Monday, February 28, 2011

At Least the Academy Gets This One Right!

I'm writing in regard to 'The King's Speech' having won Best Picture last night at the Oscars. And this is irrelevant to the fact that my now deceased father-in-law attended the Coronation of King George VI, as part of a Commonwealth Regiment-Contingent from the British West Indies. This is in contrast to last year when the Academy blew it big time, awarding 'Hurt Locker' the 'Best Picture' when it was nowhere near the neighborhood.

Readers may recall that in my New Year's predictions, I initially forecast 'Inception' to win, but please note that was rendered weeks before The King's Speech began apperearing in theaters. Two weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to see it and were very impressed, agreeing that without a doubt it would win. Indeed, the film had all the key markers and elements the Academy usually looks for.

The main competition, pushed by many in the American media circles (including TIME, and many newspapers, such as The Denver Post) was 'The Social Network'. This is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg got 'Facebook' off the ground to become perhaps the biggest time wasting, brain-enervating interface-tech network in the history of the human race. See also my earlier blog on this:

In that entry, I referenced Mark Bauerlein's book, The Dumbest Generation, which depressingly documents how the under-30 crowd are foregoing knowledge-based maturity to wallow in a self-confected, solipsistic, social mirror world of their own egos and selves. The fallout includes their not even meeting basic standards of knowledge for employment, far less earning a degree that actually means anything.

According to one polling of University of Illinois-Chicago students for time allocation, by Northwestern University communications professor Esther Hargatti (op. cit., p. 135), the students’ choices were all too predictable. As Bauerlein puts it:“At number one stood Facebook (78.1%) followed by MySpace (50.7%). Only 5% checked a blog or forum on politics, economics, law or policy”As he adds, the “acclaimed empowerment” of the Web has gone entirely to “social stuff”.

Now, I have nothing against "social stuff", but let's get real here: the "friending" dynamic of Facebook means an endless succession of virtual "friends" can be created to suck up all of one's waking hours, especially when any significant number of these people wish to sustain contact. No wonder then that millions have since opted out, and they aren't all old fogies. The proportion of Americans on Facebook now, according to a recent poll, stands at 52% compared to 48% who aren't.

By contrast, The King's Speech showed how a stuttering Royal was thrust into the role of King (George VI) during one of the most epic periods of human history- World War II. His speech itself was so stirring, delivered nearly perfectly (after months of training from his speech therapist, Loge) that it had most of the audience in tears. We also already knew what he would face, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and their horrific Blitz bombing of England, especially London. (Less well known by most Americans is that the British were at war with Nazi Germany for over two years before the Americans joined the fray, after Pearl Harbor.)

In other words, the historic backdrop was there, never mind the film had no sex, no action to speak of, no violence, and only a brief segment when "Bertie" (the would-be King) let fly a slew of f-bombs as he practiced ironing out the stutters.

For me, having encountered Queen Elizabeth II up close (from 10' away) during one occasion when she stopped in Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown, Barbados (while I was en route to Broad Street there) in the 70s, it put the history in perspective. Prior to seeing the film I hadn't been sure of the relationship of Elizabeth and Margaret (who later became Princess Margaret and also visited Barbados several times) to the then King, or the previous king (Edward VIII) who abdicated (because of his marriage to divorced American Wallace Simpson).

The movie made it clear that "Bertie" assumed the throne after brother (Edward) abdicated and both Margaret and Elizabeth were his daughters. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter's character was the "Queen Mother" as she's known in England.

Now, given a choice between a flick about a bunch of Harvard nerds that design and start a vacuous, time-wasting social network, and a film redolent with historical overtones (and we know how awful most Americans are at their own history, far less world history) I'm glad that the Academy chose the latter. The spotlight on the problem of stuttering and how one person overcame it enough to function also added heft and a human dimension.

One last thing: I emphatically disagree with The LA Times take that the award was some "testament to conservative values". No, it was not, it was a testament to HUMAN values! Bertie was not "Old School" because he assumed the regal mantle. There was NO other choice to be made, given how his brother had compromised the monarchy with Wallace Simpson. Those values he demonstrated transcend simple liberal or conservative labels, which alas, this country's media are in too much of a hurry to confer because of their corporate 'crossfire syndrome' myopia. I heartily recommend any readers who haven't yet seen this terrific film, get out soon to take it in, and soak in the history and human angles!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why the Oligarchs are Howling with Laughter

The nation's oligarch's are rolling on the floor laughing, as the media circus continues around the Wisconsin debacle with that state's governor determined to go the way of Indiana. That means gutting all significant public union bargaining power, paving the way for massive, entrenched corporate serfdom. Meanwhile, the Poppinjay rich raconteurs continue laughing as they enjoy billions of bailout money, plus a new round of tax cuts to keep those Peugots and diamonds coming. While their Tea Party useful idiots protest the Public Union workers!

Actually, the Oligarchs have many more laughs to look forward to, all at the expense of 90% of the population which, because of the ill-considered alignment of politics and economics, stands to decimate their last opposition. Consider:

1) Tyrant Scott Walker, Gubernator of Wisconsin, basically holds all the cards in the showdown with public unions over their collective bargaining rights. As we know from the experience of the Texas Dems a few years ago (who stayed away to prevent re-apportioning of seats, better known as Republican Gerrymandering) the missing Wisconsin senate Dems will eventually have to return and provide the quorum to complete the massacre of union bargaining rights. Thus paving the way for Wisconsin's workers to end up like Indiana's where they haven't had a raise in nearly five years and are living close to the edge since their jobs can be privatized at any time.

2) The looming Federal Budget standoff, if it devolves into a shutdown by March 4, will exact even worse damage on state's finances likely forcing even more massive and draconian measures. And you can bet your sweet bippy the Oligarchs are cheering with their Tea Party idiots for such a shutdown, thanks to Boehner and company.

3) Military spending, which according to The Economist ('The Latest Cop Out', Feb. 19th, p. 14) is "equivalent to the next 20 nations combined" will continue to ramp up as Petraeus and his militiary buffoons continue to demand more and more $$$ to conduct the Afghan adventure, including Psy ops tricks on the populace. The Oligarchs have to especially be loving this ongoing farce of nation building, since they know the longer it continues and sucks up precious tax money for domestic needs, the more entrenched their oligarchy will be.

4) Republican gubernators, determined to continue spending cuts will drive economic growth lower since the demand side is still weak. Thus, not only will their union-busting tactics demolish one plank of Democratic support for next year's elections, but the possible worsening of the economy because of weakened demand may even force Obama and the Senate Dems to capitulate and offer massive "entitlement" cuts to appease the TeePees. The Oligarchs will be licking their chops in anticipation, especially the Koch Brothers.

5) Obama's $3.73 trillion budget assumes the deficit can be cut from 11% of GDP to 3.1% by 2021, but a large basis for this assumption is predicated on his ability to increase taxes on the rich in 2012 (by finally rescinding the Bush tax cuts and extensions). As The Economist observes (ibid.), if he "couldn't do this last year when his party still controlled the House of Representatives, now he will have to deal with the Republicans who are opposed to it". Not only that, but their opposition will be exponentiated in an election all the R-forces converge and accuse the Prez of planning to "raise people's taxes and destroy jobs". Will Obama tough it out? Look at last December's performance and you tell me. The Oligarch's are already making their bets in the Vegas casinos that take them! They are counting on those bets delivering as well or better than Goldman Sachs' subprime credit default swaps.

6) Many Americans will continue to be influenced by the likes of FAUX News and Limbaugh to believe the public workers and unions are the problem, as opposed to the rich fatcats that grabbed most of the bailout money and continue to speculate with it, driving up Wall Street share prices to try to lure suckers in for the kill. (Like they have every Bull market). Will Americans stupidly fall again for the same ol', same ol' ? Look at past history, then you tell me.

The Oligarchs have every reason to believe that soon, very soon, the aware and politically alert Middle Class will be no more, gone the way of the Dodo. Once that political albatross is cut from around their neck, the only bunch left to deal with is the old farts (receiving Social Security) who, because of "entitlements" have the time to pursue political scrutiny and vote.

Watch out, because that group is next on the Oligarchs chopping block. See also:

And once they are gutted, as they will be, we will finally be the giant Third World Banana Republic of which the Oligarchs have always dreamed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Solving for constants A, B in the Schrodinger Equation

We now consider a simple set up such as shown in the sketch where we have a beam of electrons of energy kinetic energy W incident on a plane where there is a potential step such that Q is less than W. (E.g. the energy of the step is at energy Q, less than W). Since there is a sharp change in potential there must be also a sharp change in the electron wavelength, so the wave ought to behave like a light wave incident on a slab of glass where we expect partial transmission and partial reflection.

