Tag Archives: science

229. Poor Management Threatens Human Survival

29 Apr

The irony of our times is that good management of critical processes could have solved all of the worlds problems, and provided happiness for everyone, yes, every person on Earth. Here is a list of problems, presented briefly, that could have been solved with good management and using existing knowledge.

Climate-change. Much of this science was developed decades ago, but like children, few were willing to make changes with long-term benefits. There are numerous discussions of potemtial and current climate disasters.

Poverty. There are enough resources on Earth to provide food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment for everyone. We have poverty because national leaders become greedy in office, and hoard resources.

Covid-19. President Obama had a group working on pandemic solutions, which was abolished by the next president. Inexperience and lack of knowledge led to millions of deaths, worldwide. And suffering may continue for many more months or even years. Ultimately, we need science to provide a broader protection from many disease variations.

Expansionism. Leaders of several major countries have goals of expansion, the conquering of other nations by military force. In current times, we must add cyber and political agression. Weaker nations are vulnerable.

Beliefs. I have no problem with people who wish to practice religions. Much in this area is beneficial. But, unfortunately, differences in religion sometimes leads to major violence and many deaths in wars. Also, the beliefs of Qanon, Proud Boys, Neo-Nazis, KKK, and others are bizarre and dangerous.

Science. A part of every population does not trust science, in general, and ignores beneficial processes. Science can help with food production, medical advances, technical advances, and many of the problems listed in this blog. Genetically altered foods have proven to be safe and beneficial.

Voting. It is sad that many of those who could benefit most from good government, often are fooled into voting for leaders that will not help them.

Endless wars. The US and several other nations have tried to correct the governments of other countries. While these efforts are often done with good intensions, good results are often lacking, and sometimes matters are made much worse. A study of history could have helped.

Rich donors. Extremely rich people in a country often have a major influence on tmportant decisions. These decisions often benefit them, but are dangerous for the rest of the population.

Democracies. Most of us would never have predicted that the USA could move
towards a dictatorship. Yet, in 2020 we were very close to this. Traditionally, the US has provided a great example of good government. Poor management of the election process almost resulted in a permanent disaster.

Food resources. Proper management of the oceans is important for keeping them as a source for food. Management of land useage for food is also important. Ultimately, good sources of protein may be more effectively provided by industrial processes.

Summary. Our current world, which is crowded with human populations, must now be carefully managed to avoid extensive human suffering and deaths. Much of tradition is no longer effective in solving problems. We must think clearly and objectively in finding the best solutions. Most of the topics above, are extensevely covered in my blogs, and many other writers have good ideas that must be explored. Our serious world problems can be solved.

210. Trump Nationalism has a Negative Global Impact

18 Jun
.   .
The effects of Trump mismanagement are much larger than national. The US has a history of world leadership and influence, so many countries will suffer because of him. I have listed below some of the most serious errors. 
The Global Health Security and Biodefense Unit“ was established by
President Obama in 2015 to deal effectively with viruses, such as covid-19.
Without consulting with experts, Trump abolished this unit, and failed to make early preparations for fighting this virus. Instead, he told everyone not to be concerned and the virus would soon be gone. The US could have been working on this problem early in January, instead, there were at least two months of  little activity. The only thing Trump did early, was to stop travel from China. If he had worked with experts, they would have discovered that travel from Europe was much more dangerous. An effective US leader would have encouraged research and organized necessary supplies. We could have developed the most effective methods, and we could have helped other countries in their use. It seems that Trump does not understand that helping others will also help the US.
For many years, almost every scientist has supported the fact that the industrial revolution led to increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The global effect was and is to increase planet warming. Trump does not believe that this man-made warming has the serious effects of deaths caused by high temperatures, worse hurricanes, increased fires, and floods. Changes in rainfall are having effects on farming, so that many people will not have enough food to survive. We are already having more immigration due to starvation and this will only become worse — possibly leading to wars. Strong leadership by Trump, in this area, could have made a big difference.
.             Trump uses coercion; Obama used cooperation.
Trump has assumed that our country can stand alone, and that we must run it like a business. He emphasizes the accumulation of wealth, and the economic defeat of all other countries. He has broken our beneficial alliances with other countries and attacked NATO. Even worse, he has supported Russia, N. Korea, and Turkey.  He caused many deaths of our allies, the Kurds, that helped us defeat ISIS.
Global trade policies have mostly been ineffective. We are spending many billions of dollars supporting our farmers because of failed policies.
Trump abandoned an international agreement with Iran, that was preventing the development of nuclear weapons. Iran (and also N. Korea) now threaten the entire world with their nuclear development.
The ultimate effect of Trump’s aberrant and inconsistent policies is a loss of worldwide respect and the abdication of world leadership. His frequent lying, crudeness, and lack of knowledge also has a negative international effect.
Just out. The Bolton book documents actions by Trump that have a negative international effect. His “deals” with certain other nations diminishes his ability to lead and constructively influence others. For a good list of  the book excerpts, see The Guardian, June 17, 2020, Max Benwell.

