Sunday, September 2, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon


August 31 had a full Moon as did August 1. So by meaning #7 in this Sky & Telescope article the second was a "Blue Moon".

From a Washington Post article:

The “Maine rule”: Going back two centuries, the blue moon was defined as the third moon out of four in a given season, according to the Maine Farmers’ Almanacs going back to 1819. (Donald W. Olson, Richard Tresch Fienberg and Roger W. Sinnott, from Sky & Telescope, went searching for the Maine Farmer’s Almanacs to confirm this.)

Normally there are three full moons in any season, each with a name, such as fruit moon, paschal moon or harvest moon. Since sometimes there are 13 moons in a year, the third moon out of four in a season became the blue moon – a placeholder name -- so that the other moons would keep their rightful place in a seasonal order.

Blue Moons of either of these meanings occur about every 29 months. Hence "Once in a Blue Moon" most often means "very infrequent" (meaning #4 in the Sky & Telescope article).

Here, perhaps, is a more satisfying Blue Moon. ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2012

350.org Failing to Reach Worldwide Policy Makers

My recent conversation with 350.org:

From: Steve Stephenson
Date: Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 9:45 AM
Subject: Re: [General Inquiry] where's your solutions page?
To: "Organizers, 350.org"

> in addition to a dramatic scaling down of energy use.

AND THAT IS WHY YOU ARE FAILING WITH WORLDWIDE POLICY MAKERS !!!

All countries, esp. developing, want to have the same availability of energy as we (USA) have right now, and more in the future; not a meager gruel that will handicap the growth of our civilization.

And yes they will continue wanting it right up until they can't breathe anymore. It 's human nature.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention is a way to make your goal of reducing and eliminating the burning of fossil fuels actually achievable.

The British government is on board with a program, as is China's:
Stephen K Stephenson: @sks23cu
UK's Thorium initiative for LFTRs http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org

Stephen K Stephenson: @sks23cu
U.S. partners with China on new nuclear http://smrt.io/MA0tAg 


Of course you will have to educate your followers and the public at large to stop emotionally and unreasonably exaggerating radiation dangers from nuclear power plants. For example,
... population exposure from operation of 1000-MWe nuclear and coal-fired power plants amounts to 490 person-rem/year for coal plants and 4.8 person-rem/year for nuclear plants.
I think the public's biggest fear is of an accident at a nuclear plant that releases radioactive steam and gasses (like Fukushima). A secondary fear is the need to store radioactive wastes for a long time.

Both of these fears become irrational when considering the nuclear reactor originally researched by the USA and which the UK and China will be developing, the liquid salt LFTR:
Stephen K Stephenson: @sks23cu
350.org you've raised the alarm, now help provide the solution! http://on.ted.com/o3FE
  
Steve


On Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM, Organizers, 350.org <organizers@350.org> wrote:
> Hi Stephen,
>
> Thanks for your note—but I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for.
> Here's a relatively basic factsheet(pdf) on solutions as we understand them.
> We advocate for a mix of renewable energy solutions, in addition to a
> dramatic scaling down of energy use.
>
> Hope that's helpful, and thanks again for your inquiry.
>
> Best,
>
> Allyse & the 350 team
>
> : : :  350.org  : : :
>
>
> On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM, <sks23@cornell.edu> wrote:
>>
>> Stephen Kent Stephenson sent a message using the contact form at
>> http://www.350.org/en/help.
>>
>> As a check after my last message I've tried to find solutions on your web
>> page and cannot. By solution I mean what do we replace fossil fuels with
>> that will meet and exceed the energy we get from them almost immediately and
>> forever?

=====

For an update on climate change check out Global Warming's Terrifying New Math. Jim Hansen takes it further into the future and talks about a Runaway Greenhouse Effect that will make the Earth truly a twin of Venus (which has surface temperatures above the melting point of lead.)

For more information on the solution, Liquid Floride Thorium Reactors, LFTRs, check out the Thorium Energy Alliance. We learn there that the first LFTR could be developed in 2 years and that subsequent units could be manufactured for $2M per MegaWatt. One 100 MW LFTR could be transported by one truck to where the power is needed.

