Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Great E-Mail Climate Flap

All over the net immense outrage has erupted in the wake of the released content of a number of emails between climate scientist Phil Jones of East Anglia University in Great Britain, and a counterpart at Pennsylvania State (mainly) and other centers. Two weeks ago, evidently, the cleint server's network was hacked - at East Anglia- and the e-mails accessed. Never mind this is a felony, and possibly even terrorism, what mattered more to the climate skeptic brigade was the content of the e-mails uncovered.

At one point, for example, an e-mail referred to "using tricks" to conceal that the climate hasn't warmed for about ten years. The word was taken literally to mean "shenanigans" or deliberately faking something. Amazingly, none of the scolds and critics could avail themselves of their short term memories to recall the "tricks" used some eight years ago to conceal a climate warming trend by researchers Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon. The details of how the pair employed 30-year intervals in one of their studies, in order to conceal warming, can be found here:

I tracked Baliunas' illustrious history since 1993 on Google, and evidently she's written for a lot of conservative-right wing rags masquerading as peer-reviewed scientific papers, including Capitalism Magazine and National Review. No matter, the outcry against them was next to nothing, compared to the outcry against East Anglia's Phil Jones.

In other e-mails name calling was dredged up, and epithets hurled by climate scientists against the skeptics, who are often called "idiots". Again, why the shock and disbelief? I myself have often called climate skeptics idiots, because to my mind that's what they are. They invoke a specious, transparent pseudo-science to sow doubts on man-made global warming that are really driven by political -economic agendas. Over time, frustration grows that they can make huge inroads into public consciousness (compliments of an unquestioning media) and this leads to outbursts like calling them "idiots" - if not in e-mails, then in blog pieces, or letters to the editor published in online fora.

In an earlier blog entry I referred to this process of deceiving the media and public as agnotology. This term was originally coined by Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor who identified it as the the trend of skeptic science sown for political or economic ends - e.g. in imparting ignorance and faux skepticism. It is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made (and as we know NO scientific theory is free of these 100%, even such rich theories as quantum mechanics and special relativity).

Agnotology is derived from the Greek 'agnosis' and hence the study of culturally constructed ignorance'. Proctor notes that when a society doesn't know something it is often because special (often paid) interests have worked hard to sow immense confusion on the issue. People read 'A' then see 'B' ostensibly refuting it, and without a hard science background themselves (at least two years of university physics or chemistry plus calculus), are "lost at sea".

90% of the most recent bout of agnotology has been connected to the "global cooling since 1998" meme. I believe this meme is what Phil Jones was attempting to counter in his e-mails, it's just that he chose the wrong language and procedure to do so.

How did this meme begin? Most likely, in a May, 2008, Nature paper written by Dr. Noel Keenlyside et al, and which made a tentative claim for monotonic global cooling since ca. 1998. This 'jumped the shark' and become embedded into the warming skeptics' arsenal of disinfo and set real global warming science education back at least a decade in my estimation. Now, every hack and wannabe hack from Fox News to Limbaugh to ordinary know-nothing blokes cite it as some kind of mantra that man-made warming is "disproven".

At the root of this misapprehension by the faux skeptics is misinterpretation of the data appearing in the paper - not at all helped by the mainstream media which have also misconstrued it. (Hardly surprising, since these incompetent cheerleaders also let pass the contrived paper by Hany Farid- claiming he'd exposed the alleged Oswald-backyard rifle photo as genuine. Only ONE single article- by Jim Marr and James Fetzer- was ever published challenging Farid's methods and assumptions , in any kind of substantive online vehicle).

Even Editors who fully know the actual original source for the cooling claim still couldn't be bothered to consult it, they preferred to get their info 2nd hand (like from the 'Investor's Business Daily') then bloviate how global warming is "wrong", or "hyped" in sundry editorials. People prone to the denial weltanschauung then read these superficial reports, missed the key core clues, and bruited it all about that they (deniers, skeptics) were right all along.

They could have studied the paper's key figure,(3), the one that looks at past and (forecast) future global temperatures, "Hindcast/forecast decadal variations in global mean temperature, as compared with observations and standard climate model projections". The first thing they’d have noted about the figure -- indeed, one major source of confusion -- is that each point represents a ten-year centered mean. That is, each point represents the average temperature of the decade starting 5 years before that point and ending 5 years after that point. Thus, the statistics for potential “cooling” could not possibly have been justifiably extrapolated beyond 1998 + 5 = 2003. Yet imbeciles all over the place have insisted it is ongoing.

Second, the skeptics would have spotted the red line in the Nature publication and – if bright enough – beheld that it was the the actual global temperature data from the U.K.'s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. They ought to have asked: Why does the red line stop in 1998 and not 2007? Again, it’s a running 10-year mean, and the authors use data from a Hadley paper that ends around 2003, In effect, they can't do a ten-year centered mean after 1998.

Lazy deniers, however, have parlayed this simple statistical peculiarity of the data into believing that global warming factually STOPPED in 1998! Third, at least one genius denier might have spotted the black line in the Figure, which was actually one of the IPCC scenario projections, labelled 'A1B.' It denotes a relatively high-CO2-growth model -- but actual carbon emissions since 2000 have wildly outpaced it. A further check by skeptics of the solid green line - the "hindcast" of the authors – e.g. how well their model compared to actual data (and the A1B scenario) could also be done. The lazy morons would have seen that, if extended (in dashes) through 2010 and finally to 2025, it JOINED up with A1B!

Another grievous source of confusion that has been misused by the deniers is the authors statement:

“Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming”

But what they really mean by that statement is not what a simple reading of that sentence would suggest: They did not mean that "the global surface temperature may not increase over the next ten years starting now." What they meant was what the lead author, Dr. Noel Keenlyside, later provided in a clarification letter to the publicaton: They are predicting no increase in average temperature of the "next decade" (2005 to 2015- relative to their data timeline) over the previous decade, which, for them, is 2000 to 2010!

And that is, in fact, precisely what the figure shows -- that the 10-year mean global temperature centered around 2010 is the roughly the same as the mean global temperature centered around 2005.

Now, instead of resorting to "tricks" in future statistical presentations, THIS is what Phil Jones and his cohort ought to have sought to make clear to an increasingly skeptical public. Thus, a better e-mail, more sensible - to his U-PA counterpart, Mann, would have been:

"You know, I think we need to go back to that Keenlyside paper and try to make its statistical content more understandable to the public. It'll take a lot of work but it will be worth it".

Alas, he chose not to do that, but to opt for short cuts, which is the human way.

At the end of the day, the science still holds irrespective of the e-mails. If it didn't, then the American Geophysical Union would have removed its position statement on climate - as the largest climate research scientific organization in the world. However, at last check, it is still up there - as it has been, and in the same words, for the past two years.

Of course, in the midst of the obfuscating political haze, it is not suprising many commentators got it wrong when they attempted to provide insight into the e-mails. For example, writing in The Financial Times, Christopher Caldwell (Nov. 28, p. 7) asserts that :

"The emails do not in themselves undermine the IPCC's science, but they are evidence of groupthink. "

To justify the latter, Caldwell then cites the email authors agreeing "to destroy their emails - to defend their work, not against error but against scrutiny"

This must be understood in context. No scientist I know of has any problems defending his or her work against the scrutiny of PEERS. However, vs. laymen with an agenda - decidedly political, is a different matter. For one thing, what quality can the scrutiny assure when it's driven by political or economic imperatives? In this case, ANY weakness at all will be construed as meaning the hypothesis itself is flawed and must be chucked. This is exactly the form of scrutiny I believe the climate e-mailers - already under siege from the skeptics- were prepared to dodge. Was it the noble thing to do? No, but it was the expedient and cheaper, easier thing, given the time consumed by typical scientific research.

What is dismaying to those who have done the research is how deficient the average denier-skeptic is, and how difficult it is to impart correct interpretation of data minus the bogey of ideology which stalks every word written on global warming. (And as Prof. Porter has observed, agnotology always makes its greatest incursion into the most contentious issues - especially those with political or economic consequences. As one 'Physics Today' report noted two years ago, it is as if those political and economic facets actually trump the SCIENCE).

Better physics education may be needed, but I think a large dollop of critical thinking and training in scientific interpretation is also needed. We also desperately require a media less susceptible to political distortions, and especially the corruptness of think tank inputs. Since the Watergate era of the 1970s, mainstream papers - to survive- have gotten cheap in terms of process. By that I mean most now substitute PR flack pieces for hard news, and use widely circulated but "free" syndicated think tank pieces, churned out by the Hudson Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the American Heritage Foundation, and the Independence Institute, as opposed to individual columns. Of course, the latter mean that decent payments must be made for the well thought out pieces. It is far cheaper and easier just to sign on to the circulated tripe from think tanks and let the chips fall where they may.

Those "chips" now constitute a largely brainwashed public - which grasps little or no science, but is prepared to be driven politically into one corner regarding global warming.

Alas, it is the wrong corner.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

10 Things Atheists have to be thankful for

I'm often asked around this time of year if Atheists have any thing to be thankful for, especially living in a god-obsessed nation such as the U.S. of A. Well, actually there are - I can think of ten of them, and since Turkey Day is approaching, it is apropos to list them below:

1. According to the latest Pew Center Research Religious survey, Atheists now comprise 10% of the population of the U.S. This is up from barely 5% in the early 1990s. Of course, it can also mean more people are coming out and declaring themselves "Atheist" rather than hiding it. Still something to cheer about.

2. Atheist books are now among the hottest sellers on the web, the top three best sellers are: 'The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, 'God is Not Great' by Christopher Hitchens, and 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris.

