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Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 5)

Some of my "friends" have repeatedly told me that my blogs are far to long, and they are right. However, today I end the year with a longer blog than usual, for this is but a small section of my Chapter 5 on religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. The title is the essence of the theme: God and the Afterlife. However, this is just bunch of books I read to educate me on religion. I learned the most from this chapter because I started with essentially zero knowledge, bursting with a lifetime of questions, doubts and cynicism. In the spirit of this chapter, here is a game that had something to do with Heaven, I think.


Introduction to God and the Afterlife


To better understand religion, you can read The Bible, The Koran and, literally, millions of other publications. Keep in mind that the temporal (time) scale is amorphous and events metaphorical (symbolic). The problem is that religion usually insists on precise interpretations even though definitions have changed over the past few millennia. Here is Michelangelo's The Last Judgement.

There is the series, Conversations with God (Books 1-3), by Neale Donald Walsch, and scads of similar drivel. All these books I have read purporting to have any kind of connection with God and the Afterlife are, by my standards, works of fiction. If they say their tome is creative writing, fine. But, as in religion itself, the immorality is in the reality. How can any person or church promise a heavenly afterlife without a shred of proof?


As you don’t have time to read them all, to ease the burden, for the afterlife is at least a potential measurable parameter, let me recommend the following to satisfy your need to at least try:


o J. Lewis, The Death and Afterlife Book [TDAAB], Visible Ink Press, Detroit Michigan, 2001. An encyclopedia, from Adventism to Zoroastrianism, it comes with a complete index. I found surprising inner peace when I read the paragraph on “Anatta,” which comes from the Buddhist scriptures, but has a Sanskrit counterpart, anatman, a clue that they, and most religious writings, had a common source. To interpret, life is full of tension and pain. When you die, you only gain pleasure and attain eternal bliss. “Yes,” I thought, “it’s all in how you approach the end, for this sure sounds a lot better than eternal gloom.” There is no proof of an afterlife here, but the terms soothe the psyche.


o F. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality [TPOI], Pan Books, New York, 1994. In the forward, it is reported that Frank Tipler is a Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University. He has published in Nature, Physical Review and the Astrophysical Journal. He indicated that he began as an atheist, but reasoned that: “There is a God. There is a Heaven. We are all immortal.” Tipler cites a Gallup Poll of 1989 showing that from 1944 to 1988, from 94 to 97 percent of Americans believed in the existence of God or a universal spirit. This figure is somewhat high, but it is all in whom you ask and the exact nature of the question. Two other tidbits are that our Sun will engulf the Earth in 7 billion (7x109) years and neutron stars will cool to 100 degrees K in 1019 years, for he is into last things, the study of eschatology, the interface of science and religion, for this is where the matter of the afterlife can be investigated. While the book uses some geometry, there is a lot of logic. Plus, the final 40% is devoted to notes, all the equations you will ever need to prove the afterlife, with good references. I could not understand the mathematics, and, yes, I merely flipped through the pages, at least a few of them. Five pages.


o G. Schwartz, The Afterlife Experiments [TAE], Atria Books, New York, 2001.There is a foreword by Deepak Chopra (who himself has written several books with God in the title) and the usual encomiums, one by Rustum Roy, Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State and professor of geochemistry, Pennsylvania State University: “[A] painstakingly assembled hypothesis followed by rigorous experimentation. Dr. Schwartz has made his case—compellingly, in my view.” Dr. Roy is from India, a country where the citizens have a very, very high expectation of some afterlife. As a former materials science colleague of his, I’ll need to talk to him about the afterlife. I value his opinion, so, maybe he might be able to set me straight. When you think of it, if there is an afterlife, what media of information exchange are there? This book essentially focuses on one: cold readings. Clairvoyants, mystics, telepaths and mediums—all the same—are supposedly gifted with a special sensitivity to that other world, and can serve as the conduit. Great pains are taken to separate those quacks that give the field a bad name from the laboratory experiments of the author and his partners. The basic message seemed to be that the best mediums are at least as good as the 40-45% excellence achieved by Ted Williams and Michael Jordan, who were the best in their game. The difference, though, is that mediums have the skills to take the intelligent guess, the positive response, anything vaguely relevant, from their pigeon, also known as patient, and through their refined sense of recognizing body language and other factors, control the dialogue such that the subject is cleverly zoned to largely recall the intended purpose. This book attempts to make a science of this phenomenon, for, as the supposition went, if there can be any kind of successful communication, then there must be an afterlife.


