Archive for the ‘Earth’ category

The ‘Earthification’ of Science

December 18, 2011

All people from all nations must support Earth Science

“…To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”  – Carl Sagan

No, no, this is not one of those “evil, evil man was never meant to fly” type hyperventilations. It is an effort to point out that despite the scientific community‘s obligation to explore, discover and explain the Cosmos, it must also continue to accord the same intense curiosity about our home planet, Earth. This must be regardless of the rising number of discoveries of exoplanets including some that promise to be uniquely Earth-like (Kepler 22b). Science must increase its understanding of the entire evolution of Earth and in achieving this understanding, dictate its preservation
Yes, humankind must survive and Earth is our life-supporting host, but we must evolve our dependence to not continue to suck the very life from Earth while also tearing at its own life-giving entrails. Earth-focused science and technology is the answer. This is where we continue to enjoy and benefit from Earth’s bounty, but at the same time continue to insure that we do not abuse it benevolence. In times of crises such as those surrounding us now, it is even more critical that we defer to science for help in coping constructively with our crises in a manner that protects; even enhances our home planet.
No political head butting here, no cries of environmentalists seek to increase joblessness, and no defiance of the gifted and dedicated by the intense Earth abusers who seek immediate returns in trade for a degraded planet. Yes, we can enrich ourselves from this planet’s munificence, but we must do it in such manner that we preserve that abundance of resources while protecting the well-being of ALL life here at home. In this respect, organizations that are both global and territorial in scope seek to inspire greater Earth-science solutions to this challenge. One such public persuasion in this regard is clearly illustrated by the following video from the advocates for protecting millions of life-forms including Homo sapiens.
Science is the answer and for it to address ALL of the issues and challenges we must press hard upon the political button to bring about the changes and enactments needed to preserve planet Earth and in doing so preserve and enrich all life. ALL of us, tiny cells to towering Homo sapiens, are an integral part of this planet’s very existence. We are and must remain inseparable, and unified on behalf of Earth and life.


November 13, 2011

Recent media reports express concern over the number of college students who are deciding not to continue their science based studies. The major reasons are the unanticipated difficulty of both the math and science courses. Analysts state that the decline in solid elementary and secondary education in math and science are major contributing factors. Considering the national goals of expanding and invigorating instruction and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), this is a discouraging development.

IT’S THE TEACHERS, RIGHT? This is the motivator for all of the local, state and national efforts to tighten the methods and extent of teacher evaluations. In my opinion, with minor exceptions, we should not thump the teachers. The classic barriers of over-populated classes, curriculum goals that seek to satisfy national testing rather than student learning, and dreadfully fickle administrative guidelines that undergo school-board opinionated revisions, all turn the education process upside down. By the time all of this descends upon and around the teacher, student education has become a locked-stepped march into confusion. In spite of this, most teachers strive to teach and to inspire each student to learn. This turns a regular school day for teachers into an average 12 to 15 hour day when they really work to make learning successful and joyful.

JOYFUL LEARNING? There is an inherent stress for most youngsters during the education process; even for the super-bright ones. Making the process joyful, when suitable, reduces the stress, opens the mind and makes learning pleasurable instead of either deadly dull or frightening. In most cases, this approach is the product of highly motivated teachers who dress up their presentations (art, videos, student demonstrations, visiting heroes, etc) that far exceed the dry-as-toast curriculum dictated by the national test score mantra. All of these extra efforts are variables and in many cases difficult to consistently sustain so overall the education process FAILS with respect to future STEM success.

SO WHAT’S TO BE DONE? As and example let’s take five critical areas for consideration. These examples all presume a standardized education concept that enhances both STEM and HAMLIT education. This combination imposes a considerable demand on teachers through all elementary and secondary grades. Right now both are cut short because of the imposition of that national testing mantra. Yes, we do need to evaluate the system and how well it is serving the education of our young, but under no circumstances should that evaluation debilitate a sound and well structured curriculum. Broadly speaking the White House does not seem to recognize this educational impediment built into its mandates.

