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201. Current Issues, Briefly #7

20 Jan

This is the 7th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets (@RichardLeeWB), unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are valuable and worth emphasizing.

I just listened to Alan Dershowitz, stating that “abuse of power” is not a high crime. His extensive research trying to understand the thoughts of early leaders is really pointless, and not a justification for this confusion of issues. His problem is that he does not recognize different levels of abuse. Trump’s abuse was very serious, involving elections, delayed military support, and making Ukraine more vulnerable to Russia. Ukraine is like a buffer zone for us, limiting Russian expansion. It is frightening to think that Trump aids in Russian efforts to dominate.

.   Dershowitz Fails to Recognize Different Levels of Abuse-of-power

Famous attorney Alan Dershowitz says that Trump is King, in fact, even more powerful. Well, if Trump is King, then Dershowitz is the court jester. Trumpism is like a disease that infects everyone near him. Star Ken Starr is also participating.

The NY Times just endorsed Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. For many years I favored Warren, but recently her arguments with Bernie were a little discouraging. For the last year or so, I have been impressed by Klobuchar, who has high intelligence and good judgement.  I also think that Tom Steyer could make a good candidate and president, if elected. Note, any of the Democratic candidates would be a great improvement.  In the end, whoever gets the most public support is probably going to be our best choice for beating Trump. Another four years of him would be a catastrophe for all Americans.

Rachel Kleinfeld in a 2019 TED talk looks at the relation between politicians, gangs, and police; in an effort to understand high murder rates in certain surprising locals. She writes that several major US cities have very high murder rates. For example, in “New Orleans, more people per capita are dying than in war-torn Somalia.” Throughout the world, there are many small areas that have very high murder rates, surpassing those in wars. The ultimate cause for this, is various patterns of corruption. This TED talk is well constructed and fascinating, and the analysis is impressive.

It seems that every human system in existence for some years becomes corrupted. I just read that drug companies are manipulating patents to limit competition and raise prices.  See this December 2019 TED talk by Priti Krishtel.

Don’t be fooled by the RISING stock market. The market rises when investors believe that major corporations will be profitable. Increased corporate profits generally have little or no effect on middle-class wages. Most important: does a full-time salary cover reasonable expenses?  Also, under President Obama, the market was rising at a steady rate and when Trump took office the market simply continued this rise. Obama had major financial problems when he took office, while Trump had the benefit of Obama’s policies.

Imagine a president that encourages and supports scientific methods for improving our lives; rather than growing military, insulting our allies, withdrawing from worthy treaties, and using government for private enrichment. We need a President that works well with scientists and innovators.

Trump is desperate to win in 2020 because when he leaves office, he is very vulnerable. Briefly, the problem is that investigations of criminality will be easier and likely, tax returns will be revealed. Desperation led to the Ukraine extortion, aberrant  military actions, and other mistakes.

A sure sign of a dictator is that he uses government systems to attack his political opponents. Trump and Republicans have had numerous investigations of Hillary Clinton. The latest three-year investigation found nothing. Six Republican Benghazi investigations found nothing. These unethical investigations are not consistent with our traditional American values.

Major World problems are: climate-change and food-supply. Both can be solved with improved laws and methods for ocean fishing and policies. See TED Talks by Johnson & Davis: “Underwater farms vs climate change“.  And, see Savitz: “Save the oceans, feed the world.” National leaders must understand and use science to solve many of our problems, like depletion of fish and acidification of oceans. The same methods for increasing ocean food-supply, also help with global warming.

To Adam Schiff: Dedicated people like you should be proud to receive Trump insults. I would like to see a website that provides a medal for the most vicious Trump abuse. Adam, you are so effective and patriotic that he must attack. Keep up the great work.

Candidate Tom Steyer is becoming a top contender for US President. It is true that he has 1.6 billion and is spending much on his campaign. But that isn’t a negative because he has spent the last 9yrs on worthy causes, like climate-change and health care. Tom Steyer is a good choice.

How many Republican voting citizens have essentially said that domestic factors are great under Trump and the international policies don’t matter much. Well, Trumps disastrous dealing with Iran, which started with withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, brings us close to a major war.

