    5. Mark your calendars for February 15, 2013 when Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass under the orbit of Earth's geosynchronous satellites.
      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwidzVHvbGI (NASA video)
      • It is expected to pass over Indonesia at 14:30 EST
      • If it were to impact the Earth (but it will not), the estimated energy release would be 3.5 megatons tons of TNT (220 times bigger than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Japan at the end of WW2)
      While this rock is only 50 m (~150 ft) wide, remember that similarly sized rocks were responsible for:
      1. the 1908 Tunguska Event in Russia
      2. as well as Meteor Crater approximately 43 miles (69 km) east of Flagstaff, Arizona.
    6. Oops, on the morning of February 15, 2013 while we were waiting for the approach of 2012 DA14, an asteroid approximately 15m in size became an air-bursting meteor in an event now known as 2013 Russian meteor event. More than 1,200 people were injured by shock waves to buildings.
    7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaceguard quote: Arthur C. Clarke coined the term in his novel Rendezvous with Rama where SPACEGUARD was the name of an early warning system created following a catastrophic asteroid impact.
    8. B612 Foundation (who are looking for private donations so they can launch their own NEO monitoring satellite)
    9. Near Earth Objects and Planetary Defense documentary videos
  29. Attention Computer Technologists: George Dyson just published a book titled Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe which appears to be a must-own gem.
  30. Isaac Asimov on PBS
    Isaac Asimov PhD
    "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: read more Asimovian quotes here
  31. Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan PhD
    (Astronomy and
    "We have designed a civilization based on science and technology and at the same time have arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster. We may, for a while, get away with this mix of ignorance and power but sooner or later it is bound to blow up in our face."

    -- Carl Sagan

    "Science is a way of thinking"

    -- Carl Sagan

    "An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof"

    -- Carl Sagan

    NSR Comment: this last quote also applies to religious assertions so maybe fundamentalists need to calm down a bit.
  32. Arthur C ClarkeIn 1974 Arthur C. Clarke told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that every household in 2001 will have a computer and be connected all over the world


    (sounds like the internet to me)
  33. Today it appears that religious, political, and economic extremists are actively cultivating ignorance.

    For this reason, I hope the following 7-minute video will help end the madness.
    This video is based upon Isaac Asimov's rebuttal to a letter he received from an "English literature" student who was critical of science and progress. The original letter can be found here

    --- xxx ---

    While on this topic, here is an essay titled The “Threat” of Creationism published in the 1984 book Science and Creationism. Quote: Scientists thought it was settled. The universe, they had decided, is about 20 billion years old (now refined to be 13.7), and Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. Simple forms of life came into being more than three billion years ago, having formed spontaneously from nonliving matter. They grew more complex through slow evolutionary processes and the first hominid ancestors of humanity appeared more than four million years ago. Homo sapiens itself—the present human species, people like you and me—have walked the earth for at least 50,000 years. But apparently it isn't settled. There are Americans who believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old; that human beings and all other species were brought into existence by a divine Creator as eternally separate variations of beings; and that there has been no evolutionary process.
  34. Two world-views for modern humans:
    1. faith-based
      • Dictionary definition of Faith: belief that is not based on proof
      • Dictionary definitions of Sectarian:
        1. narrowly confined or devoted to a particular sect.
        2. a bigoted or narrow-minded adherent of a sect.
      • Dictionary definition of Theocracy: a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission.
      • Question(s):
        1. Does it make any sense to kill in the name of religion (sectarian violence)?
        2. Does it make any sense to organize government around religion? You might be okay with this as long as YOUR SECT in in charge, but how will you feel when a different sect legally supplants yours? Perhaps it is better for all if we keep our religious practices private and personal.
    2. evidence-based
      • Dictionary definition of Evidence: that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
      • Dictionary definition of Secular: of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred.
        comment: If sectarian is "narrowly confined or bigoted" then secular is "more broadly encompassing and flexible"

