Saturday, August 20, 2005

SPACE REAL ESTATE

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

While many bloggers worry about the obvious housing bubble that will bust with a boom here on earth, we forget about the big piece of developed co-op orbiting our planet, the Space Station.

This wasn't an American project but a joint one with our allies, at least who were our allies before we decided to start wars and call our allies dirty names. The whole space shuttle mess intersects with this ongoing development disaster to make one big pickle. Like the Space Shuttle, the Space Station was subject to many compromises that turned it from a daring project as a prototype space colony into a bigger, more ungainly version of Skylab.

Skylab was hilarous because it was built by two sworn enemies who wanted to cooperate but not really so it was two utterly different systems and esthetics hooked and crooked together and used jointly and then cast off into the ocean after scaring the bejeebus out of the Australians. The Space Shuttle was supposed to open the door to many possibilities. Actually, when it was proposed, the L-5 Society was gritting teeth because the many compromises ended up confining the Shuttle to only the lower L orbits which meant one couldn't build permanent space colonies using its technology. We were assured, better transport would be forthcoming.

Like the Amtrak promises, a train too little and hours late!Which reminds me to mention, Cosmic Ray's article about Amtrak.

The Shuttle, like many of the mass group projects, betrays all sense of art and style and goes for the grey areas so beloved by government committees which is why North Korea or Stalinist Russia look awful. When there is no guiding sensibility that can say no to all the cries of rage from the bean counters and counter tenders (sing falsetto!) there is ugliness. We know the Sphinx and Great Pyramids were designed by someone with taste and not done as a government project.

Or maybe not. The hidden labyrinths could have been the prototype to the bureaucratic mind? One shudders to think.

Anyway, Skylab was small, cramped, ill sorted and oddly put together and usually, Russians and Americans bumped elbows all the time up there and were always scared no one would pick them up or remember to bring food. My, how things haven't changed!

Once again, the Russians are supplying the space station and so on. What is it that makes this so stubborn a pattern?

Well, this is going to change and we won't like it, will we? From Xinhuanet:
The Russian Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said Friday that Russia hopes to conduct more space cooperation with China, including manned space flight.

At Moscow's seventh International Air Show exhibit, Perminov told Xinhua that Russia and China have made much progress in space cooperation, but it is far from enough.

Russia must conduct some "serious projects" with big nations such as China, he added.

As to China's second manned mission, Shenzhou VI, scheduled forearly October this year, Perminov expressed his hope that it would be successful.

When asked whether Russia would cooperate with China in developing the Kliper shuttle, a reusable spacecraft that is being designed to replace the Soviet-designed single-use Soyuz, he said that if China asks to take part in the project, Russia will consider it.
This follows on the heels of the USA musing about abandoning the International Space Station. The French and Germans are already negotiating running it via Russia since America seems to have abandoned human flight in space altogether, what with the Space Shuttle relaunches being indefinitely derailed. Again, like Amtrak, eh?

From Space.com:

NASA’s next space shuttle will likely launch in March 2006 and not be the Atlantis orbiter as previously planned, space agency officials said Thursday.

Instead, the Discovery orbiter – which returned to Earth last week after concluding NASA’s 14-day STS-114 mission – will be the next to fly, which will ease future launch schedules and allow engineers additional time to complete troubleshooting and repair work on external tanks to prevent foam shedding during launch, shuttle officials said.

“We think, really, that March 4 is the timeframe we’re looking at,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s foam investigation lead and newly-appointed associate administrator for space operations, told reporters during a Thursday press conference. “It looks like we’re going to have to do some repair…on the tank.”
I remember the early promises for the Space Shuttle fleet, around 10 launches a month to 2 a month to 1 a month to 1 every blue moon to 1=infinity. This isn't a good progression. All the while, no replacements in sight and still none. The flying hypodermic needle is a dead end. It can take humans up but ought else.

From Space.com again:
Two astronauts are safely back inside the International Space Station (ISS) after toiling outside to retrieve a series of experiments and outfit the orbital laboratory for a new cargo ship expected next year.

The spacewalk ended early for ISS Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips, who were ordered back inside the station by Russian flight controllers after completing all but one of their appointed tasks.

Russian flight controllers decided to forgo the relocation of a grappling fixture for the station’s Strela boom – a two-hour job – after citing that the astronauts did not have enough consumables or time to complete the procedure. Krikalev and Phillips had fallen about 45 minutes behind schedule during the spacewalk.

"There is no margin," flight controllers said.