The five critical areas are as follows (The emphasis on items 1-3 are for elementary education, K-3):

  1. STEM and HAMLIT should be specifically present at the Kindergarten level, but in a most innovative way. Here the joy of learning is most important. Simple math concepts and delightful literature and music experiences should be presented in a most memorable and enjoyable way.  Young minds grab at these concepts when presented in this manner. Additionally, parents must be more actively recruited to support what is happening in Kindergarten. They should be fully aware of the program and the variety of supportive things they can do to enhance their children’s early learning experiences.
  2. STEM and HAMLIT follow the youngsters out of Kindergarten into the first stages of elementary school.  Now all children don’t learn at the same rate and not all will be serious STEM learners, but all of them will be at ease with HAMLIT when creatively presented. Yes, creative presentations. Most teachers, particularly elementary level teachers do this automatically and usually very creatively. These efforts must be extended to STEM as well. Math can be so dreadfully dull if presented in that way, but when creatively presented (using a variety of teaching aids) it can win over children that appeared not to be good STEM candidates.
  3. ENTER THE COMPUTER: Although the students may have already had some exposure (home or school) to computers, the Third Grade is the key place to begin using the computer to enhance STEM learning. Right now, there is some concerns about how effective this will be, but as the article in the foregoing link points out there are steps that, if taken, can make the computer a vital and highly productive instrument for enhancing the learning process; particularly for STEM. Teachers must be directly involved in the choice of software programs to be used. A misfit of program and teacher methods will produce a zero learning result with both frustrated students and teachers. Administrators and school-board officials must recognize this and insist on teacher input in the software selection process.
  4. ELEMENTARY LEVEL EDUCATION is critical to the full success of the youngsters through their Middle and High School experiences. A poor foundation in this area coupled with the greater student independence and learning responsibilities in these advanced grade levels can lead to a student drop-out. This is quite simply a tragedy whether the student was a good STEM candidate or more HAMLIT oriented. Dropping out is like shooting curiosity and imagination on the spot. Again, teacher instructional latitude, even with heavy computer participation, is critical. Impositions of the standard testing mantra, worrisome and severe teacher evaluations and often bumbling administrative processes can severely cripple these advanced learning experiences. So again, before harping, its the teachers, we need to carefully examine the teaching environment, the available tools and the level of administrative imposition that distracts teacher productivity.
  5. COLLEGE/CAREER PREP should actually start in Middle School and increase in supportive ways through the remainder of secondary education. Right now the push is for college from everywhere and everyone, and yet many students are either not ready or are just not interested in that direction for their future. Sound counseling on alternatives that continue to bolster the students opportunity profile should be included along with the standard college pep talks. There are a host of technical training opportunities, including the military services, that provide a student with some promising career alternatives. These should not be ignored. Additionally joint sessions with the non-college oriented students and their parents should be conducted to help prevent the forceful persuasiveness of parents fixated on college for the kids.
ALL of the above requires extensive time and effort on the part of both teachers and counselors. Again, the extremely tight schedules, mandated curriculum and standards test preparation along with the complexity of both STEM and HAMLIT subject matter demand more from teachers than neither time nor class size permit.  Yes, computers will help somewhat, but under no circumstances should they become tools to free up a teacher to perform those distracting administrative tasks. Computers are good, but they cannot sense all the nuances of each student’s learning method. Only a teacher can do that, and when he or she is intensely distracted by non-academic endeavors that alertness is muted. Guess who suffers?
Well, it is obvious that things must change, and the responsibility rests with every one of us, not just parents, teachers and board-members. All levels of government that interact with our education system must hear from us, and what we say must be in full concert with making sure that there is an ample supply of steam in the STEM program and also lots of bright words, art and stunning music in the HAMLIT program. We can then begin to bask again in the aura of bright, highly creative and dedicated young people and adults whom we so desperately need to keep us moving forward.
Well, it really all comes down to this (See video)>
About the Author: XiNeutrino (Waddell Robey) after leaving the high-tech aerospace and health science fields, he devoted a little over seven years working as both a TSS (Therapeutic Staff Support) and Therapist in Children and Family Services. Most of his time was spent in school settings with his young clients and this has given him a unique and highly informative perspective on our education system, its teachers, and the varying success of its students. Those experiences along with his independent observations and discussion with teachers and administrators have formed the opinions and recommendations expressed in this blog article.