The amounts transmitted and reflected can be calculated as follows:

If we take the potential energy V(x) to be:

a) V - Q, x > 0

b) V = 0, (x less than 0)

We suppose the wave function for the respective cases to be:

a) U = [exp(2πi(Kx ) + A exp(-2πiKx] exp (-2πift)

b) U = exp{2πi(K' x - 2πift)} where:

K^2 = 2mW/ h^2 and we understand m = m(e) the mass of the electron.

Then K = 1/L where L denotes the wavelength as before, and K'^2 = 2m(W-Q)/ h^2.

The wave function here represents one electron per unit volume in the incident wave, therefore, ‖A‖^2 particles per unit volume occur i the reflected wave and ‖B‖^2 in the transmitted wave.

Thus, v particles cross unit area per unit time in the incident wave and v ‖B‖^2 in the transmitted wave. Since: v'/v = K'/K then the proportion of the beam reflected is: ‖A‖^2 and the proportion transmitted is: (K'/K)‖B‖^2.

The problem then is to calculate the constants A and B. Then we need to know the boundary conditions satisfied at x = 0. These are basically that U and dU/dx should be continuous. Integrating both sides of the Schrodinger equation from the previous blog:

dU/dx = - 8π^2 m/h^2 INT (0 to x) (W - V)U dx

so even if V is discontinuous, its integral must be continuous. So dU/dx is continuous, and hence U is continuous. Inserting these b.c.'s: , since U is continuous at x = 0 it follows that:

1 + A = B and since dU/dx is continuous at x = 0 it follows that:
K(1 - A) = K'B

Solving for A and B:

A = (K - K')/ (K + K')

B = 2K/ (K + K')

A most interesting thing to be deduced from the above is that the SUM of the proportions of the reflected and transmitted waves comes out to unity.

This is so if: ‖A‖^2 + K' ‖B‖^2 / K = 1

If it wasn't so there'd be something wrong with the wave equation, as it would predict creation or disappearance of the particles at the step. Consider now the case where: Q > W

Here we expect all particles to undergo reflection. For x less than 0 we have the wave function:

U = [exp(2πi(Kx ) + A exp(-2πiKx] exp (-2πift)

For x > 0:

U = [B exp(-2πc x ) + C exp(2πcx)] exp (-2πift)

c^2 = 2m(Q - W)/h^2

For similar reasons that applied in the previous case, to describe total reflection we take the solution that decreases with increasing x and thus set C = 0.

Then we obtain:

U = B exp (-2πc x - 2πift), x > 0

Putting in the b.c.'s as before we have:

1 + A = B

iK(1 - A) = - cB

Eliminating B, i.e. by setting: iK(1 - A) = -c (1 + A)

we obtain:

A = (iK + c)/ (iK - c)

The important thing to note here is that:

‖A‖^2 = [(iK + c)/ (iK - c)]^2 = 1

so the reflected wave has the same amplitude as the incident one, which should be obvious to any reader familiar with the blogs already done on the complex numbers!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Can We Please Stop Burning Up Food for Fuel?

Graphs showing how critical crop prices have spiked towards dangerous 2008 levels. (From The Financial Times, Feb. 25, p. 22)

As The Financial Times latest commodity indices show (Feb. 25, p.22), basic food crops prices are approaching dangerous territory, similar to the levels that triggered food riots in 2008. In addition, we know that much higher food prices have also helped to destabilize regimes in a number of the middle eastern nations now awash in protests, strife.

According to economist Joseph Glauber, quoted in the FT, the prices of all food commodities can be expected to rise even further, especially corn. The cost of food, at a wholesale level, is already at an all time high. Meanwhile, the USDA believes the current high prices will spur farmers to sow 9.8 million more acres with crop seeds this year, bringing the total planned acreage to nearly 256 million for the eight major crops.

Meanwhile, corn - the most widely grown crop - will likely occupy nearly 92 million acres of crop land or almost 36% of the total. The tragedy is that nearly one third of that amount, or 33 mllion acres, will likely be used to convert to ethanol as an alternative fuel to oil. This despite the fact that it takes 1.07 gals. of ethanol to make 1 gallon equivalent of useable fuel - a highly inefficient process. In addition, as more corn is removed from circulation for fuel, the cost of corn will continue to explode.

Can we really really afford to be burning a food crop up as fuel, especially in world now burgeoning with 7 billion? I don't believe so!

As the FT report ('U.S. Forecasts No Relief from Rising Food Prices', Feb. 25, p. 22) notes:

"Corn prices have risen 90 percent from a year ago, hitting a 2 ½ year high of $7.24¼ a bushel this month after the U.S. produced a large but disappointing harvest last year and demand for animal feed grows in emerging economies. Corn consumption also rose in the U.S. mainly to feed ethanol plants"

The FT notes that the heavily subsidised industry (they receive 51 cents for every gallon produced, which makes a mockery of capitalism) pumped out more than 13.5 billion gallons of the additive last year. This year, the USDA projects ethanol will account for 36% of total U.S. corn production.

Not to put to fine a point on it: this is a colossal waste of food!

With global food prices rising and more corn being diverted to the production of ethanol fuel, we now have Bill Clinton also warning of food riots in poor nations. The former president told farmers and Agriculture Department employees on Thursday (at an Agriculture Conference in Washington) that while producing biofuels is important for reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, farmers should also look beyond domestic production and consider the needs of developing countries in terms of food.

Clinton didn't mention it but one major way to do this would be to emulate Brazil (now nearly energy dependent) and substitute sugar cane for corn, to produce sugar-cane based ethanol. This form is also more net energy favorable with about 0.98 gals. of sugar-cane raw material to make 1 gallon equivalent of useable ethanol as fuel.

Sugar cane is also abundant in the U.S., for example major cane fields occupy south Florida and Louisiana. Sugar is furthermore a less desirable food than corn, and one can argue that it's contributed mightily to the U.S. obesity epidemic as kids especially continue to chow down on pastries, M&Ms, assorted candy bars and other snacks laden with sugar, not to mention cola drinks and other sweet soft drinks.

Thus, a transition to sugar-cane ethanol would also deliver a significant health benefit.

Cane producers themselves wouldn't lose money, but likely gain vastly more than they ever could by selling refined cane. As the example in Brazil has shown, many cane farmers have actually become wealthy while also making their nation energy-independent.

Let's hope the U.S. soon follows their example, especially as we are going to see 2 billion more hungry people within less than 10 years, as climate change continues to wreak havoc on crops. This is no time to be burning food to run cars!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A creature that hasn't evolved? Where? NOWHERE!

Graphic showing increasing nucleotide numbers consonant with increasing evolution. (To the right). The nucleotide numbers are derived from the weight of nucleic acid in the haploid complement of an organism. Because a truly "created" organism wouldn't require nucleotides, it would also be without DNA. Up to now creationists haven't shown us a single organism that conforms! (From Strickberger, EVOLUTION, p. 230).

It is mind-boggling the number and permutations of false reasoning and specious science that the creationists can come up with when they've a mind to. The sad thing is that they invest so much mental capital in trying to disprove evolution (and prove creationism) that they could be using the same amount to simply understand evolution the first time!

Some creationists (e.g. Charles COLSON - of WATERGATE fame - if you can believe!) have recently pulled up the examples of the tick, sponge and Gecko to try to argue that these "creatures" (I prefer to call them organisms since the term "creature" is biased toward "creator") must, just MUST have been created and-or designed rather than evolved. They claim that "evolutionists" for example, have no explanation as to how the Gecko has acquired its characteristic features to enable to walk upside down on walls, or whatever. And as for those ticks....who can believe how intricate these little vermin must be in order to feature a "saliva that contains compounds to disable the clotting mechanism ....while it also tricks the host's immune system into keeping white cells away so the tick enjoys a feast of the red cells it needs . "

But there's NO mystery in any of this, and all these evolutionary adaptations can be fully accounted for by the diverse array of protein synthesis and its ability to make natural selection work.

As for the tick's genome and evolution, the basis can be found here:

whle the sequencing of Sponge genome can be located here:

And the explanation for the Gecko's unique talents here:

What do all the preceding examples of "creationist gotcha's" have in common? Robert Shapiro’s Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Bantam, 1986, p. 257, is concise and to the point:

"All manner of creationists spend their time collecting anomalous results that they believe refutes all or part of evolution- and criticize faulty procedures or logic used by scientists. When this is done responsibly, such criticism actually serves a useful purpose, in helping to detect errors in the scientific literature. The Creationists err, however, in presuming that such activity supports their own position.

