Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 15

Large Asteroid "Vesta"
Just yesterday Dredd Blog considered the issue of Darwin not having been aware of the fifth mass extinction of species, the "K-T Boundary" extinction of some 65 million years ago.

It is relevant because that extinction was not caused by Darwin's concept of Natural Selection ("species extinction is caused by not being fit to survive"), no, it was caused by an abiotic event wholly unrelated to biological evolution.

While the ink was still wet, as they say, this morning in Russia a meteoroid became a meteor then parts of it became meteorites when they impacted the ground in Russia.

There are some videos below of the event, and the scary sounds it produced.

The meteorite we spoke of yesterday, Chicxulub, was gargantuan compared to the one that affected Russia this morning.

Chicxulub caused a 120 mile wide crater, 1,000 foot tidal waves, and wiped out most of the species then existing on the Earth.

Today, let's consider the controversial issue of whether or not the Russian meteorite was in anyway linked to or associated with the bigger Asteroid 2012 DA14 which will pass within about 17,200 miles of the Earth in several hours.

Was it a satellite, debris "near" that asteroid, a left-over from an impact that asteroid had with other space rocks or asteroids, or totally unrelated?

In previous episodes (e.g. Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 7) we have considered the ideas of the rebel astronomer who worked at the Naval Observatory.

Being a scientist, he knew that any hypothesis had to jump through some hoops prior to being able to play with the big boys, and that one such hoop is to make predictions based on the hypothesis.

So, he predicted that asteroids and comets would have satellites or moons like the Earth and other planets have.

Here is how that worked out for him:
The hypothesis of the explosion of a number of planets and moons of our solar system during its 4.6-billion-year history is in excellent accord with all known observational constraints, even without adjustable parameters. Many of its boldest predictions have been fulfilled. In most instances, these predictions were judged highly unlikely by the several standard models the eph would replace. And in several cases, the entire model was at risk to be falsified if the prediction failed. The successful predictions include: (1) satellites of asteroids; (2) satellites of comets; (3) salt water in meteorites; (4) “roll marks” leading to boulders on asteroids; (5) the time and peak rate of the 1999 Leonid meteor storm; (6) explosion signatures for asteroids; (7) strongly spiked energy parameter for new comets; (8) distribution of black material on slowly rotating airless bodies; (9) splitting velocities of comets; (10) Mars is a former moon of an exploded planet.
(EPH 2000, emphasis added). The way this impacts the current and growing practice of astronomers, who watch for Near Earth Objects (NEO), is clear.

They should also consider that some of these asteroids will have satellites which, like the object that hit Russia today, injuring hundreds, should be considered along with the asteroids they orbit.

Already scientists commenting on the event say both "yes this meteorite could be related to Asteroid 2012 DA14", and "no it could not be related."

How would we tell?

One way would be to use the gravitational formulas and see if Asteroid 2012 DA14 has enough mass so as to have sufficient gravity to hold today's Russian meteorite captive as a satellite.

Let's keep it simple by using Newton's reasoning and formula: "F = G m1 m2/r2", where "G" is the universal constant for gravity.

One could derive the value of "F" for the Earth and Moon, compare with those figures "F" to Asteroid 2012 DA14 and the object that hit Russia, and see if there is reason to calculate further, or reason to conclude from that result.

At the moment there isn't enough data to know accurately enough the size and mass of the object that hit Russia, so maybe next week we can do the math.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Evolution of Anthropogenic Extinction by Catastrophe

Fitness For Cosmic Impacts?
Darwin's birthday was the 12th.

Bill Nye The Science Guy has been telling us about an asteroid that will miss making the graphic to the left real.

It will miss by only fifteen minutes.

In other words, we will miss a catastrophe by about a cup of coffee.

Darwin did not consider cosmic impacts, genetics, nor epigenetic impacts in terms of fitness to survive or the lack of fitness to survive.

In today's post we ask about and explore the issues concerning how a species becomes fit to survive a cosmic catastrophe such as an asteroid impact, the demise of our Sun, and the anthropogenic induced catastrophe called The Sixth Mass Extinction.

These have now become major considerations in the current scientific world within current civilization, in terms of extinctions of species.

There have been five mass extinctions, and we are well into the sixth mass extinction, the Anthropogenic Mass Extinction.

