Friday, February 27, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cells - Obsolete?

When President George W. Bush authorized funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001 he limited it to existing embryonic lines due to the moral implications of utilizing aborted babies for that purpose. At the time, I opposed Bush's limitation. I favored unlimited stem cell research, including the creation of new lines of embryonic cells. President Bush and everyone else, of course, also supported research into adult stem cells, though critics complained they were far less useful.

Bush's limitation only applied to federal-funded research. State- and privately-funded researchers were free to create new embryonic stem cell lines and they did. However, one of the results of the federal limitation was funding for adult stem cell research that might have gone undone.

Well, here it is some eight years later and what do I read in US News Weekly, Feb. 27, 2009? "Why Embryonic Stem Cells are Obsolete" by Bernadine Healy, MD, cardiologist and a former head of the National Institutes of Health and the American Red Cross:

"... embryonic stem cells injected into patients can cause disabling if not deadly tumors. ... research in animals has shown repeatedly that sometimes the injected cells run wildly out of control—dashing hopes of tiny human embryos benignly spinning off stem cells to save grown-ups, without risk or concern."
But, the news is not all bad, according to Healy:

"Even as the future of embryonic stem cells has dimmed, adult stem cell research has scored major wins evident just in the past few months. These advances involve human stem cells that are not derived from human embryos. In fact, adult stem cells, which occur in small quantities in organs throughout the body for natural growth and repair, have become stars despite great skepticism early on. Though a more difficult task, scientists have learned to coax them to mature into many cell types like brain and heart cells in the laboratory. (Such stem cells can be removed almost as easily as drawing a unit of blood, and they have been used successfully for years in bone marrow transplants.)"
Best of all, adult stem cells exactly match the recipient, because they are his or her own cells.

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Human evolution

[by JohnS]

My my, what did I start with my rebuttal, see A rebuttal to “Who was Cain’s wife?”. How did physics get into the discussion? How did time enter the discussion? There are at least three aspects of time, probably more. There is relativistic, Einsteinian, time, quantum time and classical Newtonian time. There are also two forms of evolution, physical evolution, the evolution of the universe and biological evolution, the evolution of flora and fauna on earth.

When we discuss human evolution, our discussion should be limited to classical time and biology. I’ll redefine my preposition. With the rise of mankind a third form of evolution arose within man, intellectual evolution. Humans are still subject to biological evolution however, intellectual evolution moves mankind at a much faster pace and allows humans to rise above and dominate nature. It may even allow humans to circumvent nature and biological evolution. It is improbable that any other earthly species will rise to compete with or replace humans. UNLESS humans disappear as the dinosaurs did.

Is it possible that any natural catastrophe can cause mankind to disappear? Can mankind cause his own downfall? Man is a very adaptable animal and I find it hard to conceive of his disappearance. Therefore, man will continue to dominate the earth until physical evolution makes the earth uninhabitable and by that time mankind may have gone into space.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

70-Year Old Top Dog (In “Human Years”)

Stump, a ten-year old Sussex spaniel who came out of retirement, is the Westminster Kennel Club “Best in Show” dog. That is 70 in human years – my age!

Look at the photo – Stump is slobbering and his handler is holding his head up. I know just how he feels. In a TV interview later that day, Stump laid down and would not get up. Just like me when its time for my mid-day nap.

My 70th birthday was January 20th. We are celebrating it this week because that is when our three daughters and four grands could come visit. Our three 11 year old granddaughters and 1 1/2 year old grandson are "the interest on our investment".

The photo shows me and the girls at our synagogue Friday evening service. The girls and their mother (our daughter) were called up to light the candles and say the prayer in Hebrew and English. My wife Vi, and I were called up to bless the Torah.

We sponsored the the "Oneg" (celebration and refreshments after the service) in honor of my birthday and the girl's birthday. I was surprised and pleased at the bicycle on my cake.

I'm happy this 70-year-old dog can still bark and put 40 to 50 miles a week in on his bike.

Ira Glickstein

Friday, February 20, 2009

A rebuttal to “Who was Cain’s wife.”

[From JohnS, responding to Ira's Posting]

A rebuttal to “Who was Cain’s wife.”

Ira makes the same mistake Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics and their ilk, do when they want to debate Religion vs. Science. He states: “…found what appears to be the official Christian answer. Adam and Eve were the first humans, Adam Created by God and Eve by God from Adam's rib. They bore many children (perhaps 33 sons and 23 daughters) over their 900-plus year lives. So, Cain married one of his sisters (or perhaps a niece).” He assumes that all Christians believe in the literal reading of the bible. Only a small minority of Christians so believe – the fundamentalist, creationists, those that purport intelligent design. The large majority of Christians interpret the bible more loosely. Even the pope has stated that evolution is an acceptable scientific view.