Another resource: International Thorium Energy Organisation, IThEO

Here's a Feb. 2011 announcement of China's active research and development project to make LFTRs, which they call Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactors, TFMSRs. Jim Kennedy worries about our loss of intellectual property and the fact that we'll have to pay China to use what we did the original research on. Tell Congress and the President that you want the US to develop LFTRs and export them to the world!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

And yet here we are ...


From http://eenews.net/public/climatewire/2012/07/03/1 :

Little relief for the mid-Atlantic after 'super derecho' downs power infrastructure

...

Troubling patterns in a decade of hotter temperatures

Although no single weather event can be directly attributed to global warming, temperature records over the past several decades indicate that the world is moving toward more extreme heat, rather than extreme cold, said Steven Running, director of the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group at the University of Montana.

"What we see from the record is that we're breaking high temperature records twice as frequently as low temperature records," he said. "Without fingering any particular event, we can say that the probability distribution of temperature is being tilted towards warmer times."

Running noted that even climate scientists who predicted global warming in the late 1960s would be surprised at the heat extremes and weather patterns we are seeing today. More than 22,000 temperature record highs have been set this year, many of them during an unusually warm March. Warm winter conditions are responsible in part for the severity of the current wildfires in the Rocky Mountain West, blazes that have cost more than $100 million to fight and claimed half a dozen lives.

"Forty years ago, pre-eminent climate scientists of the last century didn't think the problem was developing at a speed we'd have to worry about in our lifetimes," Running said. "Most of the science community didn't think [climate change] would be urgent before midcentury."

"And yet here we are," he said.

Be part of the solution, join 350.org!
Join me at http://www.350.org

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

iPhone vs iPod Touch

Do you really need a smartphone?
© 2012 Stephen Kent Stephenson, sks23@cornell.edu. All rights reserved.

The Vancouver Sun article here makes a lot of sense; esp. with Verizon's steeply rising prices. Even their Prepaid Plans (click View Plan Details) will be expensive.

But can you go a little bit further; making calls on an iPod Touch over WiFi so you almost never have to use a cell phone, even a low cost one?

To test that out, I installed Talkatone on an old 2nd generation iPod Touch (model A1288, iOS 4.2.1) that came "free" with my MacBook Pro.

I had already set up Google Voice some time ago but never really had a use for it; now it's assigned to Talkatone on my iPod Touch.

My iPod Touch does not have a microphone; so I use The Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that came with my iPhone.

Also my iPod Touch does not include the ability to run Talkatone in the background; so when I don't have it running, incoming calls and text messages are recorded for later listening and/or reading. In fact, the voice messages are copied to my Gmail as both audio files and (not so good) translated text. E.g.,
New voicemail from Steve Stephenson at 11:55 AM


Google Voice Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Reply-To: sks23@cornell.edu

Voicemail from: Steve Stephenson
This is. I didn't get through to talk accounts because I've got it turned off. ON my iPod Touch. So, that looks fine. I was to see if you get the message. Thanks. Bye.
Play message
Since Talkatone can only use WiFi on my Touch, absolutely no cell phone charges for either voice calls or text messages will accrue.

The Touch+Talkatone can be a poor person's cell phone, where the "cell's" are WiFi hotspots, which are becoming ubiquitous (or use Free WiFi app to find them).

And you can find applications that download data instead of streaming it; e.g., Downcast vs Stitcher for podcasts. (Downloads are available when cell signals aren't; even when going through tunnels!)

Safety is built-in with this method as texting and calling while driving are impossible! And you'll have more time to be with yourself; to think and reflect. That's goodness!

The only thing the iPod Touch doesn't have is GPS (although most apps can use the WiFi hotspots for location, like Google Maps). But GPS can be added and maps can be downloaded, e.g., with Motion X GPS Drive, so GPS navigation with voice driving directions should be possible (click Features).

With Verizon raising prices, now may be a good time to think about changing to a cheap pay-per-call cell phone and/or an iPod Touch with Talkatone.

Open question: When you've had your Verizon iPhone for more than 2 years and cancel with no penalty, can you then use the iPhone as an iPod Touch with GPS? (Answer?)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Get the Facts, on Climate Change

Will we respond to logical arguments? Or are we intractable?
© 2012 Stephen Kent Stephenson, sks23@cornell.edu. All rights reserved.

Recently I sent out this email, and a similar tweet:
From: Steve Stephenson
Date: Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Subject: A grandfather's plea

http://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change.html

The asteroid on a near term collision course with Earth is a memorable analogy.