IMAGE CREDIT: Cartoon depiction of STEM at work. Courtesy:

WANTED: A SciTech Revival

November 12, 2011

The ECO-FANDANGO that is going on right now is a save Big Money dance that makes sure not to disturb the profits-above-all-else motives of corporate America. Most corporations are flush with cash and are coasting along on set, big-bank supported business strategies that are enhanced by lowered worker populations. Status Quo is the rule and gets solid political support. Meanwhile, America is in an socio-economic decay cycle that will eventually undermine the status quo and all of us.

America’s rise to prominence and world leadership came about from a combination of brave, risk-taking innovators and a bold new growth of both science and technology. Right now the fiscal crisis hoax is directly seeking to discourage risk taking and definitely a turn away from aggressive science and technology advances. This is coupled with actions by Big- Money duped politicians to continue to protect corporate profit growth at the expense of employment and our natural resources conservation. Another very active example of our dedicated self-destruction.

SCI-TECH TO THE RESCUE:  First, corporations must decide to loosen their grip on their cash reserves and begin to invest in new technology. Secondly, the Federal government must inspire those corporate risk-takers by offering earned credits applied to their fully restored tax obligations. The elimination of all the tax breaks and other fiscal benefits we taxpayers provide corporations will make the chance to earn reasonable tax-breaks highly attractive. This is accomplished by reinvesting in our sci-tech revival . If done properly this becomes an attractive incentive for big business to again behave like real American industrial innovators. Additional credits can be earned by providing sci-tech employee training for those job applicants which corporations currently list as unqualified for current job openings. ‘

So what are some examples of this sci-tech revival. We will look at three key areas. They are (1) new energy systems, (2)breakthrough transportation technology, and (3)natural resource conservation. We, our government and our corporations need to understand that there is an incredible sci-tech research and development resource just waiting to be unfettered and financially supported. We must not ignore it and its almost instant availability. Let’s start the revival.

1. NEW ENERGY SYSTEMS:  Right now we are in a diddle mode by toying with systems (wind, bio, current solar, etc) that either by themselves or jointly are not going to meet both current and future demands for energy. Yes, solar could grow as a high resource, but it has its limitations as a sole resource. If immense solar array systems are linked with thorium based nuclear power systems we could very will establish a safe and fossil-fuel free energy generation, transmission and storage system. To achieve this we need to gain considerable maturity in the design, constructions and safe operation of this composite energy system. We CAN do it, We HAVE the sci-tech skills and wherewithal to start now. Status quo stalling, however,  imperils this entire energy future. In this regard, we must acknowledge that the delays to move in this direction are not precautionary, they are political obeisance to big-oil and big-money forces. We must break that choke-hold.

2.BREAKTHROUGH TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY: Again we are currently dancing around with energy efficient transportation systems. The diddle rules. Yes, there is a mild increase in both US and foreign development of electric vehicles, but we have yet to commit to infrastructure changes that will support a fully EV based transportation model. Additionally, although there are musings about fuel-cell and hydrogen powered systems this again is in diddle mode. A solid program that seeks to achieve a mixed migration from pure EV to EV+FuelCell technology is a possible strategy. Regardless, unless, as mentioned above, we can break the Big-Oil /Big-Money choke-hold on SciTech progress we are stranded in petrol-quicksand with no rescue in sight.

They, being the media, say we are too timid, too intimidated, and too indifferent to push forward. Well if we do not push forward we will surely FALL BACKWARDS!  In that case, shank’s mare will be our most innovative means of transportation.

3. NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION: What? Where is the Sci-Tech challenge here? Well, it could be the greatest and most rewarding that we can conceive. No, watering the flowers is pretty well accomplished, but dumping industrial offal on those flowers (Flowers in this case should be seen as our entire environment aka Planet Earth) kills them and most likely stifles all life in the area. This must be stopped.

