Thursday, March 31, 2011

Demos, DO NOT Appease the Repukes!!

Well, it's getting down to crunch time once more, what with a possible federal government shutdown eight days away, and you can tell the politicos are getting anzty. At least the D-prefixed ones, who - from the latest news- appear just about ready to sell out their balls, brains, spines (what's left of them) and remaining nerves, to try and appease the Repukes so that the latter won't demand too much more budget cutting into the federal bone...or, god forbid...risk a full shutdown. Good luck on that, you wussies and suckers!

Bottom line here is these bastards don't care. As we saw with Obama's earlier efforts (in 2009) to appease them and win some friends on the other side, all they do is take and never give. The word "cooperation" simply isn't in their lexicon. So why be prepared to sacrifice the store for them? A man, or MEN, would instead let the government shut down, that is - play the game of 'chicken' all the way through to the end. The reason? The re-piggies are betting their asses off that the Dems will fold like cheap tents instead of going to the mat!

What do we find on tap from these latter day Caspar Milquetoasts? According to the news, based on "secret talks" held between Sen. Harry Reid (aka, 'Dirty Harry II', minus the .44 magnum) and John Boner, Boehner, the Senate Dems are prepared to:

- Accept Republican-backed curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency to disallow them from applying greenhouse gas controlling regs

- Accept similar Republican-backed limits on new FDA food safety oversight (so you don't have to consume too much E.Coli or rat turds in your burgers)

The first appeasement on the EPA issue will also block that agency from issuing or enforcing new regs on the emission of mercury from cement factories, or limiting pollution into Chesapeake Bay, as well as overseeing surface coal mining (which contaminates water with carcinogens) and runoff of chemical crap into Florida waters.

Note here that enforcing the food safety regs (to make sure we all don't get salmonella from the next peanut, spinach or tomato, doesn't even come to 75 million bucks. But rather than protect the public, and eliminate a stupid costly "Air Brigade" (to cost $0.75 BILLION) at Ft. Carson, CO, they'd rather be penny -wise and pound foolish. Put the entire U.S. population at risk for food illness, rather than have the gumption, balls and guts to pull the plug on a chopper brigade that will benefit only one community (a mainly repuke one at that!). Yet the two CO state Demo Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, are all for it!

It is sad, terribly sad, when politics trumps the general welfare to this extent. This, however, is exactly why this country is quickly becoming totally ungovernable. Everything is about party and the consolidation of party politics over national interest. Even the Dems, so cowardly in their moves, aren't aware of what they're doing nor do they realize that what they're giving away is but one step in further appeasement!

Greenspan Still Doesn't Get It

Think back to 2006-early 2008 and recall how the financial mess that unfolded later in '08 came to be. We beheld Alan Greenspan having held interest rates to next to nil levels for years (providing cheap money for speculators to fuel a huge asset bubble) while peddling the disastrous instruments known as ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages) which along with the subprime mortgages nearly destroyed this country's financial system.

By the Fall of 2008, the word finally began to emerge of the little horrors hidden in banking ledgers, hitherto unknown to the sleeping public. Chris Wolf, hedge fund operator, quoted in FORTUNE, October 7, wrote:

"This has become essentially the dark matter of the financial universe..."

comparing it to the dark matter discovered in astrophysics. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley derivatives salesman (Frank Partnoy) quoted in FORTUNE (ibid.) wrote:

""The big problem is there are so many public companies- banks and corporations, and no one really knows how much exposure they have to CDS (credit default swap) contracts"

A short time later, The Financial Times, in a major headline ('Index Points to Record Default Threat', p. 13, Dec. 2) continued to warn of the unfolding crisis in CDS or "credit default swaps". By now the politicos were finally aboard, racing to try to get a bank bailout ready, just in case. Massive bank failures were not an option, but the error was in letting banks escape with minimal accountability.

Within a week of the FT article, alarm bells should have been ringing like Japanese Tsunami warning sirens as the Mrkit iTraxx Crossover index rose over 1000 basis points for the first time since its creation and meanwhile, in the U.S., the main credit default swaps indicator (for 125 companies) rose to 271 basis points. Some of the world's leading investment grade companies now looked to be in danger of default according to CDS prices.

Meanwhile, investment banks - including regular commercial banks that had been acting as such- were holding nearly $55 trillion in worthless paper bonds. Caught sleeping, the credit rating agencies like AIG and Moody's, now realized that these "side bet" engineered bonds were barely worth one-hundredth of their claimed worth. The banks, acting with next to nothing capital ratio (the ratio of actual holdings in cash reserves, to their obligations) had bought these things (called credit default swaps) like crack cocaine.

Now, nearly two years after a potentially calamitous financial collapse, what do we find? Well, one of the key progenitors is aggressively defending attempts to regulate the tactics, including the leverage strategies, which incepted it! In an article written in yesterday's Financial Times ('How Dodd-Frank Fails to Meet the Test of Our Times') Alan Greenspan claims the putative regulators are just too dumb to oversee complex istruments. According to this wizened gnome:

"The problem is that regulators can never get more than a glimpse at the workings of the simplest financial system"

He then adds a few paragraphs later:

"In the most regulated financial markets, the overwhelming set of intersections is never visible"

The gist of his dubious argument therefore appears to be that it's just too hard to regulate today's global economy. Greenspan failed, or rather, to use his own words, was "caught flat-footed" by the crisis, and therefore so will all future regulators. Though Greenspan has always been known for being a man of few words (mostly too dense to parse), this analysis and predictable interlocution will go down in history as one of the greatest examples of purposefully idiotic misdirection of all time.

Contrary to Greenspan's BS, I would submit that the problem here is not the simple-mindedness and inablity of the regulators, but rather inadequate budgetary support for the necessary numbers to accomplish oversight to the standards needed. In addition, as we detect from Greenspan's comment on "the overwhelming set of intersections", the financial instruments being used today are simply overly complex. This brings up the issue of: WHY are they so complex?

WHY is it necessary then, to create instruments using David X. Li’s Gaussian copula formula? This formula, for the benefit of financial novices, provided the effective operational basis for the concatenation and intertwining of relatively innocuous securities (with high bond ratings) with 'toxic waste' in the form of the sub-prime mortgage securities via credit derivatives. (Again, for those who don’t know, derivatives were invented by physicists who had migrated to finance and based their creation on the concept of the mathematical derivative, e.g. dy/dx, such that a minute fractional incremental variation in one variable (dy) generates a corresponding change in another (dx).)

Li's formula provided the facile enabling mechanism and basis to accomplish millions of financial "intersections" with little oversight because the obscure mathematics was generally not well understood by the investment banks (like Lehman’s) that offered the spuriously blended instruments. For that reason, not one in a thousand financial regulators would have been au fait with it either. (Hell, most advanced mathematicians aren't familiar with it!) Thus, Greenspan's argument here is disingenuous!

Li's formula, as well as current 12-dimensional vector state space gimmicks (to apply to a new breed of derivatives) are EXACTLY THE PROBLEM! Their sole intent is to obfuscate, confuse and bamboozle with bullshit so avid buyers (including banks) to whom these things are peddled, will stupidly just scarf them up if they believe a profit can be made!

The solution goes even beyond what the Dodd-Frank law demands (which is basically to enhance capital ratios, i.e. lower the leveraging capacity of banks. It is to simplify all financial instruments across the board to make them fully transparent to all potential buyers. That may mean putting ten thousand former physicists and mathematicians out of work, but it's preferable to allowing them to continue inventing obscure devices in their etheral realms that will make the next financial catastrophe ten thousand times worse. My point? Physicists ought to find better things to do with their time and energy than to abet and enable speculators!

To that end, I'd also ultimately recommend banning all these complex derivatives, or placing them under the exclusive scrutiny of regulators with the mathematical abilities and qualifications of the physicists ("quants") who had invented them in the first place! Thus, with ample pay, they could ensure the total protection and oversight needed. Until these post-quant regulators are in the mix, no further sales of obscure instruments are permitted.

Following that, I'd also advocate re-instating the Glass-Steagall regulation from 1935, which repeal (in 1999) had opened the way for commercial banks to act like invesment banks. That law, which previously separated the investment banks from deposit taking banks, is needed now more than ever to keep commercial banks doing what they were designed for: taking deposits! Canada never went down the CDS gambler path and they didn't experience the meltdown we did.

What to do in the meantime? Clearly, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker had the answers with his 'Volcker rule'! Described in The Financial Times (Feb 15, 2009, 'Goldman Faces Stark Choice on Volcker Rule'), the banks would either have to make do with no "proprietary trading" (such as in the risky derivatives market) or they cease to be afforded the protection of the government, including the Federal Reserve - which entails giving up federal deposit insurance protection, as well as any Federal Reserve bail outs for misguided moves. As Volcker put it, quoted in the FT piece:

"Don't expect the support you would get from being a bank within the club of insured deposits, and access to the Federal Reserve and all the loving attention you get as a banking organization"

In the meantime, until the rule is imposed:

1- All CDS pricing and volume need to be made public

2- All OTC (over-the-counter) derivatives need to be centrally cleared. This will lead to proper margin payments to all parties.

