Tag Archives: science

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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132. Latest Climate Change Info: Simplified

29 Dec

It is vital that our government supports climate change programs.The dangers are serious and some harmful effects are already happening. Helping people and leaders to understand the science is my contribution. Here are the fundamentals, briefly:

Light from Sun >> Heats earth >> Heat energy Rises /\ /\  from earth
Some rising heat is blocked ]]]] from escaping by gases like CO2
Burning fuel increases CO2 causing more ]]]]]] blockage & warmth

More Detail:
Light from the Sun passes through our atmosphere and warms our planet. The resulting heat rises and some is blocked from escaping into space by “greenhouse” gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, water, and others. Small quantities of these gases are naturally in the atmosphere, and the amount is relatively stable.

But when we burn fuel and create more heat-blocking CO2, there is excessive planet warming. CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” are like a blanket around our planet. See below for more scientific detail.

How do we know that planet warming is caused by human activity?
1, The carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal, natural gas, and oil has a unique chemical pattern — and the additional CO2 in the atmosphere bears that signature. (See below for more detail.)

2. The CO2 and warming are closely correlated with the history of the industrial revolution, which involved the burning of coal and gasolene. As the usage of fossil fuels increased, the warming increased. During the history of the Earth, there were temperature cycles, but these natural cycles are very much slower than the current rapid temperature warming. No other “natural” factors could have caused this increase. See this NASA reference for actual data:  https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

What are the dangers of global warming? Warming causes arctic and other northern ice to melt. This is already well established by photographic evidence. The consequence is warmer oceans, rising sea levels, and changes in ocean currents.

The warming of oceans increases the strength of hurricanes. In recent years, hurricanes are worse than before. Changes in ocean currents shift land temperatures and rainfall so that some lands (like California) are drier and other places are flooded. Inhabited land that is close (or even less than) sea level is starting to flood, due to a slight rise in sea level. A good example is flooding in Venice, Italy, where the sea level has consistently risen by a total of 26cm since 1870. Many highly populated coastal areas of the USA are vulnerable. Some ocean islands are no longer habitable.

Scientists have spent thousands of hours recording and studying these factors. All of these facts are published in reputable scientific journals and magazines, such as Scientific American and Science. All reputable scientists support these findings. A recent official government report and NASA report supports all these facts. Politicians sometimes dispute these facts because their donors might need to spend money to correct their operations. Scientists are not political with respect to science.
—————
Added scientific clarifications
Rising heat energy (infrared radiation) is effectively  “blocked” by CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Most of our atmosphere consists of oxygen and nitrogen, which are small molecules and have little effect on rising heat. Greenhouse gases like CO2 have larger molecules and can absorb heat energy. Shortly after absorption, the heat energy is re-emitted in any direction. The part that goes downward tends to warm the earth. Long before humans inhabited the Earth, greenhouse gases were in the atmosphere at an almost fixed level as a result of opposing processes that produced an equilibrium. These gases warmed the Earth enough to make it habitable for humans and other animals. Burning fuels has increased the heat, causing harmful effects.

CO2 from fuel burning can be identified because it contains tiny amounts of certain inert (noble) gases, Other “natural” CO2 has a different pattern of these inert gases. This is often referred to as a “fingerprint.

Scientists have been working diligently on the problem of added global warming. There are basically two types of solution:  1. Reduce the burning of fuels by producing alternative energy like windmills and solar arrays, and 2. Develop industrial processes for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Number 1 is already in major use. Number 2 is being developed by researchers, but the effectiveness is not yet known . Our gov needs to support BOTH of these efforts, trying to remove CO2 (etc) from the atmosphere will not be enough.

Valuable References
Here is a scientific reference on CO2 effects
https://scied.ucar.edu/carbon-dioxide-absorbs-and-re-emits-infrared-radiation
 Bibliographies for climate change (here are 2 of many):
https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/library/biblio (USA Forest Service)
http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Climate_Change_Bibliography1.html  Government Report: https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report
 NASA info:  https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/  (this is excellent)

131. Tech Advances Needed for Survival

8 Dec

I read a wide variety of publications and often find that great technological advances are met with fear and inappropriate limitations. Our planet is rapidly changing by increasing populations and by ignoring important factors like climate change. People are afraid of GMOs, automation, robots, vaccines, DNA innovations, and even medical pills. All of us on Earth are facing very serious problems, and we must rely on reputable science to provide solutions. Below is a brief discussion of three out of the many major issues, which I hope will serve as a stimulus for further research.

