Tag Archives: science

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.

 

 

 

 

 

154. Champions: Climate Change Crisis

20 Mar

This is an update on the latest efforts, findings, and theories on the Climate Change crisis. But first, I want to acknowledge the great contributions of  Ex-Veep Al Gore (who should have been elected president) in defining and promoting the climate change crisis. I also want to mention presidential candidate Governor Jay Inslee who has made climate change his most important issue. Now, there is an increasing number of leaders (mostly Dems.) who are enthusiastically promoting climate endeavors. 98% of all reputable scientists support the idea that human activities are causing global warming.

A new approach to fixing Climate Change is the work of Penny Chisholm The marine microbe Prochlorococcus draws in CO2 and uses sunlight to produce oxygen and sugar. The functioning of this microbe may hold the key to reducing CO2 in the air, saving our planet from climate-change devastation.  Since the world is not doing so well in producing less carbon dioxide, it is very important to support promising research on removing CO2 from the air. Penny Chisholm, in her recent TED talk, is one of the researchers in this area. This method may be key to saving our planet.  Please tell Trump and Congress to support research in this area and fund grants for testing. 

Another promising method to help is using Carbon Cure. It is a method of injecting CO2 into concrete. This removes it from the atmosphere and also helps to strengthen the concrete — so less is needed. Using this method, climate-change is helped in two ways. We need a President that can support climate efforts like this.

There are many other methods of carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, by natural and tech processes.  For a really good discussion, I recommend reading:  http://www.eesi.org/articles/view/carbon-removal-strategies-a-broad-overview  .

The “Green New Deal” proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, is filled with good progressive ideas and emphasizes the Climate Change crisis.  Many of the Democrat Presidential candidates support the deal fully or substantially.

The President has established a Climate Change Scientific Panel to investigate. It is led by 79 y.o. William Happer, C. Fogg B. Physics Professor Emeritus at Princeton, who is notable for being the only professor stating that excess CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial. Note that “emeritus” means retired. In essence, Happer says: don’t worry about global warming because CO2 will be good for agriculture. Many commentators believe that the president’s panel was set up just to “muddy the waters.”  The USA Military, most other countries, some CEO’s and many members of Trump’s staff are concerned about global warming dangers, which in fact, we are already experiencing.

Recent investigations of show that climate-change is taking place much faster than previously estimated. One reason is that the melting of ice exposes dark-colored earth that tends to absorb more heat. Studies of the Arctic, Antarctic, and glaciers clearly show significant changes due to warming. Please see my BasicCauses blog number 147 for more info.  Here are the references for the two most authoritative recent reports.  One is  United Nations Special Scientific Panel released October 8, 2018. This report indicates the rapid change.  The other report is the “Fourth National Climate Assessment” (Nov. 23, 2018) by US Global Change Research program.

What we must do right now is support research like removing CO2 from the air and developing better batteries for electric needs. A panel of experts chosen by the National Science Foundation (or similar) should determine where the funding goes. Mr. President, time is running out, this is your last chance to do the right thing in this area.

153. Current Issues, Briefly #2

20 Mar

This is the second 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 are so important that they must be repeated and emphasized.

Who said: Mexico pays for wall, immediate replacement for ObamaCare, Medicare unchanged, so rich that donors not needed, ban all Muslims, climate-change is hoax, N. Korea is no longer a threat, he likes tyrants, Saudi MBS innocent, leave NATO, McCain not a hero, grab them by the pu..y ? We know who said all these things. Can anyone still support him? (Yes!, because he hates the same people that you do.)

It is very important that presidential candidates express themselves sensibly and honestly. Beto O did well when asked about healthcare. He said that Medicare-for-all was one of several good plans. Generally, anyone pledging a detailed specific plan is not realistic — too many contingencies.

Trump is angry with TV shows that mock him, but NOT the other side. Duh! You mock the bad, crude leaders, NOT those saying wise and respectable things.

For a long time, my top choice for president was Elizabeth Warren. I still think she would be a great president, but Beto O. is rising rapidly, and must be considered for his strength, popularity, sincerity, and intelligence. He may be the best for beating Trump and I agree 98% with his goals. On the other hand, Warren is coming up with some interesting tax proposals.

I am convinced that anyone over 80 is at least somewhat affected by memory loss and reduction in intellectual ability. Consequentially, I have eliminated some popular presidential candidates (B. Sanders, J. Biden, etc.) that will be over 80 by the middle of their first term in office. This is based on personal observations and established data.

As we enjoy advancing technology and cultural evolution there is a parallel development of corruption. We see this in almost every system, from car-repair to the USA gov. The latest scourge is in top college admissions; affected by bribery and false testing scores. The university admission scandal tells us at least two things. One is that many rich people are corrupt, the other is that college expenses are unjustly huge. As scammers gradually improve their skills, institutional expenses also must rise. Is there any solution to this enigma?