One interesting aspect of the recent asteroid impact science is that Darwin was unaware of it.

He did not know that most of the life forms existing 65 million years ago did not become extinct by failing to adapt via natural selection.

An abiotic cosmic catastrophe of non-biological proportions rendered those millions of species extinct, even though they were dominating and successful in their environment.

Something just as interesting, with just as much surprise, is that Darwin was not aware of genes either.

Yet genes became a central focus of evolutionary thought, all done in the name of Darwin and done for Darwinism itself, evidently:
What is at issue is not the fact of evolution, but its mechanisms. As Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb are at pains to remind us in this important book, Darwin himself, a naturalist and consummate observer of living organisms, was a pluralist about such mechanisms, even embracing a version of Lamarckism - the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Conventional historiography ascribes this to his being unaware of Mendel's discoveries and so of genes. If he had known, he would have been as monolithic as have become his ultra-Darwinist followers. For them, evolution is about one thing only - genes, aka DNA.

The tendency to such reductionism set in as far back as the 1930s, when evolution ceased to be defined in term of changes in organisms (phenotypes, such as the shape of the beaks amongst the Galapagos finches that Darwin studied) and instead was seen as "the rate of change of gene frequencies in a population". Francis Crick formulated what he called "the central dogma" of molecular biology as the one-way flow of information from gene (DNA) to organism.

But it was Richard Dawkins above all who captured the sense of ultra-Darwinism when he divided the living world between replicators - structures which can be accurately copied, like DNA molecules - and vehicles, the "lumbering robots" whose function is to enable that copying.

Despite the attractions of its doctrinal simplicity, important strands of biological thinking have never accepted this genocentric view of the world, and many doubt that Darwin would have either. The late Stephen Jay Gould, for example, insisted that selection acted at multiple levels, not just on individual genes, but on populations of organisms and indeed on species and ecosystems as a whole. In this perspective, Dawkins' lumbering robots become players in their own destiny.

An even more fundamental attack has come from researchers interested in how organisms develop. To appreciate the importance of this, think about the fact that humans are just under 99% genetically identical to chimpanzees, yet no one would confuse the two. The origin of the differences between the two phenotypes lies in their development, which in turn depends on which genes are switched on or off at any time - a process regulated by the cellular environment in which the genes are embedded. Genes do not exist in isolation, but as part of a web of interactions extending in time as well as space.

Indeed, as more and more is learned about the complexities of these processes, the concept of "the gene" as a reified DNA sequence tends to dissolve. What exists, as one molecular biologist put it, is not a set of discrete genes, but an entire genome. And what evolves is neither a set of genes nor a given static phenotype, but a developmental system, embedded as that system is in an even broader web of interactions with its fluctuating environment - the famous "tangled bank" of hedgerow species that Darwin invokes in the closing paragraph of The Origin. Jablonka and Lamb's book makes the case for this much richer view of evolution by going both back to Darwin and forward to the latest findings of molecular and behavioural biology. What matters, they insist, is not genes per se but heritable variation - variations that are transmitted, by whatever means, from one generation to the next.

There are, they suggest, four levels at which such variation can occur. The first is unexceptional: the shuffling of DNA in sexual reproduction, which mixes variants from both parents, coupled with mutations - random changes in the DNA sequence. A second major source is not genetic but epigenetic - it depends on changes that occur in the "meaning" of given strands of DNA. Molecular biologists are discovering an increasing number of esoteric ways that DNA, or the proteins that surround it and ensure its orderly translation, are chemically modified during development. Such modifications, which profoundly alter how an organism develops, can, just like copies of DNA, be transmitted during reproduction, and in due course can feed back to modify the sequence of DNA itself.

A third dimension of evolution is one whose study Jablonka has made particularly her own - the inheritance of behavioural traditions. Rabbit mothers who feed on juniper berries transmit to their offspring a preference for such food, an inheritance stable across generations. In the days when milk was delivered in bottles to our doorsteps, blue tits learned to peck open the foil tops to drink the cream, a tradition acquired and passed on, by social learning, from generation to generation but now presumably lost because, in an environment of Tetra Paks, it is no longer an adaptive form of behaviour.