o B. Toropov and L. Buckles, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions [IDIOT], Alpha Books, New York, 1997. This could well have been my first and favorite book on religion. I was brought up a Buddhist, attended a neighborhood Christian church because it had a fun summer school program, went through a few months of Catechism in high school, joined a Nisei Methodist Church because that was socially convenient, participated in Presbyterian rituals at Stanford University, went back to Buddhism during my sugar plantation work period because of social pressures and gravitated towards active intellectual searches later in life. But I never took that early religious stuff seriously, and was able to synthesize a knowledge of religion for the very first time because the Idiot series is written for people like me.


o R. Dawkins, The God Delusion [TGD], Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2006. Richard, as I called him when we had a small chat in Honolulu in 2007, is my favorite writer on the subject of religion. I revere him, mainly, I think, for his courage. I honor him later with a special section. Professor Dawkins very clearly argues that there is no God. I changed the tenor of this chapter after our talk.


o S. Harris, The End of Faith [TEOF], W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2004. A follow-up book called Letter to a Christian Nation was written as a rejoinder to the criticisms the first effort engendered, but, I thumbed through it and saw how thin it was and superficial it read for the price quoted, so I passed. TEOF, though, was beefy, with a lot of good quotes and analyses. Harris subscribes to faith as Paul Tillich defined, “act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence,” or, more specifically when applied to religion, as “unjustified belief in matters of ultimate concern.” While not at the heart of the matter, he goes on to suggest that oil has made the Islamic terrorist what he is, and, perhaps the most peaceful way we have of diffusing the problem is to initiate a Manhattan Project for alternative energy. We hear more from him during a later treatment on faith. Harris is not a heathen, and suggests that understanding of the sacred dimension might well be our highest purpose. You all should follow his future, for last I heard, he was in medical school, with a special interest in neuro-something to relate brain waves to reality.


o C. Hitchens, God is Not Great [GING], Twelve, New York, 2007. A noted British journalist, who is a visiting professor in the U.S., provides an angry and vitriolic treatment of religion, maybe even sensational. He already indicts religion with his subtitle: How Religion Poisons Everything.


o Tim Leedom and Maria Murdy, Editors, The Book Your Church* Doesn’t Want you to Read [TBYCDWYTR], 2nd Edition, Cambridge House Press, New York, 2007. This is an anthology mostly by contemporaries, but also including Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Bertrand Russell, commenting on aspects of all religions. The content is obvious.


o Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell [BTS], Penguin Books, 2006, New York, 2006. A non-dogmatic, well-referenced, indexed effort by a Tufts philosophy professor that could well change the ingrained views of many faithful readers away from religion.


o Victor Stenger, God, the Failed Hypothesis, Prometheus Books, Amherst, 2007. A colleague of mine from the Physics Department of the University of Hawaii, his subtitle provides the clue: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. Stenger mentions that there has never been any verification of the Israelites and Moses in Egypt and that the empires of David and Solomon never existed. He also reports that Christians make up 80% of the prison population, while atheists represent only 0.2%. There was a Calabash (point, counterpoint) page from Honolulu, the magazine, providing Professor Stenger’s belief, as contrasted by the past dean of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Hawaii, and former chairman of the Physics Department, Charles Hayes. Chuck is of the Francis Collins’ school of faith, to be discussed again.


o Tom Flynn, The New Encyclopedia of UNBELIEF, Prometheus Books, with articles by a who’s who of atheism, including a foreword by Richard Dawkins. Interesting that this publication costs more used than new on Amazon.com when I last checked, although the cheapest price is still greater than $100.


There are others, such as 55 Questions to Life After Death, Life after Death in World Religions and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, but the above list of books should provide more detail that you will ever need to understand and inquire with intelligence. So, armed now with the basic info—and the summary I have provided above actually allows you to already proceed—let us first look closer at religious beliefs, starting with an analogy.