If you care about fixing Climate Change read this:   The marine microbe Prochlorococcus draws in CO2 and uses sunlight to produce oxygen and sugar. The functioning of this microbe may hold the key to reducing CO2 in the air, saving our planet from climate-change devastation.  Since the world is not doing so well in producing less carbon dioxide, it is very important to support promising research on REMOVING CO2 from the air. Penny Chisholm, in her recent TED talk, is one of the researchers in this area. This method may be key to saving our planet.  Please tell Trump and Congress to support research in this area and fund grants for testing. 

Carbon Cure is a method of injecting CO2 into concrete. This removes it from the atmosphere and also helps to strengthen the concrete — so less is needed. Using this method, climate-change is helped in two ways. We need a POTUS that can support climate efforts like this.

(In answer to a Sean Hannity remark.)  Repubs love to distort facts. No one advocates pure socialism, which says ideally, all citizens must have the same amount of money by a redistribution of wealth. Democrats advocate better social programs, like Medicare, where non-rich benefit, and don’t worry – greedy rich folks will still be rich.

Manafort was just given a 47 month sentence, much lighter than the guidance. The judge made some remarks that very conservative politicians would say. Pres Reagan chose the judge, T. S. Ellis, a strong Virginia conservative, a fact not often mentioned. This is an example of the continuing damage to our country: the appointment of radically conservative judges.

Tom Steyer, “need to impeach” advocate, is a true patriot and national hero. He is working hard and spending much of his own money trying to fight the corrupt Trump gov.  For more info on corruption and the Trump-Russia connection, please see my previous blogs.

Major policies are always developed at the top of an organization. The Trump staff has had numerous convictions and indictments, and has well established unethical practices. It is no longer speculative, but a fact, that the corrupt nature of his staff proves that Trump is has promoted illicit methods. He is the cause of his staff corruption and voters must take note.

According to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, French President Emmanuel Macron is proposing significant improvements to the EU including collective defense, guarding elections, minimum wages, new tech, and climate issues. Some of this is in response to D.T. abuse. Bravo to Macron. Sad about BREXIT. Maybe there should be another vote?

It’s really important that Democrat speeches and writing are accurate. We must be better than Don Trump. Failure to be exact and correct will cause distrust. We must always be the ones to be relied upon. Also, there is no point in promoting ideas that are very extreme. The most important thing about the next election is the “defeat.”

Just read some nonsense about Democrat Candidates. The Indian problem for Eliz. Warren is nonsense and so are criticisms of Kamala Harris when she was the state AG. The problems cited have nothing to do with future performance as president. Desperate people magnify slight negatives with no significance.

 

 

 

152. Current Issues, Briefly #1

3 Mar

This is first of a series of blogs with a set of brief discussions of issues that I want to emphasize. This will include ideas from my recent blogs, tweets, and unpublished thoughts. The major topic will be gov and politics but I will include science advancements, and other areas.  I anticipate publishing this type of blog every 7 to 10 days.

The testimony of Michael Cohen is important and I think mostly truthful. The world population is not divided into liars and non-liars. Everyone lies at some time or another, or is a social outcast. Cohen made some serious mistakes, but many of them were made under the aura of a US President, presidential candidate, or earlier a powerful, rich, influential and persuasive person. Cohen is not a high-minded dealist, but there are now major legal reasons for his telling the absolute truth.

Michael Cohen said that he “knows of no evidence for collusion.” Note to Trump: this does not say that others do not have such evidence. Almost certainly, Special Council Mueller does have some significant evidence for collusion. The many indictments, convictions, and lies about Russian contacts, support this.

The “Green New Deal” is filled with good progressive ideas, but like Nancy Pelosi, I hesitate to endorse it because it goes too far in certain areas. I think the climate part is so important that it should be separated out and vigorously promoted. There are also claims that some of the concepts and numbers are incorrect. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) states that the numbers don’t matter; its only the morals that matter. That is a teenage know-it-all answer. Democrats must be better than Trump. What we say must be correct or we will be mistrusted.

According to New York officials, there would be 27 billion in taxes over 25 years from an Amazon move and at least 25,000 new jobs.  A. O. Cortez and others killed the deal by worrying about 3-billion in incentives. Her enthusiasm for progressive causes is great, but in this case she may have made a horrible error. Her concern over 3 billion may have killed tax revenue of 27 billion and many thousands of new jobs.

As I think about Nancy Pelosi and her recent achievement in blocking “the wall” construction, and other responsible decisions I am extremely impressed. She could be the very best politician, negotiator, and patriot our country has ever had. Look at how effectively she negotiated her election to House Speaker. She has a long history of supporting science. As I think about her career I am truly amazed.