The authors' final dimension, a uniquely human one, is symbolic inheritance, the traditions we learn and pass on not by subtle odour-based cues in our mother's milk or faeces, or by direct imitation of our elders or peers, but through our capacity for language, and culture, our representations of how to behave, communicated by speech and writing.

The treatment of these higher levels is important, as the authors carefully distinguish their approach from the banalities of evolutionary psychology, of "memes", and even from Chomskyian ideas of universal grammar.

The slowest of all these forms of evolutionary change is that based on DNA, and there is a tendency to dismiss the others as all dependent "in the last analysis" on genes. Jablonka and Lamb vigorously rebut this. Rather, they insist, there are constant interactions between the levels - epigenetic, behavioural and even symbolic inheritance mechanisms also produce selection pressures on DNA-based inheritance and can, in some cases, even help direct DNA changes themselves - so "evolving evolution".
(What Darwin Really Thought, emphasis added). So Darwin did not consider cosmic impacts, genetics, nor epigenetic impacts in terms of fitness to survive or the lack of fitness to survive?

How does a species become fit to survive cosmic catastrophe, the extinction of the Sun, or catastrophic climate change?

If Darwinian natural selection is the mechanism or process by which the Earth becomes inhabited with the species most fit to survive, why are humans NOT the most fit to survive?

The quote above from "What Darwin Really Thought" includes the mention of "our capacity for language, and culture, our representations of how to behave, communicated by speech and writing" and "Chomskyian ideas of universal grammar", which are considerable issues:
Here there are some things that we can be pretty confident about. For one thing, it doesn’t appear that there’s any detectable variation among humans. They all seem to have the same capacity. There are individual differences, as there are with everything, but no real group differences—except maybe way at the margins. So that means, for example, if an infant from a Papua New Guinea tribe that hasn’t had contact with other humans for thirty thousand years comes to Boulder, Colorado, it will speak like any kid in Colorado, because all children have the same language capacity. And the converse is true. This is distinctly human. There is nothing remotely like it among other organisms. What explains this?
In biology it was plausible quite recently to claim that organisms can vary virtually without limit and that each one has to be studied on its own. Nowadays that has changed so radically that serious biologists propose that there’s basically one multicellular animal—the “universal genome”—and that the genomes of all the multicellular animals that have developed since the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago are just modifications of a single pattern. This thesis hasn’t been proven, but it is taken seriously.
(The Other Side of Noam Chomsky's Brilliant Mind). Another evolutionist, Ernst Mayr, has stated that human intelligence is a fatal mutation dooming the species:
I'LL BEGIN with an interesting debate that took place some years ago between Carl Sagan, the well-known astrophysicist, and Ernst Mayr, the grand old man of American biology. They were debating the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And Sagan, speaking from the point of view of an astrophysicist, pointed out that there are innumerable planets just like ours. There is no reason they shouldn't have developed intelligent life. Mayr, from the point of view of a biologist, argued that it's very unlikely that we'll find any. And his reason was, he said, we have exactly one example: Earth. So let's take a look at Earth. And what he basically argued is that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation ... you're just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won't find it here for very long either because it's just a lethal mutation ... With the environmental crisis, we're now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we'll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us.
(What Kind of Intelligence Is A Lethal Mutation?). There is little wonder then, that probably the most famous evolutionist now, next to Darwin, the uber dogmatic selfish gene guy Dawkins, is called an ass hole:
To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names ... Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore ... Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers, and Bernard-Henri Lévy ... Dick Cheney ... Ralph Nader ... There are many species in the asshole kingdom.
(On the Origin of Assholes). It is time for science to grow up so that the lyrics by Buffalo Springfield no longer apply "hey children what's that sound, everybody look what's going down."

As a final comparison, let's look at the comments of two contemporary biologists, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin:
One would say that [man] is destined to exterminate himself after having rendered the globe uninhabitable.” - Lamarck (1817)

[RE: Darwin:] In his private correspondence, [Darwin] wrote that “man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is,” and that natural selection, driven by the struggle for existence between races, would continue to play a major role in human evolution. Darwin interpreted the Crusades in these terms. As he commented to his correspondent in 1881:
Lastly, I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilisation than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risks nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago, of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.
Darwin’s views were rooted in the erroneous concept of race of his time. Like the eugenicists who followed him early in the twentieth century, he failed to recognize the sizeable role of the environment, culture and education in establishing human characteristics.
(Human evolution: Darwinism, by Jan Anthony Sapp, emphasis added). Dr. Sapp is a professor of the history of science.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oldest Bush II Job - Torture Meister - 2

Torture Meister
On this date in 2010 we revisited the Bush II torture program in the context of President Obama trying to eradicate torture on the part of the United States.

