Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Top 10 Scientific Mysteries for the 21st Century – Really?

ScienceNews Magazine Online posted a piece on the “Top 10Scientific Mysteries of the 21st Century” and being a collector of science riddles, I couldn’t help but read it.

The punch line came at the end with the coloned “Editors Note” on the writer of the posting:

Editor’s Note: It might not surprise readers to find out that Tom Siegfried is the author of a book about game theory. But he says the book did not include the sort of wild speculation that is suitable only in blog posts.

The list labeled scientific seemed a bit unscientific in its selection of what Siegfried considered the top ten and it was mostly about mysteries in the science of physics.  Maybe that was the reason for the editor’s note.

At any rate here is ScienceNews' list of top ten mysteries for the twenty-first century and my comments, plus mysteries I thought were overlooked, or for some mysterious reason, excluded.

10. How did life originate?
I fully agree with this one, but I would give it a higher rating than the bottom of a top ten list.  This may be solved in this century and by mathematics before lab proofs.  Siegfried’s theories on Game Theories participation may come into play, also.  Once the RNA - and certainly DNA – molecule are present on the earth, evolution takes over and everything alive or that ever lived can be explained.  And Game Theory certainly applies once life begins.

Discovery of amino acids in asteroids, comets, meteorites, and in the lab, by simulating primordial earth have shown that the basic building blocks of life were and still are present in the universe.  Also, primitive cell walls have formed in lab experiments, which would provide protection in a hostile world for a replicating molecule to develop.  The mystery is how these basic molecules come together to form a more complex molecule that exploits its surrounding and replicates this ability, with the chance of mutations to capitalize this exploitation.

If some primitive RNA molecule precursor could be represented mathematically, probable chemical reactions could be calculated and we could determine if life is highly improbable – we who are alive won a lottery like no other – or it is going on all the time.

If the latter is true, it may be going on right now under our noses and we just never found it. And one way good reason we never found it is because it is eaten as soon as it develops.  A key to evolving is to consume or exploit lower life forms, so a soon as a life predecessor molecule forms, it is consumed by bacteria. 

9. What is the identity of the dark matter?
8. What is the nature of the dark energy that drives cosmic acceleration?
I lump these two together.  They are apart of the same mystery.  We cannot explain what we are seeing.  Dark matter and dark energy are theories concocted as a result of observations in space any astrophysics grad student could make, the red shift of the stars, supper nova, pulsars, and galaxies. 
The problem with the theory of dark matter is that it is suppose to be everywhere in great abundance, but while we see the red shift in everything we look at in space far away, nobody can detect it locally.  Where’s our dark matter?  MIT came out with a report a couple of years ago that it could not find any trace of the effect of dark matter on local planets and their moons. 
So far, we can only detect dark matter or energy in fast moving bodies at great distances, which begs the theories.  This also brings up a mystery I have been banging away all over the Internet, trying to solve.  Since we cannot detect dark matter locally, what is the closest object in space that we can detect dark matter? 

7. How to measure evidence
I didn’t understand this one or only vaguely, so I am missing either the mystery or Top-10ishness of it or both

6. Genes, cancer and luck
No mystery here.  This one is pretty much answered as both genes and luck.  More about this below.

5. Are there extra dimensions of space?
4. The nature of time
3. Quantum gravity
As above, I would lump all three of these together.  In the Standard Model, gravity has got no particle, or at least they have not found it yet, so at best the gravity particle is theoretical, or in this case, a mystery.  Einstein’s relativistic space/time don’t fit with particle physics and the three mysteries above are all rolled into one.

2. Does intelligent life exist elsewhere?
Isn’t this the setup for the punch line: first they need to find proof of intelligent life on earth.  More mysterious than finding intelligent life would be to find proof of life anywhere else.  How life started was rated number 10, so it follows that life on any other planet or moon would solve one of the great mysteries in this century.  Any life forms rather than intelligent life is the big Top-10 mystery to solve.  Intelligence of some sort may be as probable as standing on two feet or flight, which has evolved several times in different evolutionary lines.   

1. The meaning of quantum entanglement
This one was way over my head and why this is number one is beyond me.  It may need to be lumped in with 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 above since it is another mystery in physics.  Just as the acceptance of solar centric over earth centric universe solved a lot of observable mysteries several hundred years or so ago, if they solve the mystery of space/time and particle physics, several of these mysteries in physics may fall out.