Elements of these are already in Dodd-Frank, and hence there exists some protection to avert a massive credit meltdown on the scale that preceded the 2008 financial crisis. Thus, no one knew the price of any given credit default swap, and counter party risk (for those holding them) went to astronomical proportions, leading to hundreds of banks holding worthless paper, causing them to essentially cease all lending transactions.

What we can't do now is allow turkeys like Greenspan (or more recently Jamie Dimon, of J.P. Morgan Chase, complaining in today's FT about Dodd-Frank's higher capital ratio demands) to lead us all down the primrose path again. Even if the bankers refuse to protect themselves from a potential torches and pitchfork -wielding public (if another collapse ensues) we have to step in and do it for them, for the interest and welfare of the commonweal.

As for Greenspan's cynically invoking Adam Smith, e.g.

"Today's competitive markets, whether we seek to recognize it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' that is irredeemably opaque"

Should also remember the following words of Smith from his Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations:

"What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole"

Maybe both Greenspan and Dimon need to go back to school, a la Rodney Dangerfield.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Introduction to Basic Electrodynamics (3): The Hall Effect

Before getting into Hall current electrodynamics, we begin with some unit vector basics. Along each axes one can define unit vectors: x^, y^ and z^. Then the respective multiplications (by vector directions) yield: x^*y^ = z^, and y^*z^ = x^ and x^*z^ = y^. These rules will always apply for a right handed coordinate system.

Thus, a vector cross product given by: A X B, must always have the directions attached by means of vectors, e.g.:

A(x^) x B(y^) = (A X B) (z^) = C(z^)

Now, as depicted in the accompanying diagram, consider a slab of conducting material through which a current I flows as shown (in direction x^) so that I = I(x^). We consider in turn the effect on positive and negative charge carriers, after having attached the coordinate system x, y, z and thence we specify (in addition to the current I(x^):

The magnetic induction: B = B(y^)

The velocity: v = v(-x^)

(Since the velocity of actual charges is opposite to the direction of conventional current flow)

The magnetic force (F = qvB) acting on a unit (+) charge deflects it toward the upper face, resulting in the accumulation of + charges there, and negative (-) charges on the bottom face.

Expressing the force with appropriate directions:

F(z^) = q v(-x^) x B(y^)

The opposite accumulation of charge (+ to bottom, - to top) gives rise to an electrical force that counteracts the magnetic. Eventually equilibrium occurs when:

Eq = qvB

At this point:

E = V_H/ t

Where V_H is the Hall potential difference.


(V_H/ t) q = qvB

Or, by directions:

qE(-z^) = q vB(z^)

or V_H = Bvt

The drift velocity can be found from the basic definition of the current:

I = ne v A

Where A is the area A = Lw (length x width of box)

n = number density of charges (per cubic meter)

e = unit of electronic charge = 1.6 x 10^-19 C

Solving for v:

V = I / neLw

Therefore, the Hall potential difference is:

V_H = B{I/neLw} t = BI/ new

Example Problem:

If the magnetic induction B = 1.0 T, and a rectangular slab of material (such as shown) is for copper, with n = 10^29 /m^3, find the Hall current if I = 10A, and the width of the slab is 0.001 m.

V_H = BI/ new

= (1.0T) (10 A)/ {10^29/m^3)(1.6 x 10^-19 C) (0.001m)}

V_H = 0.6 mV

Problem for ambitious and energized readers:

The diagram for this problem (lower graphic) shows a slab of silver with dimensions: z1 = 2 cm, y1 = 1mm, carrying 200 A of current in the +x^ direction. The uniform B-field has a magnitude of 1.5 Tesla. If there are 7.4 x 10^28 free electrons per cubic meter. Find:

a)The electron drift velocity

b)The magnitude and direction of the E-field due to the Hall Effect

c)The magnitude of the Hall EMF.

Billy Graham Repents his Political Involvement

Sometimes it's never too late to repent, as the evangelicals themselves often proclaim. Repent stirring up ethnic and religious hatreds, repent having a pride that dwarfs all human sensibility, and repent an "odious sanctimony and judgmentalism" to use the words of one Brit expat (and evangelical gadfly) I chanced meeting at an invited cocktail party at the British High Commissioner's in Barbados 29 years ago.

According to Matthew 22:21: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. This advice from Yeshua, more than 2,000 years ago, was meant to instill in his followers that to be with him and embrace the principles of love and tolerance he espoused, they needed to shun political investments and attachments. It would not do to get oneself muddied in the political arena while supposedly following one’s spiritual leader. (Note again: my citation of this doesn’t make me a ‘hypocrite’ because I hold the bible to critical skepticism, only that when I cite such texts I am holding a mirror to the Christians who’re supposed to follow their own leader’s words!)

Well, at least Billy Graham seems to finally be following his master's advice! (As I say, better late than never!) According to an interview with the magazine 'Christianity Today' in January, Graham was asked if he had any regrets over his long career. He replied that he'd wished he'd have spent more time with his family, then added:

"I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line and I wouldn't do that now."

By that he meant, going WAAAAAAYYY over to Caesar's side to the extent of even disparaging those of other (non-Christian) faiths. Though in many ways this can be seen in the context of monumental evangelical arrogance, and believing they have all the answers in the universe, Graham regretted it. Especially after becoming Richard Nixon's informal White House advisor. Graham actually became so involved that he dashed off memos on how to run the campaign.

In 2002, very uncomplimentary audio recordings of Graham and Nixon in the White House surfaced. When Graham mentioned having a meeting with the editors of TIME, H.R. Haldeman, then Nixon's top gun, advised:

"You meet with all their editors, you better take your Jewish beanie!"

Graham laughed and responded:

"Is that right? I don't know any of them now."

Nixon was then caught on tape in an anti-Semitic tirade saying:

"Newsweek is totally, it's all by Jews and dominated by them in their editorial pages. The New York Times, The Washington Post...totally Jewish too."

Nixon after a pause then continues:

"You believe that?"

"Yes, sir!" Graham said, to which Nixon replied:

"Oh boy, so do I! I can't ever say that but boy I believe it!"

Graham is then heard to remark:

"No, but if you get elected a second time, we might be able to do something"

We may never know what that "something" might be, but only hope he didn't have in mind forced conversion or Christian baptisms! The good news is that Nixon had to resign as impeachment proceedings forced him out as his role in the Watergate conspiracy came to light.

Graham apologized in 2002 for his remarks, and has moved on toward an apolitical stance since. It is clear that his son ought to have done so too, as opposed to likely making all his father's same errors.

The bottom line is that ALL religious leaders need to remove themselves from the political arena. Stop harassing voters about this or that law, or trying to insinuate a theocratic state and punishments like the Taliban. It does you no good! Learn to live and let live, rather than impose your will (fundies always say it's "God's will", but in truth it's THEIRS!). If a government approves legislation, whether that be for abortion, or same sex marriage, or new taxes on religions, or whatever...accept it gracefully, as opposed to carrying on like some half-crazed crusaders. Also, you may want to recall the old adage: "You always attract more flies with honey than with vinegar".

Reprehensible Birther Racism Must Stop!

Let's not be coy here, or pretend that our eyes deceive us: the Birther segment of the Tea Party Idiots (that is, most of them) are out and out racists. Their continued yelping and whining for Obama to prove he's American is none other than a contemptible, thinly disguised racist ploy - little different from that used in Florida's Duval County in November, 2000, when black voters at the polls were required to prove they weren't felons. (Since Fla. Secretary of State Katherine Harris had deliberately listed nearly 57,000 of them on Choicepoint Felons' Rolls. See, e.g. 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy', Chapter One, by Greg Palast.)

The latest disgusting tactic is compliments of a retired Air Force Colonel named Gregory Hollister, of Colorado Springs. According to this imp, he may be retired but since he can still be called to "active duty" as long as he lives (I'm trying to imagine a 99 year old geezer in his fly suit) then he has to know that the one who orders him off to duty is truly a Commander- in-Chief, in other words, born 'n bred American.

To which I reply: Horse shit! This, like other Birther excuses, is merely another subterfuge to conceal a base racism at work: to wit, that none of these morons can tolerate a black man as their President. Because they can't admit that to themselves, for whatever reason, they invent horse shit distractions, like Obama having not really been born in the U.S. of A., or actually being a Muslim, not a Christian, or having a "Socialist" agenda.

