Thursday, September 28, 2006

first the good news, then the bad

Sept. 28, 2006 — Scientists have been trying to figure out for years why a buildup of atmospheric methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas, slowed dramatically in the last decade after levels had nearly tripled since preindustrial times. Now, an international team of scientists, including two at the NOAA Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo., attributes the 15-year lull to a temporary decline in industrial emissions during the 1990s, along with a slowdown in wetland emissions during prolonged droughts.

The good news is that we have finally found a negative feedback effect on global warming. The bad news is that it's caused by drought, which leads to starvation for humans and other animals.
A negative feedback effect is when an increase in one variable causes an effect that causes the variable to decrease. Since global warming causes an increase in droughts, this would be a negative feedback effect.
Likewise, a positive feedback effect is when an increase in a variable has an effect that causes the variable to increase even more. Eg., global warming thaws permafrost, which causes it to release methane that has been captured in the ice; since methane is a greenhouse gas, it adds even more to global warming. So in this case, we have both kinds, both involving methane. Kinda neat, if you forget about the effects on our planet and its inhabitants.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

quesioning a president during a war

If questioning a president during a was is not allowed, that doesn't provide much incentive for a president to avoid or end wars.

a Katrina for the Philippine Islands

Typhoon Xangsane, potentially the most dangerous tropical cyclone to affect the world this year, is battering the Philippine Islands today with Category 4 winds. Xangsane was a mere tropical storm yesterday, and was expected to hit the Philippines as a tropical storm or weak Category 1 typhoon at worst. Xangsane confounded the experts and put on a remarkable intensification spurt that brought it from tropical storm strength to a Category 4 typhoon in just 24 hours. The intensification was not expected, since the typhoon's circulation hugged the coast for much of this period
We're lucky the El Nina is decreasing the number and strength of hurricanes in the Atlantic. Unfortunately for Pacific nations, and for Mexico, the El Nina has been causing an increase there. Although there was the weird phenonmenon a few weeks ago of the super typhoon that traveled across the Pacific and circles around to pound Alaska>;_ylt=ApckR92pfPjNpK6AxmokzS0PLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

It is such a routine thing for the Bush administration to block or alter scientific findings it doesn't like, I almost didn't bother to put this in my blog.

Fight Hunger


The lyrics to my Hunger Walk song are posted there.
click on the Walk Music box, and scroll down.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Heart Attacks Decline after Smoking Ban;_ylt=AvQD37gpotN9G5CmHCTr8CzVJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

In the 18 months after a no-smoking ordinance took effect in Pueblo in 2003, hospital admissions for heart attacks for city residents dropped 27 percent, according to the study led by Dr. Carl Bartecchi, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

This should be no surprise, after the results of numerous other studies that show even brief periods of second-hand smoke can harm our health.

Monday, September 25, 2006

understating global warming

The headline in reads "Global temperature highest in millennia", and starts out : "The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years". (Note: a millennium is one thousand years, which can be misleading).

.But I would say that is very much of an understatement.Later in the article, it gets more specific : "That brings the overall temperature to the warmest in the current interglacial period, which began about 12,000 years ago."

Near the end of the article, we finally see the statement : "The study said the recent warming has brought global temperature to a level within about one degree Celsius — 1.8 degree Fahrenheit — of the maximum temperature of the past million years.

Maybe the person who edited this article is a Republican.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Some eye candy. Screens from the Psychedelic screen saver from
The real thing is much better, since it is always moving and changing, and can create many different patterns and colors combinations.

golden rule helps us all

Drug-resistant TB on the rise in U.S.
Often those with drug-resistant strains stop taking their medicine when they feel better but aren’t cured.That’s what happened with Pich Chhieng, 61, a teacher who was infected in his native Cambodia and carried it with him to this country. He took medication for eight months but abruptly stopped because he ran out of money and was feeling much better.
He didn’t know until he was hospitalized while visiting family in Los Angeles that by neglecting his treatment he had allowed the disease to mutate, and the drug-resistant bacteria had overwhelmed his lungs.