Oh no, here we go with more restrictive rules and regulations and many marches of protest against polluters. Alas, more diddle! This is not to say that environmental protection by legislation and regulation is not important, but the real challenge is to find ways to give the polluters methods to produce and NOT POLLUTE! This is a sci-tech challenge, and for it to be effective it must be fully encouraged and financially supported by both government and private industry. The rewards to all parties, including Mom Nature, are immense. Here are just a few areas of research and development challenges and opportunities:

  • Just how hard have we looked at possible by-products from many industrial wastes?
  • Have we really determined the very best synthetic fertilizer for the farming industry that grows produce and does not produce stinking, life-stifling run-off?  No way?  Are you really sure about that?
  • CO and CO2 are generally bothersome, but as researchers already know they also are chemically useful. So why don’t we find more ways to pull them from our big polluters and put them to use for all of us? Stick the dollar incentive under our noses and guess what; VOILA; progress!  This is another critical joint government and private industry support activity.
  • GREEN is critical, and again sci-tech has and can produce answers to ways for we humans to co-exist on this planet while keeping it alive and well. Doing so definitely keeps us alive and well too. This latter point is conveniently ignored by both politicians and the BIGGIES.
SUMMARY: We already have the power to take these and many other progressive steps that will enrich our lives while protecting and preserving our home. Why, then, do we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked into accepting that the status quo is best for all and that progress is a hoax except where it benefits the BIGGIES? Have we given up on ourselves and on our amazing capacity to innovate and move all of us forward? If we are, in fact, giving up them we are denying our purpose as humans in the Cosmos. Well, don’t give up unless you are ready to simply let the status quo snuff out all your hopes and your life and the lives of your offspring – our future.

The Power of Nosy

October 31, 2011

Today, with the immense spread of social networks, exclaiming about nosy-ness is really a non-sequitur. We are all partial voyeurs as we “follow” the chatterings of Twitter or Facebook members. We even exercise a kind of “nosy-ness” by adding our comments to those of other network members discussing a topic, incident or opinion. All of this is participatory and so the rather unwelcome category of being nosy just does not fit or apply. Is this a good thing?

We think social networking takes an inherent natural sense of curiosity and allows it to express itself in many different ways. Yes, some of those expression may be regarded by some as nosy-ness, but the odds are those individuals are either unfamiliar with network socialization or are just extremely private individuals who carefully guard their personhood. Regardless, we are doing what comes naturally, as the image of the curious infant above illustrates. In that context, you have got to love it.

So where is the power? Well, we have seen that power as deeply moving calls for help such as the horrible Haitian earthquake or the original bold cries for change from the Arab Spring and both have had major social and political impact that has and is changing our world. Both of the foregoing are vitally important as examples of international communications that are reshaping nations. Perhaps the most universal power is the new and expanding culture-sharing that is spanning the globe. Insularity is crumbling as we come to not just make contact with, but begin to know humans from lands we have never visited and in some cases may never have heard about. This is a touching of minds and spirits that has never happened before on the scale of millions. Can this be a gateway to world peace?

Yes, there is some insularity within social networking as common interest groups form and relate. This should not be discouraged. Ideally, efforts should be made to expand those groups to reach out to include interested netmembers from various cultures, nations and politics. This is timidly happening and that timidity is due more to shyness about cultural and or political differences. Additionally, political forces, including our own, at least attempt to monitor the networks and some (like China) even restrict the scope and topic range of social networking. Believe it or not these impairments are a good sign. The politicos are cautious, worried and feeling threatened because the networks reach across most barriers and open the world to potential unity. The power and reality is that the networks and the linkages will prevail.

The New Nosy: Well, above you imply that nosy-ness is an non-sequitur;  so you are contradicting yourselves? Yes, on the surface it would appear we are, but the new nosy is just that new and different. In social networking many reach the point where they begin to share personal information including highly emotional topics. Suddenly the feeling is we are reading very personal words from a stranger. New nosy eliminates this anxiety and reticence. In the instance just described, new nosy enables us to communicate compassion by responding to the message from a “network friend” not a stranger. Another example is someone announces a significant accomplishment. We read and do more than nod; we respond with words of praise and congratulations.  Sure that is what they hoped for, but wouldn’t you also? Lastly, we have articulated expressions of political or social dismay, disapproval or approval. With new nosy, we respond with questions, with gentle arguments, and with counter-points that often create a blend of the original idea. Here again we must  ask are we at a gateway for world peace?

