31 December 2012

Their Faith Was Misplaced

Mentally unbalanced attackers often release their rage upon groups of helpless victims such as schoolchildren, shoppers, or co-workers. Although half-mad with rage, these predators have enough wit to carry out their attacks within environments where they are unlikely to meet significant opposition in time to prevent them from carrying out their atrocities.

Helpless Victims, Herded Together in Age-Matched Groups, Left Unprotected

The recent mass killing in a Connecticut school reminds us of the innate helplessness of small children, in the face of a deadly threat. Small children themselves can not be expected to defend themselves against guns, knives, clubs, or other deadly weapons including strong adult hands and feet. These children and their parents assume that the little ones will be safe behind the walls of government schools -- so generously supported by US taxpayers.

But their faith is sadly misplaced. Most schools are so called "gun free zones," which means that any miscreant who can devise a way to carry loaded guns onto school properties is guaranteed to have several minutes of carefree trigger time, unmolested by meaningful opposition -- at least until the police arrive.

But some school districts have decided to toughen up, and make it more difficult for mentally deranged killers to have their bloody way with the children -- whether they are using guns, knives, swords, hammers, clubs, or baseball bats.

In Ohio, the Buckeye Firearms Foundation is swamped with 20 times more applications — from teachers and administrators to custodians and bus drivers -- than they have space for in a three-day tactical defense course to be offered this this spring.

Jim Irvine, president of the Ohio foundation, said Thursday that the $1,000 per person Armed Teacher Training Program would be free for the 24 people selected from more than 400 applicants. "What better use for an educational foundation than to help educators protect our children," he said.

...In Salt Lake City, Utah, shortly before their latest class was set to start, Clark Aposhian, chairman of the sponsoring Utah Shooting Sports Council, said they were expecting at least 200 people to attend.

They have trained about a dozen teachers a year. Utah has allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses for 12 years now and, said Aposhian, "We have never had any accidental or intentional shootings." He serves on the state board where any violation of concealed weapon laws would be reported.

"Teachers are professionals. They will take appropriate measures to maintain a gun discreetly and safely," said Aposhian, a tactical firearm instructor. _USAToday
There is a great deal of opposition to the idea of allowing teachers to have access to loaded weapons on school grounds. But such opposition is likely to be pushed back by the need to protect children with more than just high sounding words and hypocritical catch phrases.

Several armed criminal attacks are aborted by bystanders carrying concealed weapons every year. One of the most famous massacres in US history -- the Luby's massacre in Texas 20 years ago before concealed carry was allowed -- would have been curtailed with much less loss of life, if a young chiropractor eating in the cafeteria at the time had been allowed to carry her handgun.

A recent shooting at a mall in Clackamas County outside Portland, Oregon, was cut short when a bystander with a gun appeared to have frightened the shooter into killing himself.

Other would-be shooting sprees have been cut short by armed bystanders, before they reached the threshold of murder and mayhem in which the skankstream press appears to revel so gleefully. Clearly more such incidents would be aborted by armed bystanders if not for the fact that they typically take place in areas where it is illegal to carry firearms.

Concealed Campus.org is dedicated to promoting legal concealed carry on campus.

Survival is not politically correct. Instead, what is politically correct is for presidents, senators, celebrities, academics, and journalists to use tragic deaths to trumpet their pet causes -- which would merely leave citizens even more helpless against deranged predators than they are at present.


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29 December 2012

Survival is Not Politically Correct -- It May Even Be Illegal

Adapted from an article previously published on Al Fin, the Next Level

“The BBC offers this advice for anyone in Britain who is attacked on the street: You are permitted to protect yourself with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys. You should shout ‘Call the Police’ rather than ‘Help.’ Bystanders are not to help. They have been taught to leave such matters to the professionals. If you manage to knock your attacker down, you must not hit him again or you risk being charged with assault.” _Gun Tutor

Humans of the advanced world have entered a brave and dangerous new phase of existence. We are moving through a stage where it is politically incorrect -- and sometimes illegal -- to protect oneself and one's family in order to survive a growing range of threats which one is not supposed to be aware of, much less mention in polite company.

Nevertheless, if you want to play through to the next level, you must survive this phase of existence with enough resources and in good enough condition to proceed to the next phase.

For those who are raising children, this point cannot be made strongly enough. Your children need to be raised to be dangerous. Competent, yes. Highly skilled, yes. Technologically savvy, yes. And very, very, dangerous.

But where do children go to learn skills of survival, teamwork, discipline in dangerous settings, calmness under fire, etc. in the modern hyper-feminised politically correct world? That is a very good question (but be careful where you ask it).

There is a national program in the US that is called the Young Marines, which should give program designers some useful ideas. The Young Marines is open to boys and girls from the age of 8 all the way through the high school years. The organisation provides summer camp and a wide range of training programs, including community service.

Several ranks and awards are available throughout the course of training -- similar to the Boy Scouts' ranks and badges. Here is a list of skills and goals for the most basic level of Young Marines:
  • Drill movements, including march, halt, fall-in and fall-out of ranks, positions of attention, parade rest, at ease and rest
  • Execution of column movements, saluting, and facing movements
  • Uniform regulations
  • Grooming and personal appearance standards
  • Rank structure of the Young Marines
  • Military customs and courtesies
  • Practicing Formation
  • Young Marine history
  • Military terms and jargon
  • Outdoor tools safety
  • Assembling survival kits
  • Stove & lantern safety
  • Constructing a shelter
  • Knot tying
  • Lighting fires
  • Reading of maps
  • Signs on topographical maps
  • Orient a map without the use of a compass
  • Introduction to the compass.
  • Drug Resistance
  • Basic elements of speech preparation
  • Duties of both a team member and team leader
  • Duties of a Young Marine Flag Bearer
  • Duties of fire watch
  • Responsibilities of US citizens
  • History of the US flag
  • Components of physical fitness
  • Developing personal physical fitness plans
  • Tips on healthy eating
  • Basic first aid techniques
  • In order to proceed to Junior ranks, each Young Marine must perform 50 hours of community service
_Basic Rank Skills & Goals

Information on Ranks and Rank Advancement

The Young Marines programs should be seen as idea generators for most parents, since such programs will not be available everywhere -- and will not necessarily be exactly what many parents are looking for regardless.

But many children will learn important skills of survival, group cohesion and support, and self-discipline, when training with other children of various skills levels but with a generally unified intention to succeed and excel.

