Friday, May 29, 2009

Illuminati Ambigrams - Angels Demons

When I posted Aristotle's Physics back in April, I did not know the first four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) figured in the main plot line in Dan Brown's book Angels & Demons. I saw the movie this week and immediately updated my charts to show the ambigrams (words that read the same upside down) used in the movie for the four elements.

The first four figures are exactly the same, just rotated such that a different element is at the top in each case.

The final two figures show the title of the book and movie "Angels & Demons" and the name of the organization, the "Illuminati" that supposedly has murdered the Pope and threatens to blow up the Vatican.

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Empathy and the Court

[From Joel] President Obama's selection of a person who he judges will have the proper "empathy" brings up an interesting point concerning the evolution and philosophy of law. The history of law is one in which individual cases were decided one by one by the ruler or his designate based upon subjective conditions. The rightness or wrongness of a certain action was unpredictable, because there was no fixed code.

Hammurabi's law code, the first written code of laws in human history, marked a breakthrough in the concept of justice. Later on the concept of precedents limiting the latitude of judges to decide as they saw fit, gave us a government of laws not of men.

Theoretically, empathy and sympathy only enter into the penalty phase in the form of "mitigating circumstances" except for the situation in which the jury illegally ignores the law.

The notion that a supreme court justice is to empathize with the individuals or individual involved in a case before it, seems a strange concept , since cases become precedents. It leaves us with a situation in which the law loses one of it's most fundamental characteristics, that of reliability. For every case that is brought to court there are probably hundreds that are prosecuted (or not) at the local level based upon templates previously established by the supreme court. For every case prosecuted or not there are thousands of ordinary people and businesses who govern their behavior based upon these templates.

How is our massive society to function if we revert to an empathetic "Solomon the Wise" approach to justice?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day - Freedom of Religion in Public

Memorial Day in Chatham, MA (on the "elbow" of Cape Cod) is celebrated the old-fashioned way. Today, we joined hundreds of people walking behind and alongside the colors as the parade made its way from the WWI memorial to Veteran's Circle to the Navy memorial to the Korea-Vietnam memorial to the Civil War memorial and back to Veteran's Circle. [Click above image for a larger view].

At each stop, there were prayers and talks and songs, all invoking the name of God. In the above photo, the man in black in front of the colors is a clergyman reciting his prayer at the Navy memorial. Songs included God Bless America and America the Beautiful "God shed His grace on thee". An orator spoke Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, using the version that includes "this nation, under God."

As I enjoyed the moving spectacle, I thought about John's Topic on Constitutional Change, allowing local jurisdictions to establish an official religion within their borders. John, IMHO, is rightly concerned that that the First Amendment phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..." has been misused to prevent public display of religious symbols and speech. However, I remain convinced that the remainder of that text, "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" is sufficient to protect our right to use public property for the free exercise of our religious beliefs.

Massachusetts is the bastion of left-wing government, yet, even here, people are still free to express their religious beliefs in a publicly-sanctioned event. I am sure Chatham is not the only town to do so. Indeed, any town that does not have a similar celebration would be the exception.

Ira Glickstein

PS: Vi and I are in Chatham for a week along with some members of my NY bicycle club. Nine of us rent a cottage in this picturesque town every year and we enjoy bicycling, kayaking, eating - and a traditional Memorial Day celebration.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wolfram Alpha - Making all systematic knowledge computable

You may have noticed something new in the right-hand column, just below the News Map. It is a live link to Wolfram Alpha. The hype for Wolfram Alpha says:

"Today's WolframAlpha is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone ..."

Wolfram Alpha is not just another search engine like Google or the new Microsoft "Kumo" soon to be released. It is not Wikipedia or Google Knol. It is not Excel or any other spreadsheet. It combines aspects of all these useful tools into a grand extension of Wolfram's Mathematica. (Wolfram Alpha was released for free public use last week and I put the link on this Blog then,. It has taken a few days for it to stabilize and become reliable, so that is why I delayed this posting.)

