Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Basic Physics (Thermodynamics) - Pt. 14

Among the more important and practical aspects of Basic Thermodynamics, one finds heat conductivity. This is especially useful in the design and construction of buildings to ensure the optimum materials are used, say to make possible staying warm in harsh winters, or staying cool in incendiary summers (which we'll soon see with global warming).

A very basic laboratory experiment for the investigation of heat conductivity is shown in Fig. 1. Also included is the corresponding diagrammatical layout showing the components parts, including: different thermometers (which will be at different temperatures t1, t2, t3 and t4), steam inlet and outlet pipes (left side), steam jacket and water jacket.

In the experiment we pass steam through the steam jacket and adjust the flow of water through the water jacket to a small stream. After a while, a steady-state flow (indicated by a constant difference (t2 - t1) will be achieved, whereupon the flow of water is adjusted to give a difference betwen thermometers t3 and t4 of about 10 F. One continues observations of the readings of all 4 thermometers until a steady state condition is reached.

Once this is established, we read and record: t1, t2, t3 and t4, and catch all the warm water flowing out of the water jacket for a time interval T ~ 10 mins. (The longer the duration of a given trial, the more accurate the results. Needless to say, the thermometers ought to be scrutinized carefully throughout and if any marked fluctuations occur, a new trial should be started, because otherwise the experimental errors will be too large. Finally, one determines the mass of water collected, records the time interval T, and the readings of the four thermometers. The distance L between the thermometers t1 and t2 will also be measured, as well as the diameter d of the test rod.

During each test trial, the value of heat Q transferred to the water is determined, which will be estimated by:

Q = k A T(t2 - t1)/L

where k denotes the 'thermal conductivity' of the material (which will be provided), A is the cross sectional area, L the length, and (t2 - t1) the temperature difference. If a known mass of water (m) passes through the jacket then the total heat received from the end of the test rod will be:

Q = mc(t4 - t3)

Of course, the experiment can also be performed with the ojective of determining k, the thermal conductivity. If this is the case one will make use of the relationship:

k A T(t2 - t1)/L = mc(t4 - t3)

so that, on solving for k:

k = mc(t4 - t3)L/ A T(t2 - t1)

In Fig. 2, a simple diagram is shown which describes the basic principle of heat conductivity. The temperature gradient is defined: (T2 - T1)/ x and the heat passing thorugh per second: Q/t = k(T2 - T1)/x. That is, the product of the thermal conductivity by the temperature gradient.

Example Problem:

Find the quantity of heat Q, transferred through 2 square meters of a brick wall 12 cm thick in 1 hour, if the temperature on one side is 8 C, and the temperature is 28 C on the other. (k = 0.13 W/mK). Then:

Q = kAt[T2 - T1]/ x

Q = (0.13 W/mC)(2 m^2)(3600 s) [20 C/ 0.12 m]

= 156, 000 Joules


1) A student performs the heat conductivity experiment as shown in Fig. 1, and determines the thermal conductivity of copper to be 390 W/mC. If he then measures the thermometer differences (t4 - t3) = 5 C and (t2 - t1) = 2C, using 0.5kg of warmed water, and his copper test rod for the experiment is 0.5 m long, what would its cross-sectional area A have to be? (Take the specific heat capacity of water = 4200 J/kg K). Also, obtain the % of error in the student's result by looking up the actual thermal conductivity of copper.

2)A plate of copper 0.4 cm thick has a temperature difference of 60 C between its faces. Find: a) the temperature gradient, and b) the quantity of heat that flows through each square centimeter of one face each minute?

3)How many calories per minute will be conducted through a window glass 80 cm x 100 cm by 2mm thick if the difference between the two sides is 20C?

4) A group of 4 astronauts lands on Mars with solar radiation collection material of total area 2000 m^2. If the efficiency of the material is 30%, and the ambient night time temperature on Mars for their base location (Isidis Planitia) is -40 C (10C day time), will they have adequate collecting material if the solar constant on Mars is 620 W/m^2? (Assume insulating material with a thermal conductivity of 0.08 W/mC, and a need to keep the inside area of their domecile at least at 10 C, requiring solar radiant energy collected of at least 1,200 W per minute for an area of 10 m x 10 m.) Estimate the thickness of insulating material they're likely to need in order to make it work. Comment on whether this expedition is even feasible given the limits of their materials, and that no more than 100 m^3 of insulating material can be taken.

The GOP Has Totally Detached from Reality!

Two items appearing in the news in the past week disclose the party of Lincoln, once proud and standing on principle and the nation's welfare- now stands for nothing but crass self-interest, and ideology. The items and the GOP reaction show that if this vile party ever gains control of the levers of power again, we are all for the high jump, whether most Americans recognize that or not!

The first item concerns the vote to be taken this evening in the House of Representatives on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. Never mind that in all the decades past this was an automatic, routine decision. No one, no party or person of power in his or her right mind wanted to see the U.S. effectively made to appear as if in default. Not even a remote "cosmetic" default, which is what the Reeps are claiming this vote amounts to, since Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has extended the actual deadline to Aug. 2 by being resourceful in terms of government spending.But rather than wait, the Goopers want to hold their vote two months in advance, for what....well, political posturing! Certainly not reality!

Their claim is they are the party of "responsibility" because they have proposed massive cuts to Medicare (via substituting a voucher system for actual government payments) while the Dems have proposed nothing similar. But this is a false dichotomy set up only for the benefit of the weak-minded, the gullible, and those not paying attention. Unsaid, especially by the Repukes, is that the Republican budget plan actually INCREASES federal deficits by $5.4 trillion over ten years! It does this by not doing squat about military-defense cuts (current military spending is nearly 5% of GDP prompting one former defense analyst (Chuck Spinney) to assert it amounts to a "war on Social Security and Medicare") even as it allows the wealthiest 1% to continue receiving their Bush tax cuts- equal to one new Lexus each year, on average!

Nowhere in any of the Repuke "solutions" or manifestos is there any faint mention of the one thing that would solve the nation's deficit problems most expeditiously: increasing TAXES! Indeed, the Repukes have all signed "loyalty oaths" (compliments of anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist) that absolutely resists any plan to raise revenue by taxes. If the country were analogous to an overspending family with the 'wife' (repukes) mainly using up credit lines on credit cards, then the comparison would be the wife's refusal to work to earn more $$$ to pay for the credit, and instead vowing to cut the family's food, utility and medical budgets! How long do you think such a wife would last before being chucked out on her ass by a responsible hubby? Yet in our country, the Repukes are treated as if they're the next thing to financial wizards and sober stars!

Of course, part of the blame for this atrocity must go to the Democrats in congress and the Senate. A more pliable, spineless bunch of weenies and wusses I've not seen in a while. Not only have most now agreed to vote with the Repukes on negating an increase in the debt celing, they are actually talking of making or increasing future cuts instead of demanding the Reeps include higher taxes as part of deficit reduction! Indeed, the word from the Denver Post article this morning (p. 5A, 'Republicans and many Dems oppose Bill')is that:

"After the vote fails, the focus will return to a bipartisan group of six congressional leaders who have been in private talkes with Vice President Joe Biden to come up with a massive spending cut package and allow the debt ceiling to rise"

Can't the Dem knuckleheads and poseurs understand that as Norquist himself once put it, "Bipartisanship means Democratic date rape to us Republicans!" and that by playing on this losing wicket they are unwittingly ceding the field and advantage to the Repukes? As opposed to demanding from those R-shit heads that they include TAX HIKES in any deficit reduction package? I mean this is a no brainer, or ought to be! There simply can't be a workable package that doesn't include tax increases! Allowing the Reeps to dictate puts all the Dem strategy into the proverbial crapper as well as ceding gravitas on the means for deficit reduction - which the idiotic corporate media will surely get wet dreams over.

How many fucking times must I cite reams of evidence that shows simple spending cuts can't work? I have cited examples from sources (e.g. Financial Times) in so many blogs now, it makes my head spin to recall them! As one Brit economist put it: "Claiming you can solve a deficit problem by using only spending cuts is like saying you can cut off your foot, and you will run faster!" - yet that's the detached reality we are left with because the weak-kneed Dems won't come up with their own solutions. As I wrote earlier, two of the best solutions for making Medicare solvent are allowing it to bargain for lowest prescription drug prices, like the VA does, and eliminating Medicare Advantage plans - which were set up in 2003 precisely to bleed the standard program into insolvency! Yet not one fucking Dem I've seen or heard has mentioned either of these, leaving me to believe they are kowtowing to some corporate interest or other, mostly likely Big PhRMA.

As to the other reality detachment, that concerns the denial of climate change- global warming, now part of the mantras of all the GOP's illustrious contenders for the presidency. This, despite the fact that many of them actually had proposed changes to policy before getting into the race. But now, as with Newt Gingrich, all that matters is reality be sacrificed rather than upset the mindless Gooper-conservo masses, who only watch FAUX News and read comic books. Nevertheless at least one Republican has the right take, former NY Rep. Sherwood Bohlert who noted:

"Never in my life have I been so disappointed in the pretenders to the to the throne from my party"

Bingo! And this despite the fact the evidence is now overwhelming that the whole ice shelf of Greenland has been so affected by melting it's on the verge of collapse. (See: Greenland Poised on a Knife Edge, in The New Scientist, Vol. 209, No. 2794, Jan. 2011, p. 8) The article notes that just the 'break off" at the margins of the sheet, which is ongoing, is adding 300 gigatons of melted ice to the oceans each year. If the whole shelf collapses, it will raise global sea levels by 7 m (23. 1'). Are any of the GOP's idiot candidates paying attention? Including to the fact that the acidity of the oceans is already 30% higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution? I doubt it!

