Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Harsh Future

August 3, 2020

Trump has re-energized the space program and more people are reawakening to the idea that our future truly lies out there… among the starts.

John Kennedy saw that future and started us on the path – tragically derailed as soon as his goal to reach the moon before the end of the decade was attained.

The future is STILL in space.

The problem I see today is not that we do not have the capabilities to go there – given the brain-power of the private sector in this one country alone – what we are lacking is young people with the necessary pioneering spirit.

Judging from what we have lately seen displayed, we have a sorry contingent of spineless, whiny yakmuffins making up a large segment of the younger portion of our population.

I know that’s not the totality of the group as there are many – especially among the rural populations – with more than enough grit to tackle the task, still it appears the mollycoddled young who require their Starbucks and their safe-space to function even on a rudimentary level are not going to get us far beyond a stage two mental collapse.

We need to begin building younger people with a bit more confidence in themselves, the society, and their fellow human beings without the constant fretting about being offended by anything moving without their permission.

Exploration and colonization requires a degree of determination and focus beyond the attention span required to click on funny memes or throw out ad hominems against that which is found at odds with one’s own ideals. Education today has created a culture that cancels itself without learning a thing. Except how to strike for more money.

Unless we can nurture a generation of innovative and courageous pioneers, space will forever remain a philosophical pipe-dream living only in the imagination of science fiction authors – and imbuing the ghost of one martyred President.

the Fallen

May 1, 2020

It was the time for another marvelous meteor shower and I was up early this morning to see the excitement.

Naturally, of course, I got nuthin’!

Years ago, I lived in an area less populated than Northern Virginia’s Washington metropolitan area. Northern Arizona had a lot less light pollution and the nights had a lot more stars visible.

And meteors? We saw them every night. Several could be seen in any period of the year if we would step out to look up.

Except for two periods, that is: the two supposed meteor showers of the year (Leonid and Perseid showers). Those nights we would step outside and look up for minutes and not see a meteor flash across the sky.

It happened every time there was a “meteor shower” – no show. That was the norm and whenever we would step outside and NOT see a meteor, we just naturally assumed we must be in the midst of another meteor shower.

It has become the family joke. Meteor Shower = no meteors.

Our Obsession with All Things New(er)

April 23, 2018

Recently Updated
(newly revised version today)
[re-updated just now]



It seems we have an obsession for up-to-the-minute [updated: up-to-the-second] updates on all our tech-gadgets.

Every time I connect to Google docs to edit a document, I get the message that the application is in the dreaded state of “out-of-date” and that condition needs to be corrected before I can continue. So, I have to wait while it “updates”.

The next day, I find the application is once again woefully “out-of-date” and needs to be updated.

Every morning when I turn on my phone, it has downloaded updates and I have to wait a while to give it time to apply all the updates to a half-dozen apps I don’t recall adding and certainly never use.

Thank God I did not have an emergency phone call to make!

We will connect you to 9-1-1 immediately after the updates have been applied…

Wanting to upload pictures from my iPad to my computer is delayed because the device wants to sync with my computer. Yes, even if it synced only twenty minutes before!

What has become of us being in charge of our own lives? Now, it has been relegated to some faraway company deciding their updates are more important than anything we may need or want to do.

But, you know, I get it. I really do!

We feel this primal need to be “on top of things” to be completely current. To somehow not lag behind others… to be on the forefront of that leading wave.

This reminds me of something my daughter used to say all the time: “I’m living for the moment.”

That’s what all these companies and people seem to be doing as well.

But, they’ve got it all wrong. The old saying is NOT live FOR the moment – which is what we are doing so damned well – but living IN the moment.

Which we cannot seem to do because we’re waiting for the updates to download or devices to sync.




Remember When Black Holes were…

April 14, 2017

It used to be that they were so powerful that nothing, not even light itself could escape, and that’s why they are called “black” holes.

Funny, today it seems like light is about the only thing that can’t escape from the darned things. Other objects, stars, matter, pull a Houdini on the unwary black hole and slip back over that old event horizon.

And some of this stuff doesn’t just sneak out, they are telling us the stuff is actually ejected by the black hole itself.

Maybe we ought to rename the things “gray holes”?

They Should Be Proud, Right?

September 17, 2014

Monsanto is very proud of their developments – so they tell us – and yet are spending exhorbitant amounts of money to hide that very pride. Wherever people begin a drive to insist on full disclosure, the corporation brings out its lawyers to quash the entire movement.

And they keep losing!

They keep telling us that their product is better than natural foods because… well, it just IS, that’s all. And it makes them a helluva lot more money than natural crops ever did, that’s for certain.

And in today’s technology-is-great mindset, the very idea that we made food – up until recently something that was only in the bailiwick of nature itself – is really something we can gloat about. So, rather than hide the fact, they should be proud!