GMOs.  I provided detailed info on GMOs in a previous blog (number 87). The simple fact is that nature (without warning us) is constantly changing plant and animal DNA. Evolution selects for survival, not for the human health of a food source. On the other hand, when scientists develop a GMO, we know about it, and it can be tested for health factors. Lets promote GMO evaluation and research, and not abolish them.

CLIMATE CHANGE TECH.  Failure to deal with man-made global warming (see my blogs number 34 and 126) can lead to changes in ocean currents and wind. The consequence will be new patterns of flooding and some normal areas will become deserts. These changes will cause serious hunger problems and horrible mass migrations, unless we deal with these issues in advance. There is research on technology that could reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and there are other tech innovations that can help  us. Let’s encourage and financially support tech and scientific research in this area.

ROBOTS AND AUTOMATION.  Many people (particularly workers) are fearful of advances in this area. Consider this: robots and AI are now used extensively in many industries (e.g. auto manufacture), and unemployment in the USA is way down, and there are no other problems of note. Like any other  tech, robots must be programmed and used carefully. In the future, robots could help shorten working times and improve worker safety. 

CONCLUSION: TWO PATHS.  We have serious choices to make. We can put money and effort into new tech and science, or take the negative path. It is very interesting that some in our current gov do not trust experts in climate changes, but do trust experts in military details and weapons development.  Could it be that climate solutions negatively affect greedy rich manufacturers, while the rich and powerful enjoy better weapons to preserve their enterprises.  

Here is what I think! Any tech innovation has some element of risk, which can be minimized by hiring top experts for evaluations. On the other hand, I think discouraging innovation can be much more dangerous.  Worldwide current thinking, if not corrected, can lead to major wars, starvation, worse mass migrations, and horrible increased poverty. Encouraging science/tech education and support is crucial.

 

 

126. Checklist for Personal and Planet Health

7 Nov

For many years I have been studying (1) human health and (2) planet health. I have a strong scientific background so I can learn and understand the relevant concepts, which are constantly changing. This essay is a summary or checklist of things we must do to improve both 1 and 2. I have combined these two, as they are inter-related. All of us can fail to deal with important factors so I have tried to list those that are easy to forget. Everything listed is like the beginning of a path to further knowledge, which you should to explore. Some of the ideas presented are controversial and possibly imperfect, but all are based on published reputable investigations, and extensive personal experience. (In many areas, consultation with doctors and other experts is advised.)

1. Human Health
a. Pay careful attention to what you eat. As you get older, this will become more important. The availability of healthy foods will depend on planetary health discussed below.
b. Limit consumption of all sugars, sugar substitutes, and simple carbohydrates, which the body can rapidly change to sugar. Briefly, the possible dangers are weight-gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, migraine headaches, cognitive ability, aging of organs, energy loss, etc. Simple carbohydrates include bread, cereals, pasta, rice, etc. Processed foods often contain harmful ingredients. The internet provides much info on this subject.
c. Limit or eliminate all dairy products, as these will affect your joints. This includes milk (use almond milk instead), cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc. There are excellent non-dairy substitutes for these. This is most important for people in their 40’s and beyond.
d. Concentrate on eating vegetables and decrease your intake of meat and fish. Too much animal consumption can lead to gout, acid reflux and other problems.
e. Study vitamin supplements and determine what you need. If your doctor says that vitamins often just run through your body, suggesting non-use, ask him/her if they understand what a “catalyst” is.
f. Drink plenty of water, which is vital for health and energy. Water is a key factor in almost every system of the body. For most people, water makes up most of the body. Don’t forget to keep you eyes moist.
g. Most vegetable fats are good for you, while most animal fats should be limited. Olive and some other oils have many health advantages. Sufficient fiber in foods is important.
h. Remember to exercise and stretch major muscles on a regular basis. This muscle work has a profound affect on many aspects of health, including: stress reduction, emotional control, sleep, proper glucose utilization, weight control, many diseases, accident prevention, etc. Even if you are old like me and have bad knees, there still are ways to get good exercise.
i. Most pains in the skeletal system (arms, legs, back, etc) of the body are fully or partially due to inflamation, which is the collection of certain body fluids that aid in healing. Generally, the best method for most areas is application of ice. Other areas, like the back, for example, benefit most from drugs, like Aleve. Back pain often is best resolved with careful, full stretching. I have written several blogs on this.
j. If you have dry skin, rub on moisterizing and restorative lotions.
k. Make sure everything that your body comes in contact with stays clean to avoid bacterial infections.

