Category Archives: Science

A change in view and Tactics

Weather Control
Coming Soon: Weather Control

A little while ago a friend of mine suggested a new way of talking about the Climate Change Crisis. She recommend I use the phase “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” I tried it and it worked. We got away from arguing about if it exists or not and started discussing just how we will pay for either just letting things happen or trying to do something preemptively. I was even able to change the wording. No longer are we trying to reverse the effects of “Global Warming (AKA Climate Change) we were now talking about controlling the Climate aka Weather.

Controlling Weather has be a staple of Science Fiction since forever. It is right up there with sailing under the sea and flying to the Moon. Both of which we now have done and take for granted. One big advantage is we can take off the table how we get other countries to cooperate. We can just assume they will joint in just so they have some say in what kind of weather. This also gets the Climate Change Deniers off of defending their denial, very non-productive, and onto thinking about what we can do that benefits us.

Another thing is we can get them to look at just how much the recovery from ‘Natural’ disasters cost and looking at how much preventive action would have cost. One example is the cost of improving the levy system of the lower Mississippi vs building all new sea ways when the river changes its path it has now away from the Port of New Orleans. The river has tried to do this a couple of time already and preventing it has been both costly and difficult. We even have a great ‘Bad Example’ in the wild fire in Hawaii, recovery costs of over $5 billion or greater are being talked about. What would it cost in recovery cost be for Miami when it is hit head on by a mega Hurricane?

Finally we can point out, with hard examples, that the money we put into the research on Climate Control will, 1) be mostly spent in the USA and 2) even pure research has always pay itself back many times over. A when the research is targeted, like in the space program, the return on investments is even greater. An as an added bonus we can go looking for the hidden examples of where research in one area has given great benefits in totally unrelated areas.

You can pay for it now, or you can pay for it later.

A Simple Solution to the AI Problem

Puzzled Computer

For the past few months I’ve been hearing a growing alarm over the ”AI Problem”. First my credentials: lI have been a ”Coder/Programer/Software Engine/Software Designer” since 1973. A while I retired in 2013 I’ve kept up a lively interest in the industry. Also I am a great fan of Science Fiction, in fact some of my earliest favorite stores are Dr. A’s Robot novels & short stories. A while I have never directly worked on any Artificial Intelligence projects i have written a few programs that faked being human. It is not as hard to do as the layman thinks.

My suggestion to the current issues with AI is quite simple. Let’s just go back to the legal doctrine on who is responsible when a slave broke the law. Back in Roman times the owner of a slave was held responsible for any and everything a slave did, good or bad. Let’s just do the same thing with all programs, AIish or not. The person, corporate or individual, should be held responsible for anything the Program does. Criminal or Civil.

I know that it will take a lot of effort to work out the details on how the law(s) would work but we have a great deal of legal history to draw from, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Chinese just to name a few. The benefits would be great. First and for most there is someone who can and should be held responsible for the use/misuse of a program. I also know that there can, and should be, objections to this idea but I am convinced this a place to start.

Two Lessons To Learn From the Speaker’s Election

US House of Representatives 4 Jan 2023

It came to me today that we can learn from the battle to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives. There are, of course, many lessons that can be learned but there are two that can easily over looked. The effects and costs of ”Zero Sum” politics and a ”Three Party” system.

Lets look at the last first, a more than two political parties in the House of Representatives. Usually when people think about having more than two national political parties they think that everything is decided by a simple ”plurality” (the most votes) wins the issue. Unfortunately that is not the case. There are times that the issue needs a majority + 1 of the persons voting to decided the issue. In other cases it can take 2/3 vote. So let us look at the simplest case, three parties in the House and lets call the X, Y, Z. and lets give them the following members X:200, Y: 202, and Z: 33.

If the vote needs only a simple majority of persons voting to pass and the Y’s all vote in favor it passes. but it needs 50% +1 of the total persons voting it wont pass unless it can pick up 16 votes from the X or Z parties. Sounds easy, right? It’s not because you have to be sure not to loose any votes in your horse trading and this can be as easy as make a deal with the worst enemy of someone on your side. If you don’t believe me go back to the 1950/60 and look at the problems they had when the sub group of the Democratic Party known as the Dixicrats held sway in the old south.