Hollister, according to a blog cited by The Colorado Springs Gazette ('Birther Gets Blogs Buzzing', p. 1A, today) "falsely impersonated President Obama, improperly registered his own address as President Obama's address, and by this false impersonation and identity theft obtained a duplicate (draft) registration acknowledgement card with President Obama's Selective Service information on it" (according to a blogger at last week)

By Hollister's claim in The Gazette, a private investigator (Susan Daniels of Ohio), provided him with what was purported to be the President's Social Security number. If indeed this is true, and moreover laws permit garnering someone's SS number so easily, then we need MUCH stricter laws to eliminate this identity theft loophole. Because make no mistake here, once anyone has your SS Number they have the pick key to your identity and all your other information. This is why European nations zealously protect their own citizens and are so strict with critical information and prohibit its buying or selling. Be this as it may, it doesn't exculpate Hollister for impersonating a federal official! If he really believes he's done nothing illegal he's a bigger idiot than even most of his tea bagger-birther brethren with their room temperature IQs.

The vast cohort of cloaked racist, tea bagger idiots (a new Gallup poll shows 51% of Repukes are in this category), claim that Obama was born in Indonesia or Kenya and the birth certificate offered online by Hawaiian authorities (showing he was born in Honolulu) is a forgery. Thus, being born outside the U.S. makes him ineligible to hold the office of the President.

Now, is it truly feasible that none of these closet racists knows or understands the grilling one receives before he can even submit election papers, for any high office? If one has undergone a background check for a federal position, he has some clue. One of the basics is that FBI agents call on anyone who knows you to find out any aberrant thing they can, that includes whether your birth disqualifies you from holding a federal office.

If the tea bagger birthers don't know that, then they're either: a) grossly ignorant and uneducated, or b) stupid. At the very least they all ought to sign themselves in to the nearest psych ward to be administered ECT for several times each week, preferably while in straight jackets. These people (and I include Donald Trump in this, if in fact he's mutated to Birther-ism) have no business walking around outside.

The fact Hollister already has had a birther case pre-empted by the U.S. Supreme Court (they refused, on Jan. 16, to hear the lawsuit he brought- even without a response from the White House) shows how clueless he is, not to mention the other birthers.

It's time Birthers and other Obama Haters, retired or otherwise, ex-military or ex-nutcase, get a life and start doing something constructive with their time as opposed to waging an insane and futile battle agianst the nation's first black President - using the excuse he "wasn't born in the country".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thanks to Judge Jones, ID Still on Ropes after 5 Years

It's now five years and counting since Judge John Jones III rendered his momentous decision in the now famous Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District case. This legal battle attracted intense media scrutiny, maybe as much as the Scopes trial in its day, but fortunately for empirical science and reason the outcome was radically different.

As readers may recall, it had been the first time a court would determine whether "intelligent design" (ID) could be taught in public classrooms. Proponents of ID, energized by misbegotten "creationists" adopting a new spin game, argued ID could be taught so long as they didn't identify the designer as God. (What the hell else would it be, a freaking alien? Oh wait! Most fundies don't believe in them!)

Fortunately, Judge Jones recognized the import from early on and realized his ground breaking decision would be a template and serve as precedent for many future cases. This meant he had to get it right and he didn't disappoint! In his 139 -page decision he laid the formidable groundwork, for what remains as the only guiding legal precedent on the teaching of ID in public schools. Jones, in an interview, acknowledged that he prepared his extensive decision not just for the case in Dover, DE, but to lay out the basis for other judges who may not be as knowledgeable or have access to the educational resources he did.

In his opinion, Jones forcefully struck down the argument that the ID crowd had a right to teach it, reaffirming that its hidden intent was religious proselytization (since no honest ID'er would claim the designer was other than a god) and hence violated the separation of church and state implicit in the First Amendment. By now, five years since, it's clear Jones' decision provided the science community new momentum to ramp up instruction on evolution and thereby tender a powerful antidote to the mental poison of ID.

According to Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science education:

"The science community is now much more attuned to why individual scientists as well as their representative science societies, have to take an interest in local education issues"

It's also clear that scientific groups now recognize that teacher training is the keep to keeping one step ahead of the battle. In 2006, to assist in this, a new journal appeared:'Evolution, Education and Outreach', spefically aimed at K-12 teachers. Meanwhile, science departments across the country have improved their methods for teaching evolution - since if educated people don't understand it, there's nothing to counter the anti-evolutionists.

This is just as well, since some states (mainly in the Old Confederacy) have gone so far down the path to ignorance, they may be beyond salvage. One example is Texas, where an ultra -conservative band of morons in 2008-09 sought to approve new science curriculum standards requiring students be taught "the strengths and weaknesses of evolution" - buzz words for instruction that opens the door to fundamentalist Christian "Young Earth/dinos roamed with humans" jabberwocky. But what can you expect of Tex-Ass?

The latest tactic the Discovery Institute is employing (they're the primary backers and confectionists for ID) is to promote "academic freedom" laws such as one recently signed by Louisiana's little termite gubernator, Bobby Jindal. The same squeaky little obfuscator that delivered a "reply" to Obama's State of the Union last year. But teaching ID as a "supplement" to evolution is no kind of academic "freedom" unless you include the freedom to be an uneducated moron.

The generic error, whether it's for ID or its preecessor creationism, is the assumption that there's an order to the universe, and hence a designer must be responsible for its origin. This is total nonsense. The opposition has arisen not merely from logical arguments and biology, but from experiments and observations in quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and cosmology. Both physicists and biologists, for example, now recognize many systems in which order and complex activity can emerge spontaneously. This leads the dispassionate observer to dispense with any notion of "hidden design" that transcends empirical science.

A biological example, based on in-vitro experimental studies of cancer tumors, is the individual tumor cell. The cell appears as a fluctuation, able to develop by replication.

A cosmological example is the instantaneous formation of the universe by a quantum fluctuation. In his definitive paper, `Universe Before Planck Time - A Quantum Gravity Model', in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756, T. Padmanabhan uses as a time coordinate hyperboloids of constant distance, inside the light cone of a point in de Sitter space. The point itself, and its light cone, are the big bang of the Friedmann model, where the scale factor goes to zero. But they are not singular. Instead, the spacetime continues through the light cone to a region beyond. It is this region that deserves the name, the pre -big bang scenario. It is also this basis that provides the model for the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation that arises when one treats the conformal part of space-time as a quantum variable.

Thus, groups that continue to labor under erroneous assumptions of causality and "order" demonstrate a near universal ignorance of modern physics. For example, an ignorance of the fact that simultaneous measurements at the atomic level are fundamentally indeterminate.

This extends to modern cosmology as well. In cosmological terms, the whole concept of "order" has been relegated to a minor and tiny niche of the extant cosmos. For example, the recent balloon-borne Boomerang and MAXIMA UV measurements to do with Type I a supernovae, have disclosed a cosmic content:

7% - ordinary visible matter

93% - dark component, of which:

- 70% is DARK (vacuum) energy and
- 23% is dark matter

In effect, 93% of the universe can't even be assessed for "order" since it can't be seen. In the case of dark matter, one can only discern its presence indirectly by the visible effects on neighboring matter. In the case of dark energy, the underlying physical basis isn't even known - though we know the result is an increase in the acceleration of the universe (arising from a cosmic repulsion attributed to dark energy).

Again, to be clear, if most of the universe is disorderly, or dark-energy-matter then "order" is a non-starter. You can't make a predominantly orderly cosmos from an entity that's dark and irregular, like you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

Indeed, by current assessment - and discounting plasma abundance-one may reckon that rudimentary order is evident in barely 0.0000001% of the cosmos. And this can all be explained or accounted for by appeal to scientific reasoning or hypotheses. For example, the nebular hypothesis, whereby the original solar nebula progressively collapsed under the force of gravitational attraction, can account for the formation of the solar system.

Let us hope that the impetus from Judge Jones' decision continues, and keep the ID crowd and their dishonest purveyors on their back feet indefinitely!

Military Bullshit Spending Must Stop!

A crowd in D.C. protests against possible Social Security cuts. It is the military which ought to take the brunt of all cuts, now and in the future!
According to today's Denver Post, budget slicing efforts aimed at raising the Medicare eligible age will have vast cost repercussions across the board. Those costs will affect not only younger Medicare beneficiaries (mainly of the 65-66 age range if the eligibility age is increased to 67) but also employers - who will have to pay much higher insurance costs to cover elder employeers still waiting to get Medicare.

Of course, their most expeditious move will simply be to not hire those in that age range, adding to an already mestastasizing age discrimination background. But there is an easier way to solve this nation's budget morass, and it's not contingent on doing it on the backs of the senior population, via Medicare age increases, or Social Security cuts. The best way is to slice the Pentagon's annual military-defense budget by at least one half. Right now, it amounts to nearly $730 billion a year, minus the smoke and mirrors accounting they use, which includes not counting "supplementals" in the main budget and using Social Security monies to disguise the excesses. This is bullshit!

The Pentagon has offered to cull $78 billion over five years or so - and this is also bullshit- as it's a drop in the proverbial bucket. At least twenty times that could be cut over the next five years, and the U.S. would still be spending more on military - defense crap than the next twenty nations combined. Yet what do we find? Even in the midst of such dire budget pressures, the Pentagon is set to award Fort Carson, CO an Aircraft Brigade (according to an 'informal heads up' conveyed to Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Doug Lamborn), replete with 113 choppers, including Apaches and Kiowas, along with a 2,700 man deployment. Total cost? $1 BILLION! FOR WHAT????