209. Immune System, Vit. C, and Viruses (With References)

26 May

Please see my previous Blog 208, for additional information and references.

.                          BASIC PHYSIOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS 

Most of the following logic is accepted by medical scientists, but in practice, is often ignored. The immune system is a host defense that protects against disease. The immune system is enhanced by good nutrition, and other health factors. Vitamin C, other vitamins, and some other nutrients provide this good nutrition. Variations in response to virus attacks are likely due to variations in immune systems. Many MD’s believe that vitamin supplements are not needed because they assume everyone has a healthy diet. Clearly, this is not true.  Exploring the use of Vit. C and other supplements for covid-19 should be encouraged.  

Here are some reasons why use of vitamins may be ignored Early studies used small doses of vitamins and they were ineffective. As a consequence many leaders discouraged vitamin supplements and tended to ignore further work. Many physicians prefer  prescription drugs because they can be better controlled, and were developed using rigorous experiments and established safety methods.

Experiments using the most rigorous scientific methods are almost impossible to do, in the area of vitamin effectiveness. For example, Vit C is most effective when the first “cold symptoms” are noticed, and several grams are taken immediately. The timing is somewhat vague and the reliability of patient compliance and reporting is questionable. Further, drug companies would not support this work and most researchers would not be interested. Federal support is controlled by medical experts and most of them would not be interested.

Often argued is that higher doses of Vit C and other vitamins are not absorbed by the body and are eliminated. This is not a good argument because the vitamins could be serving as catalysts (not consumened in chemical reactions). Vit C could have a positive effect on pH. Large concentrations of vitamins might be required to get enough into certain narrow end organs.

Another thought is that vitamin supplements are not necessary because a healthy diet contains all the necessary vitamins a person needs. Just saying this does not make it so — it takes a lot of experimentation to actualy prove this. A healthy diet might prevent some major diseases like scurvy, but the world has evolved a great many other disorders. Even more important, many, perhaps most people do not have a really “healthy diet,” and eat a lot of doughnuts, candy bars, sausages, white bread, lots of cheeseburgers — and very few vegetables.

To summarize, every profession has certain preferences that appeal to its members for a variety of reasons, some of which are valid and some maybe not.

                                           MY PROPOSALS

1. The CDC, AMA, or NIH, etc could publish some dietary information and encourage people to greatly improve their nutrition.
2. There could be some simple experiments such as the following. Randomly assign (blind) patients admitted to a hospital to an experimental (Vit C) and control group (placebo). As soon as they are admitted give them 3.0 grams of Vit C with lots of water. Then, every moring and night, prescribe 2 to 3 grams of Vit C (placebo for the control group). Record date of release, use of equipment like ventilaters, temperature, etc. Do this for a total of 100 or more patients and compare the groups. This is not ideal, but if there are significant effects, this could encourage wider application.
3. Researchers could apply for gov grants for more extensive rigorous studies.
4. Encourage private physicians to prescribe Vit C and other health factors and
record informally procedures and results. These could be published.
5. Eventhough there are no rigorous studies, physicians could still advise the use of nutritional factors, including Vit C. Most of the things we do in life are not “proven.” We simply gather all of the “relevant” facts, study them, and make a final decision. In this case, there is little if any risk. Good food and vitamins are very well established and safe. The major side effect is better health. The cost is comparatively small.

                        REFERENCES (with some summaries)

Listings below are by professional journal, newspaper, or Internet address, followed by brief quotations and/or relevant facts. (PMC = PubMed Central).


The immune system is a host defense system that protects against disease. It has amazing protective functions implemented by tiny particles: indentifying, killing, remembering, and creating new attackers.

