Wednesday, May 30, 2012


    I say this ,not in a spirit of harsh criticism, but in a kindly, supporting way to my many friends among the greater Southern Baptist community: you simply can't advocate flying off to terra-form Mars AND  be a good Baptist.
   It simply isn't possible --- and you would know that, if you spent as much time reading the Bible as you do secretly reading POPULAR MECHANICS.... and other such soft techno-porn.
   If God had really wanted us humans to live on Mars, don't you think HE would have planted us there, instead of Earth ?

SVE is a proud member of the "99% NEWS MEDIA NETWORK"

     It is well known that The One Percent (the 1%) control our biggest media (through private ownership or by controlling public corporations) and those media, in the crunch, only give you the One Percent's spin on the news of the day.
    Or, more often, those big media don't publish (or greatly downplay) the news that the One Percent don't want you to hear.
     The One Percent are those people whose combined family income is about $400,000 a year or more.

ALISON REDFORD alive , CAYDEN WOURMS dead, as DUTCH DISEASE claims new victims

      A Roman Catholic priest, Father Richard Doll, has told The Regina Leader-Post that Darren Wourms's family members had urged him not to return to his job in Fort McMurray, where his job had been taking a toll on him.
    But Darren was determined to get his engineering certificate and did return to "The Fort".
   Police had been called to his home in Airdrie, Alberta in April where his behavior had concerned his family and he was sent to hospital for a psychiatric examination and later returned home.
    This weekend, Darren 26, his wife Hayley 23, and his son Cayden 2, returned to St Walburg Saskatchewan to help plan the wedding of Darren's brother.
   Hours after attending mass, the bodies of the family of three was found in a nearby ditch, a .22 rifle near by.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The coal-dark SILVER DART flight of 1909: VOLCANIC modernity ...

   Abstract: It is an irony much unnoted, that is was only thanks to the efforts of dirt-faced coal miners, labouring deep in the dark beneath the sea bed, was it possible for one of humanity's first flights into the bright ,clear, pristine skies high above the earth to occur.
Libertarians (aka DENIERS) the world over celebrate humanity's first flights in heavier-than-air craft, above all for flight's ability to slip Earth's surly bonds : no more kids, wives, bosses, mortgages, no taking out the garbage, no more picking up socks.
    "Thelma and Louise" : but for guys.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

VICTORIA's CHILDREN : skygods versus earthlings

      Queen Victoria's long reign is frequently divided into two periods.
       The Early Victorian Age was from 1837 when she became Queen until 1870 and the end of her 10 years of mourning over the death of her husband Albert.
       1870 is generally regarded as both  the low point - and turning point - of her popularity.

Like BOOMERS, High Modernity kids divided into early and late stages

     From 1873 to 1893 to 1913, people in North America went through first the 20 years of the long depression and then the 20 years of the long boom (in Canada much better known as the Wheat or Rail Boom).
   Children born early in the Era of High Modernity , say between 1870 and 1885, were old enough to fully enjoy the fruits of that long Edwardian summer of optimism and exuberance between 1893-1913.
   And then were often too old to enjoy the mud (and death) of the Great War.
   Those born after 1885 and on until 1900 felt cheated - they had missed the boom Edwardian Years but got to enjoy all of the mud and all of the death of WWI.

Recession malaise and technological growth co-exist quite nicely ...

    As the Euro-woes and the American toxic mortgage scandals stall the global economy ( stall its growth rate a little - its not as if the whole world has stopped breathing or something), some sectors of the economy are still going gangbusters.
   As their cousins did during the long 1870s-1890s recession-depression and during the Great Depression 1929-1942.
    Currently it is mobile electronics that is absorbing all the free cash going, and asking for even more, as it throws up cellular towers and fibre optic links everywhere.
   New technological wonders alway find ready money in depressions as the 'smart money' tries desperately to get on board the next 'new thing' , whatever it might be, in an effort to survive and even flourish during hard times for the rest of business.

HIGH MODERNITY's technology versus its science...

    By 1900, as Vaclav Smil reminds us ,most of the technology (machines, 'things' in David Edgerton's sense of that word) around us today had been invented and was in active use: as well as being further commercially developed and technically improved.
   They are still in use, still under constant commercial development and steady technological improvement.
   They are the fruits of the generation of The Children of High Modernity.

"The Children of HIGH MODERNITY" (1870 -1970)

     The generation of The Children of  High Modernity was born after 1870 and before the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
     'Their War' was the Great War, WWI.
   They had children, usually when they were between 20 and 40.
    For their kids, 'their war' was WWII and they were flattered by being called "The Greatest Generation" by younger authors who wanted to sell lots of books to them.
    Their grandchildren were usually born between 1940 and 1960, the (Atomic) Boom Generation : 'their war' was Vietnam.
    For example, my grandfathers were born in the 1890s and served in WWI. Their kids were born in the 1920s and served in WWII.
     I, like virtually all their grandkids was born in the 1950s.
    While, as a Canadian, I wasn't expected to serve in Vietnam, some kids at my two high schools did volunteer to go do so.

Libertarian DENIERS to get physical over buses and bikes?

     HALIFAX - There has been quite an outcry among the libertarian majority in the Halifax public.
   (These libertarians are DENIERS of any limits to their freedom to do what they want).
    Their current whine is over the extension of bus and bike lanes in Halifax, because it reduces their absolute rights to see that their big SUVs (usually with just as single person in them) have ample curb space, whenever wherever.
    Agricola Street seems the current flashpoint but there has been other signs of ill-temper from car owners.
     In Ottawa ,a city famous around the world for being seen as health-conscious and bike-friendly, a similar big backlash has emerged against bike lanes from among the opponents to good health (again the unhealthy Medicare-addicted SUV-driving libertarian denier types).
     Laurier Street is the site of the latest Ottawa protest against bikes.
    Ultimately, SVE believes it is really a battle over TAX DOLLARS : between the healthy and frugal who saves them and the unhealthy libertarian deniers who wastes them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

David Edgerton's 'mule spinners' and my grannie's lifelong optimistic disposition

    My father's mother, May ,was born in 1900 and was 15 in 1915.
    I must say I never saw any sign that the horrors of the Great War, 1914-1918, had ever effected her much.
   I think this was because she grew into her formative teenage years under circumstances never seen before or since in Manchester England.
  Her father Eddie made his living installing mule spinners into Northern England's cotton mills and I never appreciated just how good his business was, during May's early years ,until I re-read David Edgerton's SHOCK OF THE OLD.

SVE 'MUST READ' book : David Edgerton's "SHOCK OF THE OLD"

     Re-reading British historian of technology David's Edgerton's "SHOCK OF THE OLD" recently, I found it a fount of zillions of ideas, stimulating my mind into overdrive, and forcing me to look at our world anew.
   Perhaps in light of my recent studies on the continuing impact of (mutated) Romanticism upon everything, I can better appreciate the force of Edgerton's main argument that histories of technology and science focus far, far, far too exclusively on 'priority' and 'original originality' ----- entrepreneurs,inventors and scientists all being obsessed with being original ,creative and 'the first'.

SVE supports unmanned probes of Mars & Venus: makes our rare EARTH more precious still

     It won't be wise - would it ? - to use the EARTH as a laboratory to prove up the concept of what a runaway greenhouse effect can do to a planet.
   We don't have to - not that the libertarians/deniers/SF fans among us aren't doing their darnedest to try anyway.
    Instead we can just consider the latest science on Venus, a planet somewhat close to us in features, where a classic case of runaway greenhouse gases destroyed any hopes of Life on a planet somewhat similar to ours.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Houston we have LIFE - a million years away"

    When Mariner 4 snapped its pics of Mars in July 1965, the delusion of humans living on other planets should finally have died - but it didn't.
    Bad ideas need perpetually teenage boys with bad arithmetic skills - an item never in short supply.

Bugger-off Hippies ! - it was crewcutted NASA types what killed Modernity

    High Modernity was animated by a single generation of scientists,  children born after the invention of the Dynamo and who died before the invention of Disco: roughly after 1870 and before 1970.
   Alfred Newton (Newt) Richards, medical strong man of the famous wartime OSRD R&D outfit, whose dates (1876-1966) span the age almost perfectly, is an example of one such scientist who was influential when young and who continued to be highly influential up to the year he died.
   A lot of important scientific discoveries and technological inventions happened in the 1870s, but there were a few highly influential bloopers as well.

18 TRILLION tonnes of stupidity raises ocean levels

     In just the last 50 years, humans have pumped up 18 trillion tonnes of precious  fossil water, non-renewable water from the rock deep below desert and arid parts of the Earth.
   Used wisely and slowly in some closed loop system - say waste water to enclosed greenhouse for example, it might have lasted for thousands of years for a small but frugal population on those dry lands.
   Instead we blew it - literally.
   Blew it up in the air through massive one kilometre long sprinklers to grow open air, water hungry crops like wheat.
   Yep, turns out that Saudi Arabia, for but one example, literally blew all of its water resources in a 30 year bid to become self sufficient in food.


