Category Archives: Science

How do the candidates stand on America’s energy future? Here’s a radio piece from NCR

Energy policy, defining how we use energy to power our economy and our lives, is among the most pressing issues for the next four years. In this special edition of BURN, stories about the power of one: how, in this election season, a single person, place, policy or idea can — with a boost from science — affect the nation’s search for greater energy independence.

We’ve had a lovely afternoon and evening at the American Conservation Film Festival.

We are in the four day period of the ACFF, now celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary of presenting conservation and nature support films here in Shepherdstown.

We saw two films this afternoon, but tonight we saw two films accompanied by live discussions and question periods with the filmmakers.

The most interesting to me was Marion Stoddart whose life and career spent saving the Nashua River was so well presented in the short film “The Work of 1000.”

Filmmaker Susan Edwards broached the subject Can one person truly make a difference? This film tells the inspiring story of how a remarkable woman saved a dying river–for herself, for the community and for future generations–and became an environmental hero honored by the United Nations.

Mrs Stoddart, now in her 80s spent decades getting a very polluted river clean… petitioning, demonstrating, approaching manufacturers and politicians directly, and getting her husband and children involved. Her live presentation with the audience was very involving.

Our Nation’s River: A System on Edge  was the second film we saw this evening. Ten minutes long and made by Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of historic natural filmmaker Jaques Costeau. This piece was particularly meaningful for us, since it is about the Potomac River, the water body that forms our northern border and flows from us down to Washington DC.

Ms, Cousteau answered questions but also presented a discussion panel of professionals from the Nature Conservancy and the Potomac River Foundation.

The House was pretty full at Reynolds Hall, Shepherd University, with a number of standers who wanted to catch everything as well. Among the folks there tonight were most of the officers of Sustainable Shepherdstown (My wife is in that bunch, of course), our current State Delegate John Dolan whose work for us has been spectacular and who is leaving office at the end of the session. Steve Skinner, the Democratic candidate for Delegate who, hopefully, will take John’s place, was there as well. Both men realize the importance the Potomac is to our community. Of course, Republican Candidate Elliot Spitzer was NOT there this evening. Preserving our environment is just not a Republican issue… after all, don’t they all think that Climate Change is a joke?

We’re going to some more films tomorrow.

Tell Mitt Romney: Climate Change Isn’t A Joke

Much of the nation is reeling from Superstorm Sandy. As families rebuild from Sandy’s destruction, our thoughts are with the victims of this horrific, fossil-fueled storm.

When Gov. Mitt Romney made climate change a punch line at the Republican National Convention, he mocked a real threat to the lives of Americans.

We can’t let Mitt get away with his laughing dismissal of the threat of rising seas caused by the carbon polluters who fund his campaign. Share this ad with friends and family to tell Romney: climate change isn’t a joke.

Ref: Three Ways Climate Change Made Hurricane Sandy Worse

 

Thanks to Climate Silence.org.

Realizing how much I have come to depend on my wonderful Superfocus glasses.

For the last few weeks I have been wearing my new Superfocus Leonardos, the new Italian design frames for the amazing focusable glasses I discovered a couple of years ago.

My original pair is a very modernist design called Bauhaus. My wife was so impressed with them that she bought a pair as well.

People are always asking “Where do you get those glasses?” and we give people the source and refer them to the Superfocus web site, show them the Penn Gillette ads, and demonstrate the ease of use and the focusing action of our specs.

The Bauhaus focuses with a sliding device and the new Leonardos have a rotating dial that is virtually invisible to onlookers. Both methods are very easy to use and I am so used to them I rarely even realize that I’m carrying out the focusing.

Interested? Go Here:

NOT SURE HOW MUCH SANDY IS GOING TO EFFECT THE EASTERN PANHANDLE…

But the animations the weather shows are presenting have rainstorms crossing over us… apparently we’re about as far to the west as any of this will reach and I can’t imagine it will be like a nor’easter or a tropical hurricane.

To make sure what’s happening however, I’m hanging out the Weather Forecasting Stone:

I have absolute confidence in the stone’s accuracy. Don’t you wish you had one?

