Posts Tagged ‘science’
How does our mind/brains recognize objects?
Neuroscientists retrained monkey brains to blur the distinction between two objects — a Dalmatian dog image and a rhinoceros image – via the learning process temporal contiguity. The mind usually assumes that images appearing rapidly one after another belong to the same source/group/entity.
Science loves/attracts those with attachment to/obsessions for objects; Buddhism despises attachment/obsession.
As Saint Manora, 22nd patriarch of Zen Buddhism, said:
Mind turns along with myriad situations,
Its turning point is truly recondite,
When you recognize nature and accord with its flow,
There is no more elation,
And no more sorrow.
Indeed, our most significant way of surprising God.
LHC considers discarding the supersymmetry theory (last 20 years of one of the biggest science “investments” bites the dust).
Recently, NASA Glory satellite crashed – $424 million fail.
Human curiosity and arrogance are well reflected in thoughts about future of science. Nanobot armies (physics), no aging (biology), virtual families (computing).
Continuing from the previous post about failures of Republican party during recent years, here is a brief (and not exhaustive) account of “wrongs” done by Republicans in matters related to homeland security, civil rights and environmental issues.
- Assault Weapons Ban (Clinton Gun Ban of 1994): Startng in 2004, Republicans refused to extend the ban on purchasing assault weapons (supposedly for reasons, including the fact that federal, state and local law enforcement agency studies showed that guns affected by the ban had been used in only a small percentage of crime, before and after the ban was imposed). From 2005 on, Senate Democrats attempted to pass legislation that would have reauthorized the ban; however, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to allow the measure to come to the floor for a vote; only in June 2008, Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2008 was re-introduced and has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, pending further action;
- COPS: Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is allegedly one of the most successful law enforcement programs in American history. However, since the Republicans assumed the majority, since 2006, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have opposed it, with Bush proposing cutting its funding to about $32 million in 2007 from the roughly $500 million in 2006. And yet another similar streak in community-oriented services came as Bush reduced Violence Against Women budget funding by $105 million for 2008;
- National Guard: The National Guard have seen their role dramatically increase since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and now play key roles in homeland security efforts in addition to their state and US military responsibilities (key duties include flying combat air patrols, guard ports and waterways, and respond to chemical, biological, and nuclear incidents). Bush administration however failed firstly to recognize this additional strain and refused to provide adequate funding and equipment for it;
- First Responders: Republicans refused to restore full funding to a number of local law enforcement programs Bush’s budget has cut, including the Byrne Memorial Grant Program, Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act. First responders are the first line of defense against terrorist attacks, and the first on the scene after an incident. The failure to restore full funding for these programs means that first responders remain understaffed, under-equipped, and under-trained for their terrorism prevention and response roles;
- Chemical Security: Republicans failed to pass legislation on chemical security of America enhancing security against terrorist attacks on plants and factories dealing with and storing chemically hazardous materials. There are mroe than 100 chemical plants in America that, if attacked, could cause death and injury of more than one million people;
- Nuclear Security: Republicans have consistently failed to pass adequate legislation that would increase training and security to protect against terrorist attacks on American nuclear power plants. Republican policies on nuclear security were vague at best and fictional in wost cases. In 2005, a study of Rep. nuclear-related policies (“Maintaining Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century”) conducted by Federation of American Scientists found that Republican policies either exaggerate needs or underestimate threats on a score of nuclear defense and security issues. In 2006, Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 65 nuclear plants are not adequately protected from terrorists attacks;
- Interoperable Communications: Republicans blocked attempts at making critical investments in interoperable communications for first responders, despite the fact that the 9/11 Commission identified communications interoperability as a key priority for homeland security, noting that “the inability to communicate was a critical element at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, crash sites, where multiple agencies and multiple jurisdictions responded. The occurrence of this problem at three very different sites, is strong evidence that compatible and adequate communications among public safety organizations at the local, state, and federal levels remains an important problem.”
- Hate Crimes: Republicans have consistently rejected addition of gender and sexual orientation to federally protected categories under hate crimes law. According to the survey conducted by the Department of Justice, approximately 84% of hate crimes and only 23% of non-hate crimes were violent offenses. In 38% of hate crimes, victims were raped, robbed, injured, or threatened with a weapon. Only 12% of crimes not based on hate of the victim reached this level of seriousness. ;
- Immigration Reform: Republicans failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, despite widespread acknowledgement that American immigration system in broken. Reps had simply kept on putting away the immigration issue by pointing at border security problems.