Summary:  Above all else, social networking and the power of new nosy ignores race, sex, national origin, religion, and ethnicity not by legislation but through the gentleness of human nature and the joy of connectivity that the network brings. Yes, some of us start out not so gentle, but the interchange of cultures, viewpoints and beliefs erodes prejudice and induces a shear joy of comradeship. So call it dreaming if you wish, but in reality it is slowly happening and we must do our very best to help the power grow and expand.  So nosy around and help strengthen the threads of world understanding and peace.


New Nosy – Image from “A Curious Baby” wallpaper

WANTED: A New Band of Brothers

October 28, 2011

Original photo of Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic Explorer Team.

Yes, wars create bands of brothers who often act as one and who always have each others “back.” The new band of brothers would grow together not from war, but from the incredible bond created by exploratory expeditions.  We know this too because our global history testifies to those many challenging, exciting, and sometimes deadly human probes into the unknown. In the majority of cases, it was a “band of brothers” involved in those explorations. To this very day, we continue to remember and honor their heroic efforts to explore, discover and then explain to us all the many wonders of our Earth and all that surrounds it.

Right now, we have a clear and active example of the band of brothers we are envisioning here. That example is the International Space Station. Participation in the ISS program has included astronauts from 5 countries and also includes shared launch support of both spacecraft and launch facilities. In the new band of brothers concept this shared support would increase in both the number of participating nations and in the services provided. China would be one of the new member nations along with Brazil, the ESA space familyIndia, Japan,  SouthAfrica, Russia, and the UK .

Successfully achieving this impressive band of space brothers will require some significant shifts in national policies regarding space exploration. The old competitive spirit that existed in the earliest days of space exploration would need to mellow out and instead redirect that zest in support of this new international alliance. In fact we can easily envision a formal organization known as the International Alliance for Space Exploration (IASE). We also envision the first joint space program of the IASE to be the establishment of a Lunar Research Base; more realistically known as the IASE SpaceStation. This exploration concept would enable many of the IASE members to participate in Lunar research that would otherwise be beyond their overall financial and sci-tech capabilities. This is exactly as it should be and as such insures the widest possible global dispersal of Lunar research results and benefits. At last, human space exploration is no longer reserved for just a few, but actually is the  international sharing of  space exploration goals and accomplishments.

Luna as the next International Space Station: Yes, returning to the Moon has been and remains a heavily debated mission. Many space enthusiasts see returning to the Moon as a step backwards or a kind of side step. Others, including the first human to stand on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, call for a return to the Moon as both a continuation of a mission that was never allowed to finish and as a vital preparatory step for future explorations. Supporters of a return to the Moon, that include both Russia and China, envision not just another set of short visits, but instead the establishment of a long term, perhaps permanent,  Lunar Research Base. We need to avoid a politically motivated space race, which as we have learned collapses as the politicians and public lose interest. The only way this is avoided is if we truly create the IASE. When this happens, we eliminate some of the political frenzy and on again off again publicity that controlled our earlier efforts.  Yes, it can become boring for many, but they awaken again each time there are new discoveries and accomplishments. IASE needs to be driven by program goals not political and public cheers or yawns.

Who will be the leader of the band? Russia and the United States have the greatest human spaceflight experience, and should definitely hold key positions, but as we have done with the ISS, leadership of the IASE should rotate and this again keeps involvement interest high and makes sure that many good ideas from smaller or less prominent members are presented, considered and implemented. One of the most important aspects of IASE is it lays the groundwork for commercial activities on Luna after there have been successful investigations by the IASE teams. This insures that we have exploration without desecration.

The video below clearly illustrates the unique values and public support of the ISS astro-brotherhood and its significant “first step” toward the IASE concept. As you watch please look at all images including the people who are reaching out to the astronauts right up to the launch site. We had this here for awhile in America, but  are losing it again as the shuttle program fades from our memories. IASE will not fade, because as boring as some of it may be, it moves forward and produces an array of new discoveries that will benefit us all. Can we do it? Will we do it? United we can and will with an enduring new band of international brothers.

WHAT!?! Abandon the ISS?

August 31, 2011

AN EDITORIAL: The opinions are exclusively the author’s.