Sometimes, when I get this frustrated, I think that humans don't deserve to survive if they are so incapable of stewardship. At least so many. But then I do bear in mind that many are still fighting to make things right, and not just allow the knuckle-dragging buffoons and their lackeys to prevail. I just hope there are more of the former left than the latter despite a recent poll showing only 49% of Americans now believe effects of global warming have begun, compared with 61% in 2008. Are the knuckle-draggers and dummies winning? Stay tuned!

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memory of a Real Warrior, and Father

Two years ago my dad, a World War II vet, passed away from pneumonia. Today, he's remembered for not only his war service (36 months in the Pacific Theater) but also his steadfast raising of a large family. Dad's military combat was waged on two fronts: against the Japanese Empire in the Phillippines and New Gunea on the one hand, and against malaria on the other - with no fewer than five hospitalizations.

Even on being discharged from the Army in April of 1945, the after effects of malaria remained and he'd often come down with severe chills. As we know, the malaria parasites are never finally eliminated but stay in the bloodstream over a life time.

As I recall Dad's sacrifices today, I also recall two of the last contacts I had with him, one in April of 2009 (in which he sent his last email from his email machine) and then for Father's Day, on the phone in June, 2009.

His email (of April 19) lamented that his youngest son had 'gone off the rails' into hardcore fundamentalist Christianity and his I-Net church website was thrashing others in the family by use of a false self-righteousness. He expressly deplored the attacks he'd seen against my sister, as well as my mother, and to a lesser extent the de facto attacks by implication against him. He regarded ANY attacks against Catholicism as attacks against his own beliefs (especially as he'd converted to Catholicism from being a Southern Baptist).

His final hope, at the end of the email, was that my hardcore fundie bro would give it a rest and realize that life is too short to "carry on" waging crusades even in the name of trying to "save" others. He himself seemed to finally realize and appreciate that salvation is a relative thing, and possibly for that reason, refused to condemn his fundie son to Catholic Hell for abandoning the religion in which he was raised. In the end, each will believe as he or she sees fit, and all efforts to undermine, shame, or intimidate others into one's own fold are doomed to failure. All one really accomplishes is alienation, hatred and further isolation. His one wish was that if he did pass away, we'd come together as a family not pull farther apart via false causes, agendas or beliefs.

In my last contact with him on Father's Day, his voice was rasping and he appeared to sense the end might be near. We talked briefly about my latest book project, on the Kennedy assassination, and I mentioned that I had dedicated it to him. He expressed thanks and said he hoped he might get to see one draft. Alas, he passed before it could be sent to him.

These days, especially around Memorial Day, and near his birthday (May 25) I often find myself going back to read his old emails from 2007-009 which I have kept stored in my 'old' email folder. None of them are very long, except the one from April 19, 2009, when he expressed the hope that a son would soon find his way back to the light and family solidarity. The others were mainly recollections about past events, and current ones. In one, he inquired after my wife Janice's health and gave some advice on car repair after my wife was involved in a serious car collision in central Colorado (hit broadside by a reckless driver who went through a red light). In others he recounted assorted celebrations, including the most recent - for Xmas 2008 at the Port Charlotte Retirement Center, into which he and Mom moved three years earlier.

Dad, who provided the center of gravity for the family (always sending out the greeting cards for each and every member) will be sorely missed. But always remembered, especially - on this day - for the extraordinary service he gave to his country.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anti-corporate protests = Domestic "terror"? Give me an F-ing break!

It was bad enough this week to see provisions of the "Patriot Act" which were due to expire extended again by a bunch of weak-kneed wussies in Congress, including the illustrious House "Tea Party" contingent- otherwise so noisy about their precious freedoms and defending them. Well, where the f*ck were these loudmouths when those extensions passed? Where were ALL of them, who we ordinarily see yapping about time -honored patriots but who are so cowed by the Anti-terror shtick (like so many in the 50s were by Joe McCarthy's anti-commie crusade) that they give it cover and even funding? Don't these dildo-brains understand the security state is already over-extended? Don't they grasp that fundamental REAL rights, like the 4th amendment - are under assault by the Patriot Act?

It makes me wonder if any of our politicos ever read Benjamin Franklin's quote that: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for a temporary security deserve neither liberty or security". And by the way, pardon me if I blow off anyone who claims "well, times are different now!" No, they are not! I lived through the fifities and early 60s when the most massive REAL threat to freedom was Soviet Russia which had over 5,000 H-bomb armed ICBMs aimed at us. Never during that whole freaking time, even in the midst of the parlous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, were so many civil liberties just chucked like I've seen since 9/11.

Anyway, anyone who still believes all these laws are merely innocuous inconveniences needs to familiarize himself or herself with the case of one Scott Crow of Austin, TX. Crow is an activist, specifically a self-described veteran organizer of anti-corporate demonstrations. He recently found, on requesting FOIA files from the FBI, that they'd been monitoring his activities for the past three years including "tracing license plates of cars parked out in front, recording the comings and goings of residents and guests, and in one case speculating about the presence of a strange object on the driveway" (Denver Post, 'Texan's FBI File Reveals Domestic Spying', p. 12 A, 5/29).

Well, the strange object turned out to be a quilt that was made for an after-school program, according to Crow (ibid.) Crow also found that more than 440 heavily redacted pages were in his FBI file, many under the rubric of Domestic Terrorism. Of course, this was exactly what many of us worried about when congress - at least most of them - passed the misnamed "Patriot Act" in 2002 without even reading its many provisions. We fretted that, given the open-ended definition of terrorism, just about any and everything would be included and that might well extend to domestic protests, especially against corporations. Now we know how valid those concerns were!

Crow himself commented on the extensive documents with mixed anger, astonishment and a degree of flattery that so much government energy could be expended on one little guy who lives in a ramshackle home with a wife, two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. According to Crow:

"It's just a big farce that the government created such a paper tiger. Al Qaeda and real terrorists are hard to find, but we're easy to find. It's outrageous that they would spend so much money surveilling civil activists....and equating our actions with Al Qaeda"

But recall this might not be that strange after all. It was Rachel Maddow, on her MSNBC show some weeks ago, that first brought it to national attention (after OBL's killing) that his intent was never to kill Americans so much as make us spend ourselves into bankruptcy. Maddow's analysis:


included evidence of the country's transformation to a national security state, as she cited the vast, increased cost of intelligence, not only for the CIA, but more than a doubling in personnel for the DIA (from 7,500 to 16,500). Additionally, the National Security Agency (NSA) doubled its budget and the number of security -based organizations went from 20 in 2001, to 37 in 2002, then adding 36 the next year, 26 the year after that, then 31 and 32 more, with 20 additional security organizations added in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Not said was that under the Patriot Act, ALL these agencies have compiled a single database that is cross-correlated and they often work together, including the FBI.

All of this mind boggling security and military infrastructure was at the cost of pressing domestic needs, including repairing crumbling civil infrastructure (bridges, roads, water and sewer mains etc. - estimated cost from The Society of Civil Engineers: $1.7 trllion) as well as health care for nearly 50 million currently without it. Even now as certain harpies and miscreants aim their sights at Medicare for the elderly, one of the most miserly programs in terms of benefits compared with similar programs in other nations. And goons like Paul Ryan and his henchmen want to make it smaller yet!

The point is, with such a vast and over-extended, over-active security state, that gets on average $28 billion a year, ways must always be found to justify the subsidies. The ways, evident from Scott Crow's files, include domestic spying. Where the f*ck are the ultra-Patriot Tea Baggers in all this? Or...are they all A-ok with a massive spy state that also protects corporations from civil protests, portrayed as "domestic terrorism"?

According to Mike German, a former FBI agent now at the ACLU:

"You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism. Fortunately, there isn't a lot of terrorism in many communities, so they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government".

This is bollocks because one of the most fought for rights of Americans, since Thomas Paine's fiery 'Common Sense', is to be critical of the government. And, the day the citizen becomes fearful of doing that is the day we have tyranny returned. For when citizens are fearful of government that's what one has, when government is fearful of the citizen, one has liberty. Strange that all the Tea bagging repukes didn't recall that when they passed the extension for the Patriot Act. Even The Financial Times has noted in an editorial ('Terror and the Law', May 16, p. 8) it's time to put in place time limits. As they note:

"Congress needs to put time limits on the post 9/11 powers. Failure to do so in that first sweeping authorization was a dereliction of duty....Emergency powers were justified after 9/11 but allowing them in perpetuity is wrong"

We agree and would also add, that if there aren't enough genuine terrorists for the assorted agencies to go after and monitor, and they find they have to pursue innocent Americans exercising their free speech rights, then it's time to exact massive cuts in security funding for all agencies. Or at least, in direct proportion to the actual threat! We also expect the Teepees to get on board with this, or declare themselves ignominous HYPOCRITES!

Talk About 'Pot-Kettle- Black'!