     I find the term 'denier' just a tad oblique: what these people deny, most fundamentally,is the idea of any limits on their freedom, aka humanity's potential, all bow down.
     (This is the latest variation of the age old war over the limits, if any, to the physical manifestations of humanity's rational and imaginative mental powers.)
    I prefer a variety of terms, some of them my neologisms, others are commonplace and readily understood.
    For example, Libertarians versus Limiters (rather than Deniers versus Doomers).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

You can never push a denier to water: only lead him gently with a dollar sign ...

    If solar cells had been introduced at 1950s era electric utility shareholders' AGMs by CEOs proclaiming, "They'll double our profits overnight !!", they be in mass use by now.
     Thomas Edison's light bulbs* were an instant world wide hit, despite being 100 times less efficient at converting electricity into light than current solar panels are at converting light into electricity.
   100 times more efficient !!! One hundred times !!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This un-civil war of words is "The News Story of the Century" and it is 3000 years old ...

    On one side : the SKY GODs , utopians clinging to outdated science, all to bolster their denial of any limits to humanity's potential in a limitless Universe.
   On the other side: the EARTHLINGs, realists accepting the newest science, believing that the Earth is a rare, perhaps unique, human-friendly planet that nevertheless operates under biological and material restraints that must be obeyed.

'Facts' as the rhetoric of Prophets : the James Hansen case

   It is a rare - and unwise - prophet who limits themselves to proclaiming that x will happen by year y and leaves it at that.
   No, the prophet usually says, 'you will go to hell for sure - unless you change your ways'.
   Reduced to its fundamentals, it becomes 'x is certain to happen, unless it does not'.
   Not just hard, but impossible, to argue with that.
   Making it excellent fodder for all types of rhetorical 'discourse', as they say in the land of the tenure-stream bound.
    Not that people don't try: usually by taking prophecies out of context - this too is an age old rhetorical trick.
   Denier: 'Hansen said in 2003, temps would be up 5% in 2012 and that isn't so - he is wrong so why should we trust him?'
   Perhaps the denier is right.
    Or perhaps not : maybe what Hansen actually predicted was that temps will be up by 5%,  unless we cut car milage use by 20%.
  We did - and so temps stayed basically flat.
   I was moved to write this post, after reading something Halifax scientist Chris Majka wrote in entitled Thermometer Rising.
    Chris points to the un-snowball effect if consuming arctic-derived petroleum (newly available for us to use, thanks to existing global warming effects) warms up arctic ice enough to release global warming gas methane which in turns leads to more warming and more methane releases on a runaway train to hell.
    In particular, the arctic hydrocarbon flavour of the day for Big Oil is those same trapped methane gas in long frozen arctic deposits.
    But my eye - I am ashamed to say - was more caught on a brief para or two that Chris devoted to the prophets.
    The prophets of science.
     Prophet one : NASA climate change scientist JamesHansen and his claim about the Alberta Tar sands:
    'If all the hydrocarbons in the tar sands are consumed, the temperature will rise by x and it will be game over for CIV.'
    Some have responded to Hansen's claim by stating - as if it was a fact - that 'the future will reveal that not all of those oil sand hydrocarbons will be consumed'.
    What really is at work here are two prophets warring with words , about the unknowable future.
  'If all 100% of tar sands hydrocarbons are consumed the temperature with rise y degrees and we are doomed.'
   'If only 20% of tar sands are consumed, the temp will only go up z degrees, and we are saved.'
    Rhetoric is rhetoric - from scientists or not: the artful art of persuasion.
    We've heard an awful lot from scientists over Hansen's tar sands 'op ed' piece.
    But maybe they should go back to their field studies and labs and let the real experts in this field have their say.
   By that I mean the theologians and the politicians, the used car salesmen and the con-artists: past experts in creating - and dissecting - rhetoric and bluster....

Don't waste your time scanning newspapers of 1945 for reports of MODERNITY's demise...

      The current view that 1945 was the year that Modernity died and Post-Modernity was born wasn't shared by many in that crucial year - at least not consciously.
     No doubt, at all, that many in 1945 were alarmed by modernity's latest 'triumphs' - but even more found those triumphs exhilarating in their potential.
    No, 1945 was established as the year that Post Modernity was born (for once, a curiously apt metaphor) by senior university historians picking suspects out of a police line-up after their university had been occupied and trashed, in May 1968.

    Long-haired protester after long-haired protester: it was soon evident that the vast bulk of them had awoken to life, after 1945.
     (Age ??? I'm 22. Hum, 1968 minus 22 equals 1946, again !)
    Baby-boomers, in another words, were leading the charge against all that most 1960s era senior professors held holy: progress and modernity.
   But what boom - merely the regular boom in pregnancies after every one of humanity's wars or could it just be, perish the impure thought, the babies born post the atomic boom ?
   Post the boom and smoke of Dresden ? Post the human smoke of Auschwitz ?
    Modernity's hegemony was broken in 1945 - yes ! - but among babies not yet born.
   By 1965 to 1973 however, they were fully ready to deny that hegemony and did so - in spades....
   So, a revision: Post Modernity was conceived in 1945, but it first started voting with its feet, in 1968.....

Still raging : the age-old war over the limits - if any - to human potential

      HALIFAX - By all-party agreement in the legislature, it is the law in Nova Scotia that no one can express doubts in public that enormous amounts of oil will not be soon found off Nova Scotia's shores.
     So naturally the news that the province's last remaining oil refinery is to close or become a terminal only, hit many people here very hard.
   Because, because, because of who owns that that oil refinery.

   It is/was owned by Canada's largest oil company Imperial Oil, which itself is owned by the world's largest DENY-ME-NOT oil company Exxon-Mobil , aka Standard Oil The First, the House than John D Rockefeller built.
     If the biggest guys in the oil biz are having doubts about Nova Scotia's future oil prospects, shouldn't the natives on shore, awaiting their $24 in beads and trinkets, be getting a little worried?
   Exxon-Mobil, it is fair to say, are the most utopian corporation on a planet hardly short of utopian businessmen.
    It had funded virtually all of the usual suspects in the carbon pollution denial business and officially, at least, in public , at least, they see a bright future for oil for a long,long time and feel sure, if there is any carbon pollution of the atmosphere, human ingenuity can easily solve it.
    They are thus this planet's principal SKY GODS, Utopians who view human potential as essentially limitless.
    By contrast, those who embrace the metaphor of Global Commensality are Realists who fully accept that humans are mortal biological beings, with constant biological needs, living on a small rare human-inhabitable planet that is, none the less, materially restrained in most ways.
    Deniers versus Doomers ?
    More accurate, by far, to see this civil war as being between
Utopian sky gods, high * in the sky above Nature, versus down to earth Realistic earthlings.....

* High, only in the pharmaceutical sense, of course....

Halifax Naval Base to close, like Refinery & Coast Guard base ?

      HALIFAX - In the event of any all-out war involving Canada, the country's largest military base might be left high and literally dry, 'hors de combat'.
     So why in the name of God is it still here - why not move some of it to St John's Newfoundland and post the bulk of it to a base on Canada's Pacific Coast ?

     After all, that is where many experts are saying our next big global conflict is likely to take place - and fittingly, as it will be a fight over oil - at least British Columbia meets Canada's national security requirements for self-suffiency in the prime mover of war and violence: petroleum products.
   There are a number of pipelines from Saskatchewan and Alberta shipping petroleum to BC, but despite 85 years of talk still no pipeline from the Canadian West to the Atlantic Coast - and Canada's largest military base.
    If a shooting war means Atlantic Basin oil products are embargoed to bigger nations closer to the supply - or cut off from Canada by way of submarine action - the fuel tanks of the military ships and aircraft of CFB Halifax will be left bone dry and useless.
   Judged in that light, closing down CFB Halifax, at least in the eyes of the University of Calgary's smartest men in the universe, begins to make a lot of sense.
   This week, it was announced that the 95 year old Imperial Oil refinery in Dartmouth, the last of Nova Scotia three original oil refineries, will likely close or at best remain as a bare oil terminal.
  Next to it, Dartmouth's Coast Guard base, 55 years old, will also close.
   CFB Shearwater, also in Dartmouth, is more or less closed - a shadow of its former self.
   Victims of Canada's "Dutch Disease" as people and the smart money move West.
   In the summer of 1957, I rode through America when the Canadian dollar was $1.07 US.
   It wasn't hard to see why it was so high : moral hubris - the alter ego of moral panic.
   Everyone in the smart part of the world - the guys with degrees - just knew that nuclear was the wave of the future ( like the Tar Sands are so regarded today.)
    Canada had more uranium than anyone else : ergo bet on the Canadian dollar, the future's so bright we gotta wear shades.
   Just before we got to the American border, we had been delayed for days: every construction truck in the world was on the tiny two lane highway between The Sault (St Marie) and the dirt road to Elliot Lake.
   A zillion uranium mines needed to be built like yesterday, before the US bounty on uranium wore off.
    Canadians and foreigners didn't really believe that time limit on uranium was for real - Canada's uranium boom was going to last forever, or at least as long as today's current tar sands boom.
   But uranium crashed and foreigners fled Canada's dollar as fast - and as stupidly - as they had bought into it.
   Five short years later, the Diefenbaker dollar (size small) doomed the government that had lorded over Canada's short lived uranium boom.
   The western Canadian "TOMORROW COUNTRY" idiots in charge then ?
    Same as the idiots today : the naive,hubristic, full-of-themselves
Con  Party  .........

