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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WARNING: GLOBAL WARMING APPEARS TO BE REAL!

Yesterday I again posted on maybe the worst case weather scenario:  The Venus Syndrome.  That killer gas was methane.  So today I return to carbon dioxide.  Absolutely essential, but perhaps counterproductively, we keep getting those scare releases from yet another new United Nations report about the coming dangers of global warming, that the masses might actually be getting immune to the  noise.   But this latest indicates:

  • Grain production has dropped by several percentage points.
  • Higher seas.
  • Devastating heat waves.
  • Torrential rain.
  • Super hurricanes.
  • Loss of the ice sheet over Greenland will cause a sea level rise of 23 feet.  (Of course, this will take centuries to unfold.)  If Antarctica melts, with 90% of the world's ice and 70% of the freshwater liquifies, add another 200 feet.  (This might take millennia.)  Note that total melting of the Arctic will essentially add zero inches to the level, for this ice is already floating.  Anyway, if all the ice melts, and the seas warm as expected, the sea level will be around 250 feet higher.  Florida will disappear:

          But I wouldn't move out of Florida for that reason because this will take many millennia.

So the matter of time is a factor, and the relatively lethargic pace of the effects is deluding.  But, more so, there are elements in society dedicated to misleading the public so that they can maximize profits:
  • The fossil industry is not run by idiots, as their misinformation campaign is clever and effective:
    • "Dark money" donations fund much of the climate denial efforts.
    • The ExxonMobil and Koch (that's their logo to the right) Affiliated Foundations gave heavily to these deniers up to 2008.  Then this link ended.  The money became dark.  Read this article.
    • 140 third-party foundations funneled $558 million to 100 anti-global warming organizations from 2003 to 2010
  • The temperature of our atmosphere actually stopped warming 15 years ago.  Well, not really, but cherry-picking data can lead to this conclusion.
  • Read Forbes and the National Review, watch Rush Limbaugh and Fox News:  global warming is a hoax.
  • Honestly now, do you really feel the higher temperatures?  If the atmosphere warms 3 F by 2100, that means, on average, the increase is 0.03 F/year, or a total of 0.3 F in a decade.  You won't be able to detect this change.  In fact, too many winters remain much too cold.  The problem, though, is that while you should be able to tolerate a 3 F increase (and no one reading this will be alive in the year 2100), the effect on Planet Earth will be calamitous:  droughts, super hurricanes, specie extinctions, unproductive farmlands, failure of major economies and worse.
The headline article of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today, taking the up the full first page, was entitled:


The front page had Duke Kahanamoku's statue chest high in seawater, and the reasons were global warming and sea level rise:
  • Hawaii's hotels are located near the shore.  They will all be endangered.
  • Beaches will erode.  According to Charles Fletcher of the University of Hawaii:  By the end of the century, I would be surprised if Waikiki Beach is still there.  The sea level will rise by 3 feet.  Sand replenishment in 2012 cost $4.5 million.  Might be cheaper to move Waikiki elsewhere.
  • Lost visitor expenditures of nearly $2 billion.
  • There will be higher energy costs for air conditioning, and Hawaii pays THREE times more for electricity than the national average.
  • Environment will deteriorate.
  • Freshwater will become expensive.  Yikes, golf courses will be hard hit.  Come to think of it, my Ala Wai Golf Course already shows evidence of seawater when the tide is very high.  Three feet more would inundate the whole playing area.
To the credit of researchers and planners, this study was released not to necessarily alarm the residents, but more to educate and urge for better planning and execution of solutions.  As I indicated exactly a week ago, Hawaii is a Special Place.  However, the negatives are frightening.  Can we avoid the impending doom?  Of course.  We have time, and I don't expect most of the core of Honolulu to someday be under water.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE POSSIBLE ROLE OF MICROBES IN CAUSING THE VENUS SYNDROME