Anomalies, artifacts and deficiencies exist in every scientific field. A certain level is expected, as part of the normal practice of science. However, their existence doesn’t mean the entire field or theory is expendable. Nor can the collected anomalies support the Creationists main idea, which lies outside science, invulnerable to negation- but also incapable of affirmation, by scientific experiments.

As critics of conventional science, with no body of experimental work of their own to defend, the Creationists occupy an admirable position in any debate. A scientist who opposes them faces the same situation as a boxer battling a pair of remote-controlled boxing gloves. He can try to defend himself from punishment, but he lacks a target at which to strike back.

If he refuses to accept the distortions and ‘facts’ as presented by the Creationist side, he also risks being accused of not being a ‘real scientist’. (A ‘real scientist’ in Creationist jargon being one willing to accept all their anomalies and complaints as sufficient to make their own case, say against evolution

The above passage is redolent and top heavy with truth. But one wonders if the creatonist side is open-minded enough to accept it. Or are they even paying attention?

For example, consider paragraph (1). In this guise, as Shapiro notes, creationists somehow believe the Gecko's toe pads and tick's saliva represent some kind of "anomaly" that evolution can't handle. But they are so wrong it's pathetic. The fact is BOTH of these characteristics are already incorporated in the organisms' respective genomes. What is the genome? It is the mapping of the DNA sequences (see graphic) in terms of so many information-bearing nucelotides.

Thus we see that porifera (sponges) barely make 10^8 (100,000,000) nucleotides while the ticks begin to hit at about 3 x 10^9 (3,000,000,000) nucleotides. In all of these there is one fixed natural denominator, and that has to do with the DNA base pairings, Thus, for any ONE nucleotide position 4 different messages are possible: (A, G, C or T) which represent 4 amino acids(adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine). For two nucleotides in tandem there are 4^2 = 4 x 4 or 16 different messages possible (AA, AG, AC, AT, GG, GC, etc.) the rule being that for a linear sequence of n-nucleotides 4^n different possible messages can be encoded. Thus, a linear sequence of only 10 nucleotides can be used to discriminate between more than 1 million (K = 4^10) different messages. This is important, because only a fraction of those messages (K/1000) is needed to account for either the chemical agents in a tick's saliva or a Gecko's toe pads. As Marshall McLuhan would say (to paraphrase him): "the magic is in the message".

Here's the key the "complex creator" genii seem to miss, perhaps because most of them never took a basic biology course, far less an evolution course (yet incredibly they purport to critique evolution, which is somewhat like me criticizing a heart surgeon for his method of coronary bypass!): Soon after the first nucleic acids (RNA, DNA) arose their self-replicating power enabled natural selection based on developing protein systems which would further augment self-replication.

This, of course, resonates with biochemist Jacques Monod's (Chance and Necessity) famous description:

"The organism is a self-constructing machine. Its macroscopic structure is not imposed upon it by outside forces. It shapes itself autonomously by dint of constructive internal interactions"

All of which ultimately rests upon the proteins’ so-called stereo-specific properties. That is, their ability to ‘recognize’ other molecules (including other proteins) by their shape, with this shape determined by their molecular structure. Thus, if a certain shape is chemically recognized, the proteins in the mix can go to work (autonomically) to fashion a protein-based signature or organ - whether tick proboscis or Gecko toe pad.

What does this then have to do with Shapiro's last sentence:

"The Creationists err, however, in presuming that such activity supports their own position."

Well, he means that even IF for some reason the evolutionist's hypothesis were disproven or found dubious, it would not ipso facto validate the creationist's hypothesis. For one thing, the creationist hasn't arrived at his own unique theory (simply postulating a "creator" isn't a theory), so he has to raid evolution to to try and explain or account for the ascending levels of information complexity in the nucleotide sequence (shown in the graphic).

It's actually even worse for him when mRNA (messenger RNA)code is factored in. Consider: the striking universality of the mRNA code and the fact that NO other code has been found in any other living organism- which makes it reasonable to ask: Why this one? Since there are at least 10^70 possible different codes using 64 codons to code for 21 entities (20 amino acids and one chain terminator) then either the particular code derives from accidental causes or there must be a relationship (chemical) between amino acids and their codons and anti-codons. The most likely explanation is a combination of accident and pairing of amino acids based on stereo-specific properties of proteins.

Again, none of this assists the Creationist, who, by the way, has still failed to deliver a falsification test for his hypothesis. Hence, it can't be a true scientific hypothesis.

Indeed, the Creationists don't even have the basic smarts to come up with a genuine positive test or definitive indicator for what a REAL non-evolved "creature" would be like!

Since, the DNA nucleotide sequences and the composition of genomes can all be accounted for by evolution and protein synthesis (via mRNA, tRNA or transfer RNA) then the only way out for creationists is to posit a "creature" which has NO DNA! If then they accept DNA as integral to their process, they are in effect accepting an evolutionary path!

Meanwhile a DNA-less organism would definitely not be like all others on Earth, fitted with double helix DNA coils. Nor would it display nucleotide ascendancy. If it has the same imprint of a "creator" it wouldn't need to be so differentiated! It is CREATED after all! Only an evolutionary algorithmic process would need to distinguish organisms on the basis of pure levels of information, as transferred via nucleotide pairings and numbers.

This latter point directly dovetails with Shapiro's last sentence in the 2nd paragraph:

"Nor can the collected anomalies support the Creationists main idea, which lies outside science, invulnerable to negation- but also incapable of affirmation, by scientific experiments."

Because, again, given the "complexity" hypothesis, it is their job to show us an unimpeachable example and not simply to rob from evolutionary science. (And as I showed, everything from the Gecko's toe pads to the tick's saliva are explainable via natural selection).

All of which shows that the claim of “irreducible complexity” or “intelligent design” is actually pseudo-science, not genuine science. The central problem of ID, is that though its muddled adherents make multiple fusses about some particulars to do with evolution's evidence - they never come up with ID's presumed unique evidence to support its claimed "irreducible complexity". Any time they do, the real scientist can show a process whereby the same structure, organism can be better explained by a combination of natural selection, adaptation over time.

Ultimately, the problem for ID, when you strip away the scientific jargon and window dressing, is that its base premise comes down to the logical fallacy of: ignotum per ignotius (‘seeking to explain the not understood by the less well understood”). In this case, attempting to account for alleged "failures" of evolution or some claimed aspects not yet fully explained by to totally unknown constructs (e.g. ‘supernatural’ or unknown "designer") .This isn't science, it's hogwash, supernaturalist drivel disguised in the wardrobe of science. As Richard Dawkins points out, the fallacy in all ID reasoning is:

"This kind of default reasoning leaves completely open the possibility that, if the biological structure or organism is too complex to have evolved, it might also be too complex to have been created"

All ID proponents empty blather on “intelligent design”, notwithstanding, they still haven’t produced the “goods” to warrant our taking it any more seriously than a lame, half-assed Sunday school tract for kindergarteners. That means first establishing a base of facts and evidence unique to itself. Then, formulating testable predictions which can be made – and that turn out to be more accurate than those of naturalistic evolution.

But I'm willing to even make it easier on the ID'ers and creationists. Instead of demanding all the above, let me just ask them THREE measly little questions which, if they can't answer, they fail the course:

1) What are the necessary conditions for your Designer-Creator to operate?

2) What are the sufficient conditions for your Designer-Creator to operate?

3) Assuming both (1) and (2) are valid explain why this entity didn't create any life on Mars?

After all, IF it really is "divine" then piddling little issues like lack of water, or oxygen should not pose an insurmountable problem they would for evolution? Or, are you admitting your Creator is limited in its abilities? (Thus, it can operate on Earth where water, O2 are present, but not on Mars - or any other planet - where they're absent.)

Inquiring minds wish to know!

More Quantum Mechanics: The Schrodinger Equation

German physicist Erwin Schrodinger, developed the equation that goes by his name ca. 1926.

In this blog, we change gears from the political, environmental and religious issues and go back to physics, to look at more quantum mechanics (QM). Although I did examine the Schrodinger equation and its applications earlier: e.g., it helps to look into it at a more basic level, in terms of its own internal "mechanics" and fundamentals. This will incorporate some elements not covered in the more advanced treatment, including how the DE itself is obtained from first principles.

The Schrodinger equation was developed by Erwin Schrodinger around the same time (1926) that Werner Heisenberg developed his matrix wave mechanics. Both are ways to analyze quantum dynamics for assorted simple systems (square well, assorted barriers, 3D-box etc.) and processes, but the first caught on much more than the latter. Why? Probably the chief reason is that Schrodinger's version relies on plain old differential equations, as opposed to the more obscure matrices of Heisenberg. Thus, since most advanced physics students also have taken DEs, they are able to much more easily follow and arrive at the solutions. See, e.g.:

And my other blogs to do with DEs:

These will definitely help to refresh readers' perspectives before delving into this blog.

