Milankovich cycles forcing climate change

Interesting new science coming out about how the 20, 40 and 100 thousand year Milankovich cycles have been forcing climate change:

‘Today Earth is affected by fluctuations called the Milankovich cycles. There are three different Milankovich cycles, and they occur each 20,000, 40,000 and 100,000 years. Over the last one million years these cycles have caused ice ages every 100,000 years, and right now we are in the middle of a warming period that has so far lasted 11,000 years.

“Earth’s climate history is complex. With this research we can show that cycles like the Milankovich cycles were at play 1.4 billion years ago – a period, we know only very little about”, says Donald Canfield, adding:

“This research will also help us understand how Milankovitch cyclicity ultimately controls on Earth.”

In the new scientific paper in the journal PNAS, the researchers report both geochemical and sedimentological evidence for repeated, short-term fluctuations 1.4 billion years ago. For example the fossilized sediments show how layers of organic material differed over time, indicating cycle changes in wind patterns, rain fall and ocean circulations.’

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-today-climate-billion-years.html#jCp

Perhaps we could slow this climate change if our governments were to impose crippling ‘Milankovich cycle taxes’!!!

Thundef00t: some awesome science!

Ultimate last minute GEEK present!

Physics Girl: Fun with Vortex Rings in the Pool

Thunderf00t: Really Cool Science with Honey!

Who owns your body?

Many people even today live under the yoke of very direct and brutal slavery.  We have recently heard the horror stories.

But this is not the only way slavery is happening.

No – this time, I will not go on a long rant about how coercive taxation is, in a very real sense, the state making an ownership claim over our bodies, but it hits close.

Different societies are built on different principles – and, depending on these foundational ‘truths’, the governance of the society evolves.  All societies evolve over time.  But, those societies which build their governance on things other than the principles they were founded on soon run into serious trouble;

After all, in order for a society to function in a healthy way, for the citizenry to be able to anticipate, understand and guide themselves by the rules of the society, it is important for every new law, for every rule that is enforced, to be grounded in this foundation.  I’m not sure if I am explaining this clearly, so, if I am making a mess of it, please, let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

What I mean by this is that in a very practical sense, for a new rule to ‘work’ in a society, one must be able to reason to it by starting with the foundational principles.

In other words, if laws are passed which are arbitrary – cannot be arrived at by reasoning from ‘first principles’, sooner or later, the governance will not form a seamless body but the laws and regulations will become a mess, some may even contradict each other and it will be upon the whim of the police and the judiciary as to which rules are enforced when…

Our politicians – in all levels of government – are busy passing laws and regulations.  If every citizen were to memorize every new law and regulation as they are passed, they would have little time to actually be productive…and the society would begin to stagnate.

If, however, each and every law and regulation passed could be reasoned out from ‘first principles’ (the ‘foundational truths’ on which the society is built), then the citizen needs not memorize every new rule and regulation:  these will simply be a natural extension of the foundations upon which the society is built.

One of the core – if not THE core – ‘foundational truths’ on which our society is built is the principle of self-ownership.

So far, so good – yes?

I own my body and you own yours.  You cannot sell your children into slavery or for body organs, because while a parent may be a child’s guardian, the parent does not own their child.  Each and every human being owns her or him self.

So, what are our bodies made up of?

Lots of stuff.

Some of our ‘stuff’ shares common things with other humans, some with all living things – and some of our ‘stuff’ is uniquely our own and defines us as an individual.

Let’s look at some examples of ‘stuff’ that makes us up – but which we share with some others.

Blood, for example.

We can, within certain defined parameters, switch blood from one person to another:  from one who has enough and chooses to share to the ones who need it.

Same with, say, kidneys and corneas and lots of other ‘stuff’.

Our brilliant scientists have, for example, found a way to take a pig’s heart, keep the ‘infrastructure’ but wash away the DNA containing tissues, graft a human being’s own personal stem cells over this pig’s hear infrastructure – and then implant it into that human!!!  Most brilliant, since all the DNA-bearing ‘stuff’ is that owner’s very own DNA, so the body recognizes it as part of itself and the immune system does not try to ‘kill this invader':  something which, when using another human’s heart, had to be fought with anti-rejection drugs that had considerable and unpleasant side effects.

AWESOME!

Right?

And there’s all these new cancer treatments and chronic illness treatments based on gene therapies!  It’s enough to make one feel like we’re living in the science fiction future!

Makes sense that we will expect more and more gene-based therapies for our ills.

But, there is a problem with this.

The problem is that, in their wisdom, the bureaucrats who award patents have agreed with deep-pocketed corporaions to grant them patents on genes.  Both human and non-human…

Please, consider this very, very carefully.

For decades, the MD’s and medical researchers have warned that the greatest obstacle to more gene therapies being developed and used in the practice of medicine are – you guessed it – patents granted on genes.

Oh, it crept in gradually, like all the greatest villains in history.

First it was a human-modified gene in one creature or another which made it more suitable for medical studies – human-altered gene, it was argued, intellectual property rights…

Then it was ‘unraveling’ genes – doing the lab work to identify them and the role they played.  The corporations argued – quite truthfully – that they invested money up front to make this possible.  And they did, that is true.

But we must remember why patents were ‘brought about':  it was a trade off. The ‘inventor/thinker’ would share the information with everyone else about all aspects in return for ‘exclusive rights’ on the item for a period of time that would let them make back their investment plus a modest profit. But, it was argued, one could only patent ‘products’ – not naturally occurring ‘stuff’.

So – how come patents were granted to companies on naturally-occurring ‘stuff’ like genes?

A bit of ignorance and a bit of corruption, I guess…

But, we now find ourselves in a situation where multinational corporations own the patents on certain human genes.