Harper: Let those Eastern Bastards DROWN in the Dark

     HALIFAX  Threats of rising sea levels kinda look different at the American University of Calgary, the intellectual uterus of the Deny-Me-Nots* and the Sky Gods* currently running the Canadian national government.

     The University of Calgary is a kilometre above sea levels and so feels little of the worries that shoreline residents here in Halifax are experiencing over the rising ocean level threats caused by human carbon pollution of the atmosphere.
     (The biggest single site source of that carbon pollution: Alberta's
Tar Sands...)
     So forget Premier
Ralph Klein and his promise to enjoy watching 'Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark'.
    Now Calgary can sit back and watch as the east 'drowns in the wet'.
    Mind you, if southern Alberta prove to be as bone dry as climate science scientists think it might become, thanks to northern Alberta's Tar Sand carbon pollution, a little of that
wet might go down a treat at a 2040s era suds night at UCal's Economic Department....

  ******  Okay we differ - alright ?!
     You call it the climate change war, between deniers and doomers.
    I say that is just a part of a much bigger and older war- the age-old battle over
Limits, a battle between Sky Gods and Earthlings.
   I am on the side of the Earthlings : because accepting 'global commensality' as reality means accepting that we humans are deeply embedded within all life on earth and all life on earth dines at one table, sharing a strictly limited recycling of scarce biological resources.
High Modernists continue to act like Sky Gods, believing humans are high above Nature and above Nature's biological restraints and material limits.

     I always wonder if the leading Deny-Me-Nots were spoiled rotten as young children, because their highly vocal objections to any sort of restrictions on their rights to do as they please with their dog, their truck, their woman and their planet seems at times pathological or at the very least, deeply rooted in their primeval subconscious.
    The rumours of High Modernity's death in
1945 have been greatly exaggerated. High Modernity still wins the support of the majority of humanity.
  What happened in 1945 and again between 1968-1973, was that its Hegemony was challenged.
   Now there is an ever-growing minority, maybe you among it, who reject it and all its claims.
    If so, please continue to read "
Global Commensality NEWS", to learn more about the good news prospects for our planet....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Multi-universe Commensality NEWS" ? Nah - I'm just string-theorying you along ....

    It is arresting to chart the type of names Halifax ,Nova Scotia based  NGOs have given themselves over the years.
     It can tell us - muchly - about changes over time in communication and transport and how people alter what they conceive of as their home and region.

    Nova Scotia originally was much larger - making up most of the province of New Brunswick, all of PEI province, and all of Cape Breton (which itself was a short-lived province, and so should be again).
   These three provinces have long called themselves the Maritime provinces or more simply and more commonly, the Maritimes.
    After 1949 and the entry of Newfoundland and Labrador as Canada's tenth province, the powers-to-be in Ottawa found all four provinces "Down East" to be provincial beyond belief (this from 1950s Ottawa, that hotbed-not of worldly sophistication !)
   So they got lumped together as Atlantic Canada - neatly excluding the large portion of Quebec that is by any standards of science, in Canada and fully in the Atlantic coastal zone.
    Halifax has always been the capital and biggest city by far of Nova Scotia.
     And since WWII, it has been the biggest city by far of Atlantic Canada and its unofficial capital ---and one of five unofficial regional capitals of Canada.
    When transportation was so bad in Nova Scotia that all rural seats had to be represented in Halifax legislature by Halifax men with business or family ties to that rural area, what would be called today NGOs tended to be realistic and 1840s educators called their new NGO, the Halifax Mechanics' Institute.
    But once rail and steam ship travel was more reliable and speedy, one sees the Nova Scotia Institute for Science in the 1860s.
    By the 1930s, it was common to see NGOs calling themselves the Maritime School of Social Work.
      New post 1970 NGOs, set up by the boomer generation, tended to call themselves the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op.
    (This was real hubris as this co-op of volunteer 'hands-on' amateurs really was effectively Halifax area based.)
    Recently, St Mary's university and the Atlantic School of Theology, two second tier post secondary institutions in national Canadian terms, and located in the smallest by far region in Canada in terms of wealth and population, set up The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs (CCEPA) .
   Chutzpah bravo !! Why should all the national NGOs have to be  run by default out of Ottawa or Toronto ?
      Now the "Global Commensality NEWS" - is my blog and journal an attempt by a Haligonian to bypass Canada and cover the planet ?
      "Global Commensality" is one concept, utterly indivisible - that is why it is in my blog and journal title and my key subject area.
      In fact, while I am thinking globally on this subject, I have tried to limit myself to reporting locally.
     I am working hard to find the hyper-local 'angle' to any international news stories about 'global commensality versus late modernity' (aka Doomers versus Deniers.)
    Can't see, though, why some local Halifax based physicist couldn't blog - straight-faced - under the moniker of Multi-Universe Maven : go for it !

My great-grandfather Eddie as my personal link to era of High Modernity

    The dates of famous scientist Lise Meitner, 1978-1968, perhaps better fits the contours of the age of Peak Scientism and High Modernity.
   But I never met her - I did meet and do remember my great-grandfather. He is my personal link, no matter how remote, to this era I write so much about, think so much about,dream so much about, but was not and never will be, a part of.

     Great-grandfather, Edmund Ormrod Collinge, was conceived in December 1879, as Romanticism laying dying and lived just long enough to see it return in the guise of the foppish clothing worn by all aspiring British pop stars in the mid-sixties, before dying himself in August 3rd 1966.
   As fitting his Era, he worked in Engineering, in the British sense of that term, in the North of England where 'muck is money'.
   He loved motorcycles and my grandmother May's first memory  (she was born in 1900) was riding on the back of her dad's motorbike with her baby brother beside her. This was well before WWI and not long after such powerful bikes were perfected.
   His sons love the new science of radio and radar - my father planned to follow along as an engineer too but ended up instead as a naval navigation/gunnery officer and a philosopher-painter.
    Eddie's great-grandson Richard did become a flying navigation officer in Canada's airforce, on Hercules aircraft, before becoming a project officer for an investment bank.
    My interest  in science and engineering- via this journal "Global Commensality NEWS" - is not in hands-on lab or field science but in these activities impact on society - and society upon them.....

"Peak Scientism" and the price of petro

     The period roughly bracketed by 1878 and 1968 has as many names as my partner Rebecca has relatives (a warm shout-out to the baby-makers of the Little Vatican of Antigonish County Nova Scotia).
     Call it Peak Scientism, High Modernity, Non-Renewable Modernity, Non-Renewal Progress, the Second Industrial Revolution, the Era of Positivism, the Counter-Romanticism Era.
   Many more names besides those - and that is just in English.
   Not easy, this close to the Beast, to get a consensus on its essence.

   But one Powerpoint image of the many, many that Andrew Nikiforuk flashed on the screen at SMU's Sobey's Business School Building in Halifax last night, (hey - he said the talk was a work in progress !) grabbed me by my intellectual short and curlies.
    It was brought to us by the handwritten capital letter M ;  aka a graph of oil prices in current 2010 dollars in the vertical versus the years 1850 to 2010 in the horizontal.
   The high price upper twin towers of that written capital M were just before the late 1870s and just after the early 1970s - the low price trough was the the exact period of the era of Peak Scientism and High Modernity.
  Interestingly, coal, not oil, was the main energy source throughout almost that entire period - oil, by contrast, is what has fueled the post-modern era of hippy-dippy baby boomers : the oil boomer kids , my generation.
   But that relatively tiny amount of petroleum was more than enough to fuel the mental/imaginative travel of billions - rather than fueling their actual - physical - travels.
   Cars - racing cars, motecycles - freedom to go down any and every road in a clud of fumes,dust and speed. Rockets to universes unknown - away from spouse, kids, take-out-the-garbage, mortgage debt, bosses.
    Personal airplanes as cars - not more bound to color along the lines of rail lines and two lane blacktop.
    Freedom !!
    "Global Commensality NEWS", that spokesperson for defending limits to personal freedom to do whatever you want to whoever you want when and wherever you want has two words to say:
        St Brieux, Saskatchewan

    In the air above this tiny remote community, two planes collided and all five on board died --- pieces of planes and body bits raining down over a one square kilometre area on the ground.
    The myth is that flying in the air promises totally freedom to go anywhere as your whim hits you.
   What actually does hit you, if you do give in to the urge to go just anywhere your fancy moves you, is someone else's wing tip : game over forever.
   Small plane owners have less ,not more ,freedom than car owners or walkers - they must file a flight plan, time and speed and direction indicated - and stick to it - or planes collide.
   This is with maybe one hundred thousand small plane owners in the air around the world at any one time - try to imagine 9 billion plane owners with a billion small planes crisscrossing the skies
randomly at any one moment.
    Disaster !
   This is Late Modernity's dream and delusion.
    Please help us stop that delusion before they crash our entire planet instead of just their personal plane.
   Or the song won't be "It's Raining Men" but rather "It's Raining Bits and Pieces of Men ! "......