Small Government and Big Business won't be able to fix this.

_Steve
sks23cu.blogspot.com/2012/01/rational-voting.html
One of the recipients replied with:
Steve, you are under the influence of the democrats. You need to get the facts. The earth goes through this stuff all the time. Read below. I do not think we should be putting crap into the atmosphere but use the correct reason not the BS put out by the democrats.
[Then there was a copy of http://www.guidetothecosmos.com/newsletter-Sunspots.html] , which starts off, "On February 9, 2012, Norwegian scientists posted new research demonstrating a strong correlation between the duration of our Sun’s sunspot cycles and subsequent temperature changes in Northern Europe."]
 So I went to the web to find reputable information on climate change and responded:
Hmm ... well the facts are, "97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming." That's number 4 on this list, http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php. This is from the scientific community, not the Democrats.

You'll always find those who make their money being contrarians and sensationalists. The guy you cited seems to be of that ilk. Even though he claims to have a PhD in Physics, it doesn't seem like he has or had a career in academia or research. See http://www.guidetothecosmos.com/about.htm, where he gives no dates, no positions, nor programs. And nowhere are there references to his peer reviewed research papers on climate ... or any other research topic.

Also, the article he wrote on his web page that you copied, refers to new research by Norwegian scientists posted February 9, 2012. As he did not provide a link to the original posting, I tried to search for it using Google and could not find anything. In particular, ScienceNordic, a site dedicated to reporting all research from Nordic countries, has no mention of it. I emailed ScienceNordic asking for their help locating the paper (email copied below); I'll let you know when I receive an answer.

On http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm
In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them. A survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject 'global climate change' published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused. 75% of the papers agreed with the consensus position while 25% made no comment either way, focusing on methods or paleoclimate analysis (Oreskes 2004).

Several subsequent studies confirm that “...the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”. (Doran 2009). In other words, more than 95% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities.

We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate change. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.
Your view that "The earth goes through this stuff all the time" is answered, I think, most directly by item 1 on http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php, "Climate's changed before." Clicking on the link there takes you to a page that includes this,
It is obviously true that past climate change was caused by natural forcings. However, to argue that this means we can’t cause climate change is like arguing that humans can’t start bushfires because in the past they’ve happened naturally. Greenhouse gas increases have caused climate change many times in Earth’s history, and we are now adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at a increasingly rapid rate.

Looking at the past gives us insight into how our climate responds to external forcings. Using ice cores, for instance, we can work out the degree of past temperature change, the level of solar activity, and the amount of greenhouse gases and volcanic dust in the atmosphere. From this, we can determine how temperature has changed due to past energy imbalances. What we have found, looking at many different periods and timescales in Earth's history, is that when the Earth gains heat, positive feedbacks amplify the warming. This is why we've experienced such dramatic changes in temperature in the past. Our climate is highly sensitive to changes in heat. We can even quantify this: when you include positive feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 causes a warming of around 3°C [= 5.4°F].
What does that mean for today? Rising greenhouse gas levels are an external forcing, which has caused climate changes many times in Earth's history. They're causing an energy imbalance and the planet is building up heat. From Earth's history, we know that positive feedbacks will amplify the greenhouse warming. So past climate change doesn't tell us that humans can't influence climate; on the contrary, it tells us that climate is highly sensitive to the greenhouse warming we're now causing.

Having recently become a grandfather like Dr. James Hansen, I want to leave a world that is physically and economically healthy to my grandkids and their kids.

I'm registered on my town's voter list as an "undeclared." I want to be able to analyze the facts and vote for those I think will work most effectively toward resolution of the primal issues. I always try to see the "big picture" in any issue set, so I find the views in this Skeptical Science page very appropriate.

Because the mantra of all the Republican candidates is "smaller Federal government" and "business is the solution to everything", they are not the party that will solve the climate change issues. There has to be a strong Federal government that will work internationally to resolve them; one that does not trade humanity's future for business profits. The Democrats do have warts, but since the Republicans have opted out of solving the climate change issues, the Democrats are the only game in town.

I think most American scientists would agree.

And the real facts can be found at Skeptical Science.

