Archive | Et Cetera

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Asteroids & Meteors Are Still Dangerous

Posted on 07 January 2016 by Jerry

Our planet Earth is being bombarded all the time by asteroids or meteorites. Fortunately most of them do not hit the Earth, passing harmlessly by us in space. Even when they come in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere, most of them burn up before they hit the ground. Many of them are large enough to destroy a city. Some we see ahead of time. Some surprise us with no warning.

As an example, NASA shows approximately 90 near earth objects that will come toward Earth at a distance closer than our distance to the moon (~384,000 kilometers). These are only the asteroids or meteors that will pass us between January 1, 2016 and March 1, 2016 or just two months. At the larger end these range from 17 that are larger than 250 meters in diameter to over 2.1 kilometers. As a measure of scale, 92 meters equals ~100 yards or a football field.

February 15, 2013 was a historic day. In the same day we were visited by a flyby asteroid (DA14) we anticipated in 2012 and one not anticipated. The flyby came within 17,000 miles of our planet. Unfortunately, the average “house-sized”, unanticipated asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded just 12 miles up in the air. This was over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia. This explosion injured 1,000+ people mainly from flying glass.  Nova claims the explosion was 20 to 30 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

But how big can asteroids or meteors be? To answer that question we could go back to the largest known impact ever discovered on the Earth’s surface. We are talking about the Chicxulub Crater in the Gulf of Mexico. This was the asteroid/meteor given credit for wiping out the dinosaurs and ushering in mammals as the new dominant life form. This asteroid/meteor was estimated to be 10 km in diameter. It ended the Cretaceous period, about 65.5 million years ago.

There are 26 known asteroids larger than 200 kilometers in diameter. The largest asteroid is Ceres. It is 974 km in diameter. The next three are 2 Pallas, 4 Vesta and 10 Hygiea. They are all between 400 and 525 km in diameter. All of these are much larger than the Chicxulub asteroid.

Chicxulub was an extinction event. Its energy was more than a billion times the explosive power of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atom bombs. Earlier dating methods place the asteroid at 300,000 years before or 180,000 years after the end-cretaceous mass extinction. Newer, more precise dating methods however put the asteroid at no more that 33,000 years from the end of the K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) extinction event. For purposes of dating 33,000 years is simultaneous and represents the most accurate timing humans have yet to devise.

Recent research has shown that there was a basalt volcanic eruption on the other side of the Earth, the Deccan Traps in India that was influenced by the asteroid’s impact. Research on the asteroid points to shock waves created by the asteroid that reached the volcanic eruption on the other side of the world and may have accelerated the flows which only increased the deaths of dinosaurs during this period.

Unfortunately we are not paying a lot of money to detect new asteroids.   An article which appeared on in 2013 one month after the flyby and explosion over Chelyabinsk describes the problem we face.   Roughly one month after the asteroid officials on capital hill asked NASA and the military what they were doing to combat the problem of unknown asteroids.

The article stated, “Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, said it was not reassuring to learn that NASA has so far detected only about 10 percent of the near-Earth objects that are wider than 459 feet (140 meters) across. Holdren (Science advisor to Obama) estimated there may be hundreds of thousands of such objects within one-third the distance from Earth to the sun that remain unknown.”

The article continued, “In 2005, Congress directed NASA to detect, track and characterize 90 percent of these space rocks – those near-Earth asteroids larger than 459 feet (140 m).” Charles Bolden, NASA’s chief is quoted, as saying there was no way the space agency would meet its deadline. He reminded Congress they has not appropriated any money and said, “Our estimate right now is at the present budget levels it will be 2030 before we’re able to reach the 90 percent level as prescribed by Congress.”

The University of Hawaii and its Institute for Astronomy at Manoa founded the Pan-STARRS project that searches for large “killer asteroids”. While the Pan-STARRS project takes a month to complete one sweep of the sky in a deep but narrow survey the recently funded ATLAS will use 8 smaller 20-inch telescopes to look at the visible sky twice a night. The ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) is a result of a $5-million grant from NASA.

ATLAS is designed to offer a one-week warning of an impact by a 50-yard asteroid or “city killer.” It will also offer three weeks of warning of a 150 yard-diameter “county killer”.

Also the non-profit B612 Foundation has been started and is raising money to create an advance warning system for Earth to ward against the threat of a sizeable impact from outer space. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization put up a network of satellites around the globe that are being used by the B612 Foundation to record asteroid impacts on the planet.

This Foundation also plans to deploy a satellite, in conjunction with Ball Aerospace, that will implement an infrared survey mission which will catalogue 90% of asteroids that are 140 m (459 feet) in diameter in the our solar system. This will involve placing a satellite in a Venus-like orbit around the sun to scan the solar system for asteroids through the 6.5 years for which the program is funded.

