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Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 04:55 PM PDT

A call for scientific activism

by don mikulecky

We are living in  a very dangerous time.  The voices we hear every day are those of insane people.  Yes I mean insane!  They populate our government and are in control.

Scientists by their nature are careful people.  Of course there may be a few exceptions, but on the whole as Michael Mann points out here

Climate Scientists are the Real Skeptics

Mann: Too often we allow the forces of anti-science, the forces of denialism, or contrarianism, to somehow frame their position as one of skepticism. But denying mainstream, well-established science based on arguments that don’t stand up scrutiny, that’s not skepticism. That’s pseudo-skepticism.

Real scientists embrace skepticism because that’s what moves science forward. That’s the self-correcting machinery, to use the language of Carl Sagan, which keeps science on this inexorable course toward a better understanding of the way the world works. If your ideas are wrong, if your theories are wrong, if they don’t hold up, if the data don’t support them, if other studies don’t come to the same conclusion, then science moves on, and it searches for a better answer. Scientists are always trying to find holes in each other’s proposed ideas, or in their own proposed ideas.

 But there is more than one aspect to being careful.  One can do harm by inactivity as well.  Read on below and we can explore this more.
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Responsible science

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I just finished George Marshall's book Don’t Even Think about It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.  The timing could not be more ironic for I also read this diary by FishOutofWater today: Texas & Alaska Floods: El Nino & Hot Oceans Start a Year of Hellish Weather. It Will Get Worse.  I can't help myself from being the scientist I have been all my life.  The evolutionary experiment can only be run once so we talking a brand of science very different from the artificial world of laboratories and controlled experiments.

If you have not already guessed I have already answered my question to my own satisfaction.  Jim Coffman and I have written our own   book  about it.

The first link above ends with this statement:  

It is clear now that stopping climate change is impossible: what is still worth fighting for is some control over how bad it will get. Neither Klein nor Marshall can convincingly tell us how we should get from where we are to where we need to be in the time available; but then, neither can anyone else. Reading these books back to back, I’m inclined to side with Daniel Kahneman, whom Marshall spoke to in a noisily oblivious New York café. Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for his work on the psychology of human decision-making, which may be why he’s so gloomy. ‘This is not what you might want to hear,’ he says, but ‘no amount of psychological awareness will overcome people’s reluctance to lower their standard of living. So that’s my bottom line: there is not much hope. I’m thoroughly pessimistic. I’m sorry.
 After all the words are written and read, Kahneman sort of nails it doesn't he?  Read on below for more.
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The human mind

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Sat May 23, 2015 at 09:35 PM PDT

The origin of Memorial day

by don mikulecky

I'm sure this is common knowledge but just in case you missed it, here it is:  Memorial Day  had an interesting start:  

The first widely-publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled "Martyrs of the Race Course." Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children, newly enrolled in freedmen's schools, as well as mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Today the site is remembrance celebration would come to be called the "First Decoration Day" in the North.
 Having served as a USMC officer I have mixed feelings about how we deal with this now.  Read on below for more.
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The best way to honor our war dead

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Salon's Joanna Rothkopf  wrote this about Stephen Hawking:  Stephen Hawking is still terrified of artificial intelligence

"Computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years"
Having been involved with the comparison between  "machine intelligence"  (wrongly dubbed "Artificial Intelligence") and human intelligence for most of my career, I find this both disappointing and amusing.

Hawking has a great mind.  That may be why he gets away with making statements that have little or nothing to do with his field of cosmology and getting away with it.  I would not challenge him on subjects like cosmology for he knows far more.  He is also a lot smarter than I am.  Nevertheless, when it comes to comparing machine intelligence to human intelligence he is no better than so many of the advocates of AI that I have debated over the years.  Read on below if you are interested in my take on this as a complexity scientist evolved from neuroscience.