In my view, I believe the Bible consists of three or maybe four sources. A portion is God’s word, such as the ten commandments which I as a Christian must accept, although I don’t necessarily have to believe that God personally handed them to Moses, lore from the pre-history of the Jewish people, lore as the Jewish people moved from a belief in multiple gods to a belief in monotheism and possibly as a vehicle to bring the tribes of Israel together in a single religion.

We must also understand that the Old Testament was written at a time far different than today. That beyond providing the word of God, it provided an explanation for the creation of the universe and man’s place in language understandable to the people of the time, an explanation of the universe similar to that found in all religions. It also provided a basis for uniting the various tribes of Israel. It was not intended as a scientific text that could scientifically stand the test of time.

If we are to discuss the bible, we can do so as a religious text. We can try to determine God’s intent for man. We can also discuss it as a historical document to determine what we can learn of the early days of the Jewish people. We cannot discuss it as a scientific document pertinent today.

We can discuss Science vs. Religion from several aspects. I can say that I believe God created the universe, but can’t prove it. You can say the universe was created through some natural means but can’t prove it however, that doesn’t accomplish a lot. A more interesting discussion might be God’s place in the evolution of the universe. Did he or some natural cause simply start the universe going and then walk away or has he, as God, periodically interceded in the progress of evolution, as we believe that God created man? Is science God’s means for man understanding nature? If so, can we say that science is an expression of God’s design? That raises many interesting questions.

In the later portion of his posting, he discusses the evolution of man from apes. It is true that as a religious person I must try to reconcile God creating man with the evidence of evolution. I might argue that God as the creator of the universe created man through natural evolutionary steps. While this explanation might be acceptable, I find it a stretch rather, I would suggest that from time to time God has interceded in the flow of evolution and that He did so in the evolutionary transition from homo-erectus to homo-sapiens God interceded adding the characteristics that make us uniquely human – a giant evolutionary leap. The stories of Eden, Adam and Eve and their progeny are simply a Biblical attempt to explain the origins of man. As Ira said, most religions have similar stories.

A human secularist might argue that the leap from homo-erectus to homo sapiens even though a giant step was purely a natural event. I can’t accept that, the leap was too great and the time spans too short, a few thousand years. Evolution requires time, often long time spans and requires changing circumstances and stress which benefit a portion of a species allowing them to evolve into a new more advanced species. From my readings, I see no environmental or other natural stress occurring at the time of the transition which would justify the leap from homo-erectus to homo sapiens.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Missing" Arctic Sea Ice Found!

[Updated 22 Feb 2009]

One of the strongest pieces of evidence for the truth of Global Warming has been the reports of reduction in Arctic Sea Ice. According to the chart, published on 16 January 2009 by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), we have lost about one million square kilometers of Arctic Sea Ice extent in the 2008-2009 winter compared to the average extent for the winters of 1979-2000.

The solid gray line is the average for 1979-2000. The dashed green line is for the 2006-2007 winter and the blue line is reported data for the 2008-2009 winter. (NSIDC is funded by NASA/NOAA/NSF)

Have a look at the chart and notice a sudden, drastic drop of almost 1 MSq KM reported for the second week of February 2009. Watts Up noticed that additional drop and questioned it on 16 February 2009.

NSIDC checked and issued a statement dated February 18, 2009 admitting that "sensor drift" due to issues with one channel of the satellite sensor had caused an error of half a million square kilometers and that error has existed at least since early January:

NSIDC - National Snow and Ice Data Center

Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis

Satellite sensor errors cause data outage

As some of our readers have already noticed, there was a significant problem with the daily sea ice data images on February 16. The problem arose from a malfunction of the satellite sensor we use for our daily sea ice products. Upon further investigation, we discovered that starting around early January, an error known as sensor drift caused a slowly growing underestimation of Arctic sea ice extent. The underestimation reached approximately 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) by mid-February. Sensor drift, although infrequent, does occasionally occur and it is one of the things that we account for during quality control measures prior to archiving the data. See below for more details.

We have removed the most recent data and are investigating alternative data sources that will provide correct results. It is not clear when we will have data back online, but we are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. ...