It's absolutely ludicrous as well as hilarious to behold certain fundies going off on the Quelle or Q source tradition (e.g. as "Satanic"), while they accept a bible (KJV) that has absolutely NO objective validation as any unique, sacred source! One just has to scratch his head in wonderment and awe at the chutzpah it takes to readily ignore the immense deficits in an entire BOOK, while carping at a coherent assemblage of Yeshua's sayings that is claimed to form a commonality of source for at least two of the NT gospels (Matthew and Luke).

As noted in my earlier blog (before the last), textual analysis by all reputable sources recognizes Q as a putatitive collection of Yeshua's sayings which doesn't exist independently (e.g. as a specific text) but rather can be parsed from the separate gospels, such as Mark. Germane to this Q tradition, is how - when one applies textual analysis to the books, gospels- one can unearth the process whereby the orthodox (Pauline) Church worked and reworked the sayings to fit them into one gospel milieu or another.

None of this is mysterious nor does the basis require any "objective proof" (a real howler since the whole historic process of biblical book selection and compilation has been subjective!), since the disclosure of the Q (which as I indicated is more a TRADITION than explicit text)isn't based on a direct, isolated manuscript but rather distilled from the comparison of numerous similar passages in differing NT sources. Thus, one can employ this template to derive a plausible timeline: for example, The Gospel of Mark appears to have committed the sayings to paper about 40 years after the inspiring events, then Matthew and Luke composed their versions some 15-20 years after Mark. ALL SERIOUS biblical scholars accept this timeline, only hucksters of holiness, pretenders and pseudo-scholars do not! Again, I advise those who wish a genuine scholarly insight, as opposed to pseudo-insight, to avail themselves of Yale University's excellent Introduction to the New Testament course by Prof. Dale B. Martin. Of particular import is his lecture: The Historical Jesus


Which clearly shows the editing in John to make it conform to orthodoxy. Now, the choice before people is whether to accept the basis and findings of a highly accomplished scholar in the field, teaching at one of the nation's premier Ivy League universities, or the word of someone belonging to an online bible school with an "I-net" church. I think the choice is a no-brainer, but then that is writing as one who's actually taken a real course in textual analysis (including languages used in translation) from a real university!

But let's get back to the blind spot inhering in these Q-tradition carpers, which I also exposed (to do with their King James Bible) in the blog before last. As I showed in that blog, their accepted KJV fails on all three critical tests for authenticity:

a) no major re-translations or re-doings,

b) no major omissions or deletions,

c) a consistency with what the earliest original (e.g. Greek) translations (say in the Greek Septuagint) allowed, with no major contradictions.

As I showed, the current KJV failed criterion (a) by being a compromise translation to try to bridge the gap between the Puritans and the Church of England. Thus, two distinct translations, call them X and Y, were jury-rigged to give some mutant single translation, call it X^Y, belonging to neither. It's something like taking the head of a cow and grafting it onto a de-capitated bull and saying you now have an authentic cow-bull. Actually it's more like cow bullshit!

Making matters worse, the translators were told to preserve as much as possible of the Bishop's Bible of 1568 (then the official English Bible). The translators were also granted wide latitude in how they specifically formed different translations of the text, in many cases being allowed to use the Geneva Bible and some other versions "when they agree better with the text" in Greek or Hebrew. This "mixing and matching" process is believed by many experts (e.g. Geza Vermes) to have been responsible for many of the more blatant contradictions that have emerged, viz. in answer to the question posed 'Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented?:

(a) YES (Isa 33:14; Mt 13:40-42, 25:41,46; Mk 9:43-48; Jude 6-7; Re 14:10-11)

(b) NO (Eze 18:4; Mt 7:13, 10:28; Lu 13:3,5; John 3:15-16; Ac 3:23; 1Co 15:18; 2Th 2:10; Heb 10:39; 2Pe 3:7,9)

This is a huge divide, and a serious blotch on the integrity of the KJV. Indeed, if such a fundamental question as "eternal torment" can't be properly addressed, how many other shibboleths will one find?

Meanwhle, the current KJV fails test (b) because we know from historical records (kept by the Anglican Church) that what eventually became the "King James Bible" by 1626-30 was in fact NOT the original, but rather 75% to 90% adopted from William Tyndale's English New Testament, published in 1626. This version was actually published in defiance of then English law - so it is amazing so much of it was then incorporated into the original KJV! Tyndale's tack was to render Scripture in the common language of his time to make it accessible even to a humble plow boy. But this meant ignoring the originally published KJV and resorting to his own translations, basing his ms. on Hebrew and Greek texts. In so doing he'd defied an English law from 1401 that forbade the publication of any English book without Church of England permission.

Tyndale got the last laugh, because a year after he was strangled for "heresy" in the Netherlands, King Henry VIII granted a license to a complete "King James Bible" that was more than three-fourths Tyndale's translation from his English New Testament! Thus, the current incarnation of the KJV is not the original translation adopted by the commisson of King James I. Thus, the KJV also fails criterion (b).

What about test (c)? This was broken as soon as Tyndale's version was 75% adopted and the correlated parts of the earlier (King James I) ordained sections, removed. More to the point, the KJV rendering of Matt: 25:46:

"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal"

disclosed a total inconsistency with the earliest original (e.g. Greek) translations! Here in Matt. 25:46, the Greek for everlasting punishment is "kolasin aionion." Kolasin is a noun in the accusative form, singular voice, feminine gender and means "punishment, chastening, correction, to cut-off as in pruning a tree to bear more fruit." Meanwhile, "Aionion" is the adjective form of "aion," in the singular form and means "pertaining to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time. But it does not mean eternal!(Critical examination discloses the Bible speaks of five "aions", minimum, and perhaps many more. If there were "aions" in the past, it must logically mean that each one of them have ended!)

Thus, a 'pick as you choose' process for the creation of the KJV combined with inept and cavailer translations of the Greek Septuagint obviously allowed huge errors to creep in, and Matt. 25:46 is an enormous one, given it's the sole place that refers to "everlasting punishment". So if this translation is wrong because of a cavalier Greek translation (of kolasin aionion) then everything to do with it goes out the window. Thus, the KJV fails all THREE tests for validity for an authentic bible!

We suggest that before certain "pastors" launch into more tirades against the Q tradition, they examine more completely their own bowdlerized and maimed bible, which is somewhat like a Frankenstein "dog", put together from the excavated carcasses of about ten different doggie cadavers! And not even today's resident geniuses who worship this Frankensteined monstrosity as the "final entity" can even recognize which end is the head and which is the heinie! But hey, maybe as a biblical yardstick its "head" doubles as a heinie! Cream of KJV Bible soup anyone?

Dramatic Breakthrough in Accounting for Life's Origin

The matter of the ultimate origin of life, the theory of Abiogenesis (which is often erroneously conflated with the theory of evolution) has been problematical for years. What is sought is a basic explanation for how fundamentally non-living matter could acquire the properties and attributes of life, including being able to reproduce. In principle this isn't that remarkable a stretch, since we already know there exist living entities at the "margins" - the viruses- which display no attributes of life until they become attached to a host. Once in a host, they can appropriate its cell machinery to churn out billions of copies of themselves.

Evolution in such organisms is also no biggie. For example, consider a point mutation in a Type A flu virus. Here, a minuscule substitution of amino bases yields a virus imperceptibly different in DNA structure from a predecessor. This is a case of microevolution brought about by mutation. A new 'flu vaccine must be prepared to contain it. The most that flu vaccines achieve is keeping the selection or s-value fairly constant for a majority of influenza viruses, while not entirely eliminating the associated gene frequencies. Hence, yearly vaccines only attempt to reduce the most virulent strains, such as ‘Type A flu’, to the most minimal equilibrium frequency.

Total elimination is impossible because there are always new gene mutations of the virus to assume the place of any strains that have been eliminated. At the same time, the ongoing enterprise of preparing new flu vaccines is an indirect acknowledgement of microevolution in the flu virus. Amazingly, there are many tens of thousands of uneducated people who actually don't believe such examples qualify as bona fide evolution! It's as if these forlorn people can't process that the success of natural selection is inextricably bound to the fitness (w) and the selective value, s, e.g. via: w = 1 - s.

Meanwhile, we know there are pleuro-pneumonia like organisms or PPLOs for short. The PPLO is as close to the theoretical limit of how small an organism can be . Some figures clarify this. It has about 12 million atoms, and a molecular weight of 2.88 million Daltons . Compared to an amoeba, it weighs about one billions times less.

Now, in a remarkable find published in The New Scientist (Vol. 209, No. 2794, p. 11), two investigators: Kunikho Kaneko and Atsushi Kamimura, have made a remarkable breathrough in devising a testable model that is able to replicate the Abiogenesis process. The two basically solved the problem of how a lipid-coated protocell can divide into two (displaying reproduction) when the genetic material replicates. Recall in an earlier blog where I showed the hypothetical protocell reaction wherein a self-sustaining coacervate droplet can use one or two basic reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate:

L*M + R + ADP + P -> R + L + M + ATP

ATP + X + Y + X*Y -> ADP + X*Y + X*Y + P

In the above, L*M is some large, indeterminate, energy-rich compound that could serve as ‘food’. Whatever the specific form, it’s conceived here to have two major parts capable of being broken to liberate energy. Compound R is perhaps a protenoid or lipid-coated protocell, but in any case able to act on L*M to decompose it. The problem with this earlier hypothesis was that such lipid-coated protocells lack the machinery to allow for easy division.