In answer to the question about the current astronaut crew on the ISS and the future staffing and support of that vital space research system, the obvious answer should NOT be ABANDON SHIP!

It is so patently obvious that it is US politics not international decisions that is driving this possible outcome. Regardless of the anticipated duration of abandonment, it sets the stage for a complete cancellation of the future of this spacecraft and the research it supports.

The accidental failure of a ROSCOSMOS rocket system should have been anticipated and backup plans in existence. Our view is that ROSCOSMOS has such a plan and is making sure that the next human launching is both safe and successful. Space politicians running up and down the hallways muttering to the media about abandoning the ISS is another knife in the back of space exploration. It has nothing, in our opinion, to do with safety or progress, but is one more slice at science and especially space science by the growing popularity of the political assassination of all science.

Yes, the cancellation of the shuttle program certainly put a large crimp in the support plans for the ISS. Equally challenged is the commercial efforts to provide that support. The time-frame was greater than what faces them now. We are pushing them to step in, and heroically they are responding. Our worry is that they may not be quite ready.  Any failure, including ‘nogo’ launches sets them back, and that should not be their future.

Yes, positive, aggressive action on an international basis is needed. Defeatist, ‘give-up’ chatter is not wanted and is totally damaging. Meanwhile, get off the “sell news at any price” kick, media, and come out instead with loud supportive urging for us to succeed in sustaining the ISS.

We can do it, and we will do it, if we affirm the entire philosophy of space exploration – WE WILL GO THERE.  Spock, Yoda, ObiWan, Captain Piccard, Apollo Astronauts, speak up, shout, stomp your feet and drive us forward. Don’t let them drive us into the closet.


May 9, 2011

Excited estimates of his size and weight varied with a visiting diver’s ability to calmly assess the Guardian. The Guardian, as shown in the above image was a Goliath (Giant) Grouper that usually resided in the shaft tunnel of the shipwreck RMS Rhone. The general consensus was that he was in the range of between 600 to 800 pounds.

Not all divers referred to him as the Guardian. That was the name that a group of divers that I usually toured with had given him. To them and for me, it was a fitting name. Although he was never hostile, his girth was imposing and explorers of the shaft tunnel would quickly back away when they came upon him. Yes, he moved around, but the tunnel was his regular hang-out and that is where we would take SCUBA guests on our visit to RMS Rhone. Take a look at the image above and consider a face to face meetup with this fellow; all of which would occur in the restricted area of the shaft tunnel.  It would not be unusual to suck up at least half of your air supply during that encounter.

The dramatic and sad true story of the demise of RMS Rhone was, of course, the main attraction.  Guardian was a perfect special effect to go along with the entire history-based dive. You are urged to click here to learn more about RMS Rhone and its unfortunate end. For me RMS Rhone became the motivation for my short blog  and true adventure story, “Where Do Ships Go When They Die.”

None of our group ever made a dive tour to RMS Rhone without at least a quick hello to the Guardian. Sometimes we would not find him in the tunnel, but would find him lounging nearby in another area of the scattered wreck. The image on the left gives you some idea of the shaft tunnel area.  To enjoy more images of RMS Rhone you may go here.

One day, we arrived with a group of SCUBA visitors and regardless where we searched we could not find Guardian. This was quite unusual and we became concerned about what may have happened. Since we were conducting a tour we could not spend our entire air/dive time searching for Guardian so we worriedly continued the tour and left still not finding any sign of Guardian.

Two days later, we learned from a fellow diver that a fisherman had taken Guardian and actually had pictures taken of him and ‘his catch” at the waterfront on Tortola of the British Virgin Islands. The Guardian was gone! RMS Rhone had lost a vital part of its glorious mystery and we had lost a very much-loved friend. It has been 31 years since that happened and I still feel the sorrow and sense of loss.

Life in our watery universe is always endearing and makes an indelible impression that is rarely ever forgotten. Creatures such as Guardian and historic shipwrecks such as RMS Rhone are locked forever in our hearts.

Guardian, you are loved and missed to this very day.


Goliath Grouper: courtesy of Hooked In

RMS Rhone: courtesy of Steve Simonsen Photography