Author: Dan

Hillary Finally Comes Around on Keystone

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today finally announced that she is opposed to the construction of the terribly bad-for-the-climate Keystone XL Pipeline. This moves her one tiny step closer to being an acceptable candidate for President among those of us whose sole focus is on global climate change as the overriding political issue of the 2016 election.

She’s still a long way away from acceptable. For one thing, given her reputation for, shall we say politely, political expediency, there’s no guarantee she’ll retain this position for the remainder of the campaign, let alone should she succeed in becoming the next President of the United States (a distinct possibility). For another, when she was President Obama’s Secretary of State, she tacitly if not actively backed the pipeline as part of her official stance. So this new position can be seen as a bit of a flip-flop.

But more importantly, HRC has not shown any real desire to be a visible leader in the global climate change movement, as a Senator, as Secretary of State, as a chief leader of a major world charitable foundation or as a candidate for President. This is a subject about which it seems essential to develop some serious personal passion in order to be willing to have a significant impact on the future of humanity.

So for me, I’m cautiously grateful to Secretary Clinton for taking this stance, but I’m going to stay with my current political stance pending much greater movement on her part on the only existential issue of the political scene: global climate change.

Google and Algebra and…the Bible?

 

I know Google can solve math problems. But I was tinkering with Wolfram Alpha the other day, with an eye to comparing it with Google Search and I ran across something very interesting…and a bit troubling. Wolfram Alpha (WA) is very good at data-retrieval, which is different from search in some important ways. But it is also capable of solving not just arithmetical problems but algebraic equations as well. In fact, WA bills itself as a Computational Knowledge Engine.

So I thought I’d see if Google could also deal with simple algebraic equations..

Spoiler alert: as far as I can tell, it can’t.

I typed in a completely arbitrary algebraic expression and Google brought up search results for sites and documents that contained that sequence and similar ones. Not much help there.

So just to refresh my mind on what Google does with calculations, I entered this arbitrary expression:

43+12/9-14

The usual calculator image with the answer (30.333333…) appeared as the first result. But I allowed my eye to scan below that expected outcome and was startled to find as the very next result, a reference to the Bible: “Matthew, chapter 12” from the site of the  United States Conference of Bishops.

WTF?

I wondered what portion of the search term generated that result.

So I trimmed the search term to 43+12/9. Now the posts following the calculator result were engineering-like entries dealing with connectivity and other esoterica.

43+12/ led to…ready?  No math result, of course, but the first entry was to Isaiah 43:12!

WTF, again?

Same result if I omit the slash, but in that case, I get the calculator result, too.

It turned out that the only way to get the original citation to Matthew without the full original search term was to trim it to 43+12/9-1.

I spent way too much time on this but it was really fascinating. I cannot easily decode the reasons that some of those mathematical formulas produce Biblical citations when entered in the Google Search bar. I’d love to understand it, though.

Any ideas?

Hello and Thanks for All the Fish

Proud Pescatarian LogoToday I am embarking on a 60-day trial return to my former eating lifestyle, pescatarianism. This is a variant on vegetarianism (which it decidedly is not) in which I choose foods from the lacto-ovo (cheese and eggs OK) lifestyle and add seafood. So my focus will be on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and fish.

I came to this decision in the early morning hours today as I was meditating on my health and contemplating my obligations as a member of the human race.

Last evening I had a slightly scary experience of what I learned is called a “hypertensive urgency.” At first, I thought it was a hypertensive emergency, which would have had me call 911 for transport to the emergency room. But the secondary symptom I had was, I was able to determine with meditative insight, not shortness of breath but rather gas caused by an ill-advised eating choice I’d made. Still, my blood pressure was 210/75, well above the safe upper limit of 180 my doctor wants me to stay below.

<Family-only interest alert>

I took some gas relief medication and meditated for 15 minutes focusing on my blood pressure and my cardio-vascular system. At the end of that time, my BP was down to 164/55 but the breathing problem was only slightly better. 30 minutes later, the BP had shot back up to 201/66 but the breathing was easing. I did another relaxation exercise and 15 minutes later the BP was 145/58 and my breathing was normal.

</Family-only interest alert>

I awoke about 3:30 a.m. which is not entirely uncommon for me. I decided to spend some meditation time on my health. Over the course of the next 20 or so minutes, I got a strong message from Spirit that I would greatly benefit by improving my diet. At one point, I had been a pretty strict pescatarian, in fact fairly close to vegetarian, only eating fish once or twice a week. But as happens when we don’t do things mindfully, I had allowed my diet to slip back into old, unhealthy patterns.

So I decided that I’ll try a very regulated pescatarian diet for 60 days and see how I feel at the end of that time.

I won’t bore you with daily or even weekly updates but I will add posts here if and when new insights or information occur to me.

As it happens, this lifestyle also has the potential to significantly reduce my environmental impact. Production of beef, pork and to a lesser extent poultry requires the use of many natural resources in much larger proportions than that required to produce the same amount of nutritional value in fish and plants. So eating this way will make a contribution, however small, to reducing the effect of global climate change.

Stay tuned. Or not. 😀

What the New Earth Will Be Like After Climate Change Transformation

From the beginning, I have been among those citizen-scientists concerned about global warming not for what it might do to the planet but rather for its serious potential impact on humanity.

Planet Earth will survive global climate change, just as it has survived earlier climatological upheavals, meteor strikes and other natural disasters. A new article on Grist by way of Wired outlines what will happen to tropical forests as the temperature on the planet skyrockets. And, guess what? The news is not only not all bad, it’s actually fairly bright.

Scientists constructed three Geodesic domes and controlled the climate in each of them differently. One was maintained at present-day Earth conditions, one at the level of temperature change that is at this point all but inevitable in coming decades and the final one at excessively high temperatures. Only two species died out in the hotter domes. Of those that survived, many thrived, growing larger and stronger, faster than their equivalent seedlings planted in the more moderate domes.

In other words, Earth will be transformed by global climate change in ways we cannot predict with any accuracy. Whether humanity survives the transformation is an open question. What we can say for sure is that the longer we postpone meaningful — and by that I mean drastic — action on the climate front, the less chance there is of humanity surviving in its present form. Perhaps humanity, too, will evolve and adapt and some small portion will survive the near-extinction.

When Gaia shrugs, humanity may be shaken off her surface. If that happens, we will have nobody else to blame. But of course we won’t be around to blame anyone, so….

(If you’re interested in a more explicitly spiritual take on this subject, check out today’s companion post on my spiritual blog.)