Friday, July 29, 2011

Frame Dragging

“In physics, you don't have to go around making trouble for yourself - nature does it for you.”
- Frank Wilczek
Pardon me as I dive into some deep physics today. I'm blogging this in the hope that I too will understand it.

You may be aware that Einstein's General Relativity predicts that a massive object like the earth or Sun will bend the space around it causing light rays to be slightly deflected in their path. This was first demonstrated in 1919 with a photo of stars observed near the Sun during a total eclipse. Today "gravitational lensing" is used to see very faint galaxies near the origin of the Universe.

What you might not know is that General Relativity becomes even stranger when the massive object is rotating. The spinning mass creates a drag on space that gives it a very small twist (about 1 part in 1 trillion). Scientists are very good at measuring small amounts like this and recently verified gravitational Frame Dragging with a specially built satellite circling the earth called Gravity Probe B.

Recently a physicist from the University of Warwick applied Frame Dragging in an unusual way to explain an old problem in physics, the“Charge Parity violation” (also called “CP violation”).  CP-symmetry states that the laws of physics should be the same if a particle were interchanged with its antiparticle (C symmetry), and left and right were swapped (P symmetry). The discovery of CP violation in 1964 in the decays of neutral kaons resulted in the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980 for its discoverers James Cronin and Val Fitch.

CP-violation answers one of the Big Questions in physics. Why is there something rather than nothing? Or put another way - where is all the antimatter? The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter (thus keeping a balance and allowing something to come from nothing). But over time the matter and antimatter would destroy each other. That is not what happened; our universe is mostly matter.

CP-violation "explains" that the universe has a bias for matter. Riddle solved. But unfortunely no one could explain why CP-violation exists - until now.

We live in a galaxy that rotates. "The spin of our galaxy has a twisting effect on our local space that is a million times stronger than that caused by the spin of the Earth," according to Dr Mark Hadley, of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. Our galaxy creates a Frame Drag that gives a preferential spin to local space and so favors matter spinning one way instead of antimatter spinning "against the grain." This is a testable theory which could change physics if true.

Another recent study looked at thousands of galaxies and found a 7% difference in the number of galaxies that spin clockwise vs those that spin counter-clockwise. The was too large for chance according to the authors of the study. They said this proved that the universe itself is spinning and influencing everything inside it. If true then there may be a Frame Drag from the spinning universe twisting all of space and time.

Bottom Line

There are still deep mysteries left to solve about the nature of reality itself. 

I wonder if galaxies that spin opposite of ours would favor antimatter over matter?

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Medical Myths

“Fire, water and government know nothing of mercy.”
- unknown
I just started a new lecture series on CD titled, Medical Myths, Lies, and Half Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us. So far I've enjoyed the first disc. Much better than the prior series on the Dead Sea Scrolls which used a lot of words to say very little.

Amusingly the first topic on the Medical Myths was hiccups which I discussed two days ago in this blog. Dr. Novella dismisses all the folk remidies and says medical research only endorses three drugs and direct neural stimulation or blocking for serious cases of hiccups which won't stop.

His second lecture covers hydration - do we really need to drink 8 cups of water a day? No. An old government guideline recommended 64-80 oz of water a day. But 20% of this will come from the food you eat. This leaves 6 1/2 cups which most people will drink normally.

Does coffee and caffinated sodas count as water? Many say no, but the professor says yes. The caffine will cause more peeing but not enough to cancel out all the water in the beverage. So perhaps it can count as 80% of a cup?

Another tidbit. The higher the elevation, the drier the air. At 6000 ft you exhale twice as much moisture as normal. At 10,000 ft, three times as much. This explains why people who fly experience thirst and why dehyration is serious for hikers and climbers in the mountains.