3. This year, the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' - now sees evolution by natural selection taught at more schools, more universities than at any time past. The interested reader is rarely more than a few mouse clicks away from a video course or lecture. For example, an MIT video lecture on Population Genetics & Evolution can be found here:

4. More and more teens are asking how to come out (as Atheists) to their over religious parents. I now receive an average of one question on an experts site per month from a youngster who wants to declare his or her Atheism, but is frightened that parents might react badly. This is a good sign for an Atheist future, and bodes ill for many religionists, especially fundies who firmly believe "the kids are in their corner". No, not quite!

5. Scientific advances for the first time have made possible the expeditious production of an influenza vaccine, against a virus (H1N1) that could easily mutate into a deadlier form. Now, more than a half billion people across the planet have already received it and this may be key to staunching an uptick of serious cases in the Spring. The virus, for those who don't know, is similar genetically to the H1N1 strain that claimed nearly 50 million lives in 1918- most by cyannosis and suffocation - the lungs so filled with fluid people literally drowned in their own bronchial fluids.

6. Again, thanks largely to scientific technology and the advances in anti-viral drugs, U.S. deaths from AIDS dropped 10% from 2006 to 2007 and they remain well below the 1995 peak.

7. According to recent stats, more and more graduating college students are turning away from careers on Wall Street (by a 2 to 1 ratio) and pursuing scientific careers, opportunities. This is a very good sign and means we have finally started to evolve away from being a nation economically governed by leverage and financial sharks. Of course, the market collapse last year may have had a lot to do with it!

8. 370 planets outside our solar system have now been discovered, and ten of these may be able to support life, including intelligent life. If and when that first contact comes, most psychologists predict it will finally mean the collapse of human -centered, anthropomorphic religions which regard "God" like some Giant Daddy in the Sky, or the Head of Cosmic Homeland Security. They also predict the first religions to go will be all the fundamentalist breeds whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

9. The human genome findings and identification of most human gene functions, now means we can produce the most superior humans - capable of better adjusting to their environment, and with brains to match. One adventurous person has even predicted the end to all superstition within a generation.

10. Since the Obama election, and his inaugural address (where he directly referred to "unbelievers" in a positive light), the political influence of the Christian Right has waned to the point they don't even try to dispatch emissaries - like Rev. James Dobson- to White House ecumenical meetings any more. This is encouraging, but we must always be on guard for any new Christian Right "Caesar" who may want to get elected to the top spot. Think Sarah Palin.

That's a good start and more than enough to be thankful about. If the trend in all theses areas continues it will be cause for even more optimism next time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Praying for Obama's Death? How low can they go?

President -Elect Obama at his victory speech in Chicago, in November,' 08. He couldn't know then how the unfathomable rage of the Right Wing Extremists would be raised against him. Now being expressed in odious bogus "prayers".

I became severely upset this morning, after reading a piece in


about certain so-called “Christian” pastors praying for President Obama’s death. According to the article by Lilly Fowler, assorted Pastors are invoking Psalm 109 -- in hopes of "saving our country, and our souls".

The Psalm goes:

Let his days be few: and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him; neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out….”

The horrendous psalm embodies all the vindictiveness, spite and rage redolent in the Old Testament authors (recall the story of the blind prophet "mocked" by children - who prayed that a She-bear be sent to rend them each limb from limb, which horror later transpired) which uniformly manifests in a kind of ongoing religious hate speech. It’s not something a person of faith should use in or out of context, or as a pithy political jab. Forget for the moment the original miscreant that could write such offal, but how could anyone even THINK of petitioning a god for all this to befall our president? One who has successfully turned back the worst economic crisis since the great Depression and sought to repair immense damage to the nation since the end of the unelected "Texass termite’s" reign of terror - from starting unprovoked wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that will empty our Treasury, to repealing the basis of all Western jurisprudence - habeas corpus via the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

How in hell can these degenerates, which is what they really are, call themselves "Christians"? One thing I do know, IF a historical Jesus existed, and if he could fast forward into the future and behold what these "followers" are doing, he'd disown them faster than a dog owner who discovered his pet had rabies....foaming at the mouth and ambling toward him.

These people are officially off the rails, and have lost all moorings, while they lost all civility long ago. I understand fully the cycle of mutual Right-Left hate that began with the persecution of Clinton over a sex act, but this is ridiculous! Where does it stop and when? How many cycles of hate must we as a nation go through? When do we all come together again as one nation, ONE PEOPLE, and follow our ONE president? Not follow blindly, obviously, but where criticism is needed- do it with some measure of civility or decorum, not hidden death threats!

Or, have we been so mercilessly reduced to mutual hatred that the only feasible solution is to partition Red and Blue states as Pakistan was partitioned in 1948 - separating warring Hindis from Muslims? Is this what it finally comes down to - the total separation of people because we can no longer live under one administrative, electoral "roof"?

I hope not. I seem to recall here the old words: "United we stand, divided we fall".

They may be as applicable now as ever, even as the President and congress make a final push to attaining something that all other civilized, western nations take for granted: affordable health care for all citizens, not just the wealthiest.

From an atheist point of view, thank goodness there's no actual God, so he-she-it won't be answering these hideous, imprecatory "prayers" any time soon. Some, of course, insist the prayers ought to be tolerated as "free speech", but I don't see them that way. I see them as incitement to assassination....a not so subtle invite to any screw loose moron to do serious harm to the President.

Make no mistake that it's a felony to threaten or incite violence against the President. That's what I believe these prayers are and why all those loudly invoking them need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including for treason. Is there anyone with a working brain who doesn't see that these prayers are barely disguised marching orders to some Tim McVeigh in the audience to go out and be God's good soldier by carrying out an “executive action” on Obama? In much the same way, the looney right wingers in Dallas were incited to kill JFK in November, 1963? Firmly convinced in their self-righteous, delusional firmament that they were "killing a commie traitor" for Mom, Flag and apple pie.

I believe one can logically and compellingly argue that any "pastor" openly making such incendiary imprecations in public deserves a visit from the Secret Service and an investigation, at the very least. At the very most, death by hanging for treason – and in between – having all federal tax exempt status revoked one time.

Let's just hope that we can anticipate and prevent the inevitable psychopaths who think they're doing "God's work" by actively responding to the death prayers offered by psycho pastors for good people like President Obama. It's too late for Dr. Lawrence Tiller. It was way too late for JFK, who – days before – never knew about the ‘Wanted for Treason’ posters put up all over Dallas at the behest of oil tycoon, H. L. Hunt. Or the prayers Dallas' school children offered up for JFK's rapid demise- and for which they cheered jubilantly in the wake of their seeming reward - by their mock angry deity, when Kennedy's brains were blown out onto Elm Street.

Religion, as we behold from this sorry spectacle, is the greatest force for evil and destruction the world has ever seen. If that's not proof there's no God, I don't know what is.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hany Farid's Pixelated Illusions

Fig 1a (left) and 1b(right): two of the Oswald backyard photos found
Fig. 2: Oswald "Ghost" photo - found at Dallas PD Headquarters

Fig. 3: Regions near right eye in 2 photos and the fractional pixel deviations

As we remember the JFK assassination (Nov. 22, 1963), there remains a formidable assault on the truth of what happened that day, coming from various quarters. These interests and their lackeys and abettors never rest and are part of the “unspeakable” written about by James Douglass in his ‘JFK and the Unspeakable:: Why He Died and Why It Matters’. Most skeptics and conspiracy deniers, as Douglass notes, are unable to confront the unspeakable: they are more than happy to give it cover by their denial, and tendentious obfuscations, misdirections.

Among the more egregious recent examples has been German film maker Wilfried Huismann who claims to have done three years of research and exposed the Cuban government as the planners and funding source for the hit. He claims to have talked to “former KGB and Cuban agents”. Of course, this is abject nonsense. As Douglass makes clear (p. 227), the claimed letter from Oswald to the Soviet Embassy implicating associations with the KGB’s Valery Vladimirovich Kostikov – the chief of assassinations in the W. Hemisphere- was a fake, designed to set up the USSR, as well as its client state, Cuba, as the actual perps. In fact, as later Soviet documents show, the Russians did everything they could to stop the assassination, making use of a double agent – Richard Case Nagell. Nagell’s story is well told in Dick Russell’s exceptional book, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’.

Sophisticated technological misdirection also abounds under the name of some profound mathematical or scientific formulations. Google the name “Hany Farid” and you will bring up about 5,000 pages on the Dartmouth computer software scientist – from almost as many news sources – all parroting that he has “proven the Oswald backyard rifle photo is genuine." (One begins to wonder from this if the CIA's "Operation Mockingbird" is still going on.)

For those who may not know, this is the infamous photo taken in the Oswalds’ backyard on Neeley Street in Dallas, sometime in March, 1963 (as documented from FBI files by Mark North in his ‘Act of Treason’) . One of the photos is shown above at left (Fig. 1a) , another version at right(Fig. 1b). It was one of the major pieces of “evidence” purportedly tying Oswald to the Kennedy assassination, as a pro-Castro, Commie kook - out for vengeance.

Meanwhile, all the millions of red-blooded, Right wing extremist Kennedy haters – especially in Dallas- were ignored. See, for example, the ‘Wanted for Treason’ poster put up all lover Big D on the day. Newsweek columnist Kenneth Crawford in his article ‘The Enemies He Made’ pointedly noted the irony of a “lone pro-Castro gunman being fingered in a known citadel of right wing hate and extremism”.

But to most of us who’ve seriously researched the assassination, it merely discloses how well Oswald was perfectly set up as the patsy. The CIA actually has a word for it: “sheep dipping”. Military Science Prof John Newman actually documented a well –known case of it (prior to Oswald) in his book, ‘Oswald and the CIA’. The poor guy, Eldon Henson, didn’t even have a remote clue he was being steered and manipulated to perdition.