Yesterday I posted on the greatest invention ever (scroll down to the next article), but the presentation ended up worrying about the end of humanity by microscopic life.  Well, to reinforce that contention, a report last month in Scientific American was entitled,  Microscopic Mass Murderer:

  • 252 million years, 90% of all species died off in "just" a 20,0000 year period.
  • Researchers looked at the potential of:
    • an asteroid strike
    • volcanoes emitting carbon dioxide and methane
  • However, Dan Rothman (right) of MIT postulated that the assassin was an archaea, Methanosarcina (in the circle), which produced so much methane, that oxygen levels plummeted.
I now have another culprit to add for The Venus Syndrome.  If you are a regular viewer, you know what TVS is all about, but if  you're new, click on:
My novel on this subject is in the early stages of production.

As terrible as methane might be in TVS, with fracking, natural gas, which is mostly methane, has materially improved both our energy supply needs and partially ameliorated global warming.  Also on the plus side, a species of methanosarcina, was used in a patented process by Shimuzu of Japan:  Method of and apparatus for controlling waste water treatment by anaerobic fermentation.

As my posting yesterday indicated, 99% of microbes are good.  Likewise, methane is a cost effective energy form that produces, for the same  heat, half the carbon dioxide of coal.  It would, thus, be ironic that this compound we are more and more utilizing for mostly positive reasons ultimately causes our extinction.  The good news is that the combination of methaosarcina and methane means that society will have another few thousand years to flourish before that final termination.  And, I would think that, knowing this potential end game, and a time frame, say, 20,000 years, we should be able to find a simple solution.

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I might add that our stock market is doing boffo.  Today, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed above 2000 for the first time in  history and the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped the all time closing high of 17,138, but settled at 17,106.  For the year they are all up:

  • Dow Jones    3.2%
  • S&P              8.2%
  • Nasdaq         9.4%
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Monday, August 25, 2014

HUMANITY'S GREATEST INVENTION

If you review all the literature about our best inventions, you will get the usual suspects:  wheel, nuclear bombs and the internet.  These, and all technological developments, are important, of course, but they were the result of an even greater feat:  SOCIETY.

Sure, ants and bees have colonies.  So do apes and a range of other species.  But humanity kept improving on our invention.

Let's take the habitat of the King of Beasts, for example. The lead lion is said to mate up to 40 times per day.  That's about all he does, for his pride, usually five or so, raises the cubs and does the hunting.  Okay, he shoos away hyenas, but really has a brutal life, for his reign is short.  The nuclear option is to bite off the testicles, something I actually saw on my safari in Tanzania.  Then the new King kills the cubs, eating some of them.  In a controlled tourist site, the rangers call in a veterinarian to treat the loser, who is forever disgraced, but lives on.  Human beings have improved on this lifestyle.

So, going back, probably to our very apelike early ancestors, first came the nuclear family, then communities.  In the beginning, Man cleverly created God.  There are other views of Genesis, of course.  Religion might have been essential for us to survive.  What better way to control the masses to mostly be good when someone up there was constantly watching.  This can be debated, but religion has also provided a reason for conquest and further aggrandizement.  In any case, tools, languages, farms, the written word...transport, the internet, leading to the smartphone and Amazon.com.  The formation of society provided the base from which we humanized Planet Earth, not necessarily for our long term good, as global warming seems now a threat.  This will be inconvenient, but the Greenhouse Effect will not terminate life as we know it.  If nothing else, microscopic life should somehow prevail.

Microbes, then, could well derail our greatest invention.  They are bacteria, viruses and achaea.  In case you missed it, archaea only began to be classified from the 1970's, and we now seem to have three life domains;


I bet you didn't know you were eukaryotic?  

