Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amphibians -- are they going extinct or not?

OK.  This week I read an article in "American Scientist" claiming that virtually all amphibians all over the world had gone extinct and that an entire niche in our eco-systems was now empty with all kinds of unknown and dread consequences likely to ensue.

Then, not two days later, I read an article about harmful, invasive coqui frogs taking over the islands of Hawaii.  This frogs are allegedly harmful, but all I could tell from the article about their alleged harm is that they make a lot of noise and keep people awake == but they're regarded as pests.

Now people, which is it?  Are they dangerous pests multiplying out of control, or are they tragically, nearly extinct?

You just can't make this stuff up.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm Alice through the looking glass.

Friday, December 23, 2011

North Korean succession

Listening to the preposterous myth making coming out of North Korea, the question that comes to my mind is:  "How on earth did anyone ever think that this was a communist country?"  How were we talked into that viewpoint?   This is clearly a situation of medieval type royalty, nothing at all to do with communism.

How did so-called "communist" countries ever get suckered into thinking that this regime was one of them?   They seemed to lay claim to some moral high ground at one time, looking at us supporting petty tyrants throughout the world -- us looking for all the world like Johns frequenting any prostitute that would take our money and tell us what we wanted to hear -- and yet here it seems they did the same.  They bought into the idea that North Korea was a communist country, because at least North Korea hated us and that was all they needed to hear.

My enemy's enemy is my friend, even if that "friend" stands against every principle I hold most dear?  


I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose.  I had somehow believed those communists to be worthy adversaries, people with some kind of austere principles, different from ours, perhaps, but principles nevertheless.   Why should I think they should be any different from us?

But did we ever support anyone this weird?  I'm curious.  If you're reading let me know.

Is it possible, now, that with
   - the wikipedia leaks that show even China frustrated with the North Korean regime and
   - these revelations of a bizarre personal cult of the leader of the country,
no one will any more be able to give even a pretense of civil relations with these leaders who can only be described as creepy at best?

Do these leaders get to the point where they believe that drivel that is spoken about them?   Delusional sociopaths with nuclear weapons?

2012 looks worse and worse all the time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lakes on Europa

     I read with interest the recent articles about the  renewed suspicion that there is liquid water somewhere under the surface of Europa -- a moon of Saturn.  Water is something that would be very useful if one were thinking of trying to establish a space colony.  Water can be a source of oxygen, and, of course, it's important for drinking and watering crops.  The speculation was that there might even be life in the water already.
     Of course, the mere existence of liquid water does not solve all the problems associated with trying to establish a space colony. 
      First, there is the difficulty of getting to those distant places.  I gather we've crashed half the spacecraft we've sent to Mars, which is closer than Saturn.  I gather the Russians just had a Mars bound spacecraft fail as well.  This technology of space travel is still very primitive.
     Second, the conditions on Europa are hardly favorable.  The sun is very small and dim at that distance and would not be a good source of much solar power.  Moreover, the temperature is frigid, far colder than the earth, even colder than the Antarctic.   The atmosphere there would be thin at best.  Gravity there is quite light, which would likely cause long term health problems for humans
     It just does not seem like a very hospitable place for human astronauts to try to establish a space colony.
     But then I wonder if we might genetically engineer something that might live there, something with a human brain that could communicate with us but with a different body, maybe more like a fish, something that could live underneath the crust of Europa, in the dark, in frigid water.  I wonder whether various kinds of genetically engineered astronauts adapted to different conditions on various planets might not be a general solution to the issues associated with colonizing space.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Conservatives in Egypt

Let us hope that our knee jerk response to politics we do not completely understand does not send it down the very direction we most fear. People can be conservative of dress and nevertheless humane and merciful. 

In this country, so-called "conservatives" embrace a politic of anger. When our politics is angry, it breeds anger elsewhere. We bring forth what we put out there.

As Yoda said in Star Wars "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. Hatred leads to suffering."

Let us try to give these Egyptians the benefit of the doubt in their faltering first steps toward democracy.

Remember Viet Nam? We fought so hard in fear against the communists. Then they took over, and within a few years they wanted to be our friends. They still control Viet Nam, and yet no one now regards them as a serious threat to us. What were we so afraid of?

Islam and conservative Muslims are the new communists in the simple-minded, jingoistic us v them gloss that our fear mongering press puts on the news -- the sound byte news.

Let us reject descriptions of people in other countries as sound bytes. Let us seek after a more sophisticated understanding. Let us look for ways to turn this into a win-win situation, rather than an us v them thing.