A much more disturbing aspect of the whole thing is that we know Farid’s lab is part funded by the FBI, known to be one of the main agents of evidence tampering and abuse in the wake of the JFK assassination. For example, long time researcher Harold Weisberg has documented how – when he inquired for the spectrographic evidence associated with the curb struck by a bullet near witness James Tague- he was told it was “destroyed”. The whole curb itself was removed after the impact dent from the bullet was manipulated and smoothed over. It was then sent back to FBI HQ in D.C. Why is this so critical? Because it constitutes evidence for a clear and separate shot which would wreck the Warren Commission’s specious "single bullet theory", on which the lone assassin bunkum rests. Readers can see a video pertaining to this issue by using the link below:

Interested people may also wish to process that, in 1995, after President Clinton ordered release of most of the pertinent files to do with the JFK case (as requested by the Assassinations Archives Review Board) the FBI immediately filed an appeal to prevent the release of any files. One is therefore left to wonder why now, they would be so eager to cooperate – since obviously they’d have had to supply Farid with his source photos for analysis.

In Farid’s case, one is left to wonder what exact photo he has proven genuine- since there were four in all. One of those featured small irregularities including that the telescopic scope was absent, because a technician had accidentally retouched it. WHY has Farid not picked it up with this elite software, when it was openly admitted by the management of LIFE magazine? Or, was Farid not given the retouched photo? If not, why not? Perhaps to prevent him from saying that ONE photo at least was a fake?

Then there is the “Oswald ghost” photo recovered at Dallas PD headquarters some time after the assassination. It is shown above, next to another backyard photo. As one can discern, the “ghost” is a cutout into which another image can be pasted-superposed. The cutout image, many of us conclude, was obtained using a Dallas cop stand –in, which photo was also found in Dallas Police files, along with the ghost image. That photo is also shown (Fig. 2). As noted by researcher Jim Marrs (Crossfire, p. 452) photo specialist Robert Hester was called on 22 November, 1963 to help process assassination -related photos for the FBI and Dallas police. Hester reported (and his wife Patricia confirmed) that he saw an FBI agent with a color transparency of one of the backyard photos with NO figure in the picture. This has to be the same Fig. 2. Was the FBI in on the manipulation of images and photos? We don't know, but given Farid's connection to the FBI in funding his lab, can we really trust his work? Can we trust he analyzed the actual source photo? And if so - which?

Now, I am not implying here that Farid faked the photos used for his work, so we are clear. However, he had to obtain the backyard photos he used from someplace and most plausibly it was from the FBI -which funded his lab along with the Justice Dept. We already are well aware of the record of the FBI’s chicanery in JFK assassination –related evidence tampering: for example as noted earlier, and also when FBI special agent Richard Harrison (equipped with finger print ink and Oswald's alleged rifle) went to Miller’s Funeral Home where the slain Oswald lay, in order to get ex post facto fingerprints which weren’t there originally[1]. (As Walt Brown notes, the Dallas PD never bothered to print him, like they never bothered to take detailed notes of his answers to questions[2]). So, why on Earth believe now that these guys have somehow become paragons of truth, virtue and openness now? It makes no sense.

Conceptual Spaces Analysis:

Consider a frame (rectangular)metric space d(x,y) which can be resolved into successive “shell frames” or concentric rectangular frames: d1(x1, y1), d2(x2,y2)……..dn(xn, yn) with the nth shell nearest the outermost limit of the photographic field.

The 3D visualization and modelling given by Farid’s computer modelling is found not to be the most natural one from a perceptual point of view, and we know a genuine conceptual space approach there must be both phenomenal and scientific aspects. While the latter interpretation is based on a structure of accepted dimension from say an optical or computed scientific theory, the phenomenal invokes the psychological structure of the perceptions of humans.

Let us generically examine the scientific aspects of the photo.

In numerous tests, given the metric space sequence above, if the photo is slowly expanded shell frame by shell frame toward the limit dn(xn,yn) it is found that subjects do not focus at the center of the generating field but at extreme points in the horizontal and vertical directions. These expansion rates for the purported Oswald photo might be described:

D(y’) = D(y) + D(z) – 1

D(x’) = D(x) + D(z) -1

Transformations and hence weights for respective dimensions (defined for specific pixel distributions) would be subject to Stevens’ power law such that:

d’(x) = wH×(d(x)^bH)

d’(y) = wV×(d(y)^bV)

where: D(y) ( (d(y)b)

and :

D(x) ( (d(x)b)

Technically speaking, since a (1963) emulsion of silver iodide will tend to displace or migrate over time (as anyone with old photos can attest) one actually needs to deal properly with D(x) and D(y) using fractional calculus for computations, such that:

D_t(x^b) = G(b + 1) / G[b – t + 1]^x(b – t)


D_t(y^b) = G(b + 1) / G[b – t + 1]^y(b – t)

Where the G –functions are Euler Gamma functions (see previous blog entry on these from two years ago)

The use of D_t(x^b) and D_t(y^b) make the reasonable assumption that any transformation from specular dots on silver iodide based emulsions will undergo some drift in rectangular coordinates such that: d’(x) = wH×(d(x)^bH) and d’(y) = wV×(d(y)^bV).

An illustration of applying the parameters d'(x) and d'(y) to respective pixel sub-frames is shown in Fig. 3. These measure fractal deviations in pixel density from one Oswald photo (1a) to the other (1b), and from which the weighted error in the conceptual space may be computed:

d_r (x,y) = { [(d'(y2) – d'(y1))]^2 + [(d'(x2) – d'(x1)]^2}1/2

where d_r(x,y) is the fractal resultant for the respective pixel distribution densities. This is critical in determining the ‘salience” of a dimension[3].

In addition to the above cautionary points, the deviation of optical density for solar radiation falling at an angle of incidence i exhibits only minor difference on such (silver iodide) film negatives. Indeed, for years when teaching introductory astronomy courses, it was precisely this property that allowed me to show my students how to use the old b&w film negatives to view the Sun during partial eclipse without risk of blindness. One can't do that with the emulsions used today - assuming one uses old fashioned cameras! Hence, Farid's counting on computer processed pixel re-transformations of old (presumed) silver iodide films today to affirm fakeness is akin to me looking at old home movies on dvd format and trying to ascertain where the exact point of editing occurred. Ain't gonna happen.

In 1977, Canadian Defense Dept. Photographic specialist Maj. John Pickard noted the 99% probability the LIFE cover photo was a fake and noted each photo was taken from a slightly different angle. When superpositions of the images are performed, e.g. one photo laid atop another in succession, it is found that nothing matches exactly. As Pickard observed:

"Yet, impossibly, while one body is bigger - the heads match perfectly."

Again, this can be explained using the same "spliced out head".

It is incredible Farid has not performed this simple test, but then that would mean divorcing himself from his computer- which he obviously believes to be the next thing to an Oracle.
I myself have used an ordinary computer program, nothing fancy, to show that different solar insolations created the shadow inconsistencies, which again, can be extracted fractally using the above identified fractional transformation formula based on the Euler Gamma function. To make a long story short, and skip to the chase, the differential fractional calculus transformations disclose that the V-shaped shadow under Oswald's nose is essentially identical in all photos (excepting the Oswald ghost, obviously), despite the fact the photos were taken at different times and hence some shadow frame deviation (d_s(nx)') ought to be visible.

The one feasible exception to this would be if the photos were all taken near noon local time (CST) and within no more than about 5 minutes of elapsed time. The minimal shadow length at noon for a location is given by:

L_m = H/ tan (ALT)

where H is the height of the object (e.g. man) and ALT is the solar altitude at meridian transit for the latitude. As it turns out, on March 31, 1963 (the documented date from Warren Commission files for the backyard photo), one can compute (using a specialized computer program) the maximum solar altitude on the local meridian at noon (for lat. 32 deg 47’ 09” for Dallas, TX) as 57.o deg.

This means that if the photo is legit, and conforms to the correct solar meridian crossing on that date, Oswald’s shadow (given his recorded height on his draft card of 5' 9" or 1.74m) can be no longer than 1.12m (3.7'), which sets limits on how far he can be located from the picket fence. My own computer software program that transforms a 2D perspective into a 3D one to obtain projected shadow lengths, shows that the actual length of shadow was more like 2.1 m (6.9'). This shows that at least two of the photos could not have been taken on the same day, if taken at all. Indeed, the massive discrepancy shows fakery ....but which Farid's seemingly superb software can't catch.

Speaking of software, I once worked (3.5 yrs.) for a radiotherapy software corporation, which included preparing technical and regulatory (FDA) draft documents for advanced treatment systems – once of which included three dimensional human head simulations/constructions for stereotactic radio-surgery. What I found as I went into the work was that even a tiny, innocuous assumption in the wrong place could translate into a significant aberration or displacement of the ‘head model’ and disrupt the stereotactic field (e.g throw the planning field off markedly from the real 3D head target region). Meanwhile, we have Farid – in his re-creation of a 3D "virtual Oswald head" – tied to the suspicious photographs, making assumptions galore. At no point does he quantify those in terms of standard errors, or even standard deviations – and as I showed fractional calculus has to be used for this. In addition, he doesn’t inform us how specific sub-modules of his program interact. Again, he assumes that what he generates as data is useful, but is it?

In my program runs of the sub-modules for the stereotactic software I also originally made assumptions that interfacing modules wouldn’t be affected. I was wrong. Even a small, inconsequential error of the order of a single pixel in an accepted stereotactic image often resulted in deviations, displacements many times greater. Many of these sort of internal software deviations can be traced directly to the modularity applicable to a given software program. Modularization allows the software designer to decompose a system into functional units, to impose hierarchical ordering on function usage, implement data abstractions and develop independently useful subsystems. As I discovered on further examination of the modules, there occurred some breakdowns in mutual exclusion – an attribute necessary to preserve modularity. Basically, “ME” is needed to ensure multiple processes don’t attempt to update the same components of the shared processing state at the same time.