The various curricula which we have discussed in connection with dangerous child training have had little to do with military tactical or strategic thought or training. And yet, a well-rounded dangerous child should know something about military tactics -- if only to understand how to avoid being caught up in a combat situation.

For some communities that wish to establish a certain degree of independence from potentially dangerous and aggressive outside groups, a more intimate knowledge of small unit tactics, and infantry weapons may become important to acquire.

Under the US constitution, the right of individuals and communities to organise militias and to bear arms is guaranteed in the second amendment. Up to this point, very few US communities and regions have taken advantage of their constitutional rights to organise such small fighting units.

But as the US moves more deeply into its paradoxical and surreal world of politically correct denial in the face of growing and deadly threats inside the homeland itself, even a "conspiracy of silence" on the part of government, academia, and popular news media outlets will not stop a growing trend toward organised self-defense.

It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.

Basic small unit tactics (PDF)

Out of control third world violence may be coming to a city near you

One of many potential threats

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The Global Comeback of Slavery and Human Trafficking

Originally published on Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8 and 10, to send to Arab countries. _Mullahs Drive Child Sex Trade
Slavery is making a comeback in the modern world, with more people enslaved around the globe at this time, than all the Africans ever transported overseas as slaves in the history of the African slave trade. Modern slavery is big, $billion business, and much of the trade focuses on the sexual use of children and teenaged girls.

Normally one might think of Bangkok or Manila in regard to child sex slavery, but there are a number of other countries where officials are turning a blind eye to the sex slave trafficking of children and women.

Take Islamic Iran, for example. The ruling mullahs of Iran not only tolerate a massive sex slave trade -- they participate in the buying and selling of young sex slaves for their own pleasure and profit.
Given the totalitarian rule in Iran, most organized activities are known to the authorities. The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls. Women report that in order to have a judge approve a divorce they have to have sex with him. Women who are arrested for prostitution say they must have sex with the arresting officer. There are reports of police locating young women for sex for the wealthy and powerful mullahs.

One factor contributing to the increase in prostitution and the sex slave trade is the number of teen girls who are running away from home. The girls are rebelling against fundamentalist imposed restrictions on their freedom, domestic abuse, and parental drug addictions. Unfortunately, in their flight to freedom, the girls find more abuse and exploitation. Ninety percent of girls who run away from home will end up in prostitution.

In cities, shelters have been set-up to provide assistance for runaways. Officials who run these shelters are often corrupt; they run prostitution rings using the girls from the shelter. For example in Karaj, the former head of a Revolutionary Tribunal and seven other senior officials were arrested in connection with a prostitution ring that used 12 to 18 year old girls from a shelter called the Center of Islamic Orientation. _Donna M. Hughes_via_Fort Liberty
A similar situation exists across many parts of Russia.

Statistics provided by Moscow police indicated that more than 70,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution are in Moscow, of which 80 per cent are underage children. 4 In 2007, 104 cases involving trafficking for sexual exploitation were investigated. 5 _Russia Trafficking Factsheet (PDF)
In Russia, child abuse is routine. Children are routinely abandoned by mothers, growing up in orphanages where they are used as sadistic targets of the psychotics who run the institutions.
According to various estimates, 50 to 95 percent of children who grow up in Russian orphanages become drug addicts or alcoholics or commit suicide. Russian orphanages essentially produce children who suffer from Mowgli Syndrome — that is, they are ill-equipped to function in any capacity in society.

...the dead bodies of girls 15 years old and younger were discovered in Nizhny Tagil in 2008. A prostitution ring had kidnapped the girls and murdered them when they refused to become prostitutes. In the end, not a single criminal charge was ever filed in the case. _MoscowTimes
It is ironic that Russian president Putin recently signed a law forbidding US citizens from adopting Russian orphans, as well as forbidding US charitable organisations and NGOs from operating inside Russia.

India is another country that seems to be a destination for sex traffickers:
White skin is "in demand" in the flesh trade where customers pay thousands of rupees to procure sex workers from Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union and South-East Asian countries like Thailand.

The prostitution racket run through the internet is much more complex than the conventional pimp-sex worker deal and is proving to be beyond the capacity of Goa Police to crack who admit unofficially that is near-impossible to track down the masterminds. The girls trafficked into Goa to have sex with paying customers are referred to in the trade as "Russian Girls" but are usually from the lesser known countries surrounding Russia. _Goa Sex Trade

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28 December 2012

Escape from High School Hell? A Hogwarts for Brainiacs

Davidson Academy looks a lot like a typical high school. It’s only when the students open their mouths that you realize that this is an exceptional place, a sort of Hogwarts for brainiacs. As these math whizzes, musical prodigies and chess masters pass in the hallway, the banter flies in witty bursts. Inside humanities classes, discussions spin into intellectual duels. _PS
It does not take a brainiac to understand that something has gone very wrong with US public education. But no one seems to know what to do to remedy a broken down and corrupt system of mis-education and fraudulent misuse of public funds.
Like interchangeable parts in an industrial machine, students [are] treated alike, regardless of their individual characteristics and needs. Square peg, meet round hole.

Putting kids together and sorting by age [creates] that dysfunctional creature, the “teenager.” Once [long ago,] teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults-in-training. They worked, did farm chores, watched children and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large. As Thomas Hine writes in The American Heritage, “Young people became teenagers because we had nothing better for them to do. We began seeing them not as productive but as gullible consumers.” _NYP
What we got from shutting away students by age was what is called by greedy corporate marketers, "the youth culture" or "the youth demographic." Thanks to public schools, the teen years are a breeding ground for delinquency, crime, bullying, drug abuse, shallowness, dark nihilistic sub-cultures -- almost anything except a healthy transition into adulthood.

So what about this mysterious "Hogwarts for Brainiacs?" And are there other similar places for youth to escape high school holding cells for more productive endeavours?
A rational society would know what to do with a kid like Taylor Wilson, especially now that America’s technical leadership is slipping and scientific talent increasingly has to be imported. But by the time Taylor was 12, both he and his brother, Joey, who is three years younger and gifted in mathematics, had moved far beyond their school’s (and parents’) ability to meaningfully teach them. Both boys were spending most of their school days on autopilot, their minds wandering away from course work they’d long outgrown.

...only 10 individuals had managed to build working fusion reactors. Taylor contacted one of them, Carl Willis, then a 26-year-old Ph.D. candidate living in Albuquerque, and the two hit it off. But Willis, like the other successful fusioneers, had an advanced degree and access to a high-tech lab and precision equipment. How could a middle-school kid living on the Texas/Arkansas border ever hope to make his own star?