2. Planet Health for Humans
Your health and survival actually depend much more on planet health than you might expect. Immediately, we can see some common factors. Clean water and air are important for both. Trees provide conversion of CO2 to Oxygen, which is important for humans. Here is a list of environmental factors to work on.
a. Support laws and efforts to avoid water and air pollution. Under appropriate leadership, I think most manufacturers would agree with this.
b. Discourage the abolition of regulations that improve air and water quality. It is easy for rich people to move to safe areas, but many others can really suffer from various types of pollution. One must study history to be aware of these factors.
c. Burning coal and gasoline for warmth and transportation must be limited. We need solar panels, windmills, etc for energy. Cars must be gradually converted to battery operation. This is already possible, it just needs responsible leadership.
d. We need to plant and save more trees, as humans need the oxygen they provide, and they remove the CO2, which affects global warming.
e. GMO’s (genetic modification of plants) must be promoted, along with relevant safety regulation. The Earth’s population is quickly increasing so we will need more food. (Please see my blog on GMOs.) GMOs will also help with climate change problems as they will require less farm equipment energy. Remember that nature is constantly changing the DNA of animals and plants, without notification to us. On the other hand, if scientists develop a new GMO, it is known and can be tested. Our long-term survival will depend on the innovations of scientists.
f. The Oceans of the world are immense and yet they still need our attention. Large populations of fish have substantially decreased due to over-fishing, and oil spills (and pollution) have had great negative effects. Waste matter is filling the oceans and is damaging sea animals.There are many books and essays on this subject.
g. There are many ways to conserve energy, which will become more and more important as population increases and new tech requires increased energy. In our homes we can use low energy light bulbs, efficient furnaces, good insulation, etc. Our cars, factories, farms, etc must be designed for low energy use.
h. Meat requires much more energy to produce than vegetables (about 25 times as much). Scientists are developing methods of growing meat in the lab using DNA manipulations. Eventually, it will be more energy-efficient and less costly than using cattle. I have no problem with this, but some will object. Actually, humans need only a small amount of animal food for good health.
i. Vegetables can be efficiently grown in vertical structures so that they use less land and can be integrated into cities. Use of “vertical farming” buildings will require much less transportation cost and energy, and people will enjoy extra fresh food.
j. Failure to deal with climate change is already producing more hazards like severe hurricanes, droughts, forest fires, and flooding. Climate change causes alterations in worldwide air and sea currents. This can profoundly affect rainfall, so that some areas with normal rainfall will change to deserts and other areas will get too much rain. This will affect food production and will cause massive migration problems, that will make today’s migrations seem trivial.

3. Conclusion
Our planet will not suffer because scientists and technicians have failed to provide better systems to help with adjustments. It will be greedy, callous, and ignorant politicians that will cause disasters for Planet Earth and its inhabitants. There is enough food, clothing, and shelter, for all, and even some room for moderately rich people. Responsible leaders would be able to deal with all the adaptations that are needed.

119. How Humans Evolved

28 Aug

The latest issue of Scientific American (September 2018) is concerned with the issue of how we humans are different from other animals. The issue title is: “A Singular Species: The Science of Being Human.” A lot of this valuable issue is concerned with evolution. As I looked through the issue, I tried to find a discussion of certain details about how evolution actually produced our superior brains.

Here is my analysis.  First, what is necessary for biological evolution is the following:

1. Death, which leads to many generations, that can make small incremental changes.

2. Mutation: A change in DNA that is relatively permanent.

3. Survival of the fittest. The key to understanding “fittest” is that there is a combination of traits in an individual that will allow him (and her) to reach the age for sex and child rearing. The mutation and progeny must live long enough to promote the reproductive cycles. These are the main themes, but many details are involved in the whole process of evolution.

An overall observation, is that evolution is a tree process rather than a number of parallel lines. Some detail about primates is instructive. Primates include lemurs, lorises, monkeys, apes, and man. All primates are mammals and have advanced binocular vision, grasping ability, and specific enlargements of brain.

60 or 80 million years ago there was a key species that had the capability of leading to various primate species. There are many primate variations that have been successful. Some species will continue because they are “fit” and those less successful may terminate, that is, become extinct. The branching tree of evolution will lose some branches and gain new ones. The species we see today, have all been good at all the many requirements for survival. The lemurs, monkeys, apes, etc are all successful variations.