A Bush II speech writer, Marc Thiessen, was arguing in a book and elsewhere that the Obama Administration's putting a stop to torture would only cause terrorists to want to attack us.

Talk about lameness that needs to be reviewed and remembered, this is a case for that, so, Dredd Blog will continue to remember it until the voters drive the wing-nuts, neoCons, and lunatics of the T-Party out of sight -- since it is already too late to drive them out of their minds.

Here is the text from that 2010 Dredd Blog post:

Morning Joe on MSNBC had an interesting segment yesterday that overflowed into The Ed Show in the afternoon.

Lawrence O'Donnell was fed up with the Cheney lies a Bush II speech writer, Marc Thiessen, was fostering on the public during the segment, and said so. Thiessen has released a book that says President Obama is inviting terrorist attacks on the U.S. by stopping CIA torture programs.

The fact is that it was the Bush II policy up to and after 9/11 which increased and enhanced al Qaeda recruiting, and even enhanced terrorism around the globe.

"I miss being pampered"
A book by Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies, tells the story of the Bush II regime's utter and wide spread unawareness of the terrorist threat that was looming according to U.S. intelligence.

He tried repeatedly to tell them something was coming, but they would not listen.

Wolfowitz felt that there could be no attack against the U.S. without a state sponsor, and the rest of the regime was soft on terrorism as well.

Eventually Clarke resigned because the bushies were clueless, and were ruining the reputation of the U.S. in the world.

For the Bush II propagandist Thiessen to release his book claiming the Obama Administration is not as alert as the bushies were is the ultimate falsehood and hypocrisy.

Their torture of citizens from allies and foes set us back a generation in terms of our reputation and standing in the world.

Jon Stewart on Dick Cheney:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

U.S. Dominance of Good Trade Ends

Global Warning
There have been several types of discussions about economy as Dredd Blog perused various economic matters concerning the nation (e.g. Phase Five Of The Currency Wars? - 3).

The most important discussion has been the evolution or mutation of the "economy" from a middle class dynamo into a plutonomy where the 1% elite drive the dynamics and determine the health, or lack thereof, of the once robust middle class driven economic engines (see the series The Homeland: Big Brother Plutonomy - 8).

The Neanderthal congressional "fiscal cliff" machinations do not count (The Imaginary Fiscal Cliff?), nor does the "sequester blather sessions" which are little more than fodder for the B-grade movie "Fiscal Cliff 2".

Those psychotic episodes are not based in economic reality, because they are little more than crippling neoCon nonsense that seeks to perpetuate the bankrupting of the people initiated by Bush II era promiscuous imperialism mixed with the darkened spiritualization of war (The Virgin MOMCOM - 6).

That required incessant plundering of the treasury, which led to more and more warmongering, which in domino fashion led to the U.S. spending more on militant imperialism than the rest of the world combined (On The Origin of The Bully Religion - 3).

Propaganda struck deep then led to the Homeland Insecurity Monster (Homeland Security Happy Daze) that has only one purpose, to spy on Americans and build the largest and most useless agency on Earth, while trying to scare Americans with silly propaganda (Homeland Security Happy Daze - 2).

Meanwhile, American civilians have been driven to make suicide the number one cause of injury deaths, as American military folk make suicide the number one killer in their ranks (Surge of Snap Sergeants - 2).

The whoopie doo result is that "enemy terrorists" have clearly lost the contest to see who can kill the most Americans:
Suicide is now the leading cause of injury-related death in America, and the economy may be to blame ...
(Suicide Leading Cause of Injury-Death). The military realm and the civilian realm have killed more Americans than the terrorists have.

So, what today's post is concerned with is focusing on some instructive international trade dynamics which reveal some of the negative results this psychopathic policy has fostered.