If you like people that really tell it like it is, then Steve Schmidt is your man. Earlier, he was a major Republican strategist. Starting June 2018, he has forcefully denounced the Republican party and Trump, in graphic terms. I also like the honesty in Morning Joe, and others.

Considering all aspects of the Iranian military leader assassination, it seems the dangers somewhat exceed the benefits. First, killing one official does not change government goals or policies. Second, Trump acted alone, ignoring Congress and allies. Third, major retaliation is likely. 
The Iran Nuclear Deal according to those involved, was working properly. But Trump, who is obsessed with winning and proving his superiority, decided to abandon it and impose more powerful sanctions. As a result, military actions are increasing and we are closer to war. Trump should have worked with allies on improving the treaty, rather than abandoning it. One reason for this serious mistake is that Trump’s unethical history requires him to find loyalists rather than competence.  Note that money given to Iran was mostly frozen assets that belonged to them. Some money was interest on a debt.

 

 

 

195. The Science of Evolution and Life

19 Dec

In some recent discussions, I was disappointed by how biological evolution is poorly understood by many people. Here are some facts about evolution and life, which may be helpful.

The unbiased scientific view is: that life is just a complex variation of matter and will begin when certain organic (based on carbon) compounds happen to combine in a particular way, without any purpose or design (see below for details). An exploding star or the “birth” of a star, just happens,  without any purpose or striving. There are many amazing processes in astronomy and on Earth that just happen. Does the moon circle the Earth due to some striving? When an earthquake occurs,  is there a purpose or goal?

The origin of life and its gradual evolution, in the same way, just happens. Some philosophers and other non-scientists see purposes, goals, striving, drives, etc. in many areas. Scientists ignore all this and are concerned with physical laws and objective descriptions of events. Nothing that happens on Earth or in space seems designed, particularly because of general disorganization and imperfections.

The origins of life and evolution, progress by the principle of “survival of the fittest.” Life and death provide variation and some variations are relatively permanent (mutations). If a variation leads to a better chance of survival, at least long enough for reproduction, then on a statistical basis, it is more likely to occur. Evolution depends on the fact that variations may be persistent and occur in subsequent generations. For example, a species of bird may  have small variations in the length of its beak. It may be that birds with a slightly longer beak are able capture food better. Under the concept of evolution, birds with longer beaks likely will survive better and eventually, this species will have longer beaks. There is no design or purpose here, it just happens as a property of matter.

At this point, you might ask, how can the amazing and complex features of life, occur without the design of someone or thing? In order to understand this, consider that these developments happen in a slow process over billions of years. It is difficult for people to mentally cope with things out of the ordinary time spans and sizes that we are used to. Can you comprehend the size of our solar system, or worse, the galaxy or the entire Universe.  In the same way, five billion years is beyond our comprehension. It should not  be surprising that amazing things can happen in that incomprehensible long time.

You might further inquire, how can there be a transition from ordinary matter to the very first life? The answer is this. The Universe is mostly filled with very simple atoms, mostly hydrogen and some helium. The more complex atoms and molecules develop mostly through supernovae, which are gigantic star explosions (see for example: Wikipedia: “Abundance of the chemical elements.” Right from the very beginnings of the Universe, there was ubiquitous movement. Almost everything is in constant motion, at the very smallest levels (atoms) and the very largest (stars and galaxies). The movements of certain atoms, especially carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc, resulted in the formation of organic (carbon based) compounds. Movement and accidental contacts of organic compounds resulted in something extremely unlikely, a compound that had the property of “life.” It only took one extremely unlikely combination of compounds out of trillions and trillions of chance interactions, to produce in one instance, a compound that could reproduce itself (living). Because of reproduction, this one case could spread life all over our planet. It may be difficult to understand all this, without reference to chemistry and biology textbooks.

Now we come to people. We all want to feel that we are “special,” but like all life, and all actions we see in the Universe, we just happen. Every plant or animal is constructed and develops as a consequence of the DNA it inherits, and all of the experiences it is exposed to. Experiences include learning, parenting, imitation, food sources, environmental and social factors.

