Thursday, October 28, 2010

M-Brane: The Mail Brane

Well, I now introduce the "M-Brane" or Mail Brane aspect of the blog. There's been about a dozen past emails backed up waiting for replies, and this will be the forum provided for them. In each case I'll give the questioner's ID as given, the location (if given) and my response. The order given doesn't necessarily reflect any priority.

Q.(1) You had blogs on stellar evolution and also a number on biological. Do you believe the two are connected at any fundamental level to form one Evolution?- Cloris, Dallas TX

A. That's an excellent question! In fact, strictly speaking the two forms of evolution are distinct, the first being purely physical, the second biological or organismal. Technically then, they don't form one unitary process governed by a single dynamic, and indeed, we know that natural selection has no role in stellar evolution at all.

Having said that, however, it is very true that without stellar evolution there could be no biological evolution. Indeed, the innards or cores of massive stars were required for the chemical evolution of heavier organic elements - which had to precede evolution of organisms. One could think of stellar evolution then as a necessary condition for the evolution of biological organisms, with natural selection the sufficient condition.

Thus, before the onset of biological or organis.mal Evolution there had to be Elemental Evolution occurring in the innards of the stars. There, for billions of years, the nuclear fusion of lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, transmuted into much heavier ones, such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and silicon as well as heavy metals such as cobalt, nickel and iron. Very massive stars ultimately became unstable, their cores imploding even as their outer regions exploded into space as supernovae.

In this violent process all the newly synthesized heavier elements were ejected into space. These elements to become the ‘birth material’ for newer, heavier generations of stars, not to mention planets, moons, asteroids and other objects. Elemental Evolution, then, is an ongoing process where chemicals are built up inside stars and later disseminated. In a literal sense, human beings are "star stuff".

Q. (2) I take a fancy to all your math blogs and have actually worked out a lot of the problems. Is there any place I can get all in one place instead of going back all through the blog? Mitchell, Corvallis, Ore.

Yes, all the math blogs up to differential equations are available in my book, Mathematical Excursions in Brane Space, available at (use search engine in the 'Medicine & Science' field). You can obtain an e-book for only $5 and a paperback one for about twice that.

Q(3) I get a real kick out of how you go after that brother of yours and the stuff he sometimes puts up on his blog, especially those insane Hell panels! Is he really that way, or does he just carry on like that to grab attention? Also, I kind of get the feeling when you reply to him in your blogs you aren't really addressing him but maybe many people who are waffling and even young people. True? - Derlwyn, Kokomo, IN

Okay, first, I suspect Mike really is the way he comes off. Remember the old saw that "there's no one more zealous than a fresh convert"? Well, it appears to apply to him. Bear in mind his whole identity seems to be wrapped up in this pastor shtick, so it isn't likely he'll change. It's his persona, and for him there's only one way he can bring it off: "My way or the Hell-way".

Second, you are correct that in almost all cases I'm not particularly responding to him, but to thinking people whose minds may not yet be made up about those issues. That includes his own kids, who hopefully haven't taken the "kool aid" but are still in the searching, questing mode. I long ago concluded that trying to change Mike's mind was more or less futile- say like trying to make a fish walk - so now mainly direct attention and responses to those who can still be "saved". Well, their minds anyway, since we don't believe in "souls" on this blog!

Q(4). What is your brother's obsession with Hell anyway? Did somebody burn him when he was a kid? - Maynard G. Toledo, OH

His case isn't particular or special, nor (to my knowledge) did he get burned as a kid. What we have found (this is based on conversations with Bajan psychologist Dr. Pat Bannister in the 70s), is that new converts always embrace the most extreme forms of their new religion and Hell appears as an extreme belief form in all orthodox faiths to which people may be inclined to convert. The newly converted are also much more likely than not to be purists about it. If their new religion declares x, y and z must be followed or accepted to the letter, then that's the way they go. There is no wiggle room, so no flexibility, and certainly no compromise. If there's any "Jesus" around, you all better damned well accept MY Jesus and no other form. (In the case of most evangelicals, they fancy him with some warrior suit on despite the fact the historical evidence shows he was more a hippie type- see John Dominic Crossan's 'Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography'. ) But because most newly minted fundies are hostile and bellicose they demand "their Jesus" be likewise. In effect, they project their own bellicosity and belligerence onto the Prince of Peace - then insist all the outside objective observers are the ones deluded since all other versions are "unbiblical" - as if an ancient, million times re-translated book can be accurate after thousands of years.

In the same way, new Catholic converts are also the most obsessively doctrinnaire, believing every single Catholic doctrine to the letter, from the "Immaculate Conception" to even peripheral stuff like the opening of the Fatima letters (which purport to claim exactly who will be roasting in Hell at the end of time, including millions of evangelicals, communists and others).

Q.(5) The spontaneous origin of the universe is really difficult to grasp! Is there any basic book out that can explain it? - Terence, Oslo, Norway

Unfortunately, there's none that I know of. Most books I'm aware of touch on it peripherally if at all. This is probably also because the concept is still a work in progress. In effect, the best way to grasp it is probably to approach it from the viewpoint of basic physics or general physics. Or even general or basic cosmology, for example a text like The Foundations of Modern Cosmology, by John E. Holcolm and Kathryn Hawley. This book is terrific because it approaches the topics from a very non-quantitative, or minimally quantitative view point. Two other good books to get: The First Three Minutes, by physicist Steven Weinberg, and The Structure of the Universe, by astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar. I also often suggest interested readers try to get the late Sir Fred Hoyle's monograph, Astronomy and Cosmology, which though a bit dated, nicely weaves physics and astronomy to cover many basic physical principles.

Q.(6) DO you think Christians and atheists will ever get along?, Deborah, Yonkers, NY

Atheists and Christians DO get along, currently! However, it requires some degree of compromise on both parts. Alas, zealots will always rebuff any and all compromises, whether extreme strong atheists (or anti-theists) or extreme evangelicals. But I am friends with a number of Christians, many of whom I've known for decades. What getting along requires is the ability to put your "fight armor" on the back burner and just be friends, instead of waging religious wars 24/7. It can be done, and many do it.

It also requires a degree of humility, particularly shelving the shibboleth that your side has all the answers and the other side has none, or is "demon possessed". Demonization is never a good policy for human relations, and is often one that lays the basis of future warfare. Life is too short to be at each other's throats over a metaphysical point of debate - like "salvation" -which no one is in any position to know for sure, book or no book!

Q.(7) I really enjoyed the blogs on the biblical contradictions and also exposing the King James Bible? Do you think you might do any more? - Jason, Sanford, FL

One is definitely being planned for the future which will show how grievous and widespread the deliberate mangling of the texts and passages are in the KJV bible.

Q.(8) I'm amazed by the details in your economics and finance blogs. Where did you learn this stuff, at what university?, F.W., Marion, OH

No university! Never took an econ course in my life! However, after firing our FA in 1996 for questionable practices (and after scanning his ADV, Part II) I decided that if I was going to manage all our finances I needed to know as much as possible about finance, investing, economics. To that end, I became a regular subscriber to magazines like MONEY, Forbes, Business Week, and The Economist, as well as The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, and also acquired a number of books including 'Surviving the Coming Mutual Fund Crisis' - which alerted me to the need to get out of equities before 1999, Other helpful books were: Retire on Less Than You Think, by Fred Brock, and Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin.

All of those empowered me to make my own financial decisions, as well as the best for my wife. (It was my decision to have her pull out of risky funds before the 9/11 meltdown). Tragically, too many Americans are financially clueless and aren't even able to budget properly, but I hope my blogs have shed some light on the important issues.

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