See the Visual Gallery of Examples for how Wolfram Alpha works with Mathematics, Dates&Times, Statistics, Places&Geography, Physics, SocionomicData, Chemistry, Weather, ... and much much more!

So far I have used it a bit. Try the Wolfram Alpha window just below the News Map in the right-hand column of this Blog. You can type in a simple equation: 45.7 + 32 - 7.8 x 16 = and get the Result: -47.1. Or, try (distance earth to sun)/(distance earth to moon) = and get Result: 413.9. Or b c d e f# a = and get the musical notes and play the sound. Or, marion county fl income per capita and get Result: $17848 along with other data. Or ibm microsoft intel and get their current stock prices and other data including a comparative graph.

So far, I am a bit underwhelmed but I have confidence this will become a major Internet tool for all of us. Please share your experiences here by Commenting. advTHANKSance!

Ira Glickstein

PS: As a result of Wolfram Alpha's release, my interest in Stephen Wolfram has been piqued. I studied quite a bit of his Cellular Automata (CA) work that I used as part of my PhD studies. I also knew he made his money with a program called Mathematica. His book A New Kind of Science, which seems to be trying to prove that the Universe is a gigantic CA, is now available free online and I am up to chapter 8. I am sympathetic to the basic idea because I am a Panthiest and believe (along with Spinoza and Einstein) that the Universe is absolutely deterministic and (perhaps not along with them) that is it both finite and discrete in space, time, matter, and energy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Constitutional change

[from JohnS] As the second in my series of suggested changes to the Constitution, I propose the following:

Article XXX?

National or State Religion.

Amendment I is amended as follows; delete the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion“, replacing it as follows: “Congress and the several states shall make no law establishing a national or state religion“.


I suspect that the words respecting an establishment in Amendment I has caused the judiciary to apply the amendment to all religious acts and displays etc on government property and also to allow federal law to intercede into religious practices. This proposed amendment limits the national and state governments from designating a national or state religion. It does not limit a community (including a city or town) from forming a religious community if it chooses. This is intended. We have religious communities within our country now, the Amish communities for example, and I see no reason to change. The amendment would also allow communities to display religious symbols and other religious artifacts if it so choose. This amendment allows Freedom of Religion as our fore fathers intended and not Freedom from Religion as some intend today.

Ira raised an interesting situation in his Blog Topic on polygamy, this amendment would allow communities to choose to become a religious community if they wish including becoming polygamous, however, it would have to be under the guise of religion.

Local ordinances and statutes will apply within a community. If a community wishes to define itself as an Islamic community, for example, it may do so by enacting appropriate ordinances, however, nothing precludes the citizens of that community from appealing to community leaders, the local courts or through local elections to become more secular and remove religious symbols they disapprove. However, it limits federal and state interference into the community’s affairs. The federal or state governments could probably pass laws restricting certain religious acts as endangering the people or contravening law and order, however, the burden of proof would be on the federal or state governments. This also ties into the intent of the tenth amendment.

I don’t know whether additional language will be needed to distinguish between communities, (incl. towns and cities), and counties and parishes. From my limited knowledge, towns are generally independent from counties and county administrations so I’ve not included such language. A non-incorporated community within a county would probably have to abide by county statutes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Global Warming Tiger - Natural Cycles

This is the third of the series Global Warming - Tale of the Tiger.

Read the first posting in this series: Tale and a description of the figure to the left. I believe the apparent 0.8ºC increase in Global Temperature over the past 150 years is due to three major causes and one minor one, as indicated by the parts of the "tiger". (The second posting details Data Bias.)

This posting is about NATURAL CYCLES that I estimate are responsible for about 40% of the apparent warming. In other words, 0.3ºC to 0.4ºC of the apparent 0.8ºC temperature increase is due to natural cycles not under human control.