This may be disappointing and confusing for many people, but scientists see no evidence for anything else. Given this bleak picture, my advice is to live your life in a normal, responsible, and enjoyable way, but when appropriate for some intellectual reason, recognize reality. Personally, I like to live my life with kindness because it is good for me, and for others — a win, win. (I welcome criticisms and comments.)

 

193. Brain Uploading Ideas are Nonsense

26 Nov

Several writers have suggested that “someday” technology will advance to the point where a brain can be “uploaded” to a man-made computer, where it will be able to function and communicate with us. In some cases, these writers seem desperate to live on after death, by transferring themselves into a computer where they will continue their life. Here are the names of some brain-computer “speculators:” Ray Kurzweil (newsletter), Michael S.A. Graziano (TED talk Oct 2019), Greg Gage (TED talk June 2018) and several others. Most of the “speculators” are brilliant people, who are simply overly optimistic. But a company called Nectome will preserve your brain (“backup your mind”) so that it can be scanned hundreds (?) of years from now (deposit is $10,000). See MIT Tech Rev, Mar 13, 2018.

I am writing on this subject not only to challenge extreme speculation, but because this discussion serves to illustrate the complex nature of our brains and certain technology limitations.

My position is that this thinking belongs to science fiction because there are insurmountable obstacles for this endeavor. It is true that we can explore smaller and smaller biological objects. And computer memories continue to increase in miniaturization and capacity. But there actually are limitations because “matter” has certain limiting features. For example, our units for computer memory are close to the molecular level in size and will soon reach a limit. The speed of computers is limited to the speed of light. Even if we can ultimately reach these limits, it is likely that reliability will decrease. Certain “cosmic rays” and other factors will play a role. I maintain that the laws of physics and chemistry make real limits to tech advancement, that can never be overcome.

I think writers should not bother us with extremely unlikely speculation unless they actually can propose some ways to overcome obvious limits. I could say that someday we will travel to and explore, the inside of “black holes,” or travel to the center of the earth. But there is no value to idle speculation and it only creates confusion for the general public. Companies like Nectome (see above) will collect your $10,000 for something not possible.

Below are some relevant details.

We start with the dificulties in brain scanning. For helpful information on brain control points, see Mark Mayford et al, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, “Synapses and Memory Storage”, June 2012. For a simpler explanation, see Deborah Halber, Brain Facts.Org, Storing Memories in your synapses, Oct 11, 2018. Also very helpful and fascinating are Google images. Search under neurons, gap junctions, synapses, etc. and add the word “type” like “neuron types” to see more variation. As I was writing this, I looked at “gap junction types” and was amazed by the recent advances in this area.

Here are a few brief definitions:
Control point: either a synapse or gap-junction. It is like a transistor in a computer.
Synapse: a connection between two nerve cells, using chemical transmitters, which cross a tiny gap.
Gap-Junction: a connection between two nerve cells, where the cells actually touch.
Action potential: an all-or-none digital signal that transmits info up to a distance of several feet.
Axon: a long extension of a nerve cell (neuron) that carries forward info in the form of an action potential. The axon is like the wire connecting two telephones.
Dendrites: a short extension of a neuron that receives an action potential from an axon.
Nerve cell body: The cell body is supportive and provides nutrients for the whole cell. It may or may not directly contribute to info passage. The cell body has projections called axons and dendrites, which carry info in the form of action potentials.

The first question is whether you would be working with a living or dead brain. Let us start with a dead brain. In order to extract the brain itself, you would need to cut numerous inputs and outputs. The most important structure removed would be the spinal cord, which is considered a part of the central nervous system. Everything cut away from the brain destroys important feedback systems because the brain is highly interactive with the rest of the body. It is possible that even advanced thinking involves feedback loops with the eyes, nose, vocal cords, major muscles, skin receptors, etc. A cutaway dead brain might say nothing but “ouch.” Any type of brain cutting or sectioning would destroy important connections. Any type of deeply penetrating electrodes or laser beams would be partially destructive and location would be likely impossible. Many systems such as circulation and nutrition would not function and could not be fully studied. The brain emits hormones and is affected by chemicals in its blood supply. Most of these chemicals function with feedback loops and could be vital for  understanding. Scanning a dead brain might be possible, but much of the vital biochemical info would be unavailable. Even if all the nerve cells were available for some type of non-destructive scanning, the extremely tiny control points (like transistors), such as synapses would only be superficially informative. To summarize, a dead brain makes unavailable much vital info regarding its functioning and would be useless to transition to something functional.