 

A quote for the day… from 68 Nobel Prize Winners

68 former Nobel Prize winning scientists have endorsed Barack Obama for the Presidency. Their feelings were published in “An Open Letter to the American People.” Here is a quote from that letter:

“America’s economic future, the quality of our health, and the quality of our environment depend on our ability to continue America’s proud legacy of discovery and invention. As winners of the Nobel Prizes in science, we are proud of our contribution to the extraordinary advances American science has made in recent years. But we’re deeply concerned that without leadership and continued commitment to scientific research the next generation of Americans will not make and benefit from future discoveries.

“President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America, has delivered on his promise to renew our faith in science-based decision making and has championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy. He has built strong programs to educate young Americans in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and programs to provide Americans the training they need to keep pace with a technology-driven economy.

If you believe, as we do, that America’s future is bound in essential ways to science and innovation, we urge you to join us in working to ensure the reelection of President Obama.”

You can find the entire letter here. I would urge you to read it… and pass it around.

 

Ever wonder how some people get elected to Congress?

I know I do. The fact that there are Republicans who appear to be uneducated, anti-intellectual and just plain outrageous makes me have a very poor impression of the people who vote for them.

Here are 4 samples of what I’m referring to:

Science and Space Committee? Intelligence Committee? How do these mini-brains get put on committees they don’t seem to have any intellectual connection with?

If statements like these keep them from being re-elected to the House, then I’ll have a much better vision of the voting public. I don’t count on it, however.

 

Environmental Scientist Barry Commoner Dies at 95

One of the men I admired most in the early environmental movement, Dr. Barry Commoner, has died at 95 at his home in Brooklyn Heights, and I think the world experiences a great loss. He was an early champion of recycling, organic food and reducing fossil fuel use… and, of course, he took a firm stand against nuclear testing.

Commoner was trained as a biologist at Columbia and Harvard and combined scientific expertise and leftist zeal. His work on the global effects of radioactive fallout, which included documenting concentrations of strontium 90 in the baby teeth of thousands of children, contributed materially to the adoption of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

He was a popular speaker and author 1n the 1960s and ’70s, and even campaigned for president in 1980.

Time Magazine called Commoner the Paul Revere of Ecology on the first Earth Day in 1970.

His four informal rules of ecology were:

1. Everything Is Connected to Everything Else

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere

3. Nature Knows Best

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

Dr. Commoner’s was both concerned with ecology  and an ideal of social justice in which everything was indeed connected to everything else. Like some other leftist dissenters of his time, he believed that environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem.

Commoner insisted that the future of the planet depended on industry’s learning not to make messes in the first place, rather than on trying to clean them up after they were made. He thought scientists in the service of industry could not just create some new process or product and then remove themselves from a moral responsibility for the potential results. He was a lifelong opponent of nuclear power because of its radioactive waste and scorned the idea of pollution credit swaps because an industry would have to be fouling the environment in the first place to be rewarded by such a program.

He saw that social needs were tied up with environmental ones… for instance:

“I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together. For example, if you’re going to revise the productive system to make cars or anything else in such a way as to suit the environmental necessities, at the same time why not see to it that women earn as much as men for the same work?”

Harvard paleontologist Steven J. Gould’s summary of Barry Commoner’s work and achievements is clear:

“Although he has been branded by many as a maverick, I regard him as right and compassionate on nearly every major issue.”

Circles or Spirals?

 

Optical puzzles are the best. So is the moving pattern above spirals or concentric circles?

Bill Nye the Science Guy is a true hero…

… but he did not, as a mischievously placed article put out by the Daily Currant stated, use foul language and push science versus creationism arguments challenging Todd Akin to a debate.

This happened after a video was released on You Tube saying evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. According to Bill Nye, aka “the science guy,” if grownups want to “deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them.”

Here’s the video:

See. Pretty damned specific.

Just for your entertainment, however, here is Bill Nye on Seattle’sAlmost Live” in his superhero guise as Speed Walker:

Thanks, thanks, thanks to Bill Nye. It’s good having him around.

Why do we take medications that can kill us?

Have you noticed on more and more TV commercials for prescription medications that something upsetting appears?  According to law, prescription meds have to state their side effects in advertising, and since I take a lot of prescription meds I monitor these commercials with scrutiny.

A great number of these side effect revelations include such things as depression, sleeplessness, stomach problems or DEATH! So in taking these sleeping pills or pain killers or diabetes medications, the side effect could be that you die.