Kaneko and Kamimura solved this by taking their inspiration (for their model) from living things in which DNA and RNA code for proteins and the proteins catalyse replication of the genetic material. This goes back to biochemist Jacque Monod's concept that the organism is a self-constructing machine. Its macroscopic structure is not imposed upon it by outside forces, instead it shapes itself autonomously by dint of constructive internal (chemical) interactions. Thus in the Kaneko- Kamimura model one has a self-perpetuating system in which a cluster of two types of molecules catalyse replication for one another while also demonstrating rudimentary cell division.

In the Kaneko and Kamimura model, as with DNA, the genetic material replicates much more slowly than the other cluster molecules but also takes longer to degrade, so it enables lots of the other molecule to accumulate. Following replication of the heredity carrier the copies drift apart while the molecules between them break down automatically creating two separate entities (see image).

This is an exciting breakthrough but some further investigations are needed, specifically ways to circumvent the problem that (in real life) membrane lipids around an RNA molecule don't typically catalyse RNA replication. However, this isn't insurmountable, because all one need do (theoretically) is replace the lipids with hydrophobic peptides.

We look forward to further work done by Kaneko and Kamimura as well as others in the microbiology field, working at the forefront of Abiogensis.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bible or Church? Actually, a FALSE Choice!

In some religious blogs it's become fashionable to debate on whether the Bible or a Church (as a generic "body of Christ") emerged first. On the side of the former are mainly fundamentalists who while they may know how to cite chapter and verse, are oblivious to historical facts. They claim that while a formal Bible may not have existed ab initio there were still coherent sayings of Yeshua that prefigured a later "correct, truthful" bible known as the King James. In fact, I will show this is all codswallop and uses specious arguments including retroactive claims to make a spurious case. In the meantime, those who argue that a single Church existed aren't aware that in fact dozens of differing Christian sects competed with only one prevailing: an orthodox form pushed by Paul of Tarsus.

First, let's get to the claim of an accurate compilation of Yeshua's sayings into a claimed original "bible" text that would later evolve to the King James version. Of interest is the tradition designated as "Q" or "Quelle" (the German for "source"). Textual analysis recognizes Q as a collection of Yeshua's sayings which doesn't exist independently (e.g. as a specific text) but rather can be parsed from the separate gospels, such as Mark. Germane to this Q tradition, is how - when one applies textual analysis to the books, gospels- one can unearth the process whereby the orthodox (Pauline) Church worked and reworked the sayings to fit them into one gospel milieu or another. One can also derive a plausible timeline: for example, The Gospel of Mark appears to have committed the sayings to paper about 40 years after the inspiring events, then Matthew and Luke composed their versions some 15-20 years after Mark. Finally, as noted in an earlier blog on this - John was actually an original GNOSTIC gospel that was reworked to conform to the Catholic Orthodoxy and added some 50-75 years after Matthew and Luke. (Again, if one knows Greek, one can easily spot the multiple edits in John that transmute its content from a Gnostic view to an orthodox Catholic one).

Here is where contradictory arguments emerge (conflating Church and bona fide Bible existence) because some fundies have insisted that "early church councils" adopted rigorous "principles" to determine whether a given New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. These are generally listed as criteria to meet for explicit questions: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the Body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit? This is a noble effort, but it actually blows up in the collective faces of the fundies (who later argue against an orthodox Catholic purist take) because at the end of the day they rely on the criteria of a religion-church that they really can't accept!

This is a tricky point so needs to be explained in the historical context. The fundamental problem is that whenever one refers explicitly to "early church councils" in antiquity, there can be one and only one meaning: the councils of the Catholic Church, since those were the sole ones then existing. Thus, fundies who inadvertently (or desperately?) invoke "principles" or coda for NT acceptance demanded by "early church Councils" are in fact conferring benediction on the CATHOLIC, PAULINE ORTHODOXY. Thus, they are unwittingly validating the Catholic process for separating wheat from chaff in terms of which books, texts were acceptable and which weren't!

A more honest and logical approach, would be to simply argue that no official "Church" or religion existed then that was bequeathed special status by Christ, and that the acceptance of this or that text was under highly unique guidelines independent of "early church councils". Those guidlines would then be provided. Ideally, these criteria will be truly independent from those ordained by the RC Church's councils, which the fundies reject as a "harlot of Babylon". In any case, to be faithful to history, the new principles would have to also be disclosed in the book the fundies most revere: the King James version. But is this even feasible?

For logical consistency and to be coherent with any proposed (later) doctrine, the claim would only stand if the final revered product (the current KJV) had not been severely compromised or altered such that it lost content or context. This would require: a) no major re-translations or re-doings, b) no major omissions or deletions, and c) a consistency with what the earliest original (e.g. Greek) translations (say in the Greek Septuagint) allowed, with no major contradictions.

Now, let's examine each of these in turn. As for (a) we do know from the extant historical records that the KJV originated when James VI of Scotland (who came to be King James I of England in 1603), commissioned an enclave of experts to Hampton Court near London in 1604, to arrive at a compromise translation to try to bridge the gap between the Puritans and the Church of England. Thus, already we see that a compromise was injected into the mix, for the existing documents of the OT, NT. We also know the assigned objectives were: the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew, and the New Testament from Greek, to be undertaken and respectively assembled by no less than 47 translators in 6 committes working in London, Oxford and Cambridge. The final results emerged seven years later, in 1611.

Back to the project: the translators were all instructed not to translate "church" as "congregation", and to preserve as much as possible the Bishop's Bible of 1568 (then the official English Bible). The translators were also granted wide latitude in how they specifically formed different translations of the text, in many cases being allowed to use the Geneva Bible and some other versions "when they agree better with the text" in Greek or Hebrew. This "mixing and matching" process is believed by many experts (e.g. Geza Vermes) to have been responsible for many of the more blatant contradictions that have emerged and which fundies are unable to explain away no matter how much they try. For example: in answer to the question posed 'Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented?:

(a) YES (Isa 33:14; Mt 13:40-42, 25:41,46; Mk 9:43-48; Jude 6-7; Re 14:10-11)

(b) NO (Eze 18:4; Mt 7:13, 10:28; Lu 13:3,5; John 3:15-16; Ac 3:23; 1Co 15:18; 2Th 2:10; Heb 10:39; 2Pe 3:7,9)

This is a huge divide, and a serious blotch on the integrity of the KJV. Indeed, if such a fundamental question as "eternal torment" can't be properly addressed, how many other shibboleths will one find? Another example of the skewed process appears in the KJV rendering of Matt: 25:46:

"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal"

Here, the Greek for "everlasting punishment" is "kolasin aionion." Kolasin is a noun in the accusative form, singular voice, feminine gender and means "punishment, chastening, correction, to cut-off as in pruning a tree to bear more fruit." Meanwhile, "Aionion" is the adjective form of "aion," in the singular form and means "pertaining to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time. But it does not mean eternal!(Critical examination discloses the Bible speaks of five "aions", minimum, and perhaps many more. If there were "aions" in the past, it must logically mean that each one of them have ended!) Thus, a 'pick as you choose' process for the creation of the KJV obviously allowed huge errors to creep in, and Matt. 25:46 is an enormous one, given it's the sole place that refers to "everlasting punishment". So if this translation is wrong because of a cavalier Greek translation (of kolasin aionion) then everything to do with it goes out the window. Thus, the KJV fails test (a) for logical consistency.

What about (b), i.e. no major omissions or deletions? Again, we know from historical records (kept by the Anglican Church) that what eventually became the "King James Bible" by 1626-30 was in fact NOT the original, but rather 75% to 90% adopted from William Tyndale's English New Testament, published in 1626. This version was actually published in defiance of then English law - so it is amazing so much of it was then incorporated into the original KJV! Tyndale's tack was to render Scripture in the common language of his time to make it accessible even to a humble plow boy. But this meant ignoring the originally published KJV and resorting to his own translations, basing his ms. on Hebrew and Greek texts. In so doing he'd defied an English law from 1401 that forbade the publication of any English book without Church of England permission. But, Tyndale got the last laugh, because a year after he was strangled for "heresy" in the Netherlands, King Henry VIII granted a license to a complete "King James Bible" that was more than three-fourths Tyndale's translation from his English New Testament! Thus, the current incarnation of the KJV is not the original translation adopted by the commisson of King James I. Thus, the KJV also fails criterion (b).

Now what about (c), a consistency with the earliest original (e.g. Greek) translations? I already showed this was broken as soon as Tyndale's version was 75% adopted and the correlated parts of the earlier (King James I) ordained sections, removed. More to the point, I gave the specific example of how the earliest Greek text for the meaning of ""kolasin aionion" (punishment for an age) was destroyed and altered to "everlasting punishment". Thus, the original bond was alredy destroyed - perhaps in the 'mix and match' translation process permitted by King James I in his commission of scholars! Thus, the current KJV fails all three logical texts for authenticity and hence can't possibly be the basis for any erstwhile "biblical church" or any founding document, period.