Many conservatives don't care about the poor. They don't care that 15,000 people in the U.S. die each year because they can't afford needed medical care. They don't care if elderly people starve to death because they weren't able to save enough when they were younger; I'm not kidding, they have told me so themselves, w/o any sign of guilt. But it is in our self-interest to help the poor. As in this example, if people stop taking antibiotics early, because they can't afford them, it leads to resistant strains of bacteria that threaten all of us. People who can't afford to get new glasses or a cataract operation endanger others on the road. People w/o hope can be a danger to society.
People who cannot or will not feel our connections to others are pitiful, and don't realize what they are missing.

a businessman to admire

British business mogul Richard Branson on Thursday pledged to commit all profits from his transportation businesses over 10 years to combat global warming — profits that he estimated would reach $3 billion.
Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Atlantic Airways and the multi-platform Virgin brand ...

Makes me very happy that when I finally got a cell phone recently, I chose Virgin.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How many hurricanes

I keep reading and hearing references to the 2nd (now 3rd) hurricane of the season.

What they should say is the 3rd (or whatever) Pacific hurricane of the season.
There have already been 7 in the eastern Pacific, several of which were confined to the ocean w/o making landfall.
Then there have been a bunch in the middle and western Pacific, which have battered Japan and China. A couple of weeks ago, there were 4 tropical storms and hurricanes over there in one week, at least three at the same time. I think three of them were hurricanes (not sure now).

Super Typhoon Ioke, which lasted for two weeks, and reached category 5 strength, plowed across the Pacific, circled up the Asian coast and around the Artic, finally pounding Alaska! If there was any mention of this on or, I missed it. The reason I know it hit Alaska was that when it disappeared from, when it got too far north, I found it on a Japanese weather site:
When it disappeared from there, I did a search and found it had ended up in Alaska

Our news media can surely be parochial, but how they ignored something as fascinating as Ioke's path, ending in Alaska, I just don't understand.

Throwing out baby with bath water

Air traffic controllers on late-night shifts at Indianapolis International Airport have been warned they face suspension if they sleep during rest periods.

This does not make sense. Personal experience and scientific research have shown that a nap of 15 to 20 minutes can greatly improve your alerness. It can help you go from unsuccessfully fighting off episodes of micro-sleep, to being refreshed and alert. Naps longer than that can cause drowsiness. How long are the air controller breaks? Not allowing them short naps in the middle of the night will increase the risk of accidents.


Prozac endangers mussels;_ylt=AgsTlh20PeWjzQBsYhDGAdnVJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

The antidepressant drug Prozac (fluoxetine) can disrupt the reproductive cycle of freshwater mussels and increase their risk of extinction, says a U.S. study presented Monday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, in San Francisco.

What is surprising to me is that they discovered this problem. With all the chemicals that end up in the environment from various sources, including those that have passed through our bodies, and all the possible interactions of these chemicals, who knows what damage we are doing that we may never even be aware of.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Oneness of Life

Researchers Discover That Sheep Need Retroviruses For Reproduction. ... Studies in cultured cells have shown that a protein of a human endogenous retrovirus might have a role in development of the human placenta.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


my favorite screensaver

will global warming make Europe hotter or colder?

Two articles from the Sept 2 issue of New Scientist.
From page 9 of the hard copy

Air conditioning boom threatens Kyoto protocol

The units may keep people cool, but they also churn out carbon dioxide which could wreck European attempts to meet emissions targets

This may be a problem, but to be sure, we would need to look at whether warmer winters would counteract the warmer summers in respect to the generation of greenhouse gases.

From page 16 of the hard copy

As a result of global warming, the Arctic Ocean has been getting less salty over the past half century and the trend looks set to continue.
... Disrupting this current could cause temperatures to plunge across northern Europe.

It will be interesting to see which scenario wins out. The possibilities are really scary.

evolution of cystic fibrosis

The gene that causes cystic fibrosis may persist in human populations because, although two copies of it kill, having just one copy protects against tuberculosis, researchers say.

If anti-TB drugs are going to lose their effectiveness, maybe it's better in the long run that it's happening before we lose this genetic protection. Hopefully, they will discover more effective treatment, but of course, since microbes reproduce much faster than we do, they have an advantage.

still another tessellation/quilt pattern variation

For those who like to try to make their own patterns, this one will be easy to create after looking at the first two, but some people aren't interested in that, or don't want to spend the time, so here it is. Of course, all three could be combined in various ways.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

thank you, Steven Hawking

Bruno Maddox says : Let me begin by assuring you I have nothing but respect for Dr. Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist and raconteur.
... Which is why I was perplexed this past June when Stephen went public with his view that humanity is doomed to extinction unless it finds another planet to live on. "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," he told an audience in China. "Life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers we have not yet thought of."
... What bothered me was that Stephen should be troubling himself with such low-hanging fruit in the first place. Anyone blessed with even basic cable knows there are very real threats to the future of human life on this planet: mega-tsunamis, supervolcanoes, Ultimate Fighting Championships. Saying that the long-term future of life on Earth is uncertain is like saying that the future of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance? is uncertain. It's rather obvious. And once you have your brain around that rather straightforward premise, it doesn't take much intellectual heavy lifting to figure out that if we were able to establish an extraterrestrial outpost or two, our odds would improve dramatically.