I like to use the Santa Claus paradigm where all children believe in Santa Claus (or his equivalent), then, as maturity and reality set in, the truth becomes self-evident. In religion, with family upbringing and culture overriding education, the concept of a God always remains an undying belief for most. Why?


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Oh, well, it was a nice run, but the Dow Jones Industrials sunk 120 to 10, 428, world markets were mixed, and the Japan Nikkei ended up at 10,546, thereby winning my challenge. Gold remained steady at $1096/toz and crude oil is just under $80/barrel.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

THE TRUE COST OF ENERGY

What is the true cost of energy? Gustav Grob of the International Sustainable Energy Organisation for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ISEO) sent me the following comparison:



You can read one fossil fuel analysis. Then here is Greenpeace reporting on the true cost of coal. Finally, a utility specialist on the true cost of solar PV. There is absolutely no common ground on what true cost really means because there is no standard. It is all in what you consider as important and how much weight you attach to generally nebulous parameters. It almost doesn't matter anyway because these externalities are not included in your energy bill. Planet Earth and Humanity subsequently suffer. If Copenhagen is any indicator, this condition will continue for a long time to come. Incidentally, if you seek colorful powerpoint slides on global warming and sustainable development, Dr. Grob has a presentation on the subject.


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The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 3 to 10,549, with world markets mostly down and the Japan Nikkei at 10,546. Gold remained at $1094/toz and crude oil is up to $79/barrel.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 4)



The following continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:


How Did Religion Start?


You either believe in God, or some version of Him, or not, or, like me for most of my life, something in between. If you do, you are in the high majority and can stop reading here for you already “know” how it all began. Unless, of course, you wish to be entertained, then certainly read on. If you are an atheist or a general non-believer, generally like me today, you wonder about the rationality of how religion really got started.


The natural law of the jungle is cruel. Only the fittest survive. An animal does provide for family, and perhaps immediate clan, but it’s a war out there. Homo sapiens eventually formed nuclear families, then colonies of them. Some were more successful than others. The cunning cheater should prevail in a Darwinian culture.


How to minimize those acts could have led to a belief system where there was a supernatural enforcer to maintain control for the common good. A telling experiment occurred at the University of Newcastle where there was an honor system for the coffee pot. When a picture of eyes was placed above the payment box, collection more than doubled from a background of flowers. The eyes provided the enforcement factor.









A workable religion induces cooperation and honesty, which, in turn, would strengthen that clan or society. The notion of an omniscient, all seeing, force to watch over everyone helped maintain the order. What better than a God that was responsible for mankind? Thus, soon after the beginning, Man created God. It was the clever thing to do.


This form of early social justice could well be optimal, resulting in groups that best survived. Religion might have been the simple solution leading to the triumph of our species.


So, where does this leave religion today? Well, it got us this far. But one line of thinking leads to the conclusion that all hell could well break loose someday when people stop believing. A second more dominating wisdom applies to people like me, who don’t believe, yet are law-abiding citizens. It just makes good sense to utilize most of the practiced morality.


In my conclusion, then, religion was a necessary bridge to establish our society. It might not be needed in the future. Is that time today?


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The Dow Jones Industrials edged down 2 to 10,545, with world markets mostly up and the Japan Nikkei at 10,668. Gold dropped $12/toz to $1094, with crude oil close to $79/barrel.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

UMAR, SWINE FLU, DMFC, H2C AND THE BLUE REVOLUTION


Just another sunset tonight:



Hate to admit it, but I've become a contrarian. I guess this is mainly because I've always enjoyed being at the edge of reality, and this is just another means to remain outside the box of conventional thinking. Let me cite a few examples:

Jasper Schuringa, a director from Amsterdam, reportedly helped cabin crew abord Northwest Airlines flight 253 to subdue alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who planned to blow up the plane.