Bottom Line

For more information see my earlier blog:

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stay Cool to Stay Healthy As Temperatures Soar

Here is a message from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the summer heat:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are warning people to stay cool, hydrated and informed to prevent illnesses and injuries as cities across the Midwest, South and East Coast continue to issue heat warnings and watches. Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. On average, 675 people die from complications related to extreme heat each year in the United States – more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning or any other weather event combined.
"Extreme heat affects all of us but the most vulnerable are the elderly, those who work or exercise outdoors, infants and children, the homeless or poor, and people with a chronic medical condition," said Christopher Portier, PhD, director of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. "Taking precautions to stay cool, hydrated and informed helps to prevent serious health effects such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke during this massive heat wave."
Heat related deaths and illness are completely preventable yet every year many people succumb to the effects of extreme heat. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Common sense practices will keep you safe and healthy during the scorching days of summer.

Stay cool

Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned like shopping malls and libraries. (

Stay hydrated

Drink cool non-alcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake regardless of your activity level; increase your intake hourly if you are outdoors working or exercising. Drink more water than usual and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Make sure your family, friends and neighbors are drinking enough water. (

Stay active

Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses especially during sports and recreational activities.
"Take breaks; stay hydrated and move physical activities to the cooler parts of the day if they can't be moved indoors," said Linda Degutis, Dr. PH, M.S.N., director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "We encourage people to continue sports and recreational activities as much as possible during this heat wave, but take the necessary steps to prevent heat-related illness and injury."
Be sure to gradually increase exercise frequency, duration and intensity to allow your body to adjust to the heat if you are just getting started or returning to practices (e.g. football or band rehearsals). It's also a good idea to have an exercise partner or practice partner and watch for signs and symptoms of heat illness in each other. If leading organized activities, follow established guidelines from schools, sports organizations or medical organizations regarding changing or canceling activities to prevent heat illness, and alter practices to remove the need for heavy safety gear (e.g., football pads) on hot or humid days.

Stay safe

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems, debilitating injury or death, never leave infants, children or pets in parked cars; check on people who are overweight they may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat. People who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat. Know the symptoms of heat disorders, overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.

Bottom Line

Check your local news for extreme heat warnings and safety tips, or sign up for free weather alerts to your phone or e-mail from websites such as Visit for tips for preventing heat sickness, keep an eye on your friends, family and neighbors and be aware of weather and heat safety information.
For more information on extreme heat and heat safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011


“A little water is a sea to an ant”
-Afghan Proverb
What causes hiccups? Science is not really sure. The common explanation is a distention of the stomach caused by eating too much, drinking carbonated beverages, or swallowing too much air. But it could be low CO2 levels in the blood or a hair tickling your ear drum or a skull fracture, epilepsy, diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, tuberculosis, meningitis, bowel obstruction, and ulcerative colitis. Unlike other reflexes, hiccups serve no obvious or useful function.

When you hiccup, your diaphragm muscle convulses causing you to briefly gulp air. Within 35 milliseconds the glottis (the opening at the top of the air passage) slams shut, producing the characteristic "hic."

When my wife sneezes, we joke that she'll sneeze at least 7 times. Hiccups are the same. If you hiccup more than seven times you're in for the long haul and can expect at least 63 hiccups. The hiccup record is 57 years.

How can you stop hiccups? There are approaches - the first tries to bump the body out of hiccup mode, the other deals with low CO2.

Stuck in Hiccup Mode...
  • Scaring someone is a popular technique to "override" the hiccup reflex
  • Have someone tickle you
  • Wiggle your ears (if you can) to activate the nerve endings there
  • Put a teaspoon of sugar or lemon wedge on the back of your tongue (I'd worry about choking on the lemon)
  • Press a tongue depressor or a long cotton swab to the soft part of the roof of your mouth (or the back of the tongue) to trigger a gag reflex.
  • Soothe the throat nerves with a long, long drink of water - be careful NOT to gulp any air.
  • Discovery Health suggests taking a tablet or two of an antacid with magnesium.
Low CO2 ...
  • Hold your breath. Count to some high number while doing it to say calm.
  • Dr. Oz advocates plugging your nose and jumping on one foot (???!!!)
  • Repeatedly breathe into a paper bag to suck back in carbon dioxide.
  • Close your mouth, pinch your nose and try hard to exhale.
Bottom Line
If these don't work you should probably just wait it out, as most cases fix themselves.  However, if the hiccups last for a long time (over three hours), occur with abdominal pain, interfere with your sleep or eating, or you start spitting up blood, you should definitely see a doctor.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Quick Car Maintenance,

“In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks.”
-Scott Adams offers Finances in 55 Seconds: Quick Car Maintenance, six ideas for your car that take less than a minute each.