We begin by writing the general equation for a progressive wave U:

U = A exp{2πi(Kx - ft)}

where K the wave number is equal to 1/L (L = wavelength), x is the displacement (1-dimensional for simplicity), and f is the frequency. Meanwhile, for standing waves such as would be expected in many quantum applications:

U = A sin 2πKx exp(-2πift)

In either case (standing or traveling waves) U varies with x for a particular value of t in such a way as to satisfy the simple harmonic equation:

d^2U/dx^2 + 4π^2 K^2 U = 0

Which can be verified by direct differentiation (left to the industrious reader). If a field is present, so that the potential energy V(x) of an electron varies with x, K will be a function of x too. Based on the experiments from electron diffraction, one has:

K = p/h = m(e)v /h

where h is Planck's constant, and m(e) is the electron mass and v the electron velocity. Then:

K^2 = m(e)^2v^2/ h^2 = 2 m(e)(W - V)/ h^2

where W is the total energy of each electron so (W - V) is the kinetic energy, i.e.

W = V + [m(e)v^2/2] = V + KE

so: KE = W - V = [m(e)v^2/2], so:

2 m(e)(W - V) = [m(e)v^2]

Then: m(e)^2v^2/ h^2 = 2 m(e)(W - V)/ h^2

Now, substituting this last (for K^2) into the SHM equation, we obtain:

d^2U/dx^2 + 8π^2 m(e)/h^2 {W - V(x)}U = 0

And this is none other than one form (the 1D) of the Schrodinger equation.

Illustrating some basic properties of this DE is straightforward. The best approach is to apply it tos a specific case for which some parameters are known. Consider then an electron of charge e, moving in an electric field, E.

The electric force F(E) acting is: F(E) = eE

The potential energy V(x) is obtained from:

dV(x)/dx = F(E)


dV(x) = F(E)dx

and integrating both sides:

V(x) = F(E) x = eE x

The beauty of this is that the same argument can apply to any equation of the form:

d^2U/dx^2 + F(x) U = 0

where F(x) is some known function.

Another interesting facet of the Schrodinger equation refers to the superposition aspect.

If we start, say, with two different initial conditions, to obtain two waves:

U = U1(x)

and U = U2(x)

Then ALL solutions of the given Schrodinger wave equation are of the form:

U = A U1(x) + BU2(x)

Next: Determining specific values of the constants: A, and B for a specific simple system.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Unrecognizable Planet by 2050?

In his sobering article, ‘Thoughts on Long-Term Energy Supplies: Scientists and the Silent Lie’, Albert Bartlett (Physics Today, July 2004, p. 53) pinpointed the failure to name human population growth as the major cause of our energy and resource problems. Bartlett averred that “their (scientists’) general reticence stems from the fact that it is politically incorrect or unpopular to argue for stabilization of population – at least in the U.S. Or perhaps scientists are uncomfortable stepping outside their specialized areas of expertise”.

Whatever the reason, Bartlett argued it was equivalent to perpetuating a “silent lie”, a term derived from a Mark Twain quote:

"Almost all lies are acts, and speech has no part in them…I am speaking of the lie of silent assertion: we can tell it without saying a word.”

At least recently, however, more scientists have been bold enough to toss the cat amongst the pigeons, and try to wake people up. In a previous blog:

for example, I noted that the current commodities cost pressures are not due to speculators alone, but that population pressure also feeds into them. One of the best indicators for this is provided by the Global Footpoint Network, at:

According to this site, we currently need not one but one and one half EARTHS to sustain our current rate of consumption. This means it requires on average 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the resources humanity uses in one year! Thus, even if the estimate is high, with current growth rates we'll soon reach the actual limits defined and dictated by this number - which means a tipping point and crash. See also:

The argument here is that this spike in critical commodities - contrary to the economic pro-growth mongers, is telling us we need to halt or reduce our growth or we'll all be for the high jump. The only other alternative, based on the excess footprint numbers, is we need to find another planet - at least half the size of Earth- and FAST!

Now as if to reinforce this, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has called for more funding for global family planning initiatives to stem population growth, especially in the developing world, as well as reforms to food production practices.

As the global population surpasses 7 billion this year (some experts expect that figure will surge to 9 billion by 2050, but other say 10 billion) and standards of living supposedly rise, natural resources continue to diminish. All this conspires to put additional pressures on a global ecosystem already buckling under the weight of human consumption. According to scientists at the annual meeting of the AAAS, the confluence of precipitous demographic and environmental factors amount to a massive ecological bubble; one that, should it burst, could lead to catastrophe.

According to the World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay:

"To feed [everyone] we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000. By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable."

This statement to me also explodes the myth that some economists have circulated that: "Average worldwide income is expected triple over the next 40 years. And in developing nations that figure could jump 500 percent."

This is totally preposterous on the face of it. First, the African nations, e.g. Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Congo...with the most accelerating populations (and highest proportions of the young) can't even find jobs for 50% of the existing demographic, far less provide a context for future income increases of "500 percent".

Besides, why would that ever occur anyway? If one has a vast downgraded sector that is unemployed and some elite sector with 500% greater income, there is no way the latter will be able to live safe, and quality lives given they will face perpetual predation: robbery, rape and murder every day from the have-nots.

Further, a large surplus population (in a particular country, say Nigeria) acts as a brake on wages and benefits, as well as keeping the hoi polloi in place. (Since there will always be more people than jobs). This is also useful in further consolidating an already incipient inequality as in the U.S., since employment can't even keep up with the rate of population increase (about 150,000 per month). Thus, destabilizing pressures inevitably caused by a too large excess population leads to an entrenched unemployed (estimated to currently be over 25 million in the U.S. if all are properly counted) which certainly is not conducive to a higher standard of living. Worse, as population pressures and size increase, more use is made of existing resources and this leads to their degradation. (Visit a national park near you if you think I'm exaggerating. Or better, don't!)

A truly rational nation, with the collective nation's welfare at heart, would not plump for more bodies - to desecrate watersheds, spew out CO2, pollute the air and add trillions of tonnes of waste each year... increasing all manner of woes. Instead, it would be allowing perhaps 1 child per family, and then taxing each addition to the same extent "tax breaks" are currently dispensed. (At least $1000 in extra tax burden for each child) This would instill in would-be parents the warning not to over-breed. Or you will pay a price.

Personally, I'd go for a $10k tax increase per extra kid, but that would have about zero chance of seeing the light of day. The late, noted science writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov- in various essays written over decades- warned repeatedly of severe constraints on humanity’s use of resources, particularly in terms of how population growth impinges on finite resources and sets limits to growth. Isaac Asimov was probably also the first to use the term “carrying capacity” which he estimated to be 3 billion humans for this limited world.

Asimov warned that humans had two choices: decrease their population to the carrying capacity limit to live in an equilibrium with the Earth and its resources, or let nature “increase the human death rate” (e.g. by starvation, pestilence, wars over resources etc.)

This brings us to the next aspect of the pie-in-in the-sky future prognostications: the dwindling resource base simply won't support any increase in income for most people in a 9-billion (or more likely, 10 -billion) populated world. The reason is that it is natural resources which provide the base to support production and prosperity. As they dwindle (see the link on commodities pressures) their prices will soar and so will the fuel (still fossil fuel, like coal, or oil) to produce them. Thus, diminishing returns must set in. Sure you MIGHT earn 500% more in Ghana, but oil will also be 500% higher in cost, as will food, so you gain nada. You are as poor as you ever were because the resource base has dwindled in proportion. This is what most dopey economists- not to mention pro-population Pollyannas- refuse to grasp.

Indeed, they have only barely begun to append costs to the "externalities" (grasslands, wetlands, lakes and rivers, forests etc.) they'd previously ignored. Which was one major reason the costs of many products (e.g. furniture) were much much less than they should have been, say had the natural resource (forest trees) value been reckoned in as a repository for absorbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse warming gas. But now that those resources have markedly been reduced, any honest appraisal of their cost would make it much much higher in proportion to the degree to which the resource base has diminished. Thus, if there are seven times fewer forests (by total area) now than in 1970, the cost of furniture must be seven times higher even factoring in inflation. Thus, that nicely furnished cabinet should now cost you more than $5,500.

The same thing applies to all other products. Even if economists don't take this into account, the speculators certainly will, and hence will drive up commodities costs to reflect it - as they are now doing with food crops - threatening more food riots, such as we saw in 2008.

