Thursday, August 29, 2002

An extraordinarily good article (definately one of my top ten favorites
this year) on everything pertaining to life extension. A good summary is
made of the arguments for and against it, the various biological basis for
aging, and the upcoming treatments to help slow or even reverse the aging
process. Were are privy to a minuscule sample of the universe, limited to
our pale blue dot in an infinite sky of unkown for a comparitively infinite
short period of time. The Earth holds beautiful sights enough to keep one
busy for a lifetime, untold wonders await us in new worlds in new parts of
the universe that could keep one busy for millenia. One could spend
lifetimes studying everything and anything that makes it wonderfull to be
alive and to be human, you could learn to play every instrument, learn to
actually make the instruments, learn every type of dance, see every movie,
and read every book, spend lifetimes with our friends and loved ones.... the
possibilities are virtually unlimited. Stick around a little longer and we
may see practicaly immortality in a 20 - 50 years. - Matus
Forever Young

The new scientific search for immortality

By Ronald Bailey

Friday, August 16, 2002

The End Is Nigh, Again

from -

"Environmentalists insist that humanity really has overshot the earth's
carrying capacity this time.

By Ronald Bailey

The United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development is coming up at the end
of August, so expect to see a spate of news stories warning that humanity is
on an unsustainable economic path. To bolster this notion, environmentalists
are positioning their views to make it easy for the press to echo them.

In an article published this week by the prestigious journal Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences, a group of environmentalists led by Mathis
Wackernagel of Redefining Progress claim that human consumption and waste
production have overshot the earth's capacity to create new resources and
absorb waste. They calculate that "humanity's load corresponded to 70% of
the biosphere's capacity in 1961," and "this percentage grew to 120% in
1999." They explain that "20% overshoot means that it would require 1.2
earths, or one earth 1.2 years, to regenerate what humanity used in 1999."

Such worries about overpopulation and resource scarcity have a long history.
The Roman writer Tertullian warned in 200 A.D. that "we men have actually
become a burden to the earth" and that "the fruits of nature hardly suffice
to support us." In 1798 the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus published An Essay on
the Principle of Population, in which he claimed that population growth
would always outstrip food supplies, inevitably resulting in famine,
pestilence, and war. Biologist Paul Ehrlich notoriously updated Malthus'
gloomy predictions in his 1968 book The Population Bomb, which predicted
that hundreds of millions of people would die of famine in the 1970s.

Well, are the alarmists right this time around? Is the end finally nigh? No."

Read on, excellent article. - Matus

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Here is a survey I came across recently on America and its values. This is an article on its findings and some critique of the survery itself. This particular survey of US college students found some interesting points of view. - Matus
salient points...

70-79 percent disagreed that the American values were superior to those of other nations

U.S. war in Afghanistan - 62.9 percent agreed that it was 'moral' and 72.2 percent called it 'just'

Meanwhile, 70-79 percent disagreed that the American values were superior to those of other nations

Respondents overwhelmingly agreed (83.2 percent) that there "is good and there is evil" and there "is right and there is wrong." While not ready to declare American/Western culture and values to be superior, 62.6 percent of respondents agreed that "Despite its flaws, the United States is the best country in the world."

35.7 percent of the students were Catholic, and 11 percent were either
fundamentalist or born-again Protestants. That might help explain the most perplexing part of the poll. When asked "which do you think is a bigger threat to the United States," 36.1 percent of respondents chose Islam and 41.4 percent chose ... Godless communism?

6- The kids are all wrong?
America's Future Foundation
by Howard Fienberg
"[O]nly 34.3 percent of students would be willing to serve
anywhere if they were drafted into the military, while 20.7
percent would serve only in the U.S. and 37 percent would find
some way to evade the draft no matter what. Meanwhile, 70-79
percent disagreed that the American values were superior to
those of other nations." (07/02)
(On the same note of the values of the western world not being superior to
islamic culture this report attempts to quantify measurments of freedom,
such as liberties, political rights, freedom of press, etc, and it found the
Arab world finished dead last. The study was performed by a team of Arab
Scholars - Matus)

15- Deficits in the Arab world
Empower America
by Jack Kemp
Ranking countries on a widely used freedom index that encompasses
civil liberties, political rights, freedom of the press and
government accountability, the Arab world finished dead last.$561