"Well it's a pity, we had it planned, I think we could have done it," Krikalev said, apparently disappointed. “If the decision is made, the decision is made.”

Originally slated to run six hours, the spacewalk lasted four hours and 58 minutes. It is the only extravehicular activity (EVA) planned for the Expedition 11 crew, NASA officials said.
Well, looks like they are refitting the station to be serviced the old fashioned way. Meanwhile, the Mars Mad group is squalling for some action. They don't understand that they are dupes. They have been used cynically as a tool to deflect joint efforts to save the civilian side of NASA. Now our space program, turned civilian by Kennedy, will revert to all military all the time.

Just like when I was a kid riding my trike around China Lake while the military blasted rockets hither and yon.

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DUMB INTELLIGENT DESIGN

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

One of the sillier attempts at unexplaining evolution is "intelligent design". You see, God is supposed to be this smarty pants inventor who carefully crafts living things to fit into each other perfectly. Of course, readers of the Bible know that He is a rather childish and cruel creature Who discards His messes by killing off nearly everything in a fit of pique. Why anyone would worship this creature puzzles me.

To be comforted by the existence of this cruel being is insanity, in my mind.

But this is the way it is. Intelligent design is a straw that many cling to even though this begs the point of why a creator would bother itself with this tiny, insignificant little blot of matter in the vast universe that is filled with planets and stars and matter and all sorts of things. Why there has to be a person that supervises all this seems excessive, doesn't it? If there is a being that is all over the universe toying with absolutely everything all the time, this explains nothing except maybe we should be very paranoid about it and suspicious, to say the least.

The latest salvo in this war of Slaves of the Entity vs Scientists is in the Smithsonian Museum. From the Washington Post:
Evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg made a fateful decision a year ago.

As editor of the hitherto obscure Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Sternberg decided to publish a paper making the case for "intelligent design," a controversial theory that holds that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- subtle or not -- of an intelligent creator.

Within hours of publication, senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution -- which has helped fund and run the journal -- lashed out at Sternberg as a shoddy scientist and a closet Bible thumper.

"They were saying I accepted money under the table, that I was a crypto-priest, that I was a sleeper cell operative for the creationists," said Steinberg, 42 , who is a Smithsonian research associate. "I was basically run out of there."

An independent agency has come to the same conclusion, accusing top scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History of retaliating against Sternberg by investigating his religion and smearing him as a "creationist."
Of course, this sounds like censorship...if someone has no understanding about how scientific journals are run. If any of the scientific astronomy journals were to run a story about how a God created the Big Bang, it would be laughed out of the joint. This doesn't mean astronomers themselves don't indulge in this fantasy, my own parents are believers of this!---but they don't publish stuff about it in scientific journals.

It doesn't belong there.

If Mr. Sternberg wanted to run a journal like mine, here, he could. But he can't do it on the Smithsonian's dime.
"The rumor mill became so infected," James McVay, the principal legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel, wrote to Sternberg, "that one of your colleagues had to circulate [your résumé] simply to dispel the rumor that you were not a scientist."

The Washington Post and two other media outlets obtained a copy of the still-private report.

McVay, who is a political appointee of the Bush administration, acknowledged in the report that a fuller response from the Smithsonian might have tempered his conclusions. As Sternberg is not a Smithsonian employee -- the National Institutes of Health pays his salary -- the Special Counsel lacks the power to impose a legal remedy.

A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution declined comment, noting that they have not received McVay's report.

"We do stand by evolution -- we are a scientific organization," said Linda St. Thomas, the spokeswoman. An official privately suggested that McVay might want to embarrass the institution.

It is hard to overstate the passions fired by the debate over intelligent design. President Bush recently said that schoolchildren should learn about the theory alongside Darwin's theory of evolution -- a view that goes beyond even the stance of intelligent design advocates. Dozens of state school boards have attempted to mandate the teaching of anti-Darwinian theories.

A small band of scientists argue for intelligent design, saying evolutionary theory's path is littered with too many gaps and mysteries, and cannot account for the origin of life.
Agreeing about exactly how life first got launched is being hashed out gradually as researchers understand more and more how the ecosystem of the early earth was different from today, drastically different, and how the evolving life forms radically altered it, an oxygenated atmosphere being the top example of a massive alteration. Virtually no scientists think that all plants and animals were suddenly materialized out of nothingness, instantly with all functioning systems.