  • Do a quick de-clutter: Grab a bag and remove all the trash in your car. You may want a second bag for all the clutter that has accumulated.
  • Check the fluids and top them off: Regularly check your fluids and top them off as needed.
  • Look for leaks: Take a few seconds to look under the car for leaks. You can save yourself greater costs and aggravation if you take care of issues now.
  • Check your tires: Properly inflated tires can be helpful as you work on improving your fuel efficiency. Check and "fill-up" all four tires. While you at it, look also for cuts, bulges and tread depth.
  • Check filters: If you have the know-how, you can quickly check your own filters, and possibly even change them.
  • Check lights: With a friend you can quickly check your light bulbs on brake lights, as well as your turning signal and head lamps. Change all burnt out lights.
Bottom Line

Check your car at least monthly for the items above. The total time is only a few minutes.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Pursuit of Happiness

John Stuart Mill
I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.
John Stuart Mill 
I was reading the blogs of Jeffrey Carter, an "Independent Speculator" and Stock Market commentator, for the first time today. Most of his blogs are targeted at market traders but one title caught my eye, "Taxing Rich Guys". It makes the usual (conservative) points about how it's the investments from the Rich Guys that fund start-ups, create new businesses and create jobs. By reducing Rich Guy's wealth with higher taxes, you also reduce the available money to create jobs.

But that's old news if you read my blog. What made me sit up was his July 4th observation on the phrase "pursuit of happiness". People interpret this today as a right to happiness itself. That government must somehow save us from every pain and woe. But that is not the original intent. The Founding Fathers wanted the freedom to find happiness on their own terms. Freedom to pursue happiness.

This made me realize that we are far from that ideal today. The government blocks many forms of "enjoyment" - dog fighting, child porn, drugs, fox hunting, etc. You might argue that these are "evil" types of happiness and I would agree. But it's not so easy for society to draw the line between good and bad happiness. Gay sex was once illegal (and still is in some countries). One of the greatest minds in mathematics and computer science, Alan Turing, who helped win World War II by breaking the German Enigma code, was criminally prosecuted in England in 1952 for homosexual acts and died in prison. The British Prime Minister officially apologized for this in 2009. What was once officially banned is now allowed while things that were once allowed, like salty and fatty foods, are now being banned.

Suppose you like the wind in your hair as you ride a motorcycle - sorry not allowed; helmets required.

How should society decide between right and wrong activities for individuals (or consenting groups)?

One option can be found in John Stuart Mill's book, On Liberty, and apply his concept of Self-regarding actions vs Other-regarding actions. One website summarizes this as,
The sole permissible end for individual or collective interference with individual liberty of action is the avoidance of harm to others (other regarding actions). In  matters concerning only oneself, one’s right is absolute (self-regarding actions).  Over oneself, one’s body and mind, the individual is sovereign.  Hence, the following sacrosanct: absolute liberty of conscience, tastes, opinion & speech; limited liberty of pursuits and association (no harm to others clause). 
Another site has this to say,
When a person is only hurting himself or herself, Mill says that people can advise him/her to adopt self-regarding virtues but ultimately, each person has the complete freedom to make their own decision. If a person does not adopt self-regarding qualities, society cannot publicly denounce him/her, although they can hold their own personal negative opinions. These private opinions are what ultimately may hurt a person who is not pursuing what society perceives as his/her own best interests. This is referred to as a natural penalty that is incurred by bad self-regarding interests. In addition to that natural penalty, Mill states that in a harmful self-regarding action, the only harmed person is the perpetrator who in effect, is giving and receiving his own punishment.
Mill agrees in part to the counterargument against his philosophy stating that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to believe that any action can solely affect the agent and will not be relevant to the community. However, he asserts that only when the action brings on the risk or actuality of public damage does society have the right to punish the perpetrator. Mill gives the example of a drunk man who shouldn't be punished for his intoxication unless he is a policeman or similar protector of society on duty and unable to fulfill his duties. In Mill's opinion, if a person's actions have little significance to society, then it is in the best interest of society to allow basic human liberties to prevail.
However even this "simple" concept quickly falls apart. Should animals count as "others"? If so then no fox hunts, dog fights or cock fights. Is it other-regarding if I hurt your feelings or offend in some way but do no physical harm? Some societies ban kissing in public as offensive. 