The brigade is supposed to arrive in 2013, but the U.S. - along with the NATO allies - is supposed to be pulling out all operations from Afghanistan by 2014. Tell me how this computes. The basis offered by Carson talking heads and their military industrial political lackeys eager for the government tax teats is that "the helicopters are essential for combat operations such as in Afghanistan". But for what, for how long? ONE MORE YEAR? And if more than that, where the hell is the money to support that going to come from? This is stark raving plain insane!

There is NO justification to add one damned skyhook balloon to Carson, far less a chopper brigade, not in these parlous budget times! The only possible reason is to provide pork barrel spending to an already hyper-addicted military community which is so top-heavy with installations (and soldiers, the largest contingent since WWII) that no private employers want any part of it.

Let's look at this more closely, the overall perspective, of why the military-industrial complex is bleeding this country into oblivion.

First, currently there are over 1.4 million Americans on active duty and another 833,000 are in the reserves. Another 1.6 million Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils - the "industrial" part of the militay-industrial complex so to speak. ALL of this is paid for by U.S. tax dollars - now by proportion, 58 cents of every tax dollar- at least half of which could be going to shore up Medicare and Social Security as the baby boomer onslaught emerges.

Second, the expenses - whether via taxes or on communities - don't end there. Consider all the hospital bills that must be paid for tens of thousands of wounded vets. Some will never work again because of their injuries (especially to the brain) and hence must rely on tax dollars for the rest of their lives- figure at least $2 million each for a brain-injured 20 -year old. Where the fuck is this money going to come from when the bond rating agencies (like Moody's) already have the U.S. of A. in their crosshairs?

In addition, factor in the hundreds of retired military officers who receive entitlements galore all courtesy of the tax payers, which is money that could be used for meaningful employment for younger Americans. This is critical because surveying the data shows fewer jobs are created through military spending than through civilian spending, because military spending is capital intensive. For every $1 billion of tax money, 25,000 military jobs can be created but that can't compare with 47,000 health care civvie jobs for the same $$. A total mismatch!

Instead of pissing down $750 million million for base construction at Fort Carson on a stupid, redundant "Aviation brigade", think of what that money could do invested in repairing Colorado's crumbling infrastructure, including thousands of miles of rusting, century old sewer lines in Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, as well as the roads now cratering from rockfalls and differential heating-cooling. While at most 2,100 civilian jobs might be created at Carson to build the chopper support infrastructure, most of that will go to private contractors who already have an 'in' with the military.

Meanwhile, the same money invested in pure civilian infrastructure repair would hire over 3,500 people and mainly working or middle class. Where is the sense and balance? There is none, when this country is hostage to pork funding!

Tax money spent to create military jobs also creates more unemployment, since that economy (such as based in military-addicted communities like Colorado Springs, and Ft. Hood, TX) is so dependent on congressional allocations of monies.

Indeed, it's much worse than thought because those cities seldom see much of any troop spending as they use it all for PX fare, and when they do go outside the base, say to dine out, they're awarded with 'freebies' that come off the restaurants' or stores' profits. Meanwhile, the cities suck salt with low sales tax revenues.

How to pay for this outside the tax piggy bank provided by civvie taxpayers? Well one way is to sell weapons to other countries, and no surprise then that last year saw the U.S. peak in such arms sales at $40 billion (most to Africa and the Middle East)!

Instead of this insanity, as well as forming "chopper brigades" when the tax kitty is winding down to pay for them, we need to use taxpayer money to create jobs that edify people's lives. A place to start is to use half of those misspent defense funds (the Pentagon still can't account for $1.1 trillion it "lost" in 2000) to launch infrastructure repair jobs. We will stabilize our country's basic systems, including roads, bridges and water-sewer mains, which in the long run will mean much more than how many Apaches we deploy to Afghanistan to kill innocent bystanders and make us even more hated.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Electrodynamics solutions

We left off in Basic Electrodynamics with three problems, as follows:

1) A radio wave transmits 25 W/m^2 of power per uit area. A plane surface of area 2.4 m x 0.7 m is perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the wave. Calculate the radiation pressure P_R on the surface if it is assumed to be a perfect absorber.

2) An AM radio station broadcast isotropically with an average power of 4 kW. A dipole receiving antenna 65 cm long is located 4 miles from the transmitter. Find the Emf induced by this signal between the ends of the receiving antenna.

3) A community plans to build a solar power conversion station, i.e. to convert solar radiation into electrical power. They require 1 MW (megawatt) of power, and the final system is assumed to have an efficiency of 30% (30% of the solar energy incident on the surface is converted to electrical energy). What must be the effective area, A, of an assumed perfectly absorbing surface to be used in such an installation? Assume a constant solar energy flux incident of 1000 W/m^2.

Now, let's look at the solutions of each in turn:

1) The intensity of an EM wave is :

I = S (av) = c U(av) = P_R(A)

where the area A = 2.4 m x 0.7 m = 1.68 m^2 and P_R denotes the radiation pressure, or P_R = S/c (for complete absorption)

Now, S = Power/ area = (25 W/m^2)/ (1.68 m^2) = 14.88 W


P_R = S(av) / c = 14.88 W/ (3 x 10^8 m/s) = 3.3 x 10^-9 N/m^2

(2) We have: P(av) = 4 kw = 4 x 10^3 W

Assume spherical symmetry for area affected so area of the applicable spherical surface is:

A = 4 π r^2 r = 4 mi. = 6.44 x 10^3 m

Area = 4 π (6.44 x 10^3 m) ^2 = 8.09 x 10^4 m^2

Therefore the average Poynting vector associated with the transmission is:

S(av) = P(av)/ A = (4 x 10^3 kw)/ (8.1 x 10^4 m^2) = 7.7 x 10^-6 W/m^2

But recall:

S(av) = E(max)^2/ 2 u_o c Therefore, solving for E(max):

E(max) = [2S(av) u_o c]^½

Then: E(max)= [2(7.7 x 10^-6 W/m^2) (4 π x 10^-7 H/m)(3 x 10^8 m/s)]^½

E(max) = 7.6 x 10^-2 V/m

Then the emf induced in a 65 cm long (L =0.65m) antenna is:

Emf = E(max) L = (0.076 V/m) x (0.65m) = 0.049 Volts

(3) Assume: P(solar) = 10^3 W/m^2

But because efficiency is relevant we need P(in). Thus,

eff = P(out)/ P(in) = 0.3 = 1 MW/ P(in)

Where 1 MW = 10^6 watts is the desired energy to come out, or be produced.

To get this, the power we need to put in, is:

P(in) = P(out)/ eff = (10^6 w)/ 0.3 = 3.33 x 10^6 W


Area A = P(in)/ S = (3.33 x 10^6 W)/ (10^3 W/m^2)
= 3.33 x 10^3 m^2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hypatia: Victim of Christian Zealots

It was only recently, while viewing again Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' series, Episode I: 'The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean', that I encountered Hypatia of Alexandria, the first and most esteemed female astronomer and mathematician. Sagan presented her in conjunction with the great Library of Alexandria, containing a store of knowledge so vast that it rivaled the Lighthouse of Alexandria as a wonder of the ancient world.

As Sagan observed, had the works in that Library been preserved, as opposed to being lost (it was burnt to the ground by Christian Crusaders) we'd likely have already gone to the stars by now - as opposed to having to start all over again. By that I mean undergoing 700-plus years of 'Dark Ages' before science acquired its footing once more, starting with Copernicus.

Hypatia's story is bound up in many ways with the Library. As a Pagan and scholar, Hypatia taught the existing Aristotelian Physics, as well as the geometry of Euclid, while also teaching Neo-Platonist philosophy. Her students were often a polyglot mix of Egyptian pagans, Romans (who then occupied Alexandria) and Christians, including a few slaves.

Where did Hypatia acquire such formidable knowledge in an Age in which women were seldom seen or heard? (Even the well born). Most plausibly from her father Theon, who succeeded Euclid (some 600-odd years later) as professor mathematics at the Alexandria Museum, but which actually included the great Library and rooms for lecturing. In other words, the ancient counterpart of our modern university.

In one such demonstration, Hypatia is reputed to have dropped a number of objects to the ground then asked her students to explain the phenomenon, especially the fact all objects fell at the same rate. Governed by Aristotelian physics, she couldn't see that a force (in this case) gravity was responsible, but rather because Earth was the putative "center" of the cosmos, it pulled all objects toward its center.

Much later, after conducting many other of her own experiments (including dropping objects from the yardarms of moving ships) did she come to the conclusion that the Earth may not be the center but rather moved around the Sun. She also may have been the first to note the shape of the orbit had to be an ellipse, since the Sun's position on the horizon through the year wasn't uniform but assumed different degrees of azimuth for the rising and setting times on different dates. (See also my recent blogs on spherical astronomy).