Never invest in a stock that actuaries and accountants are bailing from....

     If seems a safe rule: if the number-crunchers and bean-counters don't like a project why should little old un-informed you invest your hard-earned pesos into it ?
   A current stock those geeks with calculators and glasses and briefcases (briefcases - in the 21st century !) are jumping ship and swimming away from as fast as they can is the Heartless Heartland Institute and atmospheric carbon pollution denial.
   Insurance company dudes mostly - the same guys that pay the giga-dollar bill bills when coastal mega-cities are flooded out in bigger-than-normal storms.
   They don't like the math.
   Neither does "Global Commensality NEWS" .

    Now I realize - their abject protestations to the contrary , that business people do not really rely on math but rather on faith,optimism, hubris (in equal parts) to seal the deal on any project.
    But that is in the CEO's manic phase.
    When she or he is in their depressive state, they do listen to accountants and angry shareholders with class action suits.
   European insurance CEOs have been to the black night of the soul on climate change disasters and fled the scene.
  Finally, thankfully, North American insurance is beginning to do the same...

Andrew Nikiforuk: Addiction to energy slaves fuels our heartlessness,violence - and OBESITY & SLOTH

   HALIFAX - Andrew Nikiforuk told a packed Sobey lecture hall at St Mary's University (SMU) last night that about the worst thing imaginable that could happen to humanity and this planet would be if we suddenly discovered a safe,cheap, abundant source of renewable energy.
  This is because it would actually worsen our current addiction to energy slaves, laziness and heartlessness - if only because, this time, we'd kid ourselves that at least our consciences were clear.

   Nikiforuk himself seems a fount of natural energy ,winning about as many major -  highly different- awards for writing and advocacy as he has written major - highly different - books and articles on a wide variety of subjects.
   May I venture that his latest book, "The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude", forthcoming this Fall * and which Andrew previewed for the first time in public at SMU, may vault
him out of the ranks of journalism and into the ranks of public intellectuals.
   Appropriate for a lecture delivered at a Catholic University and sponsored - in part - by that university's Philosophy Department and by CCEPA ,(Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Policy, itself a joint venture of SMU and AST (the Atlantic School of Theology), Nikiforuk referenced the moral impact that slavery has always had upon the masters of those slaves.
    In particular, Andrew focused on slave-owning's conversion, in the last two centuries, from something a relatively few families did (with a few dozen slaves each) to something all human families now do with thousands of slaves each.
    No longer human slaves (at least not usually in our homes - we prefer to hide them in factories in rural China), instead these are machine-energy slaves, with about the same (lack of) rights as past human slaves.
   Powered mostly by Non-Renewable-Modernity's greatest gift to ever-upward progress : fossil fuels, that gift from the past that does not keep on giving.
   Current obesity levels and addiction to GPS travel are really nothing new points out Nikiforuk : whenever slaves are abundant,obedient (on pain of painful death) and clever, masters will end up relying upon them for everything but eating and burping.
    Sloth neatly combines with a heartlessness to the slaves' continuing existence, as long as the violence of every master society and their armies, can keep bringing in new fresh supplies.
   Only when slaves are expensive and in sort supply does their treatment then to improve.
   But this depressing picture can be removed, Nikiforuk seemed to argue, if we morally re-embrace useful, healthy physical labour as a positive virtue and return again to the religious injunction against owning any slaves - human, animal or inanimate.
   St Benedict walked away from slave-owning and its mindset and set up a worldwide order, fueled this time by the practises of a small remote peasant village where healthy useful work was combining with knowing how to enjoy life, simply, with family and friends.
   What our world is waiting for - without even knowing it - says Nikiforuk, quoting approvingly from one of Global Commensality NEWS's favourite thinkers, Alastair MacIntyre, is a new St Benedict....

   *At all the biggest - not alway the best - bookstores.

Global Commensality NEWS : MODERNITY ain't dead - yet !

   Baring reliable dental records to the contrary, reports of the death of MODERNITY circa 1945 (as a result of collateral damage from the first Nuremberg Trial) have been greatly exaggerated.
   So here I am sitting at the GCN ("Global Commensality NEWS") obit desk trying my darndest to write an obit - 70 years later - for "the Era that refuses to die", but yet must die, if humanity is to live.

   This does not mean that instead of bringing you hopeful news of the new Era of Global Commensality, I will now turn the GCN journal into a sort of "Modernity Deathwatch Bulletin".
   I will have to balance both situations in my news reporting.
   But have no doubt exactly where I stand:
   GCN's mission, as I see it, is to convince you, all of you , that we must finally make our goodbyes with Modernity and warmheartedly embrace Global Commensality, if humanity and this planet is to survive into the next centuries...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Science entangled within Society, Society entangled within Science : dining at a common table

   "Global Commensality" is such a protean metaphor, n'est ce pas ?
    Global, of course in the French sense, means all-encompassing.
    Commensality - of course means "dining together", which has to be the world's second oldest intimate "profession".

    Science and Society influence each other so much, round and round and, it is as if they dine together frequently at some common table.
   Like Mr Dooley's Supreme Court, do the journals NATURE and SCIENCE follow (and review) the election returns -- and the Supreme Court?
  Of course, eventually.
   Just as the Supreme Court- most famously in "Buck versus Bell" - eventually follows (reviews) NATURE and SCIENCE.
  This is why GCR's name (global - commensality -review) is a bit of a tease and a bit of a pun: yes it is following and reviewing the eternal re-cycling of scarce life-resources among on all life forms on Earth.
   But it is also following and reviewing the co-mingling of the body fluids of Science and Society as they work with and against each other, stuck together on this tiny lifeboat we call our only home....


GCN's 'Back Story' : growing up a "LITTORAL" commensalist, becoming a global commensalist ...

  My own personal 'back story' actually.
  I was three and a half in 1955 when I first saw Chezzetcook Inlet - we were moving into our new home in Seaforth, Nova Scotia, along that half drowned river valley cum estuary.
   But it wasn't my first experience of living along a water's edge: far from it.

   My parents grew up along the edge of St Clair River, part of the Great Lakes system, in Windsor Ontario - a few minutes walk to the river's edge. It seemed an hourly occurrence to see large steamships sail past the end of their street.
  I was conceived there but was actually born born in Victoria, BC. Lived there twice, actually - both times close to the water's edge.
   I later lived in Milton and Southsea, water's edge sections of Portsmouth - itself basically an island of the ocean, so very very close indeed to the mainland of Britain that most aren't aware of it's island status.
   I lived for a time in Vancouver, but in the UBC Endowment grounds - at the very tip of Vancouver - the ocean minutes walking away, even for a small kid.
  I later lived for a time in Putney and Ealing - river's edge suburbs of London England.
   I live twice in Dartmouth Nova Scotia, the last time for 20 years  and now for 30 years in Halifax --- very close to the water's edge.
   However, like all my other homes bar one, still one not quite within sight of it.
 You see, despite all those years living near the water's edge, I never actually lived within direct sight and smell and feel of it - except in Seaforth.
   That it is why Seaforth was so important to my mental formation - that and the age I was when I lived there.
   I lived there full time for only brief periods - in 1955-1956 and between 1961 and1965.
   But both periods were critical. In the first I was just old enough to retain those all important firm first memories.
  In the second period, I was in my critical 10-14 period of maturation.
  In addition, I should say I was in Seaforth all summer between the ages of 14 and 18 and for much of the summer (and bouts of winter,fall and spring) ever since.
   Our family still owns land there - my parents moved back gradually to full time residency, after moving to Dartmouth full time for just 5 years.
   The next land fall our Seaforth house looks out seaward to, is I believe, Bordeaux in southern France. The open ocean is but 200 metres away---- and incidentally it is relatively rare in Nova Scotia to see the open ocean from a house- our province is a coast of deep bays.
   Ocean wind and rain storms lash our 150 year old house, built literally like a sailing ship, until it creaks alarmingly like an old sailing ship 'working' in high seas.
  But our part of Seaforth is only a tiny part of a much larger system : starting in the interior watershed for Chezzetcook River and Lake, it becomes a tidal flats cum narrow drowned river valley estuary, before emptying into the ocean between two guard barriers of resistance rock.
   The original soil is terrible, but Chezzetcook is blessed by being the centre of a vast field of red clay drumlins that form its arable hills, its capes and its inlet islands.
  Between drumlins and the rich marine life produced in such a littoral zone, the earliest settlers - first Micmac aboriginals and then their relatives among the earliest Acadians, eked out an adequate life here.
   In 1962, aged ten, I heard and read the uproar about Rachel Carson's article and then book "SILENT SPRING". It impressed my young mind muchly. ( I had just started reading adult books and magazines and listening to adult radio.)
  But may I confess ? I never could get far in her book - then and now - past the first chapter or two.
   No mind - our family, like millions of others, was pre-sold to believe her based on our enjoyment of her earlier- better - book : "THE SEA AROUND US".
   Our bible, every time we went to a beach or a rock pool.
   Soooooooooo - given my 'back story' ---- how could I not help but to grow up a littoral commensalist .
  And it was that  plus the fact I knew as a young kid that my morning glass of milk was likely laced with Strontium 90 fallout from an nuclear explosion half a world away ,made me a confirmed global commensalist from an early age....