1. We have gone overboard on airport security. That's Jasper Schuringa, the hero who jumped on Nigerian airplane terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who reminds me of Richard Reid. In fact, there might be a conspiracy here. Reid (also known as Abdul Raheem or Tariq Raja, although his mother is English and father a Jamaican criminal) is that idiot who tried to detonate his shoe on American Airlines 63 in 2001. Both were connected to al Queda and changed the nature of air travel. You know why we need to take off our shoes? You will soon know why you also won't be able to use the restroom an hour before landing. Speaking of loos, I wonder if anyone has looked into the ploy that both did not blow up their respective planes in privacy over the toilet because what is the gain from just killing hundreds of people? Why not make air travel an inconvenience for hundreds of millions? This deceptive act also means they didn't need to die. As a result, much time is wasted, enormous amounts of money are spent on devices that do not work all that well and the minions of the Transportation Service Administration have become mini-emperors. For sure, you will next be embarrassed by having to walk through electronic body scanners, each costing $170,000. The weakest link is that airport without one, so, as there are around 50,000 airports, this could well mean an eventual cost of $10 billion for this item alone, plus, add, of course, those specially trained high tech experts who will need to operate and fix the machine and analyze the result. There will be numerous suits for invasion of privacy. Thousands of lawyers will gain pathways to financial success. The next air terrorist will still sneak something on board, so, soon, look for no carry ons, something airlines would love. Nude travel? Yet, the general public actually supports, and very highly so, these measures. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin today reported that these extra precautions give comfort to travelers.
H1N1 navbox.jpg
General structure and biology of influenza viruses
2. The world has overreacted on the swine flu. Above is the virus and on the left a 3D schematic. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post six months ago and my latest blog on this subject appeared on December 8. It has been eight months since the swine flu appeared as the Mexican flu. The regular flu kills 36,000 American annually and 250,000 to 500,000 around the world. Last week was the eighth consecutive weekly decline in the swine flu. As of this month there were about 5000 swine flu deaths in the U.S. and 16,500 in the world. Thus, about 21% of all flu deaths were due to the swine variety in our country, while the global figure is 7%. Have you seen those long lines waiting to get their shots? Many of them were 65 or older, and they are already largely immune. Why don't we worry that much about global warming or peak oil, but scream for swine flu shots and clamor for stronger airport security? Apparently, we only care when our immediate life is threatened. Well, did you know that traffic deaths in the U.S. dropped to the lowest level last year (since 1961)? There were only 37,313 fatalities, slightly more than will die of the flu this year and five times more than of the swine variety. Yet, we keep driving along, so there must be something else than pure personal survival.

Dynario with Mobile Phone


3. I think the national energy policy focusing on the plug-in electric car, ethanol and clean coal is flawed. We should be developing the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC, Toshiba began selling one for portable electronics in October, but the Department of Energy has essentially forbidden work on this technology ) and do a lot more for baseload sustainable electricity options, such as hot dry rock geothermal and ocean thermal energy conversion. I also once advocated making clean hydrogen free. That got nowhere, fast. My greatest concern today is about sustainable aviation. I finally can cheer on a government agency, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency appears to now be strongly supporting the production of jet fuel from algae. Yet, close to nothing is today being spent on a next generation aircraft powered by hydrogen. This was once the National Aerospace Plane, and was supported by DARPA, the Air Force and NASA. It is reported that a sum of $10 billion was spent, although much of this work was secret. The Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper (H2C) could well be the solution, but I don't think the developers have secured a cent of Federal or private funds yet.


4. We only seem to want to protect the ocean instead of developing the riches in harmony with the marine environment. Visit the Energy Island Group. Above is their conception of a platform powered by a 50 MW OTEC system. The Blue Revolution shows promise for utilizing the concept of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) to produce baseload electricity, fresh water, hydrogen, next generation fisheries, green chemicals, and other clean bioproducts, while, perhaps reducing the potential of hurricanes and remediating global climate warming. Lockheed Martin is moving ahead with OTEC, but nothing much appears to be happening in developing the total system.

I could add global warming and a bunch of other pursuits, but enough is enough. I ask myself all the time why it is that my government and industry seem to shun everything that I advocate. My conclusion is that organizations are too comfortable with what currently exists (and, let's face it, the private sector very strongly influences the Congress and White House), and are loathe to consider change. I thought this was why Barack Obama was elected, but, I guess, there is only so much one person can do, even with 60 Senators and a strong majority in the House. At least he will get his health plan as a legacy.


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The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 27 to 10,547, a new high for year, while world markets mostly increased. The Japan Nikkei, at 10,634, is now higher than the Dow. Wow, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jumped about 25% today. Gold zoomed $17/toz to $1107 and crude oil is getting close to $79/barrel.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2010



HAPPY 2010!