...The Davidson Academy is a subsidized public school for the nation’s smartest and most motivated students, those who score in the top 99.9th percentile on standardized tests. The school, which allows students to pursue advanced research at the adjacent University of Nevada–Reno, was founded in 2006 by software entrepreneurs Janice and Robert Davidson. Since then, the Davidsons have championed the idea that the most underserved students in the country are those at the top.

On the family’s first trip to Reno, even before Taylor and Joey were accepted to the academy, Taylor made an appointment with Friedwardt Winterberg, a celebrated physicist at the University of Nevada who had studied under the Nobel Prize–winning quantum theorist Werner Heisenberg. When Taylor told Winterberg that he wanted to build a fusion reactor, also called a fusor, the notoriously cranky professor erupted: “You’re 13 years old! And you want to play with tens of thousands of electron volts and deadly x-rays?” Such a project would be far too technically challenging and hazardous, Winterberg insisted, even for most doctoral candidates. “First you must master calculus, the language of science,” he boomed. “After that,” Tiffany said, “we didn’t think it would go anywhere. Kenneth and I were a bit relieved.” _PS
And so it began for young brainiac Taylor, at The Davidson Academy in Reno, Nevada. Read more about Taylor's adventures in nuclear fusion at the Brainiac Hogwarts, in the story linked above.

As the founders of The Davidson Academy point out, "the most underserved students in the country are those at the top." This is particularly true if those at the top happen to be boys.

Every society (except for intentionally stagnant dictatorships like North Korea) needs its most talented young minds. But under a regime of political correctness, the bright and the exceptional are typically neglected or even stunted and abused by an overly regimented system.

It might even surprise you to know that billionaire Bill Gates has joined Barack Obama to become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Ratcheting up regimentation and central control over school systems is the last thing one would expect from someone commonly seen as a benevolent philanthropist. And yet instead of creating mind-stretching alternatives to the government's concentration camp approach to education, Bill Gates appears to be in league with uber-ideologue Barack Obama in priming all US schools for future programs in mass indoctrination.

It is a sad thing to see, indeed.

But it is unlikely that the underground trend toward alternative schooling is ready to lay down and die, simply because dumbed down US voters allowed the re-selection of a narcissistic national administrator of fanatical tendencies toward central control of everything.

In the race to the development of powerful decentralised tools of disruptive technologies, the greater the number of approaches and the larger the number of centres of innovation, the better.

When small groups of individuals are capable of providing for themselves virtually all of the goods and services which their governments claim to provide for them, the need for those governments becomes much less clear.

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27 December 2012

Philosophy is for Thinkers; Ideology is for Stinkers

This article is adapted from an earlier posting on Al Fin, the Next Level

Philosophy encourages participation in discussions in order to strengthen their theories and explanations. On the other hand, ideology does not encourage discussions of any sort that do not agree with their beliefs. _Difference Between Philosophy and Ideology
Young children come into the world needing to learn to think for themselves, in the face of a nearly incomprehensible flood of stimuli, ideas, and information. Instead, they are typically taught:
  1. what to think
  2. what not to think
  3. and how to "think" like authority figures tell them they should think.
There are very fundamental differences between philosophy and ideology. Ideology refers to a set of beliefs, doctrines that back a certain social institution or a particular organization. Philosophy refers to looking at life in a pragmatic manner and attempting to understand why life is as it is and the principles governing behind it.

...philosophy and ideology, if measured on a scale, would occupy two extreme ends of the scale. The purpose of any philosopher is to seek knowledge for the sake of wisdom and truth whereas an ideologue’s sole aim is to advocate and enforce his or her ideology wherever he can. _Differences Between.net
It was once the purpose of universities to teach students how to reason, by teaching the great thinkers and great ideas in all their variations -- from the earliest to more recent.

These days, universities are more the province of ideologues, whose purpose is to indoctrinate young minds into "proper" and "politically correct" modes of thought and action.
Popper’s famous distinction between science and pseudo-science (or ideology) depends on his equally famous principle of falsification. Quite simply, he argues that if a theory is in principle open to being disproved or ‘falsified’ by the facts of the world, then it is scientific. If it is not open to being falsified by the facts of the world, then it is pseudo-science, ideology. For example, the claim “Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light”, on which the Special Theory of Relativity crucially depends, can in principle be falsified by observing something in the actual world that does travel faster than the speed of light. But the statement “God’s in His Heaven” cannot be scientific, because it’s unclear what sort of evidence in the world would count as falsifying it. Therefore it must be pseudo-science or ideology. _Philosophy Now
Similarly, theories of anthropogenic climate catastrophe are being put to the test by real world data which show a divergence between steadily rising atmospheric CO2 levels, and global temperatures which have plateaued. The alarmist branch of climate science is flirting dangerously close to pseudo-science in its over-dependence on computer modeling and its willingness to avoid possible falsification of its hypotheses.
Very few people today have learned to think on the basis of first principles, which is why classical philosophy is not a very popular subject, at least not as popular as it was during the 40s, the 50s, and the 60s. Ideological thinking has more appeal to some because it involves less work. One does not have to spend years reading the great works of the great thinkers. All one has to do is buy the ideological package and one has something by which to make sense out of the world. It is quick and easy, like instant Oatmeal or a McDonald's Drive Thru....

...An ideological construct comes as a package that contains all sorts of things, such as starting points, assumptions, premises, conclusions, prejudices, etc., and it is through this package that the world can be interpreted. The problem, however, is that if one does not know how to think on the basis of primary principles (principled thinking), one will be unable to critically evaluate the ideological superstructure through which one interprets data. Rather, one will be critical of things on the basis of the ideological package, and thus feel as if one is a free and critical thinker, but one isn't quite sure whether the ideological package contains some rotten items that should be discarded. _Ideology vs Philosophy
The willingness of modern universities to discard classical philosophy and classical reasoning in favour of politically correct ideological indoctrination, constitutes a dark omen for the future. When even the educated elite can no longer interpret data from the real world in a valid manner, society will be drifting more rudderless and out of control than it is at present -- which is more than bad enough as it is.
In conclusion, here is a summary of differences between philosophy and ideology.
1.Philosophy refers to a pragmatic approach of looking and analyzing life. Ideology refers to a set of beliefs and rules belonging to a particular group or set of people
2.Philosophy aims at understand the world as it exists whereas ideology is born out of a vision for the future and aims at changing the current state to that particular vision
3.Philosophy is objective whereas ideology is dogmatic and refuses to participate in any discussion that does not agree with that ideology
4.Philosophy does not have as much impact as an ideology would have on the world ‘“ for ideology aims at spreading the beliefs and imposing them on the rest of the society irrespective of its relevance
5.All ideologies have some underlying philosophy but it is not vice versa. _Philosophy vs Ideology
Religions are ideologies, as are political "isms," most mass movements, and almost all "advocacy" groups and movements. Almost all "non-profit" organisations are actually ideologically driven, as are most tax-exempt foundations.

