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Imagine a planet that created beauty without end; imagine a species that wanted to destroy it all. Would you judge that species to be worthy of continuation?

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Geology / Earth / Nature, Journal, Photography, Science, Stupidity

The Heartbreaking Beauty of Nature

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Geology / Earth / Nature, Quackademics, Science, Stupidity

Living where we don’t belong

There is nothing like a string of subzero days and nights to awaken the mind to hard core truth. Humans are still tropical animals, molded by evolution for life within a consistent and moderate temperature range under sunny nourishing skies, equipped for a life shaped by ease and plenty. A perpetual cheese and wine party punctuated by afternoon naps, walks on the sea shore, craft time, oodles of festivals and rituals. Naked fun! Art! Music! Jewelry!

We draw smoothly curving lines of human dispersal ‘out of Africa,’ as if any wandering group of humans that strayed far enough north to encounter snow, iced-over rivers and lakes, long periods of darkness, and death by freezing, looked upon the land and unanimously declared: “We like this! Let’s stick around.”

Every one of them would have promptly died of hypothermia or starvation. Homo erectus apparently ran up against a climate barrier and kept to a southern arc across Asia and into the SE Archipelago and Southern Europe.

General limits of H. erectus

General limits of H. erectus

Humans who wanted to migrate into hostile country had to be prepared first; had to have developed rudimentary technology. Thousands of migrants in the 1800s died when trying to cross the western deserts and mountain ranges of the United States because they were totally unprepared and ignorant of the endurance the trip would demand. There had to have been much seasonal migration to northern lands, with returns, both temporary and permanent, to warm climates, before settlement outside the evolutionary comfort zone could take place. Let’s face it; without fire, food acquisition and preservation, tools and warm clothing, humans could not have broken the climate barrier.

Modern humans face the same situation. Our bodies have only superficially adapted to life outside the tropics. Colonization of cold mountain climates (and desert, and arid plains) has only been possible by means of technology. Fire, clothing and food preservation may seem primitive to us, but the refrigerator in my kitchen keeps food from freezing as well as rotting, and the heater that sits in my living room is little more than a campfire fueled by natural gas. Despite adopting a cocoon of parka, hat, gloves and insulated boots, I’m like an astronaut leaving his or her spacecraft to enter utterly hostile conditions when I leave my house.

The steep (and untenable) rise in world population is the product of fossil fuels.

The steep (and untenable) rise in world population is the product of fossil fuels.

I began thinking about this yesterday when I looked out a kitchen window and saw a tiny woodpecker banging away at one of the trees. It looked so vulnerable and lost – as if it should have migrated south with most other birds that summer here. But then I realized, it’s ‘out there’ in sub zero weather and I’m essentially stuck in my artificial environment, in my life support system. And I thought of the deer, pronghorn, elk and moose, of the wild horses scraping the snow for dried grass, of the intense stinging cold that comes at night, which would freeze a human solid as a rock if he or she made a simple mistake and could not get back to ‘civilization’ – which in Wyoming isn’t much, but our human outposts provide what is necessary: warmth and food.

The bad news is that humans today exist in artificial, depleted, or hostile environments, and exist on the chain of energy and products, including medicine, food and clean water, heating and air conditioning, and transportation, that is derived from fossil fuels.

Other than a few tribal groups, all modern humans live where we don’t belong. 

While arguments over climate change go nowhere, we can see that it’s become irrelevant. Our fossil fuel technology has built a house of cards that mere chance will topple.  Happy New Year!

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essay, Journal, Quackademics, Science, Stupidity

imagesaz

November / A high school in Arizona

I carefully transcribe notes that chemistry and physics students have handed in today in response to a video on electromagnetism. The video weaves together the historical development of theory and technology  and demonstrates the effects of electrical properties. While dense with information, the presentation is organized, well-paced and thoughtful. Student work is so uniformly mediocre that surprises come from occasional competent papers; some work has the power to shock and shame.

Four classes have watched the video and handed in their notes and I’ve collected some interesting spellings: eleclisitey, electricuated, elktrick feald, eletic, elecudid, are a few of the variations on electricity, as in, “When Ben Franklin tried to cook a turkey with eleclisitey he almost elecudid himself.”

The spellings of other terms prove equally mysterious: protelter, potianal, caepgy, obvisour, pontechel, actrick, and dervasl. Even these, and mistakes like finominan, phylosifors, and poor Farid Day and Benterm Franklean would be helped greatly by a vocabulary handout, but the teacher prepared none. Torturous thought is another matter. Paper after paper is excruciatingly foreign, as if I’m in a country where only an occasional person has   learned to read and write.