Now, what of the claim for an "early Church" itself? Is there such a thing? The answer is 'No!'. While it is true that Christ said "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church", that can be interpreted in more than one way. All the evidence, indeed, shows that the earliest conglomerate or "congregation" of followers wasn't a formal "church" by any standard but a polyglot group with shared beliefs, and shared outlook. I would argue that this group never evolved to become a formal Church, and that the latter didn't appear until the Edict of Milan was signed in 313 A.D. under the Emperor Constantine Augustus.

The problem with the Edict of Milan is that the then Christians essentially made a pact with "the Devil", i.e. signed on to a deal with the then Emperor that would allocate state religion status to the Christians (no more persecutions!) but at the cost of sharing that stage with the Emperor's own Sol Invictus (Sun worship) religion. Thus, the choice of December 25 for the nativity, since at that time that date was nearest the Winter Solstice or the 're-brith of the Sun' (when the Sun reaches its lowest declination and begins its apparent journey northward on the ecliptic, leading to longer days). Thus, the "church" codified in 313 A.D. was in fact an artifact of the original community called Christian, much like the current KJV is an artifact of the original book called King James version of the Bible.

Bible or church-based Christianity? As I said, a false dichotomy. The best plan for people, if committed to a spiritual existence and authentic relationship to whatever that means, is to toss out both church and bible and live without the graven images of either.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Insane Defense Spending Must STOP!

As another $690 BILLION defense spending bill wends its way through congress, you can lay 100000 to 1 Vegas odds that it will get passed with few problems or rider amendments. There are too many key Senators as well as Reps who now depend for their political livelihood on military spending. Translated: They depend on ordinary American taxpayers to keep pushing military pork to their communities while thousands of other communities endure continued infrastructure decay. This is a damned disgrace, and what's more, in a parlous financial environment in which we'll soon need to raise the national debt ceiling, it is unconscionable! We need to get our miserable asses out of Afghanistan, and we need to do it this summer, not by 2014! We don't have the freaking money - even borrowed from the Chinese- to continue with that bullshit.

Now, out of the mouths of 'babes' one find similar sentiments expressed, as in a letter published in yesterday's Denver Post from high school student Abigail L. Cooke. Just when you thought 99% of young people only had their eyes and brains tethered to the social media like Facebook, along comes a surprise and it is a heartening one. Abigail wrote:

"Fifteen trillion dollars in debt and counting. Every year our government spends billions on defense, leaving insufficient funds for important things like education. This year, almost $30 million will be cut from my school district’s education budget. That means fewer teachers, and even less arts programs for students like myself.

But why? Where will all of this money go? Probably to help further fund our involvement in Afghanistan or Iraq — invasions costing more than $1 trillion when combined. Imagine if just one billion of those dollars were applied to our school districts here in Colorado. That would mean more after-school programs, more teachers, smaller classes, instruments, music and instructors for music programs that our nation’s students are desperate for.

It’s time we start putting our money where we truly need it. It’s time for America to start raising scholars, not soldiers

This is an excellent letter! It shows this teen's priorities are on much more solid ground than superficial personal concerns. Indeed, her vision and insight would put nearly all politicos to shame. The only small error she committed in her letter was underestimating the disgraceful costs of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan which will come to more like $3.3 trillion when all is said and done, and all the returned vets' hospital treatments and therapies must be paid for by the taxpayers. But otherwise, she's nailed it. She's shown (and she knows) we have priorities all screwed up in this country. Our whole domestic tapestry is unravelling as we continue to stubbornly involve ourselves in nations which have no more respect for us - irrespective of the gazillion bytes of PR churned out each day.

Even current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted defense spending cuts must be made, though he seems to take issue with President Obama's conservative $400 billion proposed cuts over 12 years. In fact, this is ridiculous. The cuts ought to be more like $400 billion per YEAR! (Especially given the DoD budget was effectively doubled since 2000.) Just pulling our asses out of both Iraq and Afghanistan and leaving the idiotic nation-building behind would more than achieve that in the next three years. Cutting most of the dumb, money squandering armaments (including 'cloaked' helicopters which, while cool, aren't essential unless you're always into violating other nations' sovereignty via pre-meditated raids etc.) and you get even bigger savings.

I also totally disagree with Gates' assessment that "Americans would face tough choices" in a number of decisions, such as which weapons systems to eliminate, and the size of fighting units. Look, this is a no brainer! We already are overstretched across the freaking globe in nearly 44 countries. DO we have to be cop of the world? I don't think so! Nor can we afford that role in our debt environment. As for fighting units, do we really need to continue to maintain bases in Japan, Germany and S. Korea? Last time I checked all those nations had formidable forces that could more than take care of themselves.

Gates also whined in his last address:

"A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things"

SO WHAT? As I said, we don't need to be scattered in 44 nations across the globe! (See Chapter Five: The State of the American Empire: How the U.S. Shapes the World). We need to be taking care of our own mammoth country and its PEOPLE, left ignored the past decade, and especially the crumbling infrastructure: roads, sewers, water mains, bridges....which is a much bigger threat to our security than some phantom bad guys some place. We have to get it into our fat heads we can't police and patrol the planet. This is foolishness.

Gates did also say that however vast the defense spending (the Pentagon approved the largest ever defense budget in February) it "was not the major cause of the nation's fiscal problems". However, he also added in the same breath that it was "nearly impossible to get accurate answers to where the money has been spent and how much?" Good god, man! If you 'can't get accurate answers' there's no telling how much they're pissing away! And let's not forget that we still haven't turned up $1.1 TRILLION that the Pentagon "misplaced" around 1999-2000. This, of course, was well documented by former defense analyst Chuck Spinney in a memorable PBS interview with Bill Moyers in August, 2002. Spinney also pointed out that if money is given via legislation but never accounted for, as to the GAO, then the Pentagon itself becomes an unaccountable and unelected agent that undermines democracy. Spinney is also known for a September 2000, Defense Weekly commentary, in which he called the move to increase the military budget from 2.9% to 4% of the GDP as " tantamount to a declaration of total war on Social Security and Medicare in the following decade." Well, he wasn't off on that one!

It is time our politicians and representatives get that into their heads, and begin now with massive cuts to tame the country's over-inflated military empire. Let's not forget it wasn't so much 'barbarians at the gate' that brought Rome to ruin, but military overstretch which all its taxes and property seizures could no longer pay for. They say those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Let's hope it's not to late to learn!

John F. Kennedy, had he lived, would likely have ready a torrent of “I told you so’s”, in terms of the parlous and vexing state this nation finds itself in, from too many entanglements of only marginal value to our actual national security. He’d also have expressed anger that for all the warnings he’d delivered about “enforcing peace with American weapons of war” (his famous Pax Americana speech at American University, Washington, in June, 1963, see photo) nothing sank in, and President after President never heeded his advice, each preferring to remain hostage to the Military-Industrial complex.

Though JFK wasn’t so prescient in a specific context, his American University speech did generically prefigure the horrific consequences if the U.S. insisted on being the policeman of the world, enforcing American terms of peace (via the noxious document NSC-68) with American weapons of war. This speech probably set the foundation for Kennedy’s later plan (under National Security Action Memorandum-263) to pull out of Vietnam (after the 1964 elections when political blowback would be minimal). He could likely see that if, indeed, the U.S. remained in Vietnam - the perils of a much wider war, along with consolidation of the military-industrial-oil complex – would be unavoidable. Alas, JFK was assassinated, and LBJ invoked NSAM-273 to repeal JFK's NSAM-263 and with the phony firing on the Maddox and Turner Joy by N. Vietnamese, we were in for a penny, in for a pound: 58,000 killed, and $269 billion in costs. One would have thought we'd have learned from 'Nam, but the phony Iraq intervention showed we forgot it all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Pre-Medicare Era: Nasty, Brutish and Inhumane

As the discussion continues unabated about whether the Wednesday New York special election result was an indictment of Paul Ryan's Nazified plan to deny healthcare to seniors (I refuse to dignify it by calling it a "Medicare plan" far less a plan to "save Medicare") it is well to go back into recent history and what life was like before Medicare came onstream in 1966. To put it succinctly: life for the aged in this country was generally nasty, short and brutish - with few options or appeals to assistance if one became seriously ill.

Much of this is detailed in several chapters of the Oxford University Press monograph, entitled: One Nation Uninsured, by Jill Quadagno, which gets to the bottom of why there is such massive political aversion to any kind of genuine health care coverage in this country which doesn't drag in the profit motive. Medicare is discussed because it putatively paved the way to at least get a 'Leg into the door' on the all but closed-shop capitalist insurance front, stiffly guarded by the likes of the AMA.

By ca. 1960 there were some 19 million citizens over age 65, and some 185,000 physicians (p. 69). The options for medical care, however, were sparse though socially insured medical insurance had been in the pipeline since the Truman administration. But by 1960 the most serious countermeasure to it was the Kerr-Mills plan- which basically confined assistance only to the "aged poor". By 1963 only 28 states had adopted any of it, and barely 148,000 seniors were covered. Again, this out of a total population of 19 million seniors.