On February 16, 2009, as emails came in from puzzled readers, it became clear that there was a significant problem—sea-ice-covered regions were showing up as open ocean. The problem stemmed from a failure of the sea ice algorithm caused by degradation of one of the DMSP F15 sensor channels. Upon further investigation, we found that data quality had begun to degrade over the month preceding the catastrophic failure. As a result, our processes underestimated total sea ice extent for the affected period. Based on comparisons with sea ice extent derived from the NASA Earth Observing System Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (EOS AMSR-E) sensor, this underestimation grew from a negligible amount in early January to about 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) by mid-February ...

While dramatic, the underestimated values were not outside of expected variability until Monday, February 16. Although we believe that data prior to early January are reliable, we will conduct a full quality check in the coming days.

Sensor drift is a perfect but unfortunate example of the problems encountered in near-real-time analysis. We stress, however, that this error in no way changes the scientific conclusions about the long-term decline of Arctic sea ice, which is based on the the consistent, quality-controlled data archive discussed above.

We are actively investigating how to address the problem. Since we are not receiving good DMSP SSM/I data at the present time, we have temporarily discontinued daily updates. We will restart the data stream as soon as possible.

Anthony Watts, who runs the Watts Up website wrote: "...I applaud NSIDC for recognizing the problem and posting a complete and detailed summary today."
[I added the RED and BLUE annotation on the above chart. I believe the sensor error first occured in December and continued until the drastic drop reported February 16th. The dashed BLUE curve is my estimate of what the true Arctic Sea Ice extent will turn out to be when the data is reconstructed from alternative sources.]

Despite this recent sensor drift, I believe a significant part of Arctic Sea Ice loss over the past several decades is almost certainly real. It is due to actual warming of the Earth.

We need to watch the Arctic Sea Ice over the coming years. If, as I hope, we see a stabilization or an increase in ice cover over a period of years, that will be a sign Global Warming has stabilized, at least for a while. That would bolster the argument that "It's the Sun, stupid."

This sensor drift error reminds me of the bias in temperature data. Could it be that measurements showing a sharp increase in CO2 are also biased by urban locations or other factors?

We now know for sure the mistaken correlation is causation Al Gore "hockey stick" assumption that rising CO2 leads rising temperature is unfounded in the ice core data.

However, if human activities plus the current warming cycle have actually raised global CO2 levels by a third since the 1700's, with 10% in the past forty years, that cannot be good for the longer term and we need to take action on carbon.

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who Was Cain's Wife?

I was listening to Tom Hartman on Air America Radio (the liberal network that is on XM Satellite radio) and he brought up the subject of Cain's wife. He said that the Bible says that Cain got his wife from a neighboring town and that proves that the Genesis Creation story was intended only to explain the first man and woman who were the descendants of what was to become the Hebrews. He said that each of the many religions has its own Creation story, and that all are somewhat or very different, and that all only claim to explain the origin of their ancestors. In other words, all assume there were separate Creations of all the other races.

That explanation did not make sense to me so I looked it up and found what appears to be the official Christian answer. Adam and Eve were the first humans, Adam Created by God and Eve by God from Adam's rib. They bore many children (perhaps 33 sons and 23 daughters) over their 900-plus year lives. So, Cain married one of his sisters (or perhaps a niece).

What about the Judeo-Christian prohibition against marrying close relatives? Well, that rule was not proclaimed until Moses' time, so it would not apply to earlier generations.


Of course, as a non-literal believer who accepts the whole Evolution and Natural Selection explanation, I don't believe in a literal Adam and Eve. However, there is still a scientific question here. We believe that the last common ancestor of humans and the other great apes lived about 5 million years ago. It was the common ancestor of what was to become the chimps and what was to become we humans. We believe the first hominids with big brains around our size evolved about 100,000 years ago. The first humans, like their great ape and early hominid ancestors, were hunter-gatherers. Their language was much less developed than ours. They basically voiced threats, warnings, and requests with little nuance. They had limited ability for abstract thinking and had not yet invented metaphoric terms.

The first humans who developed the capability for full-fledged language and the ability for abstract reasoning and metaphoric thinking may have evolved around 6000 years ago, several thousand years after the development of agriculture which made larger societies possible. The estimate of 6000 years is based on studies of the rate of spread of genes in humans. Certain brain structures appear to be more recently evolved in some groups of humans than others.

I believe the Adam and Eve story is true to the extent that it is giving names and stories to the first humans who had the ability to communicate in a fully-human way and think abstractly - and thereby Create a vision of "God". More probably "gods" because monotheism did not arise until thousands of years later.