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Stephen Hawkings fear of Artificial Intelligence

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My co-author, Jim Coffman,  sent me this on facebook .Ecocide: The Psychology of Environmental Destruction  Here's what he said:

"It's good to know that other scholars have independently come to the same conclusion that Don and I came to in our book  Global Insanity, which is that the wicked problem faced by humanity is largely psychological (which makes it far more difficult to solve than if it were merely technological--think of how hard it is to change an individual's psychology, then try to imagine how to do the same for billions of individuals)."
 The report is by Steve Taylor, Ph.D.  who is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. He is the author of Back to Sanity (link is external). www.stevenmtaylor.com
Recent scientific reports about climate change make grim reading. A paper published in The Economic Journal by the respected UK economist Lord Stern states that the models previously used to calculate the economic effects of climate change have been ‘woefully inadequate.’ They have severely underestimated the scale of the threat, which will "cost the world far more than estimated."

What makes the situation even more serious is that climate change is just one of the environment-related problems we face. Others include the destruction and pollution of ecosystems, the disappearance of other species (both animal and plant), water shortage, over-population, and the rapacious consumption of resources.

 Read on below for more.
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The roots of all our problems

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Sun May 10, 2015 at 06:34 PM PDT

Remembering my mother

by don mikulecky

Being in your 80th year does not do good things for your memory.  On the other hand you don't have to remember details to be aware of what your mother meant to you and how she helped shape your life.

My mom was the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants.  My maternal grandparents were basically peasants and grandpa was basically illiterate.  I grew up in Chicago on the South Side and we lived in a bungalow converted into a duplex from when I was in First Grade until the middle of my second year of high school.  

Grandpa worked in the Chicago Stockyards like the people Upton Sinclair wrote about in  The Jungle:

The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968). Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialized cities.However, most readers were more concerned with his exposure of health violations and unsanitary practices in the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, based on an investigation he did for a socialist newspaper.

The book depicts working class poverty, the lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and a hopelessness among many workers. These elements are contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power. A review by the writer Jack London called it, "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery"

 Our life was a good step above the worst cases in sinclair's book.  My Grandparents owned the house we shared with them and Grandpa had an old Buick that he drove very rarely.

We were nominally Catholic and Mom was very much into memories of that upbringing even after I was born.  My parents went to Church on Christmas and Easter and that was the extent of it.

I was an only child and have all the empty places that those who had siblings have filled with those experiences.  I guess that is one reason why my times with my mother were so important for me.  

The relationship between my parents was the only kind I knew in any detail and it was only much later in life that I came to realize how important a part of me it became.  Read on below and I'll explain.

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when you look at your mother in the context of this society

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The clown show in Washington makes Nero look sane.  You have probably seen some version of this:  The World's Carbon Dioxide Levels Just Hit a Staggering New Milestone

The milestone, reached last month, was announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday.

"It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally," said NOAA scientist Pieter Tans in a press release. "We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone."

Crossing the 400 ppm threshold is equal parts disheartening and alarming. Less than a decade ago scientists and environmental activists, including Bill McKibben, launched a campaign to convince policy makers that global CO2 concentrations needed to be reduced to 350 ppm in order to avoid massive impacts from global warming. McKibben, who co-founded the group 350.org, explained the significance of that figure in a 2008 Mother Jones article entitled "The Most Important Number on Earth"

 Yes the number is alarming.  What is so much more alarming is that the system that produced the number grinds on  almost unchecked.  Read on below for an explanation.
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as we pass the 400 ppm mark

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Salon's Bill Curry says it very well here:Bernie Sanders really matters: He doesn’t have to win to build a progressive movement  

Stop thinking about winners, losers and the dumb horse race. Let's build at the grass roots and debate what matters
 This fits what I have been thinking for years.  Until we change the political "climate" (pun intended) we will be doing the same insane things again and again.   The real change has to be in the people and in order to achieve that the political discourse must change effectively first.  Read on below for more.
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Bernies campaign

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I have said many times that we will never change the system through the electoral process.  Now Bernie sanders seems to be contradicting me.  But is he?  

Let's pretend that Bernie wins the Presidency.  Now the oligarchy will admit defeat and back down, right? If you believe that I have bridge to sell you.