Does this cause any problems for the medications industry? It looks like doctors have very little trouble prescribing these potential killers… and the TV ads convince many patients to request these from their physicians.

I see no one on the news or in other source material debating this issue, so I wonder if it is important to Americans (it is becoming important to me because I take at least one of these pills.)

Let me hear from you if you have any thoughts on this issue.

Neil Armstrong, first person to walk on moon, dies at 82

 

Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface in 1969  –  a monumental achievement in human history. Despite his fame, Armstrong shrank from fame and called himself a ‘nerdy engineer.’

Armstrong died today from cardiovascular complications. Saturday.

When he made that famous step on July 20, 1969, he uttered a phrase that has been carved in stone and quoted across the planet: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” It was heard by 60 million television viewers worldwide

His professional career kept him in the air. In 1945, he started taking flying lessons, paying for them by working as a stock clerk at a drugstore. On his 16th birthday, he got his pilot’s license but didn’t yet have a driver’s license.

Upon graduating from high school in 1947, he was awarded a Navy scholarship to Purdue University. When the Korean War started in 1949, Armstrong was called to active duty.

Armstrong was one of the first Astronauts recruited for the space program – a true American hero.

 

War on Health

 

I’m happy to present Gary Null‘s documentary: War on Health, The FDA‘s Cult of Tyranny.

If you are worried about organic foods, raw dairy products or other things being available, or if you are afraid of GMOs in your food, this will startle you:

 

The next time your pals say there is no such thing as Global Warming, show them this:

If this doesn’t convince them, suggest they go live in the grain producing areas of the midwest. That should back up their belief (but don’t laugh too hard.)

Sally Ride, First Woman Astronaut, dies at age 61…

 

Sally Kristen Ride, American physicist and a former NASA astronaut died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman, and the first lesbian in space.

On her first mission at age 32 she was the youngest American to enter space. In 1987 she left NASA to work at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control.

During her career, Ride served as the ground-based Capsule Communicator (CapCom) for the second and third Space Shuttle flights  and helped develop the Space Shuttle’s robot arm. She was a member of the presidential commission investigating the accident on the Space Shuttle Challenger. According to Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who warned of the technical problems that led to the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, Ms. Ride was the only public figure to show support for him when he went public with his pre-disaster warnings (after the entire workforce of Morton-Thiokol shunned him).

From 1985 until her death, Ride’s female partner was Dr. Tam E. O’Shaughnessy, a childhood friend who met Ride when both youngsters were aspiring tennis players. O’Shaughnessy became a science teacher and writer and, later, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride’s company, Sally Ride Science.  Their same-sex relationship of 27 years was revealed in Ride’s obituary released by Sally Ride Science and confirmed by Ride’s sister, who stated that Ride preferred to keep this information private during her life.

 

80% 0f Antibiotics are Fed to Farm Animals – and it’s killing us!

Here’s something we should all be aware of (especially when we go food shopping):

I hope you signed the petition… and look for the label in the meat department that tells you your steak is from a cow raised without antibiotics.

Will Monsanto be allowed to poison us?

Just when we thought there might be some federal control over the spread of genetically modified vegetables and grains, a so-called “Monsanto rider” has been quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill. This  would require – not just allow, but require – the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed.

All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask, and the questionable crops could be released into the environment where they could potentially contaminate organic crops and lay waste to a healthy food supply.

Centre for Food SafetyUnless the Senate or a citizen’s army of farmers and consumers can stop them, the Republican (read “industry”) dominated House of Representatives is likely to make this dangerous rider the law very soon.

Here is what the Center For Food Safety officially had to say about the biotech industry’s latest attempt to circumvent legal and regulatory safeguards:

Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

In other words, if this single line in the 90-page Agricultural Appropriations bill slips through, it’s Independence Day for the biotech industry, and Monsanto comes out on top.

This is the time to contact your Representative and complain… by telephone and in writing… to keep the “Monsanto Rider” out of the law.

Quote of a Generation – A discovery he never thought he’d see…

Scientists at the world’s biggest atom smasher have announced the discovery of a brand-new particle—and it looks an awful lot like the long-sought Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle,” without which the universe as we know it wouldn’t exist.

“It is an incredible thing that has happened in my lifetime.”