I expect that Steven Hawking made this pronouncement for the same reason I write many of my own blogs. To the well-informed, they may be obvious. However, there is much ignorance about science in our society. Having information available on cable TV doesn't mean people watch it. Just a few years ago, when tests showed that our children and adults have poor knowledge and understanding of science, some people were asking, with a straight face, why does it matter whether most of our citizens understand science. Even for those who may be interested, there is only so much time in the day. Eg., many people have full-time jobs and also families and yards to take care of. Many are working more than one job, or long hours. Also, many people get their "news" from sources which give false information on scientific matters. It may be hard for many to conceive of, but there are many people who have never heard of the greenhouse effect and global warming. Few people read my blogs, but when Steven Hawking makes a pronouncement, it gets a lot of press and people pay attention, and may learn about issues they would not hear of otherwise.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Children are not computers

Kids as young as 6 are tested, and tested again, to ensure they're making sufficient progress. Then there's homework, more workbooks and tutoring.

Some scholars and policymakers see clear downsides to all this pressure. Around third grade, Hultgren says, some of the most highly pressured learners sometimes "burn out. They began to resist. They didn't want to go along with the program anymore." In Britain, which adopted high-stakes testing about six years before the United States did, parents and school boards are trying to dial back the pressure. In Wales, standardized testing of young children has been banned. Andrew Hargreaves, an expert on international education reform and professor at Boston College, says middle-class parents there saw that "too much testing too early was sucking the soul and spirit out of their children's early school experiences."

This is truly misguided. Reading and math skills are important, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Eg., many children are not getting sufficient sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep damages children's (and adults) health, and decreases learning. Recess is being eliminated in many places. Lack of sleep and lack of exercise both increase a person's chances of being overweight, which is an increasing problem for children - our children are likely to show a decrease in life expectancy because of diseases caused by overweight. During recess, children have a chance to interact with each other, and learn social skills, which are important to success in life, at both the material and personal level. Many people with high IQs do poorly in the real world, because of social deficits.
It seems that some parents and school systems are doing their best to turn children into autistic savants or little computers.

I feel safe in predicting that many of these children are learning a sure way to rebel against their parents, and will end up becoming failures, usually w/o themselves realizing why they are so self-destructive.

greenhouse gas highest ever

Air bubbles show CO2 in 'scary' range well above previous 800,000 years

“It is from air bubbles that we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35 percent in the last 200 years,” said Dr Eric Wolff of the British Antarctic Survey and the leader of the science team for the 10-nation European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica.“Before the last 200 years, which man has been influencing, it was pretty steady,” he added.
The natural level of CO2 over most of the past 800,000 years has been 180-300 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of air. But today it is at 380 ppmv.

I suppose the people who have been attributing the high levels of CO2 to "natural cycles" will now start claiming these supposed natural cycles are greater than 800,000 years in length.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Good intentions

This is an article about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It's heartwarming to know about the good they are doing.

However, there is the following piece of information:

In its 2007 budget proposal, for example, the Bush administration eliminated a $93.5 million program to underwrite the development of smaller schools, specifically citing the increase in support for those schools from "nonfederal funds" from the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York

So, their good intentions to help our country's children ended up instead helping reduce taxes for other super-rich people who were greedier than they, through no fault of their own.. I wonder how they felt about this.

Judge not

One of the things I've learned from creating this blog is to be less judgemental of other people's typos. When I look back at entries and see misspellings that I overlooked at the time, and weird stuff which happened when I made a change and overlooked some things that should have been changed also, I now understand how other people's blogs/letters to the editor, etc. sometimes sound like they were written by someone for whom English is a foreign language.

Modification of earlier Tesselation/ quilt pattern

A variation of the previous tessalation.
I had to use the Drawing toolbar to add some of the lines.