Dr. Bremmer, Mr. Kupchan and Mr. Rosenstein are international political risk analysts. Re the virus: “The American people are far less healthy than Swedes.”
In other words, health is very important, yet our medical profession ignores this.
“Diabetes and hypertension, are two of the most-risky underlying conditions.”
Every type of disorder & age is correlated with infection risk, but instead, a third factor, a persons health, may be the underlying cause.

Advised: eat a lot of vegs /fruits, don’t smoke, sleep well, lower stress, drink less alcohol.  As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, “people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases”

A healthful diet and exercise are important to maintaining a strong immune system.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/ 2019
Childs, Calder, and Miles:  “Diet and Immune Function”
Adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally and this includes the cells in the immune system. Vitamin A and zinc regulate cell division and so are essential for a successful proliferative response within the immune system. Undernutrition is well understood to impair immune function.

VITAMIN C AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/    Carr and Maggini
Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.”

Mayo Clinic site: “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a vitamin your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.” Large doses of vitamin C are “unlikely to be harmful.”

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172861/ Boretti and Banik, Title: “Intravenous Vit C for reduction of cytokines storm in acute respiratory distress syndrome” Vit C was reported to have clinical activity against numerous other viruses including poliovirus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, human lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and rabies virus in addition to demonstrating activity against influenza and herpes virus. (Refs listed.)

There are immune boosting foods: whole unprocessed foods are best.
“Vitamin C is known to boost immunity”
In one study, subjects increased ingestion of foods rich in vit. C “every day for a month.” They “had significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms”  Best diet: colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, lower stress, sleep well, and exercise.

WebMD: Vitamin C is required for the proper development and function of many parts of the body. It also plays an important role in maintaining proper immune function.

Three vitamins best; C, B6, E. Also hydrate (drink water)
“Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all.”

Nutrients. 2019 Apr; 11(4): 708  Harri Hemila.  Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 72, Issue 1, Jul 2000, pg 139
“These data suggest that men with low serum ascorbate concentrations may have an increased risk of mortality, probably because of an increased risk of dying from cancer.” The way Vit C may function in improving health, is discussed in detail.
(For non-scientists: “serum ascorbate” is Vit C in the blood.)

VITAMIN C AND VIRUSES (Summary, please see my Blog 208 for more details)

Book: Linus Pauling “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” 1970. Pauling won two Nobel prizes. References to scientific studies are listed and a method for viruses is presented.

Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 339 H.Hemila “Vitamin C and Infections” (a review)
Vit C halved the number of colds in physically active people. Vit C shortened the duration of colds, in several studies (most used higher doses, such as 6 to 8 grams). Vit C prevented pneumonia in three controlled studies

Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211. Carr and Maggini, “Vit C and Immune Function” Vit C appears able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.

Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 725–732. Mikirova and Hunninghake.
Title: “Effect of high dose vitamin C on Epstein-Barr viral infection”
“High dose intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect on disease duration”

WebMD   Vit C “is one of the safest and most effective nutrients.”
Quoting Mark Moyad, MD of University of Michigan:
“There is good evidence for taking vitamin C for colds and flu.” “It can reduce the risk of developing further complications such as pneumonia and lung infections.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172861/ Boretti and Banik (see above)


Drugs.Com has a long list of severe side-effects for Aspirin, which are much worse than those for Vit C.
Almost any substance will lead to reported side-effects, some of which are not actually valid. Vit C is natural, necessary for life, and safe for almost everyone.  Note: Take Vit C with plenty of water, and divide and space out large doses.

Example from WebMd
“In some people, vitamin C might cause nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach cramps, headache, and other side effects.”
“In people who have had a kidney stone, amounts greater than 1000 mg daily greatly increase the risk of kidney stone recurrence.” A reference for this was not given, and there are few if any such cases reported.

My conclusion:  Everything you ingest has a danger at some level and for some people. For example, in a hazing incident, someone was forced to drink a lot of water, and died from it. For 50 years, I have been taking large (several gram) doses of Vit C on occassions when I detected cold symptoms, and have never had any significant side-effects. The danger of covid-19 is ultimately lethal, while the danger of Vit C is in almost all cases, trivial. I have also studied the literature on Vit C for 50 years and have never seen an objective report of a serious side-effect, only unsupported dogma.

                              OTHER INFORMATION

For virus information from CDC:

It can take several days for the body to produce antibodies to a virus.