_Steve K
sks23cu.blogspot.com/2012/01/rational-voting.html
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Steve Stephenson <sks23@cornell.edu>
Date: Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 7:24 AM
Subject: missing research paper?
To: editor@sciencenordic.com

On your website I can't find the research posting referred to in
http://www.guidetothecosmos.com/newsletter-Sunspots.html.

Does it exist?

_Steve
sks23cu.blogspot.com/2012/01/rational-voting.html
The reply I got was:
As suspected, democrats are ready to believe the hype, the fact is, the temp of the earth has been decreasing for the last ten years. The president and Al Gore are making millions getting people to believe this crap, while they destroy the US. You really need to stop watching the mainstream news media and start watching FOX.
 To which I responded:
> ... the fact is, the temp of the earth has been decreasing for the last ten years.

False! The facts are here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling.htm

> The president and Al Gore are making millions getting people to believe this crap

The information is not "crap" if it's true; and it is. Also, the
fossil fuel interests are making multiple trillions while destroying
the Earth; the only home we have.

> You really need to stop watching the mainstream news media and start watching FOX.

The only reason to watch FOX is to reinforce self aggrandizing
beliefs, not science. Why would I ignore the mainstream (meaning
majority consensus) and listen to a fringe network expressing minority
views, especially about science (which relies on majority consensus
building)?

You should start hearing.

Please comment on this post.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Something from Nothing

Important science impacting philosophy and religion.

© 2012 Stephen Kent Stephenson, sks23@cornell.edu. All rights reserved.

On Stitcher I listen to a science podcast called, "Quirks and Quarks", from Canada. The last segment of the January 21, 2012 episode is about an excellent new book by renowned physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, "A Universe from Nothing: Why there is Something Rather than Nothing". (I read it on my iPhone Kindle Reader.)

Clicking a link at the end of the segment text takes you to Dr. Krauss's Media Page. It contains a must watch video, "A Universe From Nothing", predating the book, that explains the quantum mechanical physics of the instability of nothing forcing the emergence of something.

Also on Dr. Krauss's Media Page is the video, "Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science (CERN talk)". As a counterpoint to the prevailing education mantra that English is more important than STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Dr. Krauss reports that on the undergraduate entrance exams to Princeton, Feynman got the highest ever recorded score in Physics and the lowest ever recorded score in English. But, "In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time." So at least in Feynman's case, English was not all that important. This supports the sentiments in my post, PAAC, not WAC.

I personally have struggled on the one hand with childhood instruction in a fundamental Baptist religion, and on the other hand my observations of various seeming paradoxes within those teachings, and clashes with rational scientific thoughts and theories. I agree with Atheist Alliance Int'l. that throughout history and even today many crimes against humanity have and are being committed in the names of various religions and superstitions. But the ceremonies and didactic methods of formal religions are attractive, as described in this TED talk. So while not yet ready to embrace outright atheism, pantheism has a lot of appeal. The Cosmos is God, and we're part of the Cosmos!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gargling With Listerine Works!

Wash Away Airborne Microbes Before They Infect You!

© 2009-2012 Stephen Kent Stephenson, sks23@cornell.edu. All rights reserved.

Advertisement in Popular Science, February 1932.
Popular Science, February 1932
Never having seen any ads like this, a few years ago I independently started to gargle with Cool Mint Listerine. When I start to feel a tickle or burning in my throat, I reach for the Listerine and gargle multiple times until the tickle or burning, and spit-up mucous clumps, go away. I went from many colds every winter, including a couple of deep lung infections, to almost none, and the few I do get are considerably less severe.

So I believe in the results the ad claims. But my conjecture is NOT that these results are primarily due to any antiseptic properties of Listerine, but rather to the cleansing action in removing accumulating mucous and entrained microbes from the throat and lower nasal cavity (more thoughts below). Because of that, in an effort to improve the results, I sometimes use saline nasal spray before I gargle with Listerine (a Neti pot could be useful, too).

I've tried gargling with both saline solutions and ethyl alcohol (vodka or whiskey) but the results (clumps of mucous in the spit) are much less favorable. There must be something in Listerine that cuts away or frees the mucous from the throat tissues.

Since my experiences corroborate the ad claims, why doesn't the manufacturer of Listerine continue these kinds of ads? Potential reasons:

1. After prolonged use there were some deleterious effects, but I have never heard of any. Besides, using Listerine as only a mouth wash as currently advertised would probably have the same deleterious effects. So I don't think this is the reason.