Ideologies may sometimes have a "good" impact -- as in immediate post-disaster relief, for example. But any ideology that aims to institute forced redistribution, is no better than a criminal organisation. If you see such an ideologue on the road, kill him. [Apologies to the zen koan: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."] It is clear that a world that is driven by ideology is an impoverished world in terms of innovation, exploration, and discovery.

Which points out the growing importance of training children -- and yourselves -- to be truly dangerous. Dangerous children are slaves to no one and to no idea.

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Jump On Board the Private Space Train

From private space tourism to asteroid mining to the Google X Prize, there is a little something for almost every space enthusiast in the upcoming private space race to orbit, to the moon, to near-Earth asteroids, and even to Mars.

Here is a quick preview of coming attractions in private space enterprise, from Wired.
“When you give these Silicon Valley guys a billion dollars,” said astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of Harvard, who tracks rocket launches, “Their first thought is ‘Cool, now I can have my own space program.’”

“I don’t expect them all to succeed, but I don’t expect them all to fail,” said space lawyer Michael Listner, founder of Space Law & Policy Solutions. Taken together, the companies’ ambitions underscore just how much times have changed. “About 10 years ago, if you presented one of these plans, people would have looked at you like you’re crazy. Now people can say, well it’s a little crazy, but considering what’s been done, it might be possible.”

Perhaps the most important factor was the trailblazing success of SpaceX, a commercial rocket business started by entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk. This year, the company conducted two launches to the International Space Station using their Falcon 9 vehicle, with the second mission bringing supplies and helping prove that SpaceX was on the path to ferrying astronauts.

The company is already planning their next rocket, the enormous Falcon Heavy, for launch in 2013 and recently won important contracts with the U.S. military to deliver hardware to space. With all these notches on his space belt, Musk is no doubt already eyeing the perfect ridge for his retirement home on Mars.

Falcon Heavy

Though not announced this year, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has been a hot topic as the company prepares to launch this new rocket in 2013. Once operational, the vehicle would be the most capable existing rocket, able to bring 120,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit for as little as $1,000 per pound. The closest current spacecraft is United Launch Alliance’s Delta rocket, which can take 50,000 pounds up at a cost of $6,000 per pound.
Falcon Heavy has a number of other companies hoping to ride on its success. Both Golden Spike and Mars One plan to use the vehicle in their operation while NASA and the military are also looking forward to its capabilities. The question for SpaceX is just how soon they can get the new rocket ready.

Golden Spike Company

The most recently unveiled audacious space venture is the Golden Spike Company, which wants to take people back to the moon by 2020. For the low, low price of $1.5 billion, Golden Spike will land a two-person crew on the lunar surface and safely return them. Given the expense, the company is targeting governments without large space programs that may be looking for a little international prestige.
Golden Spike has a team with technical chops, including planetary scientist and former NASA science administrator Alan Stern and former NASA flight director Gerry Griffin. The business hopes to make use of low-cost existing rockets as much as possible to cut down on their expenses and estimates the entire scheme could cost as little as $7 billion. All of the experts we asked praised the company’s mission architecture as fairly plausible.

Planetary Resources, Inc.

Asteroid mining is a staple of science-fiction, transplanting a familiar Earth-based activity to the new frontier of space. Many of the resources we dig up from underground on our planet were in fact laid down during an asteroid impact billions of years ago. So let’s cut out the middleman and simply mine riches from the skies.
Such is the thinking behind Planetary Resources, Inc., which revealed their asteroid mining plans in April. The company hopes to extract water and precious metals, such as platinum, in order to get a return on their investment. Shortly after the unveiling, the internet reached a fever pitch about Planetary Resources, with Jon Stewart even calling in astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson just as a sanity check on the whole endeavor.
Planetary Resources' biggest strength comes from its financial backing, with founders Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis veterans of both Silicon Valley and space technology. Other rich luminaries behind the company include Google CEO Larry Page, Microsoft chief architect Charles Simonyi, and even filmmaker James Cameron. The company’s goals are very long term, with simple plans to launch telescopes to identify and catalog near-Earth asteroids in the next few years, and the actual mining and resource extraction as much as 20 years away.

B612 Foundation

Nearly overshadowed by that other private asteroid business, the B612 Foundation’s announcement in June was nonetheless important. The nonprofit company hopes to raise money to launch an infrared telescope that will be ever vigilant for dangerous asteroids hurtling toward Earth. Though NASA is already watching for these potentially civilization destroying rocks, B612 said they would be able to more than double the near-Earth object catalog in their first month of observation.
The company has some good technical backers, including former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart and former shuttle astronaut Ed Lu. As a nonprofit, B612’s approach most closely resembles a philanthropic foundation looking to build a new wing for a hospital. While donors are used to the idea of such charity on Earth, can B612 convince people that the same model works for a space telescope?

Mars One

Getting people to Mars has long been a goal of the spaceflight community. While many thought it was the next logical step after the Apollo program, the United States has never been able to commit to the necessary funding for such a mission. But now a private company named Mars One has stepped in with their own audacious plan.
Announced in May, Mars One has an extremely aggressive goal: land a crew of four on the Red Planet by 2023. The company hopes to cut costs with a radical mission. They intend to send people on a one-way trip to set up a colony, with a new set of four settlers arriving every two years after the initial touchdown. Mars One said it intends to pay for the plan by creating “the biggest media spectacle in history” with a reality TV show that will follow the astronauts.