Most of the 3D image problems associated with the pixel distributions were resolved once I had collaborated with a fellow worker to arrive at a verification plan, specifically to verify projections in spherical geometry from the center of the head outward. To do this a sound test plan had to be drawn up. The test plan when run through and yielding its output must conform to the precise design specifications. For some mock patient “P1” – at the time this program was developed, one had to ensure the 3D virtual coordinates X,Y,Z fit accurately to the actual 3D head. Even a 1 mm deviation would produce inaccurate targets.

This was nothing to trifle with considering that – unlike Farid’s innocuous pursuits to do with photo-shopped fake images- one might elicit major damage to healthy brain tissue via a linac (linear accelerator beam), a proton beam or highly focused gamma rays.

Basically, my experience with highly sophisticated computer software was never ever to trust its output fully without doing perception-based counter checks- including using counter-models which attempted to falsify the output or results. This is also why conceptual space analyses are critical. As a presumptive cognitive scientist would also point out, one must exercise extreme caution in transitioning from one form of representation (say phenomenal) to another (say, scientific). Peter Gärdenfors makes this abundantly clear[4]:

“..when the goal is to explain cognitive processes, their geometrical structure should not be derived from scientific theories that attempt to give a ‘realistic’ description of the world, but from psycho-physical measurements that determine how our phenomenal spaces are structured.”

In the above context, I am convinced that Farid’s preoccupation with statistical disparities or deviations in pixel density is only useful provided he knows the full and complete history of the object-film-photographic emulsion he is investigating. In particular, what criteria has he to implicitly trust the source photo? As my brother, a former photographic specialist with the Air Force in the 1960s also pointed out to me

First of all he'd have to have had the original photo of Oswald, not a copy, which I doubt very much he had, since the Feds confiscated it and only allowed reprints. Secondly, in those old photos there were no pixels to measure since all photos of that period were taken with film type cameras and no pixels were on them to measure. The photos looked the same as a painted picture, smooth and even ”

To add to what he said, I do admit Farid could have generated pixels from the old photos, but also - as I pointed out- he had to use fractional calculus at all intercomparison points between all photos to be assured of a faithful reproduction or representation following any transformations of media.

One final point that may be worth noting, Marina Oswald Porter in three separate interviews (one of which I have on tape with Tom Brokaw, the others to assassination researchers Robert Groden ('The Killing of a President') and H.L. Livingstone ('Killing the Truth') averred she only took TWO photographs with the Imperial Reflex camera, neither of which was facing the stairwell - but rather were taken standing adjacent to the stairwell (where Lee is in the shown photos). Something to ponder!

[1] Walt Brown: 1995, Treachery in Dallas, Carroll & Graf Publishers, p. 332.
[2] W. Brown, ibid.

[3] Peter Gärdenfors, 2000: Conceptual Spaces, MIT Press, p. 20.

[4] Gärdenfors, P. :op. cit., MIT Press, p. 9.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eternity and forever? "Hell" as a Passing Fancy!

Figure 2: How matter, and punishment abodes fit into a nonlocal, timeless, Being
Figure 1: The personal timeslit within a timeless referent frame for nonlocal Being

Every now and then some article or book review I read triggers the old "theologian" in me- despite the fact I've been an atheist for over 25 years. One such example was a book review (of A Very Brief History of Eternity), entitled There is Always Something', appearing in The Wall Street Journal of Nov. 13, 2009.

The review delves into intriguing aspects of theology, namely how Christian thinkers of the first millennium struggled to wrap their brains around timebound creatures within a universe that must eventually be timeless, and who are destined for "eternity" (Either heaven eternity or hell eternity). The trouble is none of these terms are clear, and certainly not for a timebound species unable to "see" outside the purview of time.

In the review, the ball gets rolling by noting author Carlos Eire's wistful remembrance of a conception of God that was prevalent in the Middle ages. That is, God being one and indivisible, no parts at all- including temporal parts. For such a God to be possible He or She must exist outside of time.

The review expatiates on this further (ibid., p. W10)

"Just as a person standing outside his house can take in the entire structure at a glance, God, situated outside of time, can see all of time spread out before him: time's beginning, it's ending and everything in between".

To see how this can work let's examine a couple of diagrams. Fig. 1 shows the view of such an entity and what it means in relation to a finite creature that is time bound.

In the figure, the non-compartmentalized, nonlocal Being translates into a super consciousness, for which all times are immediately accessible, the past as easily as the future, because in hyper-dimensional consciousness all times are linked. This consciousness is not locked into a serial process of events that unfold one at a time. It “sees” everything at once. Ego-less, it’s without a sense of personal identity or self in the sense of asserting power/status, occupying territory or projecting hegemony over nature. In addition, language and logic, with their built-in divisiveness are not comprehensible to this entity. The separation of subject from object, as well as logical categories, would be perceived as purely illusory artifacts.

Physicist Henry Margenau has compared reality perception for a finite being (such as a human) and a boundary-free being on the basis of “time slits”.[1] In particular, he notes the latter would lack a time slit and this absence is precisely what makes all times instantly accessible. Humans, meanwhile, “are constrained by a narrow slit in the time dimension”. This narrowness of temporal dimension creates our sense of isolation, along with our limited three-dimensional body and sense apparatus. This can be understood better by reference to Fig. 1 which depicts the time slit of a finite creature (matters not which) in relation to the aggregate nonlocal.

The minds that we have, obviously, are encased in "meat"-flesh and evolved to only process within the limits of our time slits and the perceptions attendant on them. Thus, asked to envisage some eternal “punishments” compatible with our God-concepts we invariably arrive at those emphasizing isolation and separation first, and extreme punishment (“Hell”), second. Not surprisingly, when you ask the most serious orthodox Christians for their depictions of Hell, they respond: “a mental state of complete isolation from God’s presence, leading to complete eternal anguish and loss”. This, they indicate, is the real meaning and significance of Hell’s “fires,” since genuine fires can’t be sustained over eternity.

The problem is that this limited time slit version of Hell, which is a human brain byproduct, doesn’t square with the only genuine transpersonal or non-local entity that might pass as a God! Indeed, it contradicts it! What it does, essentially, is demand that the non-local, time-slit liberated version of deity revert to a narrow time-slit version of deity when applying punishment – presumably for those who eschew belief in it. The problem is that if it reverted to this time-slit version it would have to contradict its own nature!

One is led to conclude that the most reliable concept of a deity: a transpersonal entity with zero time constraints (consonant with an infinite, non-local nature) would be incapable of applying punishment to lesser beings in its firmament. The reason is that such punishment requires actions on the level of “isolation” or “separation” that are incompatible with non-locality. A Being that so acted, therefore, would be cognizant not only of its creatures’ isolation but its own! Hence, recognize its own temporal finitude and limits and could not therefore be omniscient or omnipresent!

To make this more concrete, if such an entity (which is more or less analogous to the late physicist David Bohm’s “Holomovement”) existed, it would have to be literally blind to any transgressions against it, and certainly to puny human disbelief. This “blindness” arises not from overlooking human deficiency, but rather from its non-local nature that cannot at once be boundary –free and also localized in perceptions, to the extent of isolating a part of existence for “punishment”. Consider the sketch in Fig. 2 that shows the Holomovement depicted as “the ALL”.

In the end, if this entity existed (and I reiterate we’ve no evidence it does, only that the attributes are most consistent with the traditional “infinite, eternal” Being) then the atheist has nothing to fret over. At death, his limited temporal existence is simply subsumed into a greater, timeless existence. In effect, belief or no, he (like all the billions of other humans who’ve ever lived) must be integrated within the same boundary-free, non-local existence. The bottom line is that orthodox Christians simply can’t have their “cake and eat it.”. If they want unbelievers to suffer eternal torments (of course, they phrase it so it is the unbelievers' personal choice to do so- but this is merely word games) , then they will have to part ways with an omnipresent, eternal deity! They have to, in other words, reject God -Being as one, indivisible unit.

We are further left with clarifying terms such as "everlasting" and "eternal". The problem is that too many, especially Christians of the fundamentalist mold, use them interchangebly. They say this or that unbeliever will "suffer everlasting torment" or "suffer eternal torment".

Going back to my days at a Marist High School, for which I had won the four-year Religion Award, I recall winning it for an essay on the meaning of eternity. In that essay, I defined "eternal" to mean "time extrapolated by human consciousness to the end of that consciousness".

In other words, when every last human in the cosmos is deceased or gone, there is no more time, period. Brains - with consciousness- are required to register time, and they will no longer be. At that point or juncture of human existence, the "eternal" mode ceases, and everlasting commences. Thus, there is a distinction between the "eternal" and "everlasting" (or "forever").

I was interested some years later to see this point reiterated in the fine book, The Power of Myth, which featured Bill Moyers extensive interview with philosopher Joseph Campbell. As Campbell put it (p. 223):

"If you don't experience it ("eternal") right now, you're never going to get it in Heaven. Heaven is not eternal, it's just everlasting. "

Here Campbell is reiterating the Buddhist concept of the "eternal now ". So long as one lives in the present, in the NOW, one inhabits eternity. One cannot inhabit a 'NOW' in any future Heaven because the temporal parameters don't support it.

What about for Hell?

Theologan Hans Kung (Eternal Life?) observes (page 173):

"In the 'eternal punishment' of the Last Judgment, the stress lies on the fact that the punishment is definitive, final, decisive for all eternity...but not on the eternal duration of the torment".

and (page 174):

"However the scriptural texts are interpreted in detail, the 'eternity' of the punishment of Hell may never be regarded as absolute".