It wasn't like there were creatures on the planet and then suddenly, creatures with eyes or wings appeared with the snap of a magical finger! There is no way this happened. Making believe that there was an invisible person tinkering with animals in secret and then springing the results upon this planet is laughable. There is no explanation about why God would even do any of this stuff. Bored and at loose ends? Frivolity? Did He decide to destroy all the previous creatures by materializing humans out of nothingness and then unleashing them upon the world He created so He could watch it be destroyed and then He could send His human creations into an eternal Hell and torture them there at His leisure so He could be amused for all eternity?

Shudder.

McVay, the investigator into the case of this malfunctioning of the magazine entrusted to Mr. Sternberg, is a Bush appointee and he gleefully goes after the institution and attacks the scientists, clothing his fellow right winger as some poor victim of a smear job rather than as a man who violated very strong scientific principles.

What these people want is "equal time" only they don't ever debate with me, for example. Raised by religous scientists, I had to fight this fight at home from early childhood. I actually tried my best to understand God. To please and understand my parents, I read the Bible very carefully. But then questions began. Mainly, why did this god do all these hideous things? This made me extremely unpopular at home on many levels leading to basically being kicked out of the family. Not one of my pertinent questions were ever answered by any priest or minister or my mom and dad. Why they worship this god which is probably the meanest, cruelest, most awful creature ever concieved by any mind baffles me.
Sternberg is an unlikely revolutionary. He holds two PhDs in evolutionary biology, his graduate work draws praise from his former professors, and in 2000 he gained a coveted research associate appointment at the Smithsonian Institution.

Not long after that, Smithsonian scientists asked Sternberg to become the unpaid editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a sleepy scientific journal affiliated with the Smithsonian. Three years later, Sternberg agreed to consider a paper by Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University-educated philosopher of science who argues that evolutionary theory cannot account for the vast profusion of multicellular species and forms in what is known as the Cambrian "explosion," which occurred about 530 million years ago.

Scientists still puzzle at this great proliferation of life. But Meyer's paper went several long steps further, arguing that the presence of an intelligent agent -- that is, God -- was the best explanation for the rapid appearance of higher life-forms.

Sternberg harbored his own doubts about Darwinian theory. He also acknowledged that this journal had not published such papers in the past and that he wanted to stir the scientific pot.

"I am not convinced by Intelligent Design but they have brought a lot of difficult questions to the fore," Sternberg said. "Science only moves forward on controversy."
The Cambrian explosion. This is when the single celled creatures that evolved to take energy from the sun and use it to reproduce rather than merely capture other molecular chains drifting in the early seas of the earth changed the environment so that multicelled creatures could fill the new niches. This sudden proliferation ended in a vast, hideous extinction. We still debate what caused it. But the few pitiful survivors, thanks to reproduction abilities, continued to evolve and fill the niches. There is no debate about the mechanism for this for it is evolution as elucidated by Charles Darwin. The various steps and details are in debate but the way it works isn't in doubt. The survivors reproduced, they mutated all the time and whenever the environment changed due to populations and situations, the creatures either flourished or became extinct and the survivors reproduced some more. And by dint of eons of this activity, they shifted in form to become various ecosystems that interface with the enviroment and changes the enviroment.

The Permian is also the time when the oceans were rich in what little creatures loved to eat and so many of them died without being eaten by others creatures, their tiny bodies piled up on the sea floors in huge numbers so that, even after being crushed by vast mountains of rock and pressed together into a tight mass, turning into a black goo, they come back out of the ground as fossil fuels and are what we are burning today to create our own civilization.

From the BBC News:
President Bush is down on his ranch in Crawford doing what he likes best for relaxation - attacking timber with a chainsaw. As a warm-up, just before he decamped to the Texas White House for the rest of the summer, he sawed into a leafy, living branch of science - Darwinian evolution.

He did it with his usual nonchalance, in an off-the-cuff response to a reporter, by coming out on the side of religious activists who are campaigning for public schools to retreat from Darwin and teach something called "intelligent design" or ID.

In a nutshell, the ID activists maintain that many forms of life are too complex to have been the result of any random - indeed mindless - natural selection. A highly intelligent supernatural force must have designed, say, the human eye or the neurology of the brain.

Yet, as Charles Darwin demonstrated in his book Origin of Species in 1859, we weren't designed by any hidden hand in a single brilliant moment, but have all evolved from lower orders - ape to man - over hundreds of millions of years.