The Google Lunar X-Prize

Intended to stimulate new ideas for exploring the moon, the Google Lunar X-Prize was announced in 2007. The goal is for a small private team to land an autonomous rover on the lunar surface, travel about 1,000 feet, and beam back high-definition images and video. The first team to do so will win $20 million, and constellation prizes are offered for other tasks.
The prize’s deadline was originally meant to expire this year but after insufficient progress was made, the foundation extended their target date to the end of 2015. While more than 20 teams are still technically in the running, very few are where they need to be right now to claim the reward and accolades. Though 2015 seems a while away, this year and next are “really a make or break period for the teams left in the competition,” said journalist Jeff Foust.

Private Space Tourism

We live in the future! You may not have a personal jet pack but, if certain schemes pan out, you couldone day afford a few minutes of spaceflight. That at least is the goal of companies like Virgin Galactic, which has allied with Scaled Composites to build SpaceShipTwo, a passenger spaceplane that will take tourists 70 miles above the Earth for short flights.
Initially affordable only for the very rich, such a jaunt will set you back about $200,000 — that is, once Virgin Galactic actually gets their machine flying and ready. Though the business hoped to get off the ground years ago, they have constantly pushed back the date of their first flights. Virgin Galactic now hopes to be ready to carry passengers by the end of 2013.

For all the neo-$billionaires of Silicon Valley and beyond, the best bet for them to become $trillionaires is to grab a piece of the virtually limitless resources of outer space, beyond the home planet.

But they had best hurry, before the kleptocrats and autocrats of the planetary governments and inter-governments decide to close that doorway to a more abundant and unlimited future.

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26 December 2012

Violence in the Real World, Coming Your Way Soon

Worldwide, 468,000 homicides occurred in 2010. Some 36 per cent of all homicides take place [in] Africa, 31 per cent in the Americas, 27 per cent in Asia, 5 per cent in Europe and 1 per cent in Oceania. _UNODC

Chances are, if you are reading this page you've been spared the worst aftereffects of violent crime. Most readers of the Al Fin blogs live in North America, Oceania, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore . . . In other words, most of you do not understand what it is like to live in a truly violent society.

But as certain as your societies are shifting under your very feet, you will. Oh yes, you will.
UNODC Global Intentional Homicide Rates

The war in Afghanistan has claimed a total 3,238 allied lives. This is about the number of murders in Brazil every month. Last month’s conflict between Palestinians and Israelis produced approximately the same number of fatalities as a “hot” weekend in Caracas. The probability of being shot dead as you walk on any street in Baghdad is lower than that of dying on any street in Guatemala. Worldwide, the murder rates have declined slightly, or not risen much. But in Latin America they are soaring. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have the highest homicides rates in the world, closely followed by those of other countries in the region. In 2011 in Brazil, 112 people per day were killed; in Mexico, 71 per day. _CarnegieEndowment
In many nations of SubSaharan Africa, violence is just as bad or worse as described above. There is simply a more relaxed standard of compiling statistics on the dark continent. You simply have to be there to get a feeling for how bad things are.

Latin America, on the other hand, is intimately tied to expensive programs run by a wide assortment of developed world law enforcement agencies. So records must be kept. And the reality is very ugly indeed.

Violence in Latin America is fueled by drug money pouring south from the US and Canada. In Africa, the violence has many causes -- from tribal massacres to religious hatred to a dark and unrestrained inchoate urge to bloody anarchy.

Thanks to the inexorable demographic logic of modern immigration policies, the same type and level of violence that is accepted on an everyday basis across much of the third world, will soon come to neighborhoods very close to your own -- if you live in or near a large city.

Immigrant communities within first world urban areas not only contain the seeds of latent violence -- they are an irresistible attractant for larger-scale and more organised violence. Immigrant conclaves form a safe haven for criminal and other violent organisations from the old countries, often generating levels of local violence so great as to become virtual "no-go zones" for law enforcement.

The coming changes are inevitable. But don't thank me, I am merely the messenger. Thank your politicians. You elected them.

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23 December 2012

Another Reason Why You are Not a Chimp

Humans and chimpanzees share remarkably similar sets of genes.  When measured conventionally, the genes of humans and the genes of chimps are 99% alike.   And yet, chimps do not build cities, do not publish encyclopedias, and do not launch spaceships to Mars and beyond.

Two recent studies:

N. L. Barbosa-Morais et al., “The Evolutionary Landscape of alternative splicing in vertebrate species,” Science, 388, 1587-93, 2012.
J. Merkin et al., “Evolutionary dynamics of gene and isoform regulation in mammalian tissues,”Science, 388, 1593-99, 2012.

provide new information on how two species with very similar DNA patterns can develop so differently in the real world.

The studies from MIT and the University of Toronto, reveal the remarkable degree of difference alternative gene splicing between species -- resulting in distinctly different proteins from the same gene.
“It was somewhat generally assumed that splicing differences that you see between brain and muscle in the mouse would be similar between brain and muscle in the human,” said Donny Licatalosi, professor of RNA molecular biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, who did not participate in the studies, “but what both of these studies are showing is that is not the case. There is a large amount of species-specific alternative splicing.”

...“how do physical and behavioral differences arise if we have a very similar set of genes to that of the mouse, chicken, or frog?” said Ben Blencowe, a cell and molecular biology professor at the University of Toronto, who led one of the studies. A commonly discussed mechanism was variable levels of gene expression, but both Blencowe and Chris Burge, biology and biological engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the second paper, found that gene expression is relatively conserved among species.

...To assess alternative splicing patterns as well as transcription levels, both groups performed high-throughput sequencing of messenger RNA. They extracted RNA from a large array of organs of different vertebrate species, including frogs, chickens, primates, and humans. “It’s a massive amount of data,” said Cooper.

Blencowe’s team showed that the species-specific alternative splicing changes tended to be driven by differences in the transcripts themselves, which carry a splicing code that guides the splicing machinery—rather than differences in the splicing machinery. For example, human transcripts expressed in mouse cells exhibited human, not mouse, splicing patterns, despite being spliced by mouse machinery.

“These are very important papers that provide for the first time a large-scale view of the evolution of alternative splicing in vertebrates,” said Brent Graveley, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the research. “They demonstrate how dramatically rapidly alternative splicing evolves, and suggest that it might play a role in speciation.”

The incredible capacity for alternative splicing could enable cells to try-out new versions of proteins without risking the complete loss of the originals, said Burge. Of course, if a new version then offers an advantage, the associated sequence changes to the splicing code will be selected for. “It is certainly an attractive model, and we think it is what’s going on,” said Burge. _TheScientist
This remarkably rapid and competitive evolutionary activity is taking place within each cell of almost every tissue inside your body.