My gut pick is that these microorganisms will be our long-term problem.  Already, there are ten times more microbe cells in and on our bodies than human cells.  And 99% of them are good, if not essential to our health.  It is believed that bacteria, for example, create half the oxygen in our atmosphere.  Not surprisingly, our environment has more bacterial biomass in weight than all the existing plants and animals.  In case you were wondering, here is the global biomass in millions of tons:
  1. 1000   cyanobacteria
  2.   520   cattle
  3.   445   termites
  4.   379   arctic krill
  5.   350   humans (but we are catching up, for in 2005 this number was 287)
Will these bacteria get intelligent and outsmart us?  Nah, one simple genetic change could well overcome us humans.  This could be natural or engineered by us.  Our hope then might be viruses, for there are more viruses than bacteria, and their mission in life is to kill bacteria (on the left, a virus attacking a bacterium, while to the right is their relative size, with the latter the larger):


However, as I'm mostly speculating in this posting, I predict that a genetic change in some virus could well make that crucial difference for life on earth.  Be fruitful and multiply could well also be the mission of these microbes.  They are simple cells and there is some debate if they are even alive, for they can't even replicate themselves.  Remember, avian flu and ebola are caused by viruses.

Indubitably, there most probably will be life in many other worlds throughout our Universe.  However, it is possible that Homo sapiens might be the ONLY life to form a productive and intelligent society.  If we ever get to explore exoplanets--and my best guess is that this will not occur in this millennium--the most I suspect we will find will be various forms of microbes.  The reason is that it is possible that some truly intelligent life form could have evolved, but some natural or "man"-made genetic change of microbes eventually prevailed.  Thus my second prediction is that life will someday be found, but they will only be viruses, not even bacteria, for they will in time be made extinct by their rivals.

Thus, about our future existence, China is not our problem.  The Andromeda Strain?  Possible, for no doubt there are fatal strains from other galaxies that should have the potential to somehow find some way to drift to Planet Earth after a few billion years.  However the distances are so great and the survival potential of any life form in outer space is so low that the odds are minuscule that they will be a threat to humanity.  

Keep in mind that light takes 100,000 years to just travel from one end of our Milky Way galaxy to the other.  If a microbe traveling in space can move at 500 kilometers/second (about a million miles/hour ), it will cruise 300,000 times slower than light.  This means it will take 30 billion years just to get across our galaxy, which is among 500 billion galaxies in space.  As the Big Bang was only 13.8 billion years ago, and solar systems have been around only a fraction of that period, colonization of Planet Earth by alien microbes would be limited to only those stars in the general vicinity of our Sun.

I'm more and more beginning to feel that we are probably unique in the Universe, for, let's face it, the silence from space has been deafening.  This is Fermi's Question:  Where are they?  Or:

The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.  However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.

Humanity overcame the Cold War.  However, the greater war remains ahead of us.  Super intelligent robots?  Nanotechnology?  The next giant asteroid?  Nope.  VIRUSES!  But there's hope, for what about wormholes, parallel universes and who knows what.

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Marie in the East Pacific is now a mere hurricane at 145 MPH, and, better yet, appears to further be moving to the open seas and colder water:


In the Atlantic, Cristobal is but a tropical storm at 55 MPH, but should become a hurricane, and continue to avoid the Eastern Seaboard:


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Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE BEATLES INVADED AMERICA HALF A CENTURY AGO

Can you believe it was 50 years ago that the Beatles first came to America?  A relevant reference point is me, in 1964, imagining the start of World War I.  That was so far back in history that I couldn't relate.  But like that conflagration, the Beatles should today at least be in the memory of the younger generation today.

The Beatles didn't even make my miracles list, for I selected the Rolling Stones, who, after more than half a century, after ingesting all those drugs and alcohol, are not only mostly alive, but still actively touring.  I can add the Beachboys, who have been around for just as long, and, of course, the McGuire Sisters, who manage to still be seen on PBS...and they began singing 62 years ago.  Amazingly enough, they still look good, and the youngest, Phyliss, is 83 years old.  Okay, that photo was taken in 2005, and Dorothy passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.  But here is a clip of the group (in 2004) when they were still together.