The interesting fact is that perhaps a hundred million years ago, a mutant was born that had a DNA structure that could eventually lead to the evolution of humans. I think the existence of humans was not inevitable, it was just a chance event. If you look at all the other current species, many non-human animals are quite successful. Humans are not necessary for their success, and in fact, humans have been responsible for the extinction of many interesting animals. It is easy to imagine an earth without humans.

Some precursor animal lived in an environment where mental ability was a major asset. So this species kept evolving better and better brains that led to more successful and likely reproduction.

Let’s fantasize an environment where high intelligence, instead of such traits as better legs for running, was important for survival. Suppose one such environment was characterized by several major changes in food supply. Perhaps a favorite plant or animal to eat became extinct. The adaptation to major changes in food source probably would require more brain power. There could also be major changes in climate or the availability of water. Perhaps in one region there were two pre-human species that were highly competitive for a limited supply of food. The smarter species could have been more able to survive, and more likely to pass its DNA on to future generations. A superior memory could help find water during a drought, or the location of food sources for different seasons.

Dinosaurs never developed big smart brains like ours during their many years of existence. This suggests it takes a certain DNA structure and a certain environment to initiate the evolution of this large adaptive brain. It may, in fact, be a very rare occurrence in the Universe, and we are just very lucky.

I have written the above to provide information in a short form that may be useful for those not wanting read thousands of book pages. It is an effort to present key facts that may be lost in a sea of writings. I also commend the thousands of dedicated scientists that have contributed to our understanding of this profound topic.

117. The Amazing Brain: How it was made.

6 Jul

Most people know, or are at least aware of the idea, that our amazing brains were developed through biological evolution. I am going to try to make a clear explanation of this process. One approach is to make comparisons with easy to understand non-biological processes.

A manufactured product can evolve under the following conditions:
1. Consider a product such as a cell-phone, that has a high volume of sales.
2. This product can and will be improved in a number different ways.
3. After each modification, there is an objective measure of the product’s success.
4. The product is permanently modified if there are indications of its success with the public.

So, the procedure is to make and sell a specific improvement, say, a larger screen. If the larger screen sells more phones, then it will be included in all future versions. If sales are worse, then the improved version will be abandoned. In this way, the cell-phone will “evolve” and customers will enjoy better and better phones.

The key factors in this and other evolution are variation (which is persistent) and feedback related to the new features. And, of course, the feedback must have an effect on the persistence of variations.

In biological evolution, mutation (relatively permanent changes) occurs in a species as new DNA is created for offspring. The feedback is success in survival. If a change, such as a longer neck for a giraffe, helps giraffes to survive, then giraffes may “evolve” longer necks. Note, longer necks allow giraffes to reach more food. Natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the biological process, similar to customer satisfaction for the cell phones.

It is really remarkable that “nature” has created automatically self-improving objects like animals and plants. The improvements can take place without any human intervention. Every animal and plant on earth has developed, in this way, for billions of years.

.                           Amazing time leads to Amazing complexity
Now think about this: the amazing complexity of the human brain is based on an amazing amount of time, billions of years. Brains (and all other organs) have developed to a fantastic degree, because of a fantastic amount of time for this “evolution” process to take place.

I should also mention that in our world, there are many types evolution. Similar to natural biological evolution, is animal breeding. Here, the selection is NOT natural, but by humane intervention. As civilization developed, there have been remarkable changes in species to make them more desirable for human use. The clear effects of breeding are very supportive of the concept of natural evolution.

If you want to develop your understanding of brain evolution, do an Internet search on the words “animal nervous systems” or “animal brains” and look at the images. This will help you to see the progression. After the transition from single-celled to multi-cellular animals, rudimentary nervous systems appeared. These provided simple two-cell reflexes based on an input (sensory neuron) and an output (motor neuron). Eventually, more neurons were added to the processing and finally complex brains appeared. Some of this nervous system development is well understood, but there is still very much to learn.

116. Brain Complexity

5 Jul

In my Blog-114, I provide some information on brain micro-structure:
“Our nervous system is composed of billions of nerves with around 150 trillion interconnections called synapses, and other connection variations. Further, each synapse (which functions like a transistor) has a complicated and variable structure. The nerve cells, their branching structures, and connections, provide all of our simple and complex behaviors.”

In my study of neuron science, I often see proposals and conjectures
regarding total brain simulations, and even the transfer of stored brain info
to a gigantic computer as a way of prolonging life. One speculator proposes that a person’s intellect could continue after death.