This issue with a strong an united sub-group or even a formalized caucus is what the GOP leadership is having to deal with. The real issue is not who will be Speaker, but who has the power to stop anything they want, when ever they want. This is who will control the House of Representatives in the 118th Congress.

Now lets get to the first lesson, the effects of using ”Zero Sum game theory” in politics. Just for those of you who are not very clear of just what I’m talking about just go to this link (Zero Sum). With that lets just go with the back idea that in every transaction you can only win or loose. It is strictly Binary. There are no ties if a deal/transaction is made. You can have a ’tie’, of a kind, when a trade/deal is not made. Both sides loose. Now lets add just a little spice into the game. All players must be seen to be winners to stay in the game.

Now lets say your in a league where if the people watching it decide you are a ”looser” you are removed from play, forever. An now lets add in that it doesn’t mater how successful you wins are compared to your losses:

example you make 10 deals where you make $100 and 20 deals where you loose $40 for a total of $60 in the black but all your judged by is 20 losses to 10 wins. in basic zero sum game theory every win is exactly equal to every loss. This is really true. Now lets and in just a little more hate to the game.

Lets say that what constitutes a win/loss is variable? Lets look at a chess move for example. I get to move a knight and it can do one of three things: first it can just move to a empty space. Second it can take a pawn and third it can take a Bishop. in the simple zero sum game only the first move would be seen as a loss for me and all the others a win. now lets judge by the value of the pice taken, the only the third move would be a win. An now lets do real chess, and the first move places my opponent into check-mate.

An now I can hear you all saying that chess is a zero-sum game. An it is, an it is an excellent example of why it is not as simple as counting win/loss. You have to keep the end objective in mind. The value of any move is not just the value of the piece taken, but the position the trade puts you in. An this is the trap people who don’t understand game theory fall into. The only see the immediate value in the trade and not where it will place you for future trades.

This is the trap some of the members of the GOP in the House are falling into. They see every deal as just win/loss. Ignoring the relative value of the things exchanged, nor the relative position each member of the trade is after the move.

So I say to them, if you insist on using Zero-Sum game theory for politics remember chess. Chess is a zero-sum game but every move is not equal, to win you need to think many many move ahead and finally remember that all optimally plaid games end in a draw. In politics this means nothing gets done. Not something the electorate like to see in the next election.

Orange KoolAid III

Orange Koolaid

This week I had posted on my Facebook page the image seen below.

I could not ask for a better example of the danger facing readers of Facebook. It is a great piece of rhetoric. None of the first five statements are wrong, that is all were made and all were based on some kind of science. All are also not really accurate. The last and final statement is also incorrect, both in it’s assertion that nothing happened and the assertion that there is some relationship with taxes. Let’s look at each statement in turn and see what is being done.

Yes, in the early 1960’s there were projections that all ‘known’ oil reserves would be exhausted. An, yes it was in fact true. All of the oil reserves known before 1960’s are exHausted by the early 1970’s. The key thing is that they were talking about all known oil reserves and it assumes no new sources of oil would be found and that no new oil extraction technologies would be developed. Finally I have not been able to find a single knowledgeable person in the 1960’s who accepted this idea. Indeed, in the early 70’s I heard this being said as a justification for more oil exploration. (BTW: I was working with my Dad’s oil exploration company at the time.)

In the 1970’s there were people sayings and papers being published predicting a coming ice age. Unfortunately a great many more people saying and papers were being published talking about the global warming. One of the problems with science is you can always find people exposing theories that go against the accepted view. What is worse, sometimes these people are right. That is why science has ‘pier’ reviews of all papers and every theory is, or should be, carefully and completely look at.