A live brain would have all the relevant chemicals and structures, but presents another set of impossible difficulties. Who would sit still for months with millions of holes in his scull for electrodes. Or sit still for laser scanning for months to get all the connections and their efficacy, if this were even  possible. Any deeply penetrating laser beam would cause some damage or produce limited results. How would a laser beam record the efficacy of synapses or gap junctions. Also extremely important is the dynamic nature of the brain. Synapses are constantly changing in efficacy and number, and there is internal movement caused by the circulatory and nutritional systems. There will never be a way to reliably record from this impossible dynamic system with extremely tiny and numerous structures. And even if you could do some good recording from a limited area, covering the whole brain and spinal cord could take hundreds of years.

Here is a summary of the complications of brain scanning:

1. There is a very large number of components, ultimately hundreds of trillions, and sufficient information from all the components would require perhaps a thousand bits of info. The final count for all the info necessary for understanding a brain would be well into the quadrillions.
2. In addition, there are numerous  analog aspects, which trigger action potentials (digital). A synapse will only produce an action potential if it reaches a certain (analog) voltage value.
3. The living brain is a dynamic system in which the control points are constantly changing, due to use and disuse, nutritive and other factors.
4. One would have to work with tiny structures, close to the molecular level. Any prolonged scanning could and would often fail because of spurious movement. A bus driving by, or minor earthquakes, or a scientists steps could disrupt scanning. Blood flow could also disrupt.
5. If you are recording analog info at a synapse, for example, you might need to record for several minutes or longer to understand its action. Even a one-second recording for a trillion synapses would take centuries.
6. Scanning with glass or metal electrodes would cause damage to the brain cells. You might try some kind of laser system, but to go deep into the brain would require a powerful beam and  would cause damage.

For each of, say, 500 trillion control points, you would need the following data to fully understand how it functions.
1. Its exact 3-D location relative to some reference point, like 4.4342343 inches left, 3.4544546 inches right, and 3.66767667 inches deep.
2. A complete description of all its connections to other control points. Could be a thousand of such connections and the nature of each connection must be described, including its location, synapse or gap junction, neurotransmitter and any modifications to synapse efficacy.
3. Each synapse has a pre-synaptic and post-synaptic (receptor area) characteristic, which would take a 1000 or more bits to describe.
4. Gap junctions must be described by their exact location along axons and the efficacy of their connection, which would depend on the area in contact, and other factors.
5. Making sense of all the interconnections, we are definitely looking at many quadrillions (a quadrillion is 1 with 15 zeros) of data bits, probably several hundred quadrillions. It would take centuries to record all of the information.
6. The amount of data would require, probably hundreds of hard drives. How could this mass of data ever be organized and converted into a functioning “computer brain.”

.     THE HUMAN BRAIN IS A VERY UNIQUE TYPE OF COMPUTER

But, let us say that after several centuries you are able to overcome all of these problems (not likely) and you complete a scan of the brain, spinal cord (part of the CNS) and have info on inputs and outputs; all stored on a thousand (or more) giant external drives. How in the world would you be able to turn this into something useful. The human brain is a computer, but it is profoundly different from man-made computers, which are entirely digital and have a fixed structure. The human brain is a complex combination of digital, analog, and chemical operations, which is constantly changing whether sleeping or waking. It has a unique branching (tree-like) structure unlike anything man-made.

You might ask, could we someday construct a computer with the same electronic characteristics as the brain to make transfers easier. I think it is possible to someday build such a computer, but uploading info from a living brain to this computer would not be possible, because connections in this type of computer are developed through experiences (a huge variety of data inputs). For example, in a younger person, every time you learn something, there can be new nerve cells, new axons, and a variety of changes to many synapses. In an older person there may be a few new nerve cells, but there are many changes in synapses and probably other structures.

At this point, you might say, so what; after a thousand centuries, we will be able to overcome all of these problems. Which brings us to another point: Does it make sense to make theories about things that we will never be able to prove. P. W. Bridgman (Nobel Prize winner in physics) says don’t waste your time. Maybe we should leave “uploading a human brain” to the science fiction writers, particularly if you have no special facts or methods to make radical ideas more acceptable.