The bottom line is that humans, like it or not, can't escape harsh reality. Either humans must cut their numbers and drastically, or be prepared to inhabit a nightmare world of profound scarcity in 2050: barely any oil, even to drive a car around the block (I predict most cars will either be in junkyards or museums as Peak Oil hits), no cooking fuel, little wood for fires, and hardly any fish (tuna will be long gone as will cod, as the AAAS also predicts). Meats like steaks, pork chops? Dream on! Only the elite wealthy be able to afford them, if they can even get them! As for medicines, hardly any - as the dearth of petrol will make production of many meds impossible. Anti-biotics? All useless as bacteria will have developed resistance because of our overuse (e.g. in poultry and cattle to try to add additional weight).

Water? So rare (at least in potable form) it will compete with the cost of oil, and that will likely be at over $40 a gallon! 500% increase in income? Well, you better have at least that or forget about making ends meet! Prefer to get your own H2O from streams, rivers, etc.? Good luck - and just be sure you have plenty of meds to treat the typhoid, cryptosporidium, amoebic dysentery and cholera you will get!

Debt? If you think today's deficits are "exploding" wait until you behold those in 2050! 5000% of GDP anyone?

We simply can't afford more people - and indeed, ought to be doing everything to reduce the numbers to at least a theoretical carrying capacity load. Instead of waiting for our numbers to overshoot existing resources and crash back to that base number, minus any control. The conscious tailoring back would be the sign of an intelligent species that's able to confront its own plundering, consumptive dynamic.

The blind allowance of continuing population growth, and inevitable natural resource dearth is the sign of a dumbass loser species. Just think: Technological advances and economic liberalization have apparently opened a whole new world of opportunity for billions who only decades ago would have been abandoned to extreme poverty. Then, wouldn't you know it? Thomas Malthus rears his ugly head, and his warnings of the dangers of population growth are like a post-historic Hydra.

This time, we'd damned well pay attention or be prepared to write our species' epiitaph.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Wisconsin's Unions MUST Prevail!

The Wisconsin showdown continues: there's more at stake here than most Americans realize.

As defined by its inventor (Benito Mussolini) fascism is "corporate control of the state." We already have had a marginal version since the Supreme Court's 'Citizens United' ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash in any campaign. We saw the effect it had in the 2010-midterms, with millions of folks brainwashed by the media's and Tea Party's clarion calls for "fiscal rectitude" to vote against the Dems, and we've seen the results in Wisconsin and other states (Florida, Ohio et al.).

The SC ruling also left the unions enabled to spend what they needed to as well, and since union power is critical to Dem success then any abatement of it means the Ds lose. Now, with Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker forcing retrenchment of union collective bargaining power, this may be only the beginning. This is because part of Walker's agenda is also to eviscerate Wisconsin unions of their dues which means limiting their money to put toward campaigns. In effect, corporations will then be able to outspend unions to their hearts' content.

If other states then follow, say if the Walker legislation is finally passed (and the quorum reached) we will be well on our way to the "Corporate Slave States of Amerikka" with virtually no worker rights at all, and the corporations able to do anything they want: Limit workers to one bathroom trip per day? Not a problem! Make workers work overtime for five hours each day with no extra pay (time and a half)? Not a frickin' problem. Make workers submit to drug and alcohol tests every day or week? Not a problem! Make workers take benefit cuts or work on weekends with zero effective pay increases? Not a problem!

Think this is a fantasy? Think again! All one need do in order to get a reality check is to vet past history and how workers' rights have been retrenched over the past 50 years, and how this accelerated after Ronnie Reagan broke the back of the air traffic controllers.

In case some have short memories, I enumerate a number of the major losses to workers, or what I call "worker marginalization", below:

1) Cutting employee benefits, i.e. health plans - even after employees have retired with them.

2) Cutting wages either de facto, or through making employees pay for their own health insurance plans, etc.

3) Firing/downsizing workers just before their retirement dates, so the company is free not to have to pay full (or any) retirement plan benefits, as per contract clauses.

4) Firing - downsizing workers after mergers (often dictated by Wall Street interests, investment banks) in order to enhance a company' profits through higher Wall Street share prices.

5) Identifying older (over 40) workers as 'surplus' so that they can be replaced with younger workers for whom half the wages (or less) can be paid, with fewer benefits. (A 1997 California Appellate ruling stated that companies are allowed to do this 'for economic reasons', setting a devastating and diabolical precedent).

6) Eliminating nearly all permanent jobs which carry health, pension benefits, in favor of using 'temping', 'outsourcing' or some other device not requiring benefits. On the academic (university) front, using 'adjunct' professors, hired on a per hour, per course basis, without benefits. And with no possibility of 'tenure'.

7) Eliminating all defined pension plans and replacing them with "401ks" with workers required to save their own money for retirement rather than depend on a company.

The general effect of these incremental moves has been to create a vast disaffected and marginalized worker population - not only among those who've been the target of the above actions- but for those left behind entirely. In other words, a disastrous residual climate, along with a demolished morale, provides a fertile seed ground for intimidation, economic terror by corporations, and weakening of democracy overall.

Even as this dismemberment was ongoing, reducing the average corporate or private worker to the level of an indentured servant or serf (see: ‘The Judas Economy- The Triumph of Capital and The Betrayal of Work’, 1997, Addison-Wesley) the lone light shining in an otherwise dim tunnel were the public unions. At least THEIR workers, although they often had to make concessions in pay hikes and benefits, retained their basic health care and pensions, as well as collective bargaining power.

The hope at the time, around 1990-91, was that the public unions might serve as a spur and incentive to leverage back benefits and pay for the private workers, and re-unionize as many as poossible. Thus, the impetus was to RAISE the foundering private workers to the benefits levels of the Public workers. It was not to demolish the public unions and reduce them to the level of corporate serfs.

So what the hell happened?

A number of factors (including enhanced mobile capital), but mainly two:

1) The rise of Wall Street Investment Banks and with them a yen to cut workers and either do with fewer (for the same job) or move operations to another cheaper nation, such as Mexico.

2) The increased ease of moving whole companies to countries without labor protections, or unions - such as India and China - and then paying those workers at one tenth or less the rates of U.S. workers

As an example of (1) we had the dozens of employees downsized in 1996 by 'Chainsaw' Al Dunlap at Sunbeam, while their jobs were moved to Mexico. Rather than keep paying the Sunbeam workers a decent wage (of about $12 /hour) and benefits, Chainsaw Al opted to have the work done in Mexico - based in impoverished favelas with barely any running, potable water, for less than $1 an hour. Wall Street loved it, and market shares soared.

As an example of (2) we've now seen more than 42 major companies move their operations to India and China. Both Cisco and GE, for example, have installed billion dollar central facilities in India to lure workers. Meanwhile, U.S. labor is left empty-handed as major corporations continue to sit on more than $1 trillion in cash rather than create more jobs ni the U.S.

Into this dispiriting situation, we then saw injected the GOP yen to lacerate labor even more, somewhat like kicking a man when he's down.

The rest, as they say, has been history, culminating in the news that now barely 17% of the American population belongs to unions, and the negative perception of public union workers has nearly exceeded those of the bankers that brought on the sub-prime mortgage mess. This alone is nothing sort of astounding! The Bankers and credit insurers (e.g. AIG) got nearly $1 trillion in bailout money to keep on keeping on and all the unions have are a few precious benefits in their pensions and healthcare!

But it shows how the wealthy and especially the corporate media empires like Rupert Murdoch's FOX, have managed to brainwash so many into believing what they want them to believe.

Here's the skinny that most FOX watchers may not relish: Unless you are one of the top 2% in wealth, being anti-union is just shooting yourself in the foot. Corporations with non-union workers can push all of them and all Americans, into a race to the bottom. No job security, no wage protection, no benefits, and no safety regulations so if you happen to get maimed on the job, you are the one having to pay the costs!

In other words, force you to work at the level of your primary competition: some Indian in Bangalore, or a Chinese worker in Beijing! What's not to love? The corporations make profits hand over fist while tossing a few sops to the workers, mainly just enough so they don't starve to death or keel over. Ever heard of Mauthausen Concentration Camp?

Well, what the corporations want - in a world without unions - is damned near the equivalent! Without unions, you see, they needn't worry over paying out any of their profits for pensions or healthcare. They needn't worry about ensuring new workers have "benevolent" conditions that include regular bathroom breaks or even trips to the water cooler. (In one Maryland case, a corporation limited its workers to one four ounce glass of water per 8 hours to limit bathroom trips! Just like the Nazis, eh! But minus any rights or bargaining power for workers, this sort of dictate is a fait accompli!)