Not only does this epigenetic process provide more reasons for differences between species, but it also likely provides more reasons for differences between sub-species. It will probably also eventually reveal significant differences in gene expression between identical twins.

A number of other genetic and epigenetic processes such as copy number variants, transposable elements, non-coding RNAs, non-coding DNAs, unique mutations (each person has about 100 unique mutations in his genome), etc. -- and more to be discovered -- have already provided us with reasons why two individuals with very similar DNA can easily develop significant differences in gene expression.

The alternative splicing mechanisms being elaborated in the two studies above, provide another very powerful source of difference in gene expression -- not only between individuals, but also between body tissues within the same individual. This evolutionary mechanism even introduces differences in gene expression between different cells of the same tissue type.

Biology just keeps getting more and more interesting all the time.

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20 December 2012

China Got 100 Years of Development by the West for Free

Financial analyst and writer Bert Dohmen recently published a book, The Coming China Crisis, predicting a significant economic downturn in the middle kingdom.

At the link below, he is interviewed by Clif Droke, where he makes some important points about China's recent prolonged boom which are rarely made in the financial press.
...They were able to get all this wonderful Western technology free of charge. The Western multinationals all signed over the details of their patents to their Chinese partners. That's gone now. China got about 100 years of development in the West for free.

Now there's a point in the lifecycle of any country where entrepreneurs would be taking over and helping develop, but in China they don't have freedom. In China you see it every step of the way; everything is controlled by the government. Unless China finds someone like Gorbachev to dismantle the Communist regime, China will languish and its growth will decelerate. The private sector is over there is already in recession. The GDP numbers which they advertise at 7 percent is totally phony. The government says people shouldn't use it as being accurate, but as a 'guideline' [laughs]. It's being overstated and the numbers are unreliable. To measure what's really happening we use private sector numbers like electrical consumption, which has declined for 1 ½ years. How can this be if China's economy is growing?

The head of the Communist Party Congress will manipulate a bounce with statistics, as we said last month in our Wellington Letter. When you compile the numbers you can make the economy do whatever you want. The real economy doesn't respond to that, however. In March 2013 China will have a new 5-year plan. Until then things will look rosier, then reality will hit. You just have to look at free market numbers like freight indices. The Baltic Dry Freight Index is a good one to look at. That is now scraping at the bottom of 2008 crisis. In 2008 that index collapsed 93 percent. Freight rates dropped by that much. You could rent a large 1,000 foot carrier at that time for the same cost of a 35-foot boat on Lake Tahoe in 2008! When goods aren't being shipped they're not being used. Freight rates are a much better indicator than GDP numbers.

...This will be like a tsunami going through the economies of the globe. China has been the big locomotive for the world economy. China's stimulus was four times the size per GDP than that of the U.S. They were four times as aggressive as the U.S. Fed in stimulating their economy. This caused a commodities rebound, stock market rebound, etc. Australia was also affected by China's demand for commodities.

Looking forward, I can't understand where any good news is going to come from. We have our analysis and scenarios we go through and every day we review everything and ask if anything has changed that would make us wrong in our predictions or confirm our analysis. Today we found out that China has cancelled a 300 ton soybeans order from the U.S. What does it mean? Does China have too many soybeans? Are the Chinese people not hungry? Are prices too high?

Another factor is that we have some proverbial 'canaries in the mine' in that China is trying to conserve foreign currency outflows. When China buys goods from West they pay in foreign currency, not renminbi. Are they starting to conserve foreign currencies because they're being depleted of all that's leaving the country? We're seeing cancellations and reductions in China left and right. One of our clients sells high grade seafood to China. He told us recently that a big order from a major client from China was cancelled because they couldn't get dollars, foreign currency, from their bank.

So when demand from China goes down it effects the global economy. You don't see this in the daily newspapers or on TV. You don't get this information from a visit to China, either. The China bulls are always touting the fact that China has 1.3 billon people and those numbers will supposedly translate into obscene riches. But the number of people doesn't necessarily mean the country in question will have a beautiful economy. _China's Coming Economic Crisis
Of course, China received a huge amount of foreign investment at the same time it received gifts of large amounts of high technology from foreign partners and investors. Such a huge hand up in productive capacity is not given to just anyone -- because not just anyone would have been able to make good use of it, and given such a good return on investment.

China not only accepts open gifts of patents and technology, it also actively steals technology from friend and foe alike. Such technology theft takes place via unauthorised copying of technology, via on the ground industrial espionage, as well as via advanced cyber-espionage.

This information is mainly of interest when considering what China is likely to do now.


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19 December 2012

California's Irreversible Decline

Adapted from an earlier article on Al Fin Energy

Employers and productive citizens are moving out. Unskilled and poverty stricken welfare-dependent illegal aliens are moving in. California has been in a politically-instigated decline for decades, but California's voters and its political class has learned nothing from the decline.
For decades after World War II, California was a destination for Americans in search of a better life. In many people’s minds, it was the state with more jobs, more space, more sunlight, and more opportunity. They voted with their feet, and California grew spectacularly (its population increased by 137 percent between 1960 and 2010). However, this golden age of migration into the state is over. For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.

What has caused California’s transformation from a “pull in” to a “push out” state? The data have revealed several crucial drivers. One is chronic economic adversity (in most years, California unemployment is above the national average). Another is... state and local governments’ constant fiscal instability, which sends at least two discouraging messages to businesses and individuals. One is that they cannot count on state and local governments to provide essential services—much less, tax breaks or other incentives. Second, chronically out-of-balance budgets can be seen as tax hikes waiting to happen. _Great California Exodus
And don't forget California's looming energy crisis, caused entirely by dysfunctional energy policy originating in the Sacramento.

California is obligated by legal mandate to provide 1/3 of its electrical power by "green energy," including intermittent unreliable forms such as big wind and big solar, by the year 2020. Governor Brown of California wants to increase that requirement to 40% of California's electrical power via intermittent unreliables. But what will happen to California's already shaky economy as power consumers are forced to pay higher and higher rates, and as power brownouts and blackouts become more common -- as in a third world country?
One of the hidden costs of solar and wind power — and a problem the state is not yet prepared to meet — is that wind and solar energy must be backed up by other sources, typically gas-fired generators. As more solar and wind energy generators come online, fulfilling a legal mandate to produce one-third of California's electricity by 2020, the demand will rise for more backup power from fossil fuel plants.