You are familiar with three of the natural cycles that affect the energy input and heat balance of the Earth: 1) diurnal - the daily rotation of the Earth, 2) seasons - Earth's yearly orbit around the Sun, and 3) sunspots - 9 to 13-year magnetic cycles on the Sun. Sunrise to afternoon temperatures vary by 10ºC or more and seasonal temperatures by 40ºC or more.

However, these cycles have no long-term effect on surface temperatures. They are not the cause of Global Warming. However, when scientists are trying to detect long-term temperature variations of fractions of a degree, multi-degree daily and yearly variations complicate the task.

Individual sunspot cycles are not long enough to have significant effects on global temperatures. However, when a multi-decadal series of especially short-strong cycles, or long-weak cycles occur, there are significant effects, see (7) below.

Three more natural variations are called Milankovitch cycles: 3) eccentricity of Earth orbit around the Sun, 4) axial tilt, and 5) precession. These changes do not increase or decrease the total amount of solar radiation falling on the Earth. However, they change the relative distribution between the polar and equatorial regions. It turns out that the more energy that falls on the polar regions, the more the Earth warms, and vice-versa. These cycles run from 19,000 to 400,000 years and they are the most likely cause of the approximate 100,000 year glaciation cycles seen in the ice core records. Over the past 20 thousand years or so, according to ice core data, the Earth has warmed by over 10ºC. During most of that time, human activity had no effect on global temperatures. The Milankovitch cycles may have contributed 0.1ºC or more to the 0.8ºC apparent Global Warming over the past 150 years.

Another set of cycles of interest are: 6) multi-decadal oscillations of the oceans, including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (20-30 years), Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (15-20 years) PDO and IDO, El Nino-Southern Oscillation (3-8 years) ENSO, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (70 years) AMO, and others. These cycles are associated with temperature variations of 1ºC or more, and they may have contributed 0.1ºC or more to the 0.8ºC apparent Global Warming over the past 150 years.

The last cycle of interest is: 7) multi-decadal magnetic activity variations on the Sun. As I noted above, individual sunspot cycles, per se, are not associated with significant global temperature variations. However, a series of especially short and strong cycles may be associated with multi-decadal warming trends. Conversely, a series of especially long and weak cycles may be associated with multi-decadal cooling trends. See Solar variation for an excellent discusion.


The figure (from Solar variation, with annotations in green and pink by Ira) compares global temperature with CO2 and Sunspot Number. [Click the diagram for a larger version.]

The upper dark red curve shows how temperatures have increased by an apparent 0.8ºC over the past 150 years. Note that there was a dip around 1860, another around 1910, and a third around 1950. A small, relatively short rise followed the 1860 dip, a larger, longer rise followed the 1910 dip, and the 1950 dip was followed by a very long and strong rise. That last rise has triggered current Global Warming fears.

The middle blue curve shows how CO2 has increased steadily since 1850, with a particularly rapid rise from 1960 to the present. (The reason the blue curve gets brush-like after 1960 is better measurement equipment that captured seasonal variations.) The correlation between CO2 rise and temperature rise has lent credence to the theory that rising CO2 levels are the main cause of Global Warming.

The lower yellow curve shows sunspot number variations. The thin line shows the individual 9 to 13-year sunspot cycles and the thicker line is the multi-cycle average.

My annotation shows, in green, the sunsport cycles that peaked below 80 sunspots/day. Note the correlation between those low cycles and the dips in global temperature experienced about a decade later. Annotations in pink indicate the sunspot cycles that peaked above 110 sunspots/day. Note that the peaks are correlated with those more active sunspot cycles.

In particular, note that six of the last seven sunspot cycles have peaked above 110 and that correllates with the global temperature rise from 1950 to 2000. However, since 1999 there has been a stabilization of global temperatures and, since 2005, a dip of nearly 0.2ºC in the non-smoothed data. That dip is NOT correlated with any dip in CO2 level rise - indeed CO2 levels are rising faster than ever.

Therefore, it is plausable that CO2 levels, while significant, are NOT the primary cause of Global Warming.