Which pretty well melds with the notion of a onlocal God already described.

What does Kung mean when he says "a punishment is decisive for all eternity...but not on the eternal duration of the torment"

I believe he means that the punishment (which Kung actually interprets more as a "purification" of consciousness of a lesser mortal being by a superior being) terminates when all human consciousness of time does. The punishment cannot be absolute, for the reasons given earlier to do with the nonlocal Being described in Fig. 2: to be absolute or final, "God" would have to absolutely destroy part of himself. But, God supposedly exists as an indivisible whole, so has no parts - hence cannot apply absolute torments.

On that note, I exit my theological self and return to my Atheistic self. I do this as a Being I envisage now looking over my shoulder smiles and whispers: "You got it! And much better than my more literal followers do! How 'bout teaching 'em?"

To which I reply, "I already have! And, by the way, you don't really exist. You are but an epiphenomenon of the jalapeno and sauerkraut, salami sandwich I just ate!"

[1] Henry Margenau.: 1987, The Miracle of Existence, New Science Library, p. 121. Margenau’s use of the term “time slit” is intended to represent the temporal analog of a spatial slit, e.g. what extent of a room is visible to you see if you observe it through a narrow “slit”, say a keyhole?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Superfreakonomics" - or Super nuts?

As we head toward the Copenhagen Climate Conference next month, a lot of kerfuffle and noise is making the rounds about alleged solutions for climate fixes - issuing from a book called "Super-Freakanomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. These two created quite a media storm after their first book, "Freakonomics" which portrayed a number of outlier man ifestations of economic decisions, and economic mannifestations derived from political decisions. For example, they claim to have shown that the abortion policies ensuing from Roe v. Wade actually helped many states by preventing the births of millions of murderers, rapists, thieves etc.....and hence controlled the monumental costs of imprisoning them all. Their reasoning was basically that the fetuses most likely to be aborted were those from the lower economic strata, and women least likely to provide the care needed. Minus that care, the progeny would more likely "mature" into gang bangers, drug pushers, robbers and rapists....etc.

I am not sure I buy that whole premise, but I do know I don't buy their premise to do with fixing global warming. But then, their cavalier, half-assed fixes may simply be a reflection of their woeful and vast ignorance to do with climatic science and global warming in particular.

First, let us see what the largest organization of geophysical and climate scientists has to say, as part of the position statement issued by the American Geophysical Union:


"The Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century."

By contrast, the illustrious superfreakonomics authors compare the above to the late 19th-early 20th century problem induced by an over-abundance of horse shit (piling up on city roads everywhere) because, of course, the horse was the common mode of human transport. Many who lived then, including my ancestors, referred to a brown layer like an oozing, smelly carpet covering all roads into and out of a town. Then, magically, there came the automobile - thanks to Henry Ford- and the problem of being suffocated by horse shit vanished!

And so Levitt and Dubner coo:

"Just as equine activity once threatened to stamp out civilization, there is now a fear that human activity will do the same".

They then proceed to aver that all the anxiety is unwarranted and the threat overblown. as usual, the specious basis they use is invoking the "uncertainty" about how - exactly- Earth will respond to increasing CO2 levels and oh yes, "uncertainty has a nasty way of making us conjure up the worst possibilities".

Only in this case it's true!

What the econ geniuses won't tell you is how many of the uncertainties are now being ironed out with much more sophisticated modeling. Of interest is the paper: 'New Study for Climate Modeling, Analyses and Scenarios' appearing in Eos Transactions of the AGU, Vol. 90, No. 21, 26 May, 2009, page 181). The paper references the new European ENSEMBLES project - which is the first international multiclimate model intercomparison. The intercomparison model, which incorporates ocean warming and CO2 outgassing, shows a peak in the CO2 equivalent concentration in the atmosphere of ~ 535 parts per million by 2045, before eventually stabilizing at around 450 ppm during the 22nd century.

Alarmingly, the former figure is perilously close to the threshold concentration (~ 600 ppm) believed necessary to trigger the runaway greenhouse effect. All the climate models employed in the ENSEMBLES study were improved or extended models from the IPCC sets. A good proxy indicator of the problem is seen in the data for increasing sea ice melt (EOS, Vol. 90, No. 37, 15 September, 2009, p. 322). This graph is shown at the top, as extracted from that paper. The enhanced sea ice melt can be directly traced to warmer ocean temperatures and preceding higher CO2 concentrations.

Indeed, apart from the accelerating sea melt in the Arctic, one can look at the temperature trend since 1997. According to the National Climatic Data Center, it shows the global temperature in 2008 tied that of 2001. Preliminary calculations by the NCDC show that the world average temperature was 0.88 F above the 20th century average of 57.0 F degrees. This means that the ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997 - again putting the lie to the circulating humbug that warming "has ceased since 1998."

Two papers that clearly ought to have been processed by the superfreak authors before writing about climate in the same cavalier mode as horse manure are:

'The Ocean in a High CO2 World’ (Eos, Vol. 85, Sept. 14, 2004, p. 353)


‘Warm Oceans Raise Land Temperatures’ (Eos, Vol. 87, May 2006, p. 189)

The first reinforces earlier work (Eos, Vol. 83, No. 34, from August 20, 2002, ‘Progress Made in Study of Ocean’s Calcium Carbonate Budget’)on how the oceans are actually masking the worst of global warming by virtue of their absorption of CO2. The earlier paper notes that sedimentary carbonates represent the largest reservoir of carbon on Earth. The author also notes that “a third of the anthropogenic CO2 that has been added to the atmosphere since the middle of the 18th century has been absorbed by the oceans". This means that the oceans, acting as CO2 reservoirs, have actually masked the worst effects of global warming.

Also totally absent from the economists' suspect radar is the role of methane, now being outgassed from permafrost - as well as from wetlands, rice paddies and lakes. (See: Eos, Vol. 90, No. 5, 3 February, 2009, 'Global Methane Emissions from Wetlands, Rice Paddies and Lakes'). The article notes the current concentration of atmospheric methane is ~ 1774 ± 1.8 ppb (parts per billion) and now accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gases. This is extremely unsettling, given that methane has a forcing component of 0.5 to 0.7 W/m^2 compared to CO2's value of 1.3 to 1.5 W/m^2 .

The cumulative assessment of all these inputs, from the CO2 concentrations to methane, and the role of the oceans (with CO2 outgassing) shows we are living on borrowed time, and not in the fanciful wish-fulfillment universe or alternative reality fabricated by Levitt and Dubner. (Who, one must concede, have economic priorities on their minds - dictating their adopted positions- not genuine climate physics)

So what do these two self-proclaimed gurus of world climate propose? Well, nothing so mundane as simple conservation, or solar cells or wind turbines. No, their solution is embodied in the insane question:
"Wouldn't it be simpler just to re-engineer the planet?"

One of their fave Rube Goldberg schemes (which obviously could only come from the brains of a pair of economists locked into hubris) is dispersing a fleet of fiberglass boats equipped with cloud-making machines over the oceans. They reason that the clouds would increase albedo and thence, decrease the tendency to trap incoming radiation. Hence, offset warming!

Nowhere do these two stalwarts factor in that a specific type of cloud has to be generated, not just any old cloud! For example, wispy high flying cirrus are semi-transparent to incoming sunlight but block infrared radiation emitted by the Earth, thus CONTRIBUTING to the Greenhouse Effect. Meanwhile, stratus clouds are gray, dense and low flying and have a net COOLING effect since their albedo is relatively high. So how will the authors ensure they generate the second type and not the first. And also, given an average of 3.5 billion cubic meters of cloud will be needed to offset the inputs of CO2 just from the oceans, where will they get the boats? Assuming each fiberglass boat can generate one million cubic meters of cloud (a BIG assumption) that means 35,000 such boats will be needed. But I wonder if these superfreaks have bothered to calculate how much CO2 generating fossil fuel will be needed for their manufacture. (Especially given they prize themselves as "cold, calculating economists" as opposed to - perhaps, touchy feely physicists?)

Another hare-brained plan entails sucking cold water from the depth of the sea to the surface. This fails because they have no remote idea how to locate such cold water, which emergence depends upon a downwelling wave (so-called because it lowers the thermocline, or temperature gradient). By example, typical downwellings during an El Nino prevent deeper cold water from mixing with warmer water near the surface. It would therefore make more sense to use these "tubes" at that time, since the segregation from warmer water is more assured. But HOW will they do it? They easily toss out these technological fixes, offering no practical means to achieve them, as if the mere spouting of the idea solves their greenhouse gas problem!

Perhaps their ultimate solution is based on the Mount Pinatubo volcano that erupted in the Phillippines in 1992. The volcano sent so much SO2 (sulphur dioxide) into the atmosphere that it resulted in cooler global air temperatures (by about 1.0 F) for about three years. So why not shoot enormous quantities (about four quadrillion tonnes a month) of sulphur dixoide into the atmosphere using an eighteen mile long hose?

First, the hose would have to be - in order for effect comparable to Pinatubo- about a half mile wide. Such a hose even if made of thinnest mylar with maximum ram pressure of the flowing gas -would not remain stable against gravity. Indeed, one can do calculations showing that by the time the mass of SO2 pumped attained a height of 2 miles the "hose" will collapse.

Even if the mechanical problems could be met, it would still be a god-awful idea. For one thing, SO2 in the presence of the catalyst NO2 forms sulphuric acid, H2 SO4, and this can then generate acid rain. Do we really want ten septillion tonnes of acid rain descending on what remaining agriculture growth areas, farms remain in a greenhouse world? Not to mention raining on humans, with concentrations of pH in the range of 2-3? Ever had H2SO4 spill onto your skin in a lab?