Here’s the label they should be putting on all GMO foods to show their pride in their accomplishments.

GMO label

I am certain the consumers – equally prideful in what amazing technology we have – will clamor to buy the stuff.

Having their lawyers attempting to circumvent the food labeling laws by claiming GMO is not really “food” is counter-productive. They should stress that not only is it FOOD, it is better than real food because technology has made it better; science has triumphed yet again.

The people at Monsanto have got to stop being so defensive. If they were a little more proactive with their advertising, they might be a little more successful.

If I saw one of these labels at the store, I know I would have to buy it.

I mean, they are bound to be a collectible some day as rare as they are going to be.

Localized Aromatherapy

February 27, 2013


In any given month, I am liable to see one of two of these fragrant little guys in a mangled lump at the side of the road, doing nothing anymore except as in the words of Loudoun Wainwight “Stinking to high heaven.”

But for the past several weeks, I have seen at less four a day. What can be going on in the skunk world to drive so many of these fellows out onto the road late at night and stand around until someone volunteers to help in their “assisted suicide”.

And we have quite a few Kervorkian-on-wheels it would seem.

And if it was an occurrence in one isolated stretch of road, it would be one thing. And only one area to hold your breath driving through.

But the crime scenes change daily and the ripe odor spreads over a larger demographic daily.

Soon there will be no “clean air” locations anywhere along my drive to work.

Perhaps the phenomenon is only happening in Northern Virginia.

I wonder if it is happening in your locality as well?

And does anyone know what it means?

How Do You Figure??

February 26, 2013

It seems that all the genetics were there… but something went wrong.

Something about the “recessives” I think they are called.

And I had a pretty good run being on the cutting edge of technology but then I guess the old “peter principle” kicked in and I seem to have floundered. (Not the fish.)

My brothers got the good stuff. One’s a astrophysicist, one’s an engineer, and one’s a programmer… and me, I seem to have been hardwired for humor (or “so-called” humor, at least).

Dad was a systems analyst for NASA back in the day when working for NASA was exciting. Not like more recently when it was all maintenance and failed Mars missions, back when the men with the right stuff were strutting around making a pathway to the Moon.

And all four boys were infused with that scientific bent. But why would three keep going strong and the fourth one (which, ahem, would be yours truly) seem to run out of folds in the gray matter to tuck any more information? Is there some sort of cure for this thing or is it incurable?

Is it even a disease? I know I am un-eased by it.

Sigh. Though I do not know how it happened, I can at least be thankful I am not earning my living in one of the scientific fields. I mean, how would it feel to wake up one morning and think, “Okay, so it’s a Higgs boson. So what?” That would really put a crunch in the old paycheck.

But at least I have been spared that little problem. At least I won’t be deemed out-of-date.

As long as they don’t change the way we count money…

Amazing Science!!

February 25, 2013

I tell you what! I am not one of those who can keep up with the constant changes coming in the scientific fields. Just like I mentioned in my first book… well, my only book so far: technology has left me in the dust.

But this latest thing really has me baffled. These guys are detecting energy being thrown out of the Black Hole in the center of the galaxy. And now they even have stars that are trucking across the galaxy at a million miles an hour that were flung out of the same Black Hole.

So, maybe physics has changed a bit since I was in school but I thought the entire concept of the Black Hole was that NOTHING escaped from it. Not even light. That’s why it is black.

Perhaps the even horizon is more permeable than they theorized. Maybe the inexorable forces relax at certain times.

Or maybe the Hole just wants to have a little fun and throw things away. I don’t know.

But isn’t it a truly marvelous field where you can theorize things that don’t fit the rest of the theory?

And the best thing is these guys get PAID for these wild surmises.

Me? I can surmise all day – wildly or otherwise – and don’t get the time of day from anyone.

But that’s why I’m the village idiot.

Maybe I should have been a scientist…

Another Martyr?

January 13, 2013

I read about a young man named Aaron Swartz who was so upset about his upcoming trial and pending jail time that he committed suicide.

Sure, it is always sad when young people (he was only 26) take their own lives when faced with really difficult situations. It is hard on the family and the friends as well as, in this case, people who were followers of the young man.

You see, he was a leader in the cause of free and open internet access. He did not believe things should be kept FROM people if it was data that should be freely accessible. And rather than make some new version of the FOIA, he created a manifesto and started a digital revolution.

Several articles say he was a martyr for the cause…

They claim he was a suicide…

Both claims are just wrong. Having been suicidal – in my younger days, so you don’t have to worry… they canceled that “suicide watch” some forty years ago – I have a pretty good understanding of what that entails. I have done volunteer work as a suicide watcher for cases of very depressed people and I don’t believe the very depressed kill themselves.