 --- Michael Marshall

Two thirds of humanity are "Littorally" commensalists - and don't even know it !

   Two thirds of humanity lives along the edges of waterways - oceans, rivers, lakes : living in the Littoral Zone, as biologists and ecologists like to call it.
   Seaforth, along the Chezzetcook Lake/River/Inlet system is an example of but one such community drawn to the littoral.

   That place of half water/half land --- that highly biologically productive co-mingling of bodily fluids, that highly productive miscegenation of land and water - that bastard,mongrel, metis, half breed of  terra firma and H2O.
   It is that very high productivity that led humanity to the water's edge and kept it there - even in the days of Galton and Darwin when Social Darwinism proclaimed the degenerate dangers of mixing and half-breededness.
   But few within humanity are well taught in the public school system of the importance of water's-edge-living in the history of mankind and that is to be pitied.
   Because land and water mixing and sharing of each other - fresh and salt water mixing and sharing of each other ---- they are a textbook case of global commensality : littorally ....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Science under the microscope: the old BIG question versus the new BIG question

   GCR is not at all interested in the old BIG question that animated so many researchers for so many years : how exactly are scientific discoveries  made ?
   The new BIG question for ordinary citizens/activists as well as for those academics in the areas of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPST), is this:
 How exactly are scientific discoveries made popular ?

   Not made public, mark you well : how are they made popular - popular enough in some cases to overthrow the old paradigms of not just professional scientists but of all world culture.
   In particular, GCR is driven to find out why the startling discoveries made in science between 1895 and 1935 are still not popular science.
    Popular as in, 'found in public school teaching and textbooks' or as in 'found in the mindsets of politicians,newspaper editors and CEOs - not to mention their voters,readers and customers.'
  Why did it take the Apocalypse of 1945 to even begin the process of popularization?
   And if Modernity did fall in 1945 as 'everybody* claims', why is it still alive and well in the 2010s - in fact, a very fit competitor to its fresh young replacement - Global Commensality ?
   (*Albeit the Deniers yet have not addressed this question, but rest assured - when they do ,they will deny this consensus as well. )
   Peering through this historical prism, GCR tends to see the current debate between Deniers and Doomers as a re-hash of the old,old debate between Sky Gods and Earthlings, from the time of WWII...

GCN's "P3" Theory of Communications

   GCN thinks there is absolutely no difference what so ever between getting your paper into NATURE, your play onto Broadway or your party into Parliament.
   They all follow the same wellworn "P3" path.

    Originating from secretly to semi-secret Private - via gatekeepers to nominally or widely Published via gatekeepers to currently or perpetually Popular.
   Note the audacious claim that there is no such thing as Public information....

Move over Mengele ; We're Number One , We're Number One !

    Hotly-contested Canadian election after election goes by and Canadians lament the results don't even rate a squib in most foreign news media.
   Diplomats inform them that Canadians rate below "watching paint dry", even below Belgians and the Swiss, in the most boring things on Earth contest.
   But not anymore, and for this, Canadians can lift their voices to the Heavens and in one loud voice proclaim : "Thank you Mr Harper - thank you, thank you, thank you !!!!"

   JAMES HANSEN is the best known and most respected scientist on the "human carbon pollution of the atmosphere is causing grievous climate change" brief.
  When he decides to pen an opinion piece in the pages of the New York Times, his comments get amplified and repeated in all the nations of the world's major media, bar none.
   Oops !
   Bar one ---- Canada.
   Maybe it's something he said.
   Maybe it's because he said that if Canada does proceed on its present course and fully develops its tar sands, it's "game over for the climate", for civilization and for 50% of all species.
   Hansen's opinion piece pointed out a fact that is rarely noted (at least in the servile mainstream Canadian media) : all the carbon bound up in the tar sands of Canada is twice the amount of all the carbon pollution we have already added to the atmosphere from all the nations' use of petroleum, throughout all of history.
   For years, we've been taught that Dr Joseph Mengele and his Nazi pals were the biggest threat to civilization and the planet.
  "Well, you'd sorta expect that kinda of thing from the Prussians now wouldn't you ?" went the sneer.
   "I mean - well - the Prussians aren't like Canadians, now are they? Not like that northern blessedly Peaceable Kingdom at all."
   No, the Prussians are not: they have stopped their nuclear plants and are devoting much of their highly respected brainpower to solar and wind science.
   By contrast - and thanks to Stephen Harper and that nice old couple down your street who put up a Tory sign in the last election - the Canadians are no longer considered 'boring' by their worldly neighbours.
   Forget "Apocalypse Now" - its "Apocalypse Eh !" - death by tar mixed with maple syrup.
   No, now words like 'evil' and 'mass murder' are what come to mind when other nations' citizens, investors, immigrants and tourists think of Canada.
  We're Number One, We're Number One, We're Number One    !!!!!!!!!!!!  ....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why are we STILL teaching kids "FLAT EARTH" geometry ?

   Parallel Lines of Longitude : what lines ? Aren't parallel lines supposed to never meet , but don't parallel longitudes actually meet - at our North and South Poles ?
    What in the name of all public school math is going on here?

    Forget public educational authorities bowing to political correctness pressure from those who deny human carbon pollution of the atmosphere and that species evolve over time.
    Most of us believe the world is not flat but a sphere - a blue sphere - we've seen the photos of it taken out in space.
   But the math we teach in school comes across like it was handed down on tablets of stone to Moses.
   (Along with Commandant 11: "Thou shall not claim that fossil fuels will ever run out, though you also deny that fossils ever did run about.")
  It is called Euclidean Geometry and it has the outstanding advantage of being simple to demonstrate on a classroom chalkboard and thus in making even ho-hum mathematicians seem god-like.
   Where it isn't at all simple to demonstrate, is out in the physical world.
  Out there it is not actually correct  or true - at least not true like a law carved out on stone and handed down to you by G.O.D. Himself should be.
  It is actually a 'quick and dirty', 'close enough for the P. Eng', type of rough and ready 'field math'.
  Fail to believe, oh Earthling ?
  Take your bog-ordinary orange -- it looks a lot like the Earth - which it should as both are spheres or balls.
   Score it around the equator and then from North Pole to South Pole and back again - then turn it horizontally 180 degrees and again score it from Pole to Pole and back.
  You now have divided the Earth-cum-orange's surface into 8 equal parts: triangles.
  Or are they ?
   A triangle, as your dimly remembered High School teacher was always quick to remind you, is such that all of its internal angles always add up to180 degrees.
  Measure those 1/8ths of an orange carefully and then reflect.
  Don't add up to 180 degrees do they ?
  Welcome to the incredibly useful world of non-Elucidean math : the math of measuring land for land sales on this sphere we call Earth.
   Well, actually, unless the piece of land is very big indeed we are unlikely to note the error in measurement if we don't use non-Elucidean geometry.
   But it is there and it matters , or should matter, to the two thousand years of mathematicians who failed to even notice the error let alone chose to ignore it.
  Yep, the would-be "Masters of the Universe" turned out to be "The Gang who Couldn't Measure Straight "!
   Elucidean math is incredibly useful --- and long may we ordinary joes and josephines continue to use it in our ordinary daily lives.
   But let us also hear from the world's collected mathematicians a big and sincere apology, a sort of scientific Truth and Reconciliation, over them foisting Euclid's Geometry upon us and upon themselves as the only,the only possible, presentation of  physical reality.
   Yeah - as if that is likely !
    As if highly educated mathematicians are going to admit to us that they didn't notice the math implications of the fact that the world was round, long after even uneducated peasants knew it was round.
   If stuff like this gets around, then where will their pensions and their prestige be ....