My study of all these conjectures suggests that the writers do not
appreciate the size and levels of brain complexity. My assessment is that
our current and future knowledge will not be capable of producing any
such copying or sizable transfer. Perhaps in 400 or 500 years different viewpoints will be more acceptable.

What follows is a further description and clarification of brain complexity.

A computer has transistors, diodes, resistors, conducting wires and other electronic components that function in concert to provide logic, control,
computation, sensory systems, memory, and information transfer over a
distance.

Analogous systems in the brain are various types of connections between
nerve cells, and elongated cell structures (axons) that are like transmission
wires. The electrical pulse that is mostly used for communication over a distance
is the “action potential.”

I could include, here, a few relevant pictures, but to really see most of
the known variations just use your browser to search “nerve cells” and also
“gap junctions.” (click “images” at top of page). Many of the pictures are
very current and show an amazing variety of structures.

There are two types of connection: chemical (synapses) and electrical (gap-junctions). The terminology can be a little inconsistent but the principles are clear. Neurons have (separate) sending and receiving points. For cells A and B to communicate, a sending point (terminal) of cell A must be in very close proximity to a receiving point (receptor site) for cell B. If the connection is a chemical synapse then the sending point of cell A sends transmitter chemicals across the gap to neuron B receptor. Sending is triggered by an electrical signal (action potential) that causes the release of a chemical (transmitter). The receiving point (or receptor) generates a transmittable signal when enough transmitter is received. Transmission can be excitatory (producing action potentials) or inhibitory (preventing action potentials). Some examples of common neuro-transmitters are acetylcholine, epinephrine, GABA, ATP, and Serotonin. There are about 25 different known transmitters.

Electrical connections between nerve cells operate similarly, except that the
excitation is more direct and transmitter chemicals are not used. Gap junctions
mediate electrical excitation by opening gates that allow the passage of ions.
Ions are tiny charged particles (atoms or molecules) that function in transmission. There can also be transferred electrical excitation without specific gap-junction structures, if parts of cells are making actual contact.

Further functioning (and more complexity) is related to the number of sending points that simultaneously contact a single receptor. A single nerve cell (neuron) could have hundreds of sending and receiving contacts and direct ommunication with many other cells.

Another layer of complexity is that there are many transmitter chemicals and countless substances that can affect the transmitters and the transmission process. Some of these excitatory or inhibitory substances in the brain are there naturally, and can depend on what you eat and your activities. There are also a multitude of drugs that can affect transmission in a multitude of ways.

All animal brains have specific structures and a very sophisticated organization.
Synaptic receptor sites (the receiving points) can have a variety of properties
depending on DNA coding and also actual usage. The extent of excitation by
sending points (pre-synaptic terminals) can be relatively fixed or variable.
In some situations, receiving points (postsynaptic sites) can produce a stream
of action potentials, or just one or two. If a synapse is used repeatedly,
transmission could be enhanced or inhibited, depending on a number of
temporal and chemical factors. Depending on usage, a receptor site could
store information that alters its performance — a “memory” function.

From the discussion above, you can see that there are numerous devices in
the brain that function as “logic.” The brain has common “and-gates”,
“or-gates”, “nor-gates” and many other types of gating to use in programming all of the fantastic abilities we enjoy. Much of the logic used by our brains is similar to that used in our computers. But brain logic has a far greater variation and is
really a combination of digital and analog systems. Information in a computer
is generally a universal pulse of a fixed voltage. In brains, information takes many forms including pulses, graded potentials, ion movements, and the presence or absence of a great number of chemicals. In computers, memory is achieved by manipulating magnetic and electrical properties of tiny bits of matter. In brains, some methods of storage are known and others are the subject of reasearch. It is likely that much of memory has to do with long-term facilitation (or inhibition) in synaptic transfer. There is much research on molecular structures that are altered to provide long-term information storage.

Imagine trying to construct something like a biological synapse with all
the properties described above. Your constructed synapse could have a hundred excitatory and inhibitory inputs, with several different transmitter chemicals. The receptor site should be able to produce a variety of action potential rates and be capable of changes related to memory. Even the construction of one
complete synapse would be very difficult. Imagine trying to create a human
brain with 150 trillion synapses with a variety of properties, AND with an
extremely complicated and as yet unknown organization.

Scientific brain research is valuable and should be continued. But productive
lines of inquiry should be promoted while most unrealistic speculation should be
ignored or presented as science fiction.

How did this extremely complicated biological computer system called a brain
develop? In a future blog I will deal with this question.