In the 1980’s, just like now, acidic rain, or acid rain, is being talked about and some people are making dire predictions. (See above about theories) The difference between now and then is that then it was sulfur oxides not carbon oxides that was the worry. The burning of coal burns some sulfur creating two oxides. Both sulfur dioxide (SO2) and sulfur trioxide (SO3). The first makes the weak acid Sulfurous acid (H2SO3) and the other Sulfuric acid (H2SO4). It was soon seen that it was sulfurous acid that was being made, but sulfuric acid was present in significant amounts. In any case the changing of the pH of the rain would and does have a significant effect on crops. (Please note that there are a great many compounds created by burning hydrocarbons such as CO, CO2, NO2, and NO3 to name a few.) Al that said, we did do something, we developed technology to ‘scrub’ (precipitate) the sulfur oxides out of the smoke of coal (and any other high sulfur content hydrocarbons).

In the 1990s, actually even before, the depletion of the Ozone Lay was becoming a concern. The connection with the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)and the depletion was soon shown in many scientific papers, an yes, there were papers challenging this (see about). The chemical reaction(s) between CFCs has been shown in the lab many times. This is not odd as ozone is quite reactive chemical. Once the world stoped using chlorofluorocarbons the ozone lay has been recovering (it’s still not back to where is was when it was first discovered but it is not getting weaker.)

Finally, yes there are ‘doom’ sayers out there who have published paper’s projecting the total melting of the two icecaps by 2010. Once again these papers were outliers, often based on either poor data and/or poor analysis. The vast majority of the work done is talking about the loss of the two ice caps with in 50-100 years BUT this is all based on incomplete data.

So what does this show us? First that it is true that the statements were made. Next all were incorrect. Most just citing outlier science and two forgetting to note that action was taken to prevent it from happening. It is the last and final statement that is wrong on all counts. That ‘None of this Happened’ is a true statement but implies all were taken seriously and that nothing was done. The second part is more insidious, it implies a connection between the earlier statements and taxes. With out any demonstration of causality. It is a classic use of correlation without causality. Using this same reasoning we should ban ice cream as it has been shown for over a century now that when there is a rise in the sale of ice cream there is a corresponding rise in Homicides. (This last is based on the classic example used in intro to statistics on correlation and causality.)

So beware, what ever the side you are on, of postings like this one. I would recommend if you see something like this that are tempted to say “Yes! Exactly right!” To take a step back and ask your self “What are they Selling?”

While the world burns.

Now that the G-6 +1 is over I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve had while volunteering at the Discovery Cube L. A. When I’m asked about climate change/global warming/Amazon Rainforest fires. I shan’t boor you with the science we going into, it is after all for kids and you can get much better information just googling the subject or go to NOAA and/or NASA. Rather I’m going to take you on a thought Experiment into what will happen.

I was originally going to go thru a step by step process of my reasoning but it quickly turned into a very nice term paper. Quite long and equally boring. It has been set aside for another day. Instead I’m just going to dive into a positive view of what things will be like if we either do something or don’t do something about climate change and the rapidly global warming that is driving it.

First off, in the 4.6+ billion years that the earth has existed it’s climate has been changing. Most assuredly in the estimated 4 billion years that life has been around the earth’s climate has been changing and life has been a key player in that change. It is here I like to talk about the “Great Oxygen Catastrophe” that leads to Snowball Earth. I have seen estimates that go as high as 98% of all life on Earth went extinct but I usually say that it was over 90%. I then talk about the multiple Great Extinction events in the Earth’s history.

I now like to point out that life has existed on both land and sea when the Earth was so hot there were no polar icecaps. If fact some estimates of the temperatures were several degrees centigrade higher than current predictions for the current warming. If the conservative prediction of warming occurs then it is most likely all of the two polar icecaps will totally melt. If we go with the accepted estimates of how much ice is in the two icecaps we will see sea level rise just about 80 meters (262+ feet). It is here I bring up the SOS (Science on a Sphere) data set that shows the sea rise in 10 meter increments.

If you are wondering, the USA doesn’t do too badly. We loose two states for sure (Louisiana and Delaware) and most of about six others. California will loose the Great Central Valley and get a new, expanded San Francisco Bay. We will have to say bye bye to places like Denmark, Holland, Bangladesh, and maybe Vet Nam. Cities lost will include Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia, London, and Beijing. All this happens if we do nothing. Not very likely to happen but still a possibility.