So, what is the main cause? Well, look at the thick yellow smoothed sunspot curve. It has been on the downswing for the past decade! The latest averages are below 80!

Couple that with the two-year (and counting) delay in the expected start of sunspot cycle #24. In 2006, NASA experts predicted cycle #24 would start at the end of 2006 or early 2007 and that it would be a doozy, peaking over 150! But, here at mid-2009 #23 has probably not ended yet nor has #24 started. So, NASA's latest prediction is that #24 will be be a weak kitten, peaking at 90. (I predicted, back in January that it would peak even lower, at 80. Also see an "Inconvenient" Minimum.)


Sunspot activity is better correlated with global temperature than CO2 levels. It is probably responsible for about 40% of the apparent Global Warming we have experienced over the past 150 years and over 0.3ºC of the actual warming. If the coming sunspot cycle is further delayed and if it is as weak as expected, that could stabilize global temperatures for a decade or more and give us breathing room to control CO2 levels in a conservative way.

Ira Glickstein

Friday, May 15, 2009

Almost All "Missing" Arctic Sea Ice Restored!

More good news from the National Sea Ice Data Center! Almost all of the "missing" Arctic Sea Ice has reappeared! As of 4 May 2009, Arctic Sea Ice is almost up to the average for 1979-2000. It had been down by over 1 million square KM. (NSIDC is supported by NASA.) [Click above graphic for larger view.]

Early this year I posted "Missing" Arctic Sea Ice Found reporting the admisssion by the NSIDC that a sensor error had incorrectly lead to reports of loss of half the normal sea ice.

According to reports based on the latest NSIDC data, there may have been no net Arctic warming since the 1950's, despite the rapid rise in levels of atmospheric carbon gasses.

If the trend continues, I predict that Arctic Sea Ice levels, as reported by NSIDC, will exceed the 1979-2000 average by the end of this year.

This is further evidence (not yet proof, but valid data) that Global Warming may have stabilized over the past few years. IMHO we should still do something about excessive atmospheric carbon, but the pressure is off and we should not rush into the Cap and Trade scam currently being pushed through Congress.

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Super Ethics

[From John] Ira previously wrote the following, “All animals, including we humans, are wired with an emotional system that has been "designed" (by evolution and natural selection) to serve as an ombudsman for the long term survival and reproduction of the society we have been socialized in. Absent a properly socialized emotional system, we would focus on our own short-term and short-sighted interests and our society would fail.”

I accept Ira proposition as far as he takes it. The problem as I see it is that his expression, “for the long term survival and reproduction of the society we have been socialized in” does not provide for the long term survival of humankind as a whole, rather it provides for the midterm survival of the strong, who, ultimately are overthrown and fade into history. There seems to be no inherent evolutionary (natural selection) process that assures the long-term survival of mankind as a whole. History bears this out, dynasties have continually risen and fallen since cities and nations were formed. Towns, cities and nations were sacked, men were enslaved if not killed outright, man warred against man. Today is no improvement, in the last century we have had the two most destructive wars in history. It also included the largest mass genocides in history – the Holocaust Stalin’s purges and the murders of the Pol Pot. Today we are confronted with terrorism and the constant wars in Africa. Nuclear war threatens us. There seems to be no end.

With the rise of the world economy man may find in his own individual selfish interest the need for stability throughout the world; this may lead to a form of super-ethics applicable to all mankind. Mini steps have been made with the Geneva Convention and the United Nations but they are very weak. While there is a general consensus amongst the developed nations that such super-ethical standards are necessary, national interests often over ride this consensus.
We have a long way to go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cloud of Hot Labels and other Gadgets/Widgets

[Updated 12 May] Please have a look at the new Hot Label Cloud just above the Dilbert comic in the right-hand column.

I added it to highlight the general areas we've been discussing. The cloud shows all Labels that have been applied to three or more Topics since Joel started the practice over a year ago. The bigger the item and the warmer the color, the more we've covered it in the Blog.