So as this listing of Top-10 scientific mysteries shows a bit of physics biasness, here is an additional mystery in the field of science not included in ScienceNews' article.
Determining how the DNA molecule works.  This will be a biggie in this century.  We have mapped the genes in DNA, but that did not tells us how it works.  Which genes are switched on and which ones are not and why is still a mystery.  Species differentiation may be from the expression of the same genes in different ways.  How the DNA molecule determines any individual species or gene(s) expression within a species is a major scientific mystery.
Solving this mystery may answer a lot of questions such as the cancer mystery listed in number 6 above, Alzheimer’s, ageing, and controlling every living thing around us way more so than we are currently doing.  Used to be: Survival of the fittest.  Now, it is survival as we see fit.
Who know, we may be living forever by the end of the century.  I hope they solve the ageing problem or that will not be something to look forward to.  Who wants to live forever as a decrepit, feeble old person?  Now if I could spend eternity as the 29 year old I used to be – but with the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated since then – that would be something.

Monday, February 02, 2015

A Ronin in ISIS’s Future?

ISIS or whatever it is being called at this time has gone and beheaded another Japanese captive.  ISIS may have open a whole new can of whip ass and there is a way good chance they don’t even realize what they’ve done.   That happens in societies that alter facts and truths to conform to their expectations.  The Fox News Affect happens in many cultures, societies, and least we think we are a special time, all through history.
The extremist tendencies that courses through some Islamic cultures can be found elsewhere in which the culture has nothing to do with Islam: Japan for example.
Japan has a long and historic past in which extremism is not only accepted, it is developed, cultivated, exploited, and honored.  While we don’t see the wild loner anti-social behavior in today’s Japan, extremism is there, in its past.  And who knows, something like the uncivilized treatment of ISIS captives might just bring it back.
Christians had this same holier than thou extremism at one time - even in the highest levels of the all dominate Catholic Church - but thank God for the Reformation, the beginning of the end of killing in God’s name started in the Middle Ages.  And thankfully for Christian soles, there’s been progress.  We haven’t burned a witch in quite a while.
In WWII, we encountered Japanese extremism in its military training and battle tactics if not in national strategy.   Our response to ISIS is to foster the Four Freedoms and aide to ISIS local enemies.  However, the Japanese may not be so accepting of ISIS treatment of their countrymen.  Pay back is a bitch.
Given the history of Japanese extremism, their response will not be like ISIS’s extremism.  They will not attach innocent civilians but ISIS military: Kamikaze a tank stronghold or a Ronin doing some avenging throat cutting of ISIS leadership.
But will Japanese extremism develop faster than Islamic extremism continues to undermine its own cause.  Long before some Japanese extremist can seek revenge, an extremist movement will arise within ISIS attacking itself.  Just as ISIS arose from Al-Qaeda, so too the roots to its own destruction will come from within.  The Arab Spring has become the Arab Nightmare.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Goodbye to the Democrats ! ?

Much has been made lately about the demise of the Democratic Party in the South.  The Democratic “Solid South” Party is now no more than a highlighted link.  Nixon’s Southern Strategy did way more than even he and his Neocon cronies could ever imagine.
But, the Solid South did not die.  It is as alive as ever, but it is now in the pocket of the GOP – a hot pocket, to be sure, a pocket that wants to dictate how the rest of the suit hangs – but the good old boy, bible thumping, holier than thou south is still solid.
However, the question that caused this posting was could the Democratic Party ever recover in the South.  How can anyone who is even an elemental student of history not look at this question and wonder what is the opinionated world coming to.
They are asking if the party that has been taken over by liberals can ever recover from this takeover and recapture the hearts and minds of the working middle class or will it go the way of the Whig Party.
The answer is yes to all their naïve questions; it will not only survive, it may be well become the majority party before mid-century.  Case in point that supports this argument:  the Republican Party’s dominance in the South.

The Republican Party
We are talking about the party that started the Civil War.
The party that burned Atlanta and was going to make Georgia howl. 
The party that controlled Congress and punished the South after the Civil War.
The party that won the 1864 presidential election for Lincoln with the soldiers’ vote.

The same soldiers that were burning and destroying whatever they could find of value in the South.  This was 1864 and the North’s military supremacy could no longer be denied by the South’s heroic stand even in spirit if not in numbers.

