Category Archives: science

Watt Perplexed

Daily Prompt: Perplexed          

Blood flows electric.

Sever the cord? Nevermore —

— A life acoustic.

Art and Eyesight

I live in an Impressionist painting. Lines and colors blur. I see no sharp edges. More Pointillism than clearly defined points.

Strings of Christmas lights increase in diameter ten-fold in a diffused fashion. Streetlights and headlights sparkle and spread. Candles are better, bright lights hurt.

I see spots before my eyes! And squiggly lines dart about. I see something in my peripheral vision. No, it’s all in my head.

Faces are a mystery if they are too far away. Far away is only a few feet. Others must think I’m a snob when I can’t read their facial expression from a short distance. My eyes just fail to read a smile, a frown, a grimace. Sorry, I’m blind to your emotions.

That’s my world without eyeglasses. Thick and heavy ones for the hopelessly myopic. This is my artistic vision. I can’t see the scientific narrative.


The Butterfly Effect: Wings, Blades, Eyelashes

Layman books on physics litter a portion of my bookshelf. I’ve read some of them and do remember the butterfly effect. A butterfly in Africa flutters its wings and a hurricane develops near the Florida coast. The innocuous becomes the monumental.

If the delicate wing of a butterfly alters events so dramatically, what about windmills? While windmills create a more benign form of energy, they may also alter events on this planet.

Machines and humans live symbiotically. Separation may no longer be possible. Machines keep increasing farm yields to keep both the weak and strong alive. Computers run commerce, governments, medical, and artistic endeavors. Travel, the worldwide version we crave, requires machines that consume vast amounts of energy. Small-tech devices meld with our bodies.

Over 7 billion pairs of human eyelashes flutter today. Nature tries to cull our ranks with bacterias and viruses and we fight back.

The human/machine creatures root for a clean, healthy planet. To maintain both is irrational. At some point, something must be sacrificed.


The New Cosmos Quandary

I’m hooked on science shows, especially the ones that deal with the creation of the universe. Science fiction is always on my reading list. Yet the new Cosmos television series sticks in my craw.

The cosmic calendar that Neil deGrasse Tyson so dramatically explores for us is riveting. After the Big Bang, human beings appeared on the scene on the last day of the year. Modern man only happened upon the planet during the last 14 seconds. We are so late to arrive to this Big Bang party.

Then Neil begins to state that humankind wields the power to alter the climate of the planet it lives on and that this is important. The machines we build, the power we use, will destroy the planet unless we change our ways.

But Neil, think of what your show brings to light. Even if humankind is the sole force of climate change, does it really matter if humans change their ways or not? Worse case scenario, most forms of life on the planet die. Did you not show us innumerable other planets in the universe with infinite possibilities of lifeforms on them? So earth loses most of its living creatures, aside from cockroaches perhaps, why is this such a monumental loss to the universe? You just brought us into focus with infinity, so who cares about the last 14 seconds?

Mankind built a now crumbling Stonehenge over five thousand years ago (or seconds ago depending on how you view it). The Great Wall of China got its start nearly 25 hundred years ago and has never been fully intact. Both castles and nuclear reactors will succumb to a heap of dust. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, everything we do is so insignificant and fragile. The earth will move on with us or without us, unless we are successful in blowing it up. Then the universe, considering its vastness, may not miss one measly planet.

In the scope of the new Cosmos series, why is climate change such a big deal? To me, that came out of left field.  The series dwells on the insignificance of mankind as it relates to the universe.

The very premise of the Cosmos series negates the consequence of a climate change focal point. Unless . . .  is there a god on our side tipping the balance? Nah, that can’t be it.

What motivates the creators?






To Deny Is Science: Climate Change

I love science. Even though I studied literature in college, I’ve always love to read about and watch shows about science. Some of my favorite writers wrote in the 19th century, a time when people found a greater freedom to explore science with a lesser chance of getting burnt at the stake or beheaded. A lot of the literature of this time period discussed and criticized the scientific sphere.

I believe in the theory of evolution. I believe in the big bang theory. And I am open to modifications or invalidations of scientific theories. That’s the way science works, so I thought. Science is always up to be challenged.

Issac Newton presented theories that were proven wrong at a later date. So did Einstein. Scientific theories get torn apart to see if they can stand.