Bottom Line

What do you think? Should government protect your happiness at the cost of limiting what others may do? Limit your activities in order to protect animals from harm? Should government protect individuals from being offended? Protect people from injuring themselves with "bad" food or "dangerous" hobbies?

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bear Attack!

"I don't think my parents liked me. They put a live teddy bear in my crib."
-Woody Allen
For the first time in 25 years a tourist has been killed by a bear at Yellowstone Park. Forty years ago when my grandparents went to Yellowstone, bears were common. People fed them from cars and my grandmother's scrapbook is filled with close-up bear photos (e.g. a bear sticking its nose through the partially open window). But Park Rangers knew this was dangerous so they moved the bears deeper into the park, made every trashcan bear proof and banned the feeding of bears. It worked. Fifteen years ago when my wife and I visited the park, we were lucky to see a bear far away up on a mountainside. Such sightings caused "bear-jams" as every tourist pulled over on the road to see the bears through binoculars. One brave (stupid) group tried to hike up the mountain to get a better view and were scolded and fined by a Park Ranger.

The man who was recently killed was hiking with his wife in the back woods of Yellowstone when they came unexpectedly upon a mother with cubs. They both ran but bears can outrun people. What saved the wife is that she dropped to the ground; the bear picked her up by her backpack, but then left her alone.

The recommended response to an angry bear is either to back away slowly, or to lie down on the ground and play dead. When playing dead, clasp your hands around your head at the back of the neck for protection against bites.

When camping in woods, keep food away from your car and sleeping area. Bears can rip open cars, trailers and of course tents. Put food items in a sealable bag and hang them on a tree about 100 yards from the campsite.

Bottom Line

Bear attacks are rare.  "It's really important to not surprise them," says one expert. Attach bells to your hiking gear and make noise so the animals know you are there. Most wild animals want to avoid an encounter and will move away. Never approach a wild animal with cubs or a carnivore eating a carcass. In both cases the animal will be protective and could turn aggressive.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scrap Metal Theft in Chicago

"Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself."
William Shakespeare
Last month I wrote about Scrap Metal Theft. This month CBS Chicago reports that thieves are stealing air conditioner units for the metal value.

"They work silently, leaving no trace behind. A Chicago neighborhood is on alert after the number of thefts of air conditioning units have jumped sharply in recent weeks. The robbers are after the copper inside, which they can resell for scrap, a favorite quick money-making method for drug addicts. But they're not just cracking open the units and plundering the pipe, they're lifting the entire central AC unit."
NBC Chicago reports that,
Some 100 orphaned cats and dogs living in a Chicago animal welfare center are in danger heading into the expected-to-be-hot weekend after vandals either stole or destroyed all of the building's main air conditioning units Thursday evening.
The shelter will need $20,000 to replace the A/C.

Bottom Line

"Residents have taken to enclosing their air conditioning in thick cages with multiple locks. If you live in an area where AC theft is a concern, you should also lock up the disconnect box to make it harder to get to the AC."