Of course, at the time, this would have been regarded as rank heresy, especially among the Christians, for whom the geocentric cosmos was an article of faith. And if this was the sole "crime" of Hypatia, she might have become a martyr, but alas she was also trapped between warring political factions. On the one hand was her dear friend and prefect, Orestes, and on the other Cyril, the new Archbishop of Alexandria.

On his ascent, Cyril demanded the high profile pagans of the city come to the Christian temple, kneel, be baptized and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Orestes was brought to the Temple and a large crowd demanded he prostate himself but he refused. He realized if he did he'd have betrayed Hypatia. He was savagely beaten but managed to leave. Hypatia was close to Orestes and a rumour emerged that it was Hypatia's influence that prevented Orestes from accepting Cyril's spiritual direction and so becoming reconciled to the Church and accepting Christ as Savior.

This was reinforced when Cyril himself confronted her, and begged her to convert to salvation and Jesus, lest she lose her soul, and burn through eternity. He scolded her by saying it was a small thing, just a few words to profess a belief but its benefits for the city would be enormous. Hypatia refused, saying she had to question all beliefs, no matter from whence they came. This was what she did, it was who she was, and she wasn't about to change.

Coupled with the fact that Cyril's lackeys had observed her "devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, [who] beguiled many people through her satanic wiles, and the governor ... through her magic" it did not bode well. Somewhat later, as Hypatia was returning home, she was set upon by a crazed Christian mob and dragged into a church, where she was stripped naked and battered to death with roofing tiles, "and while she was still feebly twitching they beat her eyes out".

These self-righteous savages then tore her body limb from limb, and took her mangled remains out from the church, and burned them. This was the "punishment" she received for refusing to convert to their idiot tyrant god, so small and petulant it couldn't withstand the questioning mind of one frail human woman.

Is there a lesson in all this? You can believe it: that is, to ignore the rants, wails and whines of the preachy, proselytizing Christian morons - as well as their stupid threats- and continue to question ALL religions that demand one "become a mental slave to a tyrant" (to use the words of atheist Christopher Hitchens). As for Hypatia, she remains a model to all skeptics and unbelievers of how to conduct themselves in the face of insanity and the virus of beliefs gone wild.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The 'Case for Optimism' Balderdash!

Actually, I have no problem with optimists, once they keep their pie-eyed nonsense to themselves and don't seek to "convert" me, like some misguided fundies would like to do! There are much worse things than blinkered optimists, including drug addicts, drunkards, and brain-jacked religious fools.

My problem with optimists begins when they seek to publish their disjointed memes for a broad audience without providing all the facts.

Thus, the recent piece by Charles Kenny in TIME (March 29), 'Sweet Bird of Youth! The Case for Optimism' (p. 48). Kenny uses as his starting point the "demographic transition" - defined by economists as when populations move from high rates of fertility and mortality (women having lots of children, many of whom die young) to low birthrates and longer life expectancies. He then notes that Asia, Latin America and especially Africa are well into such a transition.

For example, in Egypt, the average age is 30. In some parts of sub-Sahara Africa it's even lower (e.g. 18) accounting for why so much violence and anarchy is occurring. Those excess young have nothing to do so become child soldiers for assorted movements, ready to shoot or rape at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, Kenny does succeed in making one sober point before veering off into La-la land. He writes:

"Traditionally, economists and political scientists viewed a youth bulge as a problem. As part of the rising number of mouths to feed and hands to emply, an army of youths would put pressure on wages and food supplies, potentially dragging developing world societies further into povery. And youth could all too quickly become a literal army - provoking unrest and civil war."

Alas, he quickly veers from that realistic assessment by writing "recent evidence tells a different story". He then cites work by David Bloom of Harvard (Who says that optimists can't pick and choose, as they cherrypick to feed their delusions?) that the "youth bulge can speed up economic development".

He argues that on this basis, "when a greater percentage of the total population is of working age then - other things being equal- one would expect income per person to be higher." But in fact, other things are seldom equal. Thus, in all those demographic transition nations, the respective youth bulges have generated enormous surplus labor pools - youths of working age all right, but with nothing to do and no prospects in sight. Hence, all the turmoil in the Middle East, from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Algeria to Libya and Yemen, as well as Syria.

Each of those nations, contrary to Kenny's pie-eyed visions, has a vast unemployed youth demographic which is no more than surplus labor and additional mouths to feed. With nothing to occupy them, and nothing to lose, they've turned their empty hours into revolutions. And there's no sign of it stopping.

Even Kenny, when he wipes the mist from his brain, is sober enough to acknowledge this:

"But there's nothing inevitable about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend. Benefits have to be earned. Without the right policies spurring education and job opportunities, they won't materialize. "

He then goes on to aver "the Middle East got education right" but that a "sclerotic private sector and hidebound institutions have failed to create sufficient jobs for graduates." Totally missing the boat that it is the sheer numbers of those graduates that has overhwhelmed all plausible job creation! Even if the private sector in Egypt was "non-sclerotic" and all its institutions worked overtime, there is no likelihood of finding enough jobs to emply even half the potential population needing them. The reason is simple: Egypt is and has been OVER-POPULATED!

This is what these part time Pollyannas can never absorb: if people reproduce beyond the rate at which even the most efficient economies can create jobs, there will always be more unemployed than getting the jobs. The same applies to food stuffs, and explains why 65% of Egypt's population is under nourished. The same reason, and the two factors go hand in hand. Why can't those like Kenny admit the culprit is over-population? Well, because they don't wish to give voice to the Malthusian specter hanging over us all!

As I noted in an earlier blog, the Global Footpoint Network, at:

shows that our entire planet, developed and undeveloped world, is on a total path of unsustainable existence. That is, 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! (At our population of 7 billion)

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:

None of this is acknowledged by dreamers like Kenny, who actually has the incredible audacity and stupidity to write:

"Falling mortality at a time of rising populations worldwide suggests even more good news: the global breakdown of the so-called Malthusian trap, which predicts that rising population will lead to increased poverty, famine and even war as limited resources are spread among ever more people."

But the problem is that the Malthusian trap is every bit as real as it was earlier: we simply haven't reached the tripping point yet! That is bound to occur since no population, not of ANY world - can consume the equivalent of 1.5 a planet's worth of stores each year and survive! THAT is common sense!

That Kenny brushes this off so lightly, either shows he's monumentally ignorant of the supply squeeze we're in, or he doesn't want to share it with his readers.

Last year, a lead investigative story on over-population in Mother Jones ('The Last Taboo', May-June, p.25) showed the Malthus forecasts aren't that far off at all and also the dire predictions of Paul Ehrlich ('The Population Bomb') may only be off by a generation, making Ehrlich a "premature prophet not a false one".

As I noted in an earlier blog, over population is real and a major threat. It underlies all our other problems from inadequate energy sources (making risky deep water drilling necessary) to global warming (more people generate more CO2), to inadequate potable water and scarcer foods. Readers who may not have seen the blog can link to it here:

At the comments end of the blog a number of naysayers shared their misgivings and I responded to each in turn, showing how and why they were wrong.

Let's go on to another of Kenny's idiotic statements:

"Instead, famines have become increasingly rare..."

But in fact, this has only been because of the Green Revolution which has now nearly run its course. As also noted in the Mother Jones piece, concerning this "Revolution":

a) the chemical fertilizers that enabled it are destined to run out as Peak Oil hits, and all priorities go to using oil running the industrial machine- as opposed to generating chemical side products like fertilizers, plastics.

b) All the pesticides, fertilizers, weedicides issuing as enablers to the Green Revolution manifested as "enormous downstream costs" in the form of polluted land, air and water. In some cities, the careless runoff - especially of fertilizer- has fueled dangerous outbreaks such as of the cryptosporidium organism that sickened over 400,000 Milwaukeeans in 1994.

In effect, the Green Revolution was duplicitous, providing life supporting bounty with one hand and robbing FUTURE life support with the other. Geomorphologist David Montgomery, quoted in the MJ article and author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization, has computed that human activities now are eroding topsoil at ten times faster than can be replenished. As he warns:

"Just when we need more soil to feed the 10 billion people of the future, we'll actually have less, only a quarter of an acre of cropland per person in 2050, versus the half-acre we have today, on the most efficient farms"

Of course, many people make much ado over the projected numbers. For its part, the U.N. projects the planet's population will "stabilize" at 9.1 billion in 2050. But this makes a monster assumption: that the global fertility rate will drop to 2.02 offspring per woman in the years between 2045-2050, down from 2.56 today. The bugbear is that there are very narrow margins for error. If the world's women average just 0.5 child more in 2045, for example, all bets are off and the world population peaks at 10.5 billion five years later.

Second, as we know farming also requires vast supplies of water, plus growing populations need water to survive - potable water free of parasites and diseases. This is simply not happening. In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), it was noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025.As they note (p. 47):

"When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”

The same 'State of the World’ report notes at present rates of decline and even without factoring in the worst global warming influences – the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion by 2025, more than a sixfold increase. Add in projected new climate change data and likely effects (see. eg. recent issues of Eos Transactions of the AGU) and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold. This means even as the topsoil required for adequate crop growth is rapidly declining, so also will be the water to sustain the crops.