If you roll your cursor over any Label in the cloud, you will see how many Topics link to it. If you click the Label, you'll get the full text and images of all those Topics. (I've retained the old flat listing of all Labels at the bottom of the right-hand column so you can easily access all Labels.)

I think the "cloud" concept is an interesting one that gives an immediate visual idea of what is "hot". The concept can be used to indicate the words we use most often, the most reported news topics, etc.

[Updated 12 MAY] I've changed the layout a bit so a compacted Short List of HOT Comments appears at the very top. Click the colored text to jump to the Topic with that Comment. (I'd like it to jump right to the Comment but I can't get that to work yet.)

Next is a brand new 20 Most Recent Topics (Posts) widget. It lists the Topics in compact form. The little red arrow points to each Topic in turn and, at the top, you see Title, Author, and Date. If you roll your cursor over any Title, the little red arrow jumps to it. NEAT-O! (I got this widget from THANKS!)

Next is a detailed listing of the 20 Most Recent Comments. In the original version of this Topic I complained that the widgets sometimes did not work because the source code was on some remote computer that was busy. Well, the new widget I found has the source code right in my Blog so it is more reliable.

The Archive of All Posts (Topics) appears next. The Topics for the current month are all listed. If you click any of the little triangles (called "twisties") they will rotate and reveal all Topics posted for any given month and any year.

Please let me know if there are other Gadgets and Widgets you'd like to see added to make your experience here more satisfying. I'll add them if I can.

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sunspots Gone? An "Inconvenient" Minimum!

[Click on graphic for larger view] Back on January 8th, I posted Where have all the sunspots gone? where I predicted the next solar cycle would peak at a sunspot number of 80 near the end of 2013 or the start of 2014. The experts at NASA had predicted, back in 2006, that the peak would be over 156. By January 2009 they had lowered their prediction to 104. Well, yesterday, NOAA (part of NASA) has a new prediction that is down to 90. Anyone see a pattern here?

We will see if my amateur predictions fare better than those of the best experts our tax money can support!

The above graphic shows how NASA has dropped their predicted sunspot peak number levels from 156+ down to 90, and their predicted peak year has slipped from as early as 2010 to as late as 2013. (A typical government project slips schedule, but the cost usually goes up, not down! It has been said "If the government was in charge of the Sahara desert, in six years there would be a shortage of sand. Well, now there is a shortage of sunspots - but that is a good thing, read on! :^).
I think it is worthwhile to repeat some of the NASA hype back in 2006 when they made their original predictions that have turned out to be so bad: (from: March 10, 2006)

"It's official: Solar minimum [end of Cycle #23] has arrived. Sunspots have all but vanished. Solar flares are nonexistent. The sun is utterly quiet. Like the quiet before a storm.

"This week researchers announced that a storm is coming [start of Cycle #24] --the most intense solar maximum in fifty years. The prediction comes from a team led by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). 'The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one,' she says. ..."

Well, here we are almost at the middle of 2009 and, despite the hype above about the "official" solar minimum having been declared in March 2006, it may not yet have arrived. Indeed, according to (NOAA SWPC - Space Weather Prediction Center, 08 May 2009):
"Minimum will now occur no earlier than August, 2008. For every month beyond March 2008 that minimum slips, it is necessary to shift the prediction curves by the same amount. SWPC commenced doing so in mid-February and will continue to do so, unless or until the prediction panel sets a new predicted date for the time of solar minimum. ..."

THIS IS ALL GOOD NEWS. This solar minimum will be mighty "Inconvenient" (to borrow from our former Vice President) to the Global Warming alarmists. But it is good news for those of us who have been a bit skeptical about our being close to any kind of "tipping point" with respect to Global Warming.

Don't get me wrong, I am still concerned about the rapidly rising levels of CO2, and as I've written here on the Blog many times, I (along with James Hansen the #1 NASA alarmist, but also a wide assortment of pundits and politicos from the right and left) favor a punitive Carbon Tax on all previously sequestered carbon (coal, oil, gas) as a sane alternative to the Cap & Trade scam currently being pushed through Congress.