- Peter Higgs, physicist who theorized the existence of the Higgs boson

According to CERN, the existence of this particle was confirmed in two separate experiments at the Large Hadron Collider—a massive underground particle accelerator that spans the border of France and Switzerland—and there’s less than a one-in-a-million chance that the data is a fluke.

Higgs first proposed the existence of the new particle more than half a century ago to explain a mystery: Why do most elementary particles have mass? Without mass there would be no atoms; no chemistry; no biology—and certainly none of us.

The concept of mass has long been a sticking point in the Standard Model, which describes all known elementary particles, and how they interact.

Wonder of Wonders… a fungi in the Amazon Rainforest that degrades common polyurethane plastic.

A group of students and professors from Yale University have found a fungi in the Amazon rainforest that can degrade and utilize the common plastic polyurethane (PUR). As part of the university’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory educational program, designed to engage undergraduate students in discovery-based research, the group searched for plants and cultured the micro-organisms within their tissue.

Several active organisms were identified, including two distinct isolates of Pestalotiopsis microspora with the ability to efficiently degrade and utilize PUR as the sole carbon source when grown anaerobically, a unique observation among reported PUR biodegradation activities.

Polyurethane is a big part of our mounting waste problem and this is a new possible solution for managing it. The fungi can survive on polyurethane alone and is uniquely able to do so in an oxygen-free environment. The Yale University team has published its findings in the article ‘Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi’ for the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.

One of the greatest problems we have faced as we look for ways to clean up the environment we have so befouled over the years i the huge presence of wasted plastic bottles and gallon jugs. Here is an opportunity to find a natural solution to the huge nuisance and help make the world a better place.

Keep your eye out for more information.

Ray Bradbury is Dead at 91…

He took us into the future and then farther into the future. He showed us where our politics and lifestyles could take us in books like “Fahrenheit 451.” He created a whole civilization and then related it to the Cold War in “The Martian Chronicles.” He created a monumental body of books, film, television and theater…so much that it is hard to conceive of one man writing it all.

But he did.

Did you know he scripted the 1956 film version of “Moby Dick?” Or that he was a regular writer for “The Twilight Zone?” Or that his work has been published in over 30 languages? Or that he wrote about 600 short stories which appeared in more than 1000 school textbooks?

And his approach to work:

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.

- Ray Bradbury

Bradbury was our science fiction evangelist and we will miss him… but we are so happy that he left so much amazing work behind. Rest in Peace, Ray.

Science vs. God – America is becoming ignorant.

Gallup has released the results of a national poll on science, and unfortunately, modern biology didn’t fare well:

“Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.”

In fact, only 15% believed in evolution with God playing no part in everything (ie: the major premise of modern science.)

Here in America we used to have a competitive edge in science… now we are falling way behind competing countries. We need to start taking science seriously again —  ignorance costs far too much. Results such as those of the Gallup poll should serve as a wake-up call.

Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a lecture a few years ago on the “philosophy of ignorance,” in which he said a lack of appreciation for basic scientific principles will hurt America’s scientific output, which has traditionally been the nation’s largest economic engine.

“If nonscience works its way into the science classroom, it marks … the beginning of the end of the economic strength this country has known,” Tyson said.

If you care about American economic competitiveness you have to care about science.

My brain is exploding… put yourself in the (not so distant) future…

As you read this over the internet you realize that you have replaced what we used to exchange in print… or even, for Pete’s sake, by voice over the phone or while having coffee… with interactions by computer on our own time and only when we really want it. And it seems live and it can be interacted with in an eternal present.

But what comes next? What are the situations we can’t even imagine that will be our communication norm in less than a generation… that will make Facebook seem like the telegraph?

English: New York City high school students in...

I just spent an hour and a half listening to a replay of a forum at the World Science Festival called Internet Everywhere. If you remember when we didn’t spend our time with a computer and a mouse or a touchpad and our finger bringing our minds together over the internet… not very long ago… then remember how we didn’t even begin to imagine where we are today.

You’ve got to watch/listen to this:

http://worldsciencefestival.com/webcasts/internet_everywhere.

OK?

You can thank me later.

Legalizing Marijuana Benefits All of Us…

This is a followup to the Penn Jillette commentary I posted last week commenting on the problems with Obama‘s marijuana policy. This piece is from Online Paralegal Programs and has relevant statistical information:

So… this would save us public funds, help the economy, keep medical needs filled and would allow us to grow hemp for fabrics and other products, as this country used to do.