An even more worrisome aspect has surfaced with the actual harvest data studies pursued by Dr. David Lobell of Stanford University, with respect to African maize. Lobell's studies indicate yield losses of 20% or more for this crop by the middle of the century - just when global population is peaking. Further, his studies show that just a 1C rise in temperature will reduce yields across two thirds of the maize-growing region of Africa- even in the absence of drought. Add in drought and the effect "spreads to the entire area". (See: The Economist, March 19, p. 91)

Then there's the "colony collapse disorder" affecting honeybees. If it's not soon solved, we may see a massive famine affecting half the globe that was only last seen in places like Eritrea. (Honeybees, for those unaware, pollinate, 70 of the 100 food crops humans regularly use. Albert Einstein once opined that if the honeybees should all die out, humanity would have perhaps four years to survive. I am more generous, and give us ten.)

On a roll, Kenny continues his Pollyanna charade:

"Wealth has been spreading so much that global poverty has been more than halved since 1990".

Of course, left uinsaid, is that 1/2 percent of the global populace controls nearly 87% of its wealth, including access to key resources. Four fifths of the world population remains malnourished and this will worsen as the Green Revolution collapses for the reasons given. More likely half or more of that surplus population will die of other causes including pestilence - as we see antibiotic resistant infections proliferating including a malevolent new one dubbed "CRKP". See:


But once Peak Oil and climate change combine it will be one master "cluster fuck" on top of these resistant bacterial strains. Am I saying we should all off ourselves right now? Nope. I am saying that if we get serious and take action we might be able to avoid the worst, but the window is down to a couple years, if that. We've already squandered way too much time in useless debate, when we ought to have applied solutions.

In the meantime, air-headed optimists with their published bullshit allow the gullible to postpone critical and painful solutions by spreading the meme that "Hey! All's well, so don't sweat it! We're cool!" Which maybe was also something along the line of what the captain told the passengers of the Titanic just minutes before it began to sink.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Manjack's an Astronomy Theoretician

What is it about certain sciences (like astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology) that draws the nuts and cranks out of the woodwork? In the past year, no fewer than five individuals who've no astronomy background, not even taking a single college course, have proffered five different theories for my reaction, consideration and assessment. In no case did any of these meet even basic requirements, including articulating a testable hypothesis, and making predictions based on it.

One example was a guy who postulated “Earth flares” or explosive eruptions similar to solar flares, but occurring on the Earth. As I pointed out to him:

Technically speaking one need not have magnetic reconnection to qualify for a flare. However, one would need to have at least a magnetic mirror system in place, according to one paper by Lennartson (in 'Planetary Science' , 1979). The paper, as I recall, showed that it is known, for example, that both magnetic mirrors and double layers are active simultaneously with the former presence necessarily leading to double layers in which a voltage drop is produced.

If the voltage drop is large enough, one can observe flare conditions. According to Alfven ('Cosmic Plasma', 1981), any double layers within region "separators" will explode before a saturation level of current is reached such that:

I_s = [V(b) – V(D)] / R

where V(b) = L(dI/dt) + RI

with L the inductance, and I the current, R the resistance and the flare power :

(P) = I V(D)

where V(D) is the voltage across the double layer. The problem with the Earth flare hypothesis is that it is impossible to see how a magnetic mirror system would operate for it, given the low altitudes at which the phenomenon appeared to be seen by the observer(s) you cite. No magnetic mirrors, no likely Earth flares! (Since no double layers would form to enable an explosive release independent of reconnection- and the mere existence of plasma is no signature for a flare.)

I then went on to press him to look more closely and specifically answer a number of direct questions about his "theory". I wrote:

You have still not proposed even a hypothesis to test this. What will the hypothesis be? How will you test it? What indicators for the test will show the phenomenon is an Earth flare? What observations will you require to support that? What observations will falsify it? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for an "Earth flare" to occur or exist?

Without all of these answers, all you really have to work with is a random (apparently) set of possibly unrelated phenomena.Your job now has to be to compile ALL the ancillary data and observations you believe are relevant and then:

1) perform statistical analyses (e.g. multiple regression or other) to show some kind of correlation between them, and then

2) construct a model (mathematical) that is capable of predicting when the next occurrence will manifest.

Right now, all you really have is a constellation of peculiar observations or anomalies to which you have attached some significance or physical meaning via intuition (for lack of a better word) but devoid of any formal measurements you yourself have performed.When you perform those measurements, or at least publish the photographs of the assorted phenomena (YOU have taken), I will be more inclined to take "Earth flares" as something substantive and not merely another UFO manifestation.

Again, 'UFO' is not intended as a putdown, but a simple statement of fact of what you actually have here, minus any compelling data of your own or photos, measurements. When I asked him to at least provide a basic model to show how an”Earth flare” inception might work, say similar to a solar flare model, he wrote:

I can't give you any models etc. I'm not that knowledgeable. I have never claimed to be well educated. I claimed i used reasoned speculation. Sometimes reason fly's in the face of education, while other times it's all we have

And I then replied:

Even if you can't provide a model, you should still be able to at least hypothesize based on observations-data that you yourself obtain. It is all very well to go back to historic sightings, magnetic records, but these still don't make the case that an entity such as an "Earth flare" really exists. As I pointed out in another answer, when one uses the term "flare" one means something specific in a context of rapid emission of energy. I noted that in every case for a genuine flare or what we understand by such, there is a MAGNETIC component to the actual energy release.

At minimum, even if magnetic reconnection is not present, there is a magnetic mirror system in place. (For double layers to form and be prominent in the energy discharge). Up to now, while you referred to historic observations of magnetic aberrations, you have not shown that the phenomenon you accept as an "Earth flare" has an actual magnetic aspect to its energy release. I don't dispute there are many ways that our existing knowledge is limited, but that does not mean one eschews the basics of solid hypothesizing and observations and simply jumps to conclusions. (Which to an extent you have done, i.e. in associating your phenomenon with a plasma when you have not validated this by any measurement.)

It is good you are trying to "reach out" with your experiences, and have them validated. And I think I have done so, at least to the extent of granting they are "somewhat reasonable speculations". But to make them reasonable (fully) you need to at least give necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of the "flares" you claim can occur on Earth. Or, more concretely, what are the n-s conditions for them to operate in the Earth's atmosphere? Let's also be clear, that I never said your experiences "don't make sense".

I said that you haven't proven or demonstrated that they are consistent with what we know about actual flares. If you are going to have a more productive outcome, then I suggest you try to at least come up with your own observations, or - failing that- tie together all the observations and data you have collected- into at least a working hypothesis for an "Earth flare".

Until that time, they fall more or less into the category of more or less exotic UFOs. He never did get back to me, and I've no idea where his "Earth flare" idea went. Likely no where.

Then we had another clueless guy who insisted he had a "theory" of how stars form from other stars by ejecting (via “explosions’) the sufficient mass that can become a star. He wrote:

"I am of the (new) theory that Suns shed/eject/birth Suns. We now see a "sustainable size" Sun of ours which is only capable of Solar Flares and prominences. If, however, as it evolved and reached a maximum unsustainable size, it would have no choice but to shed/eject "a portion of itself intact." Wouldn't this be possible (and logical)?"

Because the question was way too vague and besides, there was no quantitative support, I asked him to expatiate within definite guidelines to weed out the ambiguity. I wrote:

There are actually serious problems with your proposal, not least of which is where the energy will come from to force an "ejection" on the scale you suggest. First, one of the more basic physical principles that applies is the Virial theorem, which is a cornerstone of all such major energy changes such as you propose. Briefly: According to the virial theorem:

2K + W = 0

for any spherical system in hydrostatic equilibrium, where K is the gas kinetic energy:

K = 3/2[y - 1] U

with y the ratio of specific heats (c_p/c_v) and U the internal energy while W is the gravitational potential energy. From this one can obtain the binding (or total energy) of a star as:

E(S) = K + W

Thus, in order to eject "another Sun" (effectively) you'd need energy on a scale equal to half the gravitational potential energy (e.g. W/2)or equal to the total energy of the star. In this case the remnant object (original or source star) wouldn't be able to sustain itself. Even a nominal ejected mass of 0.3 solar would -in order to escape a solar mass star- need a velocity of v= 300 m/s or a kinetic energy K' of nearly 2 x 10^34 J.

The final kinetic energy from the virial theorem would then be:

K(f) = K - K' so E(S) = K - K' + W , and dU ~ K'.

But one must account for the origin of such a large internal energy increase! Thus, it is preposterous that (already stable) Suns "eject suns" to get other suns. The energy simply isn't there (although I'd be willing to be open about this if you can show me quantitatively WHERE it would come from). Typically, it is the protostar phase at which initial mass (usually of the order of 0.0001- 0.001 solar masses is thrown off, accompanied by suitable transfer of angular momentum, which then forms a planetary system.