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seven Reasons to Change Your Will

"Lawyers Are": A learned gentleman who rescues your estate from your enemies and keeps it himself.
- Henry Brougham
As a follow-up to yesterday's important documents, here are 7 Reasons to Review or Revise Your Will from
  1. You have a new child, make a new friend, or find a long-lost relative
  2. You Move - different states have different inheritance laws
  3. You win the Lottery - if you come into a large sum of money you might want to establish a Trust to manage the cash.
  4. You get divorced
  5. Your spouse, child, parent or other passes away
  6. You change your mind about who gets what. "I swear, after what cousin Joe did, that he won't get a penny!"
  7. You want to support a new/different charity
Bottom Line

Wills are living documents that must be maintained with changes in your life.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

25 Documents You Need Before You Die

"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live."
Henry Van Dyke
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 25 Documents You Need Before You Die.
  • An original Will (be sure it is legal and notarized) stored with your attorney or in a courthouse.
  • (optional) A revocable living trust can be changed anytime during your lifetime. You can transfer ownership of various assets to the trust and serve as the trustee on behalf of beneficiaries you designate.
  • A "letter of instruction" is a supplement to a will that lists the names and contact information of your attorneys, accountants and financial advisers as well as "instructions" to follow upon your death. The letter of instruction is NOT a legal document and is not binding upon your heirs. It expresses your preferences and should be readily accessible, especially if it contains instructions on funeral arrangements.
  • A durable financial power-of-attorney form. Without it, no one can make financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated.
  • List all safe-deposit boxes owned. Have one or more family members registered so they can open the box without a court order. When my sister and I were registered recently BOTH my parents had to approve the change since both were registered with the bank for the box.
  • Include a copy of your marriage license and divorce decrees. Include the distribution sheet listing bank-account numbers that accompanied the divorce settlement to avoid disputes about ownership or payments due. Also include a copy of the most recent child-support payment order. In the majority of states, the obligation to pay child support still exists after death.
Proof of Ownership Documents

  • Provide documents for all home and land owned, cemetery plots, cars, boats, stock certificates, savings bonds, brokerage accounts and escrow mortgage accounts. If you fail to tell heirs
    what you own (with proof) the assets could be lost forever.
  • List all banking accounts and CDs. Include the online log-in information so family can notify the bank of your death. Abandoned accounts become the property of the state.
  • Loans you made to others are assets which should be listed along with a copy of the loan agreement.
  • List all debts you own and include the contract. This may include mortgages, car payments, bank loans, stocks on margin, etc.
Health-Care Privacy
  • Provide a durable health-care power-of-attorney form so your designee can make health-care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.  Otherwise federal health-information privacy laws will prevent doctors, hospitals and insurance companies from speaking with your designee. You may also need to fill out an Authorization to Release Protected Healthcare Information form.
  • Write a living will detailing your medical wishes. Do you wish to be revived if your heart stops?
  • Terminally ill patients may wish to have their doctors sign a do-not-resuscitate order.
Life Insurance

  • Include a copy of all life-insurance policies. Family members need to know the name of the carrier, the policy number and the agent associated with the policy. Don't forget to include corporate life insurance you earned with retirement.

Bottom Line

These documents are useless if your heirs don't know about them. Or if they are locked inside a safe deposit box that they don't have the key to. Make sure your heirs know these documents exist and where to find them. Store copies outside the home in case you and your documents are lost in a fire, tornado, etc.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Debtor's Prison

I saw a bank that said "24 Hour Banking," but I don't have that much time.
- Steven Wright
Here's a strange story. An IRS refund for $110,000 to an elderly woman in LA was sent to the wrong bank account. The man who received the funds immediately spent about $50,000 to save his home from foreclosure and pay off other bills. When caught he offered to pay back the remaining $65K to the woman with a monthly plan for paying the remainder but she rejected the plan as being too low. He's now in jail, facing a possible 4 years of prison time, for the felony of grand theft by misappropriation of lost property.

There are many red flags in this story:
1. A $100K refund? Why is someone with this kind of money doing her own taxes?

It is reported that she filed an old Citibank account number with the IRS for the refund. The account was closed in 2004 and the number later reassigned to a man in the story.

2. Why did Citibank reuse an old account number? That is terrible policy. How long did it wait before reassigning the number?