Of course, you can always move to Malaysia if you want to join a Third World work force or you can help to create one in America, if you don't join in to support labor unions. Because if unions disappear, it's open season on the job rights on all Americans, union or not. Sadly, most Americans are way too dumb to get this.

Let's also get this through people's heads that Walker's intended mischief is NOT about money! The Wisconsin Unions have already compromised on that score and agreed to pay more for benefits' and hence accept wage cuts. But Walker still isn't satisfied! He wants the union collective bargaining scaled down to nearly trivial standards (maybe applying for a pay raise just less than inflation, and that must be approved by state referendum).

So no, Walker is about destroying the unions as they exist, not mending economic or budget fences- also stupid considering he passed a $140 million tax cut to the state's richest! State employees in Wisconsin have already taken UNPAID furloughs for the last two years. They have been aware that the present general emergency would require them to contribute more in terms of pensions and health care.

THAT'S NOT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. It's about Walker attempting to strip unions of their right to negotiate working conditions, to negotiate anything except "wages." Which can then be taken away as "benefits" are reduced even further whenever the Reep party guv wants.

The un-American Right, as always, is attempting to lie and distort the truth about what's happening in Wisconsin. Why? Because they know that the Right can't win based on the truth. Public-sector unions arose after private sector unions had won large gains in wages and benefits for the private sector workforce. People with crappy government jobs were never going to have the pay and benefits of workers for major corporations like General Motors or AT&T, but at least they could count on private sector support to form their own unions, and try to get some facsimile of prosperity.

Of course, following the trends and dynamics I noted earlier ((1) and (2)), unionism is a dead letter in the private sector now. The working class has become the working poor, and the middle class is becoming intimately familiar with economic insecurities and anxieties that were once foreign to them. Meanwhile, instead of turning on the corporations and lawmakers (as well as Supreme Court) that incepted this, the private sector workers turn on their fellow public sector workers like rabid rats turn on their own and cannibalize them.

What the fuck's wrong with this picture?

Well, ask the poor, marginalized private workers who now have to beg for bathroom breaks or just to get a refill of water! From their vantage point, those crappy government jobs don't look so bad anymore. A secure job where you can actually get up to 2 weeks sick leave and 10 holiday weeks a year, with health insurance and a pension plan now appears to be an outlier compared with the commonly-available employment of the former middle class. The public employees say, "Hey, I'm not gettin' rich down at the schoolhouse/police station/sewage treatment plant," but their steady 3-5% raises times 30 years have their private sector counterparts sucking wind.

But whose fault is that? It's not the public sector's! Rather the private workers ought to have actively organized more to preserve their own unions! They ought to have been energized to demonstrate like the public workers and even go on strike. Your enemies are the politicians and corporations who denuded you of your private sector unions, not the few remaining unionized employees. Your enemies are the folks who shipped your manufacturing and even high tech jobs overseas looking for cheaper labor. The solution to this horrid situation is not to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator, but to dethrone the big fat elephant laughing at all the warring ant tribes under his foot. Get it? Or don't you see that rich corporate banker laughing his ass off at you while you go after the very sector that might have a hand in saving your miserable hide?

Meanwhile, whenever I do tune in to FOX (O'Reilly, Hannity) or Rush Limbaugh (to see what they're saying) it strikes me how much hate and venom exist for state workers and teachers. It's just an echo of what you hear every day, as on Limbaugh's radio show: right wing talkers selling fear and hate. Meanwhile, the entire state of Wisconsin is dominated by right wing corporate media and that's where people get their ideas and information, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they hate unions and government in general.

Meanwhile, private sector workers continue to be pissed at anyone who has it better than they do, but they fail to go after the true culprits. After all, they had their pensions stolen and converted to 401K's for a fraction of their original worth. Then they wonder why they need to pay increased taxes to make up for past abuses by elected officials who decided they didn't need to continue to pay into retirement funds. The problem isn't the Unions. They bargained in good faith. The problem is the elected officials (like Walker) who aren't held accountable either for under-funding public pensions for years, including spending pension money, or who invested it instead in the risky sub-prime mortgages that nearly brought the whole country down.

To show how far off the beam some brainjacked idiots are, we have this comment from "JaaZee' on

"The average teacher in Wisconsin makes 134% of the salary of the average worker in Wisconsin

The average teacher in Wisconsin receives 15 weeks of vacation per year

After 3 years of teaching a teacher is eligible for tenure!
How many people in the private sector would jump at the opportunity to be a teacher in Wisconsin? In what industry does a worker get lifetime "tenure" after three years on the job

But again, this is like me blaming my neighbor because he kept his home in good shape while I let mine go to shit. It isn't HIS fault that my home is in shit shape: it's mine for sitting on my butt and not doing anything to maintain it! In the same way, private sector workers have only themselves to blame for allowing all their rights, wages, benefits to be scaled back instead of fighting for them like the public union teachers did! And, speaking as a former teacher, our illustrious idiot commentator forgets that once teachers get home their work doesn't end like his. They then have to mark homework and other papers which may take the better part of a night! As for those holiday breaks, you can toss in educational seminars and special subject study sessions, or working as outside examiners. My typical summer break barely lasted one week of total free time, if that. Often I'd conduct teacher workshops in physics, math and astronomy.

When will Americans pull their heads out of their asses on this? Maybe never, but we can still hope the attention to this Wisconsin showdown will be a start! And in the aftermath at least our sane citizens (and those with IQs over room temperature) will finally appreciate the value of trade unions to any hope of a future American democracy - as opposed to a serf-based Corporatocracy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time to Acknowledge a Sick Brother, and Extend well-Wishes!

Well, I usually check Pastor Mike's blog, and was surprised this morning to see his latest post recounted his admission to the ER (at the hospital where he works). This also explains, however, the lack of blogs since Feb. 9, where he usually at least has one up per day.

I would have liked it better if he'd actually found a way to email me (like he did our middle brother, Jerry) but seems I am more on the outs with him than in, perhaps because I often actively blog against his stances - wherein he attacks other folks, religions, beliefs or non-beliefs. Call it a brother thing, or maybe it's just some dynamic that plays out between the two of us.

Anyway, time now to at least put these differences behind for now, and so I am putting up this Blog 'Get Well' card which I know he'll see as he checks this blog, like I do his.

My hope is that this latest incident serves as a reminder that life is too short to continue these internecine sibling battles over....whatever.....religion, god belief, the Bible. I am not asking him to be my "friend" here, since in earlier posts he's made it clear born again biblical folk don't make friends, even with siblings - if those latter are perceived to be unsaved types.

But - since I happen to know (according to Mike's definition) that Jerry is one of those unsaved types too, I'd at least expect Mike would normalize his sibling relationship with me on the same level as Jerry. (Resuming email contact, etc..) I will even lay off him in any manner of blog attacks, criticisms, etc. if he can manage that.

We will see. Anyway, for what it's worth, Mike, I am thinking about you and DO hope you return to health in the very near future ...whether that means more blog religious wars and scuffles, or some semblance of peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The School Voucher Scam: When Will Politicos Wake Up?

The push for school vouchers by the Political Right never seems to end, and even now as they prepare to cut nutrition programs for poor kids (nixing school meals in public schools), the Repuke House is on a drive to allocate more millions for new voucher efforts. Thus, 'Crybaby John Boehner', one of the original co-sponsors of a D.C. voucher scheme in 2004, now is pushing to re-authorize it on the backs of poor, malnourished black kids from public schools.

This follows $14 million already allocated to “the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program” which provides tuition vouchers of up to $7,500 per kid. Though limited to the District of Columbia, the plan has had great PR value as it allows the pro-voucher contingent to point to Congress own backyard as evidence for the need for school choice in other places.

The D.C. plan was pitched as a five year ‘experiment’ and pushed through a divided congress in 2004. The plan thankfully expired in 2009 but Barack Obama allowed current participating students to continue receiving vouchers (at taxpayers’ expense) until they graduate. However, no new students will be accepted.

This is just as well because every dollar extracted from taxpayers for vouchers means less to fund public schools. Instead of pouring millions into voucher systems (which tactics I believe violate the separation of Church and state since most voucher schools are religious) that money could be going toward improvements in our public schools. Just think then, how much difference that $14 million could have made to D.C. public schools.

And what of the plan’s efficacy? Has it delivered on its promises? In fact, studies of the plan have disclosed it hasn’t lived up to the hype. A final study commissioned by the U.S. Dept. of Education found that voucher-funded students did not better than non-participants. The plan’s main benefit has been to prop up failing Roman Catholic schools in the district that would otherwise have closed.