So, giving the names "Adam" and "Eve" to the first humans with metaphoric thinking capability, and the first inkling of spiritual belief, and the names "Cain" and "Able" and "Seth" for their children, along with unknown names to their other chldren, we can conclude that Cain either married one of his sisters (or nieces) -or- that he married one of the other, not fully metaphoric-thinking humans in the neighborhood. Thus, the genes and memes for metaphoric thinking spread to the whole of humanity.

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Climate Warming?

[By JohnS]

We have discussed Global Warming here before, yet there is no scientific consensus that our current climatic warming is manmade nor that the warming, if it is occurring, will result in any global disasters. Google global climate and global cooling and you will find a wide diversity of opinion. Al Gore and the scientists that favor global warming are attracting all of the media attention, and are unduly influencing our national government to the detriment of our nation and those who do not agree.

However, not all newscasters are overwhelmed; Lou Dobbs apparently isn’t. I found the following in my searching.

The Ice Age Cometh: Experts Warn of Global Cooling 'Lou Dobbs Tonight' segment dismisses manmade global warming theory -- 'effects of greenhouse gas have a small impact on climate change.'

By Jeff Poor Business & Media Institute 1/15/2009 1:18:37 PM

I also extracted the following charts from a report by Global Research. The article was written by Don J. Easterbrook. He is Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University. Bellingham, WA. He has published extensively on issues pertaining to global climate change.

Take particular note of their editor’s note below. In the interest of brevity I am letting the charts speak for themselves although I have retained his conclusions. If you are interested in the entire article it can be found by Googling Climate cooling.

I am not indorsing either global cooling or global warming but I would argue that CO2 in the atmosphere does not play a significant part in the global climate.

Global Research Editor's note.
The following article represents an alternative view and analysis of global climate change, which challenges the dominant Global Warming Consensus. Global Research does not necessarily endorse the proposition of "Global Cooling", nor does it accept at face value the Consensus on Global Warming. Our purpose is to encourage a more balanced debate on the topic of global climate change.

Figure 1. Climate changes in the past 17,000 years from the GISP2 Greenland ice core. Red = warming, blue = cooling. (Modified from Cuffy and Clow, 1997)

Figure 2. Alternating warm and cool cycles since 1470 AD. Blue = cool, red = warm. Based on oxygen isotope ratios from the GISP2 Greenland ice core.

Easterbrook Projection
Figure 5. Global temperature projection for the coming century, based on warming/cooling cycles of the past several centuries. ‘A’ projection based on assuming next cool phase will be similar to the 1945-1977 cool phase. ‘B’ projection based on assuming next cool phase will be similar to the 1880-1915 cool phase. The predicted warm cycle from 2030 to 2060 is based on projection of the 1977 to 1998 warm phase and the cooling phase from 2060 to 2090 is based on projection of the 1945 to 1977 cool cycle.

Global warming (i.e, the warming since 1977) is over. The minute increase of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere (0.008%) was not the cause of the warming—it was a continuation of natural cycles that occurred over the past 500 years. [NOTE FROM IRA: According to Global Warming Science a site I respect, total atmospheric CO2 has increased by around 12% (from around 340 to 380 ppm) since the 1970's and 36% (from around 280 to 380 ppm) since the 1700's. What is the source of the 0.008% estimate? Of course the anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2 will be less than the total increase, because part of the increase is due to outgassing of the warming oceans, but I do not believe it could be as small as 0.008%. I would like to check the source.]

The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling, perhaps much deeper than the global cooling from about 1945 to 1977. Just how much cooler the global climate will be during this cool cycle is uncertain. Recent solar changes suggest that it could be fairly severe, perhaps more like the 1880 to 1915 cool cycle than the more moderate 1945-1977 cool cycle. A more drastic cooling, similar to that during the Dalton and Maunder minimums, could plunge the Earth into another Little Ice Age, but only time will tell if that is likely.

[by JohnS]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Political Scandals

Almost daily, the media serves up another political scandal. Are politicians of our time more corrupt than those of the past?

There seem to be four possible answers:

1. Yes, they are.
2. The media, which must bring us news 24-7, sensationalizes trivia.
3. We have changed the ethical standards under which we judge our politicians.
4. The infighting between the two parties and between the far left and far right radical groups uses this trivia to further taint those whom they oppose and wish out of office.

I am inclined toward the third, maybe the fourth. It seems we, through the media, often see and revel in the titillating trivial ethical lapses of our political leaders. Lapses such as sexual dalliances, that are not pertinent to their political duties. Are we expecting too much of those humans who become our political leaders? I suspect so.

Of course, I have no respect or sympathy for those who are corrupt in the performance of their elected duties - they should be punished. I am addressing such scandals as the Monica Lewinsky case, Obama attending the church of a radical minister, politicians who hire undocumented housekeepers and so on.