Deficits in the Arab world

Friday, August 09, 2002

(One of my favorite authors, evolutionary biologist and science popularizer
Matt Ridley writes in Scientific American about his journey creating his own
crop circles. "The whole episode taught me two important lessons" He said
"First, treat all experts with skepticism and look out for their vested
interests--many cerealogists made a pot of money from writing books and
leading weeklong tours of crop circles, some costing more than $2,000 a
person. Second, never underestimate the gullibility of the media. Even the
Wall Street Journal published articles that failed to take the man-made
explanation seriously." - Matus)
August 2002 issue
Crop Circle Confession

How to get the wheat down in the dead of night
By Matt Ridley
(A superbly written article on the differences between a 'sickness' and a
'crime' I highly recommend taking the time to read it. - Matus)
Excerpts -

"Crimes are acts we commit. Diseases are biological processes that happen to
our bodies. Mixing these two concepts by defining behaviors we disapprove of
as diseases is a bottomless source of confusion and corruption."

"But that doesn't matter, because the purpose of such a pseudomedical claim
is to excuse the actor of moral and legal responsibility. "

"Saying that a priest who takes sexual advantage of a child entrusted to his
care "suffers from pedophilia" implies that there is something wrong with
his sexual functioning, just as saying that he suffers from pernicious
anemia implies that there something wrong with the functioning of his
hematopoietic system. If that were the issue, it would be his problem, not
ours. Our problem is that there is something wrong with him as a moral
agent. We ought to focus on his immorality, and forget about his sexuality"

Sins of the Fathers

Is child molestation a sickness or a crime?

By Thomas Szasz

Thursday, August 08, 2002

(All, this is an article by science author Ben Bova mainly pertaining to the
upcoming film 'Signs' with Mel Gibson but touching on diverse topics as
'anxiety news' (the tendance for news stories to tell only things that
increase our anxiety), ancient alien civilizations and Nuclear power plants,
a good read - Mike)

Ben Bova: The truth is out there ... but not as far as some would like us to
(All, here is an article that has been in the news recently published by the
World Wildlife Fund, which now has free time after successfully suing the
other WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, and forcing them to change their
name (I know I always confused the two) In this paper, the WWF (not the
wrestlers!) found that the demands people have placed on the world is too
much and it can not sustain it. We will all run out of food, water, energy,
and resources and all perish. Oddly these are very similar to claims made
back in the early 1960's by Paul Eldridge. In Eldrige's widely read book
'The population Bomb' he predicted that by the late 80's millions if not
billions of people would be starving to death because the population would
outpace the worlds ability to feed itself. Yet these widespread famine's
never occurred. What happened? Eldridge, like people who try to predict
the future, did not take into account enough variables. Namely the need and
ambition for people to continually better their own lives. Today, 1/10th as
many people actually produce food as those who did in 1960, yet this fewer
people are starving than ever before, and there are fewer farmers than ever
before. Eldridge took the existing growth curves of food production and
population and just extended them out, yet these assumed an increase that
only matched what the past increases have been. This method does not take
into account an increase in the RATE of increase. Thus food production has
far outpaced food demand. Food is cheaper and more plentiful than ever
before. Now these claims have shifted from food to resources and water.
The WWF claims that we would need three worlds to sustain everyone at the
level that the US sustains people. Yet this is not the case, the US
produces 2/3rds of the worlds grain supply, a heavily energy intensive
process, and 3/4 of the worlds overall food supply. Obviously the rest of
the world need not do this, since the US already is. In addition the US's
energy consumption rates are compared with that of Europe, Europe, however
does not produce as significant proportion of the worlds food supply, and
has its population spread over a much smaller geographically area than the
US. Also, as population density increases, the rate of energy consumption
increase per person actually decreases. The average person in New York City
requires much less energy than the average Iowa farmer, simply because of
the economies of scale. In fact, historically energy production per capita
has outpaced demand by about 2%, even with the massive increase in
population. We continue to make better and more efficient devices for
generating energy, each an order of magnitude more efficient than the
previous. Well, read the article and judge for yourself, I will send more
out on this issue. - Mike)