Nor was the plan popular with District residents and it cost incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty his job. So why are Bozos like Boehner trying to appropriate more monies for this farce of a voucher scheme when it's already been shown to be of minimal value? Well, for the same reason he's bloviating about having pushed through $61 billion in cuts, to everything from educational support, to heating supplies to poor seniors and funding for food safety: it serves the 'cut the public sector' aspirations of the rich bastards his party serves.

What we must be aware of, as thinking citizens, is that a large part of the voucher agenda is pushed onto communities via tailored propaganda - as well as deep pockets. (Much like the whole "Tea Party" itself is subsidized by the deep pockets of the Koch brothers, who must rest smugly knowing they've found so many millions of useful idiots to run interference in the courts of public opinion for them.)

For example, much of the pro-voucher propaganda is run under the banner of "choice" and designed to tug at heart strings of the susceptible "middle" or moderate voters, who seldom invest as much time as partisans into deep politics. I.e. looking behind the veil of who funds what and to whose benefit it accrues.

Thus, in Washington, D.C., a front group for vouchers calling itself "D.C. Parents for School Choice" inevitably drags hurtful, wide-eyed children to rallies, congressional hearings and other assorted political dog and pony shows as useful props. As for deep pockets, last year The Heritage Foundation (the same ones who've offered to pay any scientist $10,000 apiece for anti-global warming articles) even bankrolled a series of ads on Washington's mass rail system featuring kids demanding vouchers. Naturally, most of this crap is more anti-public school than it is pro-voucher (some of the ads even avoid the word 'voucher' entirely, relying on the usual euphemisms, 'choice', 'scholarships' etc.)

The propaganda even comes in the form of more or less mainstream films (documentaries)such as "Waiting for Superman", which attacks public schools as a massive failure while it celebrates charter schools. As scholar Diane Ravitch has pointed out, the film is not above its own cognitive dissonance, i.e. in simultaneously arguing public schools don't need money while praising a D.C. charter school called SEED that spends $35,000 per student! Obviously if THAT much money is spent per student, then most any public school can be converted to become another Brooklyn Technical High School, or Air Academy High (from Colorado Springs) or Centennial High, from Ellicott City, MD. All exceptional, with high standards, and each spending around $35,000/yr. per student!

Ravitch, in an essay appearing in The New York Review of Books, asked:

"Is our society prepared to to open boarding schools for tens of thousands of inner city students and pay what it costs to copy the SEED program?"

And, delivering the coup de grace:

"Those who claim that better education for the neediest students won't require more money cannot use the SEED case to support their argument."

Indeed, because to do so invites the 'One True Scotsman' fallacy and the de facto admission of prejudice against public schools per se, when all public schools can't be put under the same umbrella.

The two main forces behind vouchers appear to be:

1) Religious enablers and proselytizers, looking for ways to circumvent Supreme Court rulings to keep religion out of public schools

2) Libertarians who want to privatize as many functions of government as possible, including education.

Both are wrong, and both are misleading voters with their slick ad campaigns and come-ons.

Here are a number of reasons that vouchers are just plain wrong:

1)They undermine religious liberty:

The vast majority of private schools (to which vouchers are applied) are run by religious groups, especially Catholic parochial systems. Over 80% of students attending private schools are enrolled in religious institutions and most of these actively seek to indoctrinate as well as educate.

In other words, vouchers force Americans (even secular) to pay taxes to support religion. This can never be right, as Thomas Jefferson once put it:

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." --Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:545

2) Vouchers Divert Public Money to Unaccountable Private Schools:

In effect, school vouchers are little more than a backdoor means for the government to subsidize religion. As noted earlier, those Catholic schools in D.C. would likely have gone the way of the dodo had Boehner and his Buffoons not pushed through their D.C. voucher scheme at a cost of $14 million.

Further, under most voucher bills, private schools can take taxpayer monies and still deny admission for any student they choose. Private schools are also free to impose religious criteria on teachers and staff, thus it is highly unlikely any atheist would ever be hired to "teach the other side".

3) Vouchers Violate Many State Constitutional Provisions:

Voucher advocates often overlook that STATE provisions often more explicitly bar taxpayer money from funding religious schools than comparable federal laws. While "state's rights" assumptions often obscure this, those who are anti-voucher can make hay by familiarizing themselves with their state's constitution.

4) Voters Generally Do Not Support Vouchers.

Whenever given the opportunity to actually vote on voucher proposals or bills, Americans have repeatedly expressed opposition. Since 1967, voters in 23 states have rejected vouchers and other forms of tax aid to religious schools at the ballot box.

5) Vouchers Do Not Improve Academic Performance.

Which was already evident in the case of the D.C. Voucher program I cited earlier. Further, in mulitiple other further studies that ranged from the D.C. schools, to those in Milwaukee and Cleveland, it was found the targeted population (enrolled in private schools via vouchers) did not perform better in reading and math than those in public schools.

Vouchers, in other words, are a waste of time and money and a subversive attempt to make end runs around established case law regarding the separation of Church and State.

They ought to be outlawed in every state. If public schools need better quality materials, resources and teachers, then let us fund them (WITH HIGHER INCOME TAXES,)not just property taxes! The latter are a bad idea because: a) the property taxes collected can vary from year to year depending on home values, and b) property taxes are only applied to home owners, not renters. If we did this we be more in line with other nations (e.g. Singapore) that offer quality education.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

SIDs and Generating Flares: Ramping Up Again!

SIDs recorded from assorted distinct generating flares (denoted by flare class) over Feb. 18.

SIDs (Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances) and the flares that generate them appear to be on the increase again as solar cycle 24 continues toward maximum. The latest news: the fast-growing sunspot complex 1161-1162 erupted on Feb. 18th, producing an M6.6-class solar flare. The almost-X category blast was one of the strongest flares in 4 years and continued the week-long trend of high solar activity. NOAA forecasters estimate a 75% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours.

Any time such flares erupt they are almost certainly likely to spawn "SID flares", or which I first defined in my 1983 research as "SID-generating flares" which appear to be associated with a particular (complex) morphology of sunspots. In addition, this translates into much more powerful and energetic aurorae over larger geographical areas as the auroral oval (see graphic) expands. See the papers:


As the flares occur, highly ionizing radiation also rushes toward our planet at the speed of light, reaching it in about 8 1/3 minutes. Subsequently, waves of ionization ripple through Earth's upper atmosphere in response to the onslaught of solar flares. This affects the propagation of radio signals--suppressing some frequencies and boosting others. By monitoring distant transmitters at a frequency of 23.4 kHz, Rudolf Slosiar of Bojnice, Slovakia detected nearly a dozen sudden ionospheric disturbances (SIDs) on Feb. 18th, as seen in the accompanying graph.

In my original paper (Solar Phys., 1983, Vol. 88, p. 137) I noted that the theoretical basis for these flares (like normal H-alpha optical flares)is likely the rapid release of free magnetic energy (MFE) in major active regions that has been accumulated during the shearing of the associated force-free field.a force -free field is one for which the conditions apply:

1) Curl B = alpha (B)

2) (B*grad) alpha = 0

where alpha is a scale factor, and B the magnetic induction.More fundamentally, the force-free assumption reuqires that we have for the Lorentz force:

J X B = 0

where J is the current density. Thus, the current density is essentially parallel to the magnetic induction.

Typically for plasma regions in which this holds, one finds that the plasma beta:

Beta (much less) than (B^2/ 2u_o)/ (0.5 rho v^2)

where u_o = magnetic permeability, rho = plasma density, v = fluid velocity.

where the numerator is the magnetic energy density and the denominator the kinetic energy density, then it means the behavior is dominated by the former.

The result of this is that the plasma's effects can be separated from those of the magnetic field making a full and detailed MHD (magneto-hydrodynamic) description unnecessary.

Once all these conditions hold, the stage is set for the triggering of the flare. This may occur by any number of immediate causes, including impact of a Moreton wave (google it!) with the magnetically stressed arcade or loop, or the sudden emergence of new magnetic flux in the existing region, or perhaps a kink instability unique to the loop.

To transform specifically into an SID flare (and recall 'SID' means sudden ionospheric disturbance) the emitted soft x-ray flux needs to surpass the threshold of: 2 x 10^-3 erg cm^-2 s^-1. (A nice exercise here is for you to be able to convert these units to J m^2 s^-1!). This was pointed out in my original paper.

My paper was mostly concerned with D-region ionizing flares, which generate SIDs in the form of: SWFs, or shortwave fadeouts (as the words imply actual fadeouts of high frequency radio waves occurring at the same time as the flare), SPAs, or sudden phase anomalies, generally caused by hard x-rays in the 0.5Å - 8Å band that engender a reduction in the reflection height for the incoming waves, and SEA or sudden enhancement of atmospherics- specifically, enhanced intensity of VLF or very low frequency waves.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ON WISCONSIN! Don't Let the Repuke Fascists Prevail!