    More food for thought:
    1. Quote: "Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army" -- Edward Everett (1794 - 1865)
    2. European Enlightenment (1650-1800)
    3. American Enlightenment (1715–1789)
    4. Baruch Spinoza a.k.a. Benedict de Spinoza (24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677) was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. By laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. His magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes's mind–body dualism, has earned him recognition as one of Western philosophy's most important contributors. In the Ethics, "Spinoza wrote the last indisputable Latin masterpiece, and one in which the refined conceptions of medieval philosophy are finally turned against themselves and destroyed entirely." Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said of all contemporary philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."
    5. Age of Reason (1650-present)
    6. If you value The Enlightenment as much as I do then you might enjoy this new book titled "Enlightenment 2.0"
  35. Superstition: A belief, not based on human reason or scientific knowledge, that future events may be influenced by one's behavior in some magical or mystical way (Wiktionary). In 1947, the psychologist B. F. Skinner reported a series of experiments in which pigeons could push a lever that would randomly either give them a food pellet, or nothing. Think of it as a sort of one-armed bandit that the pigeons played for free. Skinner found, after a while, that some of the pigeons started acting oddly before pushing the lever. One moved in counterclockwise circles, one repeatedly stuck its head into the upper corner of the cage, and two others would swing their heads back and forth in a sort of pendulum motion. He suggested that the birds had developed "superstitious behaviors" by associating "getting the food" with something they happened to be doing when they actually got it -- and they had wrongly concluded that if they did it again, they were more likely to get the pellet. Essentially, they were doing a sort of food-pellet dance to better their odds. This has got to be one explanation for human behavior in the 21st century.
  36. I am always bewildered by the confusion intentionally introduced by retail marketing of electronics equipment (including information from the Consumer Electronics Association).
    This is nothing new in retail electronics. Anyone who remembers the transition of home entertainment audio gear from "vacuum tubes" to "solid state" in the 1970s would be familiar with the terms: "RMS Power" (the only true metric), "Peak Power", "Peak-to-Peak Power", "Music Power" (which I recall was the maximum output power measured just before the electronics caught on fire). How many times did a fast-talking stereo salesman tell us about "Total Harmonic Distortion" with no real understanding of the underlying numbers? I never met a single one who could properly define "dB". 
    Currently, everyone is buzzing about 4k TV when actually referencing UHD TV (Ultra High Definition). 
    Here are a few facts:
    • 2k means 2048 (2^11) in the world of binary computers but can sometimes mean 2000 colloquially (as in $2k)
    • 4k means 4096 (2^12) in the world of binary computers but can sometimes mean 4000 colloquially (as in $4k)
    • HD TV is defined as:
      • 1280 x 720 (aspect ratio: 16x9) but most consumers have never heard of 1280 x 720 even though most el-cheapo flat-screen TVs default to this resolution. Most consumers will have heard of it by its other name: 720p.
      • It is also defined as 1920 x 1080 (aspect ratio: 16x9) when operated as in 1080i (interlaced) mode where only 540 lines are available per each frame. Non-technical people find this second wrinkle too confusing until you break it down to pixel-rates:
        • 1280 x 720 =    921,600 pixels per second
        • 1920 x 540 = 1,036,800 pixels per second (12% more detail when content doesn't change too quickly)
    • FHD TV (Full High Definition) refers to a maximum screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 (aspect ratio: 16x9)
      • The smaller number, 1080, represents the number of lines and was previously marketed as 1080p
      • The larger number, 1920, represents the number of pixels per line. Notice that 1920 doesn't meet either definition of 2k although retailers (including the Consumer Electronics Association) refer to it as 2k
      • In 2015, most cable providers do not transmit a signal with this resolution so TV manufacturers provide built-in "signal upscalers". We can also supply our own signals with "Blu-ray players" and Game Consoles (PS3, PS4, XBOX-360, and XBOX-One)
    • UHD (Ultra High Definition) doubles FHD to get 3840 x 2160 which many call 4k.
      • If 1920 isn't 2K then 3840 certainly isn't 4k as this article confirms: 4k resolution.
      • In 2015, most cable providers are unable to transmit a signal with this resolution so TV manufacturers provide built-in "signal upscalers". We can also provide our own signals with "4k-compatible Blu-ray players" (here, the Blu-ray player can upscale so-called 2k content or play so-called 4k content) and high-end PC-based gaming rigs with video-cards usually costing more than game consoles
    • UHD+ (Ultra High Definition Plus) increases resolution to 5120 x 2880 which Apple correctly markets 5k ( Retina 5k )
    • FUHD (Full Ultra High Definition) doubles UHD to get 7680 x 4320 which some retailers are already calling 8k (which it is not). Many people scoff at the idea of 8k technology but here are some facts:
      • The Las Vegas consumer electronics show is usually held before Super Bowl for obvious marketing reasons. Some companies previewed their so-called 8k sets this year (Jan-2015) while dropping the prices of their so-called 4k sets which are now flying off the shelves as Super Bowl approaches (Feb-1, 2015).
      • Full UHD is necessary to fully reproduce IMAX-quality content which is not yet available to the retail consumer
      • Some vendors are already referring to 8k as QUHD (Quad Ultra High Definition) because it is four times larger than FHD
    • QHD (Quad Ultra High Definition) quadruples UHD to get 15360 x 8640 and I am assuming retailers will call it 16k (which it is not)
    • Click this link to see a more complete list of graphics display technologies which include true 4k and true 8k formats

    Question: Why Should Anyone Care?
    • because true 2k (2048 x 1080) and true 4k (4096 x 2160) technologies were developed for commercial use as part of Digital Cinema Initiatives (which is what you are viewing in a traditional movie theatre. Many patrons are unaware of the fact that celluloid film projectors have been gone for a long while)
    • These aspect ratios are published 2.39:1 and 1.85:1
    • Different screen geometries were chosen for commercial use in order to combat piracy. Commercial interests did not want stolen commercial content directly playable on retail equipment (since 16x9 = 1.78:1 then these other formats could not be properly displayed without some preprocessing)

    New Cable Confusion on the Horizon?
    • Just as most consumers were getting comfortable saying/buying HDMI the move to UHD and above requires a shift to DisplayPort (thankfully many retailers already sell HDMI-to-DisplayPort conversion dongles)
    • Your new laptop may already be configured with a mini-DisplayPort ports but you just didn't know it (I noticed one on my new Lenovo Laptop back in 2011)
  37. Microsoft's Project Tuva - a multimedia homage to the lectures of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. For example, check out Video Lecture 1: The Messenger Lecture Series: The Law of Gravitation (55 minute BBC video from Cornell in 1964)
  38. 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.
    • 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.
  39. Isaac Asimov PhD
    Dr. Isaac Asimov
    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)
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. My Book Recommendations to promote STEM

"2001: A Space Odyssey"
A mysterious monolith awakens the imagination of humanity's distant ancestors;
A second one awaits humanity's giant leap to the moon;
And in orbit around Jupiter, a third 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

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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)