Monday, June 13, 2011

Mixed Bag Questions in the M-Brane Mail-box

I have a question backlog piled up since my sister-in-law left 2 weeks ago (actually since she arrived to visit us on May 5) so will try to get through as many as possible. They range from the scientific to the economic and yes, the religious (saving the best for last!):

Here we go:

1) In the Otto Cycle problem ( you asked for the volume (V1) to which the gas expanded during the power stroke. However, the answer wasn't given in volume units but as a ratio of the volume V1 to the original V2, e.g. V1 = 12.8 V2. Is this really a satisfactory answer? - Bill K., in Toledo, OH

Ans. The problem asked "To what volume" the gas expanded, and this can be in terms of the original if that is the extent to which the given information, data support it. The great thing with a ratio answer is that any specific value, say 1.5 L, inserted in for V2, will then yield the exact value for V1. Often, especially in thermodynamics, these type of solutions are found.

2) Re: the blog, I understand cyanobacteria still exist so how could they have been all exterminated as you claimed? - Nell in Oshkosh, WI

Ans. Actually what was noted is that "a new type of 'cyanobacteria' some 2.5 billion years ago resulted in a mass-extinction of the earlier methanotrophic bacteria"

I ought to have more emphasized, however, that these cyano-bacteria persist today but in limited (165rDNA) sequences identified as identified Gleobacter as the nearest outgroup, and Chlamydia as the closest eubacterium. I also ought to have emphasized more than not ALL methanotrophic bacteria were eliminated (well, I did note it was a "mass extinction" not a "total extinction") and some are used even today for assorted applications, see e.g.

3) In your second blog on eruptive solar flares, you gave this expression for the radius (r?) of the model loop system:

(B+C-)/ 2 ~ (A+A-)/2 = r

Can you please explain that. - Darryl, Fargo, ND

Ans. The sign in between the two sides was actually intended to be an 'approximate' sign (double waves) but that was the only one available. The idea is that the two sides (B+C-)/2 and (A+A-)/2 are approximately equal. Perhaps a better way to make the estimate would just be to write: ½ [(B+C-)/ 2 + (A+A-)/2] = r. In other words, the mean of the two separate loop radii.

4) I found your blog on Money mistakes interesting and valuable. (

I am now considering investing in an equity indexed annuity. Do you think this is a good idea or should I stick with immediate fixed annunities?- Milton, Ft. Pierce, FL

Ans. My own take is to leave them be. Any sort of annuity that requires deferral, e.g. can't take it out or use it without a penalty (surrender fee) paid is not one I want. Also, anything (like most variable annuities) with fat expenses built in, is not one I'd take. Especially as those fees are often so obscured that it's difficult if not impossible, to understand what you're really paying.

Note that an equity-indexed annuity is different from other (e.g. immediate) fixed annuities because of the way it credits interest to your annuity's value. Most fixed annuities only credit interest calculated at a rate set in the contract. Equity-indexed annuities credit interest using a formula based on changes in the index to which the annuity is linked. The formula decides how the additional interest, if any, is calculated and credited.

Another feature I'm not crazy about (but which the promoters of EIA's proclaim) is the capping on the index-linked interest rate. This is the maximum rate of interest the annuity will earn. While its often gauged to minimize losses during downturns (a good thing) it can also cap great returns in a soaring market. Also, in some EIAs the index-linked interest rate is computed by subtracting a specific percentage from any calculated change in the index. This percentage, sometimes referred to as the "spread," or "administrative fee," might be instead of, or in addition to, a participation rate.

If you do decide to get one of these be sure to also ask about the tax liabilities!

5) Your examination of the Pareto Distribution (part 1) was chilling! To think they will actually want to cut my Medicare and Social Security so the rich can get more tax cuts! It makes my blood boil! Why can't more Americans see through these tax cuts as not being in their interest? - Wilhelmina, Marion, GA

Ans. Probably because most Americans, especially now in tight economic binds, are only thinking of the near future and what a couple hundred extra bucks in the pocket may mean each year- not long term. Thus, they don't project to the time those tax cuts pile up and leave their Medicare or S.S. under-funded, which can have worse consequences for them. In a manner of speaking, one could say their choice of electing to get tax cuts now rather than preserve their benefits later, is Pareto Inefficient. Though I prefer to think of it more as inveighing against one's own interests!

6) I saw one guy's religious site (your brother's?) and he made this pronouncement:

"If the New Testament is disallowed, then all other documents of ancient history (Plato, Aristotle, Homer, etc.), must also be disallowed because the biblical documents are far superior in their copying accuracy than any other ancient literature in existence! "

Is there anything to that? What about his claim that the validity of NT can't be con tested because it's doctrinal?- Ernest, Opelika, AL

Ans. Not at all. First, the NT can't be compared to the works of Aristotle which were written in one language and not subject to the copyist errors and re-translations, other mischief the NT suffered. Thus, one finds a steady consistency in all the translations of Plato's works (e.g. the Symposium, The Republic etc.) as well as Aristotle's (e.g. the Nichomachean Ethics, Rhetoric, Politics etc.) Meanwhile, we see wide divergences of many passages and their translations in the NT, for example between the account of Yeshua's trial (before Pilate) in the Gospel of John and the other 3. Saying a certain NT passage is "doctrinal" is also a copout! (More accurately, a form of begging the question!) Says WHO? Someone declared it, obviously, but if it isn't evident in a consistency of the passages (such as when contradictions surface), then it's all back-engineered so to speak. As I said, if some authority is required to pronounce on x,y and z passages then they can't be read literally. He can't have his "literal NT cake" and then eat it as non-contradictory. Contradictions, otoh, only vanish when one has the language flexibility not to be bound by literalness! So long as bible bangers demand both literal reading ability and non-contradiction they're ensnared in a Godelian mind trap.