Now is when I like to point out that we, Americans, have faced economic and environmental crisis like this before in our history and have come thru all the better for it. For that mater the world has faced crisis like this in the last few centuries. I like to talk about the annual Typhus outbreaks that hit London in the mid 19th century. When the causal factor (using the river as a sewer) reached the Houses of Parliament action was finally taken. I feel very confident that when the rising sea level starts affecting the 1% they too will take action. An it may not take the annual flooding of southern Florida either.

Now for something I don’t share with the kids, ever. If the most pessimistic projects come true the earth can loose between 50% to 90% of both life and bio diversity. This has happen before in the list or of life on Earth and most likely happen again. We, like the first photosynthetic life, maybe the major cause of it. In any case, given the spread of humanity over the earth, and our numbers 7.7+ Billion it is unlikely we will go extinct (7.7 billion * 0.01 is 7.7 million). Also while this is all happening with lighting speed in geological time it is still taking either decades or centuries to happen.

In closing just remember this, Mankind has been slapped silly by Mother Nature many times in our history. An while we usually pick ourselves up, dust ourselves of and go on our way as if nothing has happened, sometimes we do learn something. An always, always we become wiser, stronger, better.

After the Apocalypse

An now for something completely different, America’s love of post apocalypse stories.

Of recent I have noticed more comments about how the Americans seem to be in love with zombie apocalypse stories and games and this is take as being a indication of just how pessimistic we are in Americas future. To this I say HA!

I shan’t go into the long history of the popularity of apocalyptic literature thru history. Instead I’m just going to look at it’s popularity in the past 68 years an keep mostly to the movies movies as the best (an worst) books were often made into movies.

We just need to go to IMDb and you can find quite a few lists of Nuclear Apocalypse movies starting in the early 50’s. Some of the worst ‘passion pit’ second realers were were SF apocalypse themed. It stay this way till the mid to late 60’s when we started to worry about over population (who can forget “Soylent Green is people!”). This is also when we started to get the first ‘Zombie’ apocalypse stories, but like “The Night of the Living Dead” they often weren’t called zombies.

In the seventies and eighties we also keep having the thymes of nuclear apocalypse but we also see a few where it is just war with the USA loosing to the USSR. We also start seeing more and more ‘dark’ or pessimistic endings. An this is where I think we can see the key to the love of Zombie Apocalypse starts. Almost with out fail most if not all humanity, or at least civilization, is destroyed. An there is nothing that can be done about it.

So now let us consider how many horror movies we’ve seen where the heroes have won and all of sudden, just before or even after the credits a scene flash’s on the screen showing the monster is not really vanquished. Yes, I know it is just a sequel marketing device but it is also a horror movie trope. Evil can never truly be defeated. This is an old, old, old idea in theology, going back to Zoroastrianism if not before. It is also not limited to horror stories, just read 1984 and the perpetual war Oceania is fighting. Lots and lots of dystopian stores are like this too.

In fact, I think that all of the Apocalypse stories are really just theologically based horror stores. In more recent times we have had truly theological apocalypse stores like the “Left Behind” series. Also we are now seeing a lot of what can be called the ‘Sixth Great Extinction Event” apocalypse stories based on global warming. One of the worst was “The Day After Tomorrow” but lets not throw stones.

Now as to just why Americans seem to love apocalypse horror stores I really have no ideas. If you do please share with us, we would love to hear your ideas.

Another element in our continuing Seldon Crisis


I start this post on Tuesday, July 31st because of the announcement by FaceBook of coordinated effort to influence the coming  election by  unknown parties.  What they do say is that they have blocked over 30 pages so far and the way these pages were made and used are simular to how the Russians acted in the 2016 election.  As I have been deeply involved in computers and software since 1972 I take these activities quite serous.  Not only for the sanctity of our elections but for the safety of our people.

We saw on 9/11/01 just what a few determined people can do with just airplanes.  Just think of what a few determined barkers could do.  Granted most would not be as flashy as flying two planes into a skyscraper but it could end up kill a great many more people.  As an Angeleno I can think of something that would be both spectacular and deadly, attack the controls for the California Aqueduct.  Or just attack the computers that control the flow of water by the LADWP.  The list is as endless as it is frightening.