These were the only references to funding found. Certainly elsewhere in the world are former astronauts, scientists, or academics that have used this need to fund their favorite capabilities. Only time will reveal them.

We all have seen movies about asteroids hitting the Earth. In some of them, the citizens of Earth are saved by a heroic astronaut, like Bruce Willis in Armageddon. Where are you Bruce when we need you!

It would be a tragedy if we were involved in an extinction event that ushered in another species but it might be a good thing. At least the new species would have a chance at survival considering all of the other threats that we have wrought that threaten life on the planet; all of the other threats that we have mounted only half-vast plans to correct or end.

People who have read my book should do as the book suggests. They should pick their favorite problem that humanity is wrestling with and should dedicate a significant amount of their money and effort to a solution. They should pick a calamity of their choice and focus on seeking its resolution.

Use the following links to get more information or access the original documents used for this article. (access film embedded in article. Second picture frame.)


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Nanoparticles: Would You Rather Have Smooth Skin or Oxygen?

Posted on 03 November 2015 by Jerry

Opportunities draw a crowd. More researchers are attracted to upside opportunity than testing for safety. Unfortunately, products are rushed to market for product advantage. Once again products are out before safety is assured. Such is the case with nanoparticles.

Multiple developments have now been proven to be harmful, one taking years to withdraw from the market even though substitutes are available. Another threatens the production of oxygen on earth. One of which is a direct problem to its users. Another is a less direct problem but has more serious and long-term implications.

It has been known for sometime that plastic particles in the oceans are collecting inside the bodies of creatures of the sea that ingest them and are consequently harmed by them. It has now been discovered that “Tiny particles used in sunscreens and other consumer products may harm marine creatures by disabling the defense mechanisms that protect their embryos.” So says a May 14, 2015 article published by the National Geographic.

This unique problem is that many of the facial crèmes and body scrubs that are washed down the drain contain exfoliators, nanoparticle plastic beads, that are too small to filter out during wastewater treatment.  Consequently, they go into the ocean and lakes. Here they are eaten by marine fauna especially those that are filter feeders, e.g. mussels, causing circulatory and digestive blocking, malnutrition, and starvation.

Fortunately alternatives are readily available, e.g. crushed walnuts, strawberry seeds or bamboo, and many businesses in the beauty industry have announced they will phase out the use of plastic beads in their products over the next few years. This is true for conglomerates such as Unilever, Beierdsorf, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Johnson and Johnson, and Proctor and Gamble. We are lucky there are alternatives or the beauty industry might have fought this substitution.

Of even more concern was a study that was summarized by Kriti Gaur in the AJAS Environmental Science 2015 Annual AAAS Meeting held from February 12th to 16th of 2015. The Abstract of the recent study explained that the purpose of the study was to ascertain the effect of nanoparticle pollution and how it might alter the chemistry of the ocean.

It observed that nanoparticles are being used in many products in the world and that these particles are being released into the environment as pollutants. This includes contamination from nanoparticles composed of silver, gold, zinc, copper, and magnesium in various concentrations. These ingredients were studied in concentrations of 5%, 10%, and 15%.

Specifically, the objects of the study were two very common species of algae. As the abstract explained, “Algae is an extremely important marine organism, since it produces 70-80% of the oxygen on Earth, and can be used as a potential energy resource for the future, to make biofuels.”

Researchers found that, “as the concentration of the nanoparticles increased, the growth rates decreased (cells per drop and cell counts)…meaning that the algae were not converting as much CO2 to oxygen, hindering their rates of photosynthesis.” The Abstract continued as follows “It was concluded that the algae were impacted negatively by metal nanoparticles in their environment, and were poisoned by them, severely impacting the biological functioning of the algae. As a result they die off faster, and could not adapt to the conditions of toxicity in their environment.”

As stated in an earlier article on this blog, see “To Know Nano is to Say Whoa to Nano,” published in February 2013, nanoparticles are so small normal bodily barriers do not confine them. Nanoparticles penetrate the skin, are breathed into the lungs etc. and move in the circulatory system aggregating as substances in the organs of the body.

The previous article stated, “While most often composed of various metals such as silver, gold, titanium dioxide, and carbon, particles of this size can be created of almost anything.  One major problem is that these materials often act in surprising and distressing ways at this size.   They do not conform to the norms established at their usual scale in our environment.  They are often unpredictable.”