The old reality of U.S. domination is evidence that "The Times They Are A Changin'" (see video below).

It is time for the folks all around the nation to not only wake up, but to also stand up for your rights:
China has become the world's biggest trading nation in goods, ending the post-war dominance of the US, according to official figures.

China's customs administration said the combined total for imports and exports in Chinese goods reached $3.87tn (£2.4tn) in 2012, edging past the $3.82tn trade in goods registed by the US commerce department.

The landmark total for Chinese trade indicates the extent of Beijing's dependence on the rest of the world to generate jobs and income compared with a US economy that remains twice the size, and more self-contained. The US economy is worth $15tn compared with the $7.3tn Chinese economy.

The US not only has a large internal market for goods, but also dominates the trade in services. US total trade amounted to $4.93tn in 2012, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) with a surplus of $195.3bn.

But like most western nations, the US deficit in the trade of goods weighs heavily and is only expected to get larger.
(China Overtakes U.S., emphasis added). Yes, it is time to stop play pretending with the "one day China will ..." pabulum, because that "one day", the future, has now become the past in significant ways, and "the US deficit in the trade of goods weighs heavily and is only expected to get larger."

China has done that while competing "with a US economy that remains twice the size" of the Chinese economy.

While our neoDummies fuss about the wrong deficit, the wrong wars, the wrong constitution, and the wrong planet, the nation is taking hit after damaging hit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shades of the Mayan Calendar?

Benedict XVI
"The Pope is resigning. The Pope is resigning!"

In some circles this will conjure up "The Last Pope Prophecy."

It will probably lead to an increase in some branches or denominations of the survivalist ideologies.

They are a mixture of loosely knit as well as tightly knit groups that think either the world will end or civilization will end in their lifetimes.

The reasons vary from financial collapse, nuclear war, and/or environmental catastrophes civilization will bring on itself.

These ideas do not come exclusively from wackos, no, scientists and some other very respected and successful people have made observations in that direction, as we noted in a prior post:
The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Life and Death of Bright Things). A lot of the mystical ideology derives some basic notion from science, but then takes it over the edge, as in the Mayan Calendar nervousness of some months back (A Savvy Ecocosmological Earth Calendar).

One interesting place where science and religion have a similar characteristic is the notions of prophecy and/or prediction.

The religious word "prophecy" compares to the scientific word "prediction" in that sense, and both are involved with predicting a future event based on current data and knowledge.

A scientific hypothesis advances into a theory when it makes successful predictions of future events based upon its own internal reasoning.

Religious prophecy is often based on some scriptural interpretation that the prophet thinks applies to current events, in the sense of being a marker on the flow of time, which usually is said to indicate a certain future event is axiomatic from that point onward.

So, let's take a look at the last Pope prophecy, which comes from the religious side of the coin:
The Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few anti-popes), beginning with Pope Celestine II (elected in 1143) and concluding with the successor of current pope Benedict XVI, a pope described in the prophecy as "Peter the Roman", whose pontificate will end in the destruction of the city of Rome.

The prophecy was first published in 1595 by Arnold de Wyon, a Benedictine historian, as part of his book Lignum Vitæ. Wyon attributed the list to Saint Malachy, the 12th‑century bishop of Armagh in Ireland. According to the traditional account, in 1139, Malachy was summoned to Rome by Pope Innocent II. While in Rome, Malachy purportedly experienced a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic phrases. This manuscript was then deposited in the Roman Archive, and thereafter forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1590.
(Prophecy of the Popes, Wikipedia, emphasis added). Every prophecy and hypothesis has its challengers and detractors, and this one is no exception, however, that is not the focus of this post.

This prophecy is like a valid scientific hypothesis in the sense that it can be "falsified", that is, tried and tested to see if it is valid or not.

How is that?

Well, the Pope who replaces the current Pope Benedict XVI will either be the last Pope or will not be, thereby falsifying the prophecy or validating it.

Darwin had, and still has, a similar challenge ongoing concerning his hypothesis about the origin of current species of biological life on our planet Earth.

In his writings he said that unless proper accord was found for the Cambrian Explosion that took place some 550-510 million years ago, that part of his hypothesis concerning the process by which species originated could be invalidated.

See the Dredd Blog post "Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 14" for more details.

Happy Monday.