DARWIN at his ethical worst : the Janet Browne biography

   Admitably GCR did rather hit out at Thomas Huxley in the blog post about Bernie Lightman at Kings College University.
   But no one was more critical of the hierarchical nature of Victoria Science than Thomas Huxley - and rightly so !
   Janet Browne, Darwin's biographer, frequently takes a useful forensic accounting approach to her subject's efforts.
    Pointing out that the cost of even the basic microscope his doting father gave him as a boy, was worth the annual income of *several* farm labourer families.
   Their kids might have better powers of observation that Charles, but were unlikely to make much of them without the ability to own a basic microscope.
   Darwin, not Wallace, got the fame for the Theory of Evolution, she points out, in part because the incredibly high cost of scientific illustrations favoured the rich amateur over the poor amateur -- both scientist and average reader responded better to lavishly illustrated articles in an age starved for visual information of distant or obscure events.
   And because Darwin could afford to use the (private) letter post to further his public aims by spending what was then the equivalent of a large middle class annual income simply on postage and paper.
   GCR asked Browne on a her visit to Dal whether some of the revelations* she uncovered had lowered her estimation of the personal character of Darwin, as it had done for us, and she was less than fulsome in her defense of Darwin it seemed.
   *Such as him stealing/borrowing a document he particularly wanted from the grieving widow of a poorer colleague, because he was sure he could get away with it. 
   Huxley's oblique response to rich amateurs (like his friend Darwin) was to publicly urge that if institutions (and thus ultimately the public) provided the equipment and lab rooms (and salaries), and individual scientists simply provided the brain power to use them, Society could then make use of the best brains around .
   Then the British would no longer be simply 'getting by' scientifically , by being content to just use 'good-to-average brains, but with rich daddies' ....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN's "warbaby" now runs Canada's war on the environment

    Feisty "Jumpin' Joe" Oliver is 72 years young and unofficially is Canada's Minister of Natural Resources (officially he is the Minister responsible for the War on the Environment and Environmentalists.)
   To understand why he got the role of the pitbull in the Harperville movie, it helps to recall that "Jumpin' Joe" was conceived the week that Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany.

   Hard to say exactly what happened more than 72 years ago, but in every war and in every country around the world many, many couples suddenly get 'frisky' when war is declared.
   Because, at the very least, becoming a brand new daddy can help keep him out of the war.
   At 72, "Jumpin' Joe" is one of the oldest cabinet ministers since the heyday of the Old Man Canadian federal cabinets of the 1950s.
   But "Jumpin' Joe" wasn't an old man back then - far from it.
   He was still just 15 when Canada's fabulous Fifties Resource Boom got under way, in the days when cars had fins like dinosaurs and were the size of small aircraft carriers.
   If the age of fifteen is the time when our most formative experiences happen, that "Jumpin' Joe" never forgot those heady days after Leduc #1 gushed black oil and the sky was as big and as blue as the eyes of an Alberta rancher.
   Now finally - 50 years later - he is finally getting a chance to relive those teenage dreams.
   Limits to what Canada can do in Tomorrow Country ?
    Joe denies all that as just tommyrot from a bunch of defeatist young 'uns.
   In his youth, young people believed, they had faith.
   In Progress and in an Ever-Better Tomorrow.
    Joe is still 16 , still behind the wheel of a cherry-red '37 coupe.
   Only this time, the hot rod vehicle he is burning up the rubber with is called 'Canada's Tar Sands'.
   So look carefully, both ways, on any road this 72 year old 'perpetual teenager' might be joyriding down, behind his souped-up, Syncrude-sized, gas-guzzling machine.....

HALIFAX: researching the under-researched 75% of the world's surface ....

   HALIFAX - The University of  Calgary Posse now occupying Ottawa appears mystified as to why tiny Halifax has any research facilities at all - let alone as much as it currently does have.
   "What on God's green Earth can Halifax do in the way of research that couldn't be done better,quicker and cheaper in Calgary or Edmonton's fine facilities " is their plaint.

   Well the port of Halifax could start by pointing out how well equipped it is - by nature, not by man - to investigate the woefully under-researched 75% of the blue Earth's surface that is NOT bone-dry prairie soil but rather is wet ocean, lake, river and ice cap.
   This year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of THE BEDFORD INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY, much better known as simply BIO and it is here in Halifax for that very simple reason.
   Halifax has long considered itself and advertised itself as the Gateway into Canada, a mere whistle stop on the road to somewhere else more important - like the Golden West.
  But it could - it should - tout its considerable charms as the gateway out - out into the oceans of the world.
  The problem with most Albertans, like most Afghans, is that they are physically and mentally land-locked and simply don't get out as much as they should.
   Whatever the faults of  the Atlantic Canadians living in five out of ten of Canada's provinces - and they are many - being provincially minded isn't one of them.
   Is there ANY science news to review in Atlantic Canada ?
    You betcha ....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

RCN to the Rescue ! Penicillin & Meningitis : the NOVA SCOTIA connection

   If your family doctor just thinks your child might have meningitis, she or he is likely to break all manner of speed laws getting to your house - but once there, might surprise you by pulling out the oldest - not the newest - medicine in their little black bag to save your child's life.
   The news this week that research scientist Richard Din died of meningitis contracted while working in a San Francisco government lab highlights just how rapidly fatal (mere hours) this disease can be.
   Conversely, it still remains a disease which even the greenest of interns knows requires an immediate big needle of good old penicillin "G", (the original antibiotic, now in use clinically for almost 75 years).
 It  should always be given, they are constantly reminded, on the merest suspicion of meningitis, even before any tests are back to confirm it.
   Norma Salah,77, who died this week from injuries incurred when she was attacked in her home last month, was the very first Nova Scotian publicly identified as having her life saved by penicillin --- 68 years ago,  in July 1944.
   And yes - she too had meningitis.
   A week earlier ( July 12 1944) , Ottawa had announced that extremely small amounts of penicillin would soon be made available to the bigger civilian hospitals for select life-threatening disease cases.
     But none had arrived at Halifax's Children Hospital and probably none at any of the other (adult) civilian Halifax hospitals either.
    Norma, then the 9 year old daughter of Mr and Mrs John Salah of 51 Agricola Street in Halifax, had severe meningitis and her doctors were despairing for her survival, unless she got a big fat needle of penicillin "G".
    And STAT !  (As they always say on the TV medical shows.)
   The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) had some emergency-only penicillin in its military hospital in Halifax - and was willing to 'lend' a little to the civilians,  if Ottawa said okay.
   The head of the RCN was Navy Minister Angus L MacDonald, in peacetime premier of Nova Scotia and an MLA for a Halifax riding.
   His Department - naturally - was happy to say yes and Norma's life was saved with hours to spare.
   That there was penicillin at all for Norma and for the Canadian Navy was mostly due to the persistence of a Nova Scotia born, New York City based doctor and to the meningitis death, years earlier, of Mary Louise Smith of Brooklyn New York.
   Dr Martin Henry Dawson, born in Truro in 1896, was the holder of a Military Cross for bravery in wartime  ---- and was equally brave in peacetime as well.
   Though dying himself of a painful and incurable disease, he had fought the American government and Big Pharma for years to just give penicillin grown by fungus "a chance", a chance to save lives.
   But the wise money, as always - even in wartime , was for holding off until patentable/profitable man-made penicillin could be synthesized. (It has never been synthesized commercially) .
   Dawson got lucky when his own success curing incurable diseases with penicillin finally got to a certain Mr and Mrs Smith, the parents of a little girl called Mary Louise.
   She had died years earlier of meningitis. Dawson made it very clear to the husband in this couple, 'yes many diseases could only be cured by large amounts of scarce penicillin but that meningitis was decidedly not one of them'.
    With meningitis, Time not Amount, is paramount.
   The most common and deadliest form of the disease is caused by the meningitis bacteria itself and fortunately they practically fell over dead if someone so much as merely mentioned penicillin in the next room over.
   It was probably the gentle but persistent nagging of Mrs Mae Smith on her hard-nosed husband John L Smith, that finally moved him off of his traditional commercially-oriented caution and into an eight month period when he climbed onto a wagon and proclaimed to the world for all to hear :"I have seen the light - the light of natural penicillin- and have been as if born again."
   John L Smith had the power to make natural penicillin better than anyone else on earth - if he was so moved - because he was the head of a company that was better than anyone else in the world at extracting penicillin-like substances from molds.
   Hitherto, his company was a mid-sized company devoted to supplying citric acid from molds to the soda pop industry and was basically unknown to the public.
   But when John L turned Pfizer loose on the penicillin problem, well yes, our whole world changed - for ever.
    As did the world of Pfizer as well - it's easy to bet you've heard of them !
   By the time Norma got sick with meningitis on July 19th 1944, North America was about to be awash in Pfizer-grown penicillin in the long, long pipeline from their Marcy Avenue plant to the frontline family doctor.
   Only concern about unforeseen war needs overseas kept governments cautious about releasing too much to the Home Front.
   However - thanks to a dying little girl with meningitis in Brooklyn, the Royal Canadian Navy, a Nova Scotia premier, and a Nova Scotia born doctor, Norma's life was saved.
  She entered history for all time as the first Nova Scotian to be saved by an antibiotic - her death this week by murder shouldn't change any of that....

POPULAR SCIENCE has always included people talking to scientists as well as scientists talking to people ...