One more point, on a related issue. Although I assert that complete scanning or uploading a brain is likely not possible, a fairly complete understanding of how the brain works (at the level of synapses) may be possible someday. 

 

 

 

187. Climate-Change: Worthy Research Projects for Support

13 Sep

Our US government is ignoring Climate-Change dangers. I am hoping that wealthy people and corporations will make up for this by supporting research in this area (and in other ways). Below, I have listed some worthy projects.  

Briefly, global warming is dangerous and can result in fires, floods, and starvation. It is caused by increased amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse-gases (mostly carbon dioxide and methane) in the atmosphere. Almost all solutions are directed to reducing these gases, which occur naturally, but are increased by human burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, etc.) in power plants, cars, planes, and by other human activities.

Seehttps://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/

Here is a summary of basic solutions:  

1. Reduce the flow of greenhouse gases into the air, where they trap heat and cause global warming. Limit burning fossil fuels, like coal and gasoline, for power. It is vital to stop these gases from increasing. Small increases in average global temperature have a profound effect — just a two or three degree increase can cause colossal effects.

2. Enhance the absorption of greenhouse gases by oceans, forests, and soil so that they are removed from the atmosphere.

3. Remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by the development of industrial processes.

4. Work on the efficiency and cost of alternate energy, such as wind and solar, so that fossil fuels are not needed.

Some specific solutions:

Improved batteries will enhance the use of wind and solar methods for production of electricity. If wind speeds drop and the sun isn’t shining then batteries can be used to store power for use under negative conditions. Good batteries will also promote the use of electric cars. There is considerable research in this area and much is supported by auto industries.

Planting trees and preserving forests are very helpful for absorbing carbon dioxide in the air, but other methods are still required.

Black carbon (soot) results from incomplete burning of fuels or wood. There is research that suggests it makes global warming worse, and solutions are being studied. Also studied are the effects of ozone in the air. Reseachers believe that reducing soot and ozone could be very effective in conjunction with other methods.

There is research on reflecting light from the sun to reduce heat, by pumping aerosols  into the stratosphere. Similarly, reflections of sunlight could be accomplished by making  the earth more reflective. Vegetation (trees, plants, etc) could be altered to make them  reflect more light. There are various other similar solutions that are being considered.

A University of California biogeochemist, Asmeret A. Berhe, has suggested that
alterations of soil could affect its carbon-trapping power. Many human activities have led to the degradation of soil so that its ability to help with climate change is affected. The solution would be to vary farming and forestry practices.
See: https://www.ucmerced.edu/content/asmeret-asefaw-berhe

It is argued by researchers that using “restorative ocean farming” could help with climate change and also provide safer and better seafood. Most current seafood farming methods are generally harmful to the oceans. Avoiding sea “pens” for fish, and using more natural ocean enhancement could be good for health and climate-change.
See TED, June 2019: Ayana Johnson and Megan Davis: “Could underwater farms help fight climate change?”

Joanne Chory (https://www.salk.edu/scientist/joanne-chory/) has been researching how improved plants could be helpful. Adaptable “supercharged plants” could be developed that absorb more carbon, deeper underground, and for many more years. The program is the Salk Institute’s “Harnessing Plants Initiative.”

It has been proposed, that climate-change could be attacked with a method that creates useful energy. Natural gas could be used to generate electricity in a way that takes carbon dioxide out of the air. (See TED April 2017, Tim Kruger)

“Chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox previews some amazing technology to scrub carbon from the air, using chemical reactions that capture and reuse CO2 in much the same way trees do.” This TED talk (April 2018) provides an excellent summary of many efforts to develop massive reduction in atmospheric CO2. It should be noted that researchers generally consider that any one method dealing with climate-change will not be enough, and that a combination of several of the best methods is required.

Ted Halstead (TED talk April 2017) describes a plan that would break through various  barriers to climate-change solutions, and would appeal to businesses and Republicans. The “carbon dividends” plan involves a gradually rising carbon tax, and dividends given to the public. This plan was presented to Pres. Trump two weeks after his  inauguration. It was widely endorsed at that time, but apparently, after two years, it was not implemented.