As the sun sets to end the day, the year is almost over and I lived through the worst of times, but survived to look forward to the rest of my life. 2010 should be exciting and adventurous. I have two major trips planned:

January/February: All those vaccinations I took last week were for my stops in Seoul, Hanoi, Hue, Danang, Saigon, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Delhi, Barcelona, Munich, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, D.C., New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Part of this trip will be related to the scattering of Pearl's ashes.

October/November: A few friends have expressed interest in my sustainable futures and epicurean journey to start with my "final" roots search on the Shinkansen through northern Japan, then on to the Shanghai World Expo, quick stops in Zhoushan and Beijing, Istanbul, Africa for a short safari, vicinity of Barcelona for the best restaurants in the world and the Bilbao Guggenheim, possibly a Danube River cruise, largest windmill in the world (Germany), London (Fat Duck), Rio and Machu Picchu in South America and a couple of stops in the USA. Can't imagine that anyone will join for the full itinerary, but I'm taking input at this point to finalize the trip.

The carbon footprint is outrageous, but, as penance, I am doing everything I can to stimulate the development of a next generation hydrogen aircraft and production of jet fuel from algae.

What do I see for 2010? Here is my top ten:

1. The global economy will continue to improve. Unemployment in the U.S. should drop to 8% by October so Democrats will lose only 3-4 seats in the Senate and 10-20 in the House. That is the nature of mid-term elections. The opposition party's disinformation campaign generally works when there is no major war and we are a nation of selfish sheep. There should be another technical correction to the stock market, which will be an opportunity to buy.

2. The Health Plan will be enacted, but signed as late as February, which means that President Obama's State of the Union speech could be presented later than usual. Note that the date has still not been determined.

3. Peak Oil will not occur in 2010. If you click on FUTURE PRICE OF OIL (see box on the right), you will note that crude oil does not reach $100/barrel until mid 2018, at least according to investors today. Be aware, though, that they are usually wrong.

4. Global Warming legislation in Congress will not be passed. This is an election year and any attempt to reduce the burning of fossil fuel will mean higher energy costs. My Huffington Post article of a year and a half ago blamed the Republicans. Today I add two other groups: Democrats (too many congress people from fossil fuel states) and the general public. The masses because they don't like to pay higher energy prices no matter what the environmental implications (especially as you can't really detect a fraction of an inch or hundredths of a degree change from last year). Detractors also point out that the temperature of Planet Earth has remained stable over the past decade...and they are right. A really, really hot summer where tens of millions perish will change this attitude, but chances are any negative effects will not be traumatic.

5. The Blue Revolution is more and more becoming the Blue Evolution. Interesting that TIME magazine reported that the tank-bred blue fin tuna was the second best invention of 2009. Read about our next generation fisheries effort, which could have accomplished this task a decade ago. The hope for this concept is Lockheed Martin surging ahead in the design of a 10 MW ocean thermal energy conversion facility hopefully to be tested off Oahu in a few years. Anyone got a spare $300 million?

6. Hawaii shows potential for replacing Louisiana as the happiest state in the union. The furlough problem will go away, more tourists will appear (with China and Korea helping lead the way) and a Democrat will be elected governor. However, unless we can find a solution to the current jetliner or jet fuel, Hawaii will be the first location to enter into a serious local depression when the price of oil shoots past $100/barrel.



7. The Pearl Foundation, hopefully, will assist in planting some yellow trees (Cybistax donnell-smithii). A Boy Scout troop on the Big Island has communicated with Pearl's cousin, Councilman Dennis Onishi of the Big Island, and he also arranged for me to meet with Council Nestor Garcia, where we discussed the potential of a line of yellow trees on the Mauka side of the Ala Wai Canal. The Department of Treasury finally responded to my application, and assigned me an Employer Identification Number to proceed with gaining tax exempt status for the Pearl Foundation.

8. The Venus Syndrome, will be be transformed into a novel with the assistance of two co-authors. The publication date remains a challenge.

9. Hawaii could well be destined to become a steeple of excellence to develop a commercial process for producing jet fuel from algae. The Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper project could be initiated.

10. I will continue to post articles in the Huffington Post. Here are all my articles since the first one a year and a half ago (click on any to read that entry):


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