A few interesting bullets about the Beatles:
  • Paul McCartney joined in 1958, soon followed by George Harrison.  Brian Epstein (right), their manager, was selected in 1961, and, their producer, George Martin, in 1962, as did Ringo Starr.
  • Name changed from Blackjacks to Quarrymen to Beatals to Silver Beetles (kind of copying Buddy Holly and the Crickets) to, finally, the Beatles, in 1960.
  • They spent their first few years in Hamburg, Germany in seedy cafes.
  • In 1962, at the Abbey Road Studios (Abbey Road--click on it to hear the full 47 minutes and 31 seconds--was their next to final album in 1969) in London, they made their first recordings.  Here is a clue on how you get free songs for your iPod.  Love Me Do was their initial single.
  • The first to hit #1 in America was I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1963.
  • The Beatles landed at JFK on 7 February 1964, gave their first TV performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by 73 million viewers, or one third the population at that time, the largest Nielsen viewing audience ever.   While they were in New York, they met Bob Dylan, who introduced them to marijuana. There was also a second Sullivan show later in the year.  By April the Beatles had the top five songs on Billboard's Hot 100.
  • In August of 1964, exactly half a century ago, they returned to the USA and gave performances in 23 cities, beginning with San Francisco, where a sold out crowd of 17,130 in Cow Palace experienced 12 songs and paid a grand total of $91,670, which, if I calculated right, cost around $5/person.  Thus, that ticket to the right must have been for a particularly expensive seat.  For the year as a whole, one-third of top U.S. top ten hits were British groups.
  • They were not giving up a good thing, so the Beatles returned to the U.S. in 1965, beginning with their concert at Shea Stadium on 15 August 1965, with 55,000 in the audience, breaking the highest gross record in the history of show business with $305,000.  That means the average price of a seat was $5.53.  They only performed for half an hour.  The final show was at the Cow Palace on August 1965.  They were exposed to LSD around this time, which they found to be terrifying, but fantastic, leading them on a psychedelic trajectory.  Said McCartney, "it opened my eyes...made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society."  McCartney's Yesterday came, and it is said that  this is the most covered song ever written.  Then Queen Elizabeth II made them Members of the Order of the British Empire.  However, it took to 1997 for the Queen to knight (thus, it's now Sir Paul) McCartney.
  • They returned again in 1966, and the 14-concert tour ran into problems, for John Lennon had just made some religiously insensitive statements about being more popular than Jesus Christ  They feared for their lives and they saw rows of empty seats at some venues.  Their absolute final commercial concert for humanity was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  Incredibly, in that short a period since Hamburg, they performed 1400 gigs throughout the world.
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (a particularly loud full version of 40 minutes can be heard here) was released in 1967, winning four Grammy Awards (in 1968) and first rock Album of the Year.  In 2003, Rolling Stone (the magazine) ranked it at #1 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  There are four rows of celebrities on this cover:  Mae West, W.C. Fields, Fred Astaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Huntz Hall, Bob Dylan, Aldous Huxley, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Stan Laurel / Oliver Hardy, Karl Marx, H.G. Wells, James Joyce, Marlon Brando, Tom Mix, Dr. David Livingstone, Johnny Weissmuller, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carol, Lawrence of Arabia, Shirley Temple, Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich the Beatles and many more.  Jesus was originally included, but removed, remembering that brouhaha, and Adolf Hitler missed the final cut.
  • In 1967 the Beatles sang their forthcoming single, All You Need is Love (this is the full one hour and 38 minute program) to around 350 million TV viewers in the first live global television link.  Soon thereafter Brian Epstein "probably" committed suicide for reasons having mostly to do with his insecurities.
  • The group never recovered and fissures developed, with Lennon and Harrison against McCartney, with Starr a non-factor.  Yoko Ono kept appearing at their recording sessions for the White Album (yup, the full 91 minutes, digitally re-mastered in 2009), a no-no.
  • Let It Be (35 minutes) their final album, was released in 1969, including their accompanying single, Long and Winding Road, their last, fading into darkness.  A full bearded McCartney, morose and bespectacled John Lennon, with mustachioed Harrison and Starr.  The documentary won a 1970 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.
  • McCartney filed for dissolution in 1970--that was 44 years ago--but it took until 1974 for formalization.
  • In 2000 The Beatles 1 (a compilation of their # ones, but why buy it, for the whole one hour and nineteen minutes are here) was released, becoming the fastest selling album of all time, with 3.6 million in week one.  As long ago as 2009, sales had topped 31 million. 
Compared with Paul's songs, all of which seemed to keep in some sort of touch with reality, John's had a psychedelic, almost mystical quality ... John's imagery is one of the best things about his work – 'tangerine trees', 'marmalade skies', 'cellophane flowers' ... I always saw him as an aural Salvador Dalí, rather than some drug-ridden record artist. On the other hand, I would be stupid to pretend that drugs didn't figure quite heavily in the Beatles' lives at that time ... they knew that I, in my schoolmasterly role, didn't approve ... Not only was I not into it myself, I couldn't see the need for it; and there's no doubt that, if I too had been on dope, Pepper would never have been the album it was. Perhaps it was the combination of dope and no dope that worked, who knows?[333]
  • Their hairdo discombobulated the world of style and was symbolic of a revolution.
  • The Beatles have sold one billion units worldwide, and were ranked #1 by Rolling Stones in 2004 as the best artists of all time.  They had 20 #1 hits on Billboard (surprisingly enough, Mariah Carey has 18 and the next is Michael Jackson at 13).  But Paul McCartney himself has 9, beating the Rolling Stones at 8.
  • John was murdered in 1980 and George died of lung cancer in 2001.
  • Paul and Ringo appeared together at the Grammy Awards this year, then again on the following day at a Grammy Beatle's special.