So I am disheartened to hear President Obama and his administration assert that “climate change is real” and all discussion is closed. That ceases to be science and starts to become a weird sort of dogma.

Why won’t the believers in man-made climate change debate people that do not buy into this theory wholeheartedly? Scientist vs. scientist. Let there be a free-flowing discussion and experimentation.

The man-made climate change believers are veering onto a pathway to anti-science. Something smells rotten in government. Build upon knowledge, do not create a 21st century Western version of the Islamic Four Great Doctors from the 13th century. I’ve developed a taste for freedom. Let’s be free to think.

A Skewed Bird’s-Eye View

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concern environmental activists have for planet earth illustrates the egocentricity of human nature.

Earth is special. We are made in the image of God. We must settle on other planets just in case our kind cease to exist here. Human life must continue somewhere, somehow. This is so important since the universe must still revolve around the earth.

If we poison our planet and life dies out, the earth will still go on. It may develop new life forms despite the destruction. If we blow up the planet, there are other planets out there.

If a soul exists, it will merge with the spiritual creator and all will be good. If no soul exists, each particle is still in communion with the whole and all will be good. If none of this is good in our eyes, new cycles and patterns will keep going no matter what we think or want.

I recycle and think it is wrong to be wasteful. But I doubt that recycling will save the planet. Every time I deposit my paper, plastic, glass, or metal in the proper recycling bin, I wonder if the energy and resources needed to reuse this material is, on final tally, worth the process. The best remedy is not to use it in the first place.

Moving backwards, against the tide of progress, may prove impossible. Once you bite the apple, there is no turning back. Until the finite resources are used up and no new ones materialize, people will not willingly stop doing what they do.

A undiscovered source of energy may be out there that can replace oil, coal, and other nasty stuff we depend on today. But most likely it will come with its own demons; knowledge doesn’t come free and clear.

If wind power becomes the only energy source available to keep our cellphones alive, or keep our cars humming, even PETA will look the other way when windmills chop up free-flying birds. Our survival and our desires trump virtue. It’s not easy being green.

Risk Management Ruined the Christmas Party

The old librarian was pissed at me. I was young, in my early twenties, and made a sarcastic comment on the newly minted Risk Management department at our workplace.

I said that risk management was practically an oxymoron. Risk can only be managed up to a point; beyond which it was impossible.

She lashed out at me for my impertinent remark. The librarian yelled at me for making fun of the highly educated Risk Manager. The intensity of her anger was a shock.

The Risk Management department came into being in the late 1970’s. I’m sure someone else performed the insurance analysis, procurement, and risk assessment before that, but now an entire department became dedicated to it.

So much for the Christmas parties. Before Risk Management, each department head had a liquor cabinet to open up when they entertained other management. Management also invited the staff in during the holidays for a drink.

Christmas parties were stocked with alcohol and people mingled between floors to have a drink and an appetizer. Too much drinking and driving went on back then. Too much drinking and working went on too (or something that resembled work).

I can’t remember how many times I had to help a coworker find a lost car, only to later find out they moved it during lunch and forgot where they parked it.

After Risk Management, the free-range parties and open liquor bottles ceased. Too much liability.

I’m now as old as the librarian that attacked me, yet my opinion has not changed.

I don’t support an unrealistic belief in science that lulls people into a false feeling of safety. Does science provide all the answers to the world’s problems? If the answers aren’t evident, will more research or better rules or laws do the trick?

I concede that some risk can be managed. Crossing the street at a light and looking both ways can reduce the risk of getting smacked by a car (although I have been hyper-vigilant and drivers still nearly hit me as I walk across the street).

And the Risk Manager was right about the fact that on-the-job drinking doesn’t mix with the on-the-job working and the just-off-the-job driving home. On this point, I’ll raise my glass to the Risk Manager that I had once disparaged.

But risk is a future event with no objective existence. Managing risk includes failures and limits to see this future. At some point science must fall back on the imagination, assumptions, or pre-established beliefs in order to do its job; all highly unscientific methods.

Risk is inherent in life and cannot be escaped by finding just the right formula.

Now that I’m old, maybe I should just yell at that young person over there working on that lifelike avatar that will make him immortal. Or wait, maybe I just found the ultimate risk manager?