Was Kerr-Mills a terrific deal? Hell no! In many states that established a Kerr-Mills format there still weren't the funds to finance it. This meant the older person and his immediate family had to be put on the hook for the money allocated to any care. Thus 12 states had 'family responsibility' provisions (p. 60-61) which "effectively imposed means tests on relatives of the aged, deterring many poor, elderly people from applying for support"

The author cites as an example the state of Pennsylvania (p. 61) wherein "the elderly had to provide detailed information on their children's finances to qualify for Kerr-Mills". Meanwhile, in New York many seniors actually withdrew their applications on learning their children would be involved, and would have to cough up any extra money for care the state couldn't cover (ibid.). This also meant the adult children had to appear before state boards and answer direct questions concerning their assets and liabilities, how much mortgage they owed - if any, as well as bank account balances. Most seniors, naturally, weren't able to tolerate this level of humiliation and scrutiny of their offspring, not to mention being held liable. In other states under Kerr-Mills, the elder person had to sign away the deed to his home (if he owned one) to pay for all medical bills upon his or her decease.

THIS is what life was like for the elderly in the days before Medicare. What about any seniors not among the "aged poor"? Their only option was a miserly private insurance policy with huge costs and meager benefits. Policies typically covered "only a portion of hospital costs and no medical care" (p. 61). This left the elderly with 67-75% of all the expenses to absorb, which puts the plan about on the same level as Paul Ryan's scheme (the GAO estimates seniors will have to pay at least 2/3 of all expenses), if the latter is ever introduced - say if the GOP gains all three branches of government next year, which would be a nightmare come true! As an example, "Continental Casualty and Mutual of Omaha provided only $10 a day for hospital charges and room and board, less than half the average cost".

Of course NO prescription drugs were covered, all had to be paid for out of pocket. The average commercial plan - even given this miserliness- was quite expensive, ranging from $580 - $650 a year, when the median elder income was only $2,875. Thus, nearly 25% of income was gobbled up by first tier medical costs, which could easily expand to 50-75% of income if a number of prescriptions were needed, and medical treatments, hospitalizations. Quadagno also notes that (p. 62) "insurers typically skimmed off the younger, healthier elderly" thereby forcing insurers to raise premiums. Thus "many elderly were priced out of the market entirely". In many cases, the consequences were horrific, as illustrated by the case of an 80-year old granny who allowed an umbilical hernia to go unreated, with the result it ultimately protruded to 18" out of her belly and eventually ruptured, with her bleeding to death on the kitchen floor while baking a cake (p. 63). Nor were such events exceptional.

Again, there is no reason this couldn't happen under Ryan's plan, and there'd be every incentive for insurance companies to skim the healthier (and younger) seniors as in pre-Medicare days, and zero incentive not to. After all, with no government mandate for providing care, why should the profit -oriented insurance companies put themselves on a downward treadmill or "losing wicket" as we call it in Barbados? They wouldn't if they had any grain of sense. Without a mandate or order from the government, you can also bet your sweet bippy they'd reject any elderly person with a pre-existing condition. This would be the proverbial no-brainer for them!

Thus, by the time JFK proposed a government health plan linked to Social Security, in 1960, America's seniors were more than ready. More than ready to stop being parasitized by commercial outfits, or humiliated by the likes of states under the odious Kerr-Mills plan. The only main opponents were the AMA which (p. 68) "ran newspaper ads and TV spots declaring Medicare was socialized medicine and a threat to freedom" and blowhards like Ronnie Reagan who made idiotic recorded talks trying to scare people by asserting (ibid.): "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism on a people has been by way of medicine".

Fortunately, most seniors who'd actually experienced the dregs of capitalist medical bestiality didn't buy this hog swill. They organized under groups like the National Concil of Senior Citizens (see image) and turned the tables by imposing relentless pressure on representatives (the most intransigent of whom were Southern Democrats, to whom LBJ had to finally confront and read the 'riot act'). Eventually, the opposing voices were muted and Medicare was passed.

Let's hope enough older voters-people become aware of this history before they remotely allow any plan like Paul Ryan's to take them back to the conditions of 1960!

Basic Physics (Thermodynamics) - Pt. 13

Before moving on to more First Law considerations, heat capacity, and specific heat capacity, we look at the solution of the problem at the end of the previous blog (Basic Physics, Part 12):

(a) The external work done is W = P (V2 - v1) = 1.01 x 10^5 Pa(0.375 - 0.250)m^3

W = 1.25 x 10^4 J, or 12,500 Joules.

(b) delta U = n Cv,m (delta T) = 10(20.2 J/mol K)(T2 - T1), where n = 10 and

For (T2 - T1), we first find T1 = 0 C = 273 + 27 = 300K and we then need to find the higher temperature T2. Since for an isobaric process, V ~ T (P = const.) then:

V2/ V1 = T2/T1 or T2 = (V2/V1) T1 = [300k] x (0.375 m^3)/ (0.250 m^3) = 450 K

Then: (T2 - T1) = (450 K - 300 K) = 150 K, so:

delta U = 10(20.2 J/mol K) (150 K) = 30, 300 J

(c) Heat applied = delta Q = n C p,m (delta T) = 10(28.5 J/mol K) (150 K)

delta Q = 42, 750 J

Let's now go back to reiterate and summarize aspects of the First Law of Thermodynamics, by first noting the types of processes one can obtain under which conditions, given +U = Q - W (another way to express the law, with +U as subject):

(i) Adiabatic process (for Q = 0, i.e. then +U = -W)

(ii) Isobaric process (for P = constant)

(iii) Isovolumetric process (for V = constant)

(iv) Isothermal process (for T = constant)

Other important aspects to note in applying the 1st law:

(a) The conservation of energy statement of the 1st law is independent of path, i.e. (Q - W) is completely determined by the initial and final state, not intermediary states,

Example: say a gas is going from initial state S(i) with P(i), V(i) to final state S(f) with P(f), V(f), then one finds that (Q - W) is the same for all paths connecting S(i) to S(f).

(b) Q is positive (Q > 0) when heat enters the system, and

(c) W is positive (W > 0) when work is done BY the system, and vice versa.

Now, on to heat capacity! This is a generic as opposed to specific quantity defined as the heat that must be transferred to produce a change in temperature, or:

Q = C(T2 - T1). The specific heat capacity, c = C/ m where m is the mass. Then: C = mc and Q = mc (T2 - T1). We also saw already: C' = C/n (= Cp,m, Cv,m) where C' is the molar heat capacity. So, Q= nC' (T2 - T1). The heat capacity has interesting applications apart from prosaic, terrestrial ones.

For example, since space is a near-vacuum, m ~ 0, and c ~ 0, so little or no thermal capacity (C) exists. What this means is that energy from the Sun (via radiation) can be transferred through space, without appreciably heating space. Space is 'cold' not because it absolutely 'lacks heat' but because its density (of particles, hence mass) is too low to have much quantity of heat, or 'thermal capacity'.

What about in the vicinity of Earth? Similar arguments apply. The higher one is above the Earth, the lower the thermal capacity of the medium - so the lower the amount of heat that can be retained, or measured. The lower in altitude one goes, the greater the number of air particles, and the greater retention of heat- especially if water vapor is also included (since water has a large specific heat capacity). What happens is that the radiant energy (mainly from the infrared spectral region) transfers kinetic energy to the molecules of the atmosphere, thereby raising its internal energy: U = 3kT/2. This internal energy, defined along with the thermal capacity of the air(C) is what enables us to feel warmth. Conversely, the relative absence at higher altitudes makes us feel colder.

Specific heat capacity can be measured in simple lab experiments, using the apparatus as set out in the graphic. This image shows: an outer calorimeter (left), inner calorimeter cup (next), and thermometer (far right - inserted in calorimeter cap), and a metal sample for which we may seek to find its specific heat capacity - call it c(x). The practical procedure is then straight forward.

Assuming a mass of water (m_w) say of 100g, and mass of calorimeter (m_cal) which must take the inner cup + outer into account, then we can find what we need using a basic heat conservation equation:

heat lost by hot substance = heat gained by cold substance + heat gained by calorimeter

Then let the unknown metal (mass m_x) be heated to 100 C then deposited in the 200g of water at temperature 27 C in the calorimeter cup (which must be weighed of course). Let the calorimeter be of mass 0.1kg and made of copper for which we know the specific heat capacity c_Cu = 400 J/kg K, then we have:

-m_x c(x) (T - T_x) = m_w c(w)(T - T_w) + m_cal cCu (T - T_w)

This assumes no net heat loss, and also the initial temperature of the calorimeter and the water are the same, e.g. T_w = 20 C. Obviously then, if the unknown metal x is heated to 100 C and dropped into the calorimeter, heat will be gained by both the water and calorimeter, even as heat is lost from the specimen. Now, if c(w) is known to be 4,200 J.kg K we ought to be able to work out the unknown specific heat capacity c(x) if say, the mass m_x is known. Such calorimetric experiments are extremely important since they show several principles at once.

Example problem: For the experimental layout described, let the final temperature attained by the water + calorimeter be 25C. Obtain the unknown specific heat capacity, c(x) if m_x = 0.2 kg:

Then we have: T = 25 C, T_w = 20 C and T_x = 100 C. We also have all other quantities so we can obtain c(x). (Let us also bear in mind here that differences in Celsius degrees = differences in Kelvin degrees). Then we may write:

c(x) = [m_w c(w)(T - T_w) + m_cal cCu (T - T_w)]/[m_x (T - T_x)]

Substituting the measured values of the data:

c(x) = [0.2 kg (4200 J/kg K) (5 K) + 0.1 kg(400 J/kg K)(5 K)/ 0.2 kg( 75 K)

c(x) = [4200 J + 200 J]/ 7.5 kg K = 4400 J/ 15 kg K = 293 J/kg K (which is most likely an alloy of copper and silver, c(Ag) = 234 J/kg K).