 

 

185. Current Issues, Briefly #6

31 Aug

This is the 6th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets, unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are worth repeating and emphasizing.

I have been following the career of Elizabeth Warren for many years and have always felt she would make a great President. Now she is rising rapidly as a candidate, and may well succeed. Biden is a nice guy, and would make a good president, but not great. Warren could successfully debate Trump!
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Great news! Fox Broadcasting is even more serious now in its independence from Trump in factual reporting. And his association with John Bolton seems to be eroding. An increasing number of Democrats is favoring impeachment. A few weeks ago I was feeling the stress of his administration, now I feel much more positive.
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It is great to see more Republicans becoming presidential candidates. These provide more voices that are critical of Trump’s attitudes and actions; and will help the Democrats. It shows that it isn’t only Democrats that think he is unpresidential,  untruthful, and dangerous.
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The following is a summary of one of my recent TED comments:
Brief answers to serious global problems: World-wide food supply can be increased thru scientific methods. Shortages of land space can be solved with vertical farms in city buildings and by improved crops.  Sun, wind, and similar can supply all the needed energy for the entire world. These methods are constantly improving. More difficult is this: well-educated voters can elect excellent leaders, but education tends to be controversial.  Here is a sardonic thought: Presidential candidates must be examined and pass IQ, science, and history tests before being able to run.
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Trump “loves” the  North Korean leader, Kim. But all his “negotiations” have not stopped their nuclear development. Now it appears that they are developing a submarine that can launch missiles, a great danger to the USA. Kim’s many short-range missile tests are a danger for Japan and South Korea, but ruthless Trump has ignored these. Obama warned Trump about N. Korea. Meanwhile, Trump plays with foolish tariffs.
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According to a variety of sources (e.g. University World News) American Science is in decline, while in China it is rising. Trump has been diminishing and interfering with science throughout his presidency. It appears that he has no interest in long term benefits for our country. He is only concerned with his personal needs and in supporting rich donors. He is also responsible for a general decline in USA world leadership.
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It would take only a very small percentage of our national budget to stop the torture of immigrants. Confining large numbers of persons in a small area for long periods of time is a major torture. Often basic needs for food and sanitary items are not met.  It does NOT matter what political goals are applicable, the USA doesn’t use torture for ANY reason. President Reagan (a Republican hero) believed this and he ratified the 1984 United-Nations Convention on Torture. How can Trump’s supporters not see his cruelty (or do they have the same flaw).
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A Febuary 2016 TED Talk by Ken Lacovara is brilliant and so applicable today. In his talk, he argues that a few chance events in evolution, like dinosaur extinction, led to brain development and eventually to our human species. Dinosaurs could not stop their extinction, but the destruction of our planet and human populations can be corrected by responsible citizens and leaders with integrity.
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Trump lives in a dream world. His trade policy is tit-for-tat. I raise your tariff, then you raise my tariff. Many farmers and manufacturers are negatively affected. He acts like an impulsive child, refusing to listen to experts and alienating our allies. Trade and other agreements must be a group effort! His Iran “deal” and his negotiations with N. Korea have failed. Ignoring climate-change will have catastrophic consequences for his children and all others throughout the world.
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Trump lied about and failed to produce any new wall on our southern border, and of course, Mexico refused to pay for it. His current efforts to get something done likely involve crimes and violations of law. The wall is so important to him, that at one time, he shut down the US government for weeks to force its support.
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On a happier note: “flash Mob” movie clips illustrate how universal the joys of life are. World-wide, you can see the music, dancing, and acrobatics of flash-mobs in, for example: US, Brazil, Russia, UK, Hungary, Azerbaijan. We have so much in common with people in other countries. Sad that the greed and ruthless ambition of national leaders screw things up.
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Jay Inslee (Washington State Governor) has ended his candidacy for President. This man would have made a fantastic president. His ideas, his record as governor, speaking ability, and his promotions regarding climate-change are exemplary. He simply was not well known, but I admired him for several years. Maybe next election will be his time; or maybe he can be part of the next Democrat administration.