"The public hears solar is free, wind is free," said Mitchell Weinberg, director of strategic development for Calpine Corp., which owns Delta Energy Center. "But it is a lot more complicated than that."

Wind and solar energy are called intermittent sources, because the power they produce can suddenly disappear when a cloud bank moves across the Mojave Desert or wind stops blowing through the Tehachapi Mountains. In just half an hour, a thousand megawatts of electricity — the output of a nuclear reactor — can disappear and threaten stability of the grid.

To avoid that calamity, fossil fuel plants have to be ready to generate electricity in mere seconds. That requires turbines to be hot and spinning, but not producing much electricity until complex data networks detect a sudden drop in the output of renewables. Then, computerized switches are thrown and the turbines roar to life, delivering power just in time to avoid potential blackouts.

The state's electricity system can handle the fluctuations from existing renewable output, but by 2020 vast wind and solar complexes will sprawl across the state, and the problem will become more severe. _LATimes
Big wind and big solar -- the "intermittent unreliable" forms of energy generation -- are "feel-good" public pacifiers for coastal dwellers steeped in carbon hysteria. But are these well indoctrinated, pseudo-intellectual academically lobotomised and politically correct devotees of faux environmentalism willing to pay the ultimate costs of their lefty-Luddite neo-Malthusian ideologies? Probably not.
... by 2017 the state will be short by about 3,100 megawatts of flexible power that it can dedicate to meeting reserve needs — about what three nuclear reactors produce. The company is pushing the state Public Utility Commission to require that capacity. The commission has been noncommittal so far. _LAT
Here are the top 10 reasons why businesses are leaving California, as of May, 2012:

#1 – Excessively Adversarial: For eight years in a row, Chief Executive magazine found California to be the worst state for business. Editors said the state appears to have slipped deeper into the “ninth circle of business hell,” a reference to Dante’s Inferno. “The economy, which used to outperform the rest of the country, now substantially underperforms.” They’ve called California the “Venezuela of North America.”
#2 – Severe Existing Tax Treatment: The Tax Foundation in its 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index lists California at No. 48. CFO Magazine ranked California the worst state for tax treatment, as do many other rankings.
#3 – Future Tax Increases: Businesses will face higher income and sales taxes. The state has the largest budget deficit of any state. Employer costs will rise in 2013 as payroll taxes increase to bail out the Unemployment Insurance Fund (insolvent by $10 billion) and to cover excessive borrowing from the Disability Insurance Fund. Future bond borrowing costs will grow because California is S&P's lowest-rated U.S. state. (Bloomberg News, May 18, 2012: "Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking a 38,000 percent spending increase for a proposed high-speed rail system” despite a $15.7 billion deficit.)
#4 – Worst Regulatory Burden: California approved global warming cap-and-trade initiatives with 262 pages of new regulations and fees going into effect in early 2013 even though the state contributes less than 1 percent of the worlds’ green house gases. The draconian measures ignore Bain & Co.’s “regulatory hassle index” that found “California is far worse than any other state by a very significant margin.”
#5 – Unprecedented Energy Costs: California’s commercial electrical rates already average 50 percent  higher than in the rest of the country. The new 2013-2018 “green energy” mandates will boost rates by a minimum of another 19 percent in many California localities, which will harm companies in every industry.
#6 – Dreadful Legal Treatment: The Civil Justice Association of California said the state ranks 44th in legal fairness to business. In 2010, the Institute for Legal Reform found Los Angeles’ courts were the second worst in the nation for legal fairness, after Chicago’s, while San Francisco’s courts were the sixth worst.
#7 – Most Expensive Locations: The Milken Institute found that California businesses pay 23% more than the national average in operating costs. McAfee avoids hiring in California and saves about 30 percent to 40 percent every time it hires outside of the state. 
#8 – Oppressive Permitting Procedures: Obtaining permits from public agencies is extraordinarily expensive and time consuming because of confusing, extraneous and harsh requirements. Example: It can take 2 years to obtain permits just to build a restaurant in California while in other states it can be as little as 1-1/2 months.
#9 – Unfriendly Even to Small Businesses: In 2012, Thumbtack.com and the Kauffman Foundation gave California an “F” grade from small businesses for overall business unfriendliness, difficult regulations, tax code, licensing and health and safety. The finding echoes the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council in Virginia 2011 conclusion that California ranked 49th overall in terms of business friendliness.
#10 – ‘Composite’ Findings Put California Last: Development Counselors International in a 2011 survey of executives found that ranked California as having the worst business climate of any state based on operating costs, taxes and deficits. That reinforced the “Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States for 2010” study that placed the state at the bottom based on labor costs, taxes, litigation abuse, crime rates, demographics, school dropout rates and other factors.

As faux environmental political activists push California's utilities and more reliable power producers closer and closer to the brink, expect "power blackouts and brownouts" to move to the top of the list for reasons why businesses leave the golden state.

California is under the total control of morons, who elect imbeciles such as Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, and Maxine Waters as their representatives. The clock is ticking down on their idiocy. Try not to be hurt too badly by the fallout that will accompany the state's downfall.


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18 December 2012

Brave New World of Scientism: Stakes are High, Cheating is Rampant

What is scientism? Scientism is an attempt to elevate science to the level of a final arbiter on all questions of human life: Science as a replacement for philosophy, religion -- even a replacement for "God and the gods" -- in the new secular age.

The temptation to overreach... seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth. And this attitude is becoming more widespread among scientists themselves. All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects.
Of course, from the very beginning of the modern scientific enterprise, there have been scientists and philosophers who have been so impressed with the ability of the natural sciences to advance knowledge that they have asserted that these sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field. A forthright expression of this viewpoint has been made by the chemist Peter Atkins, who in his 1995 essay “Science as Truth” asserts the “universal competence” of science. This position has been called scientism — a term that was originally intended to be pejorative but has been claimed as a badge of honor by some of its most vocal proponents. In their 2007 book Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, for example, philosophers James Ladyman, Don Ross, and David Spurrett go so far as to entitle a chapter “In Defense of Scientism.”

Scientism began as a joke and an insult, but it is now being accepted as valid not only by both the gullible general public and professional laity, but also by scientists themselves.

This "elevation of scientists to godhood" provides many of the more public scientists with a great deal of self-esteem and even arrogance. This is most easily seen in areas of science that are most publicly exposed, such as climate change science. But it can also be seen in social sciences, biomedical sciences, and even in some of the harder sciences.