3. The woman rejected the deal to repay. Why in the world are the parties negotiating at all? Years ago my first automatic deposit paycheck in my new bank account was saved to the wrong account. The bank did not say, sorry, someone else spent your money. You better work out a deal with them. No the bank corrected their error. Likewise I would expect the IRS to pay the women her refund immediately and for the IRS to work with the man on recovering the misplaced funds. I suppose in this instance the IRS holds the woman responsible. They sent the money where she told them to send it.

4. Four years in jail? That seems harsh. I know the law says you can not spend the money in a bank error but come on. Work out a repayment plan with interest. Send him to jail if he violates the plan. With jail the government loses twice - it does not get the money back (unless that is part of the sentence) and it's spending money to keep him in jail.

5. The bail is set at $110,000, the exact amount of money misplaced.  Does the judge have a mean sense of humor?

Bottom Line

Just because money appears in your bank account, it is not yours to spend. If you can not explain the deposit (e.g. paycheck, etc.) then ask the bank where it came from before spending it.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

World Energy Use

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."
- attributed to Mark Twain
There is much talk about converting to renewable energy resources but what has the world accomplished?
A report by British Petroleum, 2011 Statistical Review of World Energy, reveals that while renewable usage grew at an amazing rate, Fossil fuels gained market share overall. How can wind & solar increase at a greater rate but lose ground? Consider: would you rather have 70% interest on $100 or 1% interest on one million dollars?

Wind grew by 24.6% and solar by 73%. This is a fantastic increase but the total energy from wind and solar remains very small; Solar amounts to only 0.1% of global electric power, Wind is now 1.6% of global electric power. So even if these had grown by 400% they would still be dwarfed by even a modest increase in coal or oil.

An interesting offshoot of the study. China used 2/3 of the coal consumed last year and has surpassed the US as the world's #1 energy consumer. China passed the US for CO2 emissions five years ago.

For the 11th straight year, oil has a smaller slice of the global energy pie (now 33.6%). This is not to say oil usage went down. In fact it increased by 3.1% last year. But coal grabbed more of the pie with an increase of 29.6% for a total of 25.6%. We may see coal surpass oil if China continues on its present course.

Bottom Line

There are some who believe that high oil prices are here to stay. They point to ever increasing energy demands from China (up 11.2% last year ). Another indicator: while global oil use increased by 3.1%, the production of oil only increased by 2.2%. This was the strongest increase in production in 16 years but not enough to meet a growing demand.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Too much Sitting?

“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
-Tom Bodett
The other night I heard a TED-xKids talk by the publisher of Make magazine with Do It Yourself (DIY) projects. He expected the magazine to appeal to guys and was surprised to find it popular with families with children. Kids love to make things and yet our schools are geared to produce "scholars" not "makers". Students must sit and read and think and write. Art & Crafts is an optional program at most schools that gets cut when the budget is tight. And shop class is only for some High School students. The publisher lamented that many kids don't even know who to hold a screw driver correctly. This is doubly sad he concluded because studies show that young brains grow faster when there is manual activity.

Last month, Lawyer-blogger Ann Althouse also expressed some ideas on early education: Don't send 4-year-olds to school. Send them to work. She quotes Cornell Anthropologist Meredith F. Small:
In non-Western culture, parents expect children to learn about what it means to be an adult by doing adult work. When we were an agriculturally based nation, American children used to work just as hard and contribute in the same way. But now, Western children are trained intellectually, in school, where they are taught to think about things as the entree to adulthood, and few contribute anything to the household economy.
That cultural expectation is now creeping earlier and earlier as 3-year-olds go to preschool and 4–year-olds start kindergarten. Everyone sits quietly at their desks, thinking and thinking.
Althouse then makes a few pointed remarks about too much sitting and thinking, perhaps this is a leading cause of childhood obesity?  There's also a new study that says excessive sitting is as bad as smoking, “being sedentary causes factors to happen in the body that are very detrimental”.