For more articles, search: “Vitamin C and viruses” or “Vitamin C and flu”

The Global Health Security and Biodefense Unit was established by
President Obama in 2015 to deal effectively with viruses, such as covid-19.
A future president abolished this unit. Some members just left, and some were transfered to other organizations







204. GMO’s Evoke Unwarranted Fears

25 Feb

GMO-Picture-CornI write blogs, tweets, and other comments on a variety of subjects. Studying the critics of these pieces suggests to me, that many people don’t understand and/or distrust science in general. My position is that the work of scientists provides numerous benefits for all citizens, including better foods, electronics, transportation, health care, pet care, climate-change info, etc. Scientific information and discovery for many is also exciting and interesting and helps us to understand the world around us.

My current scientific topic is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods. Genetic modifications involve the manipulation of DNA molecules in the laboratory. The  manipulations lead to relatively permanent changes, including: enhanced plant growth, plants that better survive insect and disease attacks, plants that require less water, and will grow in unhealthy soil, and other improvements.

Given all the potential and existing benefits, GMO foods should be carefully studied and regulated. Certified products will provide extensive nourishment for an ever increasing Earth population. Also, global warming can reduce crop yields due to fires, droughts and other weather anomalies. It is extremely important to have the best plants available as demand increases. It will be of particular benefit to farmers in developing countries that are struggling to survive. Crop plants modified to do well in unusual soil conditions, in somewhat salty water, and in partial droughts, will be of great benefit.

Here are a few facts: Even now, GMO crops are widely used as livestock feed without any adverse reports. If they were poison, surely they would have made our hamburgers toxic, but this has not happened. Note also, that modifying plant DNA by “breeding,” is common and has occurred for ages.  In my previous blog, I discussed seaweed as a potential major food source, and also for its absorption of the greenhouse gas CO2. Genetic improvements of seaweed could be of great benefit.

An advantage of GMO as a way to modify, is that the modifications are known and can be evaluated for safety. Many natural modifications are unknown. Nature, in some cases, does produce toxic plants. There is always a tendency to want natural products, and I am the same way. Yet for many years we have modified plants through breeding, developed medicines that are not natural, and we all eat food that undergoes many “processes.” We need to move forward, in a safe way, with valuable innovations.

Here is a good, easy-to-read source of GMO facts by Kurzgesagt:                                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TmcXYp8xu4

203. Ocean Science Can Save the World

8 Feb

The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Ocean researchers say that we know more about our moon than the deep ocean. Recently, there is more concern about oceans as a source of food supply and because of their role in climate-change. As I will describe below, better usage of the oceans can both feed the world and save us from the dangers of global warming.

Johnson and Davis (TED-ED June 2019) and a World Bank Group Report have suggested improvements to ocean farming techniques. Currently, there is an aquaculture, in which many large pens, offshore, are used to hold and grow fish for human consumption. The fish are crowded and stressed. Large concentrated piles of waste result and can lead to disease. Often, breaks in the nets can cause a dangerous release of the penned fish.

It is better to  farm seaweedSeaweed-imageand shellfish. These species have a very low maintenance. The seaweed feed off of sunlight and operators do not need to supply food. The seaweed can be prepared in various ways so as to be more appetizing, can be ground-up and mixed with animal feed, and can also be used as a bio-fuel. Growing seaweed can help with the depletion of fish and can counteract ocean acidification by absorbing CO2.

“Seaweed” is a group of algae that are only found in marine waters (salty sea waters). In terms of  human consumption, it produces algae protein and algae oil similar to soy. It also is a source of valuable omega-3 fatty acids similar to fish oils. There are three different types: red, brown and green.

Growing massive amounts of seaweed can help with global warming.  Seaweed captures CO2, removing it from the atmosphere. A good reference for this  feature is: Tim Flannery, TEDSummit 2019 Can seaweed help curb global warming.”  One problem with this system is that seaweed eventually rots and the carbon is released back into the environment. A solution is to lower the seaweed in the water to a depth where it will best retain the CO2. Scientists are working on various solutions to the release. As research continues, it may be possible to develop seaweed species that are more efficient in using CO2 and in keeping it stored.

There are many publications regarding the depletion of fish in our oceans.  A really good discussion of this is: Jackie Savitz, TEDxMidAtlantic 2013, Save the oceans, feed the worldShe describes how good international regulations can restore depleted species and greatly increase the fish available for increasing populations. 