It looks like woman will take over more and more political leadership roles. Many are extremely competent, and are national leaders in Germany, the UK and elsewhere. For years, my top pics for president have been women. Male leaders are disadvantaged by the threat of scandals. Men voted into high office are usually powerful, handsome, rich, healthy, and articulate. This description is exactly what most women want in a male companion, and for most men, the temptations of seductive women are difficult to control. Healthy men have powerful sex drives resulting from biological evolution.

The moral of the Ralph Northam (Virginia Gov) year-book issue is that it is foolish to ruin a person’s life because of a mistake made many (35) years ago. People do sincerely change. How many US and world leaders could stand scrutiny of their early years? To hold against a person a mistake 35 years ago is to discourage people from improving their lives. Remember, it is what a person does and says (for a long period of time) that is important, not what you imagine is in his brain.

In the area of science, there are many publications concerning the structure and function of DNA. One group is working on a new DNA with two extra codes, total of six instead of the usual four (bases: A,G,C,T). Floyd Romesberg and his team (Scripps  Institute) are working on this and promise exciting applications.

Another scientific group has made major advances in understanding how the brain recognizes faces. Some of the best recent work was performed by Doris Y. Tsao of the California Institute of Technology. She discovered brain areas called face detectors and provides a description of “face codes” that allows the brain to organize visual input for identifying faces. Scientific American, February 2019, describes this work.

147. Attention to Climate is Urgent

19 Feb

The vast majority of nations in the world understand the urgency of climate solutions. We already have worse hurricanes, new flooding, forest fires, glaciers and polar caps melting, sea levels rising, etc. The city of Venice, Italy is already sinking and flooding due to climate factors. Major USA coastal cities and most of Florida will soon be at risk.

Our President refuses to recognize this vital problem because it does not suit his billionaire friends, like the Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Making proper changes would cost them a few billion out of their 100 or so billion in assets. Helping his extremely rich friends (and donors) is more important than saving millions of lives and in other ways protecting the USA and many others in the world.

Two very authoritative reports have definitely concluded that the average global temperature is increasing, and the increase is caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels. (The Koch family has been in the oil business for decades.) One report is by a United Nations Special Scientific Panel released October 8, 2018. This report indicated that the climate is changing faster than originally anticipated. The other report is the “Fourth National Climate Assessment” (Nov. 23, 2018) by US Global Change Research program. This report is from Trumps gov and he only very reluctantly released it. The official report summary says: “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”   Trillions of dollars and millions of lives are at stake. Contrary to his claim of “draining the swamp,” his cabinet is full of climate deniers and promoters of CO2 pollution.

The Trump position on climate-change has vacillated like many of his other concerns. In 2009 his family was a major part of a business coalition that asserted “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” Later, when running for President he labeled the issue as a “hoax” and then later, not a hoax. He said “he does not believe it.” At one time he said that the climate will change back again. When Amy Klobuchar spoke in a freezing snow storm, he inferred that this disproves global warming. Trump does not understand that local weather is not relevant to global average temperature increases. Trumps Secretary of State Tillerson urged him not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. That apparently led to his being fired.

Recent scientific research has indicated that we have about 10 years to make major changes in climate factors, such as burning fuels that send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We must spend some money on converting to battery operated cars and converting to cleaner power plants. Our gov must support research and incentives in these areas.  We must also support promising research on methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Time is running out and all possible solutions must be supported.  Please see my previous blogs for more discussions on climate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

134. My View of 2020 Gov

12 Jan

Please see my previous blog for a list of the most popular Democrat presidential candidates. I rated Elizabeth Warren as my top choice for President. Since I wrote blog #133, I still rate her tops, but feel more positive about Kamala Harris. Warren has a unique combination of strength, inspirational leadership, intelligence, and social skills. I think she would be able to gather the best consultants and utilize their knowledge.      Kamala is also impressive in these factors and maybe her time will be 2024.  Here is a possible view of a 2020 gov:

President: Eliz Warren,   Vice Presidentt: Eric Swalwell.  I think a female-male combination would be a good balance.  Eric has great voter appeal and appears capable.

Kamala Harris should have a prominent position, perhaps Sec of State, or chief of staff.

Top cabinet positions could be filed with Beto, Joe Kennedy, and other capable young candidates, where they could be effective. In many cases, such positions should be filled by outstanding professors, gov agency officials, and other well-established experts in special fields. Any position where science is important, should be filled with appropriate scientists (or similar), not political allies.

I would expect that Elizabeth would have regular consultations with Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.  Al Gore and Jay Inslee could help with climate-change issues. Imagine a president that consults with really good people. Under Obama, this was the rule.

Traditional government agencies should be immediately restored with the best personnel. Hopefully, there could be many judicial appointments with progressive orientations. I assume that Pres. Warren would rely heavily on experts in foreign policy, military matters, environmental factors, scientific and health applications/research, correcting income inequality, taxation, infrastructure improvement, education, and many other areas. It is exciting to anticipate this governmental revision.  Many other good configurations are possible, and I look forward to a Democrat victory.