 

168. What Stands Out, in This Complicated World

7 May

For an ordinary citizen of the USA, I would guess that there are so many political events and ideas reported by the media — that it may be difficult to decide what is important and what to focus on. I see my role as a blogger, to help explain important current issues in a clear way. And, of course, I admit that I see the world in my own special way and with my own set of beliefs. Maybe I should explain just a little more. I believe in the following: Kindness wherever possible, a strong and prosperous middle class, the spirit of the US Constitution, respect for 99% of the law, and that the vote of every citizen should have an equal effect. To further explain the last point, a very wealthy person should not have extra influence on elections.

Here are my choices for the most outstanding and important current ideas and issues.

Climate-Change disasters are already here and we must make every effort to work on this problem, including considerable research and construction of “green” devices. This effort will take some money, but next to nothing compared to the expense of neglecting it. Briefly, numerous populated lowland areas will be permanently flooded, there will be massive migrations, and increased fires and hurricanes. Actual global warming is increasing faster than previously estimated. Climate change work must be funded, just like our military, government and other necessary agencies without asking where will the money come from.

We must put much more effort into protecting our elections from Russia and maybe other meddlers. Generally, our voting system must be hardened and reliable. Trump has put little effort into protecting our election system, but there are some efforts by various agencies and state governments to help. Our President has little interest because the meddlers have helped him.

Our government must support scientific and tech research, which can improve our lives and help with increasing population. For example, we must stop condemning GMO foods (see my blogs) and do sufficient research to improve trust in this valuable method. Nature is constantly modifying the DNA of all living things, and does not inform us of changes. GMO changes are known and we can test their safety. Humans have changed DNA for many centuries by animal and plant breeding; GMO is a similar, but quicker and more effective.

We clearly need improvements to our health care system. Abolishment of ObamaCare without a good replacement would be a catastrophe for millions of US citizens. ObamaCare provides more citizens with insurance and more safeguards for insurance loss due to various limits and pre-existing conditions.

We must maintain good relationships with our traditional allies: Canada, Mexico, members of the EU (and UK), Australia, India, Scandinavians, Japan, and others. We must very carefully work out an appropriate relationship with China and Russia. International relationships are very complicated and require the participation of many experts. Our current gov is simplistic and often resorts to coercion when good diplomacy is better. It also uses trade policies without considering all the possible effects.

Although sanctions can be useful in forcing more responsible government, they can be ineffective because the leaders of a country will always have plenty of food and various  luxuries. It’s the ordinary citizens that suffer the most. Sometimes really good, intelligent negotiation is better.

Immigration issues at our Southern border must be worked out in a reasonable and humanitarian way. This, of course, is a very complicated issue, with many valid interests to consider. Repubs and Dems must work together and form a viable plan. Our current gov has ignored real solutions and has taken action for purely political purposes, causing needless suffering for many.

The Robert-Mueller-Report makes NO statements of innocence, and includes facts related to many administration crimes, illicit actions, various wrongdoings, and suspicious activity. Ignoring these findings would be a disaster for our country. In order to satisfy certain rules and traditions, conclusions have been ignored, and left to Congress. The evidence provided in the Report can be used for various legal actions and when appropriate for articles of impeachment.

Our new Attorney General, William Barr, is a Trump sycophant who lies, and cannot be trusted. He must be nullified in some way.

Those who believe in democracy always include a free and independent press as one of the most important requirements. The best reporters, like those who work at major newspapers, don’t attack anyone without good cause. If a leader hates the press, then likely he is corrupt and making big mistakes.

Many writers have tried to explain the bizarre behavior of our President. Here are my thoughts: his desperation to keep voters leads him to contradictions, such as supporting both Israel/Jews and Neo-Nazis (Charlottesville conflict). He has no ideals or patriotism, and is only motivated by self-interest. Like most older people, he is somewhat affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which produces memory loss, repetition, and confusion. Stress and sleep loss may be other factors.

For more ideas, please read my other blogs and my tweets,   @RichardLeeWB.

 

162. Tired of Gridlock? Explore Easy-to-Read SCIENCE

16 Apr

Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.  Tired of Trumpism, never-ending gridlock, endless speculation, and deranged  government??  To avoid this frustration and engage in something both beneficial and practical,  I suggest exploring recent findings of science. I have listed some fascinating and easy to read sources for doing this.