Calfifornia Aqueduct

Just crashing the system for a few hours would be bad enough but many of these computer controlled systems can be seriously damaged if you just do the right, or wrong, things with them.  In this hot summer, just imagine what would happen if all of the water in the greater LA area stoped flowing?  For a day, For a week, for a month.

Now think about the power distribution system, that could be even worse.  Or how about the computer systems that control our harbors.  What would happen if the Port of New York suddenly crashed or started doing all the wrong things?   An for those who don’t worry about anything but money, what would happen if all the banks suddenly discovered that the interbank interchange was down do to hacking?  How long would it take, how much effort would it take, to reestablish trust in the system.  What effect would it have on the economy.

Just what would happen if the New York, or Tokyo, or London stock market(s) were suddenly flooded with sell orders?  What would happen to the market if we had to go back to the way we did stock trades in the 1960 because we could not trust the Buy & Sell orders over the computer system?  Just stop and think about it.

Our cyberspace, that we all depend on is in jeopardy and we are not paying attention.  President Trump is ignoring it, House Speaker Ryan is ignoring it, and majority leader McConnel is ignoring it.  I fear they are ignoring it because they see it as just a partisan issue, it is not.  Do we have to wait until we have a cyber 911 or Pear Harbor before we act?  We need to start now.  We need to have a nonpartisan commission soonest.  It must be tasked with several things.  First define just what is our cyberspace.  Then we must define just what constitutes an unlawful act in cyberspace, what is just a crime, what is an act of terrorism, and what is an act of war.  Next we must find out just who in the government is responsible for protecting the security of our cyberspace.  We must then ensure that that all will work togeather, as a team, to protect our cyberspace from all attacks, both foreign and domestic.  Finally we must state clearly and susectly just what our rights, both as people and as citizens, we have in cyberspace.

The time is now!  We, the American people must stand up and say to the President and Congress “Act Now!”


A look at the Climate Change debate

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in a little debate over Climate Change and it has come to me that most folks have no idea what is really going on.  By this I mean, in the debate and just what they are doing.  So I thought to take some time and lay it all out.  To help with this I have drawn a simple  decision tree.

As you can see the first question is “Does Climate Change Exists?”  Is it really happening or not.  This is what we most often here as what the debate is about, the “Climate Change Deniers”.  Their position is quite simple, Climate change is not happening, therefor we need do nothing.  The major problem with this position is that it flies in the face of the great majority, last reported at 97% of climatologists do hold that Climate Change exits. (They also hold that humans are a causal factor.) To hold that Climate Change does not exist means these people find themselves arguing science with little or no scientific training.  More often than not they end up just looking foolish or worse.  This just maybe why the also seem to be angry.  I submit that their real problem is they don’t realize that what they really want is not to do anything about Climate Change because they don’t like any of the proposed actions to deal with Climate Change.

As you can see from the chart there are several paths to doing nothing even if you accept that Climate Change is real.  I shan’t go into any of the points in the argument(s) at this time as they are both long and complex in most cases.  The next question is “Should we do anything?”  As you can see answering NO gets you right to “Do Nothing”.  The simplest argument for saying NO to this question is that Climate Change is important and/or significant.   If you answer YES to this question we move on to the next question “Can we do anything?”

Once again, if you answer NO you end right back to Do Nothing.  This is one of the questions we need to be talking about very seriously and while some of us are way to many of us are  caught up talking about the earlier questions.  It maybe that in the end there is nothing we can do to have any effect on Climate Change, but this is not something I believe.  So if we answer YES to “Can we do anything?” we move on to “Can we have any effect?”

While this question looks a lot like the previous question it is not the same.  Before we were asking if anything thing can be done, and here were are asking if what we can do will have any positive effect on Climate Change or not.  If we answer NO then we get to move on to the question “Can we have any mitigating actions?” An if we answer YES we go on to “Will it be totally effective?”

In all these cases we have moved on to what we need to do about Climate Change.  You will notice we have yet to start on the issue of “Should we do anything about Climate Change?”  I shall leave this question for another time.