Beyond that, SO2 at the given altitude needed for effect can further erode the ozone layer. Beyond a certain threshold, this erosion of protective ozone leads to much higher influx of ultraviolet radiation - more skin cancers, more blindness, etc.

Then there is this: their idiotic So2 pumping solution would only work IF fossil fuel production at the onset of pumping made no further increases, leading to further CO2 concentration. But this would require really draconian solutions, such as stopping all births (since human population is the base producer of greenhouse gas) and all industrial activity. To use the authors' own dubious words and turn them upon them:
"Wouldn't it be simpler just to control our carbon inputs?"

Interestingly, Raymond J. Perrehumbert - a real climatologist at the University of Chicago, actually sent these two climate bozos a letter. It read in part:

"The problem wasn't necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or to too few of them. The problem is that you failed to do the most elementary thinking".

Finally, if one is going to listen or read economists for inputs on global warming and solutions, at least attend to rational sources. Not airheaded science pretenders trying to be too glib by far in a banal effort to one-up the sales of their previous book. May I suggest The Financial Times? As the editors put it in a recent editorial ('Follow the Science on Climate Change', Nov. 2, 2009):

"Fortunately, the science becomes much clearer when we move from predicting the climate itself to assessing how to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Forget about esoteric geo-engineering proposals to cool the earth. Technology that already exists (or is in development) can do the job perfectly well by increasing the efficiency with which we use carbon-based energy.

The least glamorous forms of energy conservation, such as insulating buildings properly and making transport more efficient, still have a huge contribution to make."

To which I append a word that I seldom, if ever, use:


Friday, November 13, 2009

Solving Cubic Equations

Ask anyone who took freshman math, and they will tell you of their introduction to algebra - which is one of the most useful branches of mathematics, since it paves the way for properly doing derivatives, and integrations in calculus. And almost everyone taking it would have been exposed to quadratic equations of the form:

ax^2 + bx + c = 0

which are then solved, either by factoring and solving for x, or - very often - by using the quadratic formula:

x = [-b +/- {b^2 - 4ac}^1/2]/ 2a

But what about solving basic cubic equations? Here we solve equations of the form:

x^3 – px^2 + qx – r = 0


x^3 – x^2 - x + 2 = 0

What I will show here, or rather demonstrate, is an algorithm for simple solution provided the numerical coefficient of the cubic term is 1.

We begin by writing: p = 1, q = -1, r = -2

And let:

DELTA = SQRT [(- 4p^3 r – 27r^2 + 18 pqr – 4 q^3 + p^2 q^2)]


Epsilon1 = [p^3 –9/2 (pq – 3r) – 3/2 x SQRT(-3)x DELTA]^1/3

Epsilon2 = (p^2 – 3q)/ Epsilon1

The ROOTS are then – in turn:

alpha1 = 1/3(p + rho2 x Epsilon1 + rho x Epsilon2)


rho = -1/2 + SQRT(-3)/2 x SQRT(-3)x DELTA

rho2 = -1/2 – SQRT(-3)/2

Last TWO roots:

alpha2 = 1/3( p + rho2 x Epsilon1 + rho x Epsilon2)

alpha3 = 1/3( p + rho x Epsilon1 + rho x rho2 x Epsilon2)

For the original eqn. in question, one obtains:

DELTA = 7.681i

Epsilon1 = 0.578 + 1.001i

Epsilon2 = 1.73 – 2.997i


alpha1 = 1.103 - 0.665i

alpha2 = 1.103 + 0.665i

alpha3 = -1.206

IF Roots are correct THEN:

alpha1 + alpha2 + alpha3 = 1


(alpha1 x alpha2) + (alpha 2 x alpha3) + (alpha3 x alpha1) = q


alpha1 x alpha2 x alpha3 = r


(alpha 1 – alpha2) x (alpha2 – alpha3)x (alpha3 – alpha1) = DELTA

We will just check the first: alpha1 + alpha2 + alpha3 = 1

(and let interested readers check the others):

We have then: [1.103 - 0.665i] + [1.103 + 0.665i] + (-1.206) = 2.206 - 1.206 = 1

All of the above will be found to check out for the given equation!

Solution to previous fractal problem:

to find generator of Z1(x1,y1)

from the diagram given set the boundary in terms of:

@(na1a2 + ma3a1 + C1(Y)) = @1(na1a2) + @1(ma3a1) + C_o(Y)

where as before, @ denotes the differential boundary (Greek alpha) sign


= n(a2 - a1) + m(a1 - a3) + C_o(Y)

= (m - n)a1 + C_o(Y)

(Since a2, a3 belong to C_o(Y))

and, provided we demand m=n for a cycle, then the generator of Z1(x,y) is:

a1a2 + a3a1 + C1(Y)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When 'the Best' is nowhere near the best

When an entity, institution, company or individual advertises itself as "the best" - in whatever category might be defined, it is expected that it consistently is just that. And not just on some days, or most days....but ALL days! Unfortunately, as with most aspects of American culture, "the best" has now become a catchall hype phrase, a throwaway, like "the richest", or "the fastest" or "the smartest" - when further investigations generally expose them as shams.

I bring this up because just over a month ago, after having spent three days in Vegas (to celebrate my wife's birthday) we decided to avail ourselves - while staying at the Wynn-Encore- of a breakfast buffet advertised as "the Best in Vegas". Indeed, so invested is the Wynn Breakfast Buffet in this belief, that when one receives the breakfast ticket-check it doesn't say "the Wynn Buffet" but simply "The Buffet" - as if it defines the very word and there are no quality options. (See image of partial ticket above).

Unfortunately for the Wynn, we had already gone to two previous breakfast buffets at the Bellagio. When I say that their service and food were extraordinary, I do not exaggerate. Every dish impeccably presented, and temperatures correct - all cold foods kept cold, all hot foods (especially eggs and ham!) kept piping hot. We even remarked to each other while filing our plates how they even took temperatures of each food!

Our next to last day in Vegas we opted to try the Wynn's Buffet, since it was "the Best in Vegas" or so it proclaimed, and besides we were staying at the Encore (on a special offer package - which included 1 night free, two others at recdced rate and free tickets to see the show 'Le Reve') and the Wynn was adjacent to it. We arrived at about 9.00 a.m. and got our ticket and table soon after.

We reconnoitered a bit to decide what to get, and so we opted for the Eggs Bendict, while I also went to get some russet potatoes, hash browns and sliced Virginia ham to go with it.

Make no mistake that the food looked very scrumptious. Alas, with the first bite or two, we were appalled to find everything at barely room temperature - the ham and russet potatoes were probably at less. When my wife told the very understanding waitress that the eggs and the seafood frittata she had selected were cold, she brought a Service Hostess to talk to us. I went on to try the scrambled eggs, and sausages, hoping for the best.

My wife was quickly presented with a fresh dish with three Egg Benedicts, all of which were barely at room temperature. My own, recently plated scrambled eggs and sausages were likewise again barely at room temperature. Deciding I’d had enough, I opted to go back for a freshly made (at station) omelet which I knew would have to be piping hot. However, the Virginia ham slice I selected was barely lukewarm.

Meanwhile, the hostess offered to bring the Chef to talk to my wife. He appeared after some time, (during which interval of some 25 minutes she was of course unable to leave the table) . The Chef responded to my wife’s complaints by asserting that “all temperatures were normal”, which seemed strange, unless guests are supposed to be happy with cold eggs. In addition, in contrast to the Bellagio we beheld not one single temperature taken as we were there.

The Chef just said he was sorry for the inconvenience. (This despite the fact that the people in the table adjacent to ours had also complained to their server regarding the temperature of their hash browns, russet potatoes and seafood frittata.) However, the unspoken subtext I detected was along the lines of : "We are sorry that you believe we are having such problems with our excelent food!")

We then decided to see one of the managers at the Wynn to see if some semblance of satisfaction could be elicited. This, given the fact my wife had been reduced to simply eating one of the cold Benedicts, some Swiss Muesli (which she compared to “glue”), some fruit and a pastry. While Assistant Manager Andrew Halterman listened to us attentively enough, his response was not significantly different from the Chef’s: only saying he would “check it out” and he regretted we were not satisfied with the food.

To try to assuage us, he offered us a “line pass” to the next buffet, an offer we forthrightly rejected as next to an insult. First, it did not in any way compensate us for the dining inconvenience and lost time already experienced, and second, having had such a sub-standard buffet once, why on earth would we choose to possibly endure it all over again? Did we look to him like we just fell off the turnip truck from Arkansas - so desperate were we for a germ of acknowledgement?

Two weeks later we decided to write (professional form hard copy letter- NO email!) the Wynn -Encore President, Andrew S. Pascal. To his credit, and the Wynn's- a response was made, worded as follows:
On behalf of Mr. Pascal, I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your recent experience at Wynn Las Vegas. Please accept my sincere apologies for the disappointing level of service you and your wife received from the staff at The Buffet during your recent visit. I regret that we fell short of your expectations in regards to the food quality and service. There is no excuse for our inability to extend our guests with timely service, genuine care and concern for their needs.

While we continually strive to improve our facilities and service, the information you share allows us an opportunity to see our operation from your perspective. Please know that we take this very seriously and assure you that all efforts are being made to rectify any future issues.

Again, I apologize for your inconvenience and hope to have the opportunity to welcome you back to experience the first-class quality our guests have come to expect at Wynn Las Vegas.