Bush didn't saw through the Darwinian branch entirely. He said that ID should be taught alongside evolution "because part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought".
Aside from the laughable idea of an idiot who looks and acts so simian, talking about "intelligent design" when he, himself, displays little intelligence, the attacks on evolutionary science are very dangerous. Because the Bible is taught in a childish way, the religious bigots explaining that we have to be child-like to believe and thus, applying rational thought is a danger, this means people surrender to their infantile upbringing when the Bible is presented as this cute story about a god that is very destructive and vindictive but loves the little boy or girl, personally, but then only if the little boy or girl prays to it...this irrational desire to not disturb infantile memories is what all good scientists have to overcome.

It is a burden to be set aside. The amazing story of the universe and how we came to be within it is interesting and helpful since it can save us from our doom which is to be exterminated in the bitter end. To keep evolving and moving along, we must understand the past and be able to predict the future. Pretending there is a god looking after us leads us to do dangerous things which will directly lead to our destruction!

So this isn't a game or a toy or a temporary thing, this is a vital problem that is directly connected with the destruction of our planet which is, incidentally, being assisted by our very own scientists who have created things that are very destructive like all those nukes that wait in the wings for Goetterdaemmerung.

These same people don't want to talk about global warming in a scientific way. They don't want to talk about pollution in the same way. They want fantasy science on many fronts because this allows them to do really dangerous things that will cause our annihilation and since they make money and get power from all this, they attack the messengers.

In England just the other day, a famous "atheist" suddenly announced he couldn't understand evolution so he was deciding there was a God out there. This ticked me off, I am assuming he, in his dottage, is doing what so many do when they age: the deeper, earlier parts of the mind take over and the thought processes become more and more akin to earlier and earlier childhood beliefs and thinking. The earliest circuits click on and take over. The devoluion of thought proceeds as the mind, facing death, retreats to the earliest forms. Studies of the elderly have shown that they can recite poems and songs from the earliest years while being unable to remember what happened yesterday.

The main reason why so many abusers of our planet want to kill any ideas about evolution is because the idea that we and all living things need each other and can't exist unless we work together to keep our ecosystems in balance means stopping mad schemes to destroy the earth.

The fundamentalists want to eat everything in sight, stuffing their faces and paving over the planet and sucking down all the tiny, crushed Permian bodies and spewing out their molecular remains as air pollution, changing the planet completely. This destructive greed and lust is then going to be rewarded by their strange, hostile god, who will put them in Heaven to sing happy songs of praise! This is not only hard to believe, it is repulsive. When I cast it in this light, the destroyers of our planet, after devouring it, plan to live in all eternity with their god, laughing, religion doesn't look so nice, does it?

Namely, I am looking at from the point of view of a monkey or an ape. Who we are exterminating or using for our inhuman experiments.

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ETERNAL PARADISE EVERYWHERE

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I got up this morning and read a Tierney item in the New York Times that gave me an eerie feeling. Once upon a time, I got tired of Maureen Dowd's incessant Monica stories and decided to send her an email suggesting she talk about Cleopatra and Cathrine the Great and other famous women who sought power and sex simultaneously. She did exactly that a few days after getting my email. She even used the examples in the same order I listed them. No attribution, of course.

In Tierney's case, it is not so direct but still interesting. I have emailed him periodically when he irritates the hell out of me. He is very shallow and awfully predictible. So he knows my website.

So it is a pleasant surprise to see today's column--The Golf Gene:
The ideal is a vista from high ground overlooking open, rolling grassland dotted with low-branched trees and a body of water. It would have been a familiar and presumably pleasant view for ancient hunters: an open savanna where prey could be spotted as they grazed; a water hole to attract animals; trees offering safe hiding places for hunters.

The descendants of those hunters seem to have inherited their fascination with hitting targets, because today's men excel at tests asking them to predict the flights of projectiles. They also seem to get a special pleasure from watching such flights, both in video games and real life. No matter how many times male pilots have seen a plane land, they'll watch another one just for the satisfaction of seeing the trajectory meet the ground.
Now, I am not the only one to notice that golf represents the male form of Garden of Eden. If one Googles "Garden of Eden Golf" one gets a slew of golf course names across the planet. If the course isn't named Garden of Eden, it is situated in towns called Eden. So this feeling that it is the perfect home is quite strong in a Freudian way.

But if you Google these words plus evolution and a few other key scientific words, you get mostly my blog which has run several stories on this subject. Endless Summer and Planet of Humans. Talking about the vedt (which is German for "world") has been an obsession here like in these articles: Human Impact Statement and Desertfication.

It is amusing and rather wearily predictible that Tierney would use his powerful podium to explain why men love golf rather than why it is a disaster that we are turning the entire planet into one huge golf course. It is true, men prefer the golf actions more than women do but turning landscape into rolling parklands has little to do with golf and a lot to do with the eternal quest for our particular Garden of Eden.