The article continued, “As witnessed in so many other technical breakthroughs, there is a virtual land rush of companies seeking competitive advantage by including nanoparticles in almost everything they make.  Today nanoparticles are added, without our knowledge, to such products as food, clothing, medicines, shampoos, suntan lotions, cosmetics, vitamins, and toothpaste.” This all today remains true.

Now the impacts of much of these nanoparticles that become pollutants are being felt around the world. While it is true we cannot pollute the vast oceans very fast, the effect of this pollution is that the algae will die and with it the production of the oxygen we all breathe will cease. Again these developments cannot continue without stringent and close regulation.

The effects of these nanoparticles must be known before they are allowed to go to market in products around the world. Once again we are allowing the profit motive to overwhelm the public’s safety. We cannot have our companies pollute the environment and threaten life’s very existence.

Use the following links to access additional information or see the articles used as the sources of this article.—a-drop-in-the-ocean-for-the-beauty-industry/6420

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The Oceans are Taking the Heat

Posted on 11 September 2014 by Jerry

It’s the oceans.  They have absorbed the additional planetary heat generated since 2000.  Scientists and others have observed how the annual mean temperature of the world has not changed since the beginning of the new century.  The believers in a continuation of climate change have narrowed to two principal causes for keeping the same annual mean temperature, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

According to new data, “The latter part of the 20th century saw rapid global warming as more heat stayed near the surface.  In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans.  In situ and reanalyzed data are used to trace the pathways of ocean heat uptake.” The researchers of this study identified the Atlantic Ocean as having absorbed the world’s heat.  This conclusion was released in a Science magazine study reported in the August 22, 2014 issue.

While another research report reaches the same conclusion it cites a different ocean, the Pacific, as acting as the primary cause for the rising ocean temperatures.  It does identify what is happening in the Pacific Ocean as the main reason for the effect on the Atlantic.

Kevin Trenberth argues that climate change has not stopped but rather is simply “manifested in different ways.”  An article that appeared in June of 2013, in states that the “El Nino caused a large loss of heat from the deep ocean to the sea surface that resulted in a cooling of the oceans.  Since then the deep ocean has been absorbing heat back from the upper ocean and so cooling the atmosphere.”  He continues, “the centre of action is the Pacific Ocean but the main places where heat goes deep into the ocean are the Atlantic and Southern Oceans rather than the Pacific.”

Those of us who hoped this stability in the annual mean world temperature meant there was some slowing of the pace of climate change are disappointed.  These findings are conclusive even though there is some “chicken and egg” argument around which ocean has the greatest responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean acting as a heat sink and taking on more of the world’s heat.

There is no break in the inevitable escalation of the world’s heat even as its manifestation is not what was expected.  We need to redouble our efforts to weather the changes (no pun intended) that are coming as a result of climate change.  At this point many of us have given up on trying to stop climate change and are now focused on slowing its progress and figuring out what humanity is going to do in each local environment to survive its effects.

Use the following links to access additional information or see the source documents for this article.

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What Can $7 Billion Buy?

Posted on 29 April 2014 by admin

A new study indicates that of elites, interest groups, and average citizens, average citizens have almost no influence on the government’s policy decisions.  Researchers from Princeton University and Northeastern University looked at the key variables of 1,779 policy issues and concluded that  “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

Unfortunately, recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court make this situation even worse by declaring corporations “people” with the same rights to spend freely during public elections.  The limitations allowed under the ruling still prohibit companies from donating to individual campaigns but instead they can give unlimited amounts to “Super PACs” and other vehicles.

Follow-on rulings take this situation even further.  A court decision in 2012 struck down a law that prohibited corporate contributions in a state election.  There is now no limitation.  No limitation on the amount of money that can be given by corporations to super PACs involved in an in-state election.

Further, in 2014, the court ruled that while contributions by individuals to campaigns still had a cap in terms of the amount given to a single campaign, there is now no limitation on the number of campaigns to which individuals can contribute.   All of these decisions were by 5 to 4 votes with conservatives on the court voting as a block.  And as has been seen, this has released billions of new dollars to enter the campaign process.

Figures which document political expenditures in the 2012 presidential elections show that each presidential candidate spent over a billion dollars, a large increase over that spent in prior years.  Adding up all expenditures on 2012 elections including for example individuals, parties, PACs and super PACs, estimates top $7 billion dollars.  A link shown below will take you to a list of the top ten companies donating to campaigns in 2012.

How else could we spend $7 billion dollars each year?  It could cover the average of the total annual tuition cost for 300,000 in-state students in the U.S. colleges or retire the average total debt of about 200,000 2013 college grads in the U.S.   Or it could provide inexpensive home solar powered electricity to over 56 million people/homes in Africa or dig 233,333 large-scale water wells to serve over 700 million people in Africa and India.  The $7 billion we are spending in one U.S. election is a staggering amount of money!