In the 1864 election, the Democrats ran on a ticket of letting the South goes it separate way.  A peaceful settlement of hostilities and the South could continue as it had before.  Had the Democrats won the 1864 election, there would be a Confederate States of America, today.
But the Republican Party won with the soldiers’ vote, the North defeated and occupied the South.  During what they called “Reconstruction”, they controlled how each state could reenter the United States as an equal.
How could any party that had come into existence to destroy the Southern way of life ever become the dominate party in the South is the greater, more interesting question.  Answer that one and the one about the current recovery of the Democratic Party is easy.
To quote Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Wag the Dog”, “This is nothing!” 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Boehner’s Lawsuit: Reviving Gift to Big Government

Boehner’s political stunt of the House suing Obama is a genuine gift to big government.  That while the GOP – especially the Libertarian and Tea Party factions - is against any form of government not specifically cited in the Constitution would come up with a new form of active big government is truly amazing.  Just when the forces against big government seem to have the agenda, they go and hand those that want more government intervention into our lives a whole new legislative schema to develop.  Will wonders ever cease? 

The GOP is against any form of socialism in government such as welfare, regulation of the free market, government run business, the taxes to finance these, and the icing on the socialistic cake, Obamacare, but they are offering up a solution that grows big government.

And the GOP in their mad political rush to take down Obama, does not see this.  The National Review and Breitbart want to expand the lawsuit to include Obama’s crimes against immigration legislation.  Huff Post sees fundraising opportunities for the Democrats but does not mention opportunities for proponents of big government.  Politico, WSJournal, and the major news streams are reporting on all the aspect of the lawsuit – save one.  The lawsuit sets a precedent.  And this proactive government initiative has legs.

Oh how the Democrats could have used this.  They could have sued Bush and Cheney for lying about Saddam’s WMDs.  They could have sued Reagan over Iran-Contra.  They mind boggles at how the pro-big government forces could use this gift that is being given them by no other than House Speaker John Boehner.

How about suing Bush and Cheney, NOW, for lying to us on their security initiative as to what electronic communication the NSA was going to gather?  The lawsuit would prove once and for all that Bush truly thought the NSA was only going to watch communications going into and out of the U.S., while Cheney knew otherwise.  

And lawsuit stunt will be there, waiting in the wings, to be used when Congressional majorities and control of the White House changes parties – which it eventually will.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bringing the Cosmos Down to Earth

The final episode of Cosmos, aired and on the whole, I found it lacking.  I learned a few things but most of it was high school or a 101 science course.  I would have loved it many, many years ago as I did the original.  Most of today’s science or history documentaries are targeted to a younger audience.  When are they going to come up with a science channel for scientists?

I noticed a spin or slant to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s pitch of the Cosmos.  The shows continually seem to want to explain or counter the ideas and prejudges of those that believe in the voodoo science of creationism or that science is mostly wrong in some way.

By the way, science is mostly wrong.  Since most of the universe is dark matter, and the whole concept of dark matter is theoretical, it is probably more wrong thanright.  However, the spin coming from the Cosmos show was in defense of what we do know and is no longer a theory – scientific facts.

Evolution is not a theory: it is a fact.  How particular species evolved is theoretical, but the probabilistic trail and error of successful mutation of the DNA molecule is mathematical and a fact.  How life started is still an unknown – still one of the great mysteries of science and Cosmos brushed on it.  Theories abound with no provable (repeatable) facts.  The old 1950’s lighting in a jar of swampy like water experiment produced the building blocks of life, however, no matter how many time it was done, no life was ever built.

A lot of affirmative active and pro-active spin for minorities and women.  The recognition of those discovers and developers who are hidden in history – and were unknown because of their cultural situation – is needed, so thank you Cosmos.

The special effects were great, but a lot of cartoon-like animation of noteworthy scientists was a bit much. What else has the documentarians got.  Old, bad photographs, drawings, and scenes of where they lived and worked are not much better nor are re-enactors, so cartoons of early astronomers, physicists, and scientists in general was an interesting approach.

As for the voodoo science of creationism, our ability to understand the world around us is one of God’s greatest gifts and to misuse it in voodoo creationism is an insult to God. Belief in science is a matter of fact. It can be proven and disproven.  Belief in God is a matter of faith, and it can neither be proven nor disproven with facts.  When facts are mixed with faith, the result is no longer faith. It is something else that can lead to things like ethnic cleansing, lynchings, and one notable crucifixion.

We cannot know the Giver using the gift.