Angelicque White (TED@NAS, Nov. 2019) writes about microbes in the oceans, that indicate and affect ocean health. When there are major changes such as ocean warming, the microbes are the first affected. 

Ocean microbes are tiny plants and animals that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are at the bottom of the food chain. All animals in the ocean depend ultimately on this basic food source. Microbes absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, so they improve the composition of the atmosphere. 

Climate-change results in warming water, which tends to increase harmful algal blooms. The extra CO2 in the air also leads to ocean acidification, which has many adverse effects on ocean life.  The ecosystem health is generally affected. The changes impact economically important fisheries, like crab and salmon; and also affected are marine mammals like whales, dolphins, seals, and otters. Also important is that warmer waters increase the intensity of hurricanes.

Here are all the climate-change and other ocean problems listed by Angelicque White: harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, eutrophication, melting of the polar ice caps, expansion of oxygen minimum zones, pollution, loss of biodiversity,  and overfishing.

My conclusion and main point here, is that ocean science has the potential to help with many world problems. A responsible government will support research in this area.

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.)


194. Increasing Dangers Force Speedy Impeachment

8 Dec

As I am writing this, I heard on the TV that someone who appears unqualified has been confirmed (for life) as a Federal Judge. She is Allison Rushing, a young 37, and a lawyer with almost no trial experience. Trump has already appointed 158 judges to the Federal bench. He and Mitch McConnell are a dangerous team that is gradually moving our country towards ruin, in several ways.  The appointment of extreme conservative federal judges and/or unqualified judges will continue as long as Trump is in office. Below I list many other dangers for our country that worsen almost every day.

1. A foreign policy that rejects our relations with traditional democratic allies in favor of traditional enemies such as Russia. The USA has enjoyed beneficial relationships for decades with: the UK, France, Germany, the E.U., Spain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc. Trump has warm relationships with Russia, N. Korea, and Turkey and says he admires their ability to control the citizens. He thinks like an autocrat and enjoys that type of company, while rejecting those most supportive of democracy.

2. Russia continues to develop methods of influencing our elections. Trump has received help from Russia, and has done very little in protecting our election process. We need a President that will address this issue.

3. Under Trump we are quickly moving towards even more serious climate problems, which he ignores. Under Pres. Obama, the US provided valuable international leadership in this area and support for relevant scientific research. The sooner Trump leaves office, the sooner we can work on these problems. In general, Trump has discouraged competent scientists so that other countries will exceed us in valuable tech and science projects.

4. Trumps new tariff policy has basically been neutral in terms of money brought in and money paid out to farmers that have lost business. However, when US importers must pay for the new tariffs, they must pass the cost to retailers, so in some areas, our citizens will be paying higher prices. Also, some manufacturers have lost business because of retaliatory tariffs by China and elsewhere. So the bottom line is that Trump tariffs have been mostly negative, producing higher prices, causing some businesses to suffer, and harming our allies. Trump failed in coercing China because he did not work with allies. For more info, see, for example, (search) NPR’s “Trump’s Tariff Bounty” article.

5. Foreign nations no longer respect the USA under Trump leadership. Many of our usual supportive nations are starting to look to China or Russia for leadership. Trumps own words are often inconsistent and may differ from statements by his staff.

6. Trump favors torture. Ronald Reagan and most other Presidents were against it. Trump supports cruel immigration programs for our Southern border and has terminated the humanitarian DACA program. He has ruined the careers of many associates because they spoke the truth about his policies.

7. Trump has undermined important federal agencies such as the FBI and CIA. In one situation, he favored Putin’s word over that of our intelligence agencies.

8. Trump has gutted major government departments, such as State and Education. He makes important decisions without expert help and often finds it necessary to cancel his orders. Generally, foreign nations no longer trust him.

9. Trump is destroying government safeguards considered vital by the founding fathers. He ignores oversight procedures by Congress and claims total power under Article 2 of the Constitution. His attacks on the “press” also suppress a most important democracy safeguard.

There are many other dangers, and of course, several books have been written about this. Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi, has recently stepped up and forcefully supported the impeachment process. If you look at all of the people and institutions that “hate” him you have to ask: is he really doing the right thing? Is everyone in the US so shallow, that they can only think in terms of who they “like” or “dislike” — instead of what is patriotic, or lawful, or well thought-out?

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.


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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.