Steve Weitman
Vice President of Food and Beverage
Apology accepted!
And we certainly appreciate the finally our dining disaster was acknowledged, though it should not have taken going so far up the hierarchy to get it. But, we certainly hope to go the Wynn breakfast Buffet next time we are in Vegas, and hopefully on that occasion will be more than satisfied beyond our expectations!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pope and Possible Encounters with Aliens

Fr. Ruiz-Sanchez ponders his dealings with the
Lithians, as he confronts a true theological conundrum

As reported throughout the wire services recently, the Vatican has just concluded a 5-day confab with leading exobiologists and astronomers, other scientists, to consider "the possibility of extra-terrestrial life and its implication for the Catholic Church".

According to one of the attendees, a Prof. Chris Impey from the University of Arizona:

"Both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe. There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe."

Impey also added, perhaps even more significantly:

"If biology is not unique to the Earth, or life elsewhere differs biochemically from our version, or we ever make contact with an intelligent species in the vastness of space, the implications for our self-image will be profound".

Indeed, and that may be the understatement of the year.

Perhaps at this point, to interject, it may be well to remind Impey and his associates of what Stephen Hawking encountered in a Vatican conference on the Big Bang some 25 years ago, and documented in his book, A Brief History of Time (p. 122):

"At the end of the conference, the participants were granted an audience with the pope. He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang, but we should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God.

I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference - the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary - which means that it had no beginning, no moment of creation.I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I have a strong sense of identity."

Of course, the reality of actual highly intelligent aliens confronting humanity will be of a whole different order since we will then be forcibly faced with their technology and or superiority. Just take a look at the current scifi series, 'V'.

In such a venue, there will be no place for excursions into abstract thought. We will be faced with accepting them as equals, running from them as threats, or maybe adulating them as our vast superiors, and "sky gods".

Recall also the cautionary warnings of some astronomers - Sir Martin Ryle comes to mind, who have warned that if we had any sense, we wouldn't allow our radio signals to escape into space and trigger the interest of possible (hostile) entities. We may live to regret it. Echoing that, physicist Freeman Dyson in a 1972 talk, warned that the worst nightmare we may encounter as an alien civilization- will likely be a "technological cancer', a race of voracious beings that will treat us about like we do our cattle, and take what they want.

What response can there be then by Catholicism and its pope, or any other religion?

What do you do, or how will you respond- if confronted suddenly by the equivalent of a race of interglactic Aryans (under an intergalactic "Hitler" ) with the fearsome technology to exterminate not just 6 million humans, but all 6. 9 BILLION? Will you bow to them? Plead to them?

Or present them with a book of canon law and hope for the best? I recall here that famous scene in the (1953) movie 'The War of the Worlds' when the local preacher approached one of the Martian craft with bible in hand, informing them about the "good news" and how he wanted to spread it. Their response? They aimed a laser or ray device at him, and vaporized him on the spot.

What we need to be alert to then, is that our religions, faith, even emotions..may mean nothing to them. No more than the "emotions" of a roach or termite may mean to us before we apply our boots. Thus, the notion of a conference to deal with "implications" of a chance meeting may be hubris defined as only limited humans can.

On another note, perhaps the most interesting fictional book that deals with such an encounter with intelligent aliens is 'A Case of Conscience' by James Blish. In this case, a Jesuit priest (Father Ruiz-Sanchez) is forced to travel over 50 light years to the planet Lithia to try to prove to the Vatican it doesn't really need to do a "planetary exorcism" and that the world is operating just fine (they have no crime, no want, no hate, no wars....but also NO religions or any faith!) despite not having ever heard of Jesus Christ or Christianity.

Is it a world in its own natural context, prospering on the basis of cold reason alone, with no small dollop of sociability?

Or, is it a disgusting trick by the "great Adversary"(a.k.a. "Satan") to try and show humans that a civilized race of beings can get on without any god or gods?

That is Fr. Ruiz -Sanchez task to find out. In one argument with Chtexa, the Lithian leader (see image), the priest wonders how the alien cannot see death as "evil". The alien replies:

"It is not evil as we look at it. Lithia lives because of death. The death of plants supplies our oil and gas. The death of some creatures is always necessary to feed the lives of others. Bacteria must die, and viruses prevented from living, if illness is to be cured. We ourselves must die simply to make room for others.."

How can anyone argue with that?

It may be the least of our challenges, if we humans actually encounter such an advanced species....especially if they opted to land on our own world. The Vatican (and other religions) will have its hands full just to convince them they need to "be saved" before they die.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

DOW 10,000+: Skeptic's Rally, or FOOL'S Rally?

Last year, before the September stock meltdown, I tried to warn all who would listen to get out of the stock market and put their monies in safe, stable investments - like CDs, or money market accounts. I noted that the gains made were all smoke and mirrors, largely based on companies' buying back their own stocks to drive up share prices. Few listened or followed my advice, now their 401k's, IRAs are depleted.

Now, as we learn from today's Wall Street Journal (DOW Leaps in Skeptics' Rally, p. A1) the current "rally" is being propelled by trillions of dollars in debt-financed stimulus money. The debt on the part of the taxpayers, who had to cough up trillions for the Wall Street traders and pushers to "enhance corporate profits- making stocks appear more attractive".

The problem here, as I noted in a previous blog entry, is that the rally is based on sand - quicksand. And anyone invested in it is either one of those guys that P.T. Barnum once opined is "born every minute", or a fool, or a hyper-optimist(which may well be the same thing, and why negative thinking is more to be commended than positive, as new research shows).

The tragedy is, as the WSJ article goes on to note, that the false success of this pseudo-rally has left money managers scrambling. If they don't act like lemmings, in other words, the hare-brained investors chasing yield may well look elsewhere. These managers thus feel they have to make risky bets in order to keep up with the market.

Haven't we seen this sordid soap opera play out before? Are people really too dumb to recall, or process the past, or do they just act that way? Or has the DOW simply appropriated their remaining functioning neurons as the magic numbers float by on crawlers of various HDTVs: 10,000, 10,100, 10, 300........11,000? 550????

The most intriguing observation in the piece? That so many investors are truly feeling skittish and that the good times can't last. As the article observes, "for these people the market has taken on a 'greater fool' feel, meaning that many don't really believe in the investments they are making".


Then WHY make them? Or are you so anxious to try to win a few bucks back you'd risk the nest egg you have left?

But maybe there's another purpose!

The article notes these "fools" are "banking on being able to sell to a greater fool later".

Well, good luck with that, as they say.

As far as I am concerned I will stick with the unsexy, plodding realm of CDs, money markets and passbook accounts.

Which is mayhap why I haven't lost 40% of my money like some of my friends have!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back to Fractals

Figure 2: (top) 2-simplex for {1/a} Sierpinski Gasket, and bottom: after collapsing a2-a3 to a single point Figure 1: Solution for space {3/a} Sierpinski Gasket

We start with the solution to the problem posed at the end of the last blog entry. The sketch of the correct {3/a} space is shown in Fig. 1. Note the vertices of the holes are all self-consistent which is an important part of the solution. Thus, the three holes are presented so there is no overlap of their vertices.

As before the fractal mass density is: rho(f) = {N(s) - N(h)/ N(s)}

so: rho (f) = {9 - 3/ 9} = {6/9} = 2/3

The fractal dimension D_f = 1/ rho(f) = 1/ (2/3) = 3/2

Now, let's look at the {1/a} base space but in a new guise, this time as an oriented 2-simplex(see Fig. 2- top). For this oriented 2-simplex we can write: a1a2a3 = a2a3a1 = a3a1a2 = -a1a3a2 = - a3a2a1 = -a2a1a3, so that provided the arrows can also be applied to the Sierpinski Gasket {1/a} base space, the two are homeomorphic. Consider now the boundary of a similar 2-simplex such that:
@2(a1a2a3) = a2a3 - a1a3 + a1a2
By definition, the group C_n(x) of oriented n-chains (e.g. a2 a3 is a 1-chain) of x is the free-abelian group generated by oirentied simplexes of x. Thus, every element of C_n(x) is a finite sum of form SIGMA_i s(i)m(i) where the s(i) are the n-simplexes of x and m(i) ( Z.
Take the 2-simplex at the top of Fig. 2 and let a2, a3 collapse to a point as shown. Call the lower branch of the loop 'Y' - a sub-complex of the simplicial complex X.
If the generators for C1(x) are: a1a2, a2a3, a3a1, find:
a) the generators of C1(Y)
b) the value of Z1(X,Y) and H_k(X,Y) = kth relative homology group arising frmo sub-complex (C(Y)) of chain complex C(X)
Hints: The factor quotient group H_n(x) = Z_n(x)/B_n(x); for all chains of Y set = 0
We will look at this solution next time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some Basic Aspects of Fractals

Fig. 1 - Base space gasket
Fig. 2: 2-space gasket

We return to fractals again, this time to examine them in more detail at a basic level. Here I want to compare two simple fractal spaces based on an object known as "the Sierpinski gasket". The most elemental form is depicted in Fig. 1 above and can be compared with Fig 2 which is generated from it.
For Fig. 1, we regard the simple (1/a) space as the generator of more complex fractal spaces F that are essentially infinite. To undertake the cyclic generation process we require that the specification of the vertices (a1, a2, a3) be non-degenerate, i.e. no more than one eigenvalue: a1, a2, or a3 can be assigned for any triangular space. The fundamental space depicted in Fig. 1 we shall call a "Planckian gasket" and note that its fractal mass density can be found as well as its fractal dimension.
The fractal mass density can be computed from:
rho(f) = {N(s) - N(h)}/ N(s)
or the number of scale elements minus "hole" elements divided by scale elements. In this case: N(s) = 1, and N(h) = 0, so:
rho(f) = {1 - 0}/ 1 = 1
The fractal dimension D_f is the inverse, or: D_f = 1/ rho(f)
In this case, D_f = 1
Now, examining the larger space in Fig. 2 defined by {2/a}, we again obtain the vertex designation (a1, a2, a3).
However, we further note that to get from the primitive space to the space {2/a} we require the transposition (see the blog entry on transpositions from two years ago):
(a1, a2, a3) -> (a1, a3, a2)
That is, a1 remains fixed, and a2 - a3 are "mirrored" through a bsiector axis identificed above from a1-a1. Note that the "hole" (in black) represents the inversion space (or negative space: -a1a2a3) a result of the inversion of the positive space of the primitive {1/a}.
The fractal mass density can be computed from:
rho(f) ={4 - 1}/ 4 = 3/4 = 0.75
And the fractal dimension is:
D_f = 1/ rho(f) = 1/ 0.75 = 1.333
Exercise for the adventurous reader: Draw the space for {3/a} with three symmetric holes of oriented vertices a1, a2, and a3 inside it. Then work out the fractal mass density and fractal dimension. We will look at the solution in the next instalment, and also see how algebraic homology can be applied to these triangular spaces!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why Is It So Hard to Grasp Science?