As for knowing the Cosmos, we are no different than when we stopped being hunter-gathers and settled down into what would become civilizations.  Even then, those that we would call geeky or nerdy today noticed over time the sun, moon, and stars sat and rose at predictable places on the horizon.  They saw the cycle.  They were sharp enough to figure that the stars sat and rose at exactly the same point on the horizon every four years plus one day. They noticed that five stars wandered the sky in relation to the other stars, but over time, their wandering became predictable, also.

Although their math was spot on, they could not explain why.  They concocted all manner of theories to explain it.  However, their theories were hampered by the observation that from their point of view, the earth appeared to be the center of the universe, and everything revolved around the earth, and so this concept was at the center of their theories to explain the movement of observable universe.  Of course they were wrong, but they got the moon right; it does revolve around the earth.

Let us hope in our theories of the cosmos such as the big band, dark matter and energy, and particle physics, we got a higher percentage right.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The News Hole in the NSA Spying Story

The latest stories on the great NSA’s scandal nationalistic corruptible (I’m looking for the right word here.) scheme of spying on all Americans leaves a big hole in my understanding of what is going on.  I don’t follow news events like this especially close, reading every story that comes out.  I prefer to wait for those liberally biased news organizations to sum it up for me.  Frontline had a very informative summation and at this time, NBC’s exclusive on Edward Snowden is all over the news.  What I know so far
  1. NSA pulled the data on all Americans, not just those living outside America, or communicating into or out of the U.S., but everything everywhere on everybody.
  2. NSA did not gather the data.  My email provider, my cell phone provider, AT&T, Google, Facebook, and any other major Internet service providers collected the data.  NSA just harvested the data, or as it was put in the Frontline story, “rode piggyback on what Google was doing”.
  3. Google kept quiet about what NSA was doing because it did not want users to know what Google was doing.  I suspected this spying from what my Google searches returned, but this news confirmed it, and Google wasn’t looking for terrorist.
  4. I learned a lot more about Edward Snowden than I care to know.

The fact that the NSA is spying on foreigners is not news.  That’s what they are supposed and expected to do.  That’s their job.  The particular foreigners they spied on made news but the fact they were doing it is not news.

As far as Snowden complaining within the system, others did.  The Frontline story on Snowden and the NSA, showed that even a hint of dissatisfaction with what your organization is doing is a career ender.  Several NSA staffers had their lives and families ruined or at least greatly stressed because the agencies thought they might be the ones leaking information to the New York Times and Washington Post.  And after their lives were ruined, the case against them was drop or forgotten.  Yea, why didn’t Snowden take that route?  Give me a break.

Reminds me of the story on Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and his treason declared a mistrial after Nixon’s White House Plumbers involvement came out during the Watergate Scandal.  Those were some juicy news days.  That news round is also an example of how the current NSA spying could get ugly.  That power in the hands of the wrong politicians could lead to one of those scary Orwellian worlds.  Snowden could always come back to the U.S. and depend on the government to screw up the case against him just as they did Ellsberg.

Besides, what’s he got to look forward to other than prison or life in Russia?  There’s a difference?  Just wait until the notoriety or usefulness wears off.

Although not the biggest new hole in this story, NSA is not the top dog spy in the hut for intelligence.  From what I’ve read and seen on TV, that would go to Russia, Britain, or Israel.  I love the story of the Russian bug in the U.S. Great Seal that British intelligence had to explain how it worked to the American intelligence after they finally found it.  And you’re worried about NSA’s technique?

The great big hole in this story, the “news” that could make Snowden a traitor and NSA heroes instead of what appears to be in the current spin would be how effective was NSA’s spying on all of us Americans.  How many terrorists were stopped before they could kill Americans?  NSA did not stop the Boston Bombers, the Shoe Bomber, or the Underwear Bomber.  Did their work lead to the catching of anybody?  All I ever heard in that Frontline piece was they stopped a terrorist who was going to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch.

That’s it!  For all that spying, all that riding piggyback on Google, all the listening in on phone calls, text messages, and email, all we got is one crazy that the NYPD would have gotten anyway.  I’ve seen several stories of attempts to blow up Time Square.  Did NSA contribute anything in catching the perpetrators?  I thought it was old fashion police or FBI sting work, but if NSA helped in anyway, now is the time to speak up. 

Some reporter should ask that question, or the more significant question news-wise: how effective was all that spying?  Specifics please.  Who or even how many terrorists did you catch?