   HALIFAX - Professor Bernie Lightman, the editor of the prestigious history of science journal ISIS, told the 150th anniversary lecture celebration of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science (NSIS) at Kings College University on May 7th, that Victorian popularizers of Science encompassed far more types of individuals and organizations than the well known science practicioner-popularizers like Thomas Huxley that most histories of Victoria science popularization begin and conclude with.
  In speaking to the NSIS of non-scientists who dared speak in public about the sacred religion of Science (all bow), Lightman was in a very real sense, speaking to the converted.

   But Lightman's account of the extraordinarily wide variety of Victoria popularizers was a rebuke to popular science as it is regarded today, where most of those allowed to write about science are either prominent scientists or prominent science journalists.
   It is no game for amateurs both editors and readers seem to say.
   Perhaps in the area of popular science books, this is definitely true.
   But citizen amateurs are writing lots about science in blogs and being seriously read - to adapt an old joke about the Internet: 'on the Internet, no one knows you're a blog'.
   Meaning that visually, the blog of the top science journalist at the New York Times, of a Nobel Prize winning scientist, or from Josephine Blow from down the road , all tend to look alike.
   The blogging price of entry starts low and it starts free and neither Nobel Prize-winning academic footnoting nor mega media corporate money will enable any blog to separate themselves from their lessors.
   A future century's Dr Lightman will , beyond a doubt, be looking at blogs rather than lecture halls and Powerpoint magic lantern shows to locate the nexus of popular scientific debate in the 21st century....

The Boys of Summer '44 : DODGERS tank but Brooklyn shines in extended road trip: Omaha,Utah,Juno,Gold,Sword ...

   In that crucial summer of 1944, the Dodgers were on their way to the cellar in baseball, but despite that, something far greener and far more golden than "A Tree" was growing in Brooklyn and for a time, best-selling author Betty Smith had to move aside for an unknown chemist called "John L" (Smith).
   During WWII some say that there was a sign at the entrance to Brooklyn, off the Brooklyn Bridge, that said "Welcome to Brooklyn, the Borough that Builds."

   The borough that builds indeed !
   During WWII, Brooklyn was most famous for the Brooklyn Naval Yard ,where the US Navy was building the Iowa class battleships , the world's biggest killing machines.
   Less well remembered is Brooklyn's lead role in building the world's smallest lifesaving machine : tiny ampules of penicillin from Pfizer's Marcy Avenue Plant.
   Along with lots of weapons and K-rations, the D-Day beaches had plenty of those ampules delivered to the beaches, against all odds, in just the nick of time for the first mass clinical trial of the world's first - and best - antibiotic.
   Penicillin must be the only antibiotic that was literally baptised by fire.
   Most of the penicillin on those blood-stained beaches came from just one plant: and that plant was Pfizer's, hitherto if know at all, known for making citric acid for soda pop.
  A definite thirst quencher, but hardly a lifesaver - except in Coke ads.
   If Pfizer boss, "John L", (or more likely his wife, Mae) hadn't become a last minute convert to the life-saving powers of fungi-grown penicillin over the mirage of man-made penicillin, there won't have been any amount of penicillin on those beaches.
   Brooklyn isn't the industrial power it once was - the jobs have all gone to China and Mexico - but when it had to, it did it up right.
   The Boys of Summer that summer weren't just from Brooklyn, they were from all over - and they really needed Brooklyn and Pfizer to bat 1.0 if they were to pull through.
  They did --- and they did.
   In that light, who really cares if the Dodgers tanked that year .....

NEWTONIAN MODERNITY dies June 6th 1944, in hail of hand grenades ...

   The most effective, the most pinpoint accurate, guided missiles of all WWII ?
   The bog-common hand grenade.
  And usually thrown by a man thought too stupid, too small, too unhealthy to join the real armed forces: which is why he ended up in the infantry as an MOS 745, aka the bog-ordinary rifleman.
   Now he was lobbing that grenade from 10 or 20 feet away , into a MG (machine gun) emplacement, or a concrete pillbox, or down the barrel of a big artillery piece --- and winning the battle for Omaha Beach, turning the potential D-Day disaster into ultimate victory.

   More than just a few German and foreign conscripts died in those emplacements on that day: Newtonian Modernity also suffered a grievous blow from which it never recovered.
   For weeks earlier and on that day itself, the biggest guns in the Allied navy and the biggest bomber fleets in the Allied air forces, had tried and tried to shut down those emplacements with massive blasts of HE (high explosives) delivered via Newtonian ballistics.
   In Newtonian theory (the then dominant paradigm to explain the entire world) it was felt that given enough accurate information, one could correct point and elevate a gun at a distant target, press the 'trigger' and walk away : 'fire and forget'.
   If the math was right the shell would wing its way unerringly to the target.
   But out in the real world, the problem proves to be a 'many body problem' - one that no amount of Newton will resolve.
  The most sophisticated use of Newtonian math and the best in analog computers was on board those battleships and bombers : fire control equipment from famous names like Norden and Sperry.
   But nothing worked - both the destructive power of high explosives and the accuracy of Newtonian fire control was highly exaggerated and knowingly oversold.
   Today we do have smart bombs and guided missiles but they do not make their way to the target accurately via Newton's math.
    No, all their guiding GPS signals are only rendered accurate when Quantum mechanics and Relativity are used to correct their raw data.
    But back to 1944: in the end, it took brave infantrymen like Captain Joe Dawson ( no relation except perhaps spiritually to former infantryman Lt Martin Henry Dawson)  who had to climb the cliffs above the bloody sand and take out the deadly machine gunners (often just single individuals like the famous Heinrich Severloh) and save the situation.
  So, it was down to this : forget the hundreds of thousands of men and the biggest military machines money and science could create trying - via Newton - to take out the D-Day German coastal defences.
  Instead, the entire Allied invasion of Europe was reduced to a 'High Noon' type duel battle between a lone German with a machine gun and a lone American with a hand grenade.
    If that lone German succeeded long enough in holding the Americans to the beach, German tanks might arrive to drive them off the beach altogether, and thus divide the united Allied beachhead into little pieces and then proceed to conquer it piece by piece - a classic German tactic.
   But if the lone American lobbed his grenade just right, the MG fire would cease and the men could move off the beach and go a few miles inland, giving a depth of defence sufficient to blunt any later German armoured counterattack.
  D-Day turned out to be a low tech victory in a war that was claimed above all to be a high tech scientific war : don't believe the liars and deniers who say otherwise.
   They outa make a movie out of the duel : Dawson versus Severloh for the Fate of the Earth --- except who in Hollywood would ever buy the script --- it seems too improbable.
  Once again, fact beggars fiction...

Forget the 1% versus the 99% : try the .2ppm versus the rest of us !

   Interstate 495 (I 495) is much better known as "THE BELTWAY", as in 'opinion inside the Beltway'. That is because I495's 64 miles of asphalt is solely devoted to encircling Washington DC and its inner suburbs.
  What goes on inside that tiny 'bubble of hot air' has a far greater effect on the cultural - and thus political/social/economical and biological - life of the globe than all the rest of the world combined.
  Opinion makers (opinion-takers?) from all around our planet take their cues from what is said or not said/ done or not done inside that tiny blessed circle.

   Or is that Washington DC's "Blesse' Circle" ?
    3300 squares miles of self importance : versus 200,000,000 square miles left for the rest of us.
   So ".2 parts per million" rules the rest of the mix.
   You may have heard of the "RESISTING THE GREEN DRAGON", an evangelical front organization actually partially
funded by Big Oil and orchestrated by those " Beelzebubs of the Beltway" --- the lobbyists.
   It is yet another example of the astroturfing efforts of the Reality-Deniers.
   Some people say that cars goes around and around that Beltway.
   Untrue: what actually goes around and around is the money-changers of the 21st century.
   The Beltway is really a 'money loop' turning semi-clean money into very dirty money.
  In the case of the Reality-Deniers, that money is running through cutouts and front men to secret numbered bank accounts in offshore havens, with impressive-sounding organizations existing physically only as separate box office numbers, together with agents and their handlers and fellow travellers riding along side.
  On and on and on ---- including all the rest of the Cold War spy world --- as revealed in endless government commission reports and lurid 'fictional' novels.
   Michael Crichton had his own lurid novel about a shadowy spy world of green environmentalists ---- isn't past due time, that others rip this astroturfing story from the headlines and do up some novels of these Reality-Deniers and their Liars-For-Hire...

Monday, May 7, 2012

con:FUSION of deuterium & tritium : moderated by KOOL-AID of course - which its promoters will later drink ...

   Is there anything one can do to convince GCR to back nuclear fission plants?
   Sure : just threaten to develop nuclear fusion plants, instead.

   Today's nuclear plants -fission nuclear plants- are just extraordinarily expensive ,but low tech, kettles to boil water.
   Fusion plants will use even more expensive means to boil water - technology so high tech we haven't even invented it yet and probably never will.
   And the expense ?
   Don't get us started !
   Besides of which we already have a near-perpetual, safe, cheap (free) source of endless amounts of fusion energy.
   We call it the SUN.
    It is safe fusion energy because it is 93 million miles from us.
    It is cheap because the SUN does up fusion right - it does it in a power plant a million miles in diameter, not in the tiny little human sized boxes con:fusion promoters plan to use.
   The money the world of Know-Nothing political leaders and Say-Anything physicists has been throwing at fusion power for the last 70 years would have given us high efficiency/cheap photocell panels from Pole to Pole.
   But the mantra of the Limit-Deniers is ,as always : "Anything the SUN of GOD can do, we can do better...."