(1) Let 5 million calories of solar energy be absorbed by 2 cubic meters of hydrogen gas 100 km above the Earth. If the particle density of the gas is 10,000 atoms per cubic meter, estimate the heat capacity of the gas volume. (Atomic mass of a hydrogen atom, 1 u ~ 1.6 x 10^-27 kg).

(2) 10 lbs. of iron and 5 lbs. of aluminum - both at 200 F, are added to 10 lb. of water at 40 F contained in a vessel whose thermal capacity is 0.5 Btu/ deg F. Calculate the final temperature if c(Al) = 0.21 cal/ g C, and c (Fe) = 0.11 cal/g C (Note: specific heat capacities are the same in calories per gram per degree Celsius as in Btu/ F deg).

(3)A calorimeter and its contents have a total thermal (heat) capacity of C = 200 cal/ deg C. A body of mass 210 g and at temperature 80 C is placed in the calorimeter resulting in a temperature increase from 10 C to 20 C. Compute the specific heat capacity of the body.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Congrats to Kathy Hochul!

Well, who'da thought? Democrat Kathy Hochul, running on a firm pro-Medicare stance, bested the (much better funded) Reep candidate Jane Corwin by 47-43% in New York's 26th congressional district special election. The 'W' is being touted, as well it should, as the first major successful test of the pro-Medicare stance vs. the horrific Medicare voucher plan espoused by Paul Ryan and his fellow numbskulls. What this win should also do, is serve as a template by which to beat Repup heinie into oblivion next year, and perhaps take back the House, and amass an even wider majority in the Senate. The point? The Reeps overplayed their hand and now they need to be made to pay through their eyes, ears, nose, and any other place for their hubris!

Of course, it wasn't ten minutes after the declared win before the inevitable whining began. Paul Ryan himself accused Democrats of distorting his proposal, averring.

“If you can scare seniors into thinking their current benefits are affected, that’s going to have an effect. That’s exactly what happened here,”

But this is horse shit. The fact is that it's immaterial whether "current" benefits are affected or not. This was roundly exposed during the recent Easter recess during which Ryan took his dog and pony show around Wisconsin trying to win support. It fell like a frickin' lead balloon!(Often amidst many catcalls, and howls of derision, screams of 'Liar!')

The "plan" was roundly eviscerated in confab after confab held by Ryan in various venues. People in the assorted audiences, many who had actually run the numbers, asked Ryan pointedly how they were going to be able to afford to pay nearly two thirds of their own expenses out of pocket when many of their relatives were already struggling (in existing Medicare) to pay roughly 20%. Ryan had no answers other than to try the ploy of asserting that current seniors (55 and over) wouldn't be affected by the changes, only those who turned 55 by 2021.

But again, people were too smart for his palaver, and the attempt to split up elder interests didn't work. After some in the audience heckled him with cries of "Liar!" and "Bullshit!" others referenced how they didn't want their younger relatives (already having a hard time finding work for decent pay) to have this onerous monkey on their back. From then, you could see Ryan chastened and backing off.

The fact, still unable to be processed by the foolish, ideological Reeps, is that Ryan's Nazi-plan was dead in the water from the word 'Go!' - hell, even Newt Gingrich saw it! Anyone who's tried to obtain private health insurance when over the age of 60 knew the score. Private insurers simply weren't interested in insuring a group that was 5-6 times more likely to be ill or injured or need care than a 35-year old. Well, they weren't interested unless you could cough up LOTS of moola, usually $850 or more a month, plus pay a high deductible of $5,000/ year and sometimes more. This is what one would get under the Ryan Medicare "plan" and that was assuming no pre-existing conditions, unheard of for most over-60 years olds. Thus, Kathy Hochul's constant refrain during her campaign that: "Hey, they just hand you $8,000 to buy insurance, then send you on your way with a 'Good Luck!'", is spot- on. THAT is exactly what would unfold in the Ryan scenario and anyone who'd try to tell you differently is either a liar, an ignoramous or an idiot. Or maybe all three!

As Ms. Hochul noted, the advantage of standard government Medicare is that it mandates insurers MUST accept a person over 65 who is qualified (i.e. has worked at least 40 quarters, or disabled), pre-existing conditions or not. It also mandates certain price structures for operations, treatments, and keeps patient costs lower than would otherwise be the case. Even so, they're not insignificant. Starting from July I will have to cough up around $3,300 a year, and that is assuming no major operations or interventions. So it's not a freebie.

Yes, as I've written until blue in the face, there are ways to ensure Medicare's long term solvency, and they don't require draconian spending cuts - especially coupled with preserving atrocious tax cuts for the wealthiest like Paul Ryan wants to do. They require only moderate changes, like enabling the government to bargain for lowest prescription prices like the VA, or if that can't work, allow importing of lower cost Canadian drugs. And if PhRMA squeals like stuck pigs, tell them to fuck off. Also, one can eliminate the 'Medicare Advantage' plans which spend $12 billion more a year on average than standard Medicare. Further, the FICA limits can be increased to at least $250 grand, along with no more Bush tax cuts - for middle OR wealthy classes. All these in tandem can resolve the insolvency problem but they require Dems especially to make the honest determination and run with it, as opposed to falling into the Reeps' spending cut trap. If they're dumb enough to do that all bets are off!

Hochul's win is devastating to the repups but only if the Demos use it and don't find a way (next year) to yet again seize defeat from the jaws of victory. That means they not only must run on her same justified fear (of the Ryan plan) template, but ALSO have the heart and courage to define, articulate and embrace Medicare changes that don't depend on massive spending cuts. I already listed them above, the question is whether enough Dems will have the cojones to embrace them.

Shocking News: Fundamentalists Have Small Brains!

In a blog just over a year ago, I cited an issue of Skeptic Magazine (Vol. 15, No. 2, 2009) by James Allen Cheyne, who made reference to a compendium of research which has shown an inverse correlation between religious belief and intelligence as measured by IQ.

Cheyne observed (ibid.):

"Correlations between measures of intelligence and reported religious belief are remarkably consistent. Approximately 90% of all the studies ever conducted have reported that .....as intelligence (as measured by IQ) goes up, religious belief goes down."

At the time I noted it didn't appear so fantastic a claim, based on the statistics he cited, coupled with one's realization that just a moderate IQ (105-115) should be able to see that talking snakes (as in the "Garden of Eden"), plus guys living in whales' bellies, and a man who can walk on water...are all preposterous. No genuinely intelligent person could buy into any of these any more than a smart kid would buy into Santa Claus.

In more depth, Cheyne made reference to a particular type of thought he called ACH thinking- or abstract, categorical and hypothetical - which appeared to be mostly missing from believers' and which figured prominently on many IQ tests (such as the Raven's and Wechsler Similarities tests). Such tests featured many questions which constructed an abstract hypothetical from a particular category, then asked the person to predict the consequences, if any.

For example, some ACH type questions would be:

1) If Venus and Earth were to exchange orbits, what (if anything) would happen as a consequence to each planet to change it from its current conditions?

2) If a hollow equilateral pyramid were "opened" up and spread out in two dimensions, how would it appear?

3) We observe the red shift of galaxy clusters and interpret cosmic expansion. What would we conclude if all galaxy clusters showed a blue shift- but only up to 1 billion light years distant and no more?

4) If the gravity on Earth were suddenly decreased by half, theorize how would this affect energy costs in two named modes of transportation?

5) Imagine a sphere turned inside out, how would it look in 3 dimensions? In two?

None of the above are particularly "easy" but neither are they too difficult for a person aware of basic facts (e.g. that Venus is already closer to the Sun than Earth by about 1/3) but do require the ability to abstract from the conditions of the facts to the given hypothetical to infer the new situation, and assess it. This is the very ability that Cheyne shows is missing as one examines results for religious believers.

At the time of the blog, the question as to this IQ deficit in believers was mostly unanswered, but now there may be an empirical basis. (Particularly as Cheyne's largest IQ deficits were observed statistically in Christian Fundamentalists). In a new study, completed at Duke University Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Templeton Foundation, it was found that Protestants who did not have a "born again" experience had significantly more gray matter than either those who reported a life-changing religious experience or unaffiliated (but still religious) adults. The measurments made focused on at least two MRI measurements of the hippocampus region of 268 adults between 1994 and 2005. Those identified as Protestant who did not have a religious conversion or born-again experience — more common among their evangelical brethren — had a bigger hippocampus, as well as atheists who had no religious orientation, period. Also interesting, is that those who professed a Catholic affiliation also had smaller brains, based on hippocampus size. (A putative comparison of brain scans is shown in the accompanying graphic but not exactly to scale so the magnification of the atheist brain scan and Protestant mainline one (center) must be adjusted by a longitudinal factor of about 1:11 and 1:14 smaller respectively compared to the fundy scan).