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Marie is now a Super Hurricane at 160 miles per hour:


However, no threat to land is projected.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

FILMS TRAVEL TO FRANCE AND ICELAND

There are three films currently playing at your neighborhood theaters featuring travel and interesting cuisine:

1.  The Hundred Foot Journey
  • Rotten Tomatoes:  65% reviewers and 85% audiences.
  • Takes you from Mumbai, India to a quaint village in south France.
  • This is, like Chef, a foodie film.
  • It's also two love stories, if you don't count the food.
  • Excellent film with good performances by Helen Mirren Om Puri, Marishs Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon.
  • The movie is set on the French Riviera in the 1920's, with Colin Firth as an eminent British magician, hornswoggled by his fellow illusionist (Simon McBurney) and young American clairvoyant (Emma Stone).  You wonder, how is she pulling this off, and that and....  But, of course, I've already given away the mystery, for all magicians con the audience with the simplest of feigns.  Ah, but this is also a love story, and the two opposites did attract, with a happy ending.This was not a well-reviewed flick, but I liked it, perhaps most the standard Woody Allen collection of early American jazz soundtrack and other eclectic bon bons:
    • You Do Something to Me
    • Bolero
    • I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
    • Charleston
    • Sweet Georgia Brown
    • I'll Get By...and much more,
3.  Land Ho
  • Rotten Tomatoes:  77% reviewers and 61% audiences.
  • Two brothers in law senior citizens from America go to Iceland to regain their youth.  The retired surgeon conniver, twice-divorced, pays for everything, and drags the retired banker, originally from Australia, through a series of nightclubs, trendy spas and camp-sites.
  • Light comedy. Good film.
I kind of identified with all three, the third one in particular, for I am around their age, and I now will add Iceland to my Spring around the world journey.

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That tropical depression in the Atlantic is  is expected to attain hurricane strength,buts projected to turn away from the Eastern Seaboard:


In the East Pacific, Hurricane Marie, now at 90 MPH, is expected to attain Category 4 status, but not affect land.


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