Why? Suicide is self-murder. Murder is a crime of passion and self-hatred is usually beyond the framework of the clinically depressed. They are usually so apathetic that though they may think of suicide, it is more a case of “what’s the use?” and though some may take too many pills or some such, a hangman’s noose is a little too active for those depressed. (I am, of course, not an “expert” in this field and I am sure I will get complaints from professionals in the area who will say I am dead wrong. Or something.)

The young man did not let on to anyone that he was A) despondent, B) depressed, or C) suicidal. There was no note, nor any clue as to the why of his action. And as his lawyers were fairly certain he was going to walk for his supposed crimes, what was his rationale for ending it all?

As for the man being a martyr… It is a subject I have studied in some depth (see my forthcoming volume How to Be a Martyr (or Die Trying) for more details) and I cannot see how an intelligent person would have chosen this method for martyrdom.

There should have been some statement about the reasons behind his death, whether a suicide note, a rant about his cause(s), or something.

Yet the press is calling it a suicide and a martyrdom when it seems to be nothing more than a simple murder. Conspiracy theorists are probably going to be all over this one but I cannot see that a conspiracy is required for someone to have had a motive.

Whether or not the police ever investigate the case further, there is another death recently that comes to mind. In July, a Chicago man, Urooj Khan, won the lottery and then dropped dead. It was reported as a simple “death by natural causes”.

Several members of his family fought to have more done on the case as they suspected foul play. It took four months before they re-examined the evidence and found cyanide. It has now been declared a homicide.

I can see something like this happening in Swartz’ case. Suicide and martyrdom make absolutely no sense. Revolutionaries and visionaries are not in the habit of bailing out when the going gets tough.

At least, none that I have ever seen.

Bad Business… Another Follow-Up

January 9, 2013

Well, the geothermal saga is over!!

In the week after Thanksgiving, we had an electrical contractor arrive to upgrade our electrical system.

After which, I contacted Mike Strasburg again, because he had promised to send someone “right over” as soon as the upgrade was completed.

The weekend before Christmas, Mr. Strasburg finally sent someone over to fix the system. Himself.

Apparently, all the different guys he had sent over during the month’s long process of installing our system he had fired because “they were incompetent”, he said. For the past several weeks he had been doing repair work on the faulty installations those idiots had done. Poor guy!

Then he proceeded to work for over an hour and headed for the front door. “Okay, that should do it.”

I felt near the register and felt an icy blast on my hand. “But it’s still cold.”

“Oh, it will take it a while to warm up.”

So, I told him he ought to at least wait a few minutes. My wife got even more adamant and told him to wait a few.

“But I have other service calls.” And he opened the door and fled.

And, of course, the house did not get any warmer because it still wasn’t working.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to order another cord of wood to be delivered or we would have frozen to death over the Christmas Break.

Calling him was useless as no one answered at the office and he wasn’t answering his personal cell. After a couple of days, I got the message that his cell’s voicemailbox was full.

Anyway, he finally called me back on the fourth of January and, after blaming me for his problems…

He even had the audacity to tell me that he had a technician in our neighborhood who refused to do our house because my wife had taken attitude with him!!

Funny, if I had an employee who refused to do a job, or follow a direct order… well, never mind.

Anyway, I hung up on him.

Then I got an email saying he would have a technician come over on Saturday and check to see if it was user error and was covered by the warranty. Otherwise he would have to charge us!

Yes, as if he was going to charge me for the trip. He said, we’re an installation company, not a service company.

Go figure.

Anyway, we left a short note for the tech explaining what Mike had said during the previous visit – you know, in case Mike didn’t tell them what he had already done – and took our pre-planned road trip.

To our delighted surprise, the house was nice and warm when we arrived back that evening.

And the tech left his card. He was not even an employee of OnSite Energy, he was a subcontractor… actually, as it turned out, a competitor.

This evening, the fellow called us to see if we were happy with his work and he explained the non-relationship with Strasburg. He had been hired to do several repair jobs for OnSite and found angry customers at every stop. He was starting to feel sorry for Strasburg.

That is, until he got to our house. He said the other houses were at least relatively warm. Our house was freezing. And he wondered what sort of businessman would schedule the situation with the highest priority dead last?

Well, Mike Strasburg, that’s who.

And the very worse part of the entire adventure, after Mike had already spent over an hour “trying to find the problem”, this tech said he opened the system and saw two wires had not been connected.

That’s it.

Total time to “fix” our system? Two minutes.

And Strasburg, the geothermal “engineer” couldn’t figure it out.

The geothermal system is wonderful and much more efficient that our previous fuel oil burner system.

And you would do well to look into such a thing. Just don’t bother calling OnSite Energy in Northern Virginia.

That Mike Strasburg is definitely bad business!