The comparison with ejecta from solar flares (and prominences, or CMEs, coronal mass ejections) is also egregious since there is no remote analog at all to the energy involved in those ejections vis-a-vis the scale of what you are proposing (essentially, another independent Sun).

Again, if you can show me some quantitative basis for your claim, I'd be much more willing to consider it as a serious theory. But right now, it is more a conjecture based more on qualitative perceptions, which aren't accurate. Keep in mind if you follow this up you need to show where the energy to detach an existing portion of a stable star is coming from.

Is it from a neighboring massive object passing very close by which then triggers tidal disruption or ejection? If internal, innate to the star itself, WHAT is the process, and how is the internal energy (U) affected in contributing to it? (See the link on the virial theorem). Then an element of mass (m) of the source star with mass M' accelerates at a rate MG(r- r')^2 toward the external ('intruding') mass M where r' is the distance of the element from the stellar center, and r is the distance from the stellar center to the influencing mass.

In order for the proposed stellar element to be pulled away from the source mas, you'd need the condition fulfilled:

MG{- 1/r^2 + 1 /(r - r')^2} >mG/r'^2

So the question of note is: WHAT agent do you have (flares don't cut it) that will produce the same result in a source star, and such that the mass element detached, m ~ 0.3 M' (about the minimum needed for a putative new star to fire up and attain its own equilibrium)? Instead of following up the development of his proposal along these lines, he grew defensive (as most cranks do) and wrote:

"Your statement: "Thus, it is preposterous that (already stable) Suns "eject suns" to get other suns. The energy simply isn't there.." What I am talking about is a small core of a newborn sun. It does not come from a "stable" sun. It comes from a growing and evolving sun in its stages BEFORE it ever becomes "stable."

As for WHERE (your caps) it would come from, the obvious answer would be from an explosion within the sun. (You may equate it to a volcano.) Solar flares are just a minute example of what a stable sun is capable of emitting."

But of course, this tells me nothing, nada as well as being contradictory. (And this is an object lesson for all wannabe astronomy theoreticians who've never taken an astronomy or even a physics course!) Anyone can say something like "there's an explosion like a volcano". But that is useles gibberish! Further the small core of a "newborn sun" is already under enormous gravitational weight (to allow fusion), and if newborn sun, then by definition, pressure -gravity balance must already have commenced, so it must already be stable in terms of hydrostatic equilibrium!

So how will the "new born" sun muster ample energy to overcome the gravitational force of all the overlying layers? No mere explosion will suffice, other than possibly a nova - but in that case all the outer layers would be blown off. Nor would these violently detached layers form a "new sun" as he thinks, but rather a planetary nebula like the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Thus, the issue is not relying on some vague words based on faulty perceptions, but actually quantifying how the source energy can be explained in a consistent manner! For example, one way solar flare energy (and origin) can be accounted for is via electrostatic double layers. (See earlier treatment in previous answer).

To fix ideas, on Nov. 5, 1980, one particular flare was found to have an onset electric current of magnitude, I_o= 2.7 x 10 ^10 A.

The GOES (1- 8 Å)Soft x-ray record shows the time duration is ~ 1000s, so the power available to the flare can be computed from:

P = I_o ^2 R = (2.7 x 10^ 10 A)^2 (0. 0047 Ohm) = 3.4 x 10 ^18 W

where the second factor is the flare associated resistance, R, obtained from D.S. Spicer's flare inductance analog relation:

dR/R = [dL/dt] (5 x 10^ 2) 1/dL = 3.3 x 10^ -7,

the rate of increase of resistance in the region given the current change. From this the ambient total resistance, R (=0. 0047 Ohm) is obtained from the circuit analog relation:

R = (rmr_s ^m-1)^1/m

where r_s is the singular surface (e.g. r_s= 0.1 r), and there are 100 tearing mode ’ islands’ spaced uniformly, This implies a flare energy, where P = 3.4 x 10 ^18 W was the flare power:

E_f = P t = (3.4 x 10 ^18 W) (10 ^3 s) = 3.4 x 10 ^21 J

Thus, the quantities in place were adequate to account for a small flare such as the event was recorded as. THIS is what I expected from the guy, but all he did was fall flat, finally ending with:

"Thank you for your input. Sorry to disturb you. The details of my theory are not for discussion. My theory was written in 2008. A follow-up document with mathematical figures is forthcoming. Thank you for your time but you did not answer any of my question. You first needed to know what I meant by certain words"

To which I delivered my final reply:

No, I didn't need to know what you meant by "certain words". Words are no use to me, zippo. What I wanted was to see the quantitative ballast to support what you claimed was a theory. You refuse to give those to me, saying your theory "isn't up for discussion" and you are still trying to work out the mathematical formalism. This tells me that it isn't yet clear in your own mind.

How can I possibly answer something when you refuse to provide me with the quantitative details that would make it physically plausible to me, and for which you don't even know yourself? (As Lord Kelvin once said, 'If a man can't quantify what he's talking about he isn't talking about anything')

When you have this all worked out, feel free to get back to me...or not..

I believe I may save this as a template for all the crank theories I receive in the future!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is The Rationalist Project Dead? (3)

Ludwig Wittgenstein's methods in his 'Tractatus' enable the rationalist project to forge ahead by being able to destroy the basis for 'presumptive permission' in claims.

In the last blog instalment , I noted that in many arguments, presumption seeks to trump reason and logical analysis, leading to pitfalls in the practice of rational inquiry. For if any one be prohibited to question on the basis of a claimant's mere default effort, than the entire rationalist project can easily be undermined.

Thus, reason's deathbed is ensured by virtue of many (even within the rationalist community) asserting that if a certain set of claims are presumptive (i.e. rational by default in the absence of telling or obvious reasons against them) then the claimant in principle can shift the burden of proof by invoking presumptive permission, "if the challenger lacks the grounds for doubt to shift the onus back" (Norman, op. cit.)

If this is the case, the claimant often interprets absence of challenge as evidence for concession, committing the major logical and analytical error of mistaking "evidence of absence" for "absence of evidence". As Norman puts it (ibid.):

"Thus does reasoning come to an end, not with first principles, indubitable beliefs, or perceptual judgments...but with ordinary presumptive permissions."

But can this be tolerated? If accepted, it means entire false ontologies can be proferred and circulated while claims are made for their validity simply because a putative challenger has failed to provide reasons against them. The burden of disproof, in other words, is on the challenger.

Now, Norman's claim (ibid.) is that this is just "common sense" and presumptions are bare-challenge immune "practically by definition".

However, I beg to strongly disagree. Presumptive permissions are actually lingual and disputative "time bombs" which when indiscriminately used can make a mockery of logic, reason and empirical investigations.

There must be tools by which to temper them, and those tools can be found in Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus'. His first concern in developing his work, is with the deficiencies of thought and interpretation of symbolism as fashioned by our minds, or in other words, human consciousness. Once those problems are excavated it becomes possible to further analyze the signifiers in terms of language, words and their use in formulating propositions, claims and syllogisms.

What one sees very quickly, is that most universalist ("totality" or "all") claims can be instantly destroyed. Wittgenstein provides us the tools to do so, it remains only to acquire the will to use them. By doing so, whole categories of presumptive permissions can be destroyed, and that includes essentially all religious or "God" statements - since in nearly all these cases, the presumptions embody moral dictates, or the attributes of an "infinite" totality no human mind can know positively.

What we will see is that many of Wittgenstein's precepts and principles have analogs in the quantum mechanical world.

Take for instance, identity. That one can identify a thing consistently and name it objectively. (In practice, identity is needed as between a name and a description or between two descriptions). For example, "wave" and "particle".

Seemingly, two different things, two different identities, but really not. At a certain quantum threshold of observation the two blur into one, which was explored in an earlier blog, viz.

In other words, within the acausal and subatomic framework, identities really can be eliminated. This is even more radical than appears here, since as Bernard d'Espagnat has noted, one can extrapolate the results of quantum experiments to arrive at a radical inseparability within which all identities and particulates are subsumed.

Ironically, one can't speak or write of a "totality" here because its precise nature isn't known! (Physicist David Bohm even saw fit to enfold it within a higher dimensionality only accessible via a specific consciousness). Thus we see that the rejection of identity removes one method of speaking of the totality of things, or "a totality" that is awarded a definite identity (e.g. "God").

What is the result? That at this limit, the term "object" is meaningless, and hence to write:

"x is an object"

is meaningless, since again, there are no actual objects once identity is removed. (And again, in QM, the intrusion of the observer sets up a subject-object interface or inteference which destroys the nature of the "object" in itself. This is why physicist Paul Dirac one said we do not observe quantum or other "objects" but rather phenomena subjected to our methods of measurment (and I might add, conscious processing and interpretation).

Let's see using an example (by a recently deceased member of Intertel, Ken Wear) how this can actually work with religious committments or beliefs. In a recent article appearing in the January Integra (the journal of Intertel), Wear pointed out that one's own "religious outlook is a prime component of one's self-interest".