2. The taste of the original Listerine was so bad nobody wanted to use it anyway. Well, maybe, but in that time period people regularly "enjoyed" Horehound Drops and Moxie Soda, so I don't think taste was a deterrent to gargling with Listerine.

3. Gargling with Listerine is so effective that that use would seriously and negatively impact the company's ability to market multitudes of other cold and flu remedies that are much more profitable.

My money is on 3.

-Steve

P.S.: In 2008-2009, with the advent of "Swine Flu", health organizations and the media constantly recommended that we wash our hands frequently to prevent the spread of flu and colds. Surgeons scrub their hands before surgery. Doctors do the same before and after examining a patient. See http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandWashing/ and http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/en/.

These actions DO NOT kill any microbes, especially viruses. But the washing DOES remove the microbes before they infect tissues.

This, I think, is the action of gargling with Listerine. It removes the microbes before they have a chance to infect the tissues.

Also, a cold is caused by the infection of the tissues by a virus. But many of the uncomfortable symptoms of a cold are caused not by the virus, but by secondary infections of bacteria that are incubated in the warm excess mucous the virus induces the tissues to excrete. Gargling with Listerine removes the excess mucous and the microbes living and reproducing in it, reducing or eliminating the symptoms caused by them.

Facing the threat of losing thousands of lives to "Swine Flu", et al, every Fall and Winter because attempts at making an effective vaccine in sufficient quantities is unsuccessful, wouldn't it make sense to hedge our bets by gargling with Listerine?

Further, why doesn't the US Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization do more research on how to prevent diseases along these lines and develop more low cost and/or home made products like Listerine? The pharmaceutical industry has VERY LITTLE MOTIVE to do so BECAUSE they MAKE MUCH LESS MONEY by PREVENTING or CURING diseases, they MAKE MUCH MORE MONEY by TREATING diseases.

=====

N.B.: On July 25, 2009, I posted a comment on the web that contained a link to the first version of this post.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vote Rationally -- Follow the money!

© 2012 Stephen Kent Stephenson, sks23@cornell.edu. All rights reserved.

Compromise is not possible in the U.S. Government anymore. All U.S. political parties view their positions as "right" and all others as "wrong", there is no middle ground -- no possibility of compromise.

Events in 2011 demonstrate that the only way the two Houses of Congress and the President can get anything substantial accomplished is if all three are controlled by the same political party.

But which party?

Recent reports show that in the U.S.A. the disparity between the rich and poor is widening, and sucking the middle class down an economic spiral toward poverty. E.g., Census Bureau says “deep poverty” hit the highest level on record, Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor, Americans Underestimate U.S. Wealth Inequality, and 22 Statistics Prove Middle Class Being Wiped Out.

The Republican Party supports policies and legislation that increase the wealth of the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. The Republicans claim that the wealthy create jobs and need lower taxes as incentives; but that's not true. And "the Republican mantra about high marginal tax rates killing the economy is, well, a bunch of crap". To balance the budget the Republicans want to reduce their taxes and cut spending on entitlement programs like medicare and social security, forcing the poor and middle class to pay more for health care and retirement -- if they can afford them at all. But billionaire Nick Hanauer says, "Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators" and "We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich."

The Democratic Party supports policies and legislation that bolsters the middle class at the expense of the rich. E.g., in addition to some modest cuts to entitlement programs, the Democrats want to increase the tax rates of the rich to levels more in keeping with history (tax rates on the rich are at an all time low).

Other parties are too small and ineffectual to have any major direct impact. Voting for them is essentially NOT VOTING because they have no chance of controlling both houses and the presidency.

So if you're rich, you should vote straight Republican.

But if you're part of the struggling poor or middle class, you should vote straight Democrat.

ABOVE ALL, YOU SHOULD NOT ABSTAIN (NOT VOTE) BECAUSE THAT'S EFFECTIVELY A VOTE FOR THE OTHER PARTY.

The choice is logical and easily made.

There are vastly more poor and middle class people who can vote than rich people who can vote (at least 4 to 1, as "top 20 percent have 85 percent of the wealth"). So if the Republicans win control of the U.S.Government in the 2012 elections, the non-rich have no one to blame but themselves for their subsequent economic decline into serfdom.