When stakes are high -- scientific prizes, book sales, speaking engagements, political influence, fame and popular adulation etc. -- cheating grows more common. Fortunately, there are still a few scientists who are willing to fact check their colleages, and call them to account if their claims are not supportable by valid real world data.
Uri Simonsohn, a research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, did not set out to be a vigilante...

...Simonsohn does not look like a vigilante—or, for that matter, like a business-school professor: at 37, in his jeans, T-shirt, and Keen-style water sandals, he might be mistaken for a grad student. And yet he is anything but laid-back. He is, on the contrary, seized by the conviction that science is beset by sloppy statistical maneuvering and, in some cases, outright fraud. He has therefore been moonlighting as a fraud-buster, developing techniques to help detect doctored data in other people’s research. Already, in the space of less than a year, he has blown up two colleagues’ careers. (In a third instance, he feels sure fraud occurred, but he hasn’t yet nailed down the case.) In so doing, he hopes to keep social psychology from falling into disrepute. _The Data Vigilante
A recent paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that since 1973, nearly a thousand biomedical papers have been retracted because someone cheated the system. That's a massive 67% of all biomedical retractions. And the situation is getting worse - last year, Nature reported that the rise in retraction rates has overtaken the rise in the number of papers being published.

The peer-review process needs to be overhauled. Currently, it happens behind closed doors, with anonymous reviews only seen by journal editors and manuscript authors. This means we have no real idea how effective peer review is – though we know it can easily be gamed. Extreme examples of fake reviewers, fake journal articles, and even fake journals have been uncovered.

More often, shoddy science and dodgy statistics are accepted for publication by reviewers with inadequate levels of expertise. Peer review must become more transparent. _Guardian
Celebrity scientists can achieve undreamed of wealth, fame, and power to control science funding and thus the scientific agenda itself. It is no wonder that cheating has become prevalent within the system itself -- all the way to the top, including government funding agencies and funding foundations. The politically connected sciences -- such as climate science and gender psychology -- may be among the worst offenders, but the problem is certainly not limited to the highly politicised sciences.
The problem is global. Retracted papers were written in more than 50 countries, with most of the fraud or suspected fraud occurring in the United States, Germany, Japan and China. The problem may even be greater than the new estimates suggest, the authors say, because many journals don’t explain why an article was retracted — a failure that calls out for uniform guidelines. _NYT

Science Fraud.org

Climate Audit.org

Fraud Endemic in China's Science Establishment

Unfortunately, much of science has been taken over by vested interests, which have achieved de facto control of science publishing in those fields -- not only via the review process, but also by having taken over editing positions within the journals themselves. In climate science, insiders even have the power to force editors of journals to step down if the editors publish articles which violate the pact of groupthink underlying much of modern climate science.

What are these high stakes? The political applications of findings in climate science alone could lead to many $trillions in redistribution funds tranferred from the first world to the third and emerging worlds -- funneled through agencies of the UN including the IPCC. High stakes indeed.

In other politically connected sciences, hundreds of billions of dollars -- as well as much power -- depend upon research findings, which are filtered through the evolving system of "peer review" and selective funding and publishing.

It is not just science which has been corrupted by groupthink PC politics, of course. But when science has been elevated to "scientism," or quasi-godhood, the stakes are high indeed. The temptation and potential rewards for professional grifters has never been greater.

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Asia to North America: Eat My Dust!

North Americans breathe dust, pollutants, and microbial spores that cross oceans and mountain ranges without difficulty. University of Washington researchers describe the phenomenon in a recent issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
For the first time researchers have been able to gather enough biomass in the form of DNA to apply molecular methods to samples from two large dust plumes originating in Asia in the spring of 2011. The scientists detected more than 2,100 unique species compared to only 18 found in the very same plumes using traditional methods of culturing, results they published in July.

“It’s a small world. Global wind circulation can move Earth’s smallest types of life to just about anywhere,” Smith said.

It’s been estimated that about 7.1 million tons (64 teragrams) of aerosols – dust, pollutants and other atmospheric particles, including microorganisms – cross the Pacific each year. The aerosols are carried by wind storms into the upper reaches of the troposphere. The troposphere, the layer of air closest to earth up to about 11 miles (18 kilometers), is where almost all our weather occurs. _University of Washington
The Earth's biosphere is interconnected by sea, air, and land. When volcanic islands erupt from the sea -- barren and lifeless -- it does not take long before life springs up on the mass of lava rock.

Update: Apparently someone notified the UW news site of their author's error, described below. The UW site has now corrected its error, but a number of other "science news" sites continue to repeat the mistake. How can they call themselves "science news outlets" when they mindlessly propagate such a basic error?

The paragraphs below were written in response to the original version of the news release, which contained the error described:

The UW newsrelease describes the increase in numbers detected in the most recent study as "99% more than reported in findings published just 4 months ago." But if 2100 unique species are detected now compared with only 18 unique species in findings published 4 months ago, the increase is much more than 99%. A 99% increase is almost 1 doubling, or roughly twice as many. 2100 is more than 100X 18, or over 10,000% more.

Such a mistake on the part of the news release author reflects a basic lack of mathematical understanding -- which reflects badly on the institution and on any news outlets which unwittingly repeat the mistake. This is particularly true for a science news article.

This is just one small example of a general dumbing down taking place in schools, popular culture, and the news media.

Examples of error propagation across the web:
A surprising number of microorganisms -- 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago -- are leaping the biggest gap on the planet. Hitching rides in the upper troposphere, they're making their way from Asia across the Pacific Ocean and landing in North America. _Sciencedaily

A surprising number of microorganisms – 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago – are leaping the biggest gap on the planet. Hitching rides in the upper troposphere, they’re making their way from Asia across the Pacific Ocean and landing in North America. _Newswise

A surprising number of microorganisms – 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago – are leaping the biggest gap on the planet. Hitching rides in the upper troposphere, they’re making their way from Asia across the Pacific Ocean and landing in North America. _RedOrbit

There is no telling how long it will take these websites to correct the mistake -- if they ever do. Just take it as fair warning when reading such sites, that they often unwittingly repeat significant errors that an intelligent 4th grader would have detected.

Keep that in mind as these "science journalists" tell you what you should think about climate change, gun control, resource scarcity, overpopulation, or any number of other complex concepts. Pity the poor school child who is at the mercy of teachers who themselves are incapable of catching basic science and maths errors in their teaching materials and other sources from which they draw.

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