Historians frequently bring to light the weaknesses of our past leaders so they were not as pure as we seem to expect of our present leaders. Their minor foibles did not prevent them from doing their duties and being outstanding leaders; nor has our respect for their leadership diminished, as they become known. I am sure, at the time, reporters were aware of such inconsequential weaknesses, they just did not consider them pertinent.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Local Development Raises Temperature Readings

According to Florida Trend and Watts Up, some of the "global warming" we've been reading about is based on local temperature readings that have been biased by local development.

In a previous posting on this Blog I reported possible biases due to NOAA-GISS reporting stations that may have been properly located in the past but have been artifically warmed by encroaching civilization, such as asphalt roads, buildings spewing air conditioner heat, sewage treatment plants, and, in one case, a poorly located barbeque! A distance of at least 100 ft (30 meters) from artificial heat sources is recommended, with 100 meters considered ideal.

The above map shows the results of some new research here in Florida. As you all know, every summer we have a hot season with days over 80 degrees. Well, that hot season has been getting longer in some parts of Florida and shorter in others!

The blue areas on the map show where the hot season has been getting shorter since 1950. The red, yellow, and green areas show where it has been getting longer. I'm in the big blue area in the center where the number of 80 degree days per year have decreased by 18 days. The red spot just below us is Orlando where major development has increased the number of 80 degree days by 9 to 25 days! In over-developed Miami-Ft. Lauderdale near the tip of Florida, the number of over 80 degree days has increased by 33 to 45 days!

Bottom Line:
Accepted worldwide global warming data claims an average increase of about 0.6 degrees C (1.1 degrees F) since 1950. How then could large areas of Florida (and many other places) have experienced a reduction in very hot 80 degree days over the same time period? At least part of that 1.1 degree measured average global increase must be due to temperature reporting stations that have been encroached by artificial heat islands. Thus, part of reported global warming appears to be due to local biases in reporting stations due to development in those locations.

I hasten to add that the increased ice melts in polar areas are clear evidence that at least part of the reported average global warming is real. We still have to take action on increased human-caused CO2, but we can do that in a more considered way because global warming is not as dire as originally thought.

Ira Glickstein

Friday, February 6, 2009

Global Warming: What if Sea Rises 5 Meters?

According to NASA, the areas of south and eastern Florida shown in dark blue in the map would flood if the oceans rise 5 meters (16 ft).

Orlando is OK as is The Villages, where I live (Whew! - see my previous posting). However, quite a few folks in south Florida would have to move upstate, so I might have to learn Spanish.

Could Global Warming cause such a rise in sea levels?

Well, according to a report to be published today (6 Feb 2009) in the respected journal Science (according to e! Science News):

"If global warming some day causes the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse, as many experts believe it could, the resulting sea level rise in much of the United States and other parts of the world would be significantly higher than is currently projected, a new study concludes. The catastrophic increase in sea level, already projected to average between 16 and 17 feet around the world, would be almost 21 feet in such places as Washington, D.C., scientists say, putting it largely underwater. Many coastal areas would be devastated. Much of Southern Florida would disappear. The report will be published Friday in the journal Science, by researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Toronto. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and other agencies from the U.S. and Canada." [emphasis added]

Our tax dollars at work!

I believe all this "Chicken Little" hoopla will be recognized as such within the next decade.

Don't get me wrong, I still think action should be taken to stabilize and possibly reduce the excessive spewing of carbon into the atmosphere due to burning previously-sequestered coal, oil and natural gas. I still think a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best way to do it. But let us not overturn human civilization and further wreck the economy and rising living standards on these totally unjustified worries.

Ira Glickstein

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Florida Innundated by Global Warming Flooding

These photos are real and not photoshopped. They were taken last week as I paddled the Withlacoochie River not far from Nobleton, FL.

It seems the worst fears of this 2001 NRDC Report FEELING THE HEAT IN FLORIDA - Global Warming on the Local Level have come true!
Or, maybe not - I'm more than sure this roadsign was dropped into the river as a practical joke by some central Florida rednecks, or, perhaps it was washed into the river by a storm. (Thanks Tad for the photos.)

The water was actually a bit low in this part of the Withlacoochie and we had to change the plan from a one-way paddle to an out-and-back. At one point I got hung up on a sand drift and had to push my way out and at another on a submerged log and had to rock out.
But, it all makes for a nice story, doesn't it? Like Global Warming.

Oh, and has anybody seen any sunspots lately?

Ira Glickstein