“If two charges attract the it attracts but if one attracts and one sudtracts then it will attract then subtracts.”

“The sun near stops or ends in space when a object has postively changed when moist with charge.”

“When to much elet charge attack whe not engugh charge repel.”

“Radio wave ditrabute a electric rate.”

“The core of an apple and the moon had something in common.”

But this is suburban America, the majority of students are white, middle class, and doing no better than the scattering of minority students. The only satisfactory notes, written in a breezy style in a careful and readable script, was handed in by a Latino boy. A few others manage a good sentence or two, but leave me longing for something more. One set of notes is composed of a stanza of phrases that when read aloud becomes a weird cry from some poor ghost trapped on the other side of literacy.

 it drease the sun

drease it the squar of the distance

lead the star

of electic

lightining bolt what they are

electric force

push the charge closer

positivitive work can also

potientel

franklin said positively charge

natively charge repel is other

positetive charge

one object is electric charge

of course it native charge is zero

which mean a test charge

of course inside there no

feels at all but there no

potental inside depend

posivetive raise the potential

great mind of the pass

law for the electric fire

attract his other

repel his other when a

battery is equal to the voltage

Great Minds of the Pass / Farid Day and Benterm Franklean

Aside
essay, Stupidity

How Psychologists Destroyed Public Education

A group pf psychologists were were the first to "enact the formation" of the Grand Canyon. The historic event occurred in 1940 thanks to a grant from the National Park Service.

A group pf psychologists were were the first to re-enact the formation of the Grand Canyon. The historic event occurred in 1940 thanks to a grant from the National Park Service.

NOVEMBER / A high school in Arizona

Back in the classroom after lunch, I can relax. The TA for the period is using one of the computers. I set my coffee on the desk and dig through a pile of papers and magazines set to one side. I strike intellectual gold, American style: a set of exercises designed by psychologists to “support” togetherness among staff and students.

THE PLAYPEN- Establish the boundaries of a playpen large enough to accommodate the group members, and allow group members to interact as babies and toddlers in the playpen. Establish the rules of no slapping, or biting, or hurting the other children. Let the interaction flow. SHARE.

NONVERBAL SHARING- Have the group stand in a circle. Each member, one at a time, non-verbally transmits a feelings message to each member of the group. SHARE. Option: May be done with eyes opened or closed.

HAND EXAMINATION: Instruct two people to non-verbally (!) examine each other’s hands. Ask them to to decide which one will “examine” first, and to allow at least 3 minutes to touch and look, before instructing the other partner to be the examiner. Ask each to verbally share the experience and specifically what they were able to discover about the partner. SHARE.

GROWING OLD- Ask two people to pretend they are very old. Insert cotton balls in their ears, dim the lights, and ask them to converse with each other. Give them a topic, eg, “Discuss what is going on in your life.” SHARE.

By this time I’m snickering and kicking the desk, and the TA looks my way. I ignore her because it just gets better:

RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE- Enact a situation which symbolizes a religious truth or teaching. Establish the time, place, circumstance and people and allow the action to flow. EXAMPLES: 1. Moses receiving the 10 C’s from God. 2. Jesus healing the sick 3. Embody the spirit of Bhudda 4. Be your God. SHARE

SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE- Present an enactment which best describes a scientific or physical phenomenon. Allow the action to flow. EXAMPLES 1. Portray parts of the body (legs, liver, heart, eyes and explain the structure, functions and relationships to one another. (Let each person link with others and speak as anatomical parts.) 2. Portray Copernicus trying to tell 16th C people that the sun, not the earth is at the center of the solar system. 3. Embody a seed in the ground and act out the growth process. 4. Enact how sandstone is formed.

I’m pounding the desk and snorting, but wait, there’s more! 5. Create vital organs linked to one another and ask one member to be a drop of blood circulating through the system. Ask the drop of blood to non-verbally interact with organs to establish their function with the drop of blood. 6. Show the formation of the Grand Canyon. SHARE

My hysterical laughter unnerves the TA; I apologize for disrupting her computer game and continue to pound the desk while screeching. Outside the building the sunlight suddenly withdraws, and a group of short football players in squash yellow jerseys and brown pants fades against the gravel practice field. Heavy gray clouds loom between the oleanders which border the building and the low roof overhang outside.

Empires eventually disintegrate, but the American Empire will be the first one to be taken down by psychologists.

 

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