The contradiction here seems total.  The only reason the oligarchy tolerates elections is because they believe they can get most of what they want with the least uncovering of the man behind the curtain.  If it were to become possible for the electoral process to give them a serious challenge I'm sure they would destroy it.  In fact they are covering that option as well as they can without it becoming their stated goal right now.

If this seems puzzling to you please read on below.

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Bernie's campaign

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First of all, the fact that Bernie is a Democratic Socialist and has the backing of DSA is just icing on the cake for me.  It is what Bernie articulates publicly every day that makes him my choice.  

We have had socialist candidates before: List of United States presidential candidates

1900  Eugene V. Debs (Ind.) – Job Harriman (Socialist)
 Joseph F. Maloney – Valentine Remmel (Socialist Labor)

1904  Joseph F. Maloney – Valentine Remmel (Socialist Labor)
Charles H. Corregan – William Wesley Cox (Socialist Labor)

1908   Eugene V. Debs (Ind.) – Benjamin Hanford (Socialist)
August Gillhaus – Donald L. Munro (Socialist Labor)

1912  Eugene V. Debs (Ind.) – Emil Seidel (Socialist)
Arthur E. Reimer – August Gillhaus (Socialist Labor)

1916   Allan L. Benson – George R. Kirkpatrick (Socialist)
Arthur E. Reimer – Caleb Harrison (Socialist Labor)

1920  Eugene V. Debs (Ind.) – Seymour Stedman (Socialist)

1924   Frank T. Johns – Verne L. Reynolds (Socialist Labor)

1928   Norman Thomas – James H. Maurer (Socialist)
Verne L. Reynolds – Jeremiah D. Crowley (Socialist Labor)

1932   Norman Thomas – James H. Maurer (Socialist)
Verne L. Reynolds – John W. Aiken (Socialist Labor)

1936  Norman Thomas – George A. Nelson (Socialist)

1940  Norman Thomas – Maynard C. Krueger (Socialist)

1944   Norman Thomas – Darlington Hoopes (Socialist)

1948   Norman Thomas – Tucker P. Smith (Socialist)
Edward A. Teichert – Stephen Emery (Socialist Labor)

1952  Eric Hass – Georgia Cozzini (Socialist Labor)

1976  Peter Camejo – Willie Mae Reid (Socialist Workers)

 My knowledge of political history is lacking so I do not know how many of these, if any, ran in a Democratic Party primary.  More below the break.
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Bernie's candidacy

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The complexity of our global situation is not easily understood when we approach it piecemeal.  It is a system and all of its "parts" are interacting.  Carbon is a common thread but we look at it piecemeal too.

In the course of this incomplete way of trying to comprehend our situation we neglect some facets and emphasize others.  Latetly it has been the atmosphere , the oceans and ice.

One central factor has been, In my opinion, neglected and that neglect can be harmful.  Our existence centers around food and food comes from the soil.  

The soil is starting to be put into perspective.  This article,Is 2015 The Year Soil Becomes Climate Change’s Hottest Topic?,  in Climate Progress tries to bring it to our attention.  read on below for more.

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neglect of the soil

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Systems are stable and remain so if they can successfully absorb or destroy any movement that threatens them.   When they can no longer do that they become unstable.  System instability is a variation on chaos.  I say that because unstable and chaotic systems are unpredictable.

Systems based on oppression are very sensitive to these conditions.  They appear stable for long periods of time.  Yet that stability is fragile in that it requires those being oppressed by the system to believe they have a stake in the system.  Otherwise

There is no one more dangerous than someone who has become convinced that they have nothing more to lose.
 There are no formulas or dynamic laws to use to assess the condition of any given system.  There is the dynamic instability we call a "tipping point".  It is a cusp on a state surface that models the dynamics of a dynamic system.  The topology of such system dynamics is related to Thom's catastrophe theory.

Human social systems are far to complex to be modeled with this elegant pictorial theory, yet it can serve as a metaphor very well.  Read on below if you are interested.  I'll be brief.

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The recent uprising

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