Althouse also questions the motives behind pre-school and kindergarten. Do we really have the best interests of the children in mind or is early education just
childcare, paid for by taxpayers who wouldn't accept paying for the childcare of parents who want (or need) to go to work. The children, unschooled, would be an economic burden on parents who would either purchase private childcare or forgo income from the second of 2 parents working.
Bottom Line

Are schools creating a new generation of weak limbed, overweight drones?

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Green is Your Car?

A pedestrian is someone who thought there were a couple of gallons left in the tank.
- Unknown has a great article titled, Electric cars not so green after all?

It's wonderful to say you're saving the environment by not burning oil, BUT are you aware of the impact of the technology and resources that went into making an electric car? A new study by the British Government examined the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal.
An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km (80,000mi) before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km (90mi) on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.  ...  Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed. Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.
Here are some other items to consider.

Where will we store all of the dead batteries that are discarded?

What is the impact of mining the Lithium needed for the batteries? Why is it bad to drill for oil or coal but OK to mine for Lithium?

Bottom Line

I read a wonderful comment the other day in which a father objected to the phrase, "Americans are addicted to oil." Nonsense, he replied. I'm addicted to driving my son to school and to soccer games. He did not care if the car ran on oil or cow piss. It's a good thing that we are finally seeing realistic alternatives to burning oil in hundreds of millions of cars. Just don't blindly assume that electric is "cleaner". Where is that electricity coming from to power the car?

I wonder which is more efficient? Turning oil into gasoline, transporting it and then burning it in a car? Or turning oil into electricity, transmitting the energy over power lines, storing the energy in batteries, and using that to power a car? I would not be surprised if it required MORE energy overall to run electric cars.


Monday, July 11, 2011

"Oh, God!", the movie

"My days are all filled with an easy country charm
Thank God I'm a country boy"
- John Dever lyrics
In my last post I used a quote from the movie, "Oh, God!" about the avocado pit. I really loved that movie when it came out in 1977. George Burns plays a great God, all knowing with a bit of humor. His reluctant prophet, Jerry Landers, is played by John Denver. Here are some more quotes from that movie.

Jerry Landers: How can you permit all the suffering that goes on the world?
God: Ah, how can I permit the suffering?
Jerry Landers: Yes!
God: I don't permit the suffering. You do. Free will. All the choices are yours.

Jerry Landers: I don't even go to any church!
God: Neither do I.

Jerry Landers: People are always praying to You. Do You listen?
God: I can't help hearing. I don't always listen.
Jerry Landers: So then You don't care.
God: Of course I care! But what can I do?
Jerry Landers: What can You do? You're God!
God: Only for the big picture. I don't get into details.

God: The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you have to go back to the Red Sea.

Jerry Landers: I lost my job, you know. [after speaking as God's prophet]
God: [shrugs] Lose a job, save a world. Not a bad deal.

The tail end of the movie has Jerry Landers on trial as a false prophet. God appears as a witness and when asked if he swears to tell only the truth responds, "So help me, me. <pause> I'm God", which naturally causes an uproar. He then explains....
God: Why is it so hard for you to believe? Is my physical existence any more improbable than your own? What about all that hoo-ha with the devil awhile ago from that movie? [The Exorcist] Nobody had any problem believing that the devil took over and existed in a little girl. All she had to do was wet the rug, throw up some pea soup and everybody believed. The devil you could believe, but not God? I work in my own way. I don't, I don't get inside little children; they got enough to do just being themselves. Also I'm not about to go around to every person in the world and say, 'Look it's me, I wanna talk to you.' So I picked one man. One very good man. I told him God lives. I live. He had trouble believing too, in the beginning. I understood. I'm not sure how this whole miracle business started, the idea that anything connected with me has to be a miracle. Personally I'm sorry that it did. Makes the distance between us even greater.

[last lines of the movie as God says goodbye to his prophet]
Jerry Landers: Maybe, sometimes... couldn't we just talk?
God: I'll tell you what. You talk... I'll listen.

Bottom Line

What lines from the movie do you agree with? Which parts did it get wrong?