Aside:  this issue is explored very, very well in a most excellent Canadian Netflix show, ‘Orphan Black’.  Not only is the show brilliantly written and generally awesomely executed, it tackles this very question:  if a corporation ‘owns’ a ‘gene and all its derivatives’, and that gene is inside of you, do they ‘own’ you?  Do they have a legal claim on your children?  Your child is, after all, a derivative of your genes….

Please, indulge me in the following speculation.

A corporation owns a specific gene which is, say, introduced into asthma sufferers using a specific virus (as the genetic material carrier).  This engineered DNA (patented by, say, Corporation ‘C’) is successfully integrated into your cells, so that all the cells of your body have replaced the old, ‘faulty asthma-causing gene’ with the newly engineered ‘C’ gene.

Then you have kids.

Your children will have inherited the ‘C’ gene.

Do you have to seek permission to ‘create a derivative of the ‘ C’ gene through reproduction’ before you have said child?

Do you owe the Corporation ‘C’ royalties?

Do they have an ownership claim on your offspring?

As the laws stand, these questions have not been answered very well.

For example, courts have ruled that if a genetically modified pollen accidentally pollinates your non genetically modified crops, you DO owe the pollen’s patent holder royalties.

Really, do think about where this is heading….

After all, if somebody owns your gene – something which is in every cell of your body – do they not have an actual claim of ownership over you?

This is why I am so thrilled that CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) has initiated a lawsuit challenging the patenting of a specific gene-test.  OK – a baby step, but a very, very important one!!!

Let’s keep our eyes on this one!

Can Video games be used in education? – a guest post by my son

I removed the header identifying my son’s name and the class/teacher/assignment he wrote this  for.  The reason for publishing this essay is that I think it is most awesome and can stand on its own!  

            Video games. You’ve probably played at least one of them before. Almost everyone has at some point in their lives. Chances are it was fun, but maybe not. If you look on the internet, it doesn’t take long to find out that there are many people who love video games. If you haven’t really thought about them, you might find it strange that some weird form of entertainment has gotten such a huge following. But stop yourself there. If you really go down the rabbit hole of video games, you can see that they can be more than just cheap time-wasters.

 

When kids see games, most of the time, they will pounce upon them, because kids love games. What if there was a way to use these games in order to educate them? Then kids would see it as another game, and allow themselves to imprint upon it, something kids might not do for pencil and paper work. But how could you possibly get any educational value from a game?

 

Firstly, games can help you learn basic logic skills. This can be as simple as teaching a young child how pressing a certain button can have different results. For example, you could let the child experiment with a set of buttons, where each of which makes a different colour on the screen. After letting the child experiment, ask the child to make a specific colour appear. This can be extended into more advanced logic puzzles. In a game called Minecraft, there is something called Redstone, which allows users to create logic gates and make complex contraptions. People have made computers, calculators, clocks, and more by using it. This would be a fantastic way to teach logic gates. Have the students make RS-Nor latches, and contraptions to prove their understanding.

 

Redstone isn’t the only good thing about Minecraft, though. Minecraft can teach kids architectural design, how to manage resources (Making sure you don’t run out of food, getting the right amount of material to build something, etc.), how to read, allow a great form of expressing themselves, and so many other applications! It’s like LEGO on steroids, minus choking hazards and the pain of stepping on them. There’s even an official educational version of Minecraft licensed by the developer, Mojang, called Minecraft EDU, and it’s being used in classrooms around the world. If you install mods manually into Minecraft, the possibilities increase almost exponentially, as are mods to add computer programming, and more.

 

But let’s take a step away from just Minecraft. Games in general can help kids develop problem solving skills and wit. If you already think that playing chess (or similar board games) is great for children, you’re in luck. There are many games that are all about using wit, intuition, and problem solving to get out of a tight situation. There are games that are basically chess with different rules, such as Starcraft or Civilization. There are also many single-player puzzle games that make you think about how your actions can affect your environment and how to get past obstacles. Games like Portal 1 and 2 are great examples of this.

 

Some history games put the player in the shoes of a historical figure, and give you the task of making the same decisions the figure did. If well executed, this can really help the player understand why these figures did what they did, while if they just read a textbook that said they did something, it won’t have the same impact for the student. Admittedly, this approach might not be great at teaching specifics like dates or small decisions the real historical figures did, but it can put them in the right mindset.

 

And when it comes time for marking to see how each student is doing, most games will provide a much more quantifiable answer than other means, or at least a more convenient means to an end. It’s easy to take a look at how students are progressing through games. What stages gave them the hardest times? Which ones did they breeze over? Is there a central concept the student is struggling with? You can teach it to them, maybe walk them through one of the stages they are having a hard time with. Watch them progress again, see if they learned anything from your lesson.

 

In fact, there are some schools and teachers that are testing the waters with using games in the classroom, and you know what? Teachers are showing that it’s working! There are many examples of teachers reporting positive effects, and the usage of some games like Minecraft in subjects like math, science, social studies, and computer science.

 

I am not trying to say that games should replace other parts of school. No, that would not be a good idea. What I’m really saying is that games can be used in conjunction with the other methods to provide great benefits. If we can move ourselves away from the idea that games are only entertainment, our society can benefit hugely, as games have a lot of untapped potential.

 

Sources

  • Andrew Miller “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom” org, Demand Media April 13 2014, Web. September 18 2014
  • “Examples by Subject” minecraftedu.com n.p. n.d. Web. September 18 2014
  • PBS Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta “Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios” Online video clip. Youtube, March 6 2013, Web. September 18 2014
  • Jacqui Murray “Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More” Teachhub, n.d. September 18
  • Brandon Chapman “Video games could dramatically streamline education research” news.wsu.edu September 18 2014, Web. September 18 2014 (No, this was not a mistake.)
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