Unfortunately with these new billions of dollars flowing into campaigns, the magnetic appeal of wealth has grown in its influence to the point at which the campaigns are a real opportunity for everyone, including the politicians, to make vast sums of money.  What happened to public campaign financing, the influence of the average citizen, and a politician’s strength to resist winding up in someone’s political pocket?

After shutting down the government, creating political gridlock in congress, endless hearings on Benghazi, and over 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, as well as unmoving unemployment levels, unabashed gerrymandering of political districts, empty political promises, and the Snowden revelations, there should be little wonder about the low regard voters have for their politicians.  These sentiments have been growing in the last few years as shown by each and every research vehicle.

We, the people, need to wrest back control of our political process.  This means we have to institute firm limits on campaign private and corporate spending and seriously limit the amount of lobbying money available to public officials.  We need to shorten the duration of campaigns for office, provide realistic public financing options and adopt a public, non-partisan and fair methodology for redistricting political jurisdictions. We must redistrict America. We need stricter restrictions on the revolving door of politics that lets government employees use positive regulatory and government decisions as the grease that sets up their upcoming private employment.  Finally, we need term limits established for any elective or appointive post.

This is a tall order but we cannot afford half measures.  If this means we must adopt omnibus constitutional amendments on truth in government or integrity from public officials and elections, so be it.  I would also support a host of new laws that would re-establish our influence over how we are governed.  I am waiting for a politician that will champion these changes and that whose lead I can follow.

Use the following links to gain more information on this topic or look at original source material:

Search Gilens and Page, select “Testing Theories of American Politics – Princeton University”.  This .pdf will give the entire text of the study.

Search U.S. Supreme Court rulings about corporations as people.  Move to page 3 and scroll down to 2nd entry, 08-205 Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission and select it for the full Supreme Court decision.

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Deciding To Cause Change

Posted on 24 July 2013 by Jerry

It is daunting to be one of over seven billion people. It is not surprising that some young people are convinced they can’t make a difference and are pessimists about the future they are facing.  A contrary and optimistic point of view is to realize the contribution of human determination and will in the events of each day.  Whether you see the outcomes as positive or negative, behind most outcomes is a person or persons who made them happen.  You can decide to be one of those persons.

Another cause for optimism is human history.  For over a million years our genus has been evolving.  Modern humans appeared between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago.  We have solved or made progress at solving every problem we have pitted our energy against.  We have no reason to believe we will not also solve the problems we presently face.

The simple truth is that any one of us can decide to make things happen rather than be overwhelmed by our perceived powerlessness.  Each of us must remember that demonstrations have organizers, facilitators and participants.  Books and pamphlets have writers, distributors, and readers.  Solutions have creators who developed answers and communicated them.

We can choose to be any one of these and work in concert with others to make change happen.  Most often people start by following.  Leadership is eventually bestowed on a selected individual(s) that others are convinced will lead them to a desired outcome.

No one has ever altered the future by sitting dejectedly in front of their TV in a darkened living room deploring all of the world’s events and depressed about perceived powerlessness.  All those people do is take themselves out of the way of someone who has decided to make something happen.

Most of us have heard someone else deploring the condition of the world.  I have personally heard young people who ask why they should bring a baby into a world such as this?  This assumes a feeling of powerlessness projected on the next generation.  It need not be so and it is not what we want to teach the next generation.  The history of humanity has been a history of individuals who chose the course they wanted to pursue.  No matter how many articles I write, problems I rail against or actions of others with which I disagree, I am an optimist.  I would not spend the effort if I thought it didn’t make a difference.

Change is not easy and always takes longer than we fear and produces results that are less than we hope for.  And yet, those of us who have lived long enough have seen a world where people no longer routinely throw trash out their car window, smoke in public places, hide their sexuality, or can’t marry and make a family with whomever they wish.

In the book, Beyond Animal, Ego and Time it states, “We remember those who demonstrate concern for the welfare of strangers; Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, and Oscar Schindler.  We honor people who articulate higher human ideals and lead great change to improve the human condition, often with great personal sacrifice; Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.  We learn from individuals who advance our knowledge and increase the probability of our survival in the future; Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Werner Eisenberg, and Francis Crick.  We revere those who advance human belief and inspire us to be better people at peace with the rest of humanity; Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad.”

Less famous but still impactful are millions of others known to those who worked beside them to accomplish positive change.  This could easily be you.  You must only make the decision and put your effort behind achieving a goal.  Others will help you.  They are looking for you and will welcome you.  Everyone who decides to look will find a chosen path, others to join them and see a better future accomplished.

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