Friday, July 8, 2011

Appetite Suppressant Tricks

"My biggest mistake, the avocado. Made the pit too big!"
George Burns as God in the movie "Oh God"
Women' offers these ideas for eating less:
  1. Eat Protein at Breakfast: at least 1 ounce of meat, egg or yogurt will keep you filling full, longer
  2. Eat Potatoes: potatoes contain a starch that is difficult for the body to break down so it will be in your digestive system longer. Try a baked potato (100 calorie) or potato salad (without the mayo). Don't use french fries or potato chips since the oil spikes the calorie count on these.
  3. Not all fat is bad: oleic acid, which is found in the unsaturated fat of olives, nuts, peanut butter and avocadoes, can help quash hunger.
  4. Exercise: 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio can reduce appetite for up to two hours afterward
  5. The return of the Grapefruit diet? : grapefruit lowers your postmeal levels of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar and fat metabolism.
  6. Chew gum (sugarless of course!) : people who chewed gum for one hour in the morning consumed 67 fewer calories at lunch
Bottom Line

Dieting is hard. Use the tricks that nature provides to curb the hunger pains.


Thursday, July 7, 2011


Joe Banks: I have less than six months to live. The Waponis believe they need a human sacrifice or their island is going to sink into the ocean. They have this mineral your father wants so he hired me to leap into their volcano.
Patricia: What?
Joe Banks: You're not going to make me say that again, are you?
- from the 1990 movie, Joe Versus the Volcano
Here's another picture that impresses. This was taken last month during an eruption in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain, about 575 miles south of the capital, Santiago. The chain last saw a major eruption in 1960. The Cordon Caulle volcano exploded with a 10-kilometre-high gas column and evacuated 3,500 people were evacuated from the surrounding area.

As a youth I learned about the Pacific Ring of Fire - look at any world map of volcanoes and see how the Pacific rim is heavily dotted. The US portion of the ring gives us Mount Rainer and Mount Hood that I've visited plus many more in Alaska and along the west coast. I was not aware that Chile has 2000 volcanoes making it the second highest volcanic after Indonesia. Some 50 to 60 are on record as having erupted, and 500 are potentially active.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Solar Flare

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
Today I'll let a photo do most of the talking. This incredible solar flare on June 7 was ranked as an M2.5, or medium-sized flare, in terms of energy. Remember that the Earth would fit inside a lowercase o in this picture and then imagine what a massive solar flare would be like.

Bottom Line

Civilization is more fragile than we know.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

'B' as in Boy

"ABC, 123, baby, you and me girl"
-Michael Jackon (A B C song)
If you have ever tried to spell something over the telephone you quickly realize that many of our letters sound the same: b or v,  m or n? To compensate we substitute words for the letters, tfor example I, B as in Boy, M as in Mary, etc... for IBM.

There are many standards for alphabetic codewords. One of the best know and most common is used by HAM radio operators and is called the "International Radio Operators Alphabet". Wikipedia describes a variant called NATO phonetic alphabet which changes the spelling of codewords like Alfa instead of Alpha.

Here is the Radio Code:


Michael Jackson


This is a lot to memorize. So I employed the technique of making a story out of it. The first four I know cold so the story starts with Echo.
The Echo of people doing the Foxtrot and playing Golf fill the Hotels of India where Juliet puts on a few Kilos eating too many Lima beans. Meanwhile Mike, in the month of November, accepts the Oscar from his Papa in Quebec while Romeo in the Sierras dances the Tango in his Uniform. Victor takes a swig of Whiskey after seeing the X-Ray of Yankee loving Zulu.

Not a great story but it helps.

Bottom Line

Try making up your own story in the comments. I'd love to see it improved.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!


Friday, July 1, 2011

10 Misunderstood Words

Riddle: Do Canadians recognize July the 4th?
Answer: at bottom of blog

Here's a clever graphic from

Bottom Line

How many of these words have you used incorrectly?

Answer to Riddle

Canada recognizes all the days in the month of July.
Americans often say July 4th when they should be saying Independence Day.