- Environmental Protection: Notwithstanding the existence of Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), Republicans failed to stop Bush Administration efforts to continue weakening current environmental laws (“cap and trade” rule for power plants) and have failed to provide critical funding for environmental protection and natural resources programs, including clean air, clean water (stopping Clean Water Act protections), land acquisition, and urban parks. Bush now tries to rush its own environmental changes, which do not even include cuts on climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions;
- Environmental Law Enforcement: Republicans have refused to conduct constructive oversight of the severely weakened environmental enforcement programs at the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2004 alone, Bush administration agencies made more than 150 actions that weakened our environmental laws. Over the course of his first term, this administration led the most thorough and destructive campaign against America’s environmental safeguards in the past 40 years. And just in a month time, Bush plans to make a Christmas Gift to oil companies;
- Roadless Areas: The Bush administration’s proposal replaced the scientifically supported rule proposed by the Clinton to protect remaining roadless areas that drew a record 2.5 million public comments in its favor. And again, just before the end of his term, Bush is pushing a similar action for Colorado’s wide swaths of relatively unscathed national forest to be accessible to motorized vehicles, allowing incursion by logging companies, oil and gas drilling, etc.;
- Wildlife/Sensitive Areas: While failing to protect federal lands set aside as wildlife refuges, Republicans sell/lease increasingly wildlife or otherwise environmentally sensitive and protected areas for business initiatives or oil and natural gas exploration, like the recent proposal for Utah;
- Toxic Waste Cleanup and Pollution: Republicans have failed to provide necessary funding to clean up toxic waste sites. One in four Americans lives within four miles of a toxic waste site. In 2004 and 2005, the EPA requested $150 million increases in the Superfund budget, but “Congress did not have any interest in increasing the funding,” says Betsy Sutherland, Superfund’s director of assessment and remediation.;
- Science: Republicans have consistently manipulated and suppressed scientific analysis to support their ideological/dogmatic goals. Many of the details – Barry Goldwater’s anti-intellectualism, through Ronald Reagan’s sympathy for creationism and Newt Gingrich’s passion for science “skeptics,” on through the present day, Republicans have shown a marked preference for politically inspired fringe theories over the findings of long-established and world-renowned scientific bodies – can be found in Chris Mooney’s book;
- Climate Change: Republicans refused to act to reduce greenhouse emissions (one of major recent attempts being Lieberman-Warner bill). Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use rose by 1.6% in 2007, according to preliminary estimates by Energy Information Administration (EIA). Electricity generation increased by 2.5%, and carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector increased even more, at 3%, indicating that US utilities shifted towards energy sources that emitted more carbon. NASA’s analysis of global temperature records found that surface temperatures have been increasing by an average of 0.2 °C every decade for the past 30 years. “Further global warming of 1 °C defines a critical threshold. Beyond that we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know,” said one of the authors of the analysis;
- Sustainable and Secure Energy: Republicans have been opposing a renewable portfolio standard and any legislation to save substantial amounts of imported oil. They also failed to ensure that energy speculators are not manipulating prices and that consumers are not being gouged at the pump.
Finally, I have to write another blog solely devoted to American foreign policy exploits under Republicans including Iraq and Afghanistan.
Evolution theory devised by Darwin is generally considered one of the most important intellectual achievements of the modern age. The theory allegedly put an end to hitherto existing speculations purporting to explain evolution of humanity and life on earth. In 1859, when the Origin of Species was first published, it did not directly reference humans nor made any claims of our common ancestry with other mammals. Ever since and with increasing knowledge in spheres of anthropology, genetics and biology, modern scientists came to hold it not as a possible conjecture (a sound theory with many explanations of empiric data) but as universal truth about the human life on earth. Currently, two main version of evolution theory exist: phyletic gradualism (uniformity and gradual transformation) and punctuated equilibrium (slight changes with final leap).
However till now, the theory failed to exhaustively explain or address a number of open questions and and issues:
1. Darwin, in The Descent of Man, considered it logical to extend the theory to cognition, when he considered human characteristics such as morality or emotions to have been evolved, introducing evolutionary psychology. It holds that human nature was designed by natural selection in the Pleistocene epoch and aims to apply evolutionary theory to the human mind. It proposes that the mind consists of cognitive modules that evolved in response to selection pressures faced by our Stone Age ancestors. In the recent research conducted by authorities on the topic, Buller (in his book Adapting Minds) and Richardson (in his book Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology) show that neither the methodology nor the results of evolutionary psychology can be justified scientifically.
2. An apparent lack of “evolutionary” effect on bacteria (new generation: 12 mins to 24 hours) and fruit flies (new generation: 9 days) with unlimited number of genetic mutations and variations. Evolution theory must have had even a bigger effect on those because of a recently introduced model, which suggests that body size and temperature combine to control the overall rate of evolution through their effects on metabolism (smaller organisms evolve faster and are more diverse than larger organisms).
3. On rare and random occasions a mutation in DNA improves a creature’s ability to survive, so it is more likely to reproduce (natural selection). But it is widely known that there are very few human treats, which were tracked to one gene (sicknesses like the Dracula Gene and the Cheeseburger Gene). Modern science currently holds that most of even simplest of human treats, features and behavioral patterns have underlying sophisticated molecular and genetic mechanisms. Therefore it is doubtful natural selection could favor parts that did not have all their components existing in place, connected, and regulated because the parts would not work.
4. The Cambrian/Precambrian time period does not support Darwinian evolution. There are no intermediate (transitional forms) found during this period. There appear to be no fossil ancestors for complex invertebrates or fish.
5. The theory of evolution seems to be in violation of two fundament laws: second law of thermodynamics (things fall apart over time, they do not get more organized) and law of biogenesis (living cells divide to make new cells, and fertilized eggs and seeds develop into animals and plants, but chemicals don’t fall together and life appears).
To be continued some time soon..