Thus, it is nonsense to say the tracts, works of Plato, Aristotle must be "disallowed" if the NT is. Make no mistake, the many logia recounted in the Gospels would, if they could convincingly be shown derived from a single personality or source, be strong evidence that a historical Jesus existed. But such is not the case. The prominent Bible scholars who comprise 'The Jesus Seminar'(including some of the top minds and intellects in the world, such as John Dominic Crossan) completed their 6-year analysis and reported that at least 80 percent of the sayings were NOT authentic. Meanwhile, 0% of Aristotle's Ethics is inauthentic. While Yeshua was probably a historical person, therefore, there is absolutely no genuine compelling historical evidence he was anything more than that.

Another serious issue: Forget for the moment that the name borne by the earliest followers of Jesus was “Nazoreans’ - NOT “Christians” – and Yeshua was known as “the Nazorean”. This is a sectarian term of which the Hebrew is ‘Notsrim’ and is NOT connected directly with a place called “Nazareth” or with the messianic “Nezer” branch from the roots of Jesse. Nazoreans’ members proclaimed themselves the “preservers of the true faith of Israel”- but this claim was also made by the Samaritans, inhabiting Samaria (Shomron) who represented themselves as the ‘Shamerine’ – the custodians or keepers of the original ISRAELITE religion, as opposed to the Judeans (Jews).

The truth is Nazareth is not mentioned once in the entire Old Testament, nor do any ancient historians or geographers mention it before the beginning of the 4th century. Researcher Frank Zindler has accurately noted: The Talmud, though it names 63 Galilean towns, knows nothing of Nazareth. Josephus, who wrote extensively about Galilee (a region roughly the size of Rhode Island) ….mentions Nazareth not even once – although he does mention by name 45 other cities and villages of Galilee. This is even more telling when one discovers that Josephus does mention Japha, a village which is just over a mile from present-day Nazareth

By contrast, we have reams of historical and other (archaeological) support for Plato's and Aristotle's writings!

7) What's your opinion of this pastor's take on God and Hell? Just curious! He writes:

As for sending people to hell , the idea of a loving God sending people to hell for eternity is not easy to accept. Why would God, who is full of mercy and grace, send people to a place of torment for ever and ever for not trusting in Jesus even though they are nice people, or never heard of Jesus, or were sincerely trying to find God? Is that fair? Is that right?

When people ask these questions, they are appealing to what THEY perceive as fairness. They are looking at the issue from their human perspective

Hope you can help me out here!

- Lee, in Wilmington, Del.

Ans. Again, this has been debunked so many times now I lost count! First of all, the definition is all important. Once a definition is made absolute there is no wiggle room. Here is where most of his problems lie. For example, sure "a loving God" - if like a human that is incapable of unconditional love, could perhaps dispatch one of his creation to a "Hell". He lacks the absolute or infinite love to do otherwise!

However, if one postulates a Being of INFINITE love then that necessarily means it surmounts all human limitations! Hence, it must not only be "infinite" in the abstract but infinite in unconditional love! Hence, nothing any of its creations will do can be enough to lose that love. And if they can't lose that love, they can't be dispatched for ETERNAL punishment! (Morever, it is only a mistranslation in one part of Matthew that comes up with "everlasting punishment" at all, a mistranslation from the Greek "kolasinin ainion")

Interestingly, it is the Hell purveyor who is guilty of invoking the human perspective here! He is simply unable or unwilling to go to the next level to try to conceive of what an infinite love would mean. So trapped is he in the Old Testament God of revenge that he mistakes it for "justice"!

There's another aspect that blinds his thinking and options: he is so fixated on one formulaic way to "salvation" (believing on JC)he can't conceive any other modes, so must conclude that God must send those who don't believe in the lord JC as personal savior to Hell. But he is effectively telling God what to do! He is saying: "Look here, God! People MUST believe in the Lord JC as personal savior or they can't be saved! So you must send all of 'em to Hell! I demand it!)

Another factor he can't comprehend and which he can't resolve (at least I doubt he can): If God is deemed to be INFINITE then there can be no place where God is not! Thus, if one introduces a "Hell", WHERE IS IT? HOW DOES IT CO-EXIST with the ALREADY INFINITE BEING defined as "God"?

SO trapped are these people in their delimitations of rigid "salvation", they can't allow the actual definition of "infinite" to be what it means! Worse, they can't see how their definitions of salvation contradict a true infinite Being!

Again, IF God is: a) Infinite, and b) all loving, then there is NO place for HELL!

It is a logical impossibility, and this goes beyond any "human perceptions". Either, there is one pervasive infinite Being that is loving, OR it is divided between a partial Being and Hell.

He obviously elects the latter, but then he doesn't really believe: a) God is infinite, and b) God is possessed of infinite love.

What he needs to do, instead of harping on human perceptions, is show how an Infinite God can be reconciled with the existence of Hell. I say he can't because it's like trying to square a circle!

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