NORMA SALAH, first Nova Scotian saved from death by PENICILLIN

67 years ago on July 24th 1944, the Halifax Chronicle Herald newspaper reported that Norma Salah had been snatched from the jaws of death by the new miracle drug PENICILLIN, which had just been released (in limited amounts for only the gravest cases) to  Canadian civilian hospitals, starting on the 12th of that same month.
   Norma was probably the first, or among the very first Nova Scotians, to have their lives saved by the world's most beloved medicine.
  Today's newspapers here mention the tragic death - from stabbing - of  a Norma Salah ,age 77.

   I haven't confirmed it, but it seems at least highly probable, that she is that same little girl from all those years ago.
   If so, what a sad ending to such a hopeful start in life....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DAWSON & RADIOACTIVITY : conceived on the same day (Nov 8 1895) ?

   Dr Martin Henry Dawson was born on August 6th 1896 and was conceived about 9 months earlier.
    Early November 1895, in all likelihood.
    About the very same time ,in fact, when Wilhelm Roentgen accidentally discovered X-Rays (November 8th 1895).
    This event, in turn, led almost immediately (less than three months later) to the discovery of spontaneous radioactivity - perhaps the single most astounding discovery in science in the 19th century.

    Spontaneous (and random and unpredictable) radioactivity, it was determined after much effort, was merely the visible sign of an even more astounding natural event: atoms of one element in the process of becoming atoms of another element.
   Alchemy's magic of transmutation, brought to life.
   Think of it : what can that familiar chemist's word - elemental - possibly mean if not 'fundamental' and 'indivisible' and 'stable' ?
   Now all that had seemed universal and eternal and stable was revealed to be but a passing fancy.
   And it happened, not as Science said all Reality happened, IE in a deterministic way, but rather merely upon Mother Nature's whim !
   The certitudes of two thousand years of science, philosophy and mathematics trembled.
   Most people successfully ignored radioactivity's strange implications for how all Mankind understood Reality to focus instead on its superficial charms.
 Until that morning in Hiroshima, on August 6th 1945, (which would have been - strange coincidence - Dawson's 49th birthday) when 'all this strange radioactivity stuff'  reared up and destroyed an entire metropolitan city,  with but a single bomb.
   Now the entire world sat up and finally paid full notice - almost 50 years to the day from the original discovery.
    A few - too few - even sat down that summer day to really ponder the philosophic implications of radioactivity's spontaneity and thus ipon its ability to destroy our sense of how we had thought the Universe worked.
  Pity that : because this was an ability far beyond even its now proven powers to destroy life and matter.
   Dr Dawson's lifework was not  at allabout radioactivity - but as it happened his life spanned radioactivity's critical first years almost exactly : something that makes things much easier for the biographer of Dawson or of Radioactivity.
    Yet Dawson was involved in 'transmutation', as it happens, in fact involved in a fundamentally critical way.
   But not radioactivity's transmutation of matter and energy (the stuff of Physics and Chemistry) but rather in DNA's transmutation of life and organization (the stuff of Biology).
   The only beings that can as yet (humanity is working on it) transmutate DNA and hence Life are the microbes - and the lives of microbes was Dawson's lifework.
   The research that led to the discovery of what Dawson called  'bacterial transformation' (of DNA) began like the story of radioactivity in the mid-1890s.
 Questions began to be asked about cases of bacterial variations so extreme as to sound more like the spontaneous creation of new species and a mere variation on a given theme.
   But in orthodox biology circles that was a big no-no:  had not Darwin himself said the creation of a new species would take millions of years to emerge, not an hour or two ?
   The most unsettling implications of Dawson's work - like radioactivity's most profound implications - were successfully ignored then - in fact, still are.
   If 1945 was the year of Auschwitz , the A-bomb and of Penicillin, it was also the year of transformative DNA as well  : annus mirabilis indeed ...

Big but Simple, Small but Complex, the paradoxes of PO-MO Science refutes central tenet of MODERNITY

   Modernity was birthed in the late 19th century ,when Darwinian Biology saw a definite, if meandering, directionality to progress, leading through random activity into self organization - onward to ever bigger and hence ever more "complex" beings .
  This metaphor was extended to all things : Big Government, Big Corporations, Big Unions ,Big Bridges, Big Dams, Big Battleships , ever onwards.
  Bigger was Better,Law of the Jungle, Might Makes Right: Darwin our God was definitely on the side of the Biggest Battalions.
  But quantum physics and molecular biology in the 1930s put a question mark on these certitudes.

     Or should have - if Science works like it claims it does.
 For example, the alchemists' claim of transmutation of  atoms turned out to be possible after all - the hundred plus elements were not just a given at the birth of the Universe.
   So some physicists in the 1930s were speculating that in the seconds after the Big Bang, its immense heat and pressure fused subatomic particles into ever bigger subatomic particles and ultimately produced the lightest element hydrogen and a few of its lightest cousins.
   What what could have given the truly tremendous energy and pressure needed, by quantum theory, to fuse the heaviest elements into being ?
   A mystery.
   But with the 1930s discovery of Super Novas, we now had a source for the immense energy needed.
   It came from explosions of the biggest discrete objects in the Universe .
   But there was a real paradox here : there is nothing bigger or more energetic than a Super Nova exploding, but all it could produce for all its labour was the tiny - and relatively simple - atom.
    Yes, the simple atom : For by the 1930s, the new sciences of Polymer Chemistry and Bio Chemistry were coming to the conclusion that true complexity lay in the giant biological-created molecules.
   These were a mixture of thousands of different atoms, but arranged in such complex three dimensional shapes that each enzyme or protein molecule to be an incredibly tiny but precise factory or robot.
   Ironically, some claimed that it was Life's smallest beings, the microbes, who designed and used these giant molecules the best.
   Martin Henry Dawson called this bacterial transmutation of biological molecules (like DNA) via HGT (horizontal gene transfers) "Transformation", but many others simply called it biological transmutation a la the alchemists and the elements .
    So now ,big Super Novas produced small and simple atoms , while tiny microbes produced big and complex molecules.
   But in fact, these discoveries made by Quantum Physics and Molecular Biology between 1890s to the 1930s seemed to hold
little 'real world' relevance to politicians and businessmen, until WWII  (Modernity's War) exposed Modernity' weaknesses.
   Martin Henry Dawson's friends, Floyd Odlum and Jackie Cochrane, were in turn close friends with the most influential advocate of air power in WWII : General Hap Arnold, US Army Air Force.
    Arnold felt that Carl Norden had the war-winner in his bombsight, so deadly accurate there would be no need to use old-fashioned infantrymen like Dawson.
   However, Newtonian Physics/ Norden Physics totally failed to get its promised bombs into the proverbial pickle barrel from 15,000 feet up.
 The military were forced to go back to the ancient method used by the armies of tens of thousands of years earlier : firing up of entire cities.
   (That and calling in those low tech/old fashioned infantrymen to once again close the deal.)
   The fire came from the atomic bomb with such force that aiming accurately was rendered irrelevant -- even a miss still wiped out the entire city.
   Suddenly, after August 1945, that long-haired Quantum-whatever physics stuff that had produced the a-bomb seemed to be something politicians, generals and newspaper editors would have to take seriously.     Newton - and Norden - would have to go to the museum.
    The revelation of Auschwitz's medical experiments in November 1945 had already made everyone question just what evil alley Galtonian Biology was leading humanity up.
    Dr Joseph Mengele's 'research' (via photographs and measures of people's external bodies) leading to crude carving and sewing up of people to make the perfect race suddenly seemed irredeemably old-fashioned.
   The future of genetics seemed to lie instead in tiny objects inside those bodies - lie inside the molecules of life.
   Dawson's former colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute might just hold the new key to biology - via a sudden interest in researching  Dawson's old DNA stuff.
   Not that any politician or businessmen actually said that - not for 50 more years.
    But the ambitious young at the leading edge of science sure did --- they moved into molecular biology from all branches of science after 1945, from physics and chemistry and geology as well  from zoology and botany.
  Daltonian Chemistry was in no better shape - its traditional method of choice - huge factory vats to heat up and heat down, under tremendous pressure, to create a few simple chemicals - also seemed suddenly irremediably old fashioned by 1945.
   A tiny - invisible - fungus factory, as advocated by Martin Henry Dawson, could gracefully produce the Life-saving penicillin at normal temperature and pressures while the huge chemical plants just spun their wheels, failing to produce any synthetic penicillin.
   The weak, as it turned out,  might inherit the universe after all, just as the Bible claimed many eons ago....