This is very interesting, especially from a self-proclaimed "rational theist" since it isn't what one normally expects to see written by a theist of any stripe. It shows he is able to process that religions don't exist in vacuo or by themselves, but rather are elaborated, infused and assisted by one's psychological predispositions or consciousness awareness. Or to put it as one wit did once: "People don't seek a religion, the religion seeks them".

In the same way Dirac's quantum wave doesn't really exist unto itself, or Wittgenstein's object, so also one's religion doesn't exist unto itself as some kind of external growth on the person - but rather as an interplay between his needs, self-interest, and personal prerogatives and those he sees in the religion - which lead him to gravitate to it, or not. (Atheists won't for the same reasons, they find nothing in the outer world of religion that resonates with their consciousness or being and which, if incorporated, would be authentic).

Perhaps Wear's most astute observation may well be as follows:

"The mind plays tricks on us: devotion to religious tenets may be so deeply ingrained that it is nearly impossible to sort your motives and identify the influences of religion on your life and activities without mixing the motives up with the latter."

In other words, there is a kind of parallel here with what happens in quantum observations when subject (e.g. human ) and object ("atom") become interfused leading to the loss of the object observed in itself. In the same way, Wear is saying that religious tenets, dogmas or beliefs can be so deeply ingrained at a psychological level and so infused by one's own emotions that it is impossible to separate it out from those emotions and conscious dependencies.

This is why, in his next paragraph, Wear questions any religious beliefs firmly held without recourse to exercise of the mind. In other words, IF those religious tenets or beliefs are truly important, then we won't simply accept them because so and so (or a book) says we must, but because we processed them through our own analytical process and found them to be worthy.

Wear then takes this one step further, in an exemplary display of how the rationalist project can be preserved in the American sphere:

"Regardless of the superiority of your religious faith, others are allowed to plod along in their mistaken ways, and you have neither obligation to coerce them into your views nor the necessity to defend them. While you are free to revel in your good luck of having learned the religious principles dear to you, others enjoy the same priviliege of self-determination".

Wear was likely not even remotely aware of it, but he was practicing Wittgensteinian analytics! Because there are no absolute totalities or totalitarian moral systems, then there can be no external claims on the lives or motives of others. They are enabled thereby to pursue their own self-determination, free of condemnation, judgment or disparagement.

Now, let's take one of Wittgenstein's own examples, from his Tractatus (p. 67):

"If god creates a world in which certain propositions are true, he thereby creates also a world in which all propositions consequent on them are true. And similarly, he could not create a world in which the proposition 'p' is true without creating all its objects"

This is a seeming innocuous example, but powerful in its applications. Again, just like 'god' used by Einstein to mean the sum total of natural laws, Wittgenstein isn't positing any real entity (since he excises totalities) but merely creates his 'god' as an example for his purposes of exposition.

Thus, say this 'god' creates a world in which one extreme form of evil can be allowed (say like what transpired with Michaela and Hayley Petit) then it follows he has by extension created a world in which all forms of extreme evil are allowed, including Inquisitional tortures (removing the sexual organs using hot pincers), gas chambers, witch burning, and beheading. There is nothing, no evil, that isn't possible in this world.

Similarly, if the proposition p is true, where:

p = god never intervenes in stopping an earthly evil

then all its consequent object propositions follow, mainly that god will never ever intervene to stop any earthly evil, or manmade evil. We are all on our own.

All of these can be used to dismiss any presumptive permission which postulates otherwise, so there will always be a Wittgenstein-like) challenge to any presumptive claim concerning a totality or moral totalitarianism.

In this way, we return rationalism to a Socratic model basis wherein it's functional again: Socrates operated on the premise that any claim must withstand questioning to merit rational assent, and so do we.

If then a presumptive claim is made (e.g. "God is everywhere"), the first challenge will always be to demand the necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of the underlying entity. The second challenge (or series thereof) will always be to forge a succession of questions based on challenging the entity's claim to being a totality and having an identity, Wittgenstein -style.

In this way, we don't necessarily completely refute the claim (since it is not our province to do so anyway) but to expose to the claimant the subjective deficiencies at work in his own consciousness which itself has confected the claim via its own inner emotional dynamics, propensities, etc.

In this way, with this sort of approach, I believe the rationalist project can be both preserved and re-energized.

Outraged by Gas Prices? Blame the Speculators!

The jig is up and a number of exhaustive investigative efforts have disclosed the underlying reason for the spike in oil prices (now approaching $106 a barrel) and hence prices at the gas pump: Oil commodity speculators! Thus, the real source has little to do with supply and demand, but rather re-selling artificial "futures contracts" in closed markets to gin up prices and thereby reward big banks, hedge funds and assorted smaller futures contracts traders.

Currently, repeated trading in these oil commodity markets is estimated to be two thirds responsible for the current oil price spikes. Here's basically how it works:

We start with a gallon of oil (symbol: [] )

[] -> (Customer) -> {Futures contract} - > Futures contract ->{Futures contract}

The customer is really an investor, not a real oil or gas purchaser, who bids on a futures contract for a certain price. In other words, he bets that the price of that barrel will rise or fall, but generally will bet on it to increase if events deemed parlous to oil shipments, use or suppy are detected, such as the Libyan revolution. The problem arises when the given futures contract (which may set the price at $90 a barrel) is then resold and the price again bid upwards, say to $98 for a new futures contract, and ever onward.

On the other hand, if the actual laws of supply and demand were applicable here, the real price of oil would be somehwere between $85 and $90 a barrel. Translating plausibly into gas at the pump for maybe $2.50 a gallon, as opposed to $3.30 or more. (Right now the average American is spending nearly one-sixth of his salary on fuel, directly or indirectly. For example, higher food costs arise too, because it takes more fuel at higher prices to send transport the foods to the supermarkets.)

Of course, the speculators and their apologists and protectors in the media don't wish to hear this, nor do they appreciate the daylight cast upon their activities. In the last 2 weeks alone, I counted no less than five counter-attacks (in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times) against those who sought to make speculators "scape goats". Much umbrage was taken and editorial bile spilled, but I saw little to convince me the speculators were truly the angels depicted: e.g. the "guardians" charged with controlling things in the futures markets for the public good. To which I say, 'Bah', 'Codswallop!' and 'Humbug!"

Commodities traders, like currency speculators (who drove the Thai baht down causing the Asian currency and financial crisis in 1998) are a mixture of casino gambler and bipedal predatory cockroach. They don't give two squats about anything or anyone except making fast money and the faster the better! Indeed, these freaks are piling into the commodities racket precisely because the stock market (their usual casino outlet) is too volatile, and they can't make enough on their investments. It passes them by that the stock market's very volatility arises largely from the price volatility (which attaches to foods, transportation, drugs etc.) incepted by their relentless speculation.

To the apologists for the precious little speculators and "traders", I ask you to examine this article ('Oil Above $140 on Libya Threat to Cut Output') which appeared in The Financial Times last June 27th (p. 22). The article led off:

"Oil prices rose above $140 a barrel for the first time yesterday as Libya threatened to cut its oil production and Opec's president warned that prices could surge to $150-170 this summer"

Then two paragraphs lower (caps are my emphasis):


Note, the article said TRADERS (e.g. speculators) pushed oil to that high! Not oil companies, not space aliens ....not the law of supply and demand, but SPECULATORS in the futures market.

This is an important point, since the speculator apologists always begin their counter rants (and insulting the intelligence of the commodities "commoners") by pointing ot that NO actual physical supplies are being diminished, moved or affected by the traders. But no one said they were!

This is much like Enron's shell game (in “energy trading” in 2000), wherein no real kilowatts were generated and moved. Rather kilowatts were shifted on paper and increased costs put on as the transactions crossed particular state lines (say from AZ to CA). In the same way, future costs of future oil are bid upon on PAPER by speculators, and these amounts to something similar to an auction bid. The difference is that in the hidden commodity-energy auction, unlike an actual auction for a real barrel of oil at say, Sotheby's, every manjack pays the final bid!

How to cut these insane practices? Make the bastards put up real money of their own rather than just phantom money! One excellent prescription was proposed last year by Rep. John Dingell (D, MI), to wit, forcing oil speculators to put up collateral of at least 50% of the value of the energy futures in which they trade. Heck, I'd even make it more: say 80%.

In this way, they'd exercise much more caution in their trades, as opposed to coming off as freaking cowboys!

It’s high time that the high priests of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)crack down on the casino operator oil traders and their ilk. It is bad enough that a tanking dollar (because of pusillanimous Fed policies and fear of increasing interest rates in an election year)is causing fuel spikes, but at least we can tame the speculative excesses! Sure, I'm making virtually nada on my return in interest-bearing investments (CDs, money market accounts etc.) so losing money, but it'd be much less painful if food prices were lower as well as gas prices - because the blasted speculators were regulated and had a bit of pain imposed on 'em!