What in Hell is wrong with people?

Mokele-mbembe ill artlibre jnl

Mokele-mbembe

I found this one in Doubtful News:

Stephen McCullah needed to raise $26,700 by May 11 in order to secure enough funds through Kickstarter.com to, well, kickstart his expedition to the Republic of Congo to hunt a reported living dinosaur.

When the deadline arrived, the 21-year-old adventurer and Missouri native had received pledges totaling nearly $29,000.

He’s now packing his bags and a powerful tranquilizer rifle — to bring down a possible dinosaur during what he has dubbed the Newmac Expedition.

McCullah said that his team will end up at the southern tip of Lake Tele, where mokele-mbembe have been reported. The Newmac explorers will set up camp at the village of a pygmy tribe.

For the remainder of their three-month stay, and as long as there are no health or safety issues intervening, the men will set out every day with a variety of special cameras, searching for new species, large or small, including canine-sized tarantulas.

McCullah and his associate are established Creationists, I suppose hoping to cling to the Creationist line that the Earth is around 6,000 years old and men and dinosaurs lived togather (the would have HAD to.)

That they were funded through Kickstarter leaves me in doubt about the ethical nature of that organization… with the knowledge that KS takes 5% of the $26,700 for listing it. Making money on unintelligent people is much too easy in the U.S.A.

A cartoon, however, to explain why dinosaurs are not here now for these people:

We must out-fund Monsanto’s Lobbyists (or die eating our unlabeled veggies!)

Volunteers across California are making history. On May 2nd, the California Right to Know campaign turned in nearly 1 million signatures to place a ballot initiative to label GMOs on the November 2012 ballot.

But this is only the beginning. We know that Monsanto and their minions will do everything in their power to spread lies and confuse voters. They have proven this time and again and most recently in Vermont and Connecticut where citizens in those states overwhelmingly supported bills to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Only a few days after voters in California qualified the historic initiative to label GMOs, Monsanto and biotech lobbyists were working behind closed doors in Connecticut to kill the bill that would have made it possible for the residents in that state to know what’s in their food.1 In the final hours of the 2012 legislative session, the biotech industry succeeded in getting Connecticut’s governor and House leaders to strip the bill of its labeling requirement as it was on the verge of passing with bipartisan support. Now, this year alone, governors in Vermont and Connecticut have both caved under the biotech industry’s threats to sue them if they pass a bill to label GMOs. This is an outrage!

While these backroom shenanigans can’t happen in California, since the ballot initiative will be put to a vote of the people, we know that Monsanto’s minions will be up to their usual dirty tricks. Already, a powerful biotech front group is starting to spread misleading stories in the media and distorting the real facts about the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012.

This has been called “the Food Fight of Our Life” and we need your help in making sure that we succeed in November.

Will you chip in to make GMO labeling a reality? Only with your help can we win in November!

We can win in California, but we need your help today! Here’s how. Between May 1 and May 26, a broad coalition of food, farm, health, public interest, and environmental groups all over the country, joined by leading organic food companies, will attempt to raise one million dollars to support the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a citizens’ ballot initiative, and other state GMO-labeling campaigns.

In an extraordinary gesture of support and solidarity in the fight for GMO labeling in California, Mercola.com, the largest alternative health website in the world, along with a group of leading organic companies including Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, and Eden Foods, and other nonprofit organizations, have pledged another one million dollars to the “Drop the Money Bomb on Monsanto” campaign – but only if we reach our goal of $1 million by May 26.

Please help us raise $1 million by May 26 for the California Right to Know GMO Labeling Campaign so we don’t miss out on this $1 million matching gift!

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/591?akid=549.271844.mqPu-i&t=10

Thank you for contributing what you can today – Together we can win!

Now’s the time. Let’s drop the money bomb on Monsanto and take back our food supply!

Thanks for participating in food democracy,

David Murphy

President, Food Democracy Action!

P.S. All money raised for this campaign will go through Food Democracy Action!, a 501(c)4 allied organization of Food Democracy Now!, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Donations are not tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!

Source:

1. “GMO ‘Right to Know’ campaign in CT fails — Lawsuit threatened”, Digital Journal, May 5, 2012

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/590?akid=549.271844.mqPu-i&t=12

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