This is a question I've always asked myself, especially when I see some of the tripe published as letters in many national newspapers. A recent case in point concerned a spate of letters published under the sub-header: 'Science, Great as it is, Can't Answer Every Question', in the Oct. 19th Wall Street Journal.

One could, inf act, complain about the wording of the header itself, since neither pure science nor applied claims to be able to answer every question. All it claims is the curiosity to ASK a question, and then diligently pursue an answer. That is all science is about at the end of the day.

Nevertheless, the letters embody even more misunderstanding.

For example, John F. Haggerty writes:

"Though evolution may explain the process by which life evolves, it doesn't explain why or how the process began"

As to "why" it began, Haggerty is correct, science doesn't go there. The reason is that 'why' questions lead into teleology and self-reference while delivering no concrete sufficient cause or better, sufficient conditions for the necessity of purpose. Additionally, it necessitates an unwarranted extrapolation beyond what science can actually assert with its data.

Thus, we do not ask "Why do stars shine?" - but the more productive question: HOW do stars shine? The latter enabled diligent pursuit into nuclear fusion processes and quantum mechanics, thereby enabling us to ascertain the stars could only shine via nuclear fusion reactions.
'Why?' remains a mystery, and in any case is irrelevant since the answer doesn't assist us in making future predictions.

By the same token, we refrain from asking WHY species evolve, opting instead for the more productive HOW do they evolve? Well, by a combination of mutation and natural selection.

As to HOW life began, Haggerty hasn't been paying attention. While we don't have a firm lights out theory for the origin of life (which is NOT the same as evolution!) we have a good working hypothesis.

The consensus of current research is already fairly clear about the nature or form of the first primitive organisms. They were prokaryotic autotrophs[1]. More specifically, they were suspended colloidal micro-spheres capable of exchanging energy with their surroundings. To get energy, these self-sustaining coacervate droplets could use one or two basic reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate:[2]

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, but in any case able to act on L*M to decompose it. Concurrent with the first reaction is the possibility of a second, entailing autocatalytic molecules X*Y. These molecules could accelerate their own formation, using ATP.

On the basis of the chemical reactions, the hypothetical coacervate would consist of the combination: X*Y + R. Now, what properties ought we expect for any such primitive life form? These include: simple organization, ability to increase in size, and ability to maintain itself over extended intervals. Does the coacervate meet these conditions?

Well, it has a simple organization, consisting of the molecules X*Y and R. It can increase its size by synthesizing more of X*Y, growing until hydrodynamically unstable. Finally, it can maintain itself over indefinite intervals, so long as it can extract the chemical components it needs. What about replication? We expect that this is feasible when it splits into ‘daughters’ after growing too large. Then, so long as each has some of the protenoid R there is the capacity for replication.

A logical question is whether there is anything that can remotely compare to the theoretical construct above. In fact, there is, and it’s called a pleuro-pneumonia like organism or PPLO for short. The PPLO is as close to the theoretical limit of how small an organism can be[3]. Some figures clarify this. It has about 12 million atoms, and a molecular weight of 2.88 million Daltons[4].

Compared to an amoeba, it weighs about one billions times less.

Haggerty goes on to assert:

"Evolution doesn't account for the very fact of existence itself".

Again, IF Haggerty means accounting for "the fact of existence" in terms of WHY - he is quite correct. If he means in terms of HOW - he is quite incorrect. Because evolution admirably accounts for the fact of existence itself in terms of HOW all the diverse, observed speciation came to be!

Haggerty then poses the most fundamental ontological problem:

"Why there is something and not nothing is one of man's most basic questions and one natural scientists cannot answer".

But why should we? Truth be told, the question is more apropos to religionists and God believers than secular scientists. Consider this: If nothingness be the more perfect state (no gross defects, no sin, no atavistic impulses to cause crimes, etc.) and if God knew about how much havoc and tragedy creating a cosmos would incept (since he presumably had the attribute of omniscience), WHY do it? THIS is an eminently religious question, not a scientific one!

Why then add to what was already perfect? Why indeed add what God had to know before all time would be manifestly IMPERFECT?

Since religion is concerned with the matters of right and wrong, this is their domain, not science's! Science can at least posit the spontaneous inception of the cosmos via quantum bootstrapping and have an answer for how it all began, which isn't perfect - but nonetheless is adequate for most serious scientists. More importantly, it is a physical agency not contingent on supernatural effects.

By the same token, Haggerty's ending endorsement of the "need for Man to find meaning to his existence" may be a supreme task for most humans, but to practicing scientists it isn't necessary to find some transcendent meaning in our lives. We obtain our meaning (purpose) in the work, research that we do to extend the frontiers of knowledge.

Meanwhile, the next writer, David Maj - appeals to fairy stories and legends:

"The real clash, as I see it, is spelled out with great wisdom in the story of creation where Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted the power to define what is right and wrong".

But, of course, Maj blithely skips over the fact that what "is right and wrong" is relative, never absolute. He or others may not like this, but there it is. Thus, it is "wrong" to kill - but perfectly okay if it means you are gassing a murderer to death in a state-approved execution, or waging war against some distant, proclaimed enemy.

So okay, yeah, it's "wrong" ---- with exceptions! But, if it has exceptions then it clearly can't be an absolute!

Invoking "Adam and Eve" and a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" clarifies little. What is far more productive is to examine the brain in detail, and see how it is configured and how it can easily be the cause of our split lives - aspiring to always do "good", but more often than not failing.

What people refer to as “evil” is easily explainable in terms of brain evolution. Thus, Homo Sapiens is fundamentally an animal species with a host of animal/primitive instincts residing in its ancient brain or paleocortex.Meanwhile, the paleocortex sits evolutionarily beneath the more evolved mesocortex and neocortex, the latter of which crafts concepts and language. One clever person has compared this tri-partite brain structure to a car design welding a Lamborghini to a Model T Ford chassis, with a 1957 Chevy engine to power the Lamborghini. If an automotive engineer can conceive of such a hybrid beast, I'd be interested to know exactly how he thinks it would run.

Given the preceding brain structural defect, there is much evidence that the aggregate of human behavior will get progressively worse as the complexity inherent in technological and globalized societies increases, but brain evolution is unable to keep pace with it. Basically, we are a species with the capability of making nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles – but with Cro-Magnon brains – and a swatch of reptilian tendencies.

Indeed, the mixed brain design, in terms of adaptability to technological society, is already theorized as one major cause of depression and mental illness in such societies (e.g. The Noonday Demon, Chapter 11, ‘Evolution’, p 401). The behavior resulting from this hybrid brain is bound to be morally mixed, reflecting the fact that we literally have three “brains” contending for emergence in one cranium. Imagine a thinking human, ape and crococdile fighting with each other for supremacy. That's what goes in your brain non-stop every waking minute of every day. Some people can't handle it which is why they "lose it" then we hear about the "quiet guy that killed six people at the bank and no one ever saw him get mad before".

Behavior will therefore range from the most selfless acts (not to mention creative masterpieces) to savagery and murder, carnal lust run amuck and addictions that paralyze purpose.The mistake of the religionist is to associate the first mode of behavior with being “human” and not the latter.

The last clueless letter writer, a Jim Reardon, asserts that we "secularists fail to realize that the arguments for the immateriality of the human intellect do not begin and end with religion"

Fair enough. At which point he avers:

"Aristotle reasoned that while the material brain and sensory organs are a necessary basis for human understanding, they are not sufficient causes"

But who is Aristotle? This is the same guy who developed a physics of motion relying on the principle that when bodies fall they are under the impetus of their "desire to fall" and the one that wishes to fall faster, will. Contrast this with Galileo's meticulous data and experiments that showed all objects fall to Earth with the same acceleration at the same place and this is the result of no internal desire but of the Earth's gravitational attraction.

In terms of "sufficient causes", Reardon is quite right that the mere existence of the brain and sense organs isn't enough. Critical cortical thresholds must be crossed for conscious brain function, and these begin with the resting action potential as applied to the axon membrane walls of the neuron. A baseline wave pulse amplitude of ~ (-70) mV is required and this results from an uneven distribution of potassium (K+) ions across the axon cell membrane relative to a collection of negatively charged protein molecules inside the cells.

Too much to get into right now, but we can re-visit it at a later date!

[1] A prokaryote has one chromosome only, dispersed in its cytoplasm. An autotroph is an organism that doesn’t depend on others for nutrition.
[2] See, e.g. Zindler, Frank: 1989, How Did Life Begin- Part III, The American Atheist, April, 1989, page 42.
[3] Viruses are smaller, of course, but they’re not regarded as free living organisms. That is, they require a host in order to live, replicate.
[4] One Dalton: roughly the mass-weight of a hydrogen atom or 1.66 x 10^-27 kg.