As a former Wisconsinite, and inhabitant of the great city of Milwaukee (which featured a number of Socialist Mayors, including Emil Seidl and Frank Zeidler) it pains me no end to behold what's going on now in my birth state. What we have is the spectacle of a newly installed Repuke governor, Scott Walker, attempting to balance the state's budget on the backs of workers order to give more tax cuts to the state's wealthiest. This cannot be allowed!

Already protestors have occupied the State House in Madison, the capital, and thousands of teachers and other union workers are on strike, as Walker threatens to restore order by hunting down vacated Dem legislators and siccing the National Guard on protesting citizens.

Make no mistake this is a brazen attempt to not only disenfranshise workers of their collective bargaining rights (so it will go the way of pathetic Florida - which has had de-balled unions since 1963) but also split the vast middle and working classes- pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

This is why it must not be allowed to happen, and instead, Wisconsin show other states the template to use for confronting similar cost-slashing tactics.

As for Walker's National Guard threats, this hearkens back to the dark days in this country (around the middle of the last century) when corporations hired goons to bust unions and also enlisted military and other surveillance in their nefarious plans.

With enormous leaps in worker (Union) power, culminating in the achievement of the 40-hour week in the 1940s, the proto-fascist Corporate State began to feel itself under siege. Somehow a means had to be found to dilute the power of unions and, if possible, eliminate them entirely.

Unions largely were for the goal of representing the person and workers' rights. To prevent child labor, to make sure working conditions and remuneration were reasonable, and the work site as free from harmful and deleterious conditions as feasible. The trouble was that all such concessions were overly costly to the corporate state. In actual fact, the appearance of unionization threatened to level the playing field of capital, and make a more equal ownership possible, between corporate 'super-persons' (as declared in the 1886 Santa Clara decision by the then Supreme court) and ordinary flesh and blood persons.

This equalization of capital ownership was something the corporations couldn't tolerate. They didn't want to shrink the working week to 40 hours, for example, because that would inflate the cost of their capital. They'd need to hire more workers, at the same or higher wages, to maintain the same production levels- thereby lowering available capital. Much better to have fewer slaves.....errrr ...workers...and pound them for 60-70 hours at a time with the same low wage rate.

The same rationale applied to paying overtime for weekends or after hours work, or using millions of dollars to render a workplace safe. Or shelling out health or pension benefits. Or ceasing to use child workers where it suited their needs. In each of these, the dilution of capital threatened the corporation's hegemony and existence. (In its own perceptions.)

With this in mind, programs and strategies began to unfold that thwarted the aims and progress of unions. But a security apparatus had to first be formed that would accomplish several objectives:

i) Track and monitor all union and/or anti-corporate activity

ii) Maintain dossiers on all individuals workers - particularly union members and sympathizers

iii) Implement a unified strategy to penalize these individuals, by excluding them from the workforce.

To accomplish these goals, the American Security Council was formed. As a (much later) article in The Washington Post observed (1/8/79, p C1):

"It has been called 'The Cold War Campus' and 'The Heart of the Military-Industrial Complex'"

The origins of the ASC begin almost at the apex of Trade Union power in the United States, after Army and business surveillance of workers became linked in common cause (Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, The New Right and The Republican Party, South End Press, Boston, 1991, page 30):

"the ASC is not just the representative of the military-industrial complex, it is the personification of the military-industrial began in Chicago in 1955, staffed primarily by former FBI agents. In its first year it was called the Mid-American Research Library. Corporations joined to take advantage of what former FBI agent William Turner described as ...'a dossier system modeled after the FBI's, which was intended to weed out employees and prospective employees deemed disloyal to the free enterprise system..

Although the ASC began as an anti-labor operation with support from Sears, and other businesses, it soon became involved in foreign policy issues. It co-sponsored a series of annual meetings from 1955 to 1961 called National Military-Industrial Conferences in which elements of the Pentagon, National Security Council, and organizations linked to the CIA discussed cold war strategy with leaders of many large corporations, such as United Fruit, Standard Oil, Honeywell, U.S. Steel, and of course, Sears Roebuck"

What we see then is that Walker's tactics aren't novel. With the rise of trade unionism, a virulent merger of interests began to metastasize - bringing in corporate, military and intelligence interests for suppression of the rights of workers, while placing all workers in increasingly compromised positions by virtue of steady and aggressive surveillance. (Jensen, J.M.: Army Surveillance in America: 1775-1980, Chapter 7: Watching the Workers, Yale University Press, 1991. )

This reached its culmination in corporate America by the mid-1990s with special technology to monitor computer keystrokes, and installation of video cameras behind mirrors in various places, i.e. restrooms, storage rooms, lunch rooms or even in light fixtures above toilet stalls. Some managers have even been known to carry concealed micro-video recorders, i.e. mounted on tie pins, to record employees words and actions during critical discussions.

Throughout corridors, the movement and facial expressions of employees can be rigorously tracked using other hidden cameras inside other fixtures, such as 'Exit' signs. Digital records can also be made, and kept in employee files, along with comments regarding the expressions, or perceived behaviors at the time observed, i.e.:

"Displays overt hostile demeanor, and shifty eyes, suggest increased surveillance..."

"Displays passive-aggressive behavior and tendencies, recommend more complete monitoring...."

In point of fact, the American worker - once he enters the hallowed halls of a Corporation, is never alone. What's more, the employee foregoes all rights, including free speech. (Say, like responding in a positive manner to this post, and your employer picks it up) In a 1994 decision, 'Waters vs. Churchill', the Supreme Court made clear:

" that an employee's speech is not protected."

- if the Corporation perceives the speech "detracts from effective operations."

Now, the Fascist Scott Walker wants to complete the process and render public workers total serfs without any power at all, even as he guts their pay and benefits - demanding they take an effective 15% pay cut to pay for their own benefits! This means a worker earning $44,000 a year will now, after taxes, bring home barely $28,000 and won't likely be able to make rent anymore - especially as food prices are exploding through the roof because of commodities increases (made worse by this idiot country still persisting in burning corn to get ethanol!)

Wisconsinites must fight until the last dog is hung! They can't let this neo-Confederate reverse Carpetbagger destroy the state and its unions!

Did the Bible Turn a Boy Wrestler into a Wimp & Wussie?

Cassy Herkelman is declared the first female winner of an Iowa state Tournament match after the boy she was to face cops out on "faith" grounds. Gimme a break!

Imagine a star wrestler who racks up a 35-4 record and is on his way to one of the best seasons ever, including being Iowa State Champion. Imagine then making it to the Iowa state championships and then....get this ....choosing to "default" to a girl wrestler because his religion (or Bible) told him to do so!

This is what transpired with Joel Northrup who refused to face off against Cassy Herkelman (not exactly a behemoth - as the photo shows) who is a freshman from Cedar Falls and one of the first of only two girls to qualify in the 85-year history of the tournament.

The tragedy of all this, is that such a talented girl (in the 112 lb. weight class) was denied the golden chance to strut her stuff and show her talents in parlaying a 25-13 record. Despite that, the boy's default put Cassy's name in the record book as the first girl ever to win an Iowa state match.

The boy issued a statement through his school proclaiming "tremendous respect" for Herkelman, but also adding:

"Wrestling is a combat sport and it can violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe it is appropriate fore a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports arenas."

But this is bollocks, because more and more girls ARE entering those arenas- thanks to the Title IX regulations- and this includes sports such as wrestling, baseball and football.

It's just a damned shame this kid invokes a religious excuse to wuss out. What? Is he afraid of getting pinned by this girl? That's what it sounds like!

What I'd like to know is where in the Bible (any Bible, including KJV) it says that a man can't confront a woman, or male confront a female, in a sport. I'd also like to know on what "faith" basis a boy is permitted to turn tail and run from a match, using religion as fallguy or crutch. And also how he gets away with merely a "default" and not full forfeit.

It is sad that as bible-bull and nonsense ramps up we can expect to see more and more of these sorry excuses to escape accountability. Here was the chance for Northrup to stand tall, and despite the uncomfortable situation, face it like a man- or at least an honor-bound male. Sorry, Joel, but escaping the match by using this sort of religious excuse isn't honorable and isn't enough to make us proud of you - at least many of us.

There will be or might be another chance for Joel to face Cassy, if both were to make the finals in the consolation bracket. (Since because Joel defaulted and didn't forfeit he's allowed to compete in the consolation rounds).

If that happens, let's hope that next time Joel mans up, and doesn't wuss out with more faith excuses and rationalizations.