Biologically, we know the hippocampus is an area buried deep in the brain that helps regulate emotion and memory. Atrophy or shrinkage in this region of the brain has long been linked to mental health problems such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Damage, which may well be incepted by stress (say the stress of belonging to a minority group - as hypothesized by the researchers) may be one reason for the relative brain size deficit. But I believe a much more likely one (which will have to be tested-confirmed in the future with more detailed scans, say using PET (positron emission tomography) imagery and SPECT: single photon emission tomography, scans) is that the long term disuse of the application of the memory centers (based in the hippocampus) leads inevitably to long term decline (the typical average age of participants in the study was 58). In other words, "use it or lose it". If then the believer constantly disavows facts in critical thinking, and instead of marshalling those facts- say in original thought - has a tendency to rely on a single book or bible to "do his thinking for him", then his brain won't develop the flexibility or capacity of thought needed to adapt and it will lose mass- cells over time, i.e. shrink. This was already theorized as long ago as 1991 by Robert Ornstein in his Evolution of Consciousness.

The same can apply to Catholics, also found to have shrunken hippocampi, because they will reject their own critical thought and factual (memory) application, in favor or what the Pope or Vatican says. They will also tend to uncritically accept "saints", miracles and other bilge and pfolderol as replacements for reality. In each of these instances there will also plausibly be recurring failures in taking specialized tests (or IQ tests) which contain a large number of abstract, categorical and hypothetical (e.g. ACH) questions.

Obviously, more research and supporting tests need to be conducted, but it seems likely that at least the initial findings comport well with James Allen Cheyne's findings of lower IQs for believers, especially fundies. This ought to tell these folks that there is something deleterious to the brain in holding fast to 2,000 year old sayings (most butchered and bowdlerized) from sheep herding, semi-literate, and scientifically pre-literate nomads!

The American JOBLESS Future: Anyone Paying Attention?

As I perused the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel Online several days ago, one story caught my eye regarding 'Retirees Underestimate Health Costs'. The piece mentioned how too many grossly underestimate the out of pocket costs that will face them, even with Medicare. I posted a comment observing that this shows the Republicans are out of it with their Medicare repair plans, since the out of pocket costs will be MUCH higher (as with Ryan's plan). Also, the Journal -sentinel piece gave the lie to the widely circulated Repuke myth that Medicare is basically a "freebie". No, it certainly is not!

But on scanning many of the other comments I was astounded to behold one after the other bearing essentially the same refrain, which might be summarized as follows:

Well, anyone coulda told the feds that none of these entitlements would be sustainable! People, seniors are just gonna have to SAVE more and work longer!

Oh yeah? Says WHO? Most of these folks, so righteous in their anti-entitlement mentality have no clue at all, not one in a million, that an American jobless future is already upon us and will not be getting any easier, anytime soon. So once more, it;'s time to pull back the heavy lids of delusion and open some brains to the stiff sunlight of reality! (Hoping that Jack Nicholson's famous refrain (from the movie 'A Few Good Men') "You can't handle the TRUTH!" won't apply to any of my readers.)

At least two recent extensive articles, one in TIME and another in The Economist sheds much needed light, along with a recently released working paper for the Council on Foreign Relations, and which was authored by Michael Spence and Sandile Hlathshwayo. The latter's paper specifically warned that "growth and employment are set to diverge for decades in the U.S.". What does this mean exactly? It means that for the next multi-decades, and perhaps forever, economic growth as measured by the GDP and unemployment will be decoupled. Whereas before - much before! - the more workers the more economic growth, that will no longer apply. Now, LESS workers - or should I say LESS AMERICAN workers, will translate into higher GDP. The Jobless future is here, but actually - it has been with us for some time!

As far back as 1995, The Wall Street Journal noted the 'Million Missing Men' in a title by the same name, estimating that one million workers aged 55 and over were absent from the work force. They had evidently been downsized then vanished. However, not really! They simply maintained low profiles and after searching for decently remunerative work, gave up and dropped out. Many lived off their wives' earnings, but many others lived off savings and investments of their own, or took odd jobs to just keep heads afloat as they reduced their consumption dramatically - and maybe lived with a relative or friend.

In its own article ('Decline of the Working Man', p. 75, April 30th) The Economist observes:

"Of all the rich, Group of Seven Economies, America's unemployment rate has the lowest share of 'prime age' males in work: just over 80% of those aged between 25 and 54 have a job, compared to 95% in 1995"

Not mentioned, but often noted in assorted AARP Bulletins, are the 45% of those over 55 who have no job. Not even part time work. Even the 80% working figure given by the Economist is somewhat overblown because from the latest BLS stats and census data barely half those 80% working have full time jobs. The rest are underemployed in part time jobs, often patching two or three pissant pay jobs together to make ends meet. As authors William Wolman and Anne Colamosca (The Judas Economy: The Triumph of Capital and the Betrayal of Work) have noted: the effect of chronic underemployment, especially among those over 50 is just as pernicious as long term unemployment. It means, for example, that a large swath of people will not be able to save enough to support any kind of retirement scenario and will depend almost exclusively on Social Security. It is these, of course, for whom Medicare will be most critical for their survival and the injunction to "work more and save more" becomes more a cruel joke at the behest of a clown or moron.

The Economist, as good a journal as it is, unfortunately gets the base causes for this situation totally wrong, which is mystifying. They insist, for example, that many Americans have "let their schooling slide", meaning that they often haven't revamped their technical skills or trained for new fields. But this is false. Many reports (including a special series in The Denver Post some four years ago) noted how people in Denver - let go after the tech bust- had retrained only to find their new jobs sent out to India, because of lower wages and few or no benefits. The series also supported Jeremy Rifkin's thesis (in The End of Work) that high tech and white collar redundancy would follow that for lower skilled workers.

In the computer-tech domain this is exactly what has happened. While we do see the occasional piece bragging about Google hiring 12,000 new workers, say in California, the mainstream media leaves unreported how many hundreds of thousands of computer-tech jobs are dispatched to Bangalore or Delhi in a given year. The Post series noted that youngsters planning college aren't stupid either, and having seen swatches of good computer jobs dispatched offshore (including perhaps for their parents) they aren't that convinced a computer science degree will get them very far anymore. Nor are they willing to gamble (leaving university with debts in the tens of thousands of dollars, that they'll nail a Google job by beating 100,000 to 1 odds. Hence, more and more turning to medical tech and health services. But even those jobs will be terminated or never emerge, if the Republicans manage to overturn Obama's Affordable Health Care Act! It is precisely because up to 35 million more patients will be added by 2014 that those medical care jobs have a potential to materialize, but not if the legislation is torpedoed by Repuke bean counters who are penny wise and pound foolish!

Meanwhile, the TIME piece (May 20, p. 36) notes two elements that only appear to have been superficially covered by The Economist and which are playing new roles in engendering an American jobless future:

1) The re-definition of productivity: that is, productivity is now defined by "cutting jobs and finding ways of making the same products with fewer people". As pointed out by the author (F. Zakaria): "At many major companies profits have returned to 2007 levels but with many thousands fewer workers".

2)The force of globalization: making a single market for many goods and services which don't require American workers for production, OR American consumers to buy them. This single market amounts to more than 400 million having entered the global labor force, from China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere. All now with money to spend, and all willing to work at one third or less the pay of an American, and for NO benefits!

Both of these are ominous forces, and any American who still insists on wearing rose-colored glasses has only himself to blame if blind-sided. It is clear that these coupled forces will continue with no imminent signs of abating, unless some hidden, unfactored counterforce causes one or both to halt. In the case of (2) the most likely source of haltage would be a massive energy crisis (maybe induced by Peak Oil arriving very quickly with its worst manifestations) or perhaps a pandemic like Bird Flu or another "1918 Spanish Flu" epidemic (since that virus was recently re-engineered using frozen tissue s extracted from dead Eskimos who died of the virus and were found encased in ice). But even here, the costs inflicted on the global markets would likely be every bit as parlous as inflicted on Americans. The most probable result would be that everyone loses, including Americans.

The only remaining hope is to persuade American companies to begin to re-hire American workers for decent paying jobs with benefits, not merely McJobs which (at an average remuneration of $18,000) simply won't allow people to save enough not to have to depend almost entirely on "entitlements". (Indeed, Walmart has consistently advised its workers who can't afford its health plans, to try to sign on to Medicaid). The question is how to entice them to create the jobs, and the only way I see is much higher corporate taxation (with zero loopholes) if they don't.

Of course, another option is to resurrect the 700,000 public service jobs cut by Reagan during the hysteria over "big bad government". We can recall a goodly set of these were air traffic controller jobs, which loss we're still paying the price for. And while pundits laugh and make jokes about sleeping controllers, no one wants to go near the real reason: too few experienced controllers on the job (which numbers are necessitated by America's antiquated airline route system, as noted in an earlier blog). Then there is the massive infrastructure repair needed, an effort that could easily employ a skilled army of public workers for YEARS, to build new bridges, water and sewer mains and highways. But in the deficit obsession era, no one again wants to go anywhere near this! So, we just allow our infrastructure - the backbone of our nation - to degenerate into 3rd world status.

Apart from these possible major influences or checks on the current 'jobless productivity' dynamic, most Americans face an extremely impoverished and bleak future. Which makes it even more critical that the remaining social support systems, including Social Security and Medicare, be ferociously protected against any further weakening - either by Nazified and brutish tea bagging Repukes, or by pussified, wussified Demos afraid of their own shadows and desperately needing backbone transplants - as well as a pointed reminder of the PEOPLE their party used to represent before too much corporate cash was infused for political campaign contributions!