The English landscapers, when they really got rolling, used the natural actions of sheep grazing to artificially produce land vistas that are not native to England at all but are savannahs with lots of rain. Back in the 1600s and on, the weavers of cloth in the Low Lands and France wanted fine wool and to compete with Spain, the British upper classes herded the peasants off the land which was mainly cultivated as farms with narrow lanes and many long furrows that had been farmed for centuries, they were sent off to America and other New Worlds and the vacated land turned into sheep grazing areas. This altered the countryside tremendously. Hedges were grown to hold the sheep into distinct territories unlike in Spain where the nobles evicted the farmers and simply let the sheep go whereever they wanted which is why much of Spain today is desert. The British model was for well spaced trees because the grass stays green this way. Instead of letting it grow long and scything it in the hot sun, the trick was to semi-shade it and let the sheep crop it nonstop. The grass doesn't turn brown but the trees have to be far apart so the grass gets the sun at least 75% of the time as the tree's shadows shift as the sun moves across the sky.

The new sheep owning nobility loved the new effects and extended them and this is now known as "English Landscaping" which runs alongside the female equivilent, the "Domestic Cottage Garden" which is semi-wild but with carefully cultivated and pampered weeds that we call "flowers" which decorate things where sheep can't graze. This anti-velt world is the other pole of our evolution. Namely, women for eons sought food not on the plains but on the edges of woodlands where grazing animals haven't stripped the plants down to the bare nubbins. Roots and tubers and leaves and seeds grow where there are no great herds moving restlessly back and forth.

When we colonized plants, farming them meant once again, making artificial veldts only no grazing animals. Herding societies hate this and they often attack the domestic farming communities and try to overturn them and revert the land to the vedt grazing model. The most shocking example of this were the Mongols who, due to a degradation in grazing potential in Mongolia, suddenly shot out and tried to remake the entire continent into a vast, empty except for herds of animals, primitive Garden of Eden. To do this, they butchered millions of people and decimated the cities and destroyed whole civilizations and then parked their herds on the now empty places and happily herded away.

The fact that the nobility of England, very pleased with eliminating the vast majority of peasants who used to farm peaceably, and shipping them away or killing them outright, they went on to invent the game of golf. It is no accident this game originated in Scotland right after the nobles emptied out the countryside and installed huge herds of sheep. No longer did the lasses tend their vegetable gardens and raise children and rose bushes around the doors and windowsills, the little stone huts were set afire, their roofs burned and the inhabitants whipped away to the sea shore to board ships or trudge off to the cities to become displaced workers seeking day labor while living in crowded slums.

Many Americans can trace their roots to this displaced population.

The lust for this environment has brutal consequences not only on fellow humans but on the entire ecosystem of this planet. Rapidly, humans are turning the great Brazilian jungles into savannah. This will gravely alter the entire climate of the planet for these jungles along with the rapidly disappearing jungles of Asia and Africa, are the lungs of the earth, producing oxygen and sponging up the moisture and then regenerating it as rain. Having rain come down in 10" cascades at wide intervals is very destructive. This is happening more and more even during my own lifetime. 40"+ rainfalls in single storms happen with depressing regularity now, at least twice a year. The recent monsoons hit India in this fashion, in just one day, over 30" in the Bombay region.

A side story that interested me was the one about how elephants and lions should be shipped from Africa and released here to reproduce the American landscape that existed when humans came here during the Ice Ages. From CNN:
The idea of transplanting African wildlife to this continent is being greeted with gasps and groans from other scientists and conservationists who recall previous efforts to relocate foreign species halfway around the world, often with disastrous results.

But the proposal's supporters say it could help save some species from extinction in Africa, where protection is spotty and habitats are vanishing. They say the relocated animals could also restore the biodiversity in North America to a condition closer to what it was before humans overran the landscape more than 10,000 years ago.
This is peculiarily funny because this won't reproduce the former landscape that existed on the edge of the great ice sheets back then but will import the Garden of Eden from Africa, our home base! The Ice Ages didn't change Africa's basic landscape except to reduce the jungles greatly. This expanded the savannah and we are the apes that were pushed out of the dying jungles and onto the hot plains. We evolved rapidly as the plains grew in size and power.

I am happy the NYT editorialist who has gotten many emails from me and is aware of my site, agrees with me about one matter, it is typical that he makes it a silly story that doesn't tie into the many grave issues that surround it. He just wants to explain why mainly men love golf.

I want to explain why this love is fatal to our entire planet.

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