Calamitous claim about life on earth
Fox News
The World Wildlife Fund has raised eyebrows with claims
that the earth will no longer be able to sustain humans in 50
years. "I don't think WWF credibility is much different from the
World Wrestling Federation," said Jerry Taylor of the Cato
Institute. (07/09/02),2933,57216,00.html
There are many arguments flying about I have come across lately about the
value of recycling. Opponents say that in some instances the energy used to
recapture the used goods, re-process it, and re-enter into circulation is
actually greater than the energy needed to actually produce the good from
raw resources. The amount of energy needed is, of course, not the only
variable to consider, but when that energy is in the form of large gas
guzzling trucks carting around trash labeled as 'recyclables' all day and
producing CO2 emissions (the greenhouse gas of primary concern to
environmentalists these days) Then some flags should be raised and a more
careful analysis made. Take, for example, the production of a more energy
efficient washing machine. The effort and energy that may go into designing
a more efficient washing machine may actually exceed the life span energy
savings of the machine over conventional models. Is it reasonable to
produce more efficient machines when this is the case then? Similarly, the
energy spent in some recycling programs may do more *harm* to the
environment than good. This should be determined on a case by case basis,
and it is likely that aluminum recycling will always be around, since
processing the bauxite ore which aluminum is produced from is quite energy
intensive. Other recyclables, however, like paper and plastic, are less
clear in the benefits. New York Mayor Bloomberg, as this article relates,
recently pulled the plug on the glass and plastic recycling program in NYC.
Its interesting to note that this article mentions that much of it was
ending up in a landfill anyway. From a scientific and objective standpoint,
all materials can and likely will be recycled. There is a common claim that
we are 'running out' of resources, such as metals and manufactured goods,
but these resources only go to one of two places, in circulation as a
useable product, or trashed in a junk heap. Eventually as the expensive of
digging deeper exceeds the cost to re-process existing waste, we will see
massive industrial recycling centers which essentially melt all waste into
its constituent atoms, separate it, and re-use. The structure of the atoms
never change, only their patterns. Which means resources are never truly
'used up' they only ever require an application of energy to be made in a
usable form again. The only exception to this, of course, is Nuclear
transformations, which actually become new elements. Chemical reactions are
reversible, nuclear ones are not. - Matus

1. Recycled Spin

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking his own stab at heroism,
puncturing the tired myth that recycling programs save money. Bloomberg
announced that he is killing the plastic and glass components of the city's
recycling program in order to save his stressed budget $40 million a year.

Recycling programs for paper and metal will continue -- for now.

"In the case of plastic and glass, the fact of the matter was that it was
phenomenally expensive and most of it ended up being dumped in a landfill
anyway," the mayor said. "The paper recycling has worked for a long time,and
we believe that the metal recycling will certainly pay for itself."

Predictably, unionized workers in the recycling industry howled that the
changes would cost 200 of the city's 1,000 recycling jobs.

Recycling has long been the nation's civic religion, and the act of sorting
through one's garbage has become an act of contrition for living too well.
But even with all the donated labor from homeowners, hired hands, and
preschoolers, the economics of recycling remain dicey.

The truth is, well-designed, well-run landfills area a better deal for all
Die hard libertarians hope to eventually see an 'anarcho capitalist'
society, one in which all services the a typical government would provide
are instead provided by competing firms selling the service. This is,
essentially, no different in outline from a government, the government just
has a monopoly on all the services it provides. I have witheld jugement on
the capacity for an anarcho capitalist society to exist and actually end up
being better off for its citizens then a democratic capitlist government,
its just too early to tell. I am not too worried about it though, as I
doubt I will ever see an anarcho capitalist society, at least not for a long
time. I think one might be possible when the average citizen can provide
for himself the basic necessities of life through technology that the
government currently does, Protection, security, rule of law, health, etc.
with virtually no cost, thus minimizing the demand for any form of
government. One must not misunderstand the libertarian on this point, while
some hold this view purely on a religious esque idealogical foundation, most
just feel objectively that the world, all people, would enjoy better lives
under such a system. The turmoil ridden and unfortunate country of Somolia
in Africa has become a sort of a anarcho-capitalist expirement in the works,
as this article relates. Interesting read. - Matus

The Answer for Africa
by Shafer Parker