Reduced sunspot number is historically associated with cooling periods. See the diagram from Wikipedia, on how sunspot activity has varied since the year 1600. According to NASA the period from about 1645 to 1715, called "Maunder Minimum" or "the Little Ice Age", corresponded to a time of little sunspot activity. The "Dalton Minimum" in the early 1800's was a shorter and smaller drop in solar activity. These periods saw considerable Global Cooling.

The period since 1940 has seen relatively higher solar activity that corresponds to the observed Global Warming. I do not expect to see a great deal of cooling in the coming decades, but, if we are in an "Inconvenient" minimum, that will give us the breathing room to implement some conservative actions to control CO2 emissions in a way that will not further wreck the world's economy.
Ira Glickstein

Where have all the sunspots gone? NA-SA search-ing,
Where have all the sunspots go-ne? NASA don't know.
Where have all the sunspots gone? Global Cooling, anyone?
Will NASA ever learn? Will NA-SA ev-er learn?

Where has all the carbon gone? Green-house gas-es,
Where has all the carbon go-ne? Come down as snow!
Where has all the carbon gone? Heating houses, everyone,
Will NASA ever learn? Will NA-SA ev-er learn?

Where has Global Warming gone? Point not tip-ping,
Where has Global Warming go-ne? Its gonna slow.
Where has Global Warming gone? Normal seasons of the Sun,
Will NASA ever learn? Will NA-SA ev-er learn?

As Yogi Berra famously observed, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Aristotle's Physics - the Four Causes

Joel posted Is PowerPoint Anti-Intellectual? last month in which he claimed:

"If Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had had PowerPoint available, there might not have been any western philosophy handed down to us."

I replied:

"I'm not sure what Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would have done with PowerPoint. I guess Socrates would have avoided it. Plato would have used it grudgingly, but Aristotle -OH! ARISTOTLE- he would have been (almost) as good as me!"

Well. that remark has cost me dozens of hours during which I have been researching Aristotle's books on Physics and Meteorology and building the PowerPoint charts I think he would have created had they been available in his time, some 2300 years ago. In particular, I tried to explain Aristotle's view of the Five Elements (Aether, Air, Fire, Earth, and Water) as well as his take on the Four Causes (Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final).


Once I made the PowerPoint charts I decided to go the extra step and use them to construct two new Google Knols. The first Knol, on the Five Elements was published last month, along with a related Topic on this Blog. The other Knol, on the Four Causes, is now available for your amazement.

Like me, you may find philosophy hard to understand. As my PhD advisor (Howard Pattee) told me, philosophers make simple things complex, using a language specially created for that purpose!

You may have heard about Aristotle's four causes: Material Cause, Formal Cause, Efficient Cause and Final Cause. I couldn't understand how the words "Formal" and Efficient" applied to causes - and neither would Aristotle if he lived today.

When we say, for example, "the housing crisis caused the stock market to dive" or "investors dumped their stocks because they wanted to preserve their capital" we imply a more or less direct relationship between the cause and the event or action. The Greek word for "cause" is "aition" and it is understood in a much wider sense, including both the immediate, direct causes as well as explanitory factors.

Thus what philosophers now call the Formal Cause should be understood as the form or pattern, the essence or archetype, that explains something. What they call the Efficient Cause is what we would call the direct or immediate cause of some event.


I'll start with a simple, concrete example - how do building materials such as stone and wood end up becoming a house and furniture? What are all the causes and explanitory factors?

The chart at the head of this Topic shows how the Four Causes play into each other to accomplish this transformation.

The four charts that follow trace the effect of each of these causes in a step-by-step manner. See the Knol (Four Causes) for additional detail, verbatim quotations from Aristotle, and more.

In the Knol I also get into what Aristotle called spontaneity and chance as well as the fact he understood something like evolution and natural selection 2000 years before Charles Darwin - a feact Darwin himself acknowledges!

Ira Glickstein