But first, here are some good general places to find current science facts. (Note: anything you read has the possibility of error or bias. If your research is important, use several sources.)

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), “today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues”  Sign up for free emails.

Scientific American and other science magazines. Scientific American has both easy to read and more technical articles. Its reputation is tops.

The New York Times Science section is excellent and tops. Many other good  newspapers have similar sections. The online NY-Times costs very little.

Kurzweil Newsletter. This is an excellent source for many science topics and has much special info on artificial intelligence. There are many other similar newsletters. Do a search on “newsletters on science topics” to see what might interest you. Most are free.

Curiosity Stream. For a small fee, this service has many interesting lectures for the layman.

Khan Academy is a free source of excellent tutorials for the layman. It started very simply as some rough tutorials by Salman Khan for his cousins. It was so good that it eventually got great financial support and now is much improved.

Wikipedia is a free source for everything, including science. I have used it many times and found it to be generally authoritative. The articles submitted are examined by a board of editors.

Here are some very excellent entry points for studies of science.

Manned vs un-manned space exploration is a current issue. First of all, for several years, the SETI program (see Internet) searches for electronic transmissions from intelligent species on other planets. Recently, it has been established that there are many more stars with planets than originally thought. Most recent space exploration (beyond our planet) has been done with un-manned space-ships and have provided very valuable info. This method is much cheaper and safer than exploring with astronauts. Non-scientists unfamiliar with this issue may support only manned missions.  Here is a good reference: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/robots-vs-humans-who-should-explore/   I should also add a fantastic tour of the international space station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doN4t5NKW-k   The NASA website has much more information and inspiring pictures.

Studies of DNA and gene editing are producing incredible results. To see a broad range of topics for the layman, go to the “TED” website and select DNA (and/or CRISPR) as the topic. There are several wonderful presentations on gene editing for curing diseases and improving crops, super computers made with DNA, and studies of derived new life made with a modified (un-natural)  DNA structure. The advances are amazing and are already in progress. If you really study gene-editing you would support GMO foods, which will be more important Earth’s population increases. Nature modifies genes all the time (that is how evolution works). Scientist modifications of DNA are immediately known and can be tested, whereas natural changes could be harmful and go undetected.

Some of the most amazing findings are in the area of physics known as quantum mechanics. There is so much happening here, that I have decided to mention only one topic, “entanglement.”  This is seen with studies of the tinyest particles, such as electrons and photons.  Two electrons could be entangled: a change in electron A is also seen in a distant electron B. Recent research has eliminated any possible field interaction between the two electrons, which could be miles apart. See Wikipedia: “quantum entanglement” for a discussion. Also, there is a recent Scientific American article, December 2018, page 58, Hanson and Shalm, that supports the basic notion.

Meat can be grown from animal stem cells so that animals do not have to be raised at great cost, and then killed. See Scientific American, December, page 33, by Owen Schaefer. Currently, it is very expensive but research will bring the costs down — and people like it.

Here are some other exciting topics that can be explored using Wikipedia, TED, and general Internet searches:

Battery improvements that can enhance electric cars and green electric power grids. When green sources like windmills and solar panels are at low levels, energy stored in advanced batteries during peak functioning can fill in gaps.

There are many interesting studies of the human brain. One fruitful area is the way in which the brain recognizes human faces. Do a search on “biologist Doris Tsao” for details.

There is always something exciting in astronomy.  The latest is the very first  picture of a “black hole.”  (Search “picture of black hole.”)  Also read about “supernova.” This is an extremely powerful explosion of a star, which causes the production and distribution of heavy elements, necessary for human life and many structures.

There are many other topics for exploration, depending on your interests.  I suggest the following, for people that have little science education (see above). For interesting lectures, subscribe to the very inexpensive “Curiosity Stream.” Or, for actual education, the free “Khan Academy” works well.

Finally, studying science helps with understanding very important issues such as “climate-change”, health factors, green resources, stress reduction, and safety regulations. In practice, science is not